I’m moving out of Toronto at the end of the month, and I think I should acknowledge this in some way.
I’ve lived in Toronto since 1996, when I was but a mere whelp, fresh out of high school. I moved into a bachelor apartment with two other friends (after sleeping in Cawthra Park for a week while we waited for the end of the month/moving day to arrive). I had no income, no job experience, and no plans for the future, other than to get the hell away from boring old Courtice, ON.
My friends and I panhandled for cash, stole full cigarette packs at the bar, and took drugs in the parks, long before Trinity Bellwoods was a desirable park in which to take drugs (Side note: yeah, I was one of those kids who panhandled and came from a stable middle class family. It was fun. I paid it forward by giving money to panhandlers all through my twenties and thirties, both to the urban camping kids and those who were more in need).
Back then, Toronto was a relative wasteland if you traveled west of Bathurst. Parkdale, where our bachelor apartment was located ($425/month with our own bathroom and full kitchen), seemed less dangerous at night only because there were fewer people out at night. Back then, Parkdale was populated entirely by crackheads and prostitutes. Or so it seemed.
My best friend lived in Kensington Market, in an L-shaped room ($260/month with shared bath & kitchen) where I could touch opposite walls at the same time. The bathrooms were dorm style, and since I didn’t officially live there, I would either have to use the men’s bathroom with my friend’s key, or hope that the women’s bathroom was unlocked. One time I had to pee in a shower, and I’m surprised that only happened once (why didn’t I just use the men’s room?).
I lived very briefly in a rooming “house” above a store at Queen & Palmerston ($300/month with shared facilities). The shared refrigerator held little more than an intrusion of cockroaches, and my neighbour was a crack dealer who threatened me ominously one night from between our shared walls. I left after that, and when I came back weeks later to move my few belongings, I discovered a stack of napkins had been placed on my bed by … someone. Even though my room was locked. Creepy.
Somehow, I got my shit together enough to work for a living, avoid heavy drug use, and maintain the same living space for many years. I had a few stumbles along the way, but I ended up fine, and I’ve been fine for a long time.
And now I’m leaving. Heading back whence I came.
A couple of friends have asked me where my emotions are at with regards to moving away from the city that I’ve lived in for nearly 18 years, and I told each of them that I’m surprisingly unemotional. It comes in spurts, usually when I hear a song that reminds me of my first year here. But beyond that, I’m mostly looking forward instead of backward.
Toronto and I haven’t been vibing for quite a while. Years. We just don’t see eye to eye anymore. The older I get, the less I like it. The crowds, the unfriendliness, the stupidly overinflated cost of housing.
BTW, this is my new city hall:
I’m so excited.