By Chantal Braganza
If you’re reading this, and live in centralish Toronto, there’s a good chance you grew up in a suburb like me. Your reasons for moving here may be the same as mine, they might be different, but hopefully you love where it is you live. I sure do. It’s just that recently I’ve noticed a couple of things I either can’t or simply don’t do anymore since I left Mississauga.
Quick disclaimer. As much as I miss these things, none of them are reason enough to pick up and move back, nor are they meant to romanticize Mississauga (is that even possible?) or make the suburbs seem like some far-off country. I’m not even sure how many of these things have more to do with being a teen than ‘burb living, let along how ethnicity plays into it. But here you have it:
1. Hanging out in parking lots
Want to watch 25-year-olds live out their 2001 dreams of The Fast and the Furious in neon-lit cars with wire spoilers? Wendy’s, Hurontario and Britannia. Or some helmeted daredevil stand on the handles of a motorcycle as he (or she, never found out) rips down Dundas at 140 km/h? Tim Hortons, Dundas and Winston Churchill. Make-out point? Wherever you could park a car.
I have a list of lots longer than books you’ve read of places I’ve talked, smoked, danced and cavorted as a supposedly bored teen.
2. The food
Other Ethnic Aislers have made good reference to this. Food nerds, myself included, actually take pride in trekking out to Airport Road for fantastic dim sum, Newmarket for unreal sushi, Rexdale for the best BBQ ribs.
3. The freedom to bike anywhere
This is so counterintuitive, but strange and true. Cyclists not part of a spandex-clad exercise troupe are such a rarity on certain north Mississauga roads that people will swerve out of your path just to give you space.
4. Square One in the morning
I worked a couple of clothing store jobs here, at Ontario’s largest mall, and am convinced at least half the city’s youth has been employed here in some capacity at some point in their lives.
I last came back here a couple of months ago with friends, one of whom is from North York and had never been to this mall. I actually felt compelled to give her a tour. Halfway through I realized I was doing it wrong—just showing her entrances to stores that can be found all over the country.
Here’s what she needed to see: the elderly Chinese couples lifting their arms over their heads for exercise as they shuffled across the empty food court at 7 a.m.; the long, groggy, complaining line of HMV and Gap employees in front of the only cafe that opened before mall hours; the terrifying, mouldy underbelly of basement storage spaces and parking lots that was twice as big as the mall itself.
5. In the spring, endless fields of dandelions
It could have been a strip of grass in front of a community centre or an entire football field after school let out for the summer. You’d just kind of lay in these huge expanses of garish green and yellow with literally nothing to disturb you but the sound of cars.
6. How distance didn’t really matter so much as where you wanted to be
Now this is the most difficult to tease out, because it has so much to do with just being young in general. But I really do believe living in the 905 at fourteen helped make me more patient. You were happy to commute 90 minutes to get out of the city, which was often enough. You drove across the city on your G1 license to see your friend’s band play at the Pine Room in Oakville. And now, where I love to live at Christie and St. Clair, it’s hard to think of heading south of Dundas whenever it’s raining.
The Ethnic Aisle, a blog about race and ethnicity in the GTA (and beyond!!), is holding a ‘Suburbs vs. Downtown’ event on Monday September 26th at 6pm at The 519 to discuss the divide between the city and the ‘burbs and what it has to do with differences in culture and identity. Details of the event can be found here.