Corona Diaries: Toronto Chapter

Let me start from me being an extrovert and sitting at home wasn’t really my thing… Now, it is a full month that I am in isolation and every day starts to look exactly the same as the day before.

According to Facebook this year is brought to us by Steven King. With all my love and respect to Steven King, all of this feels super surreal to me.  I often think of myself as a character of Ray Bradbury’s stories, or a hero from Walking Dead.I am working from home these days. The airline industry suffered the most and my job is threatening to lay me off any day. My school moved online even though I specifically selected the in-class option mainly because I am a people person. Now we all know how animals in a zoo must feel and why their eyes are always sad.

I do have to go grocery shopping, I wear a mask and gloves when I do that. Delivery and pick up of groceries from Walmart is becoming simply impossible as it is booked up 8 days in advance and 8 days is the max amount of days to be ordering groceries online.I walk through an empty zombie field as R.E.M. blasting It’s The End Of The World As We Know It in my head phones.

A few days ago I put a ring on to see how it feels. Am I gaining weight or does ring just feel uncomfortable because my finger is not used to it anymore? What`s next? Will I start putting make up and heels to work from home?

On a Boulevard Of Broken Dreams I saw some folks yelling from inside their car parked in the driveway to the front door people, this is how you visit each other now. Someone is picking up mail in gloves and mask, quite an outfit for a simple chore! Kid’s playgrounds are taped with yellow tape. When I see homo sapience – I cross the street.High Park and Lakeshore parking lots are closed. And if you dare to still show up there – police is patrolling around and issues tickets for not practicing social distancing.

Apparently meat factories are still killing animals because it still smells like death in the air within seven minute walk from my place where two meat factories are located in St. Clair West village.

I agreed with Joe Rogan’s podcast that it is very hard to digest all of this when it is something that just happened to you and is not your fault, it just happened…It is also hard because it’s finally spring time after a very long Canadian winter and we can`t really enjoy it. Last hope is for you, summer.I start to think that five trips last year were not even enough to cover for this year’s lack of travel. Don’t anyone dare telling me ever again that I travel a lot. I am 33 and I have only been in 19 countries, I am clearly behind the schedule. Number 19 associates now with Covid19…

Is that how people felt after Chernobyl nuclear explosion? Perhaps not, with high degree of radiation you are not safe even indoors.

Not-So-Good Old Days (Toronto, Canada)

I was fed up of hearing about how great things used to be in the good old days. Luckily, Old Town Toronto History Tour, operated by Tour Guys opened my eyes on murder and disease, ghosts and chaos, catastrophe and struggles of the early days of Toronto.

Turns out Old Town Toronto has seen its share of calamity over the past 150 years. Thanks to our guide Jackie I heard the best stories of the past two centuries.

William Lyon Mackenzie, who served as the first Toronto mayor is known to still walk around his former house, now a museum located just steps away from Yonge-Dundas Square.

Down the road there is another hunted building – St. Michael’s hospital.

Originally this hospital was created by small group of nuns from St. Joseph’s hospital.

Ghost of Sister Vincenza is still taking care of her patients on the 7th floor of St. Michael`s Cardinal Carter wing. Room number 5 doesn’t exist anymore because patients were running out scared of there every single time.

Gorgeous inside and out St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica is right across the street from St. Michael’s hospital. Where else in the world do you have 2 hunted houses in a row and a church across the street from ghosts?

Believe it or not but the last public hanging in Canada happened on December 11, 1962 which was after World War II. This last public hanging took place in the Courthouse square next to Adelaide court.

A couple of men, convicted for separate murders, were hanged on that day. “You are the last 2 man to be hanged in Canada“ was announced to them. I doubt that this announcement made them feel any better. By the way, people used to wear their best clothing to public hangings.

Even though many countries still have the death penalty, I find it hard to believe that it happened this late in history as we do not kill people in Canada, we just don’t. Even if they are found to be guilty of awful things.

Around that time was also when the largest immigration of the Irish occurred. The Great Irish Potato Famine of 1847 was the cause of death, mainly from starvation. Since it was a very bad year for potatoes many Irish were arriving to Canada already sick and collapsing, and those who survived were not welcome to have certain jobs.

We continued to walk to one of the oldest neighbourhoods in central Toronto called Cabbagetown. Originally this nick name was given to insult Catholic European immigrants who were growing cabbage in their back yards. Local people found it disgusting. Isn’t it ironic that nowadays new European immigrants make fun of cabbage being planted in public flower beds in Canada? I guess Canadians learned to love cabbage too much. In Europe cabbage stayed right where it always was – in the back yard.

Almost every Torontonian knows Massey Hall – one of the most popular Toronto’s concert halls. But very few know the Massey murder story.

The Massey family came from the south and were a generous and wealthy family. They gave Toronto many of their buildings including Massey Hall. However the Massey family legacy was not all that perfect. Old Toronto saw a famous murder case: Made Carrie Davies killed her employer Charles A. Massey who was trying to get his way with her. It was clearly self-defence. She took the revolver and shot him dead, he died almost instantly. She was found innocent in 1915 which I find pretty shocking as women didn’t have too many rights back then.

I also learned more about Cholera than I probably wanted to know while we were making our way to St. James Park – a former cemetery that contains hundreds of Cholera victims left undisturbed to this very day.

A Cholera outbreak in 1832 killed at least 20,000 people in Canada. This disease was feared because it was deadly and no one understood how to treat it or how it spreads.

Eventually Cholera was killed by a beer! Specifically for this reason brewers started to make beer with lower percentage of alcohol so women and children also could consume it. That’s how Canada got its low buzz beer but we do owe the victory over Cholera to it.

Across the street from the cemetery is the St. Lawrence Hall. It was the first place of public gatherings because it was the first big hall that could fit all the people. Old legend claims that the Maple leaf became the Canadian symbol there.

As parliament was trying to decide what is going to be the Canadian symbol, a Maple Leaf flew into the room through an open window and an ‘AHA’ moment just happened naturally.

The tour ends at famous St. Lawrence Market, the longest running market in the world. Originally it was only operating on Saturdays and it was an outside farmers market. Now it is open Tuesday thru Saturday. You will find here fine delicious foods that you can’t find in a supermarket.

If you are a history buff you have to take this complimentary tour and learn about early history of Toronto, as it grew from the Town of York into the city it is today.

Hear the stories most would rather forget and may be you will even gain a better appreciation for being alive today.

When to go

Toronto is enjoyable all year round. Best weather to do a walking tour is April through September. Tour runs daily at 1:00 PM (90 minutes walking tour). October through March tour runs only on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 PM.

Where to stay

Really anywhere in downtown is good. I recommend to stay in Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel that is located right next to Old City Hall and overlooking the Nathan Phillips square.

Where to eat

Do visit St. Lawrence Market. Enjoy meals and snacks from all over the world along with the best Canadian foods. You can also buy souvenirs here.