JAIMIE VERNON – Toronto the Good?

jaimievernonI am a Torontonian. I was born in East York at East General Hospital 50 years ago this coming Tuesday and raised in Scarborough – both originally neighbouring boroughs of Toronto. I’ve always considered these places suburbs of Toronto anyway and it was made official when they were amalgamated into the new City of Toronto in 1998. I worked for the City of Scarborough for 12 years leading up to the annexing of all the Metropolitan Toronto territories (which also I_love_TOincluded North York, York, and Etobicoke). 44 out of my 50 years have been spent living here. I’ve lived in the shadows both Yorkdale and Cedarbrae malls, on the eastern leg of The Danforth, and in the belly of Malvern when it was still radioactive but before it became a hideout for drug gangs and a haven for grow-ops. I’ve communed at the wolf den on the outskirts of the Metro Toronto Zoo and gone swimming in Lake Ontario at the foot of the Rouge River.

torontoI love my city. Hogtown. The Big Smoke. Not just the Toronto of my youth – when the Canadian National Exhibition and Ontario Place flourished – but the one that exists right now with its crowded skyline, crowded roads, crowded malls, crowded streetcars and buses and subways. Because it is alive. It has achieved the promise of its inviting arms. It has risen above its conservative beginnings where you couldn’t shop or buy booze after 11PM or drag a dead horse down Yonge Street on Sundays.

Ford1Toronto is not Detroit or London or Shanghai. I’m sure the people who grew up in those places love them just as madly (well, maybe not Detroit…), but a rot has set into the place I love and it’s fueled by greed and corruption and a win-at-all-costs mentality. You would have had to live under a bridge (down by the Don River in a van) to have missed the Cirque du Robeé this week; A 400lb manchild, who keeps acting out publicly, has assumed the guise of our mayor where a jocular bumpkin had once been; A bully whose fortunes have turned against him at the hands of his own foibles; An enfant terrible lashing out at a City that he once tried to save but will ride out on a rail of the subway system he insists we keep pumping money into.

AngryvillagersThe villagers have grabbed their pitchforks. The monster’s days are numbered. And all the while, a world outside of our metropolis follows along in wide-eyed wonder at what this mild-mannered (and previously unknown) city will entertain them with next. We are the punchline on late night talk shows. We occupy space in newspapers and news feeds around the world. All for the wrong reasons.

gzsextz3.JPGThe City has suffered more public humiliation since amalgamation than it has in all the years since the first surveyors staked out this territory in 1791. We had a mayor (Mel Lastman) that was a furniture store huckster http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7XpCYgJq9k who called in the Canadian army after a large snowstorm crippled the city in 1999 and then publicly announced his fear of being boiled in a cauldron on a junket to Africa; We had a mayor  (David Miller) that let the unions hold Toronto hostage not once but twice on back-to-back garbage strikes which left us smelling like all of Manhattan on a Friday afternoon in the summer. He also had the misfortune of being mayor when the SARS epidemic nailed our tourism doors shut and during the North American east-coast blackout.

Rob Ford2Now we’re dealing with a rampaging intoxicated bull that allegedly ingests all manner of illicit substances and women’s private parts on his own time/dime and then heads to work to make decisions on City policy. He’s apparently saved us millions as taxpayers. He’s now cost us our dignity as citizens.

The international media has put Ford’s visage and Toronto’s on the map simultaneously. It’s an unwanted beacon of notoriety. Though, the tourist trade might Rob Ford3just rebound from people wanting to get their pictures taken at the sites of Mayor Rob Ford‘s various adventures: the parking lot where he took paperbags of drugs from a consort, the tree where he urinated after the handoff, the sidewalk where a woman allegedly threw a glass of a disputed substance at him, the foyer where a cameraman smacked him in the head with a TV camera, the Pride Parade Route where he refused to appear, the Santa Clause Parade Route where he was barred from participating this week, and of course, his home in Etobicoke where ‘This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5t-r2OHoWU punked him and a Toronto Star reporter peeped at him over a backyard fence. And the highlight of the tour – staggering in the drunken footsteps along Danforth Avenue following the path of righteousness of His Worship during the ‘Taste of the Danforth’ Festival. You’ll be able to see it all in a brand new automobile called The Ford FiascoTM. [Prostitute, crack cocaine, breathalyzer and 24 of vodka not included].

