Mississauga is such a nice place to live, in so many ways.
Visually and esthetically, it's not much to look at. And I wouldn't want to try to live out here without a car. But if you want to live in the suburbs, Mississauga has so much to recommend it.
It's affordable, thanks to Mayor Hazel McCallion's plan of attracting corporate headquarters and keeping taxes low. I'm told that in the eastern suburbs, such as Ajax and Whitby, homeowners pay three times the taxes as Mississauga homeowners do for comparable properties. Mississauga is debt-free - and always has been.
Mississauga is extremely diverse, even for the already diverse GTA. According to Wikipedia, more than 45% of the population speaks a language other than English; more than 46% were not born in Canada. Take a stroll down our beautiful section of Waterfront Trail or shop in any mall, and you'll see large numbers of Chinese and South Asian people, and hear Polish, Portuguese, Italian, and other European languages.
There are tons of great parks. There's an excellent library system. There are community centres with programs for kids, teens, families and seniors. Although I don't have firsthand experience with the schools, I hear they are excellent.
A word about shopping.
Unlike most people of my political persuasion, I love big-box stores. I always have. I want them to subscribe to fair labour and environmental practices (Costco vs. Wal-Mart), but that's where my issues end. In fact, when a giant like Home Depot resolves to only buy wood obtained through sustainable foresting practices, it makes a huge impact - much larger than any small hardware store could.
As a consumer, I love the selection and the convenience. I sympathize with small business owners, but I don't mourn for them any more than I mourn for gas lamps or steam-engine railroads. For half my life I shopped at neighbourhood stores that I could walk to, where I knew the owner, and I don't think they are in any way preferable to the large chains.
So having gotten that out of the way, if you want to shop in small, independently-owned stores, Mississauga is a desert. But if you like malls and big-box store shopping, it's paradise.
There's an area called "Heartland" - that just cracks me up - that is the largest collection of big-box stores I have ever seen in one place. (What make me think Linens 'N Things didn't compare to the US's Bed Bath & Beyond? I went to the wrong one!) All the big shopping centres are called "town centres," which we find hilarious. One thing about Mississauga, there's no town, and there ain't no centre!
This Saturday morning I went to the Y to swim. I normally go during the week, in the middle of the day, but I'm now adding Saturdays, and this was my first time. I went early, thinking I'd avoid kids. The parking lot was packed - luckily the pool was not - and the gym was crowded with young adults and seniors. As I was leaving, around 9:30, dozens of families with kids were streaming in. Families and children of every culture and hue were coming to the Y to swim, play basketball, take classes, work out. It made me feel really good. Especially because I was leaving as they were coming in! But seriously, it was cool.
There's little doubt Mississauga is short on cultural attractions. I haven't dared the theatre or the symphony; I fear I'm still too much of a New York snob for that. But we've found several good restaurants - and Toronto is only a half-hour away.
* * * *
After 27 years of a very urban lifestyle (4 years in Philadelphia, 23 years in New York), I was very ready for a change to suburbia. In the non-existent perfect world, I probably would have left New York five years sooner than we did.
New York is an amazing and unique place. Through my 20s and most of my 30s, there was no place else on earth I wanted to live. Even if you have no money, as I did for much of that time, there are so many free and cheap things to do. Plus, for a few years I worked in the theatre and got tons of free tickets to plays and shows. When Allan moved to New York, I was already out of the theatre biz, but he was writing about music - more free tickets, plus press events, which we thought were the coolest thing going at the time. (Free drinks! Free food! Plus music!)
But for many people, as you get older, the New York equation gets harder to solve. Unless you have a lot of money, your life lacks some basic conveniences that can really wear on you after a while. I really wanted a car, for example, for shopping and getaways. But unless you have at least $300 a month for parking - and that would be an excellent bargain - it's incredibly inconvenient. (ZipCar helped a lot, but they came to New York as I was leaving.)
A troll-like blogger who used to read wmtc (and maybe still does) was appalled that we left New York City for Mississauga.* He loves New York City and hates Mississauga. Sure, for a vacation, who wouldn't? Or if you're in very wealthy, you'll have a much richer and more rewarding life in New York than you will in many other places. And I don't belong to the "New York is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there" school. It is a great place to live. But unless you're very rich, not forever.
I wouldn't argue city vs suburbs. That's a lifestyle choice, and what works for one person doesn't work for someone else. When I lived in New York, people thought nothing of telling me my hometown was dirty and dangerous. I didn't gratuitously tell people their suburban enclaves were ugly and boring - although to me, at that time, they were.
The city was everything to me. Now, driving around to Linens 'N Things and Canadian Tire and sitting in my backyard are divine.
* His first comment began: "I just found your blog. I can't wait for the part where you discover you're the dumbest couple in North America." He's been banned - and mystified as to why - ever since.