Ambre McLean
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Red Light District

Red Light District

Mar 08, 2022

[April 19, 2021]

My daughter and I were lying in bed the other night, asking each other questions;
What is your favourite animal? Cookie? Movie?
"I know your favourite colour Mommy," she said.
"What do you think it is?" I asked.
"It’s red!" she said excitedly. "You LOVE red!”
"I do love red," I admitted. “It's a very bold colour. It’s the colour of passion and vigour and love and life..." And just like that, I was flooded with this memory...

I bought my first house in Guelph when I was in my mid-twenties.
I was already living there at the time, with members of my then band Sharon Said. The lease on our band-house was about to expire, coincidentally so was the romantic relationship between the drummer and me. The band had come to a crossroad, and in the end, we all decided, amicably, to go our separate ways. Moving out of that house on Fountain Street marked the end of a formatively creative time in my life. I was sad yet equally excited as I looked forward to new beginnings. With help from a close friend and a buying partner, I secured my first mortgage and entered the real estate game.

I worked a ton in those days. I maxed out my waking hours with three jobs, gigs, tours, writing, renovations… you name it. It was a busy, busy time, but I was young, and I had boundless amounts of energy. I was scraping together every penny I could because I had gone on to buy out my co-investor, giving me sole reign over that quaint little 1.5 storey wartime house. My neighbourhood, or "The Ward," was rapidly changing. Homes were selling fast and then sold to artsy types like me, young families were moving in, and it had become a desired hotspot for shared student housing.
The streets were under repair, the parks cultivated, and the surrounding neighbourhoods born anew. I loved living there, and I wanted to slow down a bit and enjoy some of what I had worked so hard to acquire. I needed something to help take the financial burden off. Roommates. I needed roommates.
I imported my sister Anna from out west (more like begged and pleaded and called her every day until she relented), and then I added my bandmates to the mix. The bass player, the drummer, and the percussionist/keyboard player all moved in, some with girlfriends, some with cats. My then-boyfriend was a full-time student; who would make bi-annual appearances and stay for a few months at a time. All to say, this was a full-house; I think we counted 14 of us living there one summer. It was piercings, tattoos and a rainbow of hair colours, oh-my. We were a motley crew for sure, and it was glorious.
Many of us smoked tobacco (and its wacky cousin), so the covered front porch became the meeting place. People were always coming and going. It was a neighbourhood hang place, and we had a 24-hour-everyone-is-welcome-rotating-front-door kind o’ policy.

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