Tag Archives: Toronto

Bright and early, the adventure begins

We got to sleep at 11 which meant we hoped for a 3.25-hour nap before our departure for the airport. But our airline (Sunwing) decided it would be a GREAT idea to send me a text message at 1 a.m. to let me know that the flight was on time. So that woke me up and I’m still awake.

Life isn’t so bad in this part of Pearson airport, however. There are iPad lounges everywhere, where you can waste time online for free while you wait for your flight to leave. I am reading a newspaper in hard copy instead (yesterday’s Globe and Mail) but I’m appreciating the comfortable seats and the fact that if I suddenly get the urge to buy something at Victoria’s Secret, I can: even if it is only 4:50 a.m


Public Transit: Telling Tales on Two Cities

Recent stories and editorials in The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and elsewhere have accused a surprising number of Toronto Transit Commission employees of unprofessional conduct, ranging from sleeping in their ticket booths, to texting behind their wheels, to pushing the passengers around. To add to the TTC’s besmirched reputation, several of its vehicles have recently been involved in accidents that have left motorists and pedestrians seriously injured and even dead.

There are two sides to everything of course, and out of the hundreds and hundreds of drivers and other employees, this rash of incidences of inattention and frustrated behaviour is probably representative of a small minority. Most of the drivers I’ve run into as I wend my way through Toronto almost exclusively by public transit have been helpful, friendly, attentive and — for the most part — apologetic when something wasn’t working or they couldn’t answer questions. Some have even gone out of their way to help passengers with problems, remind them of an upcoming stop that they have asked about, and patiently listened to the nutbars who stand next to them and yak on and on about religion and politics as the drivers try to steer through traffic and snow to their appointed destinations.

My sympathies for transit staff increased when I read this excellent article in Toronto Life about the impact of “subway jumpers” on the drivers who become their unwilling killers.

It’s true that there are lots of problems with the transit system here — long subway delays (sometimes because of the aforementioned jumpers) are part of the fabric of daily life. When I was at a hospital recently for a minor procedure, I noticed a form that staff needed to fill out to indicate the status of scheduled patients, and one of several boxes that could be checked to indicate the reason for a patient’s non-appearance was “delayed on subway.”

Still, it hasn’t been so long since I lived in a city where the only “rapid transit” was the occasional cab driver who drove too fast, where buses sometimes appeared earlier than the appointed hour and if you missed them, you could be left standing in lethal cold for an entire half hour or longer before the next one came along, and where driver rudeness and inattention seemed more the rule than the exception. On one occasion a bus I was taking to a meeting drew up to a regular stop, and the driver quietly called in to central office for a repair team and then sat and waited for it, without bothering to inform the passengers that the bus would not be going anywhere for quite a while. In the meantime, several other buses went past to which we might have transferred.

So I am not complaining here in my new city. I am still astonished at the number of buses and streetcars that show up on a regular basis throughout downtown Toronto, and I still see the subway as a modern miracle—even if it is apparently outdated and slow compared to those of other large cities. But I also understand why everyone else here is frustrated. This, to them, is like Saskatoon Transit was to me (and apparently still is to those who continue to reside in that otherwise warm, friendly and accommodating prairie city).


Note: I have pretty much stopped posting to this blog. After a year and a bit I no longer consider myself a newcomer to Toronto. But I do still blog, fairly often, and you can check out my other writing locations here:

I’m All Write: Some thoughts and an occasional update for those who don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter

The Militant Writer: My flagship blog — I am militant about lots of stuff, and I think other writers should be too

Notions: Observations on life that I can’t think where else to put

Book Reviews:  An occasional blog

Film and Movie Reviews: Another occasional blog

Fiction Tips and Writing Tips for Bloggers are even more occasional

Some of my Short Stories

A Costly Mistake, but all is well.

Post 24

There are advantages to moving to a new city five months before your belongings arrive. One of them is that you are calm and collected when the boxes and furniture are delivered, and you are not already exhausted when you start to unpack. I am taking my time and enjoying re-discovering what I own. The move was not, however, quite the triumph I had hoped it would be from a financial point of view.

At storage unit in Saskatoon

On the morning of Sunday, April 18, right at the appointed hour (i.e., at 8 a.m.), Country Wide Movers/Allied Van Lines arrived at my storage unit in Saskatoon to pick up my belongings and bring them to Toronto. Three weeks prior to that, I had sent out quote requests to seven or eight movers. Four replied –with five estimates. The two lowest bids both came from the same company – Two Small Men with Big Hearts. (One of their estimates was for $2,300 and the other for $2.760 for the same weight and distance.) The other three were about $1,000 more. After checking on-line for the reputations of all four companies that submitted estimates, I took the lowest of the three higher bids (all of which were within $100 of one another): the one from Country Wide Movers/Allied Van Lines.

