Reading the Arcades project on a foggy day (the Baudelaire konvolut)—I wanted to hop on my bicycle, ride to the city centre, pace underneath the huge buildings with my hands in my pockets, just like I used to when I first moved to the city and was finding my bearings. The city seems so small to me now—I know it in every cardinal direction. But then I was reluctant to go too far north of Bloor, too west of Bathurst, too east of Jarvis, though I circled that interior endlessly. It seemed inexhaustible somehow. The city wasn’t what it is now: or perhaps only in my mind it wasn’t, because I went out alone at every time of night and I was always safe. But it’s true that what I encountered was more than I encounter now (almost nothing). Then I was often stopped for directions, or accosted, a man grabbed me in the street, another pulled his car up to me at one in the morning and asked me if I knew the next street over, then if I wanted to get in his car. At two am I followed a drug dealer for blocks and watched him conduct a deal in front of a convenience store on Dundas.
The city was different then: there are stretches in the centre that would now be impossible to believe: a long line of low-slung discount stores on Yonge just north of Carlton, an adult store open twenty-four hours that played a recorded advertisement even in the early morning, just after the sun had risen… The restaurants, the bars seemed like they had less to offer me than they do now. But they were mysterious, unknown. I ordered my first alcoholic drink from a bar when I was eighteen, at Fran’s Diner on College, at two or three in the morning. An Irish coffee—an absurd choice, but I wanted to hover always in the space between dreaming and wakefulness. The facade of Sam’s, the square that was always under construction, the smell of the apartment in the summer, the impossible heat, the clanging dumpsters that would wake me up once a week… The city has changed a lot in the time that I have known it intimately. I have changed with it. It’s not the same city as it was then, even though some of the comfort and ease that I have with it now comes from the feeling that it is: that I am mastering it. That feeling is an an illusion. One day I will leave and I will carry my idea of the city away with me.