When The City Finally Slows Down

Sometimes, this city just offers too much to do.

I’m not complaining, mind you. But it’s been an overwhelming summer. It’s said Toronto is a city of festivals and pretty much every weekend from late May until the end of September, there are multiple things to choose from. Just about every neighbourhood has a street festival now, there’s Caribana, Gay Pride Week, the Outdoor Art Show in Nathan Phillips Square, Doors Open, Taste of the Danforth, Taste of Little Italy, the Vegetarian Food Fair, piles of cultural events at Harbourfront, the Beer Festival, the CNE… it just goes on and on.

All of this culminates in one weekend of craziness. This past weekend saw two marathons (Toronto Waterfront Marathon and Run for the Cure), Word on the Street, the literary festival that takes over Queen’s Park, and Nuit Blanche, a 12-hour all-night art event that encompasses most of downtown. Pity the fool who tries to actually drive anywhere.

Nuit Blanche slipped under my radar last year, and I wasn’t super psyched about it this year, but as one of the 3 zones was in our neighbourhood, we wandered around to check out a few things. We watched parkour athletes climb and then descend the nearby train bridge, we wandered the Gladstone Hotel looking at the exhibits there. Then we headed east, stopping at galleries along the way until we got to the Great Hall where we stood amazed at what appeared to be a storefront filling with water and being taken over by giant fish. We picked up a chunk of carpet from where a group of artists covered a road on the CAMH property with the stuff, then headed to Lamport Stadium to see a giant inflatable locust. This was probably the most fun and interactive piece we experienced – kids were climbing all over the thing, crawling under it, bouncing against it. It was nothing more than a giant balloon, really, but people were truly having fun, including a group of drunk girls who repeatedly bounded into the face of the thing only to bounce back and end up on their butts on the astroturf.

We didn’t come anywhere close to staying out all night or seeing everything (pretty much technically impossible), but we enjoyed what we did see. The best part was really the energy and excitement that was palpable in the air. Even if I didn’t love all the art I saw, it was definitely an experience that I will plan for a bit better next year.

Word on the Street was, of course, the usual craziness. Too many people with too many kids and too many rolling suitcases. I know what it feels like to go a little crazy at Word on the Street and have too many books to carry home comfortably, but the folks who show up with empty carts or little rolling suitcases to haul home their purchases have to realize that they need to watch for other people’s toes.

And now, suddenly, that’s it. Thanksgiving brings an abrupt end to the insanely busy weekends. Where only a few weeks ago, there were half a dozen options of things to attend, Saturdays stretch long and languorous, full of cups of tea, plates of scones and a leisurely read of the papers or maybe even the luxury of, dare I say it? – a book. Sundays promise not a string of cultural festivals and bad representations of national dishes served up from steam trays, but a real brunch, consisting of multiple coffee refills and freshly made hollandaise sauce.

I’m looking forward to relaxing for a while, I must say. I need the winter to build up my strength to face yet another summer of roasted corn vendors, art shows, and mediocre bands. I need long walks in the snow to offset the hours spent in the middle of a drunken crowd in the sweltering heat of a Toronto summer day. I need nights full of windy blizzards to make me forget the drone of the Indy, the ear-shattering airshow, or the monotonous Soca music of Caribana.

I love that Toronto offers so much to do, but I also love that, come winter, we know how to take a break.