Monday, October 09, 2006

10-03-2006 -- Toronto

An exquisite young lady on Yonge street, eyes bright: "Are you guys from Toronto?"

Hands and minds full of overloaded Polish sausage, we answer no, that we are in fact from Edmonton. Her face falls.

"No! I've been looking for you all day!" She glances over at her camera-toting companion with a look of frustration: "Why isn't anybody from here!?"

Seems they were some kind of journalism students -- students of a very lite school, apparently -- working on a fashion streeter, and no natives were rocking the look they were after. So there's your tip for the day, cool hunters; "cleaned-up prairie hoser" is the new black. Load our rural thrift-store racks into cube vans and send them back East, make a killing.

The time is right for Western style to echo back into this grid of gloss and polish; certainly, we've got enough money now to earn the respect of these bottomliners. Toronto is ripe for a renaissance of Albertan bush-party chic... and it'd better happen soon, before Alberta's great pillow of cash smothers our style in the crib -- have you heard, Calgary's getting a motherfuckin' Tiffany's? -- and there's no place left for us but Winnipeg.

It really is a transcanada cosmopolity out here. I never feel more Canadian than when I'm in Toronto. I mean, what could possibly reek more of maple (and other aromas) than playing pickup street hockey in the shadow of the CN Tower with a bunch of Edmonton exiles, passing water-break time discussing the Oilers with a guy who's going to TV comdey-writng college? And also, your goalie's an Indian? All that's missing is the haunting flute theme from Hinterland Who's Who, and maybe a picturesquely beached dory.

The best part about being an Albertan out here is telling Ontarians about what's happeneing back home; they really don't get much in the way of Western news in their crummy papers, so it's fun to watch their faces when you give them the rundown. We were having a toke with a friend outside the Victory Lounge -- some killer weed out here, by the way; that's something we ought not to be smug about -- when we let her have it:

"Yeah, Fort Mac Murray? It's literally being destroyed by money. Housing's so precious, people are paying like five hundred bucks a month for a half-share of a couch to sleep on, or for a driveway spot where they can sleep in their car."

"What?!"

"Oh, yeah! And they're having to close down coffee shops and shit because there's no staff; it's impossible to pay enough. Guys shop at the Wal-Mart in shifts, one guy shopping while the other guys stands in line, because there's only one till open and the lineup goes all the way around the store."

"Fuck!"

Et cetera; by the time we mentioned about the thousand-dollar hiring bonuses at McDonalds, and got through a brief sketch of our one-party state where even River City lefties and toughass unionists are buying Tory memberships just to have a voice in who's running the show, the pot was kicking in and she was pretty freaked out.

And, to be honest, so were we; saying that shit out loud, even with only two days and a comfortable westjetting of distance between ourselves and home, makes it sound just as crazy and gross and money-sick as it actually is. Buzzed on Quebequois biker weed and drunk on unfamiliar draughts, Devo (by way of Nirvana) started running through my head:

Take a step outside the city
And turn around
Take a look at what you are
It is revolting
photo: D. Martineau

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