Sunday, June 25, 2006

A day in Toronto

Yesterday I decided to check out the Toronto Blue Jays take on the New York Mets at Toronto's Rogers Centre. It was a great game with the Blue Jays taking the came 7-4 with Roy "Doc" Halliday starting for the Jays. The game was all Blue Jays right up until the end when B.J. Ryan struck out two and had one fly out to mid outfield to end the game. Ryan made the final three Mets batters look like little leaguers playing in the major leagues. In other words, Ryan threw the pitches right past them.

But the fun part was getting to Rogers Centre.

I prebought my tickets at the Aurora Roger's Video and then made my way down to the Woodbine Subway Station on the TTC Subway's Bloor-Danforth line.

Kew Beach

I then walked south to Kew Beach. Following that trek I walked slowly towards Toronto's downtown and the Rogers Centre for the baseball game.

Along the way I took pictures which you can see in the "Toronto" section of my photo scrapbook on the main website here. It was a nice bright sunshiny day to spend outdoors!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Chapter 2: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this here.

In Chapter 2 Joe Fiorito takes a look at one of Toronto's most well known characteristics: "neighbourhoods." Fiorito gives us a case study of his own neighbourhood in Toronto, that of Parkdale. He investigates the distinct characteristics of Parkdale that seperate it from the rest of the city. These characteristics include the presence of poverty, Polish flavour, problems of prositution and commercial establishments.

Fiorito got me thinking about what makes my own neighbourhood where I grew up in Aurora different from others? Well, I would start with the houses and people.

The houses are built in the late 1940s and early 1950s in a residential subdivision. But I would point out to those sticking up their noses towards the "traditional cookie cutter housing subdivision". I find houses built in the 1950s and 1960s as well as the early 1970s have more character than those built in the 1980s and later. Why? Probably this has to do with the owners having had the opportunity to put their own toches to the lots and buildings they own. Its amazing what landscaping and building projects can do to change what might have looked like traditional "cookie cutter" housing.

People? On my street growing up were people of all ages. Both young first time families just moving in to seniors lived on the street. However, everyone was willing to help out when needed. It used to be that when someone needed there roof reshingled the neighbours would pitch in for the price of a couple of beers, snacks and a day of comraderie. Needed to borrow a ladder or some tools? Just ask anyone of your neighbours!

Perhaps the best part of it is the overall flavour that has seeped in from the surrounding town of Aurora overall. There was not a time when I walked down Yonge Street that I didn't see someone I knew or stopped to have a quick chat with someone I knew. Sure Aurora may have grown to 40,000 today, but the town still has the small town feeling.

I may have moved from Aurora on two occasions to both Ottawa and New York City. But nothing seems to compare to Aurora's draw. Sure I loved Ottawa's capital city flavour and the hustle and bustle of New York City. But sometimes there is nothing like returning home to where you grow up. Perhaps it is the sense of familiarity and history I have with Aurora over New York City (I would try living in Ottawa again though!) that drew me back to Aurora after having issues in New York City.

Hmmmm....a comparison between New York City, Aurora & Ottawa sounds like a whole other blog entry to me. I might investigate this in the future.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Chapter 1: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this here.

In Chapter 1 of Union Station, Joe Fiorito examines the downtrodden who immigrated to Canada with such great hopes of success. Fiorito investigates the ESL classes of one private enterprise who people pay to teach them English. What Fiorito finds is that recent immigrants with Phd's and other university and college degrees end up doing jobs like taxi driving and mopping floors.

Besides obviously the Canadian public and private sectors not recognizing the immigrant's degrees from foreign universities and colleges, the main problem in Toronto is the lack of English. The problem of lack of English is shown when Fiorito writes: "because they speak slowly, or because they hesitate, clerks in stores and drivers on streetcars sometimes ignore them." (Fiorito 7). Question: If the immigrants cannot speak basic English in order to do shopping or take transit, how are these immigrants going to be civil Engineers and doctors?
That is perhaps the biggest problem the immigrants need to overcome.

It is not that these immigrants aren't willing to learn. Chapter 1 of Union Station proves they are in terms of at least acquiring the English language. It just seems that immigrants are held back from getting ahead in some ways. Sure there are job banks at both the federal government and at private institutions like the Dufferin Mall in Toronto (Fiorito 11).

So what is the holding these immigrants back from getting the jobs they expected to hold once they landed in Canada? Fiorito doesn't answer it, at least not in this chapter.