Due to the small print and confusing layout of the estimate (see below), plus the fact that it was so close in amount to the other two acceptable bids, I neglected to notice that the Country Wide quote was based on a weight of 3,000 lbs while the others were based on a weight of 4,000 lbs. I did realize that all companies would weigh the truck before and after they had loaded the goods, and revise their estimates based on the actual weight. However, if most companies figured that my belongings would weigh at least 4,000 lbs based on the list I had provided (which included 30 to 40 2 x 2 ft. boxes of books), why didn’t Country Wide?

Still, the fault is mine for not reading more closely. Never assume anything when it comes to a moving company. Or any cost estimate, I suppose.

As it turned out, the actual weight of my possessions was about 4,600 lbs, so my charge from Country Wide ended up being about $1,000 more than the estimate. In the long run, I could have got the move cheaper from ANY of the other companies. Stupid me.

Allied did do a good job of moving my things efficiently and safely from Saskatoon to Toronto. They arrived for the pickup exactly when they said they would, and they delivered when they said they would. Both times the driver called the night before to double-check the time and the address. I was very happy with the driver and his assistants in both Saskatoon and Toronto. It was only the estimator who did not leave me feeling very pleased. Considering how many problems people have with movers, I guess I should be contented that nothing else went wrong — but money is money, especially when you’re moving and so many other costs are involved. As far as I’m concerned, $1,000 is a lot of money at any time.

By the way, the Government of Canada has a very good checklist for consumers when it comes to choosing a mover. I highly recommend that others (even non-Canadians!) read it before undertaking any major move. It’s located here: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca02029.html

My apartment before the movers arrived...

And now I have all my belongings in one place. All I have to do is unpack and figure out where to put everything. I have had no second thoughts about moving to Toronto. I am already finding more work here as a freelancer than I have had before, and I’m busy with social activities, visitors from the west and south, and events I want to take in solo or with other people. And I still love the subway. 🙂

... and after the delivery

It was a good decision for me, and I am one happy former-Saskatoonie-former-Edmontonian-former-Londoner(ON)-former-Wainwrightian-current-Torontonian.

The estimate from Country Wide

Okay. I’m moved. Now what?

Post #22

I sat down to write an update to this blog and realized that I am now pretty much settled. There is still administrative stuff to do, and lots of parts of Toronto to explore, but I don’t feel like a newcomer here. I find myself as irritated with the phone company as I was in Saskatoon, and in Edmonton before that, which means I must be home. I even got myself a family physician last week.

Spring in the city

I’ve read that it takes a full year to get used to new surroundings and completely feel at home, but since I think it is likely that I’ll be moving to a new apartment when the first year in Toronto is up (just to get myself a bit more room), I can only say, “It’s never over till it’s over.” And I hope it will be a very long time before it is!

Anyway, anything further that I could write about Toronto now would be the same kinds of things a visitor would tell you – they would include my first trips to the St. Lawrence and the Kensington Markets, the Bata Shoe Museum (a pretty cool place, I must say: they have a pair of Elton John’s shoes there, and a pair of Marilyn Monroe’s, and Terry Fox’s, and Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s. Not to mention a lot of intriguing shoe history), or seeing the King Tut show at the Art Gallery of Ontario – a building to which I want to return soon, to admire the building itself. It was designed by Frank Gehry, who is originally from Toronto.

Those are some boots! At Bata Shoe Museum

So I am going to abandon this blog for the most part, and move on to the next stage of my life with a brand new blog, The Whole Clove Diet Chronicles, where I am hoping you will rejoin me. Here’s the basis for that one:

After six years of trying to find an agent and a publisher for my third novel, I am about to take the self-publishing leap. I intend to prove that in this era of book-publishing uncertainty, for certain novels (my own being a prime example) self-publishing can be a far better choice than the traditional route.

Unfortunately, while I was looking for an agent, I was also eating too many M&Ms. So in preparation for all the media stuff I’m sure I’ll need to do (appearances on The Today Show, Ellen Degeneres, and Perez Hilton), I am about to apply the techniques set out in The Whole Clove Diet to get my svelte self back.

I’m blogging it all (the weight loss and the self-publishing) here:


Alexander Muir Park

Thank you all for your support throughout this move!

Stepping out

Post #18

Despite how it may have sounded in previous posts (and how it sometimes feels), I have not spent all of my time in the past six weeks moving boxes and their contents around my new living space or wandering around Yonge Street and the roads that intersect it looking for Crazy Glue, Mrs. Dash (original version), a doormat and some Christmas presents.

