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2006 02 22
Discontented Dad More Discontented Than Ever Lashes Out Against Critics and Visits College St.
Wow, you'd think in my last posting I had suggested bulldozing Parkdale, putting all street drug users in solitary for life and erecting a shopping mall in Trinity Bellwoods Park. For those not yet following my adventures, yesterday I noted that I found a crack vial in my backyard and wondered what to do about it. I've now been told by the citizenry to take a tour of an addiction treatment centre (because not wanting a crack vial in your backyard is evidence of a total lack of empathy for those addicted to drugs), and to "wait for the large chain stores to move in" (because not wanting a crack vial in your backyard is tantamount to wanting a shopping a mall across the street from your house, preferably connected by tunnel so you never have to be exposed to the un-suburban). I've also been called a yuppie hypocrite and accused of channeling a Jr. High version of Jane Jacobs. My favourite criticism was an attack on my lament about the difficulty of entering some stores with a stroller: "not every store is going to be child-friendly - the last wave of children in our neighborhood have all grown up and moved on" (because having a kid and trying to move around the city with that kid is yet another example of entitlement and interloping).
Keep bringing it on, oh embittered people of Toronto! But why so angry? The truth is, I'm not the cause of gentrification in Toronto's west side -- I was fine with the neighborhood as it was when I moved into it some ten years ago. Since that time I've met all kinds of great people from all spectrums of life, and have never, ever, found a shattered crack vial in my living space. This is not the norm in what real estate people optimistically call "Beaconsfield Village" nor should it be the norm in any community anywhere.
I suspect we are angry because forces outside our control shape so much of our neighborhood and city destiny. Prpoperty taxes go up, empty-nesters want brand new downtown lofts to move into when they downsize, suburban SUVs jostle for parking in front of your house on their way to a drink at the latest hotspot which just happens to be a few blocks south of you. You didn't ask for any of this, and you have very little control over it.
At the same time, we wonder if we did ask for this. That is, are we by our very existence upsetting the order of things? (We ask as we guiltily ponder the newest tiny grotto bar to open, already tasting that pint of Steam Whistle and hearing those retro hip tunes).
Well, is there a handy chart to determine wether or not you deserve to live in a particular neighborhood and what effect your presence is likely to have on the larger community? Alas, no. We bought our tiny house at a time when it was cheaper than renting. The Portugese family we bought it from wanted to move to the suburbs. Did we displace them and alter the neighborhood? Do we belong? My wife's parents grew up in the downtown westside: we often pass her mom's Grace Street childhood home. We got married in the synagogue on Ulster that, in its more active days, was once regularly frequented by my wife's great-uncle.
Across the street from us another working class family moves to the suburbs. The house is bought by a Portugese guy and his girlfriend. He works in film production, not construction, but he grew up in the neighborhood and wanted to move back in. Does he belong? Next door to me lives a man in his fifties of Scottish descent who was born in the house where he lives. His aunt lives around the corner. Has done for decades. When his mom passed on just after he moved in, the neighbors - many of whom don't speak much english - went door to door with a card.
So yesterday, discontented dad and baby went for a walk, decided to visit the new Starbucks on College and Dovercourt for no particular reason except we were passing it by and hadn't been in there yet and wanted to test it's baby friendly-ness. (Two steps up to the door - impossible to navigate without assistance, which was kindly provided.) Ended up having a talk with a real estate broker on a break. He told me that prices have doubled in the area in the last five years. I couldn't tell if he thought that was a good thing or a bad thing. The truth is, having bought a house before the market's crazy rise, I'm not sure myself.
Hal Niedzviecki
visit my website and check out my books and articles, why don'tcha?
smell it
[email this story] Posted by Hal Niedzviecki on 02/22 at 01:26 PM

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