Not any more

Segarini: Canada is Great and Toronto is the Capitol of Cool

In Canada on August 2, 2010 at 17:03

I will not whine about this crappy Laptop

I will not whine about this crappy Laptop

I will not whine about this crappy Laptop

When I first traveled to Canada I was in a band called the Family Tree. The drummer, Vann Slater, and I drove my brand new 1967 Cadillac Eldorado to Vancouver to look for gigs. It was like driving into the past and across an ocean, a place unlike any I had ever been before. I know that sounds funny now, the American and Canadian cultures having blended into a very similar façade, even though the two cultures couldn’t be more different, but at the time, Vancouver was an exotic and mysterious place.

Melius tarde, quam nunquam

There was very little traffic, and it was quiet, civilized. It felt quaint, yet more mature than how cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle had felt.

On further inspection an almost alternative universe quality pervaded everything, a surreal take on familiar objects that suddenly were no longer familiar.

Cigarettes with names like ‘Envoy, ‘Players’, and ‘Craven A’ instead of ‘Camels’, Marlboro’, and ‘Kent’. There was beer in odd little stubby bottles with names like ‘Labatt 50’, O’Keefe’, and ‘Molson Export’, instead of ‘Coors’, ‘Falstaff’, and ‘Pabst Blue Ribbon’. Potato chips? ‘Hostess’ instead of ‘Lays’. Even the candy bars had different names…and all the above paid for with money that (to a California boy) looked all too similar to Monopoly money. We were strangers in a strange land.

That is, until we found Gastown.

Suddenly, we were on Sunset Strip, in the Haight, and surrounded by longhaired musician/hippie-types, and the familiar sound of rock and roll wafting out of bars that had embraced live music. And what live music it was!

Thus began my ongoing love affair with Canada.

As a result of that fact finding mission, we played a lot of dates in Vancouver at places like Gassy Jack’s, and the Retinal Circus, which was owned by the future comedian/THC activist, Tommy Chong, and made regular forays into Canada every time we played the Pacific Northwest. In 1968, my next band, Roxy, flew East of the Rockies for the first time and played in Toronto, a trip detailed in an earlier column, and the eye-opener that led to my eventual move to Canada four years later. Ever since, Canada has been my ‘home and native land’. I am still here because the love affair has never ended. The places, the music, and most importantly, the people, all give perfect reasons to embrace this country as the best place on Earth to hang your hat, ply your trade, and live your life.

The love affair with Canada started in Vancouver, became obsessive with repeated visits to Montreal which culminated with the next band, The Wackers, moving there, and became a lifelong commitment 5 years later with a move to Toronto and  a career that

continues to evolve and has currently landed me in front of the world’s shittiest computer banging these columns out in my underwear and being constantly interrupted by Minnow and Bagel, two kitties who seem to think that the best place to stand around is between me and the keyboard, unless they want to sit, in which case the keyboard must be mighty comfortable indeed.

I have often called Toronto the ‘greatest city in North America’, and I believe that even more these days. The late British actor, Peter Ustinov, once deemed Toronto, “New York run by the Swiss”, Buckminster Fuller called it “The Golden City”, and lately, the Huffington Post had this to say as reported by Katherine Scarrow in Yahoo! Canada News, who also namechecks some other words of praise from various American publications:

Let’s face it. We love it when our country is praised. It’s especially sweet when the compliment comes from our neighbours south of the border.
So when one of the
U.S.’s most influential media outlets bestows a distinctive honour on Canada’s largest city, we sit up and take note.
This week, Huffington Post dubbed Toronto ‘ the new capital of cool‘ – an accolade city dwellers may find both flattering and surprising in the wake of the G20 Summit, where images of police in riot gear and the ominous security fence dominated the media. What exactly makes
Toronto so cool? For Lauri Lyons, it’s all about culture and diversity. With five million people, 200 ethnic groups and 130 languages, Toronto is a regular ‘mash-up of globalization and daily life coming together.’

For Torontonians, this fact came into sharp focus during the World Cup as pockets of the city – from Little Italy to Greektown – buzzed with energy and excitement. You couldn’t pass a bar that wasn’t crammed with fans, or cross a street without spotting vehicles adorned with a panoply flags.
The renewal of ‘once dodgy but now trendy areas’ also played favourably with the writer, who highlights the more obvious regions of the city undergoing change, including West Queen, Ossington and King West.
But as most in
Toronto know, these fashionable hubs are just the tip of the iceberg. Neighbourhoods like Leslieville, the Junction and the Waterfront are also enjoying revitalization and there are certainly more to come.

No one can deny the number and scale of Toronto’s street festivals and commitment to art.Luminato, TIFF and Nuit Blanche have become world-class events, and have only grown in popularity since their debuts. The Gladstone Hotel is recognized for its innovative art programs, and that’s not even to mention the Art Gallery of Ontario, which underwent a multi-million dollar transformation in 2008.
When it comes to Canadian cuisine, you’d be hard-pressed to find better gourmet food than in Toronto, says Lyons, who describes the fare as ‘local, natural, healthy and delicious.’
Of course the Huffington Post isn’t the first publication to paint
Toronto in favourable colours. In theNew York Times series ‘36 Hours,’ the reviewer observes the city to be ‘oddly clean and orderly,’ calling Torontonians ‘polite to a fault’ but not dull. The serious brunch business, trendy bar scene, impressive architecture and inventive dim sum are also underscored in the article.
The Wall Street Journal also praises
Toronto, calling it a ‘road trip just about every pro athlete looks forward to.’ With its freedom from paparazzi, growing diversity and vibrant club scene, the city is deemed chic and discreet. For the record, the WSJ also declared Toronto’s Chinese food better than New York’s, even though New York holds the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia.


I share the above with you as a foundation for the rest of this week’s columns. Coming up this week, an explanation of why there was a dearth of blogs last week (not an excuse), and an attempt to share with you the vibrancy of a city once regarded as a dozy Protestant backwater whose sidewalks rolled up with the sunset, and whose residents quietly went about their business, heads down and feet-a-shuffling, occasionally outraged enough to lash out as only good Torontonians did when they’d had enough…they wrote a Letter to the Editor.

Toronto has blossomed into a city where there are not enough hours in the day to do everything there is to do, people whose good moods and positive attitudes challenge the pessimism, anger, and unease proffered by our American and European cousins, and sets an example of how small communities can thrive within the confines of a large, ever expanding city, cultures meeting without clashing, a buffet rather than a melting pot, of differences, ideas, and multi-cultural wealth unrivaled anywhere.

Next: Party down, Garth…Party down, Wayne: 10 Musical Days in hangovers.

That’s enough for now. Email me at segarini@fyimusic.ca with your comments, complaints, and thoughts…and remember…don’t believe a word I say.

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

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