Toronto the Good

Toronto the Good

The best kind of meet-ups are the serendipitous ones, the kind that just fall into your lap one day like a gift from on high. It’s not every day I hear from people who take the time to read things my crazy self says online, so when Miiesche of Soulstriptease reached out, wanting to know what it is like living in Toronto, it really made my day.  And reader, I did get to meet Miiesche last month and it was fun seeing Toronto  again through the eyes of a newcomer.

Although I grouse about living here, especially in the winter, the truth is I do love Canada, and Toronto, the city I now call home. Here, I’m sharing my answers to Miiesche’s questions about Canada, in the hope that it’ll convince others to either visit, or at least consider it as a place to live. The caveat is after a one-year stint in the GTA, I’ve really only lived in Toronto, so a lot of my answers are based on this one city!

What’s it like living in Canada?

My favourite thing about Canada is the quality of their public libraries – access is free, the advantages are legion and one of the first things I did when I moved here was get myself a library card because I am a nerd like that. The minimum wage in Ontario (the province I live in) is $14, which is decent. Over here, anyway. Food staples are affordable, and it’s manageable for as long as you’re not off drinking away your money on the weekends, or have any expensive vices like smoking. Cigarettes are costly, beer, not so much. If there’s anything that’s true about Canadian stereotypes, it’s that Canadians love beer, barbecues and hockey.

Officially, Canada has two languages: English and French. It’s why you’ll see both languages on labelling everywhere, even if most of the Francophones are based in Quebec, a province that spends a lot of its energy trying to ensure everything is in French. They got stymied when they tried to Frenchify the word “pasta”. Truth. They’re nuts. Lol. Most of the rest of Canada speaks English. Toronto, while not actually the capital of Canada (that honour goes to Ottawa), has so much swagger it may as well be the capital. It’s been said that Toronto is like New York City if it was run by the Swiss. I don’t really know what that means, but if it means cleaner and has less crime, then that is true! Rent here is kind of high especially in the downtown area. You’d be lucky to get a one bedroom with utilities included for about $1K a month (this may not be THAT expensive UK-wise, but I’m not too savvy about the rent over there). I would consider the east end the most affordable area rent-wise. Not to worry though, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is pretty solid, so you’re covered if you don’t drive. That said, one of the favourite things Torontonians like to do is complain about our public transit; some say TTC stands for Take The Car, and there are days when it’s true.

What about taxes?

Each province has a different sales tax rate. Alberta for example, has the lowest at 5%. Here in Ontario, it’s 13% 😭. It could be worse, it’s 15% in Newfoundland and Labrador and some other provinces.

Work, the weather, different neighbourhoods…

Work is plentiful, if you’re willing to work hard and aren’t choosy. There’s a lot of opportunities in the city, and also in the Greater Toronto Area. The drawback is really just that a lot of employers try and use contract work (i.e. hire you for just a year or a few months) to try and get out of paying your insurance coverage, dental, paid days off and so on. I do think that depends though, it’s not always true. There’s a lot of opportunity in the engineering, tech, finance and medical sectors.

Toronto is an amazing city for neighbourhoods – it’s the kind of place where you turn a corner and suddenly you’re in a whole different place. All the cultures and nationalities are well represented – the food scene is vibrant (if you’re into trying out different kinds of cuisine) and I love the diversity over here. It does kind of suck, curfew-wise if you like to party/drink. Last call is at 2AM (ridiculous) and it’s a bit of a challenge to find quality restos that are open around that time. There’s always Chinatown. It’s also a very supportive environment for artists, and very LGBTQ friendly. One of my favourite neighbourhoods is Church Street (I like to call it “the corner of gay and gay”) which has a very active and welcoming LGBTQ community. It’s a madhouse each year when Pride comes around. 

And finally, the weather. I both love and hate the weather over here. Winter unofficially starts about late November, and finally peters out in mid-April, even if that’s supposed to be spring. Winter takes up about a third of the calendar year, and it can be very bitter. Toronto is right next to a lake, and the lake effect causes our winters to be relatively humid (compared to the dry winters in, say, Manitoba or Saskatchewan). It just feels colder, is all. If there’s anything I’ve learned about winter here, it’s that it’s never over until it’s over so I’ve learned never to let my hopes up. The upside though, is that it’s glorious in the summer. Sunshine and cool breezes and all that lovely stuff. Except for the folks in British Columbia (the Canadian version of the West Coast), we have such long winters that when summer comes around, it’s cause to celebrate. That’s why Canadians love to barbecue so much. Fall is my favourite, because it’s beautiful and just the right temperature for me.