LeafsI am embarrassed to be a Torontonian today. And it takes a lot to humiliate me more than the true losers of our town, The Toronto Maple Leafs, ever have. We’re so much better than what the world is now seeing on the Ford Follies Insta-Cam every night on the 6 and 11PM news cycles.  NSFW http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgci_JRRUWc

We’ve got a world-reknowned theatre culture driven by the visionary patron saints of the city, The Mirvish’s, a film festival (TIFF) rivaled only by Cannes and Sundance, Ripleys-Aquariumthree major league sports franchises (in various states of winning/losing), phenomenal restaurants, high-end fashion and shopping districts, hotels, museums (‘David Bowie Is…’ currently occupies the AGO), a brand spanking new Aquarium courtesy of Ripley’s, a space needle that kicks the crap out of Seattle’s called the CN Tower, and one of the greatest music scenes in the world – intertwined around College, Spadina and Queen Streets respectively.

Johnny RocketsOn any given night you can walk from Union Station to Bloor Street along Yonge Street and see a musical at the Panasonic or Ed Mirvish Theatres, shop at the Eaton’s Centre, stop at the Hard Rock Café (where Toronto’s own Greg Godovitz of Goddo has a leopard skin jacket on display next to Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ frock), catch a concert at Massey Hall or Dundas Square, and eat at any number of restaurants – my kids love the 1950s throwback diner Johnny Rocket’s in Dundas Square.

Gardiner ExresswayThe rest of Canada hates us because we think we’re the centre of the universe. Right now, we are…and I don’t blame them for laughing at us. We deserve this mayor. He represents our apathy, our greed and our hubris. It’s too soon to tell if we’ll be humbled by this. The mayor may not smarten up but we better – and vote in someone with moxy, savvy, and smarts enough to rebuild not only our aging infrastructure (we have a highway on the lakefront that is about to collapse) but our reputation on the world stage.

Toronto1960sFor purely nostalgic reasons or not, I long for the Toronto I was raised in. It worked – for good and bad (I could do without the homophobia that was latent in the 1960s and 1970s, f’rinstance, and the rampant erasure of our architectural heritage). But I don’t have rose-coloured glasses. I can see we are not that city anymore. And we won’t get fooled again. We promise.

I highly recommend the Vintage Toronto page on Facebook for those interested in the Toronto of old. It’s an ongoing visual history of what has changed in our great city dating back to the 1800s. https://www.facebook.com/VintageToronto

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS_ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

6 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON – Toronto the Good?”

  1. You said everything perfectly. I was born here and have spent my life living & working in Parkdale. I was recently asked if there is another city I would like to live in. I had to say “no”. Every time I’ve been away and had a lovely time somewhere else, I’ve loved to come home. This is possibly the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Really. And Parkdale is the essence of that for me. There are many things wrong with Toronto (and there always were) but there are more things that are right. Most of the people who live here care passionately about this city. And that is why we are humiliated by Rob Ford. He doesn’t represent who we are. He is a loud mouth, bully boy who believes he is entitled to everything and answers to no one. The only thing he has accomplished is bringing City Council to complete consensus that he must be stopped. Seeing the opening skit dedicated to him on Saturday Night Live was surreal. Enough from me.

  2. I do not think anyone has or will write a better article than this. Jaimie, you hit the nail right on the head and this was an excellent read.

  3. Well stated…but you left out the animal factor, we had Multi coloured Moose initiated as Icons with Mel, We were gifted or bartered for Chinese Black & White Pandas …Our problems with Grey Pachyderms have now been happily resolved as they Exit Toronto the cool for sunnier climes in hip California. We had a sheepskin dressed Monkey creating a screaming sensation but none of this can compete with a buffoon who is a more colourful ass than a baboon…..quick some tranquilize the beast and ship him to a rehab sanctuary.

  4. alec devine Says:

    Very well said……I couldn’t have said it any better!!!!

  5. Mayor Ford isn’t my Mayor…but I would love Bob’s take on this whole mess…great read Jamie…as usual.

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