Monday, July 30, 2007

In the Ghetto

Sometimes when I walk home from work I call my friend El Huerd. He usually picks up the phone around the time that I've made it to the corner of Bay and Bloor where there is usually a Scottish bag piper playing the bagpipes.

"Where the fuck are you calling me from?" He asks.
"Scotland. I flew over on the concorde." I usually answer and then we laugh before acknowledging how lovely it is to live in Toronto, the city that is THE most multi-cultural city known to man, sans hyperbole. Toronto - a world within a city; Toronto - a city of neighbourhoods; are some cliched Torontoisms that the tourist board likes to sprout.

Most people will lambast Toronto for being a concrete monstrosity. Montrealers decry its lack of soul. Vancouverites decry its lack of natural beauty and Europeans simply laugh at the city's many faults - like our two subway lines. For years I have vehemently warded off such Toronto hatred. Every leafy tree in the Annex, every stone cut mansion in Rosedale has for me - been part of my Toronto love affair. How can you not love its odd built form, quirky markets and navel gazing neuroses. I've made an unsuccesful side-venture of taking friends on walking tours of the city's boho west end, pointing out some of the city's best features, vainly trying to convince prospective residents just how amazing Toronto is.

Now - i'll also admit its a lot easier to love Toronto when you've grown up in the Faux. My Toronto is clean, safe, verdant and the people are generally well put together. Ande even if the people are not quite right, at least you gripe about their Tiffany jewelery.

I have been Toronto's number one fan up until recently - then I looked around and thought: maybe Toronto isn't really New York run by the Swiss, as Peter Ustinov once infamously declared.

My current Torontonian lamaise has sadly nothing to do with being caught in a too-tight pair of Lululemon pants, swishing a frapuchino at the patio - rather - I've spent the past two weeks on an odd cross-city extravaganza. The past two weeks has seen Faux Hillary so far out of his league, I feel like I've been on one of those international contiki tours - fourteen countries in six days.

Last Friday evening Kitty invited me to a white and champagne party in RosedAle. "It's a white party because you're supposed to wear white," she said before adding, "Not white because of the people." I interjected.. "So who there is not going to be white? We're talking RosedAle private schoolies?" As I got drunk off of bottles of Veuve that the underemployed future of this great city stole from their parents (because we all still live at home and get paid around $35-40k a year, a salary which while isn't below the povery line doesn't allow for the disposable income to buy bottles of veuve now does it?) I looked around and thought - perfect - everyone here is white, might as well have shown up naked.

Saturday was an even greater, "Toto we're not in Kansas anymore" moment. Found myself at MP Nav Bains bbq on Saturday - 1500 Liberals from Brampton's Indo canadian community stood in a giant field getting excited by Liberal leader Stephane Dion (at least someone is excited about him) and party saviour, Justin Trudeau. Brampton and parts of Missisaugua make up the burgeoning centure of the city's large Indo-Canadian community. It is a completely different world of strip-malls with Indo-Canadian groceries, Hindu temples and other ethnic establishments.

Just north of Brampton begins the rolling hinterlands of Caledon. Caledon is for white people who raise ponies. I'm serious. Oddly enough there is such a strong demarcation between Bramtpon and Caledeon that as you drive north its almost as if Rutherford Road is the city's Mason Dixon line. The strip malls and Hindu temples end and the Olde Towne's begin. Having been at the Indo-CDN bbq figured, my friend Caitling, we may as well rejoin "our people" so we spent the late afternoon - sunning and swimming myself in a property formerly owned by the Eatons. Yes those Eatons.

Between the swim in Caledon and the white party, I was on wasp overload - so Sunday I ended up deep in the city's north west end attending the viewing of a friends father. It was my first Italian viewing - and uptown, with six of the city's finest politico fags, we schlepped up in a veritable two car pride parade. Roman Catholic church here we come! The drive - through neighbourhoods undoubtedly listed as part of the United Way's "priority neighbourhood" list, were a shock to the downtown elite. "never seen so many Coffee Time's," someone admitted. Welcome to Toronto I thought as I regailed them with my bizarre knowledge of the Village of Weston, Mount Denis and the Jane corridor. I admitted that as a youth I used to drive out to the inner suburbs in an attempt to understand the vast unyielding suburban landscape of Tarawna. Prufrock would, however, have be proud at our excursion.

Colour me Mr. Toronto right? Faux Hillary spreads his wings, learns how to fly, and realizes there's a big big world west of Bathurst. Sigh. Not really. I spent Monday at lunch sitting on a patio with my friend Sante in yorkville. The news of the day was sad: an 11 year-old child had been gunned down in Jane Shepperd, one of the city's poorest neighbourhoods. And there in white upper class Yorkville we sat amidst a sea of Gucci lamenting increasing violence in the city. Lamenting violence as if it actually effected us. Gun violence and most recent shooting has received major coverage, for obvious reasons. Politico's have been clicking their tongues about the need for gun control, your parents and my parents have shook their heads wandering what is going in their city [wasn't like this when we grew up here], Bill Blair can talk about more police officers on the city streets, but psychologically Jane and Shepperd may as well be Khandahar.

See In Toronto - shootings at Jane and Finch don't really feel like the city's problem. They feel like Jane and Finch's problem. We all care. We really really do. But Torontonian's also care about Israel, France, Russia and India. And sure Faux Hillary can attend the largest indo-Canadian bbq on the weekend, but come Monday - where could I be found? Sitting on a patio in Yorkville (essentially downtown Faux Hill) talking about a problem, not as if it was my own - but as if it was someone else's. I emphatize truly I do. And so as Sante and I sat having lunch amidst the afternoon suits in my very narrow view of Toronto thinking that sadly, the city of Toronto, as a populist macro image actually doesn't exist. Faux Hillary first, Torontonian second.

Toronto - a city of 'ghettoized' neighbourhoods?
Toronto - the world most multi-cultural city and also the most segregated.

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