“I haven’t been downtown in years, can we drive through?”
As we angled South, and then East along the lake, long, metallic fingers jutted out from the shore like shards of fingers, bitten off at odd angles as they stretched. They obliterated everything around them, reflecting light back into my eyes, shielded through the tinted glass of my window.
I recalled the view as it was well over ten years ago now, a full view of the CNE gates, the Skydome, the lake, the Fairmont. The CN Tower used to be unfathomably tall, a jutting appendage upwards, dwarfing all around it. Now, it seemed crowded out by tall skyscraper buildings, each a mirror of the other, each advertising their luxurious lifestyle, opulent vista, convenient commute. Each facing off against the other in a battle to reign supreme over the real estate patch they claimed.
I gaped transfixed at the transformation of a city I had spent so much time in as a young person, first enjoying the subway, Honest Ed’s and the Kensington market as a child, then enjoying the sometimes granular nature of the waterfront, the nightlife as a young oppotunistic adult. I wondered where the preservation of what used to be had gone, and if anyone was bothering to think about it as trucks and cranes moved ever forward to cover yet another hole in the ground. Long gone were the squat warehouses and red brick factories, the rectangular billboards, the mixture of different building colours and design jumbled together, all bright colours and shapes mixing to form a type of visual music.
Now in their place were gleaming cookie-cutter towers of progression, blocking the sun and the history they were sitting on. My rose-coloured glasses were firmly entrenched on my nose when we reached Queen St and descended down under the streetcar wires from our perch on the highway.
I mourned for the coldness of this new Toronto as we drove through. I felt like a part of my past was truly gone, buried beneath these buildings, erasing the essence of what this city was, to me. The cacaphony of the corporate profit machine drowned my ability to really look around me, and I felt whipped about by the massive amount of change to what used to feel so unique. Everything was generic; shiny and glossy and new, the absence of individuality gone. I felt bereft of culture until we had driven through this condo forest, away from the noise of metal and concrete reaching for the sky, the roar of the consumer-driven architecture.
Now and then though, a glimpse of a store, a neighborhood, or familiar building would remind me that the Toronto I remember is still there.
Its just harder to see.