I just spent two weeks in America. I've never done that before. I left Toronto for New York where I spent 5 days shooting Fashion Week stuff, then jet-setted to sunny Florida where I loafed around, edited images, swam, and drank for another 9.
What I know for sure? You end up talking a lot about where you're from. Toronto.
I'm a friendly person. My grade school report cards said "social butterfly". I'm the guy who speaks in elevators (for shame!) the one who compliments a handbag in line at the grocery store. I hold doors for people who are too far behind, causing them that awkward run to take you up on the generosity. I certainly don't mean to, but (after years and years in customer service) I tend to be hyper aware of people within 50 meters of me. Most of the time it works out, and I tend to charm these strangers. One in 20, though, and things get awkward and I look like a creep.
I'm okay with these odds.
I'm okay with these odds.
This need to socialize is never more obvious than when I'm away from home. These last few trips I've been solo, so perhaps a bit of loneliness kicks in and I become even more outgoing. Very likely to ask about your shoes or your baby. I'm that guy.
And when I happen upon someone as eager to chitchat as me, the conversation always ends up in the "Oh, where are you from?" territory. "Toronto," I'll say, " . . . Canada." And, almost without exception, people will nod excitedly as if I'd said, "The moon . . . you know, out there in space?" My city seems to have an affect on people. So foreign and interesting.
And then I do that thing we Canadians do. I shrug, a self-conscious smirk flashes across my face and I, against my will, find myself saying, "Yeah. You know. It's alright." And they, time and time again, would reply "I was there, like, 10 years ago. Amazing city. Just incredible!" And I'd stare, then search for a shred of grace and muster, "Oh yeah? Really? Nice!" Doubt would creep into my voice, but I'd recover, "Yeah, it's great, for like, 1000 reasons. I guess when you live there you take it for granted. It's a nice place to live." And then they'd go on about the music scene or the parks or the terrific people. And I found myself, standing in the middle of Manhattan (world's greatest city, incredible, fantastic, beyond) thinking, "But you live here."
And, as I've said before, it's really not fair to compare. I mean, Toronto's incorporation came fully 200 years after New York. We're a city on a lake, not an ocean. Our little population is spread over 10 times the land mass of Manhattan. We won't begin to settle into ourselves for many decades (perhaps a century) more. We're just young. Confused. Unsure of ourselves and lacking the confidence to say, "Hey, look at me! I'm fuckin' amazing with my safe streets and unsolicited pleasantries!"
But, dear sweet Toronto, you'll get there. I only wish I'd live long enough to see the day.
(Left, Manhattan, as seen from the Williamsburg Bridge. Right: Toronto, as seen from the Billy Bishop Airport. Follow me on Instagram.)