Here are some of the places to which, so far, I have ventured beyond my home turf:

  • Sotto Sotto Trattoria on Avenue Road near Bloor—apparently one of Toronto’s toniest restaurants, and who am I to disagree? At 8:30 p.m. on the warm Saturday evening in November when a friend and I dined there, would-be patrons formed a line down the block, waiting for the first shift to be finished so they could get to the tables they’d reserved. And when we were finished our dinner at close to 10:30 p.m., another whole phalanx of the chic and slender were waiting to take our seats. The entryway and several walls at Sotto Sotto feature photos of famous people who have eaten there—Brad Pitt, Tim Robbins and Elton John, to name a few. The proximity of the restaurant to the upscale hotels where film folk often stay when they’re in town is rumoured to be a reason for its popularity (according to one review I read, the locals come there either to see who they can see, or not to be seen themselves, depending on who they are), but the food has something to do with its acclaim as well. The fare was outstanding from the antipasto to the espresso, although pricey—as one might expect from a tiny award-winning restaurant that is nevertheless big enough to have its own sommelier. I had a magnificent veal entrée that I am certain would have been capable of melting in my mouth if I had given it the time. The atmosphere of the restaurant, which is  several steps below street level, is candlelit and intimate—effectively evoking a grotto, as intended;

    CN Tower in the rain

  • Bloor Street United Church, where a friend and I attended a recital by soprano Maria Knight. Ms. Knight, who looked beautiful and sang stunningly as well, proved herself a trouper by hitting each sweet note bang on in spite of the fact that the heat in the church was on the fritz and her arms were bare. The rest of us were so chilly we kept our coats on. Ms. Knight was accompanied by an outstanding pianist, David Eliakis, and the Artelli String Quartet from Guelph supported her exquisite rendition of Chausson’s “Chanson perpétuelle.” I was also beguiled by the occasional rumblings of the subway making its way through the ground beneath our feet. I am in love with the subway;
  • The waterfront of Lake Ontario, downhill from the elegant and lovely old section of Toronto called The Beaches, where a friend and I skipped stones into the water (I am no better at that in November than I am in July, I discovered. In the west, lakes freeze in winter, and skipping stones becomes much easier) and ate brunch at The Beacher Café. I spent some time considering how nice (and expensive) it would be to live in an apartment across the street from Lake Ontario;
  • Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, where I heard Handel’s Messiah performed by Tafelmusik. At $25, my seat put me in perfect line to see the shoes of the orchestra and the noses and skirts/trouser legs of the soloists, but the sound was unimpaired and it was an outstanding presentation. Tafelmusik is considered by many critics to be one of the finest Baroque orchestras (and chorus) in the world, and many of the musicians perform on period instruments, and I was honoured to have heard them perform in their own space;

    I also went out to Yonge St. on December 17 and watched the Olympic Torch go by

  • The Monarch Tavern near Korea Town for a well attended launch of four books by Mansfield Press, not to mention the celebration of the nomination of one of the press’s poets, David McFadden, for a Governor General’s award;
  • Sherwood Park near my apartment, which is a beautiful section of the miles and miles of well-treed valley through the city. I look forward to running and walking there frequently;
  • The Toronto Centre for the Arts to see Jersey Boys – the musical that tells the tale of the rise to fame of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The music was great and the facility was outstanding: there is not a bad seat in the house (and I know because I was in the back row, and only occasionally even felt inclined to put my opera glasses to use).

I have also been to a Starbucks on Queen Street near Strachan (pronounced “Strawn”) where I met my friend Mary who was visiting from Edmonton, and I’ve walked down Bay Street to Front Street near Harbourfront (where I once read) with my friend Nik from Regina. We admired the art-deco architecture of the Bay Street bank buildings and he introduced me to two of the more interesting bookstores I’ve ever been in – Ben McNally Books on Bay, and Nicholas Hoare on Front. I’ll be going back to both as soon as my ship comes in. (The stores are handily located near the waterfront, so it won’t take me long to get there from the ship.)

Art-deco entranceway, 320 Bay Street

I have managed to get myself to all these places by subway and trolley bus, almost without a hitch. (I do have to stop and orient myself sometimes before I can proceed.) I love the transit system here.

