Toronto is one of those cities that has managed to flip it’s industrial core into housing comparatively successfully – that is, though it drives me half-mad, it is almost certainly more fun to complain about gentrification and rampant overdevelopment as we do, than living in an imploding tax-base ghost-town – and there are many examples of the latter, in very similar (rust belt) cities. But there are still lots of areas that aren’t doing so well – and while walking through Parkdale the other day with Nada, I had a funny new insight on this.
First of all I was brought up short by the realization that camera-head is taking over my eye (which is fine by me, because it is closely related to drawing and hopefully soon painting-head). This came to me as we strolled along King W out past Dufferin, and I realized that almost every single face I saw was filled with a complex visual narrative of hardship and misfortune. Right after that came the realization that there are few places in the city where you’d be more likely to get punched in the face, for taking the wrong person’s picture.
I’m fine with limits like that, and never wish to show any disrespect anyhow (though a shot as cute as this is approximately irresistible, I swear I was after the building, and the funky-human juxtaposition was just tryer’s-luck).
Here’s the thing though – walk north to Queen W at the same approximate longitude and the whole tone changes. Yes it’s still Parkdale, and not only is there a great deal of poverty, but also the main mental health facility and the epicentre of the homeless population who used to be unfairly incarcerated within. One of the worst examples of over-corrected policy ever (now finally trying to get it right, by integrating housing with support – fingers crossed).
Anyhow, the point is that Queen W should be at least as bad as King but is not – and the reason is ninety-percent illusion. As mentioned recently – the tonier part of Queen W (gentrified for a quarter century now, and still rising fast) has long had a general brand of being artsy, street-cool, self-actualizing – thanks to the artists who used-to, but can no longer afford to live there.
The long stretch of Queen W which runs through Parkdale never was truly integrated into the trendy scene (though there were outpost-pockets). But thanks almost entirely to broadening of the perception and branding (and the overpricing toward the city-core) this area is rapidly morphing itself into the new cool Queen W (franchises have not yet taken over, nor even taken root).
Which means they have a different level of pride, self-belief, and also (not inconsiderable) a retail address that sounds promising to those distant.
Much like the placebo effect (which has been, quite incredibly, INCREASING measurably) how we think about what and where we are, can make all the difference, even when we’re working with the same basic materials.
To paraphrase: I’ve been poor, and I’ve been cool and poor – cool is better!