Yesterday, for the purposes of an interview, I went down to Toronto Island. I’ve recently had a bit of a reconnection with the island after having not gone there for many years. Yesterday was the first time, however, that I had been to Toronto Island in the winter. It certainly didn’t help that it was quite cold and flurrying, but I learned quite a bit about the habits of the island residents.
But first I’ll backtrack. The earliest memory I have of Toronto Island is going there with my dad when I was young- probably about six. It wasn’t until a weekend in August of last year that I actually went back. It was to go with a friend to ALL CAPS!, a fantastic music festival run by Wavelength, a great music series that always manages to put on a fantastic show. ALL CAPS! is also the only Toronto festival that you’re allowed to camp overnight at.
The festival was great, but it also made me fall in love with the island. The weather in Toronto was really crappy that day- lots of rain, but the island seemed to have its own weather going on, which was no rain at all. While not pleasant, I did also learn that fire ants are native to the island, and I learned what being bit by a fire ant feels like (hint: not fun). Oh yeah, I also saw 13 bands over the two days.
I went back later on in the month with a different friend, this time more for relaxation. We went to a beach that I chose unwisely, as the first parts of the water were covered with rocks. I ended up cutting one of my toes and really badly bruising another, but it was still fun (even if I actually limped that day after the bruising).
Going in the winter, though, taught me a few things. First, bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation no matter what the time of year. When I arrived at Ward’s Island and met my interview subject, I noticed she and several other residents were by the dock armed with bicycles (not mention that the bike racks were all filled as well). I’ve heard of winter cyclers, but Toronto Islanders take it to a whole new level.
The residents also take friendliness to a whole new level. Toronto Island in the winter has a feel of a small town. When I’m walking down the streets of Toronto I would never think to say “hi” to a stranger at any point. Yet when I was walking back to the ferry after the interview, I found myself compelled to say hi to a man strolling by walking a husky. I couldn’t believe that had just transpired. Friendliness? In Toronto?
I also learned some other interesting facts about the island. In the winter, there are no private vehicles allowed, just service vehicles, hence the widespread usage of bicycles. A lot of houses were built post-war but have been remodeled extensively. Some have been torn down to create bigger houses in their stead, but there are bylaws regulating how large the houses can get.
I also wanted to believe Toronto Island was warm all year round, but of course I was wrong about that.