You say tomato and I say tomato

Here is a list of a few more things I have found unfamiliar in Toronto. I don’t know whether the unfamiliarity is because I have been living in western Canada for so long, or because I have been living in smaller-than-Toronto cities for so long, or because Toronto just has its own way of doing things (and therefore these things would be unfamiliar even if I came from Montréal), but:

  • Rather than parking meters, one per car, there are ticket dispensers, usually one per block, where a person buys a ticket for a given length of time to place on the dashboard, like in a parking lot;
  • There are little apron-sized parks, maybe a quarter of a city block square, that are called “parkettes” and are named after people or things;
  • I hear people on the street say the word “fuck” far less often than I do out west;
  • (on the other hand) I hear many more drivers telling other drivers to smarten up by blasting their car horns at them;
  • There are more hybrid cars here, I think, than there are in Edmonton or Saskatoon (or in New York, for that matter).  I often notice that there is a lot of traffic, but hardly any car noise;
  • Lesser streets meet major streets in a staggered fashion. The stoplights are usually at the bigger intersections, and the only crosswalks are there too, so often one needs to walk at least four blocks to legally cross a major street. This creates interesting strategy problems when it comes to choosing how to hit specific stores on a shopping excursion without walking miles farther than necessary;
  • There is one major intersection somewhere (I can’t remember where I saw it) where all the lights turn red at once, so pedestrians can cross in any direction—including diagonally—at the same time;
  • Liquor stores are still run by the government, and so is the place where you have to go to get a driver’s license, a new health-care card, or other documentation from the province. Good old Ralph Klein really spoiled us Albertans in this area with all his privatization: the wait to apply for an Ontario driver’s license was  2.5 hours the day that I went to the Ontario Services office near Bloor and College (and that was during a strike by people who do the road tests which would,  I think, have reduced the number of people waiting in line considerably from the norm).

Speaking of that application…  as of earlier this week, I have an Ontario driver’s license! I must, therefore, be an Ontarioan. An Ontarioite? A Torontonian, at least. But until I stop noticing the strange things that happen here (and appreciating the weather) I won’t really be a Torontonian.

In the meantime, I’m happy to report that the people here are much friendlier and warmer than most people who live in Western Canada think they are.

Don’t forget the can-opener, and carry your umbrella

Post #17

Why would anyone bring 25 bottles of nail polish with her to Toronto, but leave her can-opener and every single knife, fork and spoon she owns in a storage unit in Saskatoon?

My "I need it now!" belongings arrive from Saskatoon

This is just one of the many odd decisions that have come to light as I was unpacking all the boxes and suitcases I’ve been schlepping around with me for a month. But I have done it—unpacked and stowed it all.

Almost everything survived the Greyhound shipment from Saskatoon to Edmonton and the subsequent shipment from Edmonton to Toronto in good order—with the possible exception of the boxes themselves, which arrived in coherent but poor condition. I have the feeling that if they had been transferred between vehicles one more time, they would have fallen to pieces and my belongings would have been strewn everywhere.

I would recommend to anyone who wants to ship by Greyhound that they eschew cardboard in favour of something sturdier, like large Rubbermaid containers. Also, they should take into account during the packing phase that some of the items are likely to arrive upside down. But in general, I was most satisfied with the condition in which my goods arrived: only one item was actually damaged, and that was an umbrella that apparently came unsprung during the trip—its handle emerging through the corner of one of the cardboard boxes where it was exposed to the vicissitudes of life in the fast lane.

The busted brolly

In short, I highly recommend Greyhound—to the point where, with the cost of taking luggage onto airplanes, particularly in the U.S., I would even give serious consideration to shipping some of my belongings by Greyhound if I were going on an extended vacation.  (As long as I could be sure the luggage would arrive before I was leaving for home again. But that can be a problem with luggage that goes with you by air as well.)

My New Apartment

The apartment I selected (and to which I have now signed a one-year lease, as is fairly standard around here) is near Yonge St., about a kilometre from Eglinton. A friend from Toronto tells me that the nickname of this part of town is “Yonge and Eligible,” and there are certainly lots of young, well dressed and attractive people living in this area, but “Yonglinton” seems easier to say so I am going with that.

The rent in this apartment is sort-of equivalent to what I paid for a similar-sized space in Saskatoon — when you take into consideration that there utilities were extra and here they are included. This place also offers a microwave in addition to the dishwasher and air conditioner (the latter of which works, I hope, unlike the one in Saskatoon). On the other hand, I have no storage to speak of. (Mind you, at the moment I have nothing to store, so it is fine.) There is also no parking. But I don’t have a car.

Sleeping quarters with no bugs

You may be amused to know that one of my considerations for taking this apartment was that it did not appear on The Bedbug Registry. Bedbugs are a big issue here in Toronto, as they are in apartments and hotels in other parts of North America, particularly in the east, and I’ve seen more than one mattress sitting on the sidewalk out front of a Toronto apartment building waiting for the garbage truck.

