a) Los Angeles has been described as ‘a hundred neighbourhoods in search of a city’ (originally it was 72, but that was back in the 1930s, the author of the article I read in the in-flight magazine updated the quote for the new millennium). I couldn’t agree more, as the various neighbourhoods I saw had very distinct characteristics, none of which were easily shared. The disparities between rich and poor in the United States only re-enforced this view, with the constant reminder from my acquaintances out West that the dividing line between upscale bistros and Skid-Row (an actual hobo-town) was often little more than which side of the street you were on. That and the car culture only served to enhance the divisions – in essence, what’s between points A and B seldom matters, as your car is an extension of the comfort you live in. As you can expect, this is not a pedestrian friendly city.
b) The Financial District, in the photo above, is considerably smaller than I would have expected, significantly smaller and less vibrant than Chicago or Toronto. The biggest factor seems to be that very few people actually live in LA’s ‘downtown’, though apparently this is changing as some Angelino’s have been making the move into the city for the last few years. Either way it was a bit strange to see a downtown so vacant after 5pm – not unlike Calgary.
d) Food – all I can say is ‘Asian-American’ fusion cuisine. If you haven’t had a Peking-duck taco, get on it. That shit’s delicious!
e) View – a good friend remarked that the city was built for great perspectives, and I wholeheartedly agree. Whether on the highway, on zipping around the ‘spaghetti-streets’ of Hollywood (thanks to J. Foster for that one), in the hills or wherever, the city affords many excellent views. This makes driving around on the highways and main boulevards very exciting, and as you can imagine, Sunset Boulevard is really exceptional in this respect. I’m not crazy about car-culture, but this is one reason I would consider getting a license. Of course the varied topography of the city allows for so many spectacular perspectives, and the fact that we were in Hollywood meant the view was always pretty spectacular.
The enlightened citizens of Toronto have just elected Rob Ford their new Mayor. Mr. Ford attempted to do a pre-arranged interview with the CBC’s As It Happens, all the while coaching a football team. My guess is he was going for the folksy angle, but he came off instead as a bumbling fool with an utter contempt for what he probably views as elitist Toronto media.
Either way the people of Toronto now have a fool steering the city-ship for a few years; the questions are thus:
1- Has Toronto just been blown-over by a Tea-Bagger by any other name?
2- Are a lot of Torontonians wishing they had went out and voted?
3- Is Ford’s election the dark underside of the Megacity project, and is suburban Toronto really that different from Toronto’s urbanites?
I happen to have recently discovered I enjoy baseball quite a bit, and the more I learned about the Expos, the more I came to realize the Expos were robbed of the pennant (at least) in the 1994 season.
Clearly the Big O was not the ideal venue for a baseball franchise, as the enormous stadium was generally impossible to fill, and offered those in attendance no real view, aside from the imposing enormity of the Olympic Stadium. The planned Labatt Stadium (which you can read all about here) would have had a capacity of 36,000 – roughly half that of the Big O.
Now, the site where this stadium would have been constructed is currently condo towers, though there are sites large enough to accommodate a stadium, such as between Duke and St-Henri along William in Griffintown, or at the site of the old Canada-Post sorting facility (incidentally, any re-development of the Griff should consider a ballpark, given the availability of large tracks of land owned by Canada Lands Corporation). Either way, the success of any new version of the Expos, should the citizens of this city ever make an attempt to get back into pro-ball, would be highly dependent on the stadium, its design and the view available to the spectators. A new ballpark would also create many new jobs and further serve as a potential venue for a variety of performances – in essence, a well-designed and strategically placed ballpark could act as a neighbourhood anchor, exactly the kind of thing the southern portion of the downtown could use.
a) It’s named after former Mayor Camillien Houde, well-remembered for his charisma, anti-conscription related internment during WW2, the Kondiaronk Belvedere and the manyÂ Vespasiennes (adoringly called Camilliennes for decades) he had constructed as make-work projects during the Depression. He also vehemently opposed the construction of any street or boulevard bisecting Mount Royal. At the very least could we consider changing the name?
c) As a result of the parkway, there are several large parking lots on the mountain – land that had once been raw natural forest. Given that the mountain has, traditionally, been frequented overwhelmingly by locals, and not tourists, the necessity of so many parking lots near the summits can be called into question. Especially because, once upon a time, a tram ran the length of the parkway. Reclaiming the parking spaces could be done by investing in a new tram, one which would ideally run from the bottom of Guy (placing a terminus at the corner of William in Griffintown) up to Cote-des-Neiges, dropping people off at a mountain terminus near the pavilion at Lac aux Castors (you’ll notice, a loop already exists here). This could effectively allow the rest of the parkway and the parking lost to be reclaimed as parkland.
d) The photo above demonstrates another problem – there used to be a tunnel at that exact spot. The tunnel allowed people to get from the Mount-Royal side to the Outremont side over-top, not to mention offering considerably more room for the variety of animal species native to the mountain park. Even if the parkway remains, at the very least, a new tunnel ought to be built here, to allow for the maximum level of freedom of movement.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to the summit, though I think I was up there earlier this Summer. The improvements to the Peel Staircase and the access to the Olmstead Trail are excellent additions, welcoming urbanites with elegant and naturalistic entrances that fit into the idea of the sacred, leafy refuge. I remember the last time I was up there a temporary fence had been put up to divide the belvedere into two parts, though no work was being done at the time.
Still, as the city grows and the last remaining scraps of undeveloped land in the CBD is gobbled up as it will be over the next couple of decades, protecting our green spaces is going to become an even greater priority.
Don’t believe me? Consider the 1976 St-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations, which saw tens of thousands of people descend on Mount-Royal. The damage to the park and pollution from one day’s worth of festivities was more traumatic and required a more extensive clean-up than did the Ice Storm of 1998!
So I suppose this is a call for assistance. I’ve never been involved in organizing a piece of public art, but I believe an excellent example is staring all of us in the face.
As an environmentalist, I consider massive incinerators to be not only an eyesore, but a lasting testament to just how incompetent we can be. By contrast, the above incinerator is no longer active, just a massive hulk of a building no one knows what to do with.
So here’s a proposal, one which is steeped in local pop history. Attach a gigantic inflatable pink pig to the roof of the building and moor the swine somewhere between the smokestacks, an enduring tribute to (in my opinion) the most original music-group of the last century, Pink Floyd.
The story goes like this: sometime in the late 1970s, my guess would be in support of Animals (no less!), Pink Floyd were performing at the Big O, back when international supergroups still sold-out massive arenas, as much a spectacle in and of itself as the show up front. Regardless, somewhere during the set, a demented fan began trying to scale a chainlink fence near the stage, idiotically shouting ‘play money’ or something like that. Pink Floyd was well-known for politely asking their adoring fans to, in essence, be cool, while they were performing their increasingly complex sonic masterpieces. An enraged Roger Waters tried in vain to quiet the disruptive crowd before finally spitting on the fence-sitter. I’ve had this story corroborated by my friend’s dad who was at the show.