Toronto the Good. Or The 6ix. Or whatever.

The cultural impact created by Tokyo, France, or New York escapes its city and nation of origin and creates stories of mythic quality that have a recursive effect...they are legendary sources of inspiration and so great things happen there and because great things happen there is made there they must be legendary sources of inspiration. 

Toronto, meanwhile, has faltered. We have a sad attachment to Earnest Hemmingway's time here despite that fact barely registering when his legacy is recounted outside city limits. We let Drake be our cultural ambassador for years even though his manicured and manufactured image was so fragile it was handily shattered in less than a month. Jane Jacobs is primarily known for her face-off with Robert Moses, her work in the Annex and Spadina Expressway is a charitable footnote to her greater legacy.

Montreal paints Leonard Cohen storeys high in the neighbourhood he called home, and what can we muster? 

I think part of it is humility. The same Protestant streak that gained the city its moniker of "The Good" haunting years after we shed the bulk of that insipid prudeness for a more multicultural, more progressive and less repressed demeanour. Part of it is how expensive it is to live here, the rising tide consuming venues, artists and festivals alike until we will finally arrive at our destination, floating on a beautiful still sea of calm profit with nothing to disturb its pristine surface.

But I also think some of it is impatience.

A reputation is earned.

I'm going to dump on Drake and hype up Scarborough for a bit.

"A world-class city" isn't formed by a focus group or political initiative. It's built by the people who live there. Toronto's upper echelons don't seem to get that. It's why people like Councillor Norm Kelly or Mayor John Tory gravitated to Drake, a singular success story that could prove our dominance, neat and tidy.

Meanwhile Scarborough, unjustly neglected and slighted by its parent city, has been developing a cultural reputation that, in my opinion, holds a far greater strength and resilience than the city that contains it. Consider Suresh Doss' championing of the incredible food, Catherine Hernandez's book/film named after the borough itself, or Esmond Lee's photography exploring the suburbs. Alone, none of them have the international pull of a superstar. But together, free of the obsessive preoccupation for outside approval, they create a cultural foundation. A cultural foundation that I think would be strong enough to withstand the barbs of a rapper from California instead of crumbling immediately.

Be yourself (and other childhood lessons)

It seems trite but I think the takeaway is to appreciate the city for what it is and the people who occupy it for who they are. If Toronto (or any city, really) wants a reputation that will last, then it should take a page from Scarborough and highlight characteristics determined by metrics beyond appeal to outside audiences. Fostering a sense of pride in the city to be consumed by those in the city first creates a sense of ownership, strengthens community, and builds local storytelling. These are myths that will circulate beyond city borders naturally, while the creation of artificial legends and idols will ultimately leave us only with fads.

Finally, another childhood adage: play nice with others. This is the first in a series of posts where I'll be highlighting local artists who have inspired these thoughts or I've come across since picking up street photography. And in that spirit, I'll leave you with PUP's ode to the local freeway.