Is Toronto secretly built on infrastructure worthy of John Milton, like the fictional movie mayor suggests?
Bert Xanadu is Toronto’s not-so-serious fictional movie mayor.
There is a secret city.
Behind the Toronto you endure each day lies another city, one known only to the megalapolitan cognoscenti.
But I’m not going to write about that today.
Instead, I will celebrate the sinewy and sewagy infrastructure of the City of Toronto and its skeletal underpinnings—pipes, wires, troughs, spittoons, and curbettes—that keep this town functioning and from collapsing into itself, like a half-eaten sponge cake.
It is estimated—for no one truly knows—that 79 per cent of your tax dollars go to maintaining and ruthlessly expanding this infrastructure. As you faint backwards upon reading this, be assured that it is the infrastructure itself that will break your fall, and perhaps your coccyx.
Like your random thoughts about orangutans and trousers, the municipal layers of steel, stone, and stucco are intricately interwoven, yet show an uncallous disregard for one another and an aloofness that ensures efficiency.
Deepest down, far below our saliva-drenched sidewalks, are the Lord Simcoe Caves of Refuse—huge and spooky rock-holes where garbage too unmentionable to even burn is tossed and forgotten, usually via the Pape Avenue Hole to the Centre of the Earth. The Caves are manned by just one employee, who is supplied with manly blankets and a stack of James Bond 007 novels.
Above this hideous stratum lie the Regional Purgatorial Flames, a natural if satanic source of geothermal heat for some of the city’s reform schools (whose pesky residents can’t complain of the sulfurous aroma, due to strict no-talking-back rules).
Then we rise to the enchanting Utter Under River, an underground stream discovered by drunken plumbers in 1921. An especially sweet and pure stream of crystal clear water, it is diverted solely to the bidets of local titans of industry, because.
Above that rest the rust-enhanced pipes that deliver the city’s drinking and bathing water, direct from a small frog-popular creek near Pottery Road and not from Lake Ontario, as is widely believed.
We now surface, our eyes blinking in the piercing temporary sunshine. While citizens might be familiar with the roads that crisscross our great metropolis, they probably don’t know that most were forged by rival criminal gangs in the early 20th century, each vying to craft the most efficacious escape routes to vamoose, along with their filthy spoils. If not for their evil ways, we’d not have a way to drive to Barrie.
Visible every 10 miles or so along the boulevards are gold-plated hydrants, each handcrafted in the Fabergé eggeries of St. Petersburg but painted a dull yellow colour to fool speculators.
But our eyes are now drawn up, as if by boredom or a hunt for a decent pie shop, to the towering poles of power, or “power poles,” which transmit hydro-electricity to each and every bill-paying home and business, to do with we know not what.
These crucial layers, along with other infrastructural delights such as ventriloquism schools, white-collar crime dry cleaners, police dog romperies, and road salt camp cinemas, are among the many elements of a modern city that you just don’t need to think about. We’ll do the thinking for you.