Coming back to the city where I'm from after a lengthy time away.
I am a city boy. I was born in London, England. I was the youngest of five. My sister and I were born there, while the rest of my siblings were born in Canada. In the city. It was more like a suburb, but the suburbs in England are old. And Finchley was old. Had been there for centuries. We lived in a big house at the end of dead end street. It had a huge garden full of roses and a great big sand box. Behind the garden was a big park. Across the street was a field that we would play in and the family at the top of the street had horses and a barn. Loved that house, what I can remember of it. We all went to St. Mary’s School. At least I think we all did. My eldest brother, might have gone somewhere else.
The family moved back to Toronto when I was six and I lived downtown till I was 22. Essentially in the same house. It was a big house and while my siblings were there it was big enough. But then they all moved or went to school and I was left alone in the house. My parents were alway doing something else, so I was there a lot by myself. Not that I minded. Far from it. I had a few parties, and drank some. And smoked some. The neighbours were always good about it. They would tell me where the beer bottles were in the morning. Or just line then up along the retaining wall, or the driveway. My parents were never aware of how many parties I had. Then I had to move out, my parents split, and I got a job and an apartment. So I became a downtown bachelor. Lived in the core. Spend my time downtown in the lights as it were. And I loved it. Worked and played there with never a problem, and always enjoyed coming home to the big 6. It was a great place to grow up.
"Then I came back to the city. For many Reasons!"
Then years later I met a girl and we had kids. She was a small town girl. That is where she was from, and that is were she wanted to stay. And we were having kids, so it seemed like that thing to do. We found a house in Aurora and moved in. We were there for twenty years. It is a great house. On the green belt, with nothing but a park behind. A walk out basement. Great neighbours. Top of a hill. There is almost no downside to that house. After we had been there a while I came home one day and stopped in the street in front of the house. I left the car in the middle of the street. I got out and looked at the house I was living in. I realized at that moment that this was the house that I promised myself I would never live in. And yet here we were. In that house. As it turns out it was the best house ever and a perfect place to raise two kids. They had the run of the place. There were about 12 or 15 kids that lived on the street and when they were younger they hung out in a pack. Ages ranging from 12 to 4. They looked out for each other, hung around on the street together, went through tragedy together, and laughed together. As they all grew older they would ask each other about schools, or relationships, or anything. Because of the range in ages they had lots of people to call on for advice. And they are still friends to this day, some 22 years later.
Then I came back to the city.
For many reasons. I will leave it at that.
Coming Back to the Six
As it turns out I moved back in to a house I lived in some time before I moved to Aurora. The east end of Toronto. What is now Leslieville. Yup, right back in to the same house. Not the same apartment, but the same house. It’s a really weird time warp, head shift, mind spin kind of a thing. Like I have been on a roller coaster that lasted 30 years and am just getting to the end. It was fun and everything, but was it worth the price of admission? That is always the question we rarely get to ask it. But here I am able to contemplate that very thought. Obviously, my opinion now will be different from five years from now. Maybe not, but I am thinking that it is entirely possible that my view of the place I called home for so long will have changed. I have been gone long enough that there are places that I don’t recognize. But I know like the back of my hand. I thought I might start keeping these thoughts in some sort of order. And this seems like a good way to get feed back, and put some thoughts out there about the City that I loved, and my re-romance the The 6. And there are some changes that are going to happen, progress and all. And there are some that, simply put, suck. They have to happen, but they still suck. And every little change affects a lot of people, even if for you it’s just your view on the way to work. Every building that comes down was once someone’s home or place of work. They all hold memories for someone who pains to see it go. But go it must. Change, progress, technology. All things we have come to embrace or get run over by.
When I was growing up here, Toronto was Toronto the Good. We never heard of “the 6”, or the Raptors, or Rob Ford. We were just this cool place that no one knew about. Going downtown was a regular thing for us. I went to Jarvis Collegiate at the corner of Jarvis and Wellesley. We walked to school from north of Bloor, and we never complained about it. I didn’t want my parents knowing what I was doing. Ever. So I never told them. They weren’t too concerned, They city was safe. I would ride my bike all the way down to the island to grab the ferry and spend the weekends with my friends on the island. A whole other city in the city, the island was truly a different place. We paddled for the Island Canoe Club. In and around the islands. We got to Ottawa for the Provincial Championship, and Montreal for the Nationals. That was a cool time. Our stomping ground was downtown. From St. Clair down. Yonge and Walker Ave. was a hot spot, with The Gov’nor and then Wylie’s. The Ports of Call was across the street. It was a night Club, slash bar, slash god knows what. Had a big Mermaid that spun around at the front entrance. It was taken down when I was working at the Guv’nor. We were happy to see it go at the tine, but I miss it now. Further south the new flagship LCBO that is there replaces a dreary and dull LCBO and Beer Store. That was the old train station, and is a beautiful building. But for years it sat neglected, dark and uninviting. Now of course the place looks fantastic. There were a couple of places there that were iconic in my days there. One I believe is still there: The Rose? No that name is wrong. it will come to me. The something room? But it was owned by various people and kept surviving. These places were not high end. There were started by people who wanted to run a restaurant, and you didn’t need to be a millionaire to do it. Now you kinda do. Or join a big franchise. There was also the burger joint at Yonge and Roxborough that would serve Heinekens cheap. We liked that place. Before we were of age we did drink at “The Morsey” which was just north of the reference Library on Yonge St. They didn’t care about ID, and they were always dead, so they liked us. The waiter there, an older Hungarian guy, who would bring the tray of glasses of draft beer with the familiar “Flying in, flying in!” before setting the tray on the table and handing out the beer to all. As we got older we were able to reach out and try some other places, and get bussing jobs. Places like Mr. Greenjeans, Ginsberg and Wong, The Pilot to name a few. And when we graduated and got jobs we were able to hang at better places. South Side Charles in Yorkville was a place we liked. There were a few in Yorkville, but most are now gone. There has been a lot of change there. I don’t think any one of those places is the same as it was back in the 80s and 90s. Going to Jarvis we were downtown a lot and it did not faze us at all. We never had any trouble, or got into fights. We stayed together and we were safe as a group. That all changed with one murder. The murder of a shoeshine boy at the hands of some very bad men. It changed everything. Our parents now wanted to know where we were going and who we would be with. We were more cautious when downtown, keeping our eyes open and alert. It just was never the same. Now as I walk down Yonge St. it looks like another city. From Wellesley to College the street looks derelict. The St. Charles Tavern is all gone but the clock tower, that currently stands in the middle of a construction site. Dundas and Yonge is something else. It is our own little Times Square. I love it, it’s just way different. The Eaton Centre is different somehow as well. Not so much from the inside, but the outside continues to change. And is such a big part of the landscape there, the changes are noticeable. The building dominates the street, as it has since it went up. In earlier times we would walk down Yonge St. from Bloor to King all the time. In fact I did my Christmas shopping that way for a few years. Walk down the street one day with the list of people. Then another day buying what I had found for each person on the list. Loved it.
Now that I am back in town I thought I might give a little perspective on what it is like to come back to such a great city. What it was like before I moved, when I was living elsewhere, and when I came back. Just a few observations to share. Maybe they will be funny, or silly. Nothing too serious. Just a little break from your everyday stuff. Love to hear from you as well. Tell me what you think about it. Or ask me things that might trigger another thought about this great city, about living in Southern Ontario, about the great Country of Canada, or anything else that strikes your fancy. I will say, that I will try and keep this light and fun. We read enough negative things. This should not be one of them.
Keep your head up and your stick on the ice.