Sunday, August 27, 2006

This city smells terrible.

When I was a kid, our family would come to Toronto about once a summer, stay overnight in a hotel, and do touristy things like go to Canada's Wonderland, see a baseball game at SkyDome, and ride the subway. (Hey, when your town has less than 300 people in it, that's a novelty.)

I recall one year we stayed at a hotel just north of Nathan Phillips Square, right close to Chinatown. As we walked the streets, I remember being absolutely repulsed at the odour that hung in the air — it seemed like a mixture of hot garbage and rotting carcasses of some sort, with a hint of honey. I'd never smelled anything like that, and was amazed that such an odour could even exist.

Tonight I visited my friend Dave, who lives near Bloor and Christie. He flipped out a bit and decided to go to various Central American countries for most of July and August, and just got back a couple of days ago. ("Before going to sleep last night I'd spent the previous 36 hours awake, in which I got drunk twice," he recalled.) It's good to have him back, and not just because he brought me some delicious dark Nicaraguan rum, with which I will soon build myself a lovely drink.

However, while driving along Bloor through Little Korea, an unbelievably putrid stench wafted in through my windows. It was different than the Chinatown Monstrosity of my youth, but no less pungent; it took a good three blocks with windows fully in the "down" position to get it out of my car.

My question is, What the hell is with these parts of town and ridiculous odours? And, am I just being culturally-insensitive by pointing this out? This doesn't seem to happen in Little Italy or Gerrard Street East or my part of town... but take a walk down Spadina between College and Queen any night of the week, and you're bound to get knocked sideways by the smell.

6 comments:

S.M. said...

Yes - especialy in Chinatown - but, have you also noticed that no one notices it but you?

JTL said...

That's not true... I've been backed up on this (by people of various ethnicities, no less).

S.M. said...

I don't mean that the stench doesn't exist - just that everyone there seems to be oblivious to it. I used to want to hurl when I first started to go through that area and I couldn't get out fast enough. Now I just mosey on through...

JTL said...

Is that all I need to do, then -- just spend hours and hours down there, and I'll grow accustomed to the odour? Seems a little too easy.

Mind you, my parents both worked in a petrochemical plant in Sarnia for over three decades, and they can no longer detect anything funky in the air there, even though sometimes it stinks so much it seems like a thousand rancid skunks have exploded at once.

Anonymous said...

From first hand experience, I can say I did not get used to the smell of hot fishy garbage in the morning. When I lived downtown I had to walk through Chinatown every day to get to work. I tried to hold my breath a little bit longer each day hoping to make it to the other side without breathing in the fumes. It reminded me of the Bog of Eternal Stench.

Interestingly, I am in Vancouver right now and the Chinatown here has a similar smell...I'm just saying is all...

ECB.

JTL said...

ECB, I thought you were back already. I left a very non-critical message on your machine an hour or so ago. Whoops!