Thursday, June 05, 2014

Moving On/In 

Rooftops and the City (Richmond at Sherbourne - just blocks from my new place) from Sam Javanrouh on Vimeo.

After telling a friend of my recent move she sent me this note:
On 2 Jun, 2014, at 3:52 PM, A. wrote:
    Thats my old hood!
    In a new Regent park condo?

    And i am still in Cabbagetown every wknd cuz my partner lives there.
    It is an amazing neighbourhood.

    Congrats and send details.


My response below:

I have to admit - I wish it was a new Regent Park Condo; they look pretty nice - but I’m still so very Duddy Kravitz and as such, I wanted something more house-like. It’s a tiny townhouse (formerly a big ol’ house since split into three) - sort of directly southwest of the new Regent Park development. I can’t really say I know the neighbourhood or what it’s called? On one map, it is distinctly Moss Park, though the resident’s association refers to it as “Cabbagetown South” (which sounds aspirational to me; anything to make it sound like it ISN’T Moss Park*). I like to think of it as on the seam between Regent Park, Moss Park, Cork Town and Cabbagetown (I know, my geography is all wrong but there you go). It’s a teeny-tiny street running between Dundas and Shuter - so yes, there are lots of older gents drinking from brown paper bags. Note: whatever is in brown paper bags makes you walk and talk funny.

But it checks off all the things I wanted:
  • no pressing need for reno
  • small deck, room for a bike shed
  • spare room for office/spare bdroom
  • parking space (not that I have a car)
  • within walking distance of transit (if I stretch I could touch the Dundas Street car; I hear it clearly)
  • biking distance to work (30-35 mins)
  • bonus: Fireplace

I mean, there are some things that are very wrong with the place (electrically heated; flat-roof; zero storage; the upper floors get crazy hot) - but at the end of the day, my mortgage + my taxes are the same as the rent at my Parkdale apartment (I do miss the views really badly, but not the smells or the bugs, or the mice or the creaky elevators), and if/when I decide to leave, I’ll get all those upfront costs back and can move to a farm upstate (or some other ridiculous real estate dream; modern shed house with spectacular views of the ocean just steps from coffee shops?)

I read an article in the New York Times quantifying when you should buy vs rent but the whole argument is moot in Toronto. There are no equivalent options to rent versus buying. Almost an identical apartment to the one I rented in Parkdale located in High Park was almost $700 more per month (though it was in immaculate condition). For the same monthly costs of a shabby, small and older downtown apartment I get my own house that’s twice the size, has outdoor space and a fire place. Take that NYT.

Listen to me - still trying to justify it. Of course, I’m the kind of person who gets Buyer’s Remorse after buying a $60 pair of Gap jeans, so it’s sort of amplified by a house. Oh and this is the only time in my life I would condone burning books, and clothes, and files, and photo albums and IKEA furniture that follows you like a lost dog. I was considering getting another IKEA closet/armoire thing but now I’m thinking I would just rather have less stuff. Is it possible to have even less stuff? Yes. Most people on this planet have less stuff.

No more “personal collections”, that’s what museums are for. No more clothing than I can wear. No more files to keep in case I’m audited. No more books I don’t read. No more CDs, no more DVDs. Do you know, I actually moved a couple of dozen EMPTY DVD cases? I did. I don’t know why. No more records for which I have no record player. No more magazines. This is 2014, I have Flipboard and Pinterest for that. No more art than I have walls for. No more pants than I have asses for. No more kitchen gadgets for food I can’t cook. No more, no more, no more. Like the Chileans who campaigned against Pinochet, I yell “No Màs!”

That’s my new mantra: less stuff — more life.


*For those not in Toronto, neighbourhoods like Regent Park, Moss Park and Alexandra Park are all notoriously and partially failed social housing experiments where at times crime flourished and immigrant communities found themselves stuck in a cycle of poverty. Despite their failings (most famously, no through streets which created courtyards where drug deals could be done out of the eyes of police and make it difficult for emergency services to access the homes), the overwhelming community spirit of these places remained strong and residents demanded better. Mistakes in planning are now being undone and the City has committed to a long term vision of bringing improved services and encouraging development that would create a more diverse mix of residents thus negating the feeling of a big old dump of subsidized housing creating an economically depressed zone within a burgeoning urban area. Meanwhile, like many cities, these depressed neighbourhoods abut some of the most expensive real estate in town. Cabbagetown, just north of my street, is well known as one of the first parts of Toronto to become gentrified and is characterized by doll-house-sized Victorian row houses that have been lovingly restored by their affluent “creative class” residents, which of course, meant that it became and remains a highly desirable area complimented by cafes, restaurants and boutique shopping. Meanwhile, Regent Park has been invigorated by new housing with economically diverse residents. On the other hand, Moss Park remains urbanely gritty. On my cycling routes I attempt to circumnavigate that block and hope to hell I don’t have to stop at the light. Why just recently I was accosted and cussed at by two Moss Park residents best described as Jessie Pinkman’s meth buddies Badger and Skinny Pete.** I don’t know that there’s anything the City can do about that. There are simply too many rooming houses and men’s shelters like the Salvation Army building nearby to simply erase the kind of lunatic fringe that many neighbourhoods have.

**Breaking Bad reference which I foresee using regularly to describe the most unfriendly of neighbours.

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