I know this got long, and I also liberally name-dropped some Canadian provinces, which might not be familiar. If you have a chance, take a peek on Google maps and see how crazy large the Great White North really is – there’s literally room for everyone, including you! 

Summertime (and the eatin’ is easy)

Summertime (and the eatin’ is easy)

And I was thinking this summer was going to be a bore. It’s been so hot, and the humidity is out the wazoo. I was spending quite a few weekends in because I’m a vampire and allergic to all that sun and UV rays. I’ve also had my share of humidity growing up in the tropics. As someone who’s already aging disgracefully, I don’t need any more help from this weather.

Just goes to show one must never say never, especially not when one’s favourite tennis player is in town for the Rogers Cup, aka The Canadian Open – the only ATP Masters 1000 event held in the great white north, one of the go-to warmup events for players to prepare for the hardcourt season which culminates in the US Open, and I’m pretty sure if you don’t follow tennis, none of that jumble of words will mean anything to you. So before you decide to just click somewhere else, here you go:

That was two weekends ago. In a heat wave. I braved a heatwave for that. If it weren’t for going to see Rafael Nadal practice on the hardcourts of the Aviva Centre for free, I would never get any sun. And now I’m kicking myself for not getting tickets to see the finals, because he’s just made his way into the finals of the Rogers Cup for the first time in a while. He’s also going to face the hottest thing on the #NextGen circuit right now, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas who is having the run of his life!

Speaking of mouthwatering and speaking of Greece, I’ve been to Taste of the Danforth, practically a Toronto summertime institution, a few times now and have no idea how I missed out on the awesomeness that is Foodland’s fruit stand. Just juicy, beautiful fresh fruit on a stick begging to be eaten – and at a price that can’t be beat. Large wedges of watermelon and mangoes to be had (extra sriracha $1), but my favourite by far were the strawberry skewers, which get a lovely amount of chocolate drizzled on them. It is HEAVEN. Five fresh, plump, juicy strawberries with chocolate on them for $2? YES PLEASE, YES, NOW, HURRY! All caps and exclamation points because that’s how much I love them. I used to go for the lokoumades, but now I will go for strawberry skewers, hands down, the end, exit stage right.

PS:

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Drive

I took an Uber tonight. It’s not something I do a lot. But tonight, I did. And it was like being in a time machine.

I wasn’t in Toronto, I was back in Cebu, on one of the many evenings in a cab on my way to work, like Cinderella in the evening, rushing. The driver took a route I had never tried before, cutting through parts of the city I had never seen. As it unfolded before me tonight like a new place to be explored,  Toronto was a mysterious city waiting to be discovered and I felt a quiet sort of  joy, savouring the sweet, delicious tang of curiosity.  For a brief span of time, I was younger, the whole world before me. I was that girl again, and I realized I haven’t felt that way in a long, long time.

Enough

Enough

The goal was to be stoic. To endure. To get through a single winter without a word of complaint. To brush snow off my shoulder like Jay-Z.

Welp, so long, goal. Because this me losing it. This is me reluctantly counting the days since winter started and once again being reminded that almost a third of a year is devoted to the one season that can kill you, while the weather pundits do their best to rain on my parade because CBC and the Toronto Star have predicted an ice storm this weekend and I can’t. I just can’t.

I can’t sit back and think people probably have it worse in Saskatchewan. That this is paradise compared to Greenland. That I know someone who lives in Norway and never even complains that it’s made of snow and the sun never sets. All the little mental tricks I employ to make myself feel better have worn thin, because it’s mid-April, I’m still wearing a goddamn winter coat and insulated boots to work and now an ice storm is brewing. All I want to do is stop wearing knits but the weather won’t let me and it’s driving me insane. There was snow on the ground yesterday! In April, for God’s sake.

I tried finding Canadian memes to cheer me up, but I’m beyond laughter. Any more of this weather, and you will find me huddled in a corner, incessantly rocking back and forth with my hands over my ears. Yes it’s that bad and yes I’m that far gone and now I’ve run out of words to say so I need to go and calm down somehow. I hereby delegate any further expressive duty re the impending ice storm to Miss Bianca del Rio, who says it better than I ever could.

biancahatesyou

 

Image from Ohh Deer

 

Bring me the Chianti

Bring me the Chianti

This triggered me today.

I don’t usually like using the word ‘triggered’ because it brings to mind the ridiculous slang that’s considered hip these days, like bae. Or shookt. Woke. Ship. Cray. Having a tiny computer in our pocket 24/7 has  apparently given us all ADHD and no one has the time for syllables, or a proper vocabulary. Don’t get me started on the egregious abuse of the word iconic.