It does have me wondering though if the federal government, the level of government responsible for immigration constitutionally in Canada, has taken a recent look at the 'after' of immigration. "After?" After immigration occurs the immigrant needs to find shelter, food and a job as basics in order to live in Canadian society. The question I have for the federal government is: "How can Canadians make it easier for immigrants to acquire each of these once they have been accepted as an immigrant and landed in Canada?"

Monday, June 12, 2006

Introduction: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this here.

"Toronto won all the marbles a long time ago, at least the ones that matter most. How you feel about that, and how you feel about us, is the least of our worries. We don't have the time to care. We have to go to work." (Fiorito 1).

So starts the book on Toronto I picked up.

Joe Fiorito starts off his book's introduction by dilly dallying about how Toronto has changed over the years yet still seems not grown up. He also takes brief looks at how others perceive Toronto to be. But perhaps the most striking thing he uncovers is that "Toronto is a work in progress..." (Fiorito 3). To help explain what the Fiorito means by this he uses the analogy of New York City of around 1900 when that particular city was trying to find its identity as well by taking in anyone or anything that was willing to venture to a newly developing city. New York City today, in case you have haven't noticed, is pretty well grown up and has its own identity as North America's, if not the world's, financial and entertainment capital. Unlike New York City, though, Toronto is not done yet growing up.

Finally, Fiorito notes he is not interested in examining the stories of the bankers or business leaders with mucho buckos. He is interested in everyone else as this is, what he calls, a "contemporary history."

Is all of Fiorito's belief true that Toronto has a lot of growing up to do? Is this the basis for his book? From my vantage point as a person who has resided just to the north of Toronto for most of my life and who has lived in New York City for a year, the answer is yes Fiorito is right.

Toronto has several things and is in also in the process of completing several things that it still needs to be one of the world's best cities.

Lets take a look from my own point of view what Toronto already has.

1. A definitive tower or building that helps defines the city like Paris' Eifle Tower, London's Big Ben or New York City's Empire State Building. Toronto has the CN Tower right on the waterfront that dominates the Toronto skyline from every angle. The CN Tower also provides views from it's observation deck just like the Eifle Tower and the Empire State building do.

2. Historic Sports facilities like Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium in New York City. Toronto, being a much younger city, has some catching up to do. Sure there was Maple Leaf Gardens and Exhibition Stadium which saw three of Toronto's sports teams emerge as expansion teams. But the Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre are sure to become more dominant as our sports teams build up a little more history. Really only the Toronto Maple Leafs have the history to match that of the Yankees and the Rangers of New York City in comparison. Again, the closing of the Maple Leaf Gardens was big loss in city building in that regard.

3. Arts & Cultural centers like Carnegie Hall and the Gugenheim in New York City. Toronto is right up there again or is about to be in the very near future. Toronto posesses the awsome accoustics yet the intimate surroundings of Massey Hall for concerts that are apparently similar, but on a much smaller scale, than Carnegie Hall in New York. I will admit I have only seen the outside of Carnegie Hall. Toronto is also on the brink to matching the architecture of the Gugenheim and even the Metropolitan Musem of Modern Art of New York with the coming finishing of the renovations to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Ontario Museum of Art.

What Toronto needs:

1. Transit systems that work like New York City's integrated subway, bus and train system that is quick and convenient. The worst thing in Toronto is perhaps the traffic and somewhat ineffective transit system. Toronto is way behind in developing a subway system and integrate itself with the suburban transit systems. For example of being behind, the Queen Street Subway in Toronto was planned for before the turn of the 20th century and still has yet to be built!

2. A developed watefront that showcases the city. Toronto has taken only symbolic steps by floating ideas and politicians patting themselves on the back after renouncing the development plans over and over and over and over....again. The time is to act now in order to get finish this step.

Fiorito is right. Toronto does have some work to do just like New York City has proven it has done. However, Toronto does have one advantage over New York City. Toronto has already observed what went right and what went wrong in New York's development. Obviously, New York didn't really have that advantage.

So, on I go reading Fiorito's book on Toronto's contemporary history of how Toronto is on its way to growing up.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Union Station

Books: Union Station

One of my favourite places to visit in Toronto is Union Station. Union Station is the main commuter centre in Toronto for transit encompassing both a TTC Subway line and GO Transit trains and buses that help connect Toronto's downtown with the immediate city of Toronto and its outer suberbs. Also, VIA Rail runs trains that help connect the rest of Canada with Canada's largest urban centre. Basically, Union Station is at Toronto's heart. If you want to know what is going on in Toronto, Union Station is usually the place to start.

