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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Urban immersion in Toronto

I spent the weekend in Toronto doing a little shopping and enjoying a few beautiful late-summer days before fall sets in. I love Toronto, but my periodic visits also remind me why I'm glad I don't live there anymore.

To start, here's my recurring complaint about the TTC. Toronto needs to get a grip on its transit system - the subways are run-down and filthy, and surface transportation on its vaunted streetcar network is intermittent and frustrating. Instead of pushing elaborate expansion schemes like Transit City, the TTC needs to clean up its existing facilities and improve its service. Relying on the TTC to get around is becoming an ordeal.

The annual Busker Festival was happening on Front Street near the St Lawrence Market - the place was packed with families enjoying the beautiful weather, and vendors were hawking all kinds of delicious street food while all sorts of musicians, acrobats and magicians entertained the crowd.

People dress funny in Toronto. I frequently saw young skinny men clutching man-purses in manicured hands, slouching down the sidewalks with their pantlegs rolled up to mid-calf, giant aviator sunglasses hiding their bloodshot eyes and unkempt hair hanging out from under cheap fedoras. If you want to stroll the streets of your own hometown in the latest cutting-edge Toronto fashion, this is the look. Of course you have to weigh less than 150 lbs to pull it off.

Or you could try this look - a canary-yellow fedora and matching trenchcoat sported by a young hipster in a coffee shop on King St:

Mayor Miller's Toronto is relentless in pushing its environmental agenda - sometimes a visitor feels like he's trapped in some green ghetto where the environuts are constantly watching for infractions. Yonge Street was closed to traffic from Gerrard to Queen for the Livegreen Toronto Festival - a sort of trade show for companies hawking "green" products and services. Of course this completely disrupted north-south traffic, causing backups where cars sat belching CO2. It was pretty clear that there's a lot of money to be made in the enviro-guilt market if you can somehow market your product with the words green, eco-friendly,sustainable, responsible, or local attached to it:

Various groups were tripping over themselves to establish their green bona fides. There were the green doctors:

the green bankers:

the green brewers (whose beer is sold in green bottles!):

the green artists

No green bakers or candlestick makers, but there was a contingent of green lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered. I had no idea that being gay made me environmentally friendly. Well, there is a green stripe in the flag, after all.

An alt-rock band entertained the true believers. Hippies generated electricity with stationary bikes to power the amplifiers.

Meanwhile, over at Nathan Phillips Square in front of City Hall, the party faithful were gathered for Toronto-Cuba Friendship Day. A sparse crowd of lefties was demanding that Canada end the U.S. blockade of Cuba (how Canada is supposed to do that was a little vague). The communists were out in force extolling the virtues of the Cuban Workers' Paradise.

Clearly there was only one type of Canadian this crowd was interested in engaging:

All this leftist agitprop can tire a guy out, so the next morning I decided to replenish my spirits with a big greasy breakfast at my favourite Toronto diner - Fran's on College Street. I've been eating breakfast there for years ever since my dad used to take me when I was a kid when we'd been to see the Leafs play at the old Maple Leaf Gardens.

I strolled past various leftist territorial markers

and took my seat beside a table of skinny young men discussing how eating meat was bad for the environment. I ostentatiously opened the National Post and ordered my usual Fran's breakfast - The Maple Leafs Forever - an artery-clogging feast with the carbon footprint of an entire African village. I tucked into this monster with enthusiasm while my neighbours at the next table ate their whole-wheat vegan waffles. They didn't look like they were enjoying their breakfast like I was mine.

So, fortified with factory-produced eggs, red meat and non-fair-trade coffee, I headed home to Eastern Ontario and relative sanity. You know how the saying goes - nice place to visit ...


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you visited our lefty city. I'm glad you got out. lol. Your pictures are interesting. I've
just one question. How did you find all these places?

Babylonian777 said...

What a weired city.

Eric said...

It wasn't hard to find this stuff - I just walked around, camera at the ready. It's everywhere.

Anonymous said...

If we give more infrastructure money to Toronto, it will just mean the transit workers will go on strike again and their salaries and benefits will be raised. They know they can get away with it with new money helping the TTC and the lefty mayor. Same thing with the health system and educational system - any extra money just encourages the unions to go on strike.

Anonymous said...

I like the hippies on bikes. Where can i get some of those? I just over-clocked my cpu and need the extra juice. I am offering the going rate per kw/h minus food and drink of course.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, I can tell you that Toronto wasn't like this in the 80s or even much of the 90s but the left are taking over. Parasites need a healthy host or else they die too and Toronto is that host. (real conservative)

Anonymous said...

I was born in TO, spent some time there working and left. I now live Down East. Raising a family here, enjoying a great quality of life and I will never go back to Toronto, or Ontario....

Ric Locke said...

Up to around 2005 I used to visit Toronto occasionally, and always enjoyed it. You might think a laissez-faire Texan would have a hard time blending in; not so. I'm skinny, and while my clothes got that way from digging post holes and clearing brush rather than adolescent Chinese working for trendy boutiques, they were fine for general camouflage.

It was already evident around 1995 or so that decline was inevitable. The folks Floridians call "Condo Commandos" were consolidating their waterfront beachhead, and demanding that such filthy, disorderly activities as loading and unloading ships and airplanes operating off the Island must be eliminated forthwith. Working-class bars were either closing, or ripping out sturdy booths and tables in favor of spindly, elegant furniture, pale walls with faux art washed by edgewise halogens, and (of course) ferns. The number of people on the street wearing coveralls and carrying lunchboxes or pails decreased every visit, replaced by fashionable togs and Goth-inspired makeup, and unctuous Greenier-than-thou declarations in menus featuring $20 hamburgers were becoming the norm.

It would seem the trend continues. I'd like to go back (I lost that job, and can't afford it any more) but doubt it would be quite as enjoyable, though it looks as if there'd be a lot more to laugh and/or jeer at.


Orlin said...

My that a corn dog wrapped around a french fry? I'm getting hungry.

Anonymous said...

A cesspool of all the world's failed ideals. What must Euros think of this self-absorbed butthole of a sub arctic backwater?

Montreal is culturally vibrant, Vancouver is laid-back urbane, Calgary is unpretentious nouveau upscale, Halifax is old world charm with a new artistic heart - - but Toronto? What sort of politicized mutant culture infects this berg? Like everything you do must make a political statement regardless how morbidly arcane, or you're un-chic. Place seems culturally and fiscally bankrupt.

Perhaps a new slogan for TO is in order? Instead of "Toronto the good", - Toronto the dud.