5 reasons why I love (Toronto) city life

Posted on April 15th, 2010 6 great comments. Room for one more!

If you read TCL semi-regularly, you’ll know I don’t indulge in Top 10 lists. Top 5 either. Top Anything, for that matter. I just don’t find them terribly informative, mostly.

But, you know, sometimes you end up wandering aimlessly for a couple of days and don’t really have a good way to tie any of the resulting photos together. So in that spirit, here’s my list of 5 main reasons why I think living in the city, and in Toronto especially, is so durned good. With photos.

#1 – Spring Chickenism

bathing birds, pond, peace garden, nathan phillips square, toronto, city, life

This is definitely tops on my list. Here’s the thing, I’m down to the last notch on my last two remaining belts. A pair of pants that I’d held onto just in case I ever slimmed down now also require a belt. Some of my old pants are like potato sacks. But very comfortable, I’ll say that. In fact, if it wasn’t for a steady diet of junk food and, recently, Cadbury’s Easter Creme Eggs, I’d be forced to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. Or some heavy-duty suspenders. I figure bad food is a cheaper alternative.

Now don’t get me wrong, I could still use some … toning. But in terms of my overall physical dimensions, I’ve shrunk. This with not caring at all about what I eat.

Are you asking, dear reader, what kind of exercise regimen I’m on? Perhaps what special “supplements” I take?

Nothing special, I just live downtown.

Unfortunately, I can’t locate the link at the moment, but I remember reading an article that compared the fitness of city-dwellers to non-urbanites. The consensus was generally that people in the city were a little healthier, a little slimmer. On average, of course. And, as I can attest, it doesn’t have much to do with our eating habits

It’s mostly to do with the fact that in the city, walking or cycling are much better ways to get around. One-way streets? Who gives a shit? No parking? I so couldn’t care less. Private property? These boots were made for climbin’, and that’s just what they’ll do.

I swear on all that is good that I’ve matched pace with a streetcar, more than once, from the sidewalk. And I wasn’t even going that fast. It’s why parking downtown is always such a pain; because everyone wants to do it and get around the smart way instead.

But as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I understand the need for a car for the suburbs. I’ve been there, done that. And the sticks too. They had their charm — but I was undeniably chunkier.

#2 – Conveniencism

sun tanning, relaxing, sunning, yonge-dundas square, yds, toronto, city, life

Everything is just, like, right there. Everything.

Sure, that store might not have it, but did you try those other six? Within walking distance, I mean.

It’s the density that makes it possible. When you cram enough potential customers together — within walking distance, say — it’s easier to sell niche items. There’s stuff I’ve found in dusty little shops around the city I never imagined I’d find. Or find again.

I ordered something off the web one day. I could’ve had it in my possession in half an hour had I bothered to do a Google search of nearby stores. The ones with websites, obviously.

There are still a few exotic items I haven’t found. Nothing I need, but still. For example, Green Oil, a Taiwanese product intended to be used similarly to Tiger Balm, but it’s liquid and comes in little glass bottles. It’s minty going on and leaves you smelling really nice for the whole day. I can’t even find a website for the damn thing. But then again, there are probably a gazillion local Chinese apothecaries I haven’t checked yet.

It’d be nice to be able to go later in the day, though. I’m watching TV right now. Oh, it’s open 24 hours? On account of it’s economically feasible for them to do so? Great! Back to TV…

#3 – Environmentalism

traffic, dvp, don valley parkway, toronto, city, life

Hey, I did it. Not pointing any fingers here. And as I sat there, stuck in my little steel cage on wheels, I thought, “why the fuck am I paying for this?”

The question wasn’t about the necessity of a car when I lived out there, it was why the fuck am I living out there. And paying for it.

Out there, a car is genuinely required. Most of the time, two. It would take me half an hour to drive (pretty fast), to my nearest mega-plaza. Had I lived in one of the brand-spanking new housing divisions, ditto. I know of a few good spots out there from which to view the onslaught of the new housing from slightly above. Quite a sight.

But people don’t work there. They don’t shop there. In fact, have you ever been on one of the streets down one of those new housing developments? Freakin’ ghost town. And I was living in the sticks when that one first smacked my gob. It’s really unsettling.

I got rid of my car pretty much as soon as I moved here nearly two years ago. I simply couldn’t see the need for it. Haven’t looked back yet.

Road trip to see the folks? Rental. Hitch a ride with family. Bus. Fly.

