Monday, April 04, 2005


Is what I am. Toronto is lovely. Even the early-spring snow, wind & rain couldn't hamper my growing enthusiasm for that fine city. I hope to go back as often as possible, to explore and experience as much as I can, though at a warmer, greener time of year.

It's cliche and predictable but in my experience true -- Canadians are, by and large, much nicer, calmer and more civilized than Americans. Yeah, there are assholes in every country, but as far as I can see, the asshole ratio is much higher here than up there. Everywhere we went, people were relaxed, open, generous. The subway is clean and efficient, the Indian meal we had was as good if not better than any I've had in New York, Chinatown is like Chinatown in San Francisco and NY (same smells, sights and sounds -- romantic ballads blasting from tiny appliance/gift shops squeezed between fish markets and noodle eateries), the student/artist/bohemian neighbs lived-in, worn, tattered, though not as dangerous as the Lower East Side free-fire zone of my early NY days. There's no sense of menace or fear. Smiles are common. People are polite to a fault.

Now, I'm being a bit romantic here. But not by much. And the difference between Them and Us was amplified the second we re-entered the US. A gruff border guard, dressed in SWAT attire, mirror shades, loudly barked, "WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN CANADA?!"

"Spent the weekend in Toronto," I smiled back at him.

He looked at my kids in the backseat, then back at me, made a disgusted face and nodded us through.

God Bless America!

Once we were home and unpacked, I went to the store to pick up some provisions for the week. Having had a pleasant experience up north, I wasn't quite ready for the braying, shouting fat Americans running STOP signs, cutting each other off, yelling obscenities out car windows while blasting their horns, one SUV taking up two parking spaces, a HUMMER with a "Kick Their Ass & Take Their Gas" bumpersticker, etc. And in the store, grim faces fit for a Steadman book. I stood in line behind a loud, corpulent woman who was trying to convince the young cashier that a large loaf of bread was two dollars off, though she had no coupon or any proof of this. She kept yakking and complaining till a store manager, who tried to explain to her that there was no discount, finally gave in and shaved two bucks off the bread.

Cheap, greedy, deceitful. Home at last!