21 August 2008

right here, right now

I was in mid-conversation with an Iranian-American-Canadian man while watching African dance and waiting for my brother at Dundas square on Monday, when he asked a question that got me thinking.

"So is this place supposed to be the heart of the city? If that's the case, there is definitely an energy missing here."

Dundas Square? "Hell no," I replied.

"Well then where is it? where is the best part, or the heart, of Toronto?"

"I'm sure the tourism board might want people to think it's here, as well as all the business owners, but in terms of feeling and actual vibrancy this is definitely not it."

"So where would you say it is? I just moved here from New York, and I can't figure out the vibe of this place."

As I started listing off neighbourhoods, parks, and attractions that might be more to his liking, the answer—which was far to cheesy to explain to him—came to mind. The heart of this city, or any city for that matter, is where your favourite people live and hang out.

It's the elusive authentic experience of a city that so many tourists seek, but so few find, and instead end up settling on trolling commercial streets and museums. Sure, you are taking in the wonderful sights of a given place, and people watching to your heart's content, but you never find what you were looking for.

You find the heart by following the pulse of your friends, who live in, know and love their chosen city.

Of this I was certain, because I had just finished spending a refreshing weekend at my brother's place, and also chez Jenn and Alex, running into many lovely friends along the way. Having never lived in Toronto, it was amazing to be so welcomed, and made to feel so at home, purely by virtue of the hosting style of the amazing family and friends I have.

It always takes me a second to adjust, as I traverse between Montreal and Toronto, because the cities are so different from each other, and because the speed of modern transportation that shortens the gap between the two makes me feel like I travel at warp speed between the different worlds.

Not only are the cities different—my life seems so different in each one. Although I am happy to adjust to both of them, the transition is always equally thrilling and painful. But the salve for my anxiety is, as always, good company.

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