It's late. Really late. Like 3:49am late. July 28, 2014.
I am listening to Kevin Drew. He is from Toronto for those who don't know.
I can't sleep. I have just returned from a brisk walk. In the rain. With my umbrella (a borrowed one for the record). Mind spinning. Alone. Wet streets. Empty. Barren. Just me. And the city.
Toronto. Our city.
I am sad. I am scared.
Earlier tonight before I went to bed, I viewed a video that was compiled by local journalist Jonathan Goldsbie. You can view it here.
In summary, it showed a city in trouble. A people that have lost its way. A group of citizens who clearly are living in the same physical place but their beliefs, their existence, their ideals could not be more opposite.
That city is Toronto. That city is where I was born. That city is one that millions call home and the greatest place to live in the world. To visit. To raise children in. To see opera in. To ...well, you get it.
So, if all this is truly the case, how could this be happening? How could the citizens of our great city be so polarized that we cannot come together as one?
Full disclosure. I am someone who did not come from a lot of money, but had a selfless mother and grandparents who sacrificed much for me. Yes, I was fortunate to go to that school, go to that camp, and have much access to all the exciting experiences our city has to offer. In short, I enjoyed the urban adventurer lifestyle from the baby carriage (some of you can puke now).
Therefore, I imagine I am in the group Mr. Ford and his able brother call the downtown urban elite.
Currently, to some, these (well, I gather it's "we" if I am indeed part of this group) are people who some want to throw things at. We are people that are self interested. We are people that live a Toronto life that is not a reality for many. We are the people who do not represent the Jim's of Scarborough, the Jill's of Etobicoke, and the Rodrigo's of North York.
But is that really the case? Does this "urban suburban divide" truly exist? Does it? Does it? DOES IT?
Tonight, I realized a harsh lesson. The city I love. The city I have worked very hard to put on the map in all that I do has an evident flaw. My hope it is not fatal. But it is definitely real. It is alive. It is breathing.
And what may you ask is this flaw?
Here it is.
Millions of Torontonians will get up this morning, they will take a shower, they will grab breakfast, they will get dressed, and then soon after, they will open their front doors like everyone else. Yet, once they take that first step into the morning air, once their eyes and mind focus on what they will to today, once they run to get that bus to work, some will go in one direction and some will go the other.
We are not unified. We are not one.
We are in trouble. Like time to freak out trouble.
I ask this. How many Torontonians are on a common road? And even more frightening to think, is there even a common road that we can take?
Some will talk about Toronto being a world class city. A city going through a culture renaissance. A foodie haven. A hotel mecca. A sports and entertainment dream. A city that accepts and celebrates diversity.
But to some (and I really hope there are less than I think), this is a Toronto that does not include them. This is a city that they believe is for "the downtown urban elite." A city that is controlled by a chosen few. A city where an equivalent "American Dream" is just not possible. Not a reality. Not a hope in hell.
So what can be done here? What can I do? What can you do?
I believe we all want a city that can be all that it can be. Something we all can be proud of.
If that is indeed the goal, we need to be one city. We need to do away with these downtown urban elite sentiments.
We need to come together.
So I propose this. This may be a stretch but I am going for it.
I am personally inviting Mr. Ron Banerjee & Mr. Don Whittemore for a tea. They apparently had a (clear throat) "mild altercation" at Ford Fest this past Friday. You can see what happened here.
As you can see, they are the poster children for what is wrong with our city.
So yeah, a tea. Or no. Let's make it a beer. A local Toronto beer. Maybe we can have a bunch of different ones, as there are a lot of them.
Here is how it is going to go down. We are going to have a beer in every riding represented in this upcoming election. That is 44 I believe for anyone that is counting.
We will start on August 15th and I will clear my schedule and meet you every evening at 6:00pm sharp or 44 evenings in a row. I will be bring some guests from my "downtown urban elite" group of colleagues. We don't bite. And, we will also bring some other folks who are proud Torontonians to even it all out. Heck, I will even ask Kevin Drew to come.
Fair? It will be a hoot.
Maybe we will get Beck taxi to throw in some taxi chits. Maybe we will bike there. Maybe we will take the TTC. Maybe we will walk.
The one thing I know for sure is that the three of us (and whoever shows up) will get together and talk. We will talk about the Toronto we want. The Toronto that is alive. That is fair. That is inclusive. That affords opportunity to all.
And we will invite all of you to join us. Please do. Please. Do.
And at the end of these 44 days, we will report back on how we did. What is different? What common ground did we uncover that we can recommend to our next mayor? What actual actions can be taken to fix this flaw we have spoken of that is so evident?
It all starts with a conversation. It all starts with being across from someone. Breathing the same air. Listening to the same song. Having the same beer nuts from the same bowl.
We are Toronto. We are all in this together.
So, Mr. Ron Banerjee & Mr. Don Whittemore. How about it? First round is on me.
Don't think. Just show up. Do it. Do it. DO IT.
Mr. Banerjee, over to you to suggest the first spot. My only one ask? A place that has gluten free beer.
Do it for Toronto. We have to start somewhere.