So, I spent the day wandering around a city I love and feel a sense of belonging to. Toronto. I know much of it like the back of my hand. The familiarity of the streets was a welcome respite, including the speed of the traffic, the ongoing construction, the pace and the eclectic demographics. With little purposefulness in my travails, I allowed the muse to decide on my direction because quite frankly my intention was to get lost in the crowd.
During parts of the day, i succeeded but during other parts, the stark changes to a city I love rattled me. The place is falling apart. Dirty, dusty and in need of some attention, the streets seemed more mean than i ever remember. There were even times when i felt a sense of fear I had never felt before.
I don't know what's happened to Toronto the Good, but it is obvious that budgets have been cut, or funds have been diverted away from keeping up the reputation of a clean city. It's been hit by the recession and multi-level government cuts. There's no hiding the fact that its one hurting place. Through my eyes, there are more homeless folks, more litter, more nasty smells. Peeling paint was the norm and the hazy air stung. I found less friendly people and more humans who had etches of stress on their faces and in their demeanor.
Most people seemed plugged in and tuned out to their environment. It used to be that anyone who you'd pass on the street who was talking out loud had some form of mental health issue. Now it's the norm. Everyone seemed to be talking out loud to people who weren't even in the neighbourhood. And the noise!!! The noise seemed to reverberate in a choir of jackhammers that penetrated souls. The music decibel level in the stores was beyond irritating. Not only did it hurt your ears, the music choice was offensive. It was like being in a crowd of lost spirits whose only coping strategy was to deny their presence and turn up the volume! Disturbing.
I know this is the case in most places. People have no interest in connecting with strangers, or in interacting with the people around them with a sense of respect. Faceless they are. Faceless they will continue to be. Sad.........
I saw a sea of people cloistered in their own quiet desperation with no avenue to share their stories. Is this the future? Will it get worse than it is now? It seems to me that with all the technology to tune in and OUT, we are doomed, particularly in our urban centres unless we stop this nonsense. Unfortunately, i think i'm in the minority. The majority seem to be embracing this life of disconnect and indifference. If the recent survey on the nastiness of the transit workers is any indication, this city is in deep trouble.
But, what would happen if the city of Toronto was spruced up again? What if the leadership took it upon themselves to clean, repaint, and bring brightness back to the ever evolving drab? What would happen if the next Mayor took the lead to bring back a sense of pride and ownership in making the city a project everyone embraces? Wouldn't that turn Hogtown into a place where the air is friendly again?
No doubt past city planners and bureaucrats have completely blown it by approving a multitude of high rises and office buildings to be constructed along a the shores of Lake Ontario thereby blocking the view for most city dwellers and tourists. That can't be altered now. However, I truly believe if the present candidates who are still in the Mayoralty race campaigned on providing the basics to make sure that the infrastructure became a top priority, perhaps it would alter the attitudes and atmosphere of a city that was once known for its cleanliness and friendliness. Neglect leads to disconnect. Neglect leads to lack of pride and ownership.
Seriously, something has to happen, because right now, the place looks and smells like a urinal. Toronto? You need a bath.