South Riverdale – keeping up with the Jones’
I live(d) in Jack Layton’s old riding for the last 12 years before moving to Halifax, and I still can’t decide whether it’s one of the best urban ridings in Canada in which to live, or one of the worst.
For it contains both the best and worst examples of both.
To live alongside Riverdale Park – one of the truly great city parks anywhere I have seen (and a truly awesome place to toboggan) – was a great pleasure and excellent stress reliever. With access to the Don Valley and bike trails that lead west to the downtown core, or east to the beaches, to Riverdale Farm, and north through the valley, it is as close to nature as a city dweller can get.But, and this is a very large but! – I also live in what is now 90% inhabited by the wealthy Gentrifier Class. That crowd, who, ten years ago, were all over the first Starbucks that moved into the neighbourhood, but now look down their noses at the people who still drink Starbucks. For it is all about the indie-coffee scene now and their locally roasted coffee and handmade almond croissants.
The Rooster, the new cafe on the hill is now the cafe of choice and has everything this crowd loves. Cream painted drywall, HomeSense furniture, fake new hardwood floor, and central air. The place is immaculately spic and span, the coffee premium blend.
When I have been there, I have sat by the window and listened to women discuss their trips to the Great Barrier Reef (3 times in the last 15 years!), of how tha person’s obstetrician is considered the “very best” in the city. Outside there were red retrievers and black labs and a Tibetan Mastif (which I understand is currently all the rage) tied to the dog fence. Purebreds all. The very best in sensible middle class objects d’art.
The book table is “Oprah picks” and New York Times Bestsellers. Stieg Larsons and Elizabeth Gilbert.
From what I can tell, the women like yoga and jogging and shopping better than they like sex – who has time for sex!? On more than one occasion I have heard people complain that they “do not have time to go to the cottage this year“. All the women I see seem to scurry into and out of the cafe with a perpetual look of industriousness on their faces, as if they were running endless lists of errands through their heads.
The thing I really notice, having lived in a neighbourhood that had perpetually been one of the lowest income neighbourhoods in Toronto for a very long time is that this crowd really loves to shop. Both the men and the women seem to be clothes horses for this year’s most fashionable fashions. This year’s colors, styles, watches, hats, bikes, accessories. The street outside is lined with BMW’s, Benz’s, and Audis. All silver, black, or grey. You name it, they got it. Materialists to the core.
Their drugs of choice are prescription. But lots of them will sneak a guilty toke off of you, if you offer it to them at a party and if they are sufficiently drunk. The pot helps them feel like a rebel, as they stand there talking to you in $400 jeans and $150 tee-shirts while we all drink micro-brewery beer.
Their world does have an upside. They are all about supporting Farmer’s markets these days, organic farming, and using high-quality skilled labour to re-make their houses (over and over again).
There remains an uneasy truce at the moment between this new gentrified world and our old East Chinatown. I have overheard many who want the Chinatown strip kicked out – its smelly, noisy, brings down market values. They successfully got rid of the homeless shelter – the old Sally Anne on Broadview and they have all but remade Queen Street East into antique stores, hip restaurants, and funky clothing stores. Chinatown in next.
What amazes me is how this crowd both “gets” it, and “doesn’t get it” at the same time. They love to jog through the park, but they almost never seem to have the time to take a book and sit in the park and read. They’d rather sit in a sterile cream-colored cafe with fake hardwood floors and browse coffee-table books of classic cafes in Paris, than create a classic cafe right here in Toronto.
I just don’t understand that.
Anyway, this herd of gentrifiers is taking over most of Toronto’s inner core, basically from the Beaches in the east to the Bloor West Village. They are creating what can only be described as an upscale version of the inner suburbs. Where the food is gluton free locally grown organic $50 entrees, the clothes are Lululemon fabulous, and the dogs spend Saturday afternoons at the spa.