Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why I Love Toronto

I love Toronto. Even though I’ve only lived here one year, this is my city. It always has been. When I was a small child, I would come three or four times a year for baseball games, or walks, or because – I can only assume – that my parents had some errand to run, and they didn’t want to leave me alone, as I’d most likely set fire to necessary things like dryers, stoves, small animals, or chestnut dinette sets. When I was sixteen I made the trip into the city twice a month, often to pick up Manic Panic hair dye (not yet available at Shopper’s Drugmart, and just about every other store you could imagine.) I had to make the trip down to F/X, often passing Active Surplus and the large gorilla out front. F/X has since moved, and Active Surplus has shrunk, and looks to be on the verge of closing. I can list you more than half a dozen comic book stores here, what they’re each good for, and where they are located now as well as where they have moved from over the years. In some cases I can even tell you the specific smell you will find smacking you over the face when you enter (3rd Quadrant used to be Big Mac Special Sauce, and The Beguiling has, and always will, reek of pretentiousness.)

It’s not until I leave the city that I truly appreciate just what it has to offer. London may be famous for Theatre, and New York may have the night life, but Toronto – I would argue – has the best, and most diverse, food of any city anywhere on the planet. Maybe it’s our multicultural demographics, or maybe it’s just that we are fantastic.

And that’s just one aspect of the city. Toronto gives everything it has to its citizens. The amount of festivals is beyond compare. There are three big festival venues in Toronto. They are:

Harbourfront Centre
Nathan Phillips Square
Yonge and Dundas Square

These three venues are teeming with events throughout the year. In the dead of winter, Nathan Phillips Square hosts Winter City which brings free concerts by bands you actually know, and would love to see. They also have street theatre, and at times fire sculptures. There is also a free public skating rink there. Throughout the rest of the year more concerts are held, as well as large organized pillow fights, art gatherings, and many many food related events.

Harbourfront Centre always has free art exhibits within it that are not to be missed. Not only that, but they also have a number of free festivals throughout the year (celebrating things such as Mexico’s Day of the Dead, and a number of other multicultural holidays.) But when the summer hits? That’s when this place really comes to life. Every single weekend in the summer there is a new, exciting, and different festival. If you want to see tall ships, you can do so here. If you want to watch artisans from around the world they’ll be here. If you want to eat, a Toronto specialty, you better believe you can do that here.

And then we come to Yonge and Dundas Square. What can be said about this place? It’s no Time’s Square – even though I think part of it would like to be. And though we have a scramble crossing, and large video screens, it’s not Shibuya either. What it is, is a place where all things come together. On one side of the road you have the Eaton’s Centre – by far the largest mall in these here parts – just outside you will find chalk painters, human sculptures, and drummers pounding on garbage pails, and street lamps. Occasionally you’ll find someone telling you that you’re going to hell for one or more reasons as well, but it’s all part of the local flavour. Across the street, however, is where things really get going. In the summer free movies are played on big screens, bands perform, festivals are held, more food stands celebrate cultural cuisine. And even when nothing’s going on, there are lots of tables and chairs to just sit in the sun, and pass the day away with a good book. You can usually find me there doing just that.

I’ve heard people say that they hate Toronto, and I’ve heard people outside of the city asking why it’s loved so much. I can speak honestly and truthfully, I’ve never come across a city that has so much going on at all times, specifically for the people. I’ve found no city that offers so much for so little. And, again, did I mention the food is great too?

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