Seating area

Positive features of this neighbourhood include lots of small (and several chain) shops, grocery stores, produce outlets, flower shops, ethnic, funky and classy restaurants and a lot of movie theatres. I had the best piece of pizza I have ever tasted (maybe I was just really really hungry. It was pesto pizza. It was great) at a tiny Italian place just around the corner from here, and the next day bought olive oil, balsamic vinegar and grapeseed oil at another Italian take-out. In the past two weeks, I’ve eaten at one of several Thai restaurants in the neighbourhood and demolished an outstanding burger and a great curried-chicken wrap. (It is lovely to have no groceries, cutlery or can opener for several days, but the party’s over now. Speaking of parties, I also enjoyed a cupcake, chocolate icing on chocolate cake, for my birthday, from a cupcake store. There is also a chocolate shop which I’ve been avoiding, and a tea store that I am looking forward to visiting.) I have shopped at a place that sells boxes and trays and hangers to help get you organized, a kitchen shop, a bath and bedding shop, and I even bought a shirt and skirt, on sale. I’ve also done a lot of window shopping: a person with a lot of money could have a very good time here.

On Monday, after I had picked up the key to my new apartment, I rented a car for 24 hours and went downtown to the Greyhound express courier station on Front St., and collected my packages and luggage. Then I tried to think of all the other things I should do while I had a car, and to get as much of it done as possible. That included some shopping at Canadian Tire and Future Shop, and retrieving the luggage I had been using while I was at my friend Pat’s house. (We had a lovely farewell supper at her table, attended as always by about four of her six cats. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my camera at that point.)

The Dining Area

The days since are a bit of a blur but I’ve nearly walked my feet off getting all the things I needed to get in order to subsist until I can figure out how best to get my stored belongings here from Saskatoon and Edmonton. There is still lots to do, but I have the important stuff at last—a home phone number, a local cell number, high-speed internet and television (go, Riders!). I took the subway to Staples at Yonge and Marlborough to buy a table for my computer, then took a cab home. Then I did it again the next day because I liked the table so much I decided I wanted two! (I have now put the phone number to Beck Taxi into my iPhone so I don’t have to look it up again.)

One evening I walked 2.5 k to a Home Hardware to pick up cleaning supplies, and another day I walked back up to the dentist’s on Lawrence and Yonge for part II of my root canal. I’ve done several hikes for groceries. So I am really beginning to feel as though I belong in this area, and today I even got some work done on my novel, so I am also feeling inspired. I’ve also seen two movies—mainly just to take a break before the TV got hooked up.

Home Entertainment Centre

The work area: ready to go!

As you will see from the photos here, I am what could be described as “sparsely furnished” at the moment, but I have everything I need to resume work as a writer and editor, so I am good to go.  In a few days, I will write a post about the places I’ve been outside this neighbourhood (no moss on me!) and a few more differences I’ve observed between Toronto and the West. I’m classifying this as a “during the move” post because I still don’t have the furniture, books, etc. that would allow me to consider myself completely “moved.” But I’m on track and feeling optimistic.

CN Tower in the mi(d)st

In which Mary is grateful for a pair of good shoes

Post #16

Today I went to drop off an application to rent an apartment. The apartment itself is near to where I am staying now, but the rental-management company’s office is closer to downtown; it is, according to Google maps, 6.3 kilometres from here. It was a lovely day for a walk and I decided that I could use the exercise — and that by walking, I would gain a better sense of at least a small portion of my new city. There was no way I could get lost (even if I hadn’t had the Maps app on my iPhone, which I do): from the house where I’ve been staying, a few blocks north of Eglinton, I simply needed to walk straight down Yonge Street to a few blocks south of Bloor, then turn east for three blocks. Simple.

I planned that after I dropped off my application, I would stop for a coffee, Google some information about the transit system, and return home either by bus or subway.

Would-be transit users stranded at Bloor and Yonge.

I enjoyed my stroll, which took just over an hour. I noticed lots of stores and restaurants and a library I intend to investigate more fully when I have more time—not to mention the scenic expanses of Mount Pleasant Cemetery (“We have lots of vacancies!” the sign outside announces) which clearly merits an investigation of its own some day.

When I got to Yonge and Bloor, however, I began to suspect that my return trip might be more complicated than I’d hoped. I could barely get past the subway station there because hundreds and hundreds of people were standing on the sidewalk and more were pouring out of the station (thousands, I learned later), being herded into line by TTC security and police. The streets out front were jammed with cars, buses, taxis, and television news trucks.

After I dropped off my application, I went to a Second Cup, where I checked the Toronto Star website.  The lead story told me that a private contractor had somehow damaged a tunnel near Bloor and Yonge and the subway line had been closed.

