25 YEARS BOLD ANNIVERSARY ISSUE NOV.9
Queen West was darker then. I don't mean in attitude, just fewer colours. When I started patrolling the oversized and undervalued boulevard for NOW Magazine in 1981, there was no illumination from franchise stores to guide the gullible. It was a gritty street that smelled like the future – and yesterday’s breakfast.
Culture and ideas bled from the claustrophobic storefronts after sundown like a yellow bruise spreading across snow-white skin. People felt so far off the radar that they had no reason to compromise, because they had no chance of slipping inside the mainstream. Daily newspapers didn’t know they existed, and free of any expectations for success, true invention reigned.
Today, buildings are again shuttered along Queen West, but now it’s because landlords are playing a waiting game, attempting to cash in on the bohemia that arrived almost 25 years ago. Struggling artists have moved farther west – and east, too – even farther afield, free of latitudinal logarithms. But the invention hasn’t dissipated.
I've watched Toronto recoil at visions of itself only to emerge stronger each time. When Mike Harris’s Tory tax-cutting terrorists invented the malignant megacity, I saw a community come together to declare itself – even if the vote wasn’t counted.
A new citizens’ movement was born – yet again – and is constantly re-energized by the very attacks meant to defeat it. People power propelled David Miller, a mayor that Bay Street didn’t breed, into City Hall’s top seat, a spot usually reserved for backroom buddies.
In politics and art, Toronto is still being fed by new ideas often birthed in the darkest moments, and the invention and independence of Canada’s most important city refuses to be con- tained or corralled. NOW Magazine remains part of this independent spirit, handmade mass media with more readers than even our most optimistic dreams would have promised when Alice Klein and I started this paper 25 years ago.
Whether it’s musicians who manage to get their songs out through the Internet when conservative major labels tell them their music doesn’t matter, performers who literally build their own stages when mainstream venues are closed to them or community activists who turn into politicians because the guys who already have the job don’t speak for them, we are there with you.
We’re not operating from directives from above. No memos from mahogany-panelled boardrooms will tell us what to cover. No order to report on a trend long after it has already become tired.
The people who own and create NOW walk and live these streets with
you. Your creativity has given us so much to report, and your committed readership has created an independent magazine not beholden to any one group of advertisers or interest groups. And we’re not vulnerable to the regular onslaughts launched by the country’s mega-media corps. Nationwide, this country’s alternative weeklies, from Vancouver to Halifax, are almost all indie-operated, a handful of fresh voices in the face of homogenized discourse.
We’re proud to be part of the solution and honoured to be part of your lives. We’ll see you on the streets, in the clubs and on the move. And we’ll see you again next Thursday – and every Thursday for years to come, in print and online.