Just a few of the photos I took with my phone during my weekly trek to The Stockyards for my Sunday brunch, back after the ice storm that wiped out a substantial portion of Toronto on December 22nd of 2013.
“…because you can’t vote here yet.”
That was the (inadvertent?) kicker I was told earlier this week that got me thinking about considerations of settling in Toronto. I have already had this notion creeping around in the back of my head, but more in the context of settling in Canada, not specifically Toronto. Toronto originally struck me as too metropolitan in scope & scale, but living here has changed that misconception.
Today’s weekend wandering was encouraged by the beautifully sunny (albeit briskly chilly) weather. I was totally intending to head over to The Green Grind, but after realizing how amazing the walk down Christie Street was after eating breakfast over at The Stockyards, I had more ambitious plans in mind. The trees are all starting to turn (if they haven’t already lost their leaves), and I wondered how the Don Valley was looking, so I planned a longer excursion (despite hauling my laptop for working on anyways).
Did I miss some sort of generational shift, or is PDA way more common among youth these days?
I see this all over the place at the University of Toronto. Not just hand–holding, but more so the “arm around the waist pulling the girl in” or both with arms around each other’s waist. Not a subtle thing, either; it’s pretty obvious. Between that, and all the street–corner embraces, it just seems rampant amidst the student population.
Is this just a shift from a decade ago? Is it a metropolitan thing? A uniquely Toronto or Canadian thing? It does seem to be disproportionately among Asian couples (either exclusively or mixed); could it just be a cultural thing that’s exacerbated by the high population of eastern Asian immigrants?
…when you’re wearing a college-branded hoodie. At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten the last couple of days. The weather has turned cold enough that I need the extra layer beyond just a t–shirt1, and the pair of coats that I kept from last winter are ridiculously large now2. My poor caffeine molecule sweatshirt has been worn so much that between it’s extra large size and the wear on the fabric, I feel like a local hoodrat wearing the thing, and I can only fathom what others must think I look like3. The two that fit better are my NDSU sweatshirt from my undergrad years, and the UB sweatshirt my doctoral mentor gave me as a going away gift4. So, that’s been my cold weather apparel the past couple of days. Been some subtle yet interesting changes in interactions with people in public and on the TTC during that time. This weekend is going to necessitate coat shopping; I’m holding out that a 1/2– or 3/4–length wool coat will look reasonably good on me. If not, I’m going to be struggling for ideas on what to get for a new coat!
Paying more attention on the commute the past couple days to/from work, I realize I’m extremely antsy to go check out some more coffee locations on College St. The Little Italy neighborhood on College has a small plethora of coffeehouses, of which I know at least Lit Espresso Bar was fairly good (for cappuccino at least). Their cappuccino was at least better than the ones at my usual Sunday productivity haunt (Noir Coffee & Tea, although they make a slightly crack–laden mochaccino), but neither location has matched the richness of de Mello Palheta up north of Yonge & Eglinton. I would love to frequent them more often, but it’s about as far from my place to de Mello, as it is to the University of Toronto. Little Italy is serendipitously (relatively) close to the University and on the route home, if I’m riding the TTC. I really need to just take some evenings to leave work a little early to finish my data processing/writing/whatever–other–computer–work I need to do and check them all out. The Green Grind looks cozy & vibrant for a relaxing atmosphere; I’ve seen good reviews for The Brockton Haunt; Voodoo Child sounds it should be right up my alley taste–wise; Manic Coffee would be perfect for a late evening stay, having a smooth cappuccino while I’m working & treat myself to gelato when I’m done before leaving. This small list is only the places I’ve heard of or looked up so far; there are certainly more, as I haven’t paid nearly as much attention to the south side of College St when I’m riding or walking through it!
I really had more to say, but it’s since evacuated my brain into regions undiscovered. Or that could be the ibuprofen PM kicking in; my back tension has been ridiculous the past week, and it’s to the point I’m starting to take ibuprofen to help deal with the pain of the tension in my trapezius or rhomboid; I’m not entirely sure which it is. Regardless, I need to get an appointment setup to get this examined; stretching & relaxation don’t seem to be helping it. Next up on home remedies will be digging out my heating pad, and laying infirm upon it to attempt to relax the muscle(s) at fault.
