Brand building through storytelling

Another face of my city

After living in Toronto for the best part of 40 years, I thought I knew the place like an intimate friend. But just as it’s possible to sit across a table from a friend, year after year, and revisit the same conversational track, so it’s also possible to mistake your own familiar urban routes for the elusive, complicated, often startling reality of your home town. That’s the trap I fell into in my former neighbourhood, with its leafy streets and meticulously updated Edwardian homes. I walked everywhere, so I knew every renovation, every magnolia bursting into bloom, every storefront filled with glossy art deco chairs or out-of-season berries from Chile. But all along there were vast swaths of my city that I never even saw.

Two weeks ago, we moved downtown. The door to our loft opens right off a bus route. As we tell all our trades, who never seem to find us on the first attempt, ours is the door behind the fire hydrant. To get any closer to the street, we’d have to be living on a grate. Outside, people amble by at all hours of the day or night, bound for offices, studios, clubs or one of the seemingly innumerable furniture stores that sell multi-purpose furniture to the condo crowd.

Yesterday evening was so fresh and clear that we stepped out to join the urban flow. We started walking at 6, and wandered on for more than an hour and a half, heading south to the Port of Toronto. Compared to corresponding places in other cities (like Chicago), Toronto’s waterfront is bleak and soulless, in urgent need of long-promised regeneration. In a less expansive mood, I might have gotten cranky about this. Not last night. What looked, at first glance, like an industrial wasteland is already the jumping-off point for a trail that had drawn a throng of dog-walkers, cyclists and even a party of picnickers. As we passed, they were firing up the grill for their first barbecue of the season.

On last night’s walk, we made a number of discoveries: a Chinese supermarke (who knew?), a mini-golf course (good news for our grandson), a mysterious moonscape of satellite dishes. We stumbled on the place where film production companies rent cars for the movies, everything from rusted-out jalopies to police vans.

Hungry and happily exhausted, we fetched up in Leslieville, before 8, the ideal time for a leisurely dinner at Tomi-Kro, where the welcome was warm, the menu eclectic and the prices surprisingly reasonable for a restaurant of ambition and quality.We’d never heard of the place (which reminded us of our favourite Brooklyn restaurants) but we’ll definitely return. Meanwhile, we feel as if we’ve had a vacation—no pricey tickets or airport security required. All we had to do was step outside our own door and head in a new direction.


Posted by Rona

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