Buying large / heavy / bulky items? Most places that carry that kind of stuff deliver free of charge downtown. :)

And that’s pretty much it, right? I mean, for groceries you get a nice sturdy cart with wheels. And for every mouth to feed, there’s an extra pair of arms to carry bags as well. I do it year-round; trust me, it’s not that tough. And I think there are a number of grocery delivery services if you’re not willing to take the risk. You can get almost anything delivered. ;)

Did I mention that increasing urban density allows us to keep more farmland and natural countryside around the city? When I’m not engrossed in junk food, I prefer locally-grown produce and I personally want to see those farms keep short-hauling their in-the-earth-that-morning product. The price compared to imported really isn’t that much more, and you get to meet the farmer that grew that thing. Yes, more of that please.

#4 – Socialism

panorama, cn tower, highrises, towers, skyline, toronto island airport, canada malting plant, toronto islands, toronto, city, life

I was going to call this this Social Butterflyism but that would’ve broken the one-word naming convention I’ve been so strictly following. Plus, I find that “socialism” seems to get people riled up more. And, I guess, yeah, if you’re upset about being able to interact and mingle with a dizzying array of people every day then, yes, you’ll hate this too.

And yeah, I get it, crowds are not everyone’s thing. But let me share a little secret with you: crowds are preventable. Leading causes of crowds include: zombie attack, rush hour, planned event, normal weeknight / weekend traffic. Takes maybe two, three weeks to learn the ebbs and flows. After that, you know that if you want crowd, you go down that street; if you don’t want crowd, go down that street. I just discovered the Gerrard India Bazaar, for example. Now I know that the next time I’m hankering for something spicy and savoury, I’m taking a stroll down there. If there’s a crowd, I’ll deal with it.

Plus, some of the crowd you do end up befriending, if you choose to make friends, wind up with terrific views like the one above. Terrific after the vertigo subsides, but terrific nonetheless.

#5 – Changeism

nathan phillips square, city hall, panorama, old city hall, toronto, skyline, city, life

I hear ya. Walking the same routes through the city every day can get pretty boring. Yup. Once you’ve thoroughly walked a ‘hood, a little bit of the charm flakes off. Kinda like that third time shooting heroin, I imagine.

Well that’s okay, the city is a place where the drugs just keep on changing. Event Nathan Phillips Square up there, holding her own for fifty-odd years, is being torn up for something new. By next year (they say – haha!), the image above will be markedly different. That pace is pretty good for me. But one block over, something’s going up much faster. One block more and the public garden’s slowly getting a re-design. What pace do you like?

Okay, and there are two other issues that are very real: noise and pollution. Yes, it is noisy. And yes, it is dirtier.

Regarding the noise, there are bylaws you can lean on. That’s especially true if you live there. Get the cops involved if it’s bad. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in noisier places but I find residential streets pretty quiet. My own isn’t even so demure.

Pollution, well, when I think about how Toronto stacks up to some of the other cities I’ve inhaled, it’s not so bad. But yes, there’s definitely more stuff in the air so keeping your place clean is more challenging. You’ll need an air-filter system if it really bugs you. Perhaps when you trade in your car you can afford this?

And crime? No more, and no different, than I’ve experienced anywhere else. I can state that unabashedly. Crossing the street is infinitely more dangerous.

It’s coming up to two years now that I’ve been living here. Had my chances to seriously compare it to the burbs and beyond. As I said, I’ve seen some of the attraction, but it’s hard to maintain on so many levels. I’m not convinced children get a better upbringing by being insulated in socio-economic communities. I don’t think they fare better later in life if they’re not exposed to a little dirt. And besides all of this, I suspect urban life is in in the cards for quite a few people around the globe, so we might as well get used to it. And Soylent Green.

6 Comments on “ 5 reasons why I love (Toronto) city life ”

  • mesaver
    April 16th, 2010 9:24 am

    wow nice photos and inspiring story..thank you…

    Read more from mesaver at: http://mesaverdemotorinn.com
  • Patrick
    April 16th, 2010 2:45 pm

    Thanks. As long as it inspires you, mesaver. I'm already living here. :)

  • Grace
    April 16th, 2010 12:42 pm

    I love that first photo – it's a goody! Sweet

    Read more from Grace at:
  • Patrick
    April 16th, 2010 2:47 pm

    Hehe. Yeah, those birds were hard to resist, Grace. If you're ever in the square your bound to see it. It goes on pretty much all the time.

  • bingkee
    April 16th, 2010 1:43 pm

    With all those reasons, I am sure convinced i would want to live there too….however, my husband 's home is here and where his home is , there's mine also.

    Read more from bingkee at: http://www.ilovehateamerica.com
  • Patrick
    April 16th, 2010 2:48 pm

    You can dream, Bingkee, you can dream. :)

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