I flew to Toronto, Ontario on Thursday 5 July. The flight was ok; I managed to finish an entire Stephen King novel and was amused by the grumpy old woman next to me rudely asking the parents of a crying child if he was “always like that”. She did lend me her pen to fill in the ridiculous customs card though.
After being grilled by a border control guy for a while, he recommended some good places to take photos. Cheers pretend-stern dude.
I got the Airport Express downtown (wifi on the bus! imagine!) to my digs. I’m staying at the Neill-Wycik Summer Hostel, which is a university halls in its spare time. It’s ok, quite basic, with a high turnover of guests. I haven’t seen the same person in my 4-bed dorm twice.
After checking in I went for a wander down to the edge of Lake Ontario to sit in the sun, work out where the hell I was in relation to everything with my amazing pop-out map (thanks Helia Phoenix and anyone else who was on the Assembly leaving present committee). From there I took the streetcar west to Ossington to go hang out with the lovely Mar Sellars. Spent my first night sat on a fire escape balcony having a few drinks and listening to punk rock.
On the streetcar on the way back, I noticed some advertising for a Canadian Immigration service with the heading ‘You Belong in Canada’. Coming from Britain, where the immigration process involves a ludicrous test that most actual British citizens would fail, that seemed awfully nice.
Friday I started my househunting - I saw two rooms, one really far to the north of downtown, one really far to the east. Both were really nice places with really nice people, but they seemed a little far out of town for me. Especially the one that was a trainride and a busride away. In the evening I went back out wandering, checking out downtown in the dark, neon a go-go.
Saturday I was up early to get up the CN tower (see previous), which was…high. Enjoyed the glass floor bit. I had another room viewing, this time a sublet on Queen St West, which is ideally placed with an art supply shop, a record shop and a food shop in cloce proximity - note importance of food there. The record shop was Rotate This, as recommended by Melissa Beard. It was indeed brilliant, with the best electro 12” selection I’ve seen in ages. Going to have to buy a record player.
That night I went to my first Toronto gig. Headliners were Dusted, which is a reverb-heavy, drums-guitar-keyboard-falsetto side project from Brian Brochdert of Holy Fuck. Support was from the awesome Cousins, who were somewhere between Thee Oh Sees (singer going ‘OW’ a lot with mic in mouth) and Black Keys (bluesy rhythms). Good stuff all round. The bands were weirdly backlit through a terrible stained-glass rendition of what I can only describe as a slightly melted Prince Valiant. Despite that, the venue (Get Well!) was awesome, and served the amazingly-named Flying Monkey Anti-Gravity Pale Ale. Winner.
Yesterday I had an ace day exploring Bloor Street, which is the coolest bit of the city I’ve seen so far, if only for pure geek joy. Comics shops that specialise in comic art books! Book shops which you can barely move in for piles of trashy sci-fi paperbacks! Sonic Boom Records - which has a psychobilly and surf rock section and stocks gig poster prints! I went all emotional.
I also experienced a Hero burger, which was excellent. Although I’m not sure I’d class onions as a condiment. Vanilla coke is alive and well over here too, which is the best drink ever made. After Flying Monkey Anti-Gravity Pale Ale.
Last night I grabbed a massive tub of jellybeans and went to the Scotiabank Theatre to see The Amazing Spiderman. The screen was huge and the sound was MASSIVE and the film was enjoyable, although it’s interesting that a 2 minute Dark Knight Rises trailer can make the following 120 minute movie look a bit shoddy. I had fun, anyhow.
Soooooooo that’s the blow-by-blow update. In general, it’s been an ace couple of days exploring the city on foot and getting my head around where everything is and where the different neighbourhoods meet. Everyone’s really nice and laid back and I feel really comfortable and safe in the city, even late at night. Reminds me of Denmark and Sweden in that sense.
I’m feeling really inspired already and looking forward to finding a room somewhere so I’ve got more of a base and the ability to do some artwork. There’s so much to see and so much to do in the meantime though - just been looking at gigs in the next week or two and Simian Mobile Disco, Hot Chip, Iceage, Murder by Death, Refused and the XX are all coming up. And a rockabilly brunch that I have to check out.
Missing everyone back home; that goes without saying. Sometime you have to leave somewhere to get some perspective on how lucky you are to have such an amazing circle of friends. Looking forward to having a gang on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sorry for the ridiculously long post. Shorter updates once I have a place to live!
Current listening: Battles Dross Glop (Michael Mann has his signature wanky soft rock guitar soundtrack to cityscape scenes; I have Kode9 and The Field remixes), Ben Kweller Changing Horses, Holy Fuck Latin.