So I walked home again. I had lots and lots of company on the return trip – although most of the other pedestrians were on their cell phones trying to find someone they knew to come and save them from the enforced hike. The special “subway express” buses that had been pressed into service to help relieve the commuter congestion were packed, and cab drivers were taking on three or four fares with different destinations at a time. The happiest looking person I saw was a man with an electric scooter. Next happiest was a woman who was telling someone on her cell phone that she had decided she was “just going to walk. It’s a good day for a walk.” I agree with that approach under normal circumstances, but after 12.6 kilometres (most of the return trip of which was uphill) today, I am planning no expeditions for tomorrow.

Welcome to the big city, Mary.

The cultural/social differences between prairie Canada and Toronto continue to present themselves: albeit subtly. Yesterday, after I’d had Part One of an emergency root canal, I decided to get a frappuccino for a late lunch. I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I knew it was going to be hours before the freezing came out of my face enough that I could eat anything that required chewing. But when I placed my order at Starbucks, the barista looked astonished. She said to me, “You do know you have ordered a frozen coffee, right?” I assured her that I did know what I’d ordered. It wasn’t until I heard a few people complaining about the cold weather (I think it had gone all the way down to zero, but it was sunny) that I realized why she had asked me: I guess Torontonians don’t often order frozen coffees in November. I’ll have to be careful not to make myself stand out from the crowd in future.

Also in Toronto, as compared to Edmonton and Saskatoon, there are:

  • Many many more tailors, which makes sense because there are also
  • Many many more people who are perfectly tailored!

There are also

  • Fewer people who are overweight
  • More people who honk their horns at other drivers and
  • Many more people carrying cases containing violins, cellos and other musical instruments (unless they contain machine guns, of course. I didn’t think to ask).

My First Two Days in Toronto

Post #15

Mere hours after I had landed, my host and I were out walking through a balmy (for November) Toronto evening along Yonge Street near Eglinton – an area where I immediately felt at home. By the time we had returned to her house, I had started a list of apartments in the area with “for rent” signs; many of them are listed on viewit.ca or other similar websites, where there are photos and some general information you can look at before calling for the details.


The back garden of my host

Since there are so many sources of listings of apartments here, and all of them seem to divide up the city in different ways, it can be frustrating to try to figure out which apartments are in the part of town you are interested in living in unless you know the names of all the streets in the area – and the various names by which their neighbourhoods may be known.

The easiest way to find an apartment is to walk around and take pictures of the ones you like and jot down notes about them. Yesterday I took a couple of hours to do that – it allowed me a lovely stroll through well-treed old neighbourhoods. The temperature went to 13 (55F) yesterday so I was really too warm in my all-weather coat.

It is reassuring to see that there are quite a few apartments for rent. Some of them are well beyond my reach, of course, but some are manageable. It has been my hope to find a two-bedroom apartment in which I would use the second bedroom as a den and guest room, but last night I considered that perhaps I was being silly: I can make do with a one-bedroom for now, and conserve a little money every month. So I am open to renting either a one- or two-bedroom at this point, and it will come down to what’s available at what cost, what utilities need to be added on each month, the availability of laundry facilities on-site, and whether or not there is air-conditioning.

When I arrived at the Toronto airport on Saturday night I thought how much of a different feeling I would have had if I’d been arriving from Sri Lanka, Kurdistan or Hong Kong to start a new life here. But it still seemed pretty momentous. I have moments of great misgiving about what I am trying to do, but this is familiar territory to me and I am sure that I am doing the right thing for me, and that gives me confidence. So far the only “cultural” differences I’ve noticed between here and western Canada are that the taxi driver assumed I’d sit in the backseat rather than the front, which I prefer anyway, and (unlike in Saskatoon but similar to Edmonton) drivers actually come to a stop when there is a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

My host has been more than kind – and I’ve already booked an appointment with her dentist for the tooth that broke last Thursday and has been nagging at my tongue ever since. She has fed me, given me a comfortable bed to sleep in, and driven me all over this part of Toronto so I can orient myself. I am very fortunate to have been taken in by such a kind and helpful person!

A place to stay — and a place to run

Post #3

Last week, I sent friends and relatives on my email contact list an announcement of my impending move, and a link to this new blog. That list includes several people I’ve known since childhood. A family friend I haven’t seen in at least 40 years responded almost immediately to invite me to stay in her basement bed- and bath-room suite in North Toronto while I am looking for a place to rent. I have now accepted her kind offer with deep gratitude. (Thank you again, Pat!)

I had intended that this week I would start to look for a furnished suite that I could rent for a few weeks while I was looking for a permanent address. I’d had a look at Craigslist and a few other on-line sites that advertise furnished suites that are available on a weekly or monthly basis. I was going to follow up on those more seriously, and put a notice onto a few of my on-line forums to see if anyone wanted to sublet for a month or so. However, to have now had that part of my to-do list eliminated before I even really started on it is simply wonderful, and the fact that Pat is centrally located and close to public transit is icing on the cake.

