It is a city of myth and surprises. Most of the myths are about cold hearts in glass walled towers of commerce. Popular stereotypes of titans of industry roosting in oak panelled offices, walking knee deep in plush pile carpets and polishing their massive desks with the broken dreams of those who trudge along the streets far below.
And there is some truth to the rumours.
It is a cold city and large, even by North American standards. It is certainly the largest in Canada; depending on whether there is someone from Chicago in the room and how much you wish to remain unventilated, Toronto is either 4th or 5th largest metropolis in North America.
Commerce is the engine driving the city and it is centred on Bay Street. It pulses through a forest of columns growing in corporate pairs and to a height determined by sibling rivalry and the conspicuous display of resource exploitation. A testament to industry, commerce and the Gecko code of good.
There was a time in the history of this metropolis when it was known for an older, gentler kind of good. When the streets were rolled up by ten o’clock on a Saturday evening so all could be sober and rested for church service early Sunday morning. That used to be the one day of the week the Methodist centre of the universe took time off from generally rocking the Protestant work ethic to give thanks for their express pass to heaven.
The bank towers may have all but swallowed up the churches, the board rooms are no longer the exclusive domain of old white guys wearing old school ties and the Masons may be considering holding membership drives in the RBC west tower lobby Thursday mornings but believe it or not, Toronto the Good still breathes and walks among us.
Genuine good. Friendly, open, frankly surprising good.
This was my 3rd visit to Hogtown but my first one exploring Toronto’s downtown core from below street level. My personal mission this time was a safari into the largest shopping mall in North America – on a technicality, I’ll grant you (as a former native of Edmonton, I am required by law to add that) – that extends underground from the waterfront all the way to city hall.
What could be more appealing to an old prairie dog than running through tunnels, popping up in different parts of town and diving back underground again?
So, pay attention Billy boy, there be not just shops and food courts and enough barista coffee to float an extremely nervous navy; follow close and tread lightly, me lad, there be dragons here. Welcome to tales of