Monday, August 16th, 2010
I spent 20 years on Queen West. Queen and Bathurst was my village’s Main Square. I’d say to people, ‘I never go east of University, north of College or west of of Ossington’; but it wasn’t true, I regularly broke my neighborhood vow when I needed bicycle stuff. At that time Igor’s store was near Gladstone Ave, 6 blocks west of my western boundary, out near that upscale, hip new Gladstone Hotel that everyone’s talking about these days.
In those days the Gladstone was a dump and that corner was Igor’s Bike Shop, the Elvis Restaurant, the Pawn Shop and the drug bazaar I mean the coffee shop.
When Igor was busted for selling stolen bikes in the early 90′s his sentence was that he had to keep better records of transactions. In all my dealings with him he made sure the paper work got done.
In my experience people didn’t love Igor. Igor didn’t covet love, I think he wanted people to be scared of him a little bit. Those who stayed around did so because they thought that was kind of interesting for someone who was trying to run as business – and they themselves were interesting people. Igor is an interesting, complicated person.
When the gentrification of Queen West was almost ‘com-plete’ (à la Darkman (1990) Female Computer Voice: “Synthetic digitization complete”), and many of the ‘interesting’ people had already left the neighborhood, Igor was surrounded by people who wished he’d leave too.
Their financed-with-mortgage-money-condo’s could be worth a holiday to Cancun Mexico if the crazy man would just move that filthy store somewhere else…
Last week at BongBoing, Toronto native, Cory Doctorow – publisher of BoingBoing – put up his take on the Queen West bicycle mechanic…
From BoingBoing Friday August 13, 2010
by Cory Doctorow
Richard Poplak and Nick Marinkovich’s Kenk: A Graphic Portrait is a journalistic inquiry into the life of Igor Kenk, Toronto’s notorious stolen bike peddler, told in comic form.
I’ve known Igor since I was 18 years old, and truth be told, I found him confusing, likable, maddening, hilarious, charismatic, criminal, and even honourable after his own fashion. The Slovenian entrepreneur and bike-mechanic was a packrat (Kenk implies that he is a pathological hoarder, and I think this fits) and a seamy, rough-and-ready type who seemed to have stepped out of the pages of a Bruce Sterling story. He occupied a succession of shops at the western end of Queen Street in Toronto, long before the neighbourhood became fashionable, back when it was a depressed and seedy little strip in the middle of nowhere.
Igor used to fix my bikes (and very well, too, at reasonable prices — and even on credit when I was broke), and inevitably a simple repair would turn into hours of conversation out front of his shop or back in its jammed interior, sandwiched into the tiny clear spaces between the mountains of bike-junk and refuse harvested from sidewalks and garage sales and dumps. I traded in my bike for a better one, paying the difference with cash, just before he was arrested in the early 1990s, charged with selling stolen bikes. Among the bikes that the police seized as stolen property was my old bike, which I had owned for 15 years and had traded in fair and square. I concluded then that no matter what Igor was up to, he was also being railroaded by the authorities.
Posted: August 16th, 2010
Author: michael holloway
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