IT WOULD BE a challenge to summarize well the past thirteen years I’ve had in Ottawa. As a matter of course I thrive on such challenges, but in this instance I’ll decline it. With the chaos of a move all about me, I could cite my to-do list and my box-crammed apartment and the mental and physical exhaustion to which these tend. More to the point however is the fact I am looking forward these days, and the prospect of the back-glance bores me. I’m ready for the change, and have been for some while.
It’s been years since I’ve talked gear over a pint with the Ottawa singer-songwriter Jim Bryson, whose song ‘Sleeping in Toronto’ derived from a common National Capital prejudice one might call Torontophobia, or MisoTO, or anti-Bigsmokeism: “I got tired of sleeping in Toronto/I got tired of telling all my friends that I wanna go home,” he sings in his hit of the early 2000s. Home for Jim is unequivocally Ottawa (well actually, Stittsville is) — and I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who consider the place the very peak of decent living, casting Toronto as a dirty, crowded, cynical and dangerous antipode. The rivalry has always seemed to me useless and unnecessary, not to mention revealingly one-sided. Most Torontonians will say of Ottawa that it’s a ‘nice’ place, its conservatism aside. For me it has never been anything more than a point on the map to which I happened to be affixed, for reasons having to do with economics, and I’m secretly gratified to be leaving it for a destination so uniformly loathed.
Ottawa ‘worked’ for me. I had some grand times, and I forged good friendships. There’s no reason that a move should change any of that, though in the case of friendship I’d be deluding myself if I held the addition of two hundred and nineteen miles between doors of no issue. My hope and expectation is that the friendships will continue, and that they will be augmented and enhanced by future friendships, Toronto providing nourishment to the feast. I’ve long been attracted to the larger cities of Toronto and New York because they are an assemblage of neighbourhoods, a patching together of self-contained and self-sufficient communities. This multi-village model constitutes a best-of-both-worlds for those of us who enjoy urban diversity but who also want to be within walking distance of everything on offer within their local community.
I look forward to seeing you there, my friends.