In the City

In my last post, about the changes in my life since moving, I forgot to mention the benefits and atmosphere of living in downtown Toronto — in the Regents’ Park neighbourhood, which is undergoing a resurgence — new housing, which still has subsidies for some residents; new stores; a beautiful modern aqauatic centre; a bank and supermarket (not there before, further marginalizing an already neglected area); the Daniels Centre, with theatres and meeting rooms, primarily a place for companies like the Native Earth Theatre and COBA (Collective of Black Artists). We are right near streetcars going east and west, providing easy and quick access to the subway as well as places on the streetcar lines; we are within walking distance of both Parliament Street and Broadview Avenue. Excellent medical facilities are within easy reach — clinics, family docotors, and major hospitals. Most important, however, is the mix of people — multi-cultural, in many different economic strata. Even in our co-op, there is a huge range of people — yet there is a sense of equality, a level playing field. I love going to the bank and the picture-framing shop, both on Broadview Avenue and Gerrard, and talking about Chinese New Year with the bank’s young financial advisor and the very talented young woman who frames our pictures, both of whom are of Chinese heritage and enjoy talking about that. I like being not in a “white majority” as I walk around the neighbourhood or ride the streetcar. I like the kindness of the streetcar drivers, toward me and other customers (e.g. pulling up to an accessible stopping-area on a snowy, icy day, or helping women with strollers get off and on.) I like walking through the co-op courtyard and greeting people, being greeted. I like going to pottery classes, with another co-op member (age 81!) at 220 Oak Street, a Toronto Housing building that has had many problems in the past and is getting some help from various agencies, including COTA. The pottery and art class, called the Acorn Arts Project, is run by three artists; their group has just received a Community Champions Award from CBC, one of five winners of this new award to recognize people helping the Toronto community.

This all takes me back in some ways to growing up in New York City, especially the neighbourhood on Central Park West and 96th Street where my parents and I lived until I was nine years old. Then my parents moved to a “nicer,” more upscale neighbourhood on the east-side, because “the neighbourhood was changing.” Now I have moved “back” to a similar neighbourhood, in a different country. Yes, I have seen and heard about some violence in the area, and there are still problems to be worked on — but this is outweighed by the sense of community, and the willingness to find solutions: hope rather than despair, in Jack Layton’s words.

About Ellen

I am a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and CANSCAIP. I have received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for both writing and teaching. I currently work with Learning Through the Arts and Living through the Arts, programmes run by the Royal Conservatory of Music that enable artists to work in schools and community organizations. I have also taught in many other school and community programs, and have been a judge for various writing contests for both young people and adults.
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