Subdivisions and Scarberia
In-between the bright lights and the far, unlit unknown.
So sang Geddy Lee and I grew up in a place on the fringes of the city, in Scarborough.
During my lifetime Scarborough has gone from a Toronto borough to a city in its own right to part of the GTA. When I was a student at Cardinal Newman High School in Scarborough, I heard this joke on Toronto’s rock radio station, Q107.
What’s the definition of a cultural event in Scarborough?
Goddo at the Knob.
For my non-Canadian readers, Goddo was a hard rock band that often played a Scarborough club called The Knob Hill Hotel, at Eglinton Avenue and McCowan Road.
Thus began the references to Scarberia, a wasteland of strip malls and…
In 1982, Rush released an album called Signals. A disc greeted with disdain by the faithful because it marked the beginning of a synth heavy sound that would dominate the band’s output for several years, away from the guitar-driven prog rock of 2112.
However, Subdivisions stood out. A great song on a lacklustre album, and it became a staple of the group’s live shows.
Sprawling on the fringes of the city.
Apparently fans across North America felt the same as I did when those lyrics blasted from the radio speakers.
That’s my life.
In a recent Town Hall interview on Sirius/XM, filmmaker Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 911, Sicko) admitted to being a major Rush fan and said Subdivisions probably saved lives, because it made the alienated…the misfits and dreamers Neil Peart wrote about…feel connected and less alone.
I lived those lyrics.
Even so, I didn’t feel left out or somehow less of a Torontonian because I resided miles from Yonge Street. The timeless old attaction, to quote the song. Downtown Toronto was a subway ride away if I wanted to see the bright lights of Yonge and Dundas.
And be accosted by street people looking for change, or hookers asking if I wanted “a date.”
All in all, I enjoyed being a safe distance from that. Subdivisions were created for that reason. You were within driving distance of downtown but safe (or seemingly safer) from crime and the uglier aspects of big city life.
Movie theatres were ten or fifteen minutes away. The Elane, Birchcliff, Cedarbrae.
The much-maligned plazas and strip malls had great pizza places, Chicken Burger on Kingston Road and A&A Records.
It wasn’t a cultural wasteland. Scarberia had everything I needed, with hockey arenas and baseball parks close by and plenty of green space to provide a welcome relief from the office towers and concrete of Bay Street.
And yes, I saw Goddo at The Knob. As I was paying the cover charge outside the bar, a young guy came rushing towards me and puked on the carpet. It was a fitting welcome to an underwhelming show. One my friend Alfie Petitti had said would be great because ya gotta see Goddo live.
Greg Godovitz introduced a tune called Under My Hat as follows: “This a a song you all should know because we’ve been playing it for so fucking long.”
Thankfully, I enjoyed many rocking nights at The Knob with Scarborough’s own Santers (never imaging I’d move to Wasaga Beach and become tennis buddies with the bass player, Rick Lazaroff) and Metal Queen Lee Aaron.
Though I got to know Aaron by her given name, Karen Greening.
Those nights were highlights from my college years and I’m happy I grew up in Scarborough. It’s changed considerably during the past 30 years. More concrete, with strip malls replaced or supplemented by power centres.
Even today, if I reference Scarberia, I do so with a smile. I have fond memories of that place in-between the bright lights and the far, unlit unknown.