12 of 12 for September 2009

16 Sep

I moved to Toronto 11 days ago to begin my graduate studies at the University of Toronto, and so far I’ve enjoyed my time here quite a bit. We’ve had perfect weather every single day so far — sunny, dry, comfortably warm. I know it won’t last forever, so I took advantage of the beautiful day on the 12th to walk around the city. Toronto is huge and takes a long time to traverse on foot (at least compared to Boston), but everywhere you go there is density and human activity (unlike (Hel)LA)).  I’ve yet to try out the extensive and probably very useful streetcar system, whose wires are intersecting the CN Tower in the photo above. Snapped at the southern edge of U of T’s campus.

My Canadian morning wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Timmy Ho’s for breakfast.

I was very fortunate to arrive in Toronto at the start of the Toronto International Film Festival. I ordered several tickets in advance and my first screening was on the 12th in the historic Elgin Theatre on Yonge Street. The line to get in wrapped around the entire block, but they managed to fit us all in there. I was way up on the balcony.

The movie was “The Informant!” by Steven Soderbergh, a dark comedy based on the true story of the bipolar corporate whistleblower / embezzler, Mark Whitacre — portrayed brilliantly by Matt Damon. When Soderbergh came out on stage, he began his brief speech with: “As Winston Churchill once said about cinema… actually, he never said anything about cinema.” He set the tone for a film that had the audience in stitches with its dry humour and flawlessly natural, awkward delivery. I love seeing comedies in theatres (especially ones with 1500 seats), because the comedic effect is just so amplified.

Side note: as I soon discovered, there is a particular tradition at TIFF screenings when the anti-piracy warning is displayed before the film. The audience is supposed to cry out, “Arrrrrrr!” like pirates. That was quite an interesting surprise.

After “The Informant!”, I headed straight over to Roy Thomson Hall to catch my second film of the festival: “Agora,” with Rachel Weisz, who portrays Hypatia, the 4th century philosopher from Alexandria. This movie was on several “most anticipated” lists, but I left the screening a little disappointed. The role hardly showcased Weisz’s talents and the acting was limited by clunky, “ancient-sounding” dialogue. The film does have a relevant message: it condemns violence and intolerance in the name of religion. But at times, it felt like you were being beaten over the head by the message as if you were too dumb to understand it. This seemed to take away from the artistic quality of the work, IMHO.

On the other hand, it was the North American premiere and a special gala screening, and I managed to get in for half price with a student ticket. 🙂

That’s Roy Thomson Hall on the right with St. Andrew’s Church at centre. On the lower left you can see part of Toronto’s “PATH” system, a network of underground pedestrian tunnels in the downtown core. Those should come in handy during the winter.

I stopped at Queen & Spadina to get a photo of the masses of pedestrians, when this gentleman saw my camera and asked, “Do you want to take my picture?” How could I refuse? He was very cheery but decided to don a serious face for the photo. I showed him the picture after I took it, but I don’t think he was completely satisfied with how it came out. Lol.

I continued my journey through the city along Queen Street, entering the infamously eccentric “Queen West” neighbourhood. While I expected the hippies and hipsters on the sidewalk, I didn’t expect for zombies to round the corner. I first had suspicions when I saw people dressed in Umbrella uniforms (see: Resident Evil), but the zombie costumes stole the show. I can only assume they were headed to some kind of zombie walk event, because there were tons of them — they just coming and coming. Ahhhh!!!!

Among the other oddities in Queen West was this adult store with two young ladies dancing suggestively in the store windows, in lieu of mannequins. It was just one of the most intriguingly absurd things I’ve ever seen.

My ultimate destination in Queen West was Trinity Bellwoods Park, which I had read was the best park in Toronto for people-watching. It certainly is (and for dog-watching, too).

From there, I headed north along a residential street in Little Portugal, replete with divinely colourful front gardens like this one. Although Toronto has a wide array of “ethnic neighbourhoods,” they are not nearly as homogenous or segregated as those in most other cities I’ve visited. I’m fairly certain that Toronto is the most diverse and well-integregated city I’ve ever been to.

My own residence (the red side of the building above) is located on a pleasant Victorian residential street somewhere in-between Chinatown, Little Italy, and the University neighbourhood, although they really just blend together. However, my landlords and all the other tenants are Chinese. I’ve still not managed to actually meet my two other “housemates,” although I do hear them from time to time… still waiting for that icebreaker, I guess.

My spacious room occupies the entire front side of the second floor — the one with all the blinds closed. The room is  simultaneously blessed and cursed by the amount of sunlight it lets in… but mostly blessed. I’m sure the sunniness will help fend off the wintertime blues.

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One Response to “12 of 12 for September 2009”

  1. Megan 25 September 2009 at 12:23 #

    So lovely to read about your day in Toronto!! Love the pictures too… those zombies?!!? Hahaha. And your house looks really pretty…

    Hope you’re having fun!

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