However, in the interim, I can’t wait to bathe my tongue is some rich & bold coffee–derived concoctions this week. Well, mostly just tomorrow, if at all this week. Thursday’s free time is being eaten up by a free Midori concert being put on by the U of T Faculty of Music over the lunch break5, and another free concert being put on by the jazz orchestra in the evening6. Friday is the departmental social at the end of the work day, so being inebriated only reinforces wanting to be inebriated; there’s no easy transition from there to coffee, not at that hour of the evening. So, Wednesday it is, lest I wish to wait until next week to get started!
1This usually happens when the temperature finally dips below 50˚F (10˚C) when the sun isn’t out or the wind is really blowing.
2They were just a smidgen on the roomier side last winter, you know, before I lost a quarter of my body weight…
3The waist of the sweatshirt almost hangs past the crotch of my jeans, and the sleeves reach the knuckles of my fingers when my arms are extended. Clearly, not fashionable attire, despite my love of the geeky caffeine molecule structure.
4He has done it for every graduate student he’s graduated, because we apparently all never think to get a UB sweatshirt during our time there (priorities, clearly).
5Yay free music!
6Yay more free music!
It’s interesting how interactions can be so polite or cold in this city at a given time. My neighbourhood is almost consistently cold in nature, but I keep feeling that’s a consequence of me looking more so the foreigner than the native1. However, I continue to run into random warm encounters that are a bit surprising in nature.
The Sunday morning crew at The Stockyards is amazing. A couple rowdy women in their 40s, often the owner, and a couple of younger cooks that do their work just right. It’s great to listen to them just interact with the regular patrons (both dining–in and to–go), ’cause they just love to catch up with their regulars. Even I got dragged into some conversation as they wanted to know what I did for the (Canadian) Thanksgiving holiday!
Which is hilarious every time I mention I go to Buffalo.
Other: “Oh, do you go visit your family there?”
Me: “No, my family lives in North Dakota.”
Other: <insert confused/dumbfounded look as they either (a) try to figure out where North Dakota is, or (b) figure out why the hell I would be visiting Buffalo if I didn’t have family there>
It really makes me believe the effect it has of some people never moving out of the greater Toronto area. They don’t know what it’s like to move 250–300 miles away for college, or another thousand miles away for graduate school, and throw in another hundred or two for your next job. Transplantation isn’t so easy; it’s convenient to have your support network close enough for weekend visits. It was a luxury I did not have moving to Buffalo, nor much of one moving to Fargo. I’d hazard, people just don’t often think about it…
Anyhoo. Back to the weather changes. I would have expected a warmer reception from the (professional, supposedly) academics I have met to date. Thankfully, one I did, but she’s off & gone in Oman now2. I did emo–whine a bit earlier about the grad student colleagues in my department, but again, that’s a tight–knit social circle that is pretty self–stable. I’ve had the chance to reach out to a couple other postdocs so far, but those communications seem to be…evaporating, perhaps? I’m not sure. We’re all whipped workhorses to our own specific projects, but how on earth do you coordinate time to spend with them amidst all that, let alone any social circles they already have? So, there are the colder ones so far.
Last weekend, I got an amazingly warm response from a café shop owner. I inquired about what music was playing over the speaker system & let me snap a picture of the info off his iPod. Ten or fifteen minutes later, he asked if I had a flash drive with which to provide some of said artist to me with. I was momentarily floored; far above & beyond what I would have expected of a stranger, especially when he returned the flash drive nearly full! Listening to some pretty awesome contemporary classical music as we speak right now!
