Il Pleut àMourir

A sudden, rather cool-looking thunderstorm rolled through Toronto tonight. I took some pictures and snagged some video, here and here. Check out the lightning and thunder, in the second video, around the 0:10 mark. There was even a nice double-rainbow afterward.

Given today’s news, it’s a relief to live in a place where the weather is at best a photo opportunity, and at worst a pain in the ass, and not somewhere where you have to worry about mile-wide tornadoes.

"Here's to you, 1998 amalgamation!"

From Torontoist’s typically excellent visual summary of how Toronto voted for mayor, by ward:

Also, this more nuanced version:

You’ll notice that the actual city of Toronto voted Smitherman, while the suburbs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough all voted Ford. You’ll also notice that the purple area in the first map pretty much overlays with the subway lines.

While it’s not really sensible to blame the election result entirely on amalgamation, it’s fun to try. The subject of this post, “Here’s to you, 1998 amalgamation” is taken from the comment section of the Torontoist article. It made me laugh and made me angry all at once.

Bloody hell

  • Rob Ford: 47.1%
  • George Smitherman: 35.6%
  • Joe Pantalone: 11.7%

This is also how I felt on the 8 Nov 2000. Rob Ford may be far less powerful than George Bush was, but he’s much closer to home.

Calgary had their election a week before Toronto. One of those cities elected a progressive young Muslim, the son of an immigrant, to be mayor. The other elected a fiscally & socially conservative white guy from the burbs. It’s like we got each other’s leaders.

Yankee swap anybody?!

The lesser of 2.5 evils

Last year I pointed to the relationship between an Economist blog comment and a five-year-old clip from Real Time with Bill Maher. Specifically I pointed to the need for a third political choice and the general unhealthiness of reducing complex political acts to a binary Coke-vs-Pepsi race. I didn’t get into the whole moral complication of wanting to vote for a third choice (like Ralph Nader, in the 2004 example) but feeling the need to vote ‘strategically’ to keep the worst option from winning. I’ve never believed in voting that way; you should vote for who you think will do the best job.

However: I simply cannot have Peter Griffin running my city.

I want to vote for Joe Pantalone, I do. I don’t buy all the wailing about him continuing the horrible legacy of David Miller, mainly because I don’t think David Miller was a bad mayor. I see George Smitherman as benign and centrist, but I’ll gladly take inertia over the notion of regressing for the next three years.

Just think back. Nobody in America was excited at the idea of Al Gore being president, but look at where the other guy got them. And while they may have voted with their hearts, the Nader supporters inadvertently reaped a simple-minded whirlwind.

Tonight after work I’ll hold my nose and vote, and then go home for a stiff drink while watching the news.

Happy: Canada Day

Oh my, but it’s been a nice Canada Day. We were up pretty early — improbably, Nellie get out of bed before I did — and walked down to the waterfront to catch the ferry to the islands. First we rented bikes (crappy ones, too…next time I need to find a better place from which to rent) from Centre Island, rode to the far end of Hanlon’s Point for some pictures and rode back to the pier. Nice.

Next we walked along the boardwalk toward Ward’s Island, looking out over the lake and the Leslie Street Spit. We stopped for lunch at the Rectory Cafe, which we’ve been meaning to try for years. Man, was it worth the wait. My pulled pork wrap was fantastic, Nellie’s pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and olive oil was simple and tasty, and we had several Ontario wines (Malivoire pinot gris and rose, and Fielding White Conception) throughout. We wrapped it up with an amazing sticky toffee pudding.

As we got up to leave we looked out over the lake and saw one of the tall ships we thought was coming into the harbour for the waterfront festival, but was in fact a ship that sails around the harbour all the time. Still…pretty! Then we walked across Ward’s Island, taking the pictures I’d hoped to get in my ill-fated excursion three years ago. A little good timing with the ferry and we were back on dry land, surrounded by hordes of families decked out in red.

Not quite done with the day yet, we sat on the sunny patio at Bier Markt and had some Canadian beers: Beau’s Lugtread and Denison’s. Then…well, I needed a nap. We came home and I made the couch my lover while we watched a crap movie, and then Nellie grilled up some amazing steak to go with yet more Canadian wine (2008 Rosewood Semillon and a bottle of L’Acadie Alchemy) while we watch the city light up with the minortillery of fireworks.

