Toronto, My Beloved City

Today I broke away from my parents and headed out on my own. Toronto is awesome. The economy is booming, the streets are safe, the restaurants are full and there seems to be an endless stream of cultural activities. The downtown is packed with thongs of people, and given the size of the city I saw few homeless. Toronto has a population of about 5 million including its surrounding area, which makes it a fairly large world class city. It is also a very cold place. I went to the Eaton Center, which is a huge underground complex that runs for at least three subway stops right under the main downtown thoroughfare. This means, on the street level. there is the usual shopping and other activities you would expect on any downtown commercial street, including traffic and weather, but then there are three lower levels of underground life. Then even lower that there is the subway! It is simply amazing. There is a whole underground world in the downtown of Toronto. The city has become effectivity immune to its cold climate. And to top it off the place is packed! People are everywhere, shopping or just doing what people do on a good summer day in a northern city. But what makes Toronto unique from most American cities, and which gives its good marks for livability, is that people actually live in the downtown area. This means that at 6 PM the offices are rolled up for the day and the night life is rolled out. Toronto is a healthy city and a good place to live as far as large cities go.

I made a lot of Madrid having a largely homogenous white European population, but this is decidedly not the case with Toronto. There is no observable dominant racial group. It seems the whole world has moved to Toronto. When I lived here it was primarily a white Anglo-Saxon world with a strong smattering of immigrant communities, mostly from southern Europe and China. That has now all been pushed aside. The major immigrant communities now appear to be from India, Shri Lanka, the middle east and the far east, places like Vietnam and Cambodia. Although I can see it causes my parent some consternation, I like being in a city where I can find all the flavors of the world. They feel their Anglo-Saxon world has slipped away from them. Indeed it has.

Toronto’s art gallery does not measure up to world standards. Not because it lacks the Monets and the Manets, but because it has a horrible way of displaying its paintings. Half the collection has no fixed name plates (they are in a book that can be found in each viewing room) and the ones that do, have name plates that provide no contextual information about the work other than artist and date. In addition there is no self audio tour, nor is photography allowed. The building itself is first class, the presentation just fails. I sense the reason for this lays in the way the gallery is funded and managed. It appears to be a closed club. Donor walls are everywhere. There is even an exclusive lounge and dining area just for donors. As I stood in line to buy an entry ticket I was approached to become a donor! I’d never been in the place and here I was being “hit up.” It appears to me that the gallery has sold its soul to its donors and so has become beholding to a select group. This gives the institution a closed and snobbish feel and makes it quirky and unresponsive to public needs. Hence the odd way of presentation. There is a snobbish attitude that implies that the viewers are supposed to know about each painting in advance. One favorable thing I will say about the gallery is that its Henry Moore collection is outstanding and beautifully displayed. Apparently Henry Moore was so touched by the city after it placed one of his works, the Archer, in front of the city hall that he donated many of his molds of other works to the city. After visiting the gallery I walked to the city hall in the rain to photograph Henry Moore’s Archer that is displayed in the city hall’s common area. I remember the huge uproar that occurred when this sculpture first appeared in front of the city hall. They say the mayor even lost the next election because he supported Moore’s work being place at city hall. In my opinion it is an exquisite work that could be much better displayed.

My last comment is about Kensington Market. This used to be a vibrant immigrant neighborhood in the downtown area that was decidedly southern European in feel. You used to be able to find all kinds of Italian, Spanish, and Greek, cheeses, breads, fruits and cuts of meats. I could hardly find any of this today. Instead, I found that Chinatown and other south Asian communities, including even a Tibetan community had transformed the market area. The old southern European feel seems to have diminished. This suggests that these older immigrant communities have matured and assimilated into Canadian society and so moved on, and now these new communities from asia are restarting the cycle. I would like to know if my guess is statically true. At any rate I had a great time rediscovering downtown Toronto, my beloved city.

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