Just by watching the people coming and going through the station you can see what sporting events are going on at the neighbouring Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre. baseball caps, hockey sticks and basketball jerseys are usually good indications what is happening. Tourists are usually prevalent here as well because of both the visual aspects of Union Station's great hall and because of its many connections to transit.

That may be why Joe Fiorito, author of Union Station, chose to name his book the way he did. Fiorito's book, after reading the dust jacket and random pages inside, takes a look at why Toronto is a city to be loved and not hated. Sure Toronto may have its rough edges with the homeless on every corner and seemingly out of touch politicians at both the municipal and provincial levels who really don't seem to understand the city. But what Fiorito seems to argue in the book, according to the dust jacket and the very few pages I have read, is that the little guy has stories to tell that can be endearing and entertaining.

When I first picked up this book immediately put it down. I was merely browsing at a downtown Toronto Chapters book store. I read a couple of excerpts here and there of the book and wasn't really engaged. Perhaps I wasn't in the mindset of looking for a book to devour at that time as I didn't leave the store that day with anything. Also, I normally skip Fiorito's columns as sometimes they seem plodding and boring to me in context to the rest of the days news in the Toronto Star.

So I asked myself after going back to the same book store two weeks later and purchasing the book that I put down earlier? I'm not sure. Perhaps it was the sections I read that touched my heart. Perhaps, it was the page I read about the homeless situation in Toronto that I hear so much money is being poured into yet these people are still on the street. There are a lot of options.

After a quick flip through the book and reading a couple of first pages of chapters it appears as if each chapter of Fiorito's book deals with different topics about the city of Toronto. So over the next little while as I read the book I hope to reflect through blog entries my thoughts on the book. Consider this entry to be the first.

Riots at the World Cup?

I was reading with great interest this week a small article in the Toronto Star. The article was so short that I can't find it in the paper's online version.

The article noted that American brewer Budweiser is now the official beer of this year's World Cup of Soccer in Germany. The article interviewed some occupants of some German pubs for their take on the Budweiser sponsorship. Words that compared Budweiser to dish water were bandied about by the coneisseurs of beer found in these pubs.

I thought, at the time, that the riots may ensue over the poor beer quality compared to what they are used to. I remember my first days in New York City drinking Budweiser. After my first sip of Budweiser my taste buds were asking why I would give them water when they were expecting beer.

Germans, being the second largest beer consumers per capita in Europe (just behind the Czechs in case your wondering), I figured might be heavily upset at the thought of removing true German beers in favour of this "American swill."

To make matters worse for World Cup crowds, the offical food vendor for the World Cup events is McDonald's. So gone are the pretzels and other traditional World Cup fan favourites. I figured that this just might be the final straw for Soccer fans who might rebel by showing the American food and beverage companies some true European Soccer rioting. That didn't happen.

World Cup drunken riots are less likely to occur this year. Why? Because, as everyone knows, the alchohol concentration in American beer is so low it would take hours of straight drinking for the Germans and other Europeans to even feel a buzz. By the time the buzz just begins to hit, the soccer games are most likely over. Its a shame really..... It seems the Americanization of the food and beverage will also remove the traditional rioting and hooliganism that is associated with the World Cup events which is truly a European tradition.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Memo to readers

If you are reading this post....the world did not come to an end on 6/6/6

Please continue on with other more important worries....

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Gothamist: 101 Deli

Gothamist: 101 Deli

The things I miss of New York City.....

going to the 101 deli for a turkey sandwich just walking distance from the school I was working at....

The things I miss.....

The World's Longest Street Sale on the World's Longest Street!

I was out and about today with my digital camera in Aurora, Ontario. This weekend is the annual street sale in Aurora. When it started way back when this particular street sale was aiming to become the world's longest street sale ever! That particular street sale did in fact make the record book. So Aurora's claim to fame (among other things) is it has held the World's Longest Street Sale on the World's Longest Street.

World's Longest Street? That would be Yonge Street which starts at Lake Ontario in Toronto and goes north and then west to Rainy River, Ontario.

So here are a couple of pictures I took of Aurora's annual street sale:

Looking north from near Yonge & Mosely Streets

Looking south from Yonge & Mosley Streets

Looking South from Yonge & Wellington Streets.

For more photos of Aurora and this street sale click here.

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