The man in the wheelchair held an old aluminum door in front of him. Man and door rolled down my street, pushed by another man at half past eight on a recent morning. This is Parkdale.I don't know where the two men got the door but they were moving through space and time together, and it seemed a metaphor. The men were never going to open that door and pass across some threshold to a better world, a warmer hearth, a brighter life.On the other hand, they were on their way to sell it at the scrap dealer's down at the end of the street, so maybe it would make their lives better and brighter and warmer by a buck or two. That's not to be sniffed at. A buck or two is worth more than any metaphor of mine. And they were going to recycle the door, so they were actually going to make the world a bit better. I don't mean to overstate the case. I do mean they were making my neighbourhood cleaner. How many streets in the city have a scrap dealer at the end of the block, with nice neat houses on either side? I used to grouse about the scrap dealer, but now I think every neighbourhood should have some place down the block where the men who pick the alleys clean can trade their scrap for coins.

I saw the men and their door as I was about to post letters and bills in the corner mailbox. Yes, I pay my bills the old-fashioned way. Yes, I still write letters. And yes, the red Canada Post box is covered with graffiti. To hell with metaphor, here is an irony: The letters I write are posted in a box covered with illegible writing.But there was something new on the box this morning; a short simple sentence, written in block letters with a glitter marker, delightfully easy to read: You are beautiful.

I, of course, am not. Still, the message made me smile and that might have been the intent of the writer. I was grateful for this, because I live in a neighbourhood that seems increasingly distant from beauty.

Someone dumped the naked, bloated torso of a woman in an alley not so very far from my place the other night. She must have been beautiful once; someone would have thought her so. She was not beautiful when she was found. An inference: if she was bloated, she died some days ago. An inference: whoever disposed of her arms, legs and head did not have the stomach to finish the job. A final inference: whoever did this panicked. She was found in a blind alley. No need to search for metaphors now.

What went wrong? Who did this? How do we explain it to the kids?

Well, dear, sometimes the bad people kill the nice people and then they cut them up and throw them away.

How does a child deal with that? How do I?A couple of years ago, one man stabbed another in a rooming house down the block. Both the man who bled to death and the man who used the knife had psychiatric histories. The rooming house is some sort of "facility" where residents get some sort of "care." I can't walk past that house without a shiver. That's how I deal with such things. I shiver, and I keep on walking.

There was a fire in the neighbourhood recently. You must have seen the pictures in the papers. A bakery and a dollar store burned down on Queen near Jameson. A bit of luck: Fire Hall 15 is close by, so the pumper trucks were on the scene right away. Another bit of luck: there were no apartments on top of the dollar store or the bakery. The fire did not spread, and that had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with the skill of the crew from the local fire hall. I walked past the charred remains the morning after the fire. The woman who ran the dollar store was standing on the sidewalk in shock. She had no insurance. She didn't want to talk to me or anyone else. All her stock, up in smoke. She muttered that she wasn't sure what she was going to do now, or if she would start again. Most of us are not sure what we are going to do at the best of times. Most of us have not suffered those kinds of losses.Some of the buildings on this part of the street were once beautiful, although you have to stand back and squint to see the beauty. Now, the block looks like a crazed grin with two teeth missing. Burnt buildings, dead bodies and two men with an aluminum door that opens into infinity.

Oh, my poor dear Parkdale.
Joe Fiorito usually appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Email: