November 9th, 2010

Fishy Circumstances


I am back in Toronto for the first time in three years. It's comfortable, an old friend who has barely changed. There are more condos here and there, but it's still a comfortable, sprawling metropolis with a fairly compact downtown core, highly walkable, with public transit which seems decadently uncrowded at rush hour compared to London. It has a bit of scruffiness, a whole different sense of style, more pragmatic, and a more accessible art scene infused into the landscape. The skies are so much bluer here, especially in these last few days of autumn chill. They cool down the city rapidly once the sun has set to sub-freezing temperatures.

But little things do change. My favorite chocolate shop, J.S. Bonbons closed down two years ago. They had the best hot chocolate I have ever had - it was made with their truffle ganache. It was so good, I would take visitors there on hot summer days for it. Victoria College now has ramps and outdoor shelters; I knew my department's common room had been renovated, decades of dust and detritus cleared away with new carpeting.

I have forgotten how to cope with so much ambient friendliness. The streetcar drive who meant her 'thank you' when I showed her my transit pass; she complained about the kids who had thrown maple syrup on her car, wryly, without swearing. The waiter who paused for a real answer to his initially 'how are you?' greeting. The cheery smiles on the faces of the hotel staff; it's part of the culture of human interaction, unforced. I used to take this gentle, non-aggressive friendliness for granted. (I never took the obnoxious forced, in-your-face friendliness of some American restaurants for granted because it's wearing. I don't want to be that excited about ordering generic-brand condiments at a chain store, and I don't need anyone else to be either. This isn't that kind of friendliness.)

It's good to be back.