Sunday, April 20, 2008

Letter to a Young Rose City Expat

It was during a cursory skim of the Facebook feed that I saw your status: 'M--- is going out tonight! Excited to move to TORONTO!!!'

And I thought, 'Oh Christ, another one? That's all this city needs.'

Don't take it personally. I've always greeted people who flee Windsor with a skeptical eye. Imagine my surprise to discover I've become one.

You don't need me to remind you of the ambivalent history between our cities. There are two types of people in Windsor: you either want to get out, or you resent those that do. When you make return visits, to say people treat you like a prodigal is kind. If you go back, they'll welcome you back, but they'll never forget your betrayal. And once you get here, you may discover that the old orders don't apply. You always were a bit of a scenester, M---. I worry you'll be disappointed once you realize the hierarchy has been inverted and this city does not give a damn about you.

It's the first thing this city reminds you of: how small you really are. Stand on the subway and look at the people around you, outside on the sidewalks as you zip by--they all have lives, friends and families, completely separate from you, and we're all smashed in on top of each other, never knowing even the names of the people around us.

Not that this truth doesn't exist in Windsor, but that city is small enough that you see familiar faces more often. I don't know how anyone can feel like Toronto is their city. Windsor felt mine, even Kingston felt mine, for knowing five people by name. It's been eight months, and Toronto doesn't feel mine. It may never. I've discovered that the best you can do is forge a connection with your neighbourhood: discover the small town in the urban expanse. Accept it with all its flaws, everything it gives you and everything it lacks. Don't get caught up in trendiness, you'll find that current moves too quickly up here. If you live north of Bloor, you're not less of a person.

As I write this, I'm sipping coffee on my front porch. It's dusk, Nicole's seated in the other adirondack chair scribbling notes into a teacher's copy of MacBeth. JackJack's in the front window, uncomfortably confused by this new situation. The neighbours walk past with their dogs. No traffic, no chatter, just the whooping of the birds and the occasional ding of a streetcar bell in the distance. It is not the cosmopolitan Queen West experience, it is not the filthy bohemia of Kensington, it's not the highbrow artsiness of the Annex. It is quiet, and boring, and perfect.

But I doubt you want that, M---. You'll want the party to keep going, which is fine, you're young. But don't expect anything from this place. It has no time for you, or anyone else, only its own mythology. The sooner you realize that, the better you'll be.

It's funny, at that Richard Florida event a couple weeks ago, which at times narrowly avoided degrading into a Toronto love-in, and older gentleman in the crowd prefaced his question by saying, 'You know, everyone says Toronto is such a welcoming city, I don't believe that for a moment. Toronto's not a welcoming city, it's just a city that doesn't turn anyone away.'



Anonymous Kylar said...

So are you saying since I got out, that people resent me? Are jealous and envious of me living high on the Americ/Canadi-an dream in sunny CA?


1:18 PM

Blogger The Trail said...

Oh Tram, the beard that launched a thousand St. Clair dropouts.

Not me, though! I graduated from junior college!

6:59 PM


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