Looking Back from Innisfil

Hello friends. I’m going to make a start at blogging again. My wife is now able to continue her healing at home thanks to her surgeon, medical specialists, nursing and all the other caring staff at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Thank you to readers who left messages here during my absence.

Two weeks is probably the longest time I’ve spent in downtown Toronto in the more than 20 years since we left the city. Not surprisingly, much of it was unrecognizable to me. Here are a few very biased impressions of downtown Toronto compared to my memory of another era. 

It’s a lot more crowded and noisy than I remember it being. It seemed to me that Toronto’s forest of towers has made the streets darker and grim. Finding a patch of sunlight was like finding gold. Maybe it’s the time of year or the circumstances? There seems to be a lot more ‘private’, i.e. corporate, space and a lot less public space. Like New York, downtown Toronto is a place of wealth for the wealthy. I think the most irksome thing was that advertising, including corporate and private sponsorships, is ubiquitous. The message seems to be that nothing happens in this ‘world class’ city without the visible patronage of the few who actually have power. City buildings, services and events all wear the livery of those who actually hold the cash.

I did discover a couple of small but really magical little ‘parks’ that served to join parallel streets for pedestrians. I was impressed by some of the separated bike lanes and amazed by the number of bicycles and riders of all ages. The reckless automobile driving I saw too often is pretty alarming. Urban stress is creating a selfish ‘every man for himself’ mentality that is more reminiscent of my first experience of New York.

My impression was that too much of ‘old’ Toronto has been demolished and what has been kept has been done poorly. Some heritage facades seem totally overwhelmed by the steel, concrete and glass heaped all around and over them. These sad buildings look more imprisoned than preserved. Perhaps an apt metaphor for what’s been lost in ‘modern’ life.

I had time to think about why some of us aspire to the shining towers and some of us aspire to the field and forest; why some of us want the rush of human activity and some are content with nature’s rhythms of the seasons.

Hello Innisfil, I’m glad to be back.

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