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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Slum of Oakville

It's certainly been a while since I last posted. The month of July has gone by fairly eventfully; all the unpacking is done, I've been working on my course outlines for fall, and even had time for some socializing. I've met more people here in one month than I did in Rochester in four years. Toronto stereotypes of 'unfriendliness' are not true. It's amazing how many people will just talk to me on the street. I don't know if it is my honest face or what.

The weather has been strange, to put it mildly; the summer has been hot, humid, and with some of the most amazing downpours I've seen since leaving Savannah. Truth be told, I'd call this a subtropical climate, not a northern temperate as it's listed on the map. Being between a river and a lake probably adds to the humidity but I'm told that the East Coast has been sweltering all summer. New York was over 97 degrees with high humidity--yecch. At least it's bearable with the dehumidifier.

I have visited the
Toronto Islands and got some charming pictures of the cottages there. The Islands were once connected to the mainland til a huge storm washed away the land bridge. People have been going there for holidays for hundreds and possibly thousands of years; the cool breezes are welcome in summer. In winter, probably not so much.

There is a cute little theme park on the Island with old fashioned rides. There is a boardwalk (though this is not my picture, this is what I saw) and delightful houses. But there is no convenience store or grocery on the island. If you live there year round, as many people obviously do, you have to have winter stores. Oddly enough there is an airport there too.

The city once tried to force the owners of the cottages off the Islands so that the entire place could be made into a public park. This was an example of the wrong idea for the right reasons. One homeowner tending her tidy garden told me that the cottages got very run down about twenty years ago since they were forbidden to sell, upgrade, or repair any of them! Fortunately a compromise was worked out and people like me can traipse all over the islands while the cottagers live their lives in their fully-renovated (for the most part) homes. The day I and a friend went, the ferries were so packed with thousands of people that I despaired we'd even get over to the islands. Fortunately this person knew of a yacht club ferry nearby that would take nonmembers over for three Loonies once their members were aboard. So it was a pleasant day indeed. I plan to go back and possibly try the paddle boats on the lake there.

Life in Oakville is more agreeable than I thought. It's really two cities, or mindsets: the old-money, very Scotch-Irish Old Oakville to the south of me and the multi ethnic, lowerclass area on Kerr Street to the west.

"Kerr Street is the slum of Oakville!" my friend Jean Pilotte told me. "If that's a slum, then I've been living in one for my entire life!" I said.
It says something for me that I am more at home on the slum side than the tony one. There is a farmer's market on Saturday, and I get a good deal of my groceries right there. I like to walk to the local secondhand stores; since Oakville is a rich town there are some excellent buys in all of them from the tony ones near Lakeshore to the humbler ones on Kerr.
Kerr Street has even got a jazz club, the Moonshine Cafe, with live entertainment every night. You can get a coffee or a nonalcoholic drink without feeling stupid, and listen to good music. The best gelati and sorbet I've ever tasted is sold right across the street. There are Indian, Polish, Portuguese, Caribbean, and Ukrainian markets all along the street. Unfortunately Asian markets are underrepresented; I have to go into Toronto for really good Chinese groceries, but it's a small hardship.

I have had some movie and dinner nights at the new place and it is working out well. The electric stove is better than I expected but I still don't see why they don't have lights for each of the top burners so you know which one is on. I'm going to put arrows up and down so I know which knob to turn...there was a near disaster with a small pot of oil the other night, but fortunately no fire.

I've also been to my first meeting of the National Cartoonists Society chapter in Canada, at the charming home of its unofficial president, the marvellously named Leif Peng, in the nearby town of Hamilton. This is an old steel mill town that lost all its jobs to Asia. Unlike badly-governed cities such as R*ch*st*r, Hamilton is doing just fine-they allowed the artists to take over the downtown area, and it's apparently thriving. People are moving West from Toronto to escape high rents.

Most lakeside Canadian towns make good use of their waterfronts, and I have not seen the sort of decay that is prevalent in Rust Belt American cities. Artists will live in neighbourhoods where regular people fear to tread, and when they thrive, the regular people move back and revive the marginal neighbourhoods. More importantly, the people are committed to helping the people in the marginal neighbourhoods improve their lot. I'm pleased to see this attitude, it's one that should come back in fashion.

There is a Canadian cartoonists' award called the DOUG WRIGHT awards. They will be given on August 8. There are only two: one honors established cartoonists, the other honors upcoming artists, or artists who have gone into new fields. They have a GIANTS OF THE NORTH Hall of Fame that was instituted in 2005; Lynn Johnston, of FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, is the honoree this year. I'll be attending the awards, which are free, and then joining Lynn for dinner afterwards. Watch this space, there will be a writeup.

Yes, I like living in Canada and I'm looking forward to meeting the students in the fall.


JPilot said...

I din't mean a "slum", it was just a comparative remark since Oakville is such a rich place, the least expensive area being Kerr street would make it slumming by comparison. The Kerr street area is by no means a "slum" it would be considered swanky in any other city. But in a downtown area where the house prices range from $1 million to $15 million, a $500 000 house might be considered "roughing it".

Nancy said...

Jean, the remark you made was hilarious, and it was even funnier when I took it seriously! You have a great way with words. I want you to do a guest lecture in my story class, they will find you a hoot!

Stacey Chomiak said...

Hi Nancy,

I got onto your blog via Mark Mayerson's blog - I am currently going into 4th year at Sheridan and I heard rumblings of you coming to teach this Fall! I am a fan of your previous work, and just think it plain great that there are successful women in this ol' Animation industry! :)

I also wanted to comment on your mentions of Kerr St in Oakville - last year I lived just off of Kerr on Washington so I know all of which you refer. I am not from Oakville either, and can't beliebe that is "slum" area! Sheesh! Anyway, I really loved it and I am hoping to find a place near-ish there this Fall. I am currently enjoying the NY weather you also speak of - doing an internship at Fisher Price.

I look forward to meeting you in September!