I lived in downtown Toronto for a number of years before self-exiling up to North York. Always lived in the west side of town. The east end is still a mystery to me. Once I cross Yonge Street, anything could happen and I always get lost in the east end. I say that I was in self-exile because I needed to get away from things for a while and sort through some personal stuff. I needed to be on my own. This lasted for three years and it was the perfect place. It was quiet where I was living, the neighbours didn’t talk to you and I was fine with that. I was about thirty minutes away from downtown and it was a big deal when I went into the city.
Even my bike, The Black Ninja, which I had for many years, fell into disrepair and rusted away in the parking garage. I tried biking along Lawrence Avenue and it was the first time I felt scared riding The Black Ninja. Even on the busiest downtown street, with cars, pedestrians, streetcars and buses, we’re used to each other. Up on Lawrence, drivers just aren’t used to having bikes on the road and I felt I literally held my life in my hands.
I’m not saying that everything I needed to sort out got sorted out, but my life did move back downtown. After being on my own for those three years, it was time to rejoin society in some way. I became a member at the Centre for Social Innovation in the Annex neighbourhood. I started going down there for events and other things. The drive or the subway ride started becoming a little cumbersome and I did start feeling lonely up in North York.
The move happened very quickly and soon I found myself back downtown. I could walk to the office. A few blocks away is the lake and I’ve walked along there a few times already. The first day I moved, people came to visit me and within two weeks, more people came by than the entire three years in North York. I even joined the bike share program and started biking again. I feel ridiculously excited just to walk around the streets and feed off the energy of the craziness of downtown.
The real reason I like living downtown is the people. I have a tendency to attract some eccentric individuals and I always try to stop and see what they’re about. Walking to work, an old man stopped me and asked for the time. After checking my watch, he said, “My mother died yesterday.” It was just a statement that he needed to say to someone and just needed someone to listen. So, we talked for a while and went on our way.
Walking along the street with a friend, we heard some strange music. An old man was playing an instrument that I was not familiar with and he smiled at both of us as we walked by. After walking my friend to the subway, I passed the old musician again. He was packing up and I asked him if he had any CDs for sale. He rummaged through his bag and pulled out a CD called ‘A Candle Lit for Eileen’. He then told me this long story about how when his mother Eileen got old, she started losing her memory. If she left the house, she would often get lost and not remember how to get home. The musician would play the songs included on the CD and it would help her remember her way home. He gave me a small book of handwritten poems because, in his words, “I like to provide the complete experience.” He told me about traveling around the world and playing his music.
This is why I moved back downtown.