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Kawhi Life: Keeping one’s head down, doing the work

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We haven’t seen Kawhi Leonard on the court at all this past week, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been doing things.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for at least one year. While the team’s on-court success has its part to play, we’ve decided to do our part in selling the city to the Klaw. Each week we’re talking Toronto, and letting Kawhi know what his life could be like here.

This Week In Toronto

We’re still hung up on the weather over here, except now we’ve moved into the second stage (for now) of every Toronto winter. Yes, after the freezing cold, and then the snow, comes our favourite time: the days of slush and muck. If you’ve spent any time walking around downtown Toronto after a snowfall and after temperatures warm up just enough to kick-start the thaw (for now), then you know one thing. It is a dang mess — people are slipping and sliding every which way, it’s possible to get splashed by a passing car zooming through a puddle, and everything just feels wet.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Daniel, why are you bringing up all these shitty weather things into a column about Kawhi Leonard, he of the famous desire for warm Los Angeles climate all the time? I’ll tell you why: because there are solutions to life’s problems, even ones as intractable as the weather in a given locale such as Toronto. Last week, skating. Today’s answer: the PATH.

Toronto’s PATH system is both ever present and firmly obscure. We know only for sure that south of, say, Dundas there are entries into a mysterious underground network. Where those tunnels may go, and where we’ll pop up when we decide to exit this sunken place are matters still very much left up to a guess. This, I’d argue, is part of the charm of the PATH. It’s a model that’s been modestly duplicated around the Yonge-Bay-Bloor nexus, featuring a set of wildly divergent design aesthetics (seriously, head to a foodcourt there and be prepared to be transported back in time), and the city’s midtown and uptown centres. (The “little tunnel that could” around Yonge-Sheppard is something to see, if you know it’s there and how far it goes — so far.)

If you’ve ever actually looked into it (as I now have), there’s a useful website (of course) with a map available to help navigate the main PATH. It need not be a complete mystery — only part of one. The PDF map here hits on the high (low) points of the system, one that indeed stretches from the Atrium on Bay (home of Red Lobster, for example), all the way down to Union Station — and beyond! Could this come in handy for Kawhi as he moves around downtown from the Scotiabank Arena to parts unknown across the deep city? Who, literally, is to say.

For their part, the financial district itself has also gotten in on the act preparing some useful information too. Admittedly, some of their signage (with references to buildings and address rather than streets) just adds more layers of confusion — though that’s none of my business. If nothing else, the PATH is just something to see. A person can head down there and find gifts, food, drinks, a haircut, access to all kinds of buildings — banks, of course, but also places like Metro Hall — and more. And while we dog on the Union Station renovation for taking a million years, it just highlights how much stuff is actually down there. Turns out that a construction project that connects people via train and tunnel to one of the largest transit hubs in the country... is complicated.

But back to the winter conundrum. Look, we can’t sugarcoat things here. Toronto’s weather is often extremely depressing. The sun doesn’t come out for what feels like days at a time, the temperature varies wildly (but stays cold for months), and the snow mucks things up for days and weeks on end. People’s complaints with the walking conditions on most sidewalks are disconcertingly valid; and if you’ve tried to take the TTC any time a sudden shift in the temperature or precipitation levels occurs, you know that tunnels don’t always offer the reprieve one would hope for.

Is a series of subterranean spaces really the best answer to all of this? I suppose that’s in the eye of the beholder. Some would argue that any place that necessitates travel below the earth’s surface has already failed as a desirous place. I mean, must we live like mole people on purpose? It’s a fair point. But still others (like me) would say something far more optimistic: gaze upon our works, and consider all that we have built!

Should Kawhi Care?

Well, no.

(But I’m still convinced he would love to know that the PATH exists and that he can visit a multitude of places from the arena outward, while exploring all kinds of interconnected food courts and retail spaces, without having to go outside. We already know of Kawhi’s penchant for outdoor strolling when the temperatures are on the wrong side of zero — now we can tell him that there’s a better way! This strikes me as a specifically Toronto solution.

Of course, would Kawhi want to actually mix and mingle with the King Street crowd in downtown Toronto? Does anybody? I’ll leave that answer for another day.)