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June 21, 2015
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Microbiz of the Weekend: Pizza Rovente
June 18, 2015
Amy Schumer, and a long winter nap.
October 30, 2014
Vice and Rogers are partnering to bring a Vice TV network to Canada
John Tory gets a parody Twitter account
Toronto Beach City IV
Once upon a time Sunnyside beach was the "poor man's Riviera" – it had it all: romance, pageantry, disaster, celebration. Now, not so much. But at least it's (mostly) safe to swim.

(Christina Palassio) The fourth in a series of dispatches taking the pulse of Toronto’s, um, beach culture. Last week: HtO Park. SUNNYSIDE BEACH Accessed: Saturday, June 18, 4 pm, bicycle along the Waterfront Trail. Supplies: Blanket, camera, bathing suit, sunscreen, Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, by Shawn Micallef. Temperature: 27C, sunny. Soundtrack: Sam Cooke, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. Picture the early 1900s: On hot days, the kids would suit up, grab towels and wait out on the street corner for the free beach trolley that would roll them down to the water. They’d splash around all day in the lake, or, if the water was too cold, in the biggest outdoor pool in the world. In the evenings, their parents would suit up, long white gloves and brogue shoes, and swing around the Palais Royale while the kids were dreaming of cool waves. Count Basie. Duke Ellington. Glen Miller. Sometimes, between sets, the dancers would catch their breath outside, their profiles lit by the schooners concert promoters had set ablaze in the lake. It was romantic. The next day, when the parents had recovered from their hangovers, they took the kids to the amusement park. The Flyer. The Coney Racer. The Aero Swing. It was all for fun, the whole thing – leisure for the masses, not just the upper classes. They called it “the poor man’s Riviera.” Then it seemed like fun was moving further afield, and Sunnyside was in the way of the car you needed to get there. The water wasn’t really as clean as it should be anyway. So the carousel was sold to Disneyland. Some things – the amusement park, the ballrooms – were torn down. Others – the Pavilion, the Palais Royale – stayed. They built eight lanes of asphalt between the city and the water, and then more. And it was hard to get across them. Sunnyside is up there on Toronto’s list of Top Ten Torn-down Places. It had it all: romance, pageantry, disaster, celebration. Some Torontonians owe Sunnyside their existence: the love affairs kindled there, on the dancefloor and the beach, and in the canoes Walter Dean rented out to savvy suitors going out ‘girling,’ sustained many family lines. It’s a phantom arm in our civic history; looking at pictures of it, it’s still hard to believe it existed.   (Christina Palassio) The Saturday my boyfriend and I visited Sunnyside also happened to be Jeff and Ivy’s wedding day. The doll-like couple – Ivy in a classic white gown, Jeff in rolled up beige chinos and boat shoes – exchanged vows on the beach as rogue boardwalkers in spandex shorts marauded up to the ceremony to snap a few paparazzi shots. From our table at the Pavilion Caf, we watched the party move to the second floor, which was decorated with orange and yellow paper lanterns that twirled in the building’s arched windows. Soon, speeches started wafting down to the boardwalk, but most were in Mandarin or Cantonese, dialects neither of us understand. For a second, it was possible to imagine the voices were those of amusement park criers, the clapping for a winning player. We wondered if Jeff and Ivy chose Sunnyside because of its history, but figured it was probably the Lake Ontario backdrop that won them over. We left as the band started playing The Carpenters’ Every Sha La La, a mournful choice for a wedding, but maybe fitting given the setting. As we strolled the boardwalk, I wondered how many of the condo-dwellers stacked high along the waterfront know Sunnyside’s stories, its Easter Parades and Miss Toronto pageants, canoe races and Club Esquire dances. Most, I think, know a different story, the one about the pollution that runs downstream from the Humber and makes the water unsafe to swim in. About the occasional sewer overflows and stormwater discharges that cover the beach in spite of the Western Beaches Storage Tunnel (2002) and more recent stormwater management facilities. About the kilos and kilos of Canada goose poo. Water quality at Sunnyside has been vastly improved in recent years, but it’s still not up to Blue Flag standards, and likely won’t be for a while. In August 2009, Council approved the Western Waterfront Master Plan (WWMP) which outlined a number of short-, medium- and long-term improvements to the waterfront area between the South Kingsway and Exhibition Place that fall in with the city’s overall plan to “increase public enjoyment and use of the public lands along the water’s edge.” Among these was a pilot project that funded the construction of an enclosure at Sunnyside where water was treated for contaminants by UV ray. That curtain, just two years old, was recently removed by the city due to poor performance and high cost. Since June 5, when the City began its daily water-quality tests, Sunnyside has boasted a green light for swimming on all but two days. Still, beachgoers keep a cool distance from the water, privileging plates of fried calamari and pints of Keith’s White at the Pavilion Caf over sitting on the sand. Which may just mean that our idea of leisure has shifted. As we walked west along the Waterfront Trail, past Sir Casimir Gzowski Park, across the Humber Pedestrian Bridge and to the Sheldon Lookout, I counted a half-dozen birthday parties: some families celebrated by barbecuing, others played cricket and croquet. Frisbees and soccer balls were tossed around with impunity above the raised heads of dogs, who became hairy and unpredictable obstacles to the cyclists and rollerbladers cruising by. A man in a muscle shirt careened by the lookout point in a speedboat bearing a Russian flag on one side and a pirate flag on the other. There was a large cushion in the back of the boat, presumably a landing pad for ladies who could not resist the renegade lovecraft. It’s almost unimaginable that 150 years ago, sports were not allowed in city parks – that spots like Sunnyside Beach were some of the only places Torontonians could play. As the City Beautiful Movement and the doctrine of Muscular Christianity spread, there was a loosening of restrictions on appropriate park uses: “The council of any big city must give attention to the recreation of the people,” Mayor Horatio C. Hocken announced in 1914. “Today our parks are used by the whole of the people. There is no game that a man can play outdoors which is not provided for in the parks of the city of Toronto.” Consider this a call for a celebration of days past. Sunnyside Amusement Park would have turned 89 on June 28. Picture a beach mob: a thousand Torontonians rolling down to Sunnyside on streetcars and Bixis to spread out along the beach and recreate what it must have felt like to be there in the days of The Flyer and Club Esquire. After that, we’ll have a barbecue and play some cricket and talk about how things might look in another 89 years.  

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