I am still trying to find the appeal of this city.
It is in rough shape – the fallout from industrial collapse is readily apparent. It’s not pretty, though I’m told that it is beautiful during the summer. It is not the hum of activity that I had expected. It does not have the nightlife that I had hoped for. Given its proximity to Toronto, I am moderately surprised by the lack of culinary delights. One more trip down Christina Street, may lead to my eventual insanity. Generally I am fascinated by the main drag of a city; the main drag here lacks a certain buzz. Within a week, my interests had waned.
Drivers are generally rude and ruthless. I have witnessed a disproportionate number of near-accidents, mixed with the occasional fender bender. There is a lack of apology. As a pedestrian, I have found myself dodging angry motorists, who continually disobey road signs and right-of-ways. Always unapologetic, there is an anger here. Rarely do my fellow fitness-seekers nod or smile; never an acknowledgment of coexistence. I don’t expect to carry on a full conversation during my runs/walks, but I’m surprised by the head-in-the-air mentality of people here. I’ve been in large metropolitan centres with people who more friendly than this.
The sad truth is that even Thunder Bay had started to become angry. Maybe the economy is to blame; the lack of jobs; lack of hope; lack of financial security. It cracks the core of a community. This city, even through attempts to rejuvenate itself, and to appeal to a higher socio-economic status, is largely cracked. Too many contrasts – luxury condominiums being built along Front Street, mixed with derelict buildings on nearby Wellington. Numerous high-end coffee shops in a city that can’t seem to afford a two dollar cup of coffee.
Granted, it isn’t all misfortune. This city has been highly proactive in establishing itself as a centre of artistry. The monthly “First Friday” showcases artists and entertainers; all for free; wine and food included. Anything that includes wine in the mix, gets approval from me. Art galleries, boutiques, and upper-scale martini bars seem to be integrating nicely into the partially rundown downtown. The coexistence of tacky pawn shops, scary dive-bars, upscale lounges and trendy coffee shops provides an interesting dynamic. The jewel of the downtown, appears to be the relatively new Tree House Coffee shop – a vegan’s dream, though highly appealing to the non-vegan. I’m a huge fan of their balls (yes, you read it right), and Indio Thai wrap. Secretly I hope that they can put the corporate Coffee Culture out of business – I am a fan of the local.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the local pubs, and their associated foods. Norm’s, with its genetically engineered chicken wings (because chicken wings that size, do not occur naturally), has provided me with a bit of familiar solace. It’s not Thunder Bay, but it is close enough.
I won’t mix words – I don’t love it here. Maybe that’s ok right now. It’s a city; one in desperate shape; and I can accept that. It is attempting to remake itself, and whether or not that will work – well, I don’t really intend to hang around to find out. And even though it is supposed to be beautiful here during the summer, I’m not sure that foliage will change my impressions.