Monday, June 27, 2011

Toronto Names Fall Down

Summer in Toronto is hot with activity -- if you want it. I met a man once many years ago, who after attending the University of Toronto for three years, complained there was nothing to do here. Once I'd picked up my jaw from the floor, I proceeded to prove him wrong.

The problem with Toronto isn't that it's boring, it's that it's easier to do nothing.

Transportation has worsened to the point that you sit in construction gridlock if driving or stand long minutes on stuffy and stuffed platforms for inadequate subways or on hot, crowded sidewalks for infrequent buses or streetcars, so that journeying to the fun activity becomes too draining to make it worthwhile. Or names keep changing to confuse us so that the SkyDome -- named by the people and whose name was never to be changed -- is now the Rogers Centre. But that's an easy change to remember because it pisses us all off. The SkyDome belongs to the public even if Rogers has slapped his moniker on it.

When reading about some interesting summer or winter activity, I often have to look at a recent, very recent, map. What the heck is the Allstream Centre? Where did the Automotive Building go? What's the Sony Centre -- oh yeah, the O'Keefe cum Hummingbird cum something-else-when-the-current-owners-get-bored-and-someone-else-wants-to-puff-up-about-how-much-money-they-have building. You really see this kind of hubris on hospital buildings to the point that a name no longer tells you what part of the hospital is your destination. Not even an address will tell you, for street numbers are often not visible. You need more specific directions than that.

No longer do we name buildings after people who've made their mark, whose efforts changed medicine or the course of our city. Nor do we name them after seminal events or national historical figures. No, we have money-of-the-month naming, whereby whoever coughs up the big bucks gets their name plastered all over something already named, already known under that name, already respected or even loved in a Toronto love-hate kind of way. And this kind of self-aggrandizement has only just begun. It makes me wonder: if rich folk are so hot to trot to have thier names in large letters on big buildings, why don't they do what Donald Trump did -- build their own.

Soon tourists, locals, and those with cognitive difficulties will have as much trouble navigating Toronto's simplistic three-line subway as newbies do the PATH system, for street and destination names will be cluttered up with companies and individuals who want everyone to know how rich and filled-with-largesse they are.

Back when I showed that man the plethora of activities Toronto offered, I didn't have to give him a glossary of names. Names stayed constant; it was easy for a new Torontonian to find places again and for an old one to show a tourist around and boast of the stories behind the names. But now we are not only losing our history under Council laziness, we are losing our names too.



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