Strange that I would find myself outside the country and starting a blog about my home town, Toronto. Maybe I needed to be away from Toronto to write about it. Maybe reading uTOpia has pushed me to put my views online about the city where I live. Maybe … maybe, I just wanted to start a blog and see if I could maintain it.
Other failed attempts have come before, but this WordPress thing looked too good to pass up, so I thought – hey, why not give it a whirl and see what happens!
I’m currently in Watermill, New York just outside of Southampton visiting my grandmother and some extended family before Christmas. I like to say that I was doing Sex and the City before Sex and the City was doing Sex and the City (try typing that ten times fast). This is my second home … the house in which my grandmother lives was built the year I was born (easy for her to keep track of my age!). I feel a special connection to this place and love coming down as often as I can.
But this blog wasn’t put up to talk about Long Island … no, this blog is about Toronto – but it’s also about Toronto in relation to other cities – like New York.
It’s not fair to compare the two cities in my opinion – they’re apples and oranges. I hated New York when I was a kid. Perhaps it was my anti-American sentiment setting in … being half American was not something I was particularly proud of as a child – I was a staunch nationalist to my Canadian heritage. But growing older and wiser now I’ve come to appreciate New York. My thoughts on America in general would require another blog completely, and I’m not going to get into those politics right now – no offence to my family of course. 🙂
But Toronto seems to be striving to be like New York now – why is that? Yonge and Dundas are looking more and more like a cheap rip-off of Times Square! And now that the monstrosity known as Metropolis is finally being built after eons of hoarding covering up the north-east corner of Yonge and Dundas, we will soon be subjected to even MORE advertising blaring down on the citizens who just want to relax on Yonge-Dundas Square – if that is at all possible. We even have our own discount ticket booth on the Square (T.O.TIX) like in Times Square. That’s not such a bad thing – at least there’s a bit of culture infiltrating the tsunami of advertising.
On a side note: it’s interesting to me that in the midst of all the talk of energy crisis’ happening in Toronto and the fact that we’re going to need more power in the coming years and the Province decides to build a coal-power plant right smack dab on our waterfront (brilliant idea) … that developers are allowed to push for more signage and more electronic screens to blast nothing but Loreal cosmetic ads at us from above …
Times Square grew organically. Yes it’s an assault on the senses now, but it all started way back when. It didn’t pop up out of nowhere. To me, Yonge and Dundas now seems like it’s a hydroponics greenery plopped into the middle of an organically grown garden … if that makes any sense. I’m not against what’s happened to the area – I think it’s great that we have an open square like YD Square, and I think it’s finally finding its feet and weaving itself quite nicely into the fabric of downtown. But I believe Toronto could have done far more interesting things with the architecture, integrated the surrounding culture in better, created something really worth visiting. At least in Times Square there is always something going on. Walking up to Yonge and Dundas on any given night results in bright lights blinking banal information at you … and not too many people particularly caring about it. Where are the comfortable cafes to go and grab a quick coffee in? Think about it – there’s no where around that area that one can take a load off in – relax for a bit. It keeps you moving and effectively moves you out of its core because its sterile and uninviting … or pushes you into a store like the good consumerist society we are.
Having said all that … I don’t want you to think that I don’t like Toronto. I’m an avid fan of it and am becoming more and more engaged by it and the potential this young city has. It’s a frustrated teenager trying to find its place in the grand scheme of things – a bit schitzophrenic at times, but underneath it all, there’s a layer of good that’s just waiting to surface again when the hormones die down a bit. Like patient parents, we’ll just have to coax it and guide it a bit along the way.
Update: On a side note, I’d like to draw your attention to a great press release by the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) in regards to the Portland Energy Plant proposed by the McGuinty Government and a more sustainable and greener plan.