Bitching Brew

Monday, June 04, 2007

At home, away.

Thirty degrees - another steamy evening. Patios swing, shirts cling; Magnums melt as connections spark. Midweek weekends tumble blur; a confident Celtic spirit fused to a party-hard Berliner cavorts through clubs and jazz bars, pubs and indie dives, charming his way into homes, cellars, and wind-whistling holes-in-the-wall. Memories fuzz, face-off, escape; I'm oft confused but rarely cheated. Summer is a-bloom.

On occasion, I feel like a fresh J-1 kid running wild and tripsy on a beachfront strip, awed and suckered by New World hedonism. Those moments tickle me, as only then do I feel abroad - almost on holiday. The lust to travel burns strongly within, but for the first time, I yearn for stability. What those moments tell me is that I now feel at home. Toronto is home. I'm in my skin, my element. Neither pangs for missing friends and family nor nipping nostalgia at old songs shake that feeling.

'Twould be bliss if the home-shackled clans were here. As for Dublin: I grow more patronising, condescending and disdainful by the day. It's a sorry thing to say, as there are far worse places to live. Yet I can't help but compare it unfavourably in almost every way to Toronto. When next I visit (or return), the rudeness will grate and the infrastructure enrage. I feel nausea at the thought of the limited local food, but more so for my next rendezvous with disaffected Celtic ultras. It's nice to live in a safe city. The less said about the moribund music scene, absent arts and one-dimensional nightlife the better. Dublin life was very Different Class (if you haven't heard that Pulp album, you really ought to), which isn't the greatest compliment. Despite its inescapable Irishness and the crushing anvil of history, my rear-view mirror shows a Northern English industrial city doubling as a university town. Am I too harsh?

The temper of Toronto sits easily with me: liberal, accepting, unfailingly polite, relatively intellectual, and slightly reserved - yet eager to meet new friends. Although still reserved, moving here has encouraged my extroverted side to flourish. Strange to think that Thursday, when a friend was picking apart my character, the second label she thought of was "overly social". What a change, eh? (The first was "meth addict". It was a joke... really.) I enjoy organising events and connecting people; it's no use being passive all the time, dependent on your friends' initiatives.

Last Thursday, I ventured along to an official company "pub night". It was a little too corporate for me, as most of the attendees were management and senior staff. We few temps huddled together too much. Afterwards, I met some Canadian friends at a bar near Yonge and Eg, to see (and drink with) a local band they knew. A decent night was had. Late in the night, I heard Northern Irish voices to my right - a group of expats were celebrating a birthday. I suspect they were permanent immigrants: the Canadian influence on their accents was pronounced. Unusually for me, I opted for caution, and didn't let my Irish accent flow near them. I knew that if I started chatting, I'd be out all night. That's happened too often...

Friday, I put together the usual after-work drinks on an Esplanade patio. We finished fairly early, catching part of an international percussion festival en route to the subway. The evening was notable mainly for my first taste of poutine. Mmm. Though I'm sure the Quebec version is superior, what I had was delicious. It was made-to-order in the kitchen, unlike the nasty-looking stuff they serve in Toronto food courts. Thoughts of dinner faded after a hot pan of the greasy cheesy delight. (But if I ate poutine too often, I'd need new arteries.)

Saturday, I brought a friend over, and showed her how to prepare and cook a delicious salmon dinner, bookended by bruschetta and Haagen-Dazs ice-cream bars. Cooking is fun when it's for more than one! Later, I cheered the Ottawa Senators on to a critical victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, before we went out to meet friends for another mad night on the town. (Another great thing about Toronto: I didn't arrive at the bar until after midnight.)

Sunday was calm and relaxing. Over the coming week, I intend to take full advantage of two major arts festivals: Luminato and North by Northeast. At minimum, I'll be seeing Gore Vidal on Wednesday, and attending a crazy cabaret/burlesque/circus on Sunday. I hope to visit a few galleries and exhibitions during the week, as well as catching some gigs and films next weekend. Hurrah for major-city life!

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  • So you tried Poutine? It looks just horrible, but it is sooooo good! I'm glad to ehar you are liking Toronto!

    By Blogger Etchen, at Tue Jun 05, 10:44:00 p.m.  

  • Ahhhh poutine! I don't think I even eat poutine once every 15 years. The French fries... the thick gravy... It's waaaaayyyyy too fast-foodish for me. Even in Quebec, there are no two poutines that taste the same. Some are really good, some not so much. It's all a question of personnal taste.

    I can understand how you feel about Dublin and Toronto. I felt a lot like you do when I moved to Montreal from Quebec city. I think Quebec city is a wonderful place to visit. And the Old Quebec is beautiful. One of the oldest place in North America. So rich in history. Way more cool than Old Montreal. I highly recommand it as a travel destination.

    But I would never move back to Quebec city. Not multiethnic enough (or I should say "at all"), not cosmopolitan enough. Not diversed enough. And not enough movies showing in their original version! LOL! Since the big majority of the population overthere don't even speak English as a second language, I always get frustrated when I go visit, because if I want to go see a american movie in its original English version, there is usually just one showing in the entire Quebec region. All the other movies showing are translated in French. That reason alone is enough for me to never move back.

    After I moved to Montreal, it took me about 1 day before I knew that it was my place.

    Home is where you make a home for yourself.

    I'm glad that you're enjoying your stay in Canada.


    By Blogger Sonia, at Wed Jun 06, 02:42:00 p.m.  

  • You have a style of writing anyway - I'll give you that! I empathise with much of what you have to say. I haven't been here long enough to fully comprehend how you feel about the place though. I still think the "dating" culture needs to be questioned. There is a lot to be said for the drunken fumble in Doyles! I don't think I'll ever lose that aspect of my irishness. I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that you have a preference for the Canadian way in that regard. You're making me hungry for poutine, dammit! Oh, and the Haagen Dazs (or however it ought to be spelt).

    By Anonymous Rachel, at Fri Jun 08, 05:50:00 a.m.  

  • Poutine is great, but I've discovered that once a week is the absolute maximum a human can manage. (Twice in three days was a disaster!)

    I hear you Sonia - that's how I feel about Dublin vs Toronto in so many ways. I still sense that multi-ethnic in Dublin (like much of Europe) means Natives and Others.

    Indeed, home is where you make a home for yourself. :)

    And as for you Rachel - we'll see if we can indoctrinate you into the Dating Cult(ure), alien as it seems! Dating vs Doyles... is that what it all boils down to? Who'd ever have thought I'd be facing off against Doyles?! But that's how it worked out. Dating allows my wit and charm to flourish - and it's helped me realise that I'm a damn fine catch. :)

    By Blogger Martin, at Tue Jun 12, 05:55:00 a.m.  

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