The Dissenter’s Notebook: Nuit Blanche

Your Assertion is Being Challenged. Also: Future Book Jacket Photo

Oh, sorry, I meant Scotiabank Nuit Blanche.  I had no intention of going, friends.  Too many people, for one: anything worth looking at is woefully overpopulated [a lesson learned trying to get a peek at the Dumpster Hotel a few years ago].  For two, I was working til 11.00 pm and had to be back at 9.45 the next morning, so it didn’t leave a lot of time to experience the annual ‘all night art thing,’ as they call it.  But I had a moment as I got ready for work that afternoon, reading the TO Twitterati and blogs start to get amped up for it. I turned to the Lady and asked if she had any interest in going.  She said she kind of did.

“Then eff it!” I declared. “I live in the best city in Canada, dammit, and how many times do I intentionally skip things because I’m tired or because I’m working and because I take it for granted that I live here and something else cool will come along next weekend.  Eff that!  The whole city’s going out for this, and I’m going to miss it so I can come home, watch SNL and get a good night’s sleep? I’ll sleep when I’m dead, dammit. We’re going!”

So we made plans to meet at Sneaky Dee’s for a few drinks and some nachos before heading out into the streets with the rest of the city to see what we could find.

Lesson learned: I’m not much interested in hanging out with the whole city, am very interested in hanging out with my friends, and that an all night art thing is not necessary for that to occur.  Actually, its absence is preferable.

Nuit Blanche has become pretty bloated in the last few years, with over a million people descending on the city’s downtown core from Yorkville to the Distillery District to West Queen West.  If you don’t have a plan, you’re kind of screwed.  We did not have a plan.  Everything we might have wanted to check out was either too far from us [mourning your own death at St Clair West] or too high-profile and swamped with people [the Dune project in Lower Bay Station].  The all-night TTC service, much touted though it was, totally shit the bed the one time we tried to use it, with a northbound train pulling into Dundas after a ten minute wait, bursting with people while the car we ended positioned near was unlit and out of service.  We had to wait another seven minutes for the next train.

Really though, it comes down to the number of attendees along with the quality and locations of the installations.  Was there really nothing in Kensington this year? Someone tell me I’m wrong about that.  We walked from College/Bathurst to Queen/Spadina and didn’t encounter one thing connected with the event, aside from some lovely people inviting us to have some free popcorn and check out the Toronto Underground Cinema [verdict: nice space, though I wasn’t about to watch a short black and white silent film about undersea crabs].  And once we hit Queen West, the thing turned into one giant pub crawl, with drunk and stoned revelers wandering into the streets never quite understanding that only Yonge was the only road closed to traffic.  What we did walk by was underwhelming: a lot of things on fire, Daniel Lanois’s  nightlong jam session at Nathan Phillips Square, and some guys sitting on a couch doing nothing while a video montage set to Kraftwerk flashed behind them.  From the reports the next morning, a lot of the events lost steam or flat-out shut down long before sunrise, so who knows how things looked around 8.00 or 9.00 in the evening.  But it sort of betrays the event to look one way during primetime and another in the later hours.

And then, the people.  I saw enough snotty tweets blaming tourists and 905’ers for less than stellar experiences during the event, but if you a bad time, you probably need look no further than your beloved 416’ers. The weed smoke, the energy drink cans littering the sidewalks, the domestic arguments breaking out every block and a half, that was all us.  Don’t put that on the suburbs.

When we finally got on a streetcar home, the Lady remarked that we while it was nice being out and about, we probably would have had a better time had we stayed at Dee’s splitting pitchers.  I said no, we definitely would have had more fun.  After living here long enough, you realize of all the annual events that get hyped to the moon by tastemakers and such, you should check them all out, but there are a lot that you don’t need to do more than once [Word On The Street got the axe this year under that very logic]. Can’t say for sure we won’t try it again next year, but if we’re having that much fun at the bar, it’d take a lot more than Nuit Blanche to remove us from it.

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