One of the first things I did after I accepted Pat’s invitation was to figure out how far she was from the Toronto Running Room stores and/or the Y. I was delighted to discover that there is a Running Room less than a kilometre from her house. The Running Room stores all have “run clubs” that go out on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings, with different groups doing different paces. Everyone at every stage and speed is welcome. (Increasingly these stores now offer walking clubs as well for those who are not into running.) These and similar outlets are great resources for finding safe running trails in unfamiliar cities.

I am not an athlete. I’ve never been one—I skated in winter and swam in summer as a kid, but that was about it. Just after my second son was born I took an aerobics class, and ever since then I’ve been a recreational-level fitness fanatic (although admittedly an inconsistent and often inactive one. Sometimes my weekly exercise consists only of admiring people on television who are cycling or running). Running (or, more precisely, “jogging” in my case) is my favourite activity. Even my slow pace is enough to get the endorphins firing after twenty minutes or half an hour and the fresh air and small calorie burns are bonuses. Even at nearly 60, running is still a pretty good activity for me—especially when I do it.

One of the biggest drawbacks to living on the frozen prairie is that there always comes a point in the winter when running outside is not possible for an extended period—it is too cold and/or the roads and sidewalks are too slick. Getting downtown to the Y to find an alternate activity also seems to require too much courage in such weather. So inevitably, I stop. Getting started again when spring comes and the sidewalks are finally less treacherous is always hard. I worry that some year I will not start again at all, and so I had this thought: if I move to a place where I don’t have to stop running for more than a few days in a row, and if I keep on running all year round, then I’ll never have to start running again. This reasoning makes perfect sense to me: especially when I’m high on endorphins.

I finally have got myself back to the point where I’m running four days a week. I know that one key to my successful transition to Toronto is going to be to ensure that I continue to work out consistently. If I let that go during the move, it will be hard to get started again – there will always be something else I need to do more. In addition to boosting my spirits and my self-confidence, of course, exercise also builds my energy and strength. I’m going to need lots of those resources if I’m going to get all the packing done and do everything else I need to do in the next few weeks and months. I can’t afford to let the workouts slide.

So the Google map of Toronto with its little red balloons that showed the proximity of Pat’s house to a Running Room was a very welcome sight.

Why Toronto? Why now? Why not?

The Back Story

As my fifties draw to a close, I find myself with the opportunity to choose where I want to live. My two (fantastic, interesting) adult sons are well established with careers, families and communities of their own – one on the east coast of the USA, the other in western Canada. I can’t live near both of them, and if I lived close to one and not the other, charges of favouritism might occur. (“How come she has to live in the same city as me? How come you get all the breaks?”)

I am currently living in Saskatoon, which is a city with a truly lovely river valley, a beautiful university campus and lots of fascinating people. But it’s a small city and very home- and family-focussed. There’s just not enough for me to do here: especially in winter when, since I do not own a car, I am mainly trapped indoors by icy sidewalks that whip my feet out from under me on a regular basis, and blisteringly cold winds that turn minus 20 (tolerable and even pleasant) into minus 40 or worse (intolerable).

Due to a recent escalation in the cost of rental units in Saskatchewan, I cannot afford to live in Saskatoon any more than I can afford to live anywhere else. I live mostly hand-to-mouth because since I was about 30, I have stupidly put fiction-writing ahead of earning income on my priority list. But I do have a non-fiction book coming out this fall that will allow me to offer workshops and do consulting work almost anywhere in North America, the U.K., or even Australia and New Zealand. Maybe even Mexico and India, if I’m lucky.

Where to go?

So, I asked myself, if I am free to scrabble (and scribble) for a living in the city of my choice, where do I want to be? The only thing I knew for sure was that for now at least I wanted to be in Canada.

Prior to coming to Saskatchewan in the early 2000s, I spent about four decades in Edmonton, Alberta. I have many wonderful long-time friends there who open their arms (and homes) to me whenever I go back to visit. They do not suffer from their geographical location quite as badly as I make it sound—the long sunny days of summer in Edmonton and across the prairies, not to mention what can be a beautiful, extended blue-gold autumn, make it almost worth living through the cold, dark months between. Edmonton in particular is increasingly well equipped to be a winter city, with heated walkways, indoor parking, lots of theatre and music and an outstanding transit system. But in spite of all of that, for many of the same reasons that I’m disinclined to stay in Saskatoon, I’m not interested in returning to Edmonton.

