You Asked For It: Why Toronto? (the sequel)

imageYesterday I answered the “why not Vancouver?” part of Wilson Fowlie’s question, “Why on Earth did you choose Toronto over Vancouver?”

Today, far more cheerily, I’m on to what Toronto offered, and whether it has delivered.

Adventure:  Shiny! New! Different! A whole new world to explore! Something I have always loved about new cities is getting to know them. And Toronto is different from every place I’ve ever lived. It has a big city buzz that is simply amazing. It’s like a baby New York filled with Canadians.

Friends: We left wonderful people in Vancouver. But the writing community is large and scattered. We’d been long-distancing it with beloveds people here and elsewhere across the U.S. A couple of our oldest besties are right here in the city and it is awesome to be near them.

Dellamonicas: Same thing, basically. The one genetic relation I have out here is a super sweet sister, and she’s very obviously happy to have me around. I had been at a three timezone remove from her; now I’m the same distance from my mother. Any other choice (London, Palermo, and Calgary are three alternatives we not-very-seriously considered) would have put me far away from them both.

Economic stuff: This was a significant factor. Vancouver is a pricey city with artificially low salaries and a deranged and punitive real estate market. Toronto has more job opportunities for Kelly, more flexibility where housing is concerned, and–as a bonus–there’s far more publishing activity.

But OMG Toronto is so totally urban and unnatural and smelly, and don’t you miss the mountains and the seawall and the beaches and seals in the Fraser River? Sure! But let’s face it, I’m a nerd. Even given that I spend a fair amount of my leisure time chasing birds with a camera, I am pretty indoorsy. I don’t hike, bike, seadoo, skidoo, ski, snowshoe, racquet-sport or run.

Of course the natural scenic beauty on offer here can’t compare what I had within easy walking distance of Woodland Drive. The pretty is a little harder–a very little–to get to. The trade-off is so much good theater, and book launches every time you turn around, and chances to go to things like Second City. I’ve been to three documentaries at TIFF lately: Finding Vivian Maier, Tim’s Vermeer, and Jodorowsky’s Dune.

For me, having to take a streetcar to the ravine to shoot cardinals, or a ferry to Toronto Island to see beach, is a pretty fair trade for being able to see Monets and Van Goghs and Warhols and Cindy Shermans every darned day of the week, all while giving the AGO a shot at convincing me that the Group of Seven had more merit than I previously assumed. Also there’s this:

PiETa was a Nuit Blanche installation. Now it’s in the AGO. How cool is this?

More adventure, in the form of new short-distance travel opportunities: New York is more doable from here. Ditto Ottawa–I’ve never been!–Quebec City, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C., Vermont. These are all places I’ve always wanted to explore, but didn’t quite have the time or cash to get to. I’ve been to Seattle dozens of times, and Portland at least ten. It’s exciting.

The architecture of my life hasn’t changed significantly. My jobs are exactly the same as they had been. I’m married to the same person, live in a somewhat similar apartment, and have the same yoga, photography and coffee habits. I have the same medical quirks and am slowly working my way back to cat ownership. (Being without Rumble has been pretty awful). I watch the same TV, cook the same food, and keep the same lunatic hours.

It’d be easy, given that, to argue that all I’ve really done is change the wallpaper on the life I already had. And there’s a degree to which that may be true. I retained all the things I was satisfied with while shaking up, to a great extent, the place where they were happening. It’s human nature to be dissatisfied with what you have: when all the dust settles on this move, years from now, some of those feelings that triggered this move will recur.

Right now, I’m delighting in the new horizons, the abundant unfamiliar, the amazing cultural opportunities and the company of my sister and Ontario friends. This has been invigorating, a much-needed shot in the arm. I am grateful for the series of events and choices that brought me here.

Moved! (Toronto, day 346)

imageThe past five or so days have been both gruelling and immensely gratifying. Final packing took up all of my Thursday. Getting everything relocated and unpacking it was the dawn-to-dusk Friday task. Kelly joined me after her work week ended; I set something of a backbreaking pace, and she matched it heave for heave. She is, officially, a trooper!

Saturday and Sunday were spent organizing all our worldly goods. We headed out a couple times to get much-needed things from Canadian Tire and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Much of what we needed is for for our strangely laid-out bathroom, which has two doors–one from the main hall, one from the bedroom–and a separate bath and shower. We’re calling the shower “the glass cage of emotion,” in honor of a certain scene from Anchorman.

Here’s the old place looking clean and empty. Goodbye, King Street. You were good to us.

Depending on where you’re reading this, you might be able to swipe forward or back and see many many pictures of the empty old place and jammed-with-stuff new place. This seems to be the Flickr/Wordpress thing now. But if not, here’s my office filled with things and walled off by Frogboxes.

The chaos is diminishing and the Frogboxes go home today. Once that’s done, I can finalize where things will go, start setting out my various daily routines, and go about adopting a cat before I lose my mind.
If you’ve been waiting on an e-mail from me, thank you for your patience. I hope to be back up to speed by week’s end.

Toronto, Day 335

imageI am still working on answering Blaise’s question: are editors still needed? And I’m pondering your other questions, excited about answering them, and grateful to know what interests you. If you haven’t weighed in yet and there’s something you want to know, tell me! I’m happily building up the list of requests.

