I’ve been a little light on the blogging lately. I think part of it is that I’m starting to feel like less of a tourist after getting an apartment, figuring out a commute, and making more connections in the city.
It’s a long weekend here in the UK. Between seeing my wife this week and scrambling to meet the April 30 income tax deadline, things have been alternately exciting and then very very dull. The long weekend really did sneak up on me, and the folks I would typically hang out with have taken time off to go to Spain, Greece, and France respectively. I’m stuck here.
And, of course, it’s raining.
Now that taxes are overwith I’ve headed to a new bar-café on Old Street that seems to cater to the hip cyclist crowd – the types seen at Jet Fuel in Cabbagetown. There are fixed gear bikes hanging on the walls, genuinely hip décor, good music (Vampire Weekend, new album) and a generally homey feel that would be familiar to patrons of the Dark Horse on Queen East. At 9:30pm on a Friday night it is about half full, which given it just opened 2 weeks ago isn’t bad. When everyone you would want to talk to is on another continent, sometimes it can be nice to chill out in a semi-public space like this and hunker down with an Amstel and a Macbook.
Most of my friends in Toronto have skinnier jeans, cooler jobs, and more alternative facial hair than I do, so when they talk about what is and isn’t cool I tend to listen to them. When in Toronto, we were always in search of the coolest neighbourhood – which didn’t have anything to do with nice-ness, but rather authenticity. Half a year after settling into our cheery-gritty east end pile, one of my friends found a place east-er and gritter than us. He might have been the first ironic mustache on the street, at least as a property owner rather than a tenant. A true pioneer. Johnny Appleseed. Paul Bunyan.
As time went on and I developed my hopelessly detailed neighbourhood coolness matrix, which took into account a number of things (% of non American cars; % skinny jeans; PBR consumption per capita; number of fixed gear bikes, and so forth) and this guy and his hood remained at the top. Couldn’t imagine him moving anywhere else. Linked forever.
Then life circumstances changed, and he moved into a neighbourhood that was by all accounts much nicer but without a shred of grit. Uncool.
I spoke with him about it, and he basically said that being on the leading edge caused him to discount all those neighbourhoods that weren’t. Which, of course, I was completely guilty of as well.
Now I’m without a home, without a hood – seeking “approval” from co-workers and other Londoners about neighbourhood x,y,z (for the record, a lot of my ideas didn’t go over well). If someone had asked me about Toronto neighbourhoods a year ago, I would have been able to rule out 80% of Toronto, and 93% of the GTA, in about six seconds based largely on the aforementioned matrix. Coming to London, I had my own set of preferences (cool! authentic! gritty!) that were completely impossible to fulfill, and even it were possible to fulfill them I wouldn’t know how.
In Toronto I thought I had it nailed down, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. When we return to the 416 it won’t likely be to a neighbourhood that’s as gritty, cool, or authentic. I don’t know that our neighbourhood in London is any of these things. And I don’t know if it really matters either.
So this weekend, an Upper Street Survey. Wish me luck. And apologies to those whom I’ve offended in the past about comments “north of Bloor”.