Unlike many prairie residents, I have never had the urge to move to the west coast.  The west coast is beautiful (beautiful!) but Vancouver, Victoria and most of the other cities I have visited there are just too Zen and laid back for my tastes. And the politics are weird.

Montreal is a fabulous city, too. If I didn’t need to earn my living in English, I’d welcome the idea of living there, but my French is only passable.

Ottawa…? Nope.

From the beginning, there was only one real choice. Therefore, I am moving to Toronto.

An appealing option

Although it appears I arrived at the decision to move to Toronto through a process of elimination, I could just have easily arrived at it by creating a top-10 all-time favourite list of Canadian cities. Toronto would have emerged the destination-of-choice that way as well. I grew up in Ontario, and I welcome the thought of going back. I have missed the terrain of southern Ontario since I left in 1964, and a lot of my memories are grounded in the region.

As for Toronto itself, since childhood I’ve enjoyed my visits there. I have never shared the alternating feelings of resentment and schadenfreude toward that city and its residents that characterize the attitudes of most prairie-dwellers of my age, many of whom are still bristling from the national energy policies that Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his minions visited upon the West in 1980. For them, Toronto The Bad is an appropriate nickname. In fact, Toronto is a cosmopolitan, global city, with nearly 3 million residents (half of whom were born outside Canada) in the City proper, and at least 2 million more in the immediate vicinity. There is lots to do and see there, and that is what I want. (I do know that Toronto also has a winter, but I am actually more concerned about its hot and sticky summers, which I also remember well.)

The first step

So far I’ve taken only one concrete step towards moving to Toronto, and that is to buy a one-way plane ticket there from Edmonton on November 15. Everything else I need still to think about and plan.

I need to figure out, for example, where I am going to live when I get to Toronto, while I am looking for a permanent place to live. I need to decide what I will take with me to get myself through the looking-around period, and how I will get the rest of my stuff there once I’ve found a place to rent.

On the “surface” of my thinking, I am both frightened and excited about this new adventure. But deeper in, I feel quite calm and optimistic. I have hopes for Toronto in terms of my career that I’ll explain more clearly in another post, but I also feel a bit as though I’m going back to a very familiar place, and that I will be very comfortable in that setting.

I have not lived in Toronto since I was two, and even then it was only for six months or so, which gave me little opportunity to learn the layout of the city and its traffic routes. I have no clear plan regarding where I intend to live (although I have located on a map where the preponderance of violent crimes take place, and I plan to avoid those areas). It’s a bit like stepping off a cliff in some ways. But those who know me know that I like to step off cliffs fairly regularly. (I just don’t like to fall off them.)

I may be resolutely independent, and eagerly looking forward to figuring this thing out on my own, but I don’t feel as though I am alone. I do know several fellow writers in the Toronto region, and many many of my friends are regular visitors there. I also still have some friends from childhood living in southern Ontario, and even a few relatives. I’m happy to know that I can ask current and former Torontonians for advice when I need it—and that they will probably give me advice even if I don’t ask. (Fine by me as long as they don’t expect that I will necessarily do what they suggest—although I promise I will listen!)

This blog

When my good friend Larry Anderson suggested that I blog about the move, I immediately welcomed the idea. And already it feels good to have stated my intention publicly—it makes it real, and motivates me to start getting organized. But there is more to the appeal of writing here than that.  I have found great comfort and companionship in various on-line communities in the past few years, and I am sure that the one that forms around this blog will ultimately make me feel as though I may be moving to a new, big city on my own, but that I am utterly supported. So I thank you in advance for that support. (BTW, if you aren’t supportive, I just won’t publish your comments. So there. The naysayers among you can write in to my Militant Writer blog instead, where I happily take on all comers.)

I intend to blog not only before and during the move but also for several months afterward—until I’m actually settled. I’ve lived in enough places to know that a person doesn’t just move to a new place physically. It takes a lot longer than that to achieve the emotional, social, and even administrative transfer—it takes at least a year to settle in even when you’re just moving down the street.

And as far as being accepted by and accepting a new community, making it a home—well, that can take much much longer. That part can take decades. But finding a home is not my goal. As I get older, I realize that I prefer to be a visitor no matter where I am. My writing is my home, enriched by my community of relatives and friends who live around the world. Thanks mainly to the Internet, I can take the most important people in my life with me everywhere I go.

So now I have begun. If you are interested in following me on my new adventure here, you are most welcome. There’s a “Subscribe” button at the top of the right-hand column. Just click on it and follow the instructions to receive my (irregular) updates. (If all the options for subscribing boggle your mind, just click here to get the email option, and fill out the form that comes up.) I’ll try to keep the posts shorter than this in future!