Toronto’s New Jersey
Oshawa, like Toronto’s New Jersey
Poor Oshawa, so industrial and sometimes crummy, lives in the shadow of beautiful, bold, arrogant Toronto, like Toronto’s New Jersey. Looked down upon as the unwashed, uncultured, uneducated, wrong side of the GTA poor cousins. We are the bottom rung of the 905-ers, Toronto’s answer to Manhattan’s maligned bridge-and-tunnel rubes.
Here is a great example: a spectacular train derailment, right in the middle of the city, summer of (2009). Tank cars scattered like toys; the rails bent like Hot Wheels tracks; drifts of white powder like spilled sugar. Homes bordering the tracks were evacuated for three days.
The next day, I couldn’t wait to see the Toronto Star. Sure enough, our derailment was on the front page. Inside, a series of full-colour shots; an aerial view showing the cars zig-zagged across the tracks; the scattered wheels and railroad ties, the twisted metal, and, because it’s Oshawa, a shot of one of our local intelligentsia having a nap on the tracks, wine bottle close at hand. I don’t know what possible point there could have been to running that photo, except to take a cheap shot at The Shwa.
Not long after, I stumbled upon a shamelessly arrogant article in the National Post. I mean, where else? “How to Date a Stockbroker Who Drives a Jaguar.” The topic: a dating site for upscale men in search of upscale women. It would seem that the inspiration for the dating site came when some Jaguar-driving Toronto stockbroker Type-A met a hapless, undeserving local girl who was simply — oh the humanity — unsuited to his “lifestyle.” She, it was revealed, was sadly, embarassingly impressed when she got a gander at our Type-A’s Jaguar. Furthermore, her only aspiration, says the stockbroker in question, was to “nest in some backyard in Oshawa.”
I have to presume this Jaguar-driving stockbroker is looking for the type of woman who prefers life in a spotless 27th storey stainless steel and glass condo. She pays big bucks for porcelain nails. Yardwork ain’t in the equation. Oh, the humanity.
Oshawa is full of surprises. It isn’t a pretty town. It has its rough spots, and the job situation is pretty dire. There isn’t the big-city culture and events that I grew up with in Ottawa. It has some sad-looking odd-ball people too, and a lot of people with neck tattoos that I probably won’t invite over for dinner.
On the other hand, I have terrific neighbours who are intelligent, considerate and sane. I’ve never experienced more friendly, decent people on a day-to-day basis. I’ve found an honest mechanic, a terrific hairstylist, restaurant owners that treat me like I matter, and a big library with a city-sized fiction section. For the cost of Toronto rent, I have a single house with a huge backyard. I live on a quiet street, where neighbourhood kids ride up on their bikes and knock on my door to see if I want to come out. I have a good job, I have a degree, I have ambition, and yes, you pretentious, Jaguar-driving stockbrokering jerkoff: I have a backyard in Oshawa.