Have you seen the ad for tourismtoronto.com? Laugh? (I nearly bought a round…)
The commercial opens in a skateboarder park with a kid about to launch himself off on to one of those curvy, near-vertical ramps, defying death (and likely his mother) as he sets up for lift-off. Suddenly another skaterboy appears and stops him abruptly; he whips out a pad and pencil and works out the rate of lift and velocity and distance of the maneuver, showing the fascinated kid just what he’ll be doing… as represented by x’s and y’s and cosines and symbols of Pi and fractions and such.
Clearly, the spot indicates, as it goes on to shots of Ontario Place and the Science Centre, ‘Come to Toronto – and do arithmetic!’.
Yeah, well, you do the math… could we be any more boring or tedious? (Come to Toronto – and take all the fun out of skateboarding!)
How about –
‘Toronto – it’s hot, but it’s a sodden wet heat…’
‘Toronto – just like home… and it’s your turn to do the dishes.’
‘Toronto – just like anywhere else, but more expensive than most places.’
‘Toronto – just try parking!’
‘Come to Toronto – the drinks are on you!’
And so on…
I’ve lived in Toronto for close to 12 years now – the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in a row; previous record: 4 years – and I can’t tell you why I’m still here.
I hate the weather. Loathe it. I actually prefer the cold, wet, grey, icy winter to the trapped-under-a-wet-and-smelly-brown-blanket summers. The trees are pretty (the ones not choking to death on carbon monoxide fumes) and the brick houses are attractive (if repetitive) but the magnolias only bloom for a couple of weeks at most, the beaches are for the most part dirty and unsafe for swimming, and it costs a freaking FORTUNE to pull your car over, stop and get out. (A few blocks from me it’s $3.25 per half hour!)
Most of my friends have left – to Stratford, Ottawa, Goderich, Florida and soon to Los Angeles. Years ago, when I was thinking of moving back to Europe, they simply refused to let me go; but exactly like rats deserting the foundering S.S. Toronto, scuttled away as soon as they could, leaving me to make the restaurant reservations, standing all alone like Bette Midler in The Rose (“Where’s everybody going!” and then dying of a drug overdose I feel compelled to remind you) to captain the bad ship Toronto as she sinks slowly to the bottom of Lake Ontario. Glub…glub…glub…
But why, really, do I stay?
Inertia keeps me here. My lovely little home keeps me here. My friends (not the stinking awful deserter ones) keep me here. My work at the Hospital for Sick Children makes the time pass a little more worth-whilely. Those glorious trees that meet in a canopy of brilliant green over my street are like a little tunnel of love just for me. That’s nice. Some of the restaurants are fantastic – world class. Films open before anywhere else like New York and Los Angeles. The theatre, both in the city and a few hours from town, is often brilliant. The architecture in spots is breathtaking, and the museums and art galleries often exhibit stunning collections you’d never expect. The nightlife ain’t bad. The cool green parks and parkettes surprising you around corners right in the heart of downtown are an oasis. The hotdogs the street vendors sell are out of this world. The international flavour of Greektown, Chinatown, Little Italy and all the other little pockets and knots of citizens of the world create a blistering energy that is like no other on the planet. The churches are grand and glorious and the bells pealing on Sundays (while I’m still cozily reading the paper in bed) are heavenly. The newspapers and their endless wars and everywhere-on-the-political-spectrum stances mean information flows here in a something-for-everyone fashion. Fashion here is exciting: designers of furniture, clothes, accessories and jewellery are some of the most daring and different anywhere. The shopping is wonderful – the shoe stores are cutting edge. The film industry (when it’s not making parking even more impossible than ever) brings a zip and fun into the downtown, which carries on operating behind barriers and orange cones, business as usual, nothing out of the ordinary here. Spring here is like Utopia in Lost Horizon and fall is blazingly, heartachingly over-the-top gorgeous.
And when the magnolias bloom for those few short weeks, I know with near mathematical certainty that I belong.