Happy birthday, country!

Respite

Just back from a semi-whirlwind trip to Halifax for a friend’s wedding. In addition to the ceremony itself, which was a ton of fun, we also squeezed in brunch with friends at their beautiful new home, dinner at Bish with my parents, brother and sister-in-law and even some down time on a few patios.

Aaaaaaaaaand then we returned to find Toronto in some kind of lock-down mode…stores closed, violent protests happening a few blocks away, upsetting displays from punks and police alike. I’m too tired to think much about it…just going to go to sleep and hope the city’s back to normal tomorrow morning.

Avast

I’m getting too old for this.

Last night wasn’t a late finisher so much as it was an early starter. Dinner at Fieramosca (with a bottle of wine), then drinks with co-workers at The Pilot, then more co-worker drinks at Volo, and finally dinner at Origin. I think our meal was good. I know it was long. The ending gets a little fuzzy. The next morning was even fuzzier.

How fortunate, then, that we were scheduled to get on a boat and cruise around in the hot sun for most of Saturday afternoon. Our friend CB had arranged a little celebration for husband GB’s birthday, so nine of us piled on a catamaran and prepared to enjoy the weather. My stomach wasn’t quite ready for that, though; the first few minutes while we were tied up made me queasy, but as soon as we were underway I felt better. A little nap below decks helped.

We reached Centre Island, had a bit of a stroll and (somewhat inadvertently) took in the sights at Hanlon’s Point Beach. Then the skipper cooked lunch, which we ate on the grass, by the water, in the sun…pretty awesome. Back on board and birthday cake in hand we set back out, cruising through the harbor and all the way around the islands. It gave me a look at parts of Toronto I’d not seen before, like the north side of Ward’s Island and a bird colony on the Leslie Street Spit. I got to relax on the deck of a boat for a few hours, a cool breeze tempering the hot summer sun. Shaky start and a little sunburn aside, it was a brilliant day.

Yeeeeeaaaaah, I need a rich friend with a boat.

Where to next?

4,634 days ago I moved to a place I never thought I’d end up: Toronto. Growing up on the east coast of Canada, you’re trained to dislike Ontario in general, and Toronto in particular. Of course, that was an uninformed opinion, typical small-town distrust of big cities. I was excited as soon as it became a real possibility, just as I’d been excited to move from my tiny home town to Halifax for university. Living in the country’s biggest city became a thrilling idea. Anyway, I’d been offered a good job in Toronto straight out of school, and you didn’t turn that down.

I was lucky enough to move here with other people from university and lived here with my friend Brock for my first year. Brock had lived here before and made the transition a little easier. So did making a lot of good friends at work, mainly other transplanted Maritimers. I really started to love it here: countless live music venues, huge record stores (back when that was important), movie theatres showing all kinds of movies and all the sleepless energy of the big city. For god’s sake, the stores were open on Sunday! Nellie joined me in Toronto the following year, by which time I was in love with the city.

My jobs moved progressively further downtown (except for one blip up to Markham), and so did our apartments. We discovered more advantages of living here: new foods, nicer clothing stores, the film festival, better beer places. We got married, bought a home, adopted cats, got better jobs. Toronto was our home now, rather than a stopping point until we figured out what else to do.

After thirteen years here, though, I’m beginning to fall out of love with Toronto. It still has lots of what we like, but some of Toronto is wearing on us: the pollution, the dysfunctional waterfront, the paralyzing. I also find myself comparing Toronto to other Canadian cities, greener places with more character.

So what would it take to make me move? Career aside, I’d still want a city with a diverse population, good movie theatres (and maybe even a film festival), great restaurants and progressive politics. I’d also like to live in a city with good parks and nearby mountains. A few years ago live music venues and record stores would’ve been major factors, but things change. I suspect that soon movie theatres won’t matter much anymore either, as long as I have broadband.

The career point is the kicker, obviously, but supposing we got a great job offers in another city there are three places in Canada I’d consider moving to:

Halifax: home sweet home, obviously, but it’s changed from when we were students. Or maybe it’s just that we see more now than we did then. It’s a small town, but it’s laid back and comfortable while getting ever so slightly more cosmopolitan all the time. Plus, it’s close to family. However, if they hadn’t done away with the Sunday shopping ban three years ago, Halifax would’ve been a non-starter.

