The triumph of the horse
Parts & Labour sits on a grittier street of the city. This district, as I was told by the waiter, has improved considerably. There was drugs and prostitution. Though it hasn’t been entirely purged, new businesses are cropping up every day.
Queen St. West is busy (crammed during rush hour). It’s a district with some grime on its face, the alleys and back ways filled with graffiti.
Parts & Labour (1566 Queen St. West), a seemingly ordinary bar and grill, catches you literally by the throat. They serve fried pig face, buffalo quail, horse tongue and the centerpiece, horse tenderloin.
A Western sensibility virtually leaves you reluctant to try any meat used predominately for transportation or racing; and yes, I’ll admit it, dog food. But this is the best cut you can get, expensive stuff ($35). Served with organic greens and mashed potatoes (I opted for French fries), it really was quite good. In fact, it’s better than venison.
They also have a great bar and mixed me an old fashioned gimlet like Hemingway used to drink back in the 1920s.
Live music spills out from downstairs. The crowd is a mixture of the college student, working professionals, and artsy folks looking to have a good time or to celebrate a recent achievement.
‘Caribana’s not what it used to be’
The men watch the girls and smile. They turn their heads in awe. Each costume seems to be more revealing than the next. White, Black, Asian, and multiracial; a diverse range of people are preparing for the Caribana festival. The steady pulse of raggaeton.
This was to be the centerpiece of the weekend. Though there are thousands gathered here, the appeal of the event has waned for many.
Exciting it was. Almost like the Carribean’s Jukanoo, but the main difference was that with the Jukanoo you felt like a participant in the celebration. As the Caribana is (gated), you definitely feel more like a spectator. People I was expecting something more interactive.
“It’s gotten better,” one man said. He was referring to some of the shootings that had happened years ago. “It’s much nicer.”
As reported by the Globe and Mail, the budget for this year’s festival, now in its 43rd year, has been slashed by 30 percent, to $1.8-million from $2.6-million, largely because of cuts to government funding.
“It’s the G20,” said a cab driver, referring to the G20 Toronto Summit, a meeting that deals with the world economy and finance. “Caribana used to be something special. Now?” He gestures with his hand, the sign that means “bad.”
“Caribana’s not what it used to be,” he said.
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