On Labour Day, I really needed to get out of the city, a city that I love and hate equally. On the one hand, after all the traveling I’ve done, a few years ago after returning from almost a month in Russia, I was so glad to be back in Toronto. I realized that no matter where I’ve been, I do consider this my home. I know the city, at least the west end, like the back of my hand, know what bar to go to in any given neighbourhood, where to eat, how to get around. And something I’ve never had has happened over the last two years, I established a community around me to the point where I run into people on the street. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is to me.
On the other hand, sometimes living in a city can drag you right the fuck down. The goddamn drivers always trying to get in ahead of you or tailgating you. The pedestrians doing stupid things like jaywalking with a full baby carriage. The bikers blasting through stop signs just asking to be hit. Now, at different times, I’m a driver, pedestrian and biker, and hate them all when it suits me and depending on my situation.
I searched around on the internet for somewhere to go hiking that was not too far out of the city. It dawned on me that not far from my place was High Park. I could even ride my bike there instead of driving. Jumped on The Blue Angel, which is the name of my bike and is pretty self-explanatory. When I got into the neighbourhood of High Park, memories flooded back revolving around when I lived in an apartment near Queen and Roncesvalles. After locking up The Blue Angel, I took steps into an area that I knew very well, but one I hadn’t been in for a while.
One of my special talents is to live in a neighbourhood right before it gets trendy. My first downtown apartment was a block from Dundas and Ossington, years before the trendy neighbourhood it is now. I moved out just as the first hipster bar - The Communist’s Daughter - opened its doors. The rest is history. Next I lived right on the border of The Junction, which at the time, was not the safest place to live. My residence there consisted of a ragtag group of co-habitors, grow-ops and the final straw - a break-in and stolen computers. After that was Roncesvalles, which, coincidentally, a complex re-construction of the street started shortly after I took up residence. This construction lasted for the almost two years I lived there and wrapped up shortly after I left.
Riding up Roncesvalles, I marvelled at how the neighbourhood was re-configured. It seems to really work with ample room for cars, streetcars, bikes and pedestrians. Everyone seems like they are working together. But walking up to High Park, I was thinking more about the time when I lived near Dufferin and Lawrence and how that was a lonely, yet integral part of my life. And no, Dufferin and Lawrence, or The Jungle as it’s affectionately called, hasn’t become the new Dundas and Ossington or Junction.
As I made my way around High Park, I thought about how sometimes I can get too wrapped up in all these status updates, being around all these people, needing to keep up with what is around me, the traffic, the rush hours, the goddamn heat. Those feelings like I just can’t do it anymore, like I don’t have the stamina, the endurance to keep up. I just needed to be exposed to a bit of nature, but not that much nature. I wanted to be surrounded by trees but know I could leave at anytime. But time was what I wanted, just a bit of time to myself. And silence, just a bit of goddamn silence. A place where when you’re walking down the trail, people actually make eye contact and smile and nod and that’s it, where there are no more expectations than that.
As I was walking I started thinking about the people in my life. I started thinking about all the people I have the privilege of knowing. You see, often I think about what I am pursuing, about what I don’t have, about what could happen tomorrow. Instead, I thought about those that are here now, I thought about those that were from the past, those that through my fault I have let go. I thought how I’ve had and have the privilege to love, I mean really love, and that sometimes, scratch that, most times that should be enough. What else is there?
So, when I don’t appreciate what I have or where I’ve been or fail to understand how these people and experiences have shaped my life, I’m just going to leave the city and head out to nature. Head out to High Park.