Well, these have been a little heavy lately, haven’t they? Let’s lighten it up a bit.
The Lady and I will be looking to move at the end of the month, to someplace slightly smaller and significantly cheaper. We’ve been trying to stay in our neighbourhood if possible but have started looking at the outer edges of the city. We checked out two places tonight at opposite ends of Bloor, one at Woodbine and one at Keele. The eastside place was well constructed and clean, but a tiny basement apartment. The westside place we fell in love with immediately and are seriously hoping we can get, for a bunch of reasons but not the least of which for me is it reminds me so much of Greg and Sarah’s old place.
Thing is, I hated Toronto. Haaaaated it. You could say Charlon bolting for greener pastures was part of it, and hating Toronto is a national pastime anyway, but it’s a little more complex when you’re from where I’m from.
“Ontario stops at London,” goes the joke, popularized in the mid 90s when the Harris Conservative government swept the provincial parliament and Windsor-Essex elected….Liberals and New Democrats. Nice one! 1995 was probably the most dramatic example of a sentiment that permeated most of my adolescence there. After I moved away, people would ask me where I was from and when I told them, they would have no idea where that was. Why would they? There’s no reason to go that far west on the 401, and if you are, you’re probably going through to Detroit, a city that was another problem in itself.
Like I’ve said before, we’re so inundated with American media coming from across the water, we’re caught in this tornado of influences that leave us culturally orphaned, a status we tend to use to champion our own outsider status and individuality: we use our national identity to segregate ourselves from everything we find offensive about America, and our cultural one to push away everything lame about Canada. For a lot of us, a simmering anger can develop, we resent the places that are supposed to be better, and we resent the people who leave to go there [expats, try to tell me your friends and acquaintances don’t put that extra bit of stink in their voices when they ask you, “So you’re in Toronto now?”]. So my ambivalence for the city was something that was well-developed and bred in me from an early age.
So when half of the band I was playing in moved to Toronto for grad school I was less than impressed with the idea of spending more time there for the sake of keeping the band together, but we did an admirable job for a few years, and I spent most of my visits at Greg and Sarah’s place.
A two storey apartment on Runnymede in Bloor West village, Greg and Sarah’s house was a kind of eye-opener to me. Any of my other experiences in Toronto had been in shitty basement apartments in the Annex, or Ryerson residences down near Hooker Harvey’s on Gerard. To spend time in a part of the city that seemed a little more relaxed, a little removed from the swell of humanity that can seem so overwhelming when you first get into it…it was the first time I could begin to see the appeal.
If the Ictus base of operations was the House of Shalom, a monolithic cement brick of a building in Amherstburg, Ontario, Greg and Sarah’s place was the away team locker room. Their commitment to the band kept things going a lot longer than I expected, and took us farther than I ever would have imagined, and I need to thank them for that, publicly. Some of my best band memories are connected to this city, but they have nothing to do with playing music. They have to do with sitting in a Greek restaurant on Bloor with Greg, Sarah and Jeff after a rare run of three shows in a row in three different cities and thinking, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could do this every day of our lives?’ and almost believing we could pull it off. And they have to do with the Mod Club.
This is not my ‘black out, stick a decorative lawn chicken up my ass and puke in the sink’ Mod Club story. You’ll probably never get that one. This is the first time we went.
I can’t remember why we were in the city, it may have been finishing work on our pro demo [instead of the amateur album we made], but I remember we were in good spirits, and in a rare treat our friend Jamie was with us, the sort of guy who’s nondescript when you meet him but becomes a champion when the booze is flowing. I recall once we got to the bar, he promptly made friends with a trio of girls but the music was so loud he couldn’t hear their names when they were introduced. He didn’t have the heart to tell them, and he certainly didn’t let that stop him from playing the gentleman.
“JORD! ” he hollered, leaning into my ear and pointing at the girls, ‘THIS IS CHIGGADA, JAYBLADA, AND KABADA!”
I smiled and waved at the girls who all simultaneously squealed, “Hiiiii!”
It was just that type of night, the type of night you always hope you can have when you lace em up in the first place. We had reached an artistic point we never thought we’d ever pull off, we were in a new city where nobody knew us and we had the freedom to act a fool if we felt like it. And before we went out, we had a Hall & Oates dance party in Greg and Sarah’s living room.
I know it started as hipsterish irony, sipping jugs of homemade cosmopolitans [sissiest metalish band ever] when I put ‘Private Eyes’ on the stereo. By the time Sarah had finished getting ready, the four boys were genuinely enjoying the blue-eyed soul of Darryl and John.
By the time this song reached its outro, like the 3:50 mark, what started as hipster irony had become something transcendent. We loved the music, we loved that moment, we loved the dancing, we loved each other. It was just a really pure moment that we obviously tried to duplicate later, but knew we couldn’t. Not really. Some things just happen.
We left shortly thereafter, and outing that began with my first subway drinking experience and ended with me slow dancing to “The Drugs Don’t Work” by The Verve with a woman whose name I never bothered to ask, we just saw each other across the near empty floor and both decided simultaneously that dancing together would be a good idea. When the song ended, I bowed to her and ran out the door to meet the others. I think that was when I got the creeping, uncomfortable sensation I could like it here.
And I do. Very much. I’ve said before, Toronto is the place where I could be who I always was, but had to be a little quieter about in Windsor. I really hope the Lady and I can continue to make memories in this city in a place that conjures up so many good ones I already have.
Honourable mention: That night at the Mod Clu b, the music stopped for a moment and this band popped up on the screen in a taped segment welcoming us to the club, and wishing us a good night, followed by this song. It kind of blew all of our minds, and hearing the song for the first time, we danced harder than we had all night.