Friday, October 11, 2019

On the outside, looking in

What once was. What could still be.
London, ON
October 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Remember when we were kids, and we'd stand on the outside looking in through a window? We'd cup our hands around our eyes to block the light and hopefully get a glimpse of what was going on inside.

It was a pretty innocent, pure thing to do, a simple manifestation of a child's boundless curiosity.

I've got news for you: It isn't so cute when you're still doing it as an adult. But most of you know I never grew up. And I'm still insanely curious. Especially when so many empty storefronts now line our city's streets.

Every one of them has a story, but it isn't always so easy to tease out. So we can either walk on past and ignore the obvious. Or we can look closer at the here and now and try to imagine what was, and what might be.

I found this one on York Street, near my office. It was in pretty good shape compared to others in the area, and if I squeezed my eyes just so, I could imagine it coming back to life, to something an owner might be proud of, or a member of the local community might look forward to visiting and supporting.

The world has changed, though, and tired old buildings are no longer the engines of local commerce that they once were. The pool of wannabe-retailers is shrinking by the day, as are the customers who might have come here in another era. We shop on our phones now. Our local landscape is drying up, and that's painfully obvious through this window. And others nearby.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope there's another act in store for this place. But a look around this bleak streetscape reinforces the sad reality that renewal may not come here anytime soon. What we all lose in the process is harder to appreciate.

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