In the meantime, a few current snippets of news from the land of Dua Moving Insanity:

–We got the keys to the new place this week, and floors are going in. The shower may be leaky, so we’re going to look into fixing it ASAP. Since it’s the one truly gnarly-looking thing in the place, this is going to turn out to be a blessing. I am packing boxes and have just about reached the point where I’m going to be hiding away things we will actually want but not need between now and next week.

–Okay, there’s one other gnarly looking thing, but it’s so outrageous and improbable that I’ll tell you about it another time.

–The new place is also grubby. I keep reminding myself that when we moved into Woodland Drive in 2001, the apartment was omg, seriously, so filthy! This isn’t bad. Another improvement on our 2001 experience is that  the previous owners at Dua Central didn’t fail to move out a whole bunch of wall art, furniture and a seventy billion pound exercise bike. We’re really ahead this time! Nevertheless, Kelly and I plan to spend Good Friday scrubbing. If you’re in Toronto and want to drop by to see us cleanifying an empty apartment, shoot me a text. And just so you know, I do mean see us cleanifying. You will not be allowed to help.

–“The Color of Paradox” and “Snow Angels” have hit the next stage of pre-publication, which means editors Ellen Datlow and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, respectively, have sent me notes on them, small questions about things that may need fixing. I’ve been so delighted to have a chance to write a few stories this year, and it’s nice to see these moving through the process.

–Although we will not do anything about acquiring new offspring before we are in Dua Central, Kelly and I have jumped a few pre-adoption hoops at a no-kill cat shelter here in the city. It turns out that being able to perform basic tasks like brushing my hair, cooking, walking across the room, lying in bed unconscious and drinking water from a glass–not to mention packing all my worldly goods!–without constant feline supervision is simply depressing. I cannot handle the autonomy.

–We went to the monthly ChiSeries reading featuring Sam Bieko, Keith Hollihan, and Jerome Stueart, with comical SF-themed songs by Kari Maaren and Peter Chiykowski. It was a terrific night. The readings were great, the musicians hilarious and we saw many friends. I’ll be one of the readers in July–I’ll let you know more as the date approaches.

Toronto, Day 326

imageIt has almost been a year.

It’s no coincidence that we’re moving, again, as the anniversary nears. The plan was always to rent a place here for the first year, scope out the neighborhoods, and then commit. Kelly and I were both so unfamiliar with Toronto that to do anything else seemed nutty beyond words.

(Though jumping in without a clue is how we chose our Vancouver neighborhood, also sight unseen, and that worked out.)

Our soon to be former apartment is coming to be known as “the King Street place” or variations thereon. We haven’t been here long enough to come to dislike much about it. It doesn’t have a great layout, but it is serviceable, bright, and all-new–which means it’s in great repair. It was a good enough place to land and it helped me refine my idea of what I want in a tiny place: a bedroom door that closes, for example, and a real separation between our living room and my office. No yawning distance between bedroom and bathroom.

The new place, Dua Central, definitely has those features.

I would be really happy if the King Street overlords would turn on our pretty, pretty fountain sometime before we leave. I’d like to see it once more from our second floor balcony. I’m not holding my breath, though.

Poor Rumble has no idea what’s about to hit him.

Toronto: Day 293 (Nice Ice Lady)

When I lived in Alberta, I hated winter. I hated waking up in darkness and leaving school or work in the black.  I hated being wet of foot, dry of skin, and bone-chilled every time I came in from outside. I hated mushing around in heavy winds while snow accumulated on my forehead, melted its way down my face and glued my glasses to my nose.
I hated forty below for weeks on end and occasionally getting into cars that were iceboxes and shivering all the way across town in same, arriving–inevitably–five minutes after the crappy heaters had begun to pretend to kick in.
Here in Southern Ontario, we are reportedly having the worst winter in twenty or so years. It has snowed often. It has been twenty below three or four times.
Now, here, I have a warm feather-filled bag that covers me from crown to toe. I have sweaters, and thermal tights and toasty waterproof boots. Good stuff, none of which had to be bought by a parent who was weighing a certain amount of poverty against the general concept of Why buy quality for a kid who’ll outgrow this all in a year?
Even in the chill, it has been sunny, so sunny. The amount of light here is amazing. Hazy days seem few and far between.
And you may have noticed that I am nuts for icicles.

This isn’t a new thing. I would try to get good icicle pictures in Vancouver, or on our trips to the Prairies to see the kin. Opportunities were few and far between, but I tried. Here… ha! The old gutters on all these picturesque Victorian houses overflow, and ice over, and spill. Constantly! The resulting frozen structures are spectacular. They stay in place until the light’s good. You can get close to and atop them. You can get under.
Which would be how I’ve worked out that any patch of ground beneath a good series of icicles is also slippery as shit.
Anyway. It’s March. Nobody in Vancouver has sent me a crocus photo yet, though I did make a point of telling all my west coast loved ones that they should gloat. This winter, this unusually cold and terrible winter–as the locals would have it–I have been cold and miserable and sad to be outside all of twice.
It feels like I’ve gotten away with something.
I haven’t enjoyed everything. I am a bit tired of bundling up, which is a wearying chore. I have realized or remembered that the primary thing that I dislike about snow is the stage where it’s dirty and festooned in various types of dog waste.
I am also headed somewhere warm in a couple of weeks. And, in the meantime, here’s some ice for you all.