City of the Young

The Thinker by Rodin

For this 47-year-old man riding the subway in Toronto is a striking experience. On most trains I am the oldest person on the car. If the people who ride the subway are a representative sample of the city as a whole then this is the city of the young.

It would make a certain sense. At two and a half million people Toronto is Canada’s Big Apple. Most of Canada is rural. So if you are a young person living in Canada and crave that cosmopolitan experience then Toronto is the place to live.

It seems that they came in busloads. The young adults are everywhere. My wife thinks that there are so many young adults here because Toronto is a university town. But I did not see many students on Toronto’s version of the metro (called the TTC: Toronto Transit Commission). Most were 20 something white, attractive young men and women off to what appeared to be secure white-collar jobs in the city.

Yes, they are a good-looking bunch. The people of Toronto strike me as amazingly healthy. Less than a hundred miles away in Buffalo one can literally view the bulk of America. But here in Toronto you have to look for the obese. In fact if you see someone obese he or she is likely an American tourist.

It may be that being a city of young people these young adults haven’t had time to grow fat yet. This must be it because the fatty temptations here are everywhere. Coffee and donut shops are pervasive. In particular the donut chain of Tim Horton’s seems to have a stranglehold on the city. Curiously absent is the Starbucks chain. Maybe Tim Horton beat Starbucks to the market.

Many American chain restaurants are pervasive here. You will have no problem finding most American fast food chains like Wendy’s, Pizza Hut or Burger King. But so far there is no sign of a Wal-Mart. In fact one of the striking things about Toronto is just how much small business is present. In America a local shopping center would be full of branded stores. Here branded stores are the exception rather than the rule. In Northern Virginia for example if you needed a drug you would likely go to a CVS Pharmacy. In Toronto there are lots of independent pharmacists nearby. I didn’t see one pharmacy chain store.

Nonetheless Toronto is a big city and has the usual big city woes. The traffic on the expressways looks like I-395 approaching Washington on weekday mornings: lots of stop and go. Their metro system is very clean but aging. It generally gets you where you need to go, although it seems rather unremarkable. Still it feels safe and it is very safe for a big city. Its homicide rate is 1.3 people per 100,000. Washington DC’s homicide rate is 45.5.

Our adventures in the city yesterday included visiting Casa Loma, a castle constructed in the early 20th century as a palace for a very wealthy local businessman. It is a fascinating place to visit. We also visited the Ontario Museum and ended up ascending the CN Tower in the downtown area, reputedly the world’s tallest freestanding structure. Alas, yesterday was a day of high haze and humidity, which made for a rather poor view from the observation level. The subway took us where we needed to go, although we still had to do quite a bit of walking. Our hotel room is some seven miles from downtown Toronto. We had to drive a mile or so to a metro station to connect with the subway. The subway is a bit pricey: $2.25 CND for a trip, but still less expensive than the Washington Metro, which charges by distance.

Today we begin the theatrical portion of our trip. We will be at the Hummingbird Centre in downtown Toronto tonight to see The Last Empress, a Korean opera. Tomorrow we will be on our way to Stratford, Ontario to take in two more shows at this famous city renown for its theater. We should be home on Sunday afternoon.

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