However ‘triggered’, in this particular situation, is an apt word for me to describe the way I’m feeling. Because #affected!

TL;DR: vegans organized a protest against Antler, a Toronto restaurant that boasts wild game as a big part of their menu; as they waved murder signs outside, the owner proceeded to (expertly, from the looks of it) butcher a leg of deer in plain sight.  Shock, horror and injured feelings ensue.

So, I was there for the comments, and ended up down a rabbit hole of commentary, which is par for the course when it comes to a topic as polarizing as vegans versus the world. Sometimes it seems like there’s a chapter somewhere in the militant vegan gospel that says if they won’t eat animals, woe to the rest of us who insist on doing so.

This is why I have a problem with militant anything. Militant vegans. Militant feminists. Militant racists. Militant religionists. Militant cyclists. They’re always free to believe what they believe in, but disagree with them and all of a sudden they’re the victims. It’s always their way or the highway, conveniently sidestepping the fact that having an opinion is a right that belongs to everyone. It leaves a sour, angry feeling in the pit of my stomach, which is how  I feel when it comes to people who claim to educate, but are actually intent on ramming their own beliefs down your throat.

At its core, my problem with militant anything is that it’s sanctimonious, it’s preachy, and it’s rude. If you’re okay with voicing your opinion that meat-eating is wrong, you should be okay with others who think otherwise and have the nerve to say so. I would like to think not all vegans have such a warped, blinkered worldview. There is a difference between education and straight out indoctrination.

So I am standing up and giving  Team Antler a slow clap for this masterful move. First of all, it’s his restaurant. If he wants to butcher a leg of deer in front of all and sundry, that’s his prerogative, the same way it was the protesters’ prerogative to gang up on a local business and wave meat-is-murder signs in front of paying customers. If he wants to have a menu that’s mostly ethically raised, locally sourced meat, that’s his choice. Don’t force a restaurant to add vegan friendly items to the menu just because you think animals have feelings and humans shouldn’t eat meat. The solution is simple: if you want vegan food, eat somewhere else. Why is that concept so hard to grasp? It’s Toronto, is there a dearth of choices? If there’s anything there’s a dearth of, it’s common sense. The word of the day is dearth. Scorched dearth. Dearth Vader. Dearth Becomes Her. Dearth, dearth, dearth.

Clearly, I’m raving and now need food. I think I’ll eat at Antler soon. I like meat, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

 

Thighs Wide Shut

I decided to rent a Bixi Bike Share to pedal down to Cherry Beach and watch the sunrise. It seemed like a good idea; spring is here, the weather is tolerable, I don’t really sleep at night so it wasn’t like I had to get up early. I hadn’t been on a bike for at least a year, so for the first ten minutes, I felt like I was on top of the world, thinking happy thoughts, even considering buying a bike of my own. These kind of thoughts are best left to simmer, because about twenty minutes in I couldn’t feel my ass and was congratulating myself on simply renting, and not buying the infernal contraption. I’m going to feel the burn tomorrow. Hell, I already feel it. Still, watching the sun rise and having the beach all to myself was #worthit.

Everything Must Go

Everything Must Go

Toronto’s flagship HMV closed its doors today with the fire sale to end all fire sales. I went, I saw, I learned so much.

One – they can mark down all the DVDs and Blu-rays in the world,  6 for $9 still isn’t enough incentive to make people want to buy all the Twilight movies that miraculously escaped the incinerator that should’ve been set up to rid the world of that infamy. It did make me stop and think maybe my Dad… nope. I already wasted enough time and energy reading the books (cringe) and watching the first two movies (cringe) in theatres (cringe). Enabling my father will not be another sin I need to take with me to confession.

Two – the same can be said about Glee. The combined allure of singing adolescents and bargain basement pricing just isn’t  good enough.

Three – I am apparently unable to ignore a 90% discount on Star Wars bobbleheads, even if it’s a two-fer on characters I didn’t and still don’t give a crap about, but hey it’s $3.49, Christmas is inevitable, maybe I can fob Finn and Kylo Ren off on someone who isn’t my husband  – who is likely to  judge me thirty ways to Sunday for giving in to the Force of this discount.

Four – the last Funko Pop! figures to go at a fire sale wil be: Castiel from Supernatural, Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones and Killer Croc from Suicide Squad. In other words, “Um, who?”, “Oh alright, fine”, and “I already have a Chewbacca bathrobe from HMV that the hubs is never going to wear, let me walk away with what’s left of my dignity.”

Five – does anyone want a Chewbacca bathrobe? Never used. Let’s talk.