Lauren and I noticed it at exactly the same time.
The flashing neon lights, clusters of huge, colorful billboards, jam-packed sidewalks, bumper to bumper traffic...
"Hey," I said, "this reminds me of..."
"New York," she finished.
We were on Yonge St. in Toronto.
Honest to sweet baby Jesus. My daughter and I were looking south down Yonge at Dundas in the heart of downtown Toronto, but at a glance, we might have been at Broadway and 40-somethingth.
I've been to New York, and I know Toronto isn't New York, but as much as it pains me to say this as a Montrealer, there's no (honestly) denying that Toronto has a New York veneer, especially in parts of downtown and the theatre district. It is a massive, thriving, multicultural metropolis that in many ways puts our provincial burg to shame. Not in every way, just in many ways.
Don't get me wrong. I'm from neither Toronto nor Montreal, but I've lived in both and I prefer Montreal by a significant margin. But I'm not going to pretend that Toronto is any longer the dull and tedious Hogtown of old. It's a world class city and a jewel in the Canadian crown.
The biggest problem with Toronto is Torontonians. They're a decent enough bunch, but they're still in search of an identity. They're not abrasive like many New Yorkers or as offensive as some Parisiens. They're really not much of anything except whitebread bland - even a lot of the ones who aren't white but whose familes have been there long enough that they've assimiliated into the mainstream vapidity. A lot of them are still my friends, but as a group, the cool social reserve of the people who live there makes