Sunday, November 11, 2007

Toronto The Beautiful

"Great: more liberal guilt" -- as spoken by Lisa Simpson, after she runs over another pedestrian in the incomparable video game The Simpsons: Hit & Run.

We drove into the city yesterday to celebrate my uncle's 65th birthday. That's right: "the city." I'm not talking about Vancouver, Halifax, Edmonton, Winnipeg or even Montreal or any of a dozen other fine Canadian candidates. I'm talking about The City. Toronto (duh).

Oh, how the rest of Canada loves to hate Toronto. The brilliant/idiot city that proclaimed its own "World Classiness" in the 90s. The national media center that determines the news, entertainment and sports for the rest of the country. The city where the cultural elite reside and deliver their churlish pronouncements between bites of crumpet and sips of tea. The home of the Maple Leafs -- and their fans.

Feel free to add to the list of grievances in the comments below. It's fun!

I doubt anyone hates Toronto more than Prime Minister Brian ... no, wait ... Mike ... hang on, it's on the tip of my tongue ... Stephen (yes!) Harper does. I'm not just referring to his unwavering "Quit asking Dad for money and go earn it fair and square like the rest of us!" response he keeps giving to our beleaguered mayor and premier. No, I'm working off a hunch, actually, because Harper pretty much grew up in Toronto, then moved to Alberta. And no-one hates Toronto more than someone who's moved from here to Alberta. You will never hear a transplanted Torontonian in Calgary say, "It's lovely here, but I have to be honest: I still miss Toronto!" Nope. The conversion from, "I once was Lost but now am Found" is more complete for these high-minded souls than any personal religious awakening is likely to be. Toronto is so foul, so wrong, so coddled and ignorant and arrogant and stupid. And yet it thinks it is the center of the universe, and drags the rest of the country down with it.

Anyhow, here I was at this lovely party in the city, meeting so many lovely people and having lovely conversations. Near the end I was speaking with a neighbor, who reluctantly admitted that, yes, he'd been born in Toronto and was living here at the moment. But he'd worked some years in the Maritimes, and that had opened his eyes to how loathsome Toronto's existence was to the rest of the country.

I conceded the point, insofar as it concerned the Leafs. And I admitted that at times I felt homesick for the prairies. And I asserted that smaller cities like Winnipeg and Halifax were more productive arts and cultural hothouses than Toronto is, because artists can afford to starve there (correction: they actually live quite comfortably). "But," I said, "I loved living in Toronto. I miss living in Toronto. And I wouldn't hesitate to move back to Toronto."

Just to make one particular point about the city: it's a beautiful city to walk through. For a stretch of years I used to work at Yonge & Bloor. At various times I lived within a 20, 40 and 60 minutes' walk. I didn't mind the time spent, because I loved to look around. Just looking at the peaks of houses was an aesthetic treat. But there was also the yards, the windows, the shops, the handmade signs .... Toronto is a beautiful city. Montreal probably edges it out somewhat in that category, but just by an accentegue. Toronto is beautiful.

If only they could swap hockey teams with Ottawa...


DarkoV said...

I've always loved Toronto, at least as a tourist. It always seemed like a Philadelphia with more emphasis on cleanliness and less on attitoooode. Plus, it was much safer to walk around....anywhere.

Look, I know Washington D.C. has a ton more museums and Places of Imporatance, but I've got to say the days and weeks I spent in Ottawa were much more memorabel and pleasant. How many nation's capitals can allow you to skate from the 'burbs to downtown, stopping along the day on the frozen canal to have a hot drink and snack?
Ottawa/D.C. choice? Bytown, all the way.

Whisky Prajer said...

I'm very fond of Ottawa, too. And it's slowly catching up in the museum department!