It's been two weeks since I moved, and I can tentatively say that Toronto agrees with me. What the apartment still lacks in furniture and décor (it's a slow process), it makes up for in space. This, along with the very good roommate situation and the nearby organic farmer's market, brings out a domesticity I haven't seen in three years. I've been washing walls and cooking like mad: beet borscht, fennel stir fry and sausages, Moroccan inspired kale, Greek salads. This is a very good development.
Toronto is all about neighbourhoods. While every major street is packed with businesses, you won't find what you're looking for unless you're in the right neighbourhood. For example, don't really bother looking for bubble tea unless you're in Koreatown or Chinatown, and don't expect to find a fabric store unless you're in the Design District. Luckily, I'm within easy walking distance of the bustling nightlife of Little Italy/Portugal (rather indistinct at this point), and the ever more interesting Bloordale strip (Bloor between Dufferin and Lansdowne), home to some fabulous vintage/antique stores.
My proximity to Little Italy (College Street) also places me near one of my favourite TO havens: Soundscapes. The tiny store carries a fantastic selection of new albums and, more importantly, sells tickets to every concert with a fraction of the service charge Ticketmaster tacks on. You have to go elsewhere to dig through the bins, but at Soundscapes you can keep your eye on what's happening around Toronto, and even hear the occasional in-house concert. I already purchased tickets to the Eric Chenaux CD release, which happened tonight at a perfectly wonderful church venue called The Music Gallery, and to a Deerhoof/Xiu Xiu show, two bands I've been dying to see for years!
I was very nervous to cycle in the big city, but most of my fears were way off base. The vehicle traffic moves slowly, and bike lanes run on several major thoroughfares. I'm still terrified of getting too near the streetcar tracks. Getting stuck in one of those would be disastrous. It will also take some time to get used to the bicycle traffic! I'm not a great cyclist, but I have the right bike for city riding – a ten speed with cruiser handlebars (I feel very European) – and find myself constantly needing to pass slower bikes. This does not always work. Yesterday I was stuck behind a guy who was listening to an iPod and drinking a coffee while perched on a bike far too small for him (seriously, his knees stuck out at odd angles on either side) and tottering precariously back and forth across the bicycle lane. At least being trapped behind him for five minutes made for a good laugh!
Another surprise: Toronto is friendly! I get the sense that, once you get out of downtown, people actually like conversing with strangers!
I have some ambivalence about what I'm actually doing here. I have taken a scholastic step back and am enrolled in a Bachelor of Education program. Teaching is right on, but I already miss being a graduate student. However, the very different nature of the work means I will have time/mental energy for more discretionary reading, and without another forum for discussion, I imagine the blog posts will become more frequent.