Sunday, September 7, 2008

See You on Bloor Street

I recently ran into someone whom I went to McGill with and whom I haven't seen since I fled McGill's Arts Steps for the last time.

After nearly colliding one windy morning at the corner of Bay and Bloor, she declared, "I always see you on Bloor Street."

Crazy talk, am I always on Bloor Street? Well, I realized, I do live a couple of blocks north of Bloor... my old job was at the corner of Yonge and Bloor... and my current place of academia is centered just south of Bloor. Perhaps she had a point... I did spend most of my life walking between Aroma Espresso Bar and Espresso Bar Mercurio; ie from one pole of my Bloor Street lifestyle (Annex) - to the next (Yorkville and school).

As I ran into an ex for the umpteenth time on Bloor last weekend I concurred that indeed Bloor Street had become the superior vena cava of my life and to most of my friends.

So why this unintended infatuation with a street as mundane as Bloor? Unlike many main drags in other cities, Bloor is not a grand artery of leafy trees, old buildings and fine old institutions. The Champs Elysees Bloor isn't; its not even Rue Sherbrooke in Montreal. Herr Thorsell's recent attempt to reposition the ROM as a citizen of Bloor (thereby adding a bit of institutional grandeur) has been an abject failure; sort of like a 905'er tripping on faux Louboutins at Sassafraz.

Basically devoid of major panache Bloor exists as a safe and accessible street lined with two and three story buildings; while not a grand artery - it is one of Toronto's iconoclastic avenues. Only as Bloor nears Yonge does it reach any sort of attempt at fanciness, but in true Toronto-speak fanciness is perhaps best personified by the landmark Colonnade shopping concourse, a 1963 modern monolith that, while a landmark, is short of beauty. Attempts to turn Bloor into something it isn't (the ROM's renovation) and the upcoming Bloor Street revitalization project have been met with typical Toronto (don't change the status quo) sneer. The Bloor revitalization project (a streetscaping improvement plan) is actually being blocked by a group of shop owners who are Concerned about Bloor (namely that black granite would be dangerous to pedestrians). I'm more concerned that Labels 4 Less opened next to Tiffany & Co... but I digress.

But Bloor Street is where my friends currently are at. My social circle, typical spawns of Toronto's stretch of clean and white midtown (Loser Park, RosedAle, the Brittle Path and Faux Hill) have all completed their undergraduate degrees, moved to china (to teach English) or completed a master's abroad, and have settled back in Toronto to start their career or attend one of the city's professional school factories (of which I attend... so I'm throwing stones at my own glass house, don't hate). The problem of course is that living back with our parents wasn't an option. Downtown beckoned us all. And yet shockingly no one chose to live much further south of Harbord. Real downtown (south of College) was a land full of streetcars and ethnic enclaves. A vibrant and quaint to visit, but not a place to live; especially if you wanted to maintain a bit of your Uptown lifestyle. Bloor Street and the Annex provides a nice mix of downtown with enough Uptown snob appeal.

While flitting about antique stores in RosedAle the other day (I'm gay) I ran into a Mummy in French Country. Mummy was looking at chairs with her Dakota Fanning esque daughter who was latched into a St. Clements uniform.

"Mummy, why are we here?" the daughter asked.
"We need new kitchen chairs."
"But we have kitchen chairs." How precocious.
"We need new ones for the house we're building." And I immediately pictured some erantz Richard Wengle designed monstrosity. These - are not really my people I admitted as I slinked out of French Country, realizing that I don't yet deserve Laguoile steak knives. One day my friends... one day.

And that is why Bloor is so attractive. Bloor Street sits on Toronto's juncture between Uptown and Downtown. South of Bloor is downtown at its best - streetcars, chinatown, tourists, Yonge and Dundas. Great if you love lot's of people and noise, not so great, if you're used to Pusateri's... That small pocked around Bloor is the the bridge between downtown and the manicured lawns of suburbia. And for me, and for most of my friends - that's where we sit in life, straddling the dupont of our twenties. One foot planted firmly in our twenty-something existence of Thursday nights out, charity galas, dinner parties, and the other foot planted firmly in the corporate ladder, head gazing up the hill at our eventual centre-hall future.

Eventually I'm sure you'll find us all sitting back in the Faux Hill Village on a Saturday morning talking about sending the kids to summer camp, but in the interim - I'll see you on Bloor Street.

No comments: