Sunday, June 11, 2017


Two weeks ago, I received official confirmation from the City of Toronto that one of Ivaan's beloved laneways has been named in his honour.  The laneway runs south from Dupont Street, just east of Shaw Street, as far as Melville Avenue.  Later this summer, the street signs will be installed and we have been invited to have a little unveiling ceremony once the signs are in place at each end of the laneway.

There are certain conditions that must be met before a laneway is named after an individual.  The first is that this individual must no longer be alive.
I guess the assumption is that once someone is deceased, they can no longer do anything discreditable, like become a white supremacist or a bank robber or something.  The second is that they have made a significant contribution to their community or the City.  And in fact Ivaan has had a significant positive impact on the City of Toronto.  Thousands of his photographs are owned by the City of Toronto, depicting life on the streets of downtown Toronto in the 1990s.  Distinctive jewellery by Ivaan is collected and worn with pride by thousands of people and he has truly enriched the artistic environment in Toronto.

So I am really happy that there will be this permanent memorial to Ivaan.  He loved Toronto laneways and often photographed  them.  These are the  hidden paths that Toronto natives often use to traverse their neighbourhoods:  not the major commuter streets used by vehicles and people just passing through.

One advantage of  having laneways named is that they appear on GPS mapping and are easier for first responders to identify in case of a fire or medical emergency.  Another advantage is that it ties a neighbourhood together.  We have some other named laneways in the vicinity, including the
humorously named Vermouth Lane (an amalgam of Vermont and Yarmouth, two nearby streets).

I think Ivaan's parents would have been astonished to learn that their son's name adorns a laneway.  Ivaan would have been thrilled.  I imagine his
sister will be proud to see her brother's name on a couple of street signs.

And his wife?  I just hope the City doesn't think I'll be responsible for shovelling the snow on Ivaan Kotulsky Lane. Although I do so much snow shovelling in the neighbourhood that it might be me the paramedics find lying beside my trusty snow shovel.  I will post photographs of the signs as soon as they are installed, and of our unveiling ceremony.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


I'm almost embarrassed to admit that the 5 year anniversary of the opening of Atelier Ivaan on Dupont Street went right by me. May 31st, in case you care. In fact, it was only three days later that I asked myself, "When's our anniversary coming up?" and realized it had passed unheralded.  That is something that would never have happened in our marriage, because we married on April Fool's Day, and there are always plenty of reminders that our wedding anniversary is approaching.

This year, I've been burning the candle at both ends.  I've been on a mission to complete the upgrading of my degree in Italian to a Specialist degree, and la tocca finita, as they say in Italian, of the Italian Specialist program is to undertake a research term on one of a few projects under the direction of a professor.   I had applied to a project involving a collection of vintage Italian films, and was accepted.  I asked if my research term could be moved up so I could complete it during the summer months, and received approval.  So in addition to running the store, working in the palliative care hospice where I volunteer, my piano lessons and everything else, I would now be spending 20 hours a week working on the repair and conservation of vintage films.

And that is where I was on May 31st: in a chilly archival vault wearing steel-toed construction boots.   I had to race home at the end of the day for client appointments, and I really felt as though my life had been turned on its head.

But, five years, you know, feels like an achievement.  Still, I often feel quite incompetent as a shopkeeper.  I still wander away from the shop on occasion, leaving the door unlocked.  Only last week, I was expecting a friend to come by, so I went upstairs to the kitchen to make lunch in case she was hungry when she arrived.  As I was taking an apple crumble out of the oven, I heard a female voice downstairs, calling "Hello!"  I assumed it was my friend, so I went to the stairwell and called back, "Hey, Sandra, I'm up here".  But it wasn't Sandra, it was a customer, who had logically assumed this was a self-serve operation and chosen the items she wanted to purchase without any assistance from the shopkeeper.

After completing her purchase, the customer gave me a funny look and a gentle lecture about leaving money lying out in the open when the shop door is unlocked.  Point taken!

So while the five-year anniversary passed unnoticed, another anniversary is fast approaching that is already causing me anxiety.  This is the year - and the month - where I will become the same age as Ivaan.  I'm not remotely preoccupied with the effects of aging.   Grey hair?  I've always wanted that. Wrinkles?  I think they suit me. I look at myself and say, "Nothing hurts, everything works, and I have more strength and energy than most 30 year olds.  I'm incredibly lucky."  But by the time he was 64, Ivaan was dead.  I've kind of taken over being Ivaan, and this month I'm going to catch up with him, and then surpass him.

So if that's what my five-year plan was, to "just keep right on going", I will have to build in some time for quiet reflection, to decide what I hope the next five years will bring.