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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Why Move to Canada?

A poster has inquired what the differences were on the southern side of the Canadian border. I was going to answer in a brief note but this deserves a full blog entry.

There are 180 miles as the car flies between Rochester and Toronto. The two cities have similar climates and growing seasons. Both are on or near Lake Ontario. There the similarities end.

Toronto has excellent public transportation. Rochester's is a sometimes-functional bus service that is extremely deficient in the suburbs. (RIT is in the suburbs.) City routes are not coordinated and there are invariably long waits for buses. Schedules are not posted. Formerly they were changed without notice every three months. Lately they have standardized the times but there are never schedules on the buses; you have to download them online. The assumption is that you must drive a car if you really want to go anywhere.

Toronto is ten times the size of Rochester. The latter city is in decline, with a shrinking population and tax base. There are great cultural landmarks here, most of which are not publicized and some of which are underutilized by the city --the best known is probably George Eastman House, one of the finest collections of film and motion picture materiels in the world. Rochester also has the Susan B. Anthony House, two parks designed by Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmstead, an early Prairie house by Frank Lloyd Wright, a mile of splendid turn of the twentieth century mansions on East Avenue, not one but two waterfalls in the downtown core, a river, the Erie Canal, the Rochester Jazz Festival, and of course the city's noble history as the American terminus of the Underground Railroad. Rochester was central to abolitionist publishing --Frederick Douglass' magazine was published here-- the Spiritualist Movement, and the Women's Movement. Rochester has a small yet active Green movement and there are many local organic farms. There is a very good farmer's market and one food co-0p.

Rochester is not even mentioned in travel guides to Western New York. A neighbour called it the 'best kept secret' in the area. It's a secret since no one in the government or Chamber of Commerce manages to get the news out that there is something to see here besides the House of Guitars, which is all that the Canadian travelers on the late ferryboat that ran from Rochester to Toronto came to see. I should know because I asked them. That ferryboat was handled as badly as all the rest of Rochester's public transportation. If there was a mistake to make in transportation, Rochester made it. They even had a subway here! It ran for only thirty years before they took it out to build a freeway on top of it. Rochester is a textbook case of what author James Howard Kunstler called the greatest mis-investment of national treasure in the history of the country--the worship of the automobile and the cancerous growth of suburbia. Rochester is being sucked dry by suburbs that benefit from city services but don't pay city taxes. Some of them, such as Pittsford, are charming and well heeled little villages tastefully restored (an architecht told me they learned from the mistakes of Rochester not to destroy their prime Victorian business district). Other nearby towns are sprawling suburbs with monstrous newly constructed McMansions on the local farmland. There is a concrete wasteland with depressing strip malls.

And it's no coincidence that with the exception of the Wright house and the Eastman collection, most of Rochester's glories were produced in the nineteenth century.
The George Eastman Theatre is lovely, but there is no bright nightlife, cafes or any beauty in the downtown core. It was left to rot after 1964 race riots. And the city was treebarked by an ugly freeway and ring road in the 1960s, dislocating RIT's campus to the boring suburb of Henrietta and further strangling the downtown business district.

So Toronto may not be perfect, but there is a lot more to do there, you can get around without a car, and they make sensible use of their waterfront.
In addition there is the new job, which is a great improvement on the one I have now. Sheridan College is one of the greatest animation schools in the world.

So that's the answer to the question. Next?


David Suroviec said...

It seems as though you will enjoy Toronto much more than Rochester. I'm glad for you that you get to teach in one of the best animation schools, and sad that RIT doesn't care enough about their students education to change out of their outdated ways and hold on to the valuable professors. Hope you move goes well. Once you get to Canada let us know how you like it.


Nancy said...

Thank you, Dave. I'll be writing a lot more often on the blog after I get there, since I'll be doing more! Rochester is like an isolation tank--if it weren't for my neighbours, some kindly Quakers, and my cat, I'd not see a soul outside work. And it isn't just me; the upstairs neighbour, who is a social butterfly, said "Rochester kind of sucks." People are not outgoing or friendly and there are no places to gather unless you like bars aimed at twentysomethings. Which I don't.

David G said...

Hope all goes well with your move, 3D. You'll find, I'm sure, that Canada will feel less oppressed, more hopeful. And the local environment will be a nice change, some space, some privacy.

My privacy is under threat. I've been visited by the U.S. Southern Command! Perhaps I should move to Canada too.

Take care now.

David said...

I'd love to live in Canada again ! I lived there for three years attending Sheridan College and then another year working at an animation studio up in Ottawa before I heard the siren song of 'Californy Here I Come' .

Nancy, Sheridan is lucky to have you ! That's great news.

Nancy said...

Everyone I know who has taught, or studied at, Sheridan has loved it and has told me so.

You can't get a more hopeful recommendation than that.

Here's hoping all continues to go on schedule...the Australian police reports now require that I send they are sending the ones I provided last year down with the application, and I have to send new ones to Canada so the FBI can take a peek.

Slowly, slowly....