Monday, April 11, 2022

Toronto -- Round Two

Here I am now – culturally-infused, foot-sore, and exploration-happy – in my latest Urban Infusion Month. Hooray! I’m back in Toronto – three years to the day – but this time for two months. So far, I’ve done Manhattan, London, Toronto, and the Covid-aborted Philadelphia; but Toronto was my favorite of them all.

 I’ve been thinking about what these trips do for me.

  • Yes, they’re a chance to get Spring earlier than it comes to Alaska (although Toronto has had snow and winds that suck the warmth right out of me).

  • And yes, I feed my live-theater lust – I’ve already been to five plays here with two more in the next few days.

  • And yes, I get to be car-less while happily gorging on transit.

  • I get to escape meal-planning; grazing on ethnic street food or fruit returns hours to my days!

These are four really big reasons.
My only difficulty can be social isolation. There was that rough time in London because British people don’t talk to people they don’t know, but Toronto was special because Torontonians talk to everyone!
But this is a Covid-changed world. Even Torontonians don’t talk to everyone anywhere. Everywhere – including on transit – we’re six feet apart, wearing masks, and not making friends. But on the other hand, the rest of the world isn’t very far away: with Zoom, I still meet with my Alaska book club, Bricolage art challenge group, and my siblings. Some days I don’t even feel like I’m gone.

What I’ve learned so far is what my months really do for me. They confuse me. They stump me. They fill my days with riddles and glitches, happy accidents and utter confusion. When I get on a bus I’ve never been on before, I have that squirrelly nervous feeling: What if I miss my stop and end up God knows where? I sit on the edge of my seat.

I seek out this feeling; it’s why I’m here. It’s the Quest for New-ness, the thrill and mystery of non-stale, non-stagnant (without my fear of heights). I do my produce shopping in Chinatown, where everything is way cheaper. Lately, the big crop is strawberries. Two big baskets of strawberries for $2 each (and that’s Canadian dollars!). But over there, on the next table – same vendor – they’re $1 each. How can that be? Why?

Because $1 strawberries go bad twice as fast as $2 strawberries.

I try to be helpful at grocery stores, bringing carts in from the lot to the store. But yesterday, when I saw a woman loading her car, I offered to bring her cart back in, and she looked askance at me. Why? Well, when I returned the cart, there was a little plastic thing hanging, and when I attached it, a dollar – a loonie – popped out! Uh, oh! I bet that woman is telling her family about the panhandler taking her cart money!

My day is filled with things that need figuring out: Why does the remote work easily to turn things on but has a terrible time turning things off? How do people easily deal with their milk in floppy, plastic bags? Does the Sweet’n Low paper go in the Blue Bin, the Green Bin, or garbage?
Oh, I have bigger questions: Why did Matthew Wong’s exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario appeal to me so much? Was it because they were all blue, that they spoke of isolation, that they had simple lines, that Wong was self-taught, that he was bipolar and killed himself at 35? Was it the work itself or the artist’s pain in creating it? Is that why Van Gogh moves me?

In the play, “Gloria,” when Gloria shoots everyone in her workplace except Dean, Kendra misses it all because she’s out getting coffee and Nan is hiding under her desk. All three write a book from his/her perspective and argue about who has the right to “the story.” Who owns any story?
Big questions and little ones. When I wake up in the morning, I have to remember the new place where I store the cereal, which drawer has my underwear. Is it easier to go up Spadina and walk west or Bathurst and walk east?
Nothing is routine, and the strange interrupts the ordinary at a moment’s notice. Every day, at any moment, I can get a jolt of difference, newness, confusion – even panic. And wonder, too. I like living like this.


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