Tag Archives: neighbourhoods

One of these things is NOT like the other

When you hear the word Amish, would you more quickly associate the word ‘rural’ or ‘urban’? Exactly. We’ve all seen Witness. We (okay, I’ll admit it – I) have preconceived ideas about bonnets and wagons and barn raisings.

According to Wikipedia (yes, the most reliable source of information, to be sure): the Amish, sometimes referred to as Amish Mennonites, are a group of Christian church fellowships that form a subgroup of the Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.

The Old Order Amish, who live in rural communities in North America and are famous for their plain dress and limited use of technology.

The New Order Amish (formed 1966), are the least restrictive Amish group. They permit the use of electricity in the home and do not practice shunning.

Urban means “related to cities.” Cities generally have advanced systems for sanitation, utilities, land usage, housing, and transportation.

Based on these generalizations, one would assume that even the most progressive of Amish orders would hardly be racing to start a business in downtown Toronto, right? I know, I know – I’m assuming a lot based  on common conceptions, so you’ll forgive my perplexed reaction to this:

They even have a website. And a YouTube Channel. And a Facebook page. When did the leap from “allowing electricity” to “maintaining a web presence” happen?

I’m just curious. Now you are, too.  Admit it.


Sometimes Hyperbole Just Ain’t Enough

Not made of chocolate

Today I saw a girl licking a fire hydrant. Seriously. No, you did not read that incorrectly. And you have no idea how much I really do wish I was exaggerating.

It wasn’t a piece of chocolate fashioned into the shape of a fire hydrant, either. Which might have made sense. It was just a plain ol’ bright yellow, City of Toronto fire hydrant. And the aforementioned girl was carefully bent at the waist, intently licking it like so much leftover Halloween candy. She seemed quite focused, too… which might even be more unsettling than the initial act itself. Almost.

I’d simply popped out at lunchtime with a co-worker to grab a coffee and pick up a December Metropass (sidebar: where the HELL did November go?) when this creative bit of performance art was presented to us (it had to have been performance art, right?) It seemed like an innocuous enough venture. But, I work in the East end of Toronto – Queen Street East, to be precise – and, for those of you familiar with the city, well: you’re familiar with the city.

Picking up the Metropass went off without incident. And, while waiting for my coffee, I assumed that the two misplaced Jersey Shore rejects sprawled across four armchairs would be the most colourful encounter of our afternoon jaunt. Silly me.

As we continued back to the office, coffee happily & firmly in hand, we realized that today was no ordinary day. It seemed that Pauly D and The Situation had, in fact, been trumped in the One of These Things Is Not Like The Other category by Shoeless Homeless Guy (is it wrong to assume one based on the other?)

SHG was, happily, rolling around on the sidewalk in front of a pub with a poor, unsuspecting dog who’d been tethered to a bike rack whilst his owner, presumably, ran inside to grab some takeout. Puppy didn’t look impressed. In all honesty, though, SHG looked like he was having the time of his life. So who am I to judge?

It was then that we encountered the initial oddity: Girl Licking Fire Hydrant. Sounds like the title for a piece of modern art. And, hey – for all I know she was a street artist working on a new piece. I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and vote: no. This is a neighbourhood quite renowned for its pharmaceutically-powered goings ons.

And, in all fairness, the neighbourhood wherein my office resides is – in general – one of the more sketchy of the downtown core, replete with characters living in each & every level of crazy town (as well as varying levels of chemical dependency.)

Come to think of it, this is the same – almost to the exact same block – location where I witnessed the charming meth-head-about-town regale me with a Harley Salute* this summer past. Maybe it was the same girl. Good to know she has hobbies for all seasons.

I love my city.
*A universal greeting primarily used by women intent on getting the attention of a lead singer and/or guitarist (not to mention the camera crew responsible for the Jumbotron feed) at a concert.


Beauty in the Details

Anyone quick to scoff that Toronto is nothing but a big, ugly city clearly has no idea where to look. Of course there are areas that have become refuge to the underprivileged and, subsequently, fallen into disrepair. And there are a couple of neighbourhoods that are a wee bit unsavoury to walk through after dark. There are also the ubiquitous & never-ending construction sites adding monuments of glass & steel that reach ever upward. But you’d be hard pressed to find a big city that doesn’t sport similar attributes.

If you’re willing to really open your eyes, however, and look beyond what should be perceived as ugly, you’ll see quite quickly that there is beauty to be found all over this city.

Before moving to my new-found home, I lived in a small, homogeneous city that was always clean & always tidy and nobody ever looked out of place. The culture shock that hit me upon my arrival was swift & harsh. But it was also short-lived.

I learned that what makes a large, urban centre truly beautiful is its brilliant amalgam of people; people from all walks of life, all cultures, all ethnicities, all economic standings, all sexual orientations, all mental capacities.

So when I stroll through a city park in a less-than-upscale neighbourhood, I see beauty. I see it in an elderly immigrant couple holding hands. I see it in a young addict sharing a quiet smoke with a weathered, homeless man. I see it in an empty, peaceful park bench. I see details. I see beauty