Toronto has changed a lot in the 46 years since we moved here, especially (the lack of) affordable housing.

Back in 1968 when we emigrated to Canada from the US, Toronto was a very different place from the big, bustling, cosmopolitan, and multicultural city it is today. As my Ma — a Chicago girl born and bred — likes to tell it, the first Sunday she went “downtown” (to the current site of the Eaton Centre and Dundas Square) “it was so empty you could roll a bowling ball down the sidewalk without hitting anyone. When I finally found someone to ask where “downtown” was, she just looked at me and said “This IS downtown!” (thanks for the anecdote, Ma!).

Even if T.O. Hadn’t introduced Sunday shopping back in the early 90’s, downtown now would still be nothing like downtown then. Condos continue to be thrown up faster than beavers build dams in flood season, so there’s a lot more people on the streets now than then. Immigration has also changed dramatically since then, as Edward Relph’s website, an online companion to his new book Toronto Transforms, maps out. Finally, and this is probably old news to most of us by now, Toronto’s housing costs continue to boom and boom and boom: according to this Toronto Real Estate Board website, in 1967 almost 12,500 houses were sold in the city for an average price of $24,000; in 2012 it was almost 86,000 houses at an average price of nearly $500,000 (still well behind Vancouver, Canada’s most expensive city).

Dawn in Davenport Village, Toronto. The neighbourhood is still a little raw: birdsong and electrical hum.


davenport village

This summer, my first stop in exploring T.O.’s neighbourhoods will be Davenport Village. Actually, I’ve been here before. Way, way before: like, 46 years ago. Turns out, this part of Toronto is also where we lived when my parents and I emigrated from the US back in 1968.

Initial impressions:

Keep in mind that these are my thoughts after a full day’s travel, doorstep to doorstep, from my home in west Tokyo to the place I arranged to stay through airbnb. Things may look very different in the light of morning…

The block of townhouses where I’m staying are quite new, having been built as far as I can tell in 2004. They’re bounded to the north by Earlscourt Park, which runs all the way up to the Corso Italia neighbourhood along St Clair West, to the west by train tracks and neighbouring Carleton Village, to the south by more railroad tracks and eventually Dupont Street, and to the east by some old – historic? – Factories, and by Lansdowne Avenue.

Tonight I walked briefly through the townhouse development where I’m staying, then headed south on Lansdowne to Dupont. Lots of young couples. Mostly residential, with a large playground in the middle of the development and green space near the tracks. Not much in the immediate area by way of stores, restaurants, Tim Hortons, and the like. More development is apparently promised for the Lansdowne and Dupont area, currently being redeveloped as mixed-use condos and commercial space, though at the moment what stands out is the demolition zone to the northwest, and the Coffee Time to the northwest with the kids hanging out front trying their hardest to look like drug dealers.

Davenport Village 2

Stumbled on this reality travel video created by Doi Nomazi (Travelo Therapy) about a husband and wife sea kayak trip in the Gwaii Haanas islands (formerly the Queen Charlottes) in British Columbia. Thing is, they seem like a really, really nice couple. They may remind you of people you know…. Watch when you’re in the mood for a little virtual travel but don’t need the adrenaline rush of oh, say, Les Stroud’s Survivorman, or Bear Grylls’ Man vs. Wild or The Island.

Did I mention they’re nice?

It’s Friday night/Saturday morning, and hipsters in knit caps skid home from the bars artisinal craft beer pubs along Dundas Street West.

“Whatcha taking pictures of bro?”

This magical, fantastical nightmare before Christmas.

Anniversary-Issue-Cover-Image-213x300England’s The New Idealist magazine have published in their first anniversary, “Doomsday Edition”, a dispatch from me  about the extreme winter weather in Tokyo and Toronto this year.  Check it out on page 9. Check out the other articles, too, of course. But check page 9…

The New Idealist magazine is online and downloadable for free at

Chamonix the Sublime

Chamonix the Sublime

In the summer of 2010, two very cool things happened:

1. R. and I went to London and the Lake District on our honeymoon.

2. I made a return trip, after 22 years, to the two highlights of my first trip overseas at the (coincidental) age of 22: Chamonix, France; and Gimmelwald/Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland.

I’ve already written about the Swiss Alps. In this post, I’m gonna let the pictures do most of the talking, except to say that I hope it isn’t another 22 years before I return… Check out Chamonix the Sublime on 500px.

On a solo trip through the Swiss Alps, the author meets the shadow of his former self.

To become wise, one must wish to have certain experiences and run, as it were, into their gaping jaws. This is, of course, very dangerous: many a “wise man” has been swallowed.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Lauterbrunnen, Swiss Alps A grey fondue of storm clouds rolls past my hotel room balcony. Bad weather threatens to pin me for another day to this hotel room with a view steep-pitched to a valley in the Swiss Alps. While I stay warm and dry indoors, rain turns the mountain trails I came to walk, the ancient cow paths, the consistency of dung.There won’t be any parapenters today, either, brightly coloured lozenges of silk pirouetting to the valley floor. Tourists, many of whom, like me, come to these mountains for a bit of adventure, who otherwise pay to ride with these professional risk takers, are out of luck today.

Lauterbrunnen, Swiss Alps A break in the clouds flashes a picture of the scarred valley wall and the chiseled summits of three fairytale mountains: Der Eiger, Die Jungfrau, Der Monch: The Ogre, the Maiden, The Monk. The parapenters and their passengers can pack it in when the weather turns foul like this. Climbers, on the other hand, must hunker down, and deal with what the mountain delivers. On these merciless peaks, a storm can mean real trouble. After all, like something out of Lord of the Rings, the locals call the north face of the Eiger “Mordwand,” murder wall. Read the rest of this entry »


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