Lastly, this evening, I took it upon myself to inform a stranger about when the next streetcar was coming down College St, as I was leaving work. She kept checking the street profusely (a couple times a minute), while I coolly waited because I knew the streetcar was down at Yonge & College still3. I politely informed her that one was coming only a block and change away, with two more in quick succession behind it. I seem to have weirded her out a bit over the random remark, but she was thankful for the information. I mentioned the follow–up cars because she had a loaded rolling luggage piece with her, and any (competent) TTC rider knows that at that time of the post–workday hours, the first eastbound College streetcar after an extended lack is going to be one packed sardine unit! Anyways, first of the three shows up, I can already see that the car appears to be a nebulous, black entity traveling down the street, indicative that the plethora & density of standing patrons — blocking out all interior lights of the streetcar to the outside —has utterly filled the streetcar. She hesitated, and decided to wait out the next car, as I already said I would (I’m not that impatient to get home). I show her the app, and demonstrate how it shows the next two streetcars in tow: one at University & College already, with the other at Bay & College. She inquires where I got the app, I relate how she can track it down for her own phone (an Android, alas, not iOS like my own), and she looks to be genuinely happy with that extra piece of knowledge for the day. The next streetcar comes down College nearly a minute or two later, and it looks virtually empty! Alas, it is only bound for Bathurst, so I’m stuck awaiting the final car, while she enjoys her near–vacant streetcar. I figured in a city as dependent on transit at Toronto is, more of the regular patrons would be aware of/informed about such smartphone utilities to aid their travels. Heck, it even surprised a young man while I was waiting for the 47B Bus at College & Lansdowne; he was surprised with how accurately I predicted its arrival, after I asked if he was heading north (he kept inspecting TTC signage near the stop). Perhaps not! Mayhaps I need to disseminate my unnatural technical prowess more unto others…it might make a nice opening conversation piece, and who knows, maybe even get a regular conversation partner for my winter rides on the TTC!
1With a neighbourhood that is predominantly Italian & Portuguese, I lack the Hispanic good looks that my mother’s side of the family has, and lack the language skills to partake in the mostly non–English conversations in my ‘hood.
2Thanks, Meezan! Way to leave me hanging, once I found a friend! But no, really, not her fault; awesome woman who has a crazy wordly knowledge & experiences behind her…
3The Transit app from the iTunes App Store has probably got to be one of the most useful city transit apps I have ever had the pleasure of using! It shows (nearly) all the surface–exposed transit vehicles locations as their GPS reports them in to their respective server systems. Granted, some surprise additions/reliefs to the routes don’t always show up in the app, as I learned tonight when I got off the 47 bus at St. Clair and didn’t realize the 47B was right behind, which I could have transferred onto, as opposed to walking the final 1–mile of my trip home, uphill in the rain…
In light of Friday night’s melodramatic whining about an inability to socialize, I have since put that thought back in its place: a moment of weakness that got amplified by the moodiness of alcohol.
How do you convince someone that you’re worthy of their circle of friends?
…pretty much describes my weeks feeling like I’m actually settling down into this city.
Striving for a career in science has taught me a couple strong things over the years (besides how awesome it is). One of which is realizing you transplant yourself to build/acquire/develop some new skills, and repeat the process until you’re apt enough to do it on your own.
As I transitioned from high school into college into graduate school, I noticed another trend: enrichment for the socially inept/naïve increased as I went up the training scale (at least in my own personal experience). I had concerns that this was a logarithmic saturation, where it would only get worse the further you went up in training (despite how rational and socially acclimated most professors seem to be). Thankfully, the social awkwardness seems to have relieved itself among other postdocs (so far). So maybe this is instead the other side of the hump in the curve, whereupon the previously socially awkward in the graduate student community either learn to adapt, or are weeded out of the system.
I have always been fairly introverted. I get by okay in public it would appear, but I like/tend to be reclusive when I am able. Considering the necessity for transplantation for advancement in my career, this is utterly detrimental to maintaining any sort of a social life.
I was okay for the first month with the modified social environment of moving to Toronto. Now, the lack of interaction is hitting home a bit harder. The ironic part is that new social interaction(s) stimulated the feelings of absence; two recent symposia led to pleasant conversations with new individuals that left me longing for this on a regular basis.
Electronic communications and social media don’t quite cut it. They’re mediocre replacements for face-to-face communications.
Now begins the (emotionally) rough part of the transplantation into a new community.