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Monday, April 16, 2012

There are no cities

When I decided to move back to Toronto from the 'country', townies poked fun at me about moving to the big smoke where there's nothing but concrete and graffiti.

They said that people in the city weren't friendly like 'small town' folk. Truth is, I spent five years living north of Hwy. 7, and while it was pleasant for the most part, I didn't make many friends.

Was that my fault? Probably. But unless you grow up in those small towns and everyone knows you from their Grade 5 class, or novice hockey team, or your father was a prominent farmer or councillor, it is hard to be accepted into inner circles.

So when I finally took the plunge and traded dirt roads for streetcar tracks, I noticed something fairly quickly: I didn't move to a big, faceless, smoggy jungle as described by the small-townies.

My part of the city even has a name: The Junction. It is a thriving community, with stores and restaurants owned by locals. It organizes its own events and fundraisers. The residents take pride in making their piece of the city a better place.

It's as if someone took a small town and planted it in the middle of a metropolis. The Junction just landed its own farmer's market, adding to its 'small town' charm.

And this is not unique to The Junction. There are many proud and independent communities across Toronto (The Annex, The Beach, Riverdale, Parkdale, etc.) that could likely exist on their own if you lifted them up and planted them in the wilderness.

Same could probably apply for other major cities made up of distinct — and named — communities. (See Vancouver or NYC, for example.)

The divide between Toronto's downtown and its suburbs (helped along by its current mayor) is just like the attitude the northerners had about the city, and vice versa. Many are only concerned with what will benefit or impact their own backyard and immediate neighbours, and that's no different north or south of Hwy. 7.

The divide within Toronto is also evident when someone in the east or west end gets invited downtown — "but that's so far!" they say. It might as well be a long drive to the middle of nowhere for many people. They don't want to leave their corner of the city; everything they need is where they are.

So while of course they have more people, cities don't have one cohesive group of people. It is just a large collection of smaller communities packed closely together.

I just wish the city had less traffic. And friendlier people. You know, like small towns.