Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lament for a Village

The other day - as I sat on the subway commuting to my place of work... my friend Lobo looked at me and screamed. Little black worms were crawling up and down the neatly pressed sleaves of my oxford shirt (the same shirt that I had Parker's clean for $5.00 after getting into an argument with my cheap downtown dry cleaner... sigh, guess that personal jihad is over).

Suddenly I began to notice the black worms everywhere in the Faux's many ravines. At first I thought the worms, a new species - Faux Vermes - were a possible product of global warming. The longer and hotter spring had perhaps created a larger window for the seemingly innocuous worms to spawn and take over additional territory. However, after jumping down from my Al Gore perch - is it really an inconvenient truth? - I started thinking that Faux Vermes were tied to much more sinister developments round the Faux.

I would argue that there are few binding myth's that hold the Village together as distinct from the rest of the city. Although a love of Starbucks and all things Gucci would seemingly point to a strong sense of common identity these characteristics are at base simply proof of rampant commercialism. Does Lululemon equate the concept of a Village sovereign identity - or is it simply an extension of a pervasive mono-culture?

Yet for all of my attempt to lambast this place - the Village does have its own special physicallity to it. Mostly constructured in the 1920's and 1930's the Village's staid Georgian and Mock Tudor houses provided a welcoming respite for Toronto's emerging upper middle classes. The Faux allowed lawyers and doctors to escape downtown Toronto's cramped Victorian row houses for a life in the suburbs. The Village was and is the original extension of that cliched North American dream. Essentially a early twentieth century garden suburb - there is nothing special about the Faux's geographic plot of land; yet the 'hood is consistently referred to as exclusive or tony in the pages of Toronto's papers. Yet it retains this air of exclusivity regardless of the rather plainess of its natural beauty. The Faux does NOT for example have the geographic splendour of its Montreal equivalent: Outremont and Westmount. No - the Village and its bucolic glory is actually very Torontonian - quiet and efficient - magnificence has never been what the Village is selling; rather, its shiny red brick boxes, gracefully placed behind wide front lawns, each crowned with a large maple tree, have been the key features which have created an image of everlasting elegance.

With sadness, however, this Village is no more. It's Upper Middle Class tax bracket has long since been broken by increasing wealth - doctor's and lawyer's don't live here anymore - inherited wealth, stock broker's and the like have long since moved to town - tearing down vintage 1920's centre hall's to erect faux chateau stone monstrosities, often too big for their plot of land and which lear over their neighbours, with a showy sense of non-modernity, as if proclaiming that, "hey our leaded glass windows and dental moulding makes us look old right?" This is in fact faux on top of faux [remember the tear-down of today is actually a mock tudor]- a concept too difficult for my simple mind to wrap its head around.

I know... this sounds all rather classist of me doesn't it? Decrying the new money that has suddenly usurped my pleasant utopia, as if these "people" don't deserve to experience to the type of lifestyle and serenity that has attracted Toronto's elite for the past several decades. And yet the libertarian in me understands this need for dynamism - stagnancy leads to a slow slow death.

As I walk to work every morning my black dress shoes get muddied by the ever marching beat of construction - I can't help but feel a little nostalgic for yesteryear - when the closest thing anyone had to a sport utility vehicle was a Volvo station wagon, which is not only sensible but fuel efficient too.

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