Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Toronto is not the mayor - part six

Toronto (pronounced locally as 'Tronna') is a modern, go-ahead city, not lacking in amenities.

As with all places, we have our pretensions and Torontonians are as acquisitive as anyone ...

... helped by firms eager to sell us something we didn't know we needed. 

Even stores have pretensions (the Champs Elysées this ain't). Here the proprietor offers a useful pronunciation guide.

Shopping in Toronto is delightfully cosmopolitan ...

... if you can't read it, click on the picture and appreciate the sign.

Honest Ed's is a soon-to-be-closed Toronto shopping institution. Founded in 1948, it's catered to decades of immigrants, hard up students and, increasingly, middle class, even upper class, shoppers who come to revel in nostalgia. Selling clothes, kitchenware, food, shoes, artificial flowers, pharmaceuticals, hardware, in fact, virtually everything, the store cannot be replaced in the hearts of generations. Not even by Tiffany's, Louis Vuitton and Burberry, a few blocks from here.

Along with your milk, eggs and a bedside clock, you can buy the Last Supper or - look closely - a plaque for a Muslim home.

Don't laugh at Honest Ed's, it's made a fortune. So much that the late owner, Ed Mirvish, became Canada's leading theatrical impresario, had two major Toronto playhouses and bought London's historic Old Vic. 

Last Supper reproductions may not be everyone's taste, nor this Toronto house ...

... but you can't fault a city that takes care of its pets.

Torontonians are generally a happy lot ...

... we have our hobbies and clubs ...

... and we like to have fun ...

... we're certainly not unaware of popular entertainment (worth clicking on) ...

... and we bravely claim that autumn is the best season. Well, everyone but me says that fall is best.

More seriously, this is not to say we don't have problems, skid rows, deprivation, racism, inequality and anger.

In 2010, against much advice, the Canadian government hosted world leaders downtown. Much of the core, including Toronto's best-known symbol, was sealed off. Predictably, there were disturbances, but the rioting was worse than anyone, including the police, had anticipated or for which they were prepared. More than a thousand were arrested. The police reaction was heavy-handed and much criticized.

Many stores, including the usual suspects, were trashed. 

I include this because it simply highlights that, normally, this is a very safe city. Living close to the core, I walk the streets at night without concern.

With blips, we are an increasingly tolerant place. Below, a new Canadian, with national and Ontario flags, passes a Toronto war memorial. He's looking at Canadian troops, mainly white, going 'over the top' in the Great War. Toronto is now one of the planet's most multicultural cities. I like to think that this man, whose face we cannot clearly see, but is likely South Asian, suggests something good, something hopeful, about the present and future of my city and country.

Long before Brokeback Mountain, this beer advertisement was in Toronto's 'gay village'.

July 1, Canada Day ...

Two final things: make sure to come to Toronto before Honest Ed's closes December 31, 2016. I mean, how can you not shop in a place where a Napoleon clock sells for $9.99?

And remember, despite the headlines, my Toronto is not the mayor. That means any mayor, not only this mayor.

All pictures in this posting, and the previous five, are mine, but for the 1950s postcard in part two.

(September 12 update: After more months of civic turmoil, Mayor Rob Ford today withdrew from the 2014 mayoralty race. This was less than an hour before the deadline for his name being on the ballot. Two days ago, he checked into hospital with a large tumour. It's an indication of the international quality of this story that his decision not to run was headlined on the BBC news website, just under the Oscar Pistorius verdict and US sanctions on Russia.

With the mayor uncertain of his health, his brother has been delegated to run in his place. Although less controversial than the mayor, Doug Ford is no stranger to criticism.

My intention is not to be disrespectful or callous at a very difficult time for Rob Ford and his family. These postings, drafted before he went into hospital, were always about my Toronto, not the mayor.)