Calgary: true, Alberta’s a very conservative province, and the freaking cowboy/stampede culture would drive me batty, but I could put up with a lot for living 90 minutes from the Rockies.

Vancouver: I think this one tops my list. The green space, the proximity to mountains and wine country, the incredible restaurants, the weather (rain doesn’t bother me, given where I grew up) and the attitude of the city makes it feel like home every time I visit. So if somebody could hurry up and offer me an amazing job there, I’d appreciate it.

(By the way, apologies to Montreal. You certainly have your charms, but moving there from Toronto would feel too much like the same thing, just with a much better hockey team. Likewise, Ottawa: I like your green space and many of your inhabitants, but I…iiiii…zzzzzzzzzz…zzzzzzzzSNRK!!! Huh? Wha? Oh…uh, sorry, Ottawa, you put me to sleep there.)

And, of course, I haven’t even mentioned cities outside of Canada. I’d be here all night.

"[I]t's become a destination for over-drinking."

Last year I commented on a Dooney’s Cafe article about the decline of a great Toronto neighbourhood: The Annex. The article was focused on the strip of Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst, and about how banal it had become.

Really, what’s happened to that piece of Bloor is studentification (admittedly, that’s not a word, but it’s as valid as “un-gentrification”) which had been fairly constrained to the Madison in years past. Like it or not, U of T is getting a retail ghetto, and Bloor Street from the JCC to Honest Ed’s is it. I don’t have a particular problem with this — neighbourhoods change all the time, and every time the people lived there before turn up their noses at the interlopers — except that blandness should never be something for a neighbourhood to aspire to.

It seems, though, that the strip of Bloor is becoming somewhat more violent, with a recent shooting outside the Brunswick House and a stabbing in one of the omnipresent sushi joints.  This past weekend the Globe and Mail collected opinions from some prominent residents on the spate of violence. A sample:

“I walked up to Bloor and Brunswick and saw a guy lying in a pool of blood in a café doorway. All the people eating and drinking on the patio of Future Bakery just carried on like this was entirely normal. It used to be the most violence you’d see around here was when two professors would argue over which NDP candidate to support, but there was a rape and a murder in the alley near my house last year.”

The Brunny seems to be the target of most of the anger, even if only city councilor Adam Vaughan calls it out by name. Deservedly so: it’s a little piece of clubland transported up to a neighbourhood which should have more character.

It’s a little sad for me. This used to be our neighbourhood, more or less, and we’d visit it often. By the sound of things it’s gone from being bland (which is a shame) to bring rather dangerous (which is tragic). I haven’t been up on that strip since Hot Docs in May, but I’ll be able to check it out up close this weekend. We’re seeing the Rural Alberta Advantage at Lee’s Palace Friday.

So here’s the question: just how badly stabbed would I have to be not to walk down to Spadina and get a scoop of roasted marshmallow from Greg’s?

Things I learned this weekend

  • Nellie’s vacations are always bittersweet for me. As an introvert I love the alone time, but I always miss her too.
  • Two years after I saw Once for the first time, I watched it again. Still just as amazing. The scene in the music store where he teaches her “Falling Slowly” gave me chills, just like it did the first time.
  • The city of Toronto is holding a design contest for a revamped north building at St. Lawrence Market. Good. I love the farmer’s market on Saturdays, but that building is both hideous and a logistical nightmare.
  • Eighteen pound cats do not enjoy falling into bathtubs full of water. They enjoy it even less when their owner takes too long drying them off because he’s nearly strained a rib muscle from laughing.
  • The Santa Claus parade seems ridiculously out of place when it’s foggy and 14 degrees. Oh, and fucking November.
  • That said, I’m excited that Swiss Chalet has the festive special up and running already.
  • There are few three-word sentences in moviedom as cool as “Gregor fucked us.”
  • If I ever own a house I’m going to make my living room into a replica of Cumbrae’s, complete with butchers and bags — bags, people — of pulled pork.
  • My team was teh suck last night (except for Carey Price) and hasn’t been very good at all this year.