This week’s abbreviated edition of The Humanoids is all about Toronto. I spent this week in the self-appointed Centre of the Universe and learned a few things about the town while I was down there. Let me preface this by saying that I don’t really hate Toronto. I only hate what it stands for… And I greatly dislike spending extended periods of time there.
Toronto Blue Jays
Much to my surprise, there were actually fans at the games. Given my short fight with the SkyDome’s ticket system, I can understand why the game I was at only had 18,000-ish people. Anyway, I was at Tuesday night’s game between the Jays and the Yankees where the Yanks clinched a playoff spot and Cito got ejected. Watching from the third row of Section 115, I was practically in the action though I didn’t have the best look at it. While the crowd might have been sparse, at least they were interested in the game. People were chanting and heckling. Sure, there might have been more Yankee fans than Jays fans but my buddy chalked that one up to Toronto being Toronto. The crowds may not be great but the Jays have more fan support for a 4th place team than Tampa does for a 1st place team.
And for all my amazement that Yankees fans dominated the proceedings at the SkyDome on Tuesday, the fans proved me wrong on Wednesday. Some 40,000 people showed up for “Thank You, Cito” night. (Though we gave Cito a standing ovation on Tuesday for a make-shift thank you Cito moment just the same.) It’s easy to understand how he became a local institution. He won two World Series titles for the blue birds and has turned the team from AL East fodder to AL East over-0.500 also-rans. Sure, that doesn’t sound too impressive but considering that the franchise has almost no real history or tradition, Gaston is as close as they come to having a franchise institution. That and the fact that he turned Jose Bautista from underachiever to All-Star slugger overnight shows that he still hasn’t lost his touch.
I’m actually kinda surprised that the name of the mall hasn’t changed. After all, the Eaton’s store chain has been closed for years and years. I guess that for all Toronto is about the almighty dollar (see Maple Leafs, Toronto) there is some room for tradition. That being said, the place is a dump. Sure, the heavy foot traffic may have taken its toll on the floor and other facade of the mall but it still doesn’t look any better than any mall in any other town I’ve been to. It’s just so dull and grey that it feels lifeless. The stores are all so expensive that your bank account cries out in agony when you just look at the price tags. And there’s an Apple Store in there that’s the most packed in the building. Nothing says hipster than an expensive ugly-looking clothing store across the way from an Apple Store.
The fact that things cost more in downtown Toronto should surprise no one. What does amaze me is how much more. At the SkyDome, a 20-ounce draft and tallboy cans cost $10. One bar I went to had pints ranging from $7 for domestic beers to $9 for imports. An import pint at a bar just up the street from that was $8. The only non-alcoholic drink that I had with dinner was Chinese tea that I had at the Spadina Garden restaurant (which was amazing, by the way). I know that taxes and various laws mean that alcohol will never be as cheap in Canada as it is in the States but you can’t expect me to believe that costs are so much higher in Toronto that pints cost twice as much there as in the Soo.
The rush hour traffic in Toronto is legendary. Everyone around Canada has heard horror stories about the folks having near 12-hour days at work because they spend four of those hours commuting between home and work. On my way into town on Sunday evening, I could understand how that might happen. There was an on/off-ramp under construction so people were being squeezed into two instead of three lanes. The run up to that was atrocious. After that, when the road re-widened, the pace picked up and traffic was fine again. However, the same thing seems to happen at every on-ramp. People squeeze in when there’s no more ramp, forcing other people to slow down. Traffic is jammed up so tight that you have to force your way to where you need to be which just makes things slower. My solution is the same that they use outside of Michigan International Speedway: Widen the paved shoulders to at least a car width and open them up (via the overhead signs) when you need to alleviate congestion on the highways. It’s a simple solution to a problem that was never really anticipated in the first place.
I’ve always thought of Toronto as a concrete jungle but there is some character to the town. There’s all sorts of older, small buildings that are crammed into neighbourhoods and seem completely out of place. However, if you look up, you see some impressive buildings. There’s the CN Tower (obviously). A few office buildings such as the one’s belonging to ScotiaBank, BMO and RBC will have you craning your neck upwards. What really amazes me is what happens to these buildings in bad weather. They’re so tall that low-lying clouds will actually swallow up the tops of the buildings. You look up and all you see is the grey of the clouds. Coming from a small town where the tallest building might be 10 stories tall, it’s almost a surreal experience. Looking out the highest floors of one of those buildings is as if you’re looking into a fog. I don’t think I could spend all my time in downtown Toronto but it definitely is tolerable in small doses.