We visited Toronto this past weekend. We had a great time, mostly seeing old friends and seeing a few sites. I had a few thoughts on the city that I thought I might get off my hairy chest:
- People in the Canadian West, including Winnipeg, put down Torontonians for their surliness. I found that there was some truth to this among the few shop owners we visited and among the citizens we ran into. But the reality is that Toronto is a big city and is getting bigger. People in large cities are typically less warm and friendly and thoughtful because they either can’t afford to be, they don’t know how to be, or they’re afraid to be so.
- Toronto is diverse. I’ve read, somewhere, that the city is the most diverse city in North America and/or The World. I somewhat believe it.
- The city is relatively expensive. It ain’t Brooklyn, by any stretch, as we could probably still afford a small house within one of the city’s neighborhoods. But I give it just a few years and real estate will be as affordable to most Canadians as Brooklyn is to most Americans.
- It’s seedy. My wife disagrees (and so does my Toronto-born friend R.B.), but I think the city has a bit of an edge to it that places like, well, much of Brooklyn, lacks. There was a definitely a feeling, in many parts of the city, that you had to kind of watch your back. Not every second, but every few seconds.
- Marketing works. Here in Winnipeg, advertising is relatively minimal; there aren’t billboards everywhere, busses often market government (rather than commercial) services, and it’s all rather residential. Buildings are pretty low to the ground, not allowing for huge adverts for clothing, cars and travel. The highways stretch for miles and aren’t central to the city. And, in Winnipeg, people are frugal and notoriously stubborn buyers. Not so, in Toronto. Ads are everywhere—along all stretches of building, road, highway, and byway. And it works. In Toronto, I wanted to spend more. I could feel the urge to empty my wallet and I more easily noticed all of the niceties of modern urban existence, from better cars to newer phones to nicer clothes. (Then again, it could have been I was on vacation.)
- Winnipeg is pretty fricking far from Toronto. Man, it’s far. 2.5 hours by plane. Sure, we’re in neighboring provinces. Sure, there are lots of familial and cultural connections between the two cities. But, let’s face, I live far, far away from Toronto: 941 miles or 1514 kilometers, or approximately the same distance from here to Tulsa, Oklahoma.