Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bits & Pieces from my Month Overseas, No. 5

Toronto is one of the places on my list of cities I’ve lived in at one time or another that often gets lost in the scuffle.  People ask where I’m from, where I was born, where I live and where my family lives, but unless they’re inquiring about my academic background or making a thorough investigation of my accent, they rarely tap into the fact that I spent four years living in the largest city in Canada.

Four years – it’s the longest I’ve spent anywhere since leaving Buffalo nine years ago.  It’s no wonder I feel negligent when I walk away from a conversation having explained that “I’m mostly from Buffalo but my family lives near Saint John,” and never even giving Toronto a mention.

It's also no wonder that I still know the old T-dot so well.

According to the relevant psychological research, three years after you move away from a place, you’ll have forgotten about as much of the street names and layout as you’re going to forget.  I've been gone from Toronto four years now, and I was delighted to discover in visiting last month that I still have a fully functional map of the TTC in my head.  I can still get from St. George to Future's, and from Vic to the Earth Sciences building via the path of least resistance.

I can still also find the Chapters on John Street only by accident and when I'm least expecting it.

I spent four days trotting about with Gabby, and by trotting about I mean eating our way steadily across the city, before holing up at the Edward Johnson building for my second conference of the trip.  Just after I arrived, Gabby picked me up at the Greyhound station, tossed my bags in the trunk, and said, "So.  Burger?"

We made our way over to a new place on Adelaide St. called Burger Brats.  Gabbo informed me that she’d found a hot deal online and had a voucher for $40 worth of food, which I was going to eat the bulk of.  My 'Angry Texan' involved cheese bread, cheese, bacon, a fried egg, chipotle mayo, lettuce and tomato in addition to a fine bit of burger, and I think I did a pretty fair job considering that the whole thing was roughly the size of a small car.  Poutine was amazing.  I love poutine.  Love.  We did use up the $40 between the two of us.

We paid a visit to Vic the next day.  It's always strange to see the place in summer mode, without the students about.  Old Vic is as lovely and ivy covered and full of secret classrooms to do gymnastics in as it ever was.

Wymilwood is still aspiring to do great things and is currently under construction.  The university took over that household science building next to the ceramic museum and the Medieval Studies department now resides there.  More million dollar flats are going up on Charles Street, and those beautifully derelict houses across from RJ have been replaced by a building that is clearly brimming with international spies.

One of the best things to do on a summer's day in Toronto is bike around Centre Island and feed the ducks leftover pita, so that is what we did.  One of the best things to do on a summer's evening in Toronto is hit up the CNE, so we did that too.  Also, because we're poor starving children who just never get fed and Gabby's new hobby of finding hot restaurant deals online, we had ourselves a five-course Thai dinner.

In addition to subway routes, Remenyi inventory and precisely how delicious Future's pierogies really are, my memory is also particularly good for prices.  Specifically, prices for streetmeat.  I'm sad to say that most streetmeat stands have seen at least a 50 cent increase for hot dogs in the past few years.  But what can you do?  Streetmeat vendors have to pay the rent too.  What I did was say, "Hey, look!  A meal for less than seven dollars!  Can't beat that in Sydney."

So it was that my last sight of Toronto, as it has been so many times before, was from out the coach window, at rush hour, with a belly full of streetmeat, a little bit of a sunburn and a sigh of relief that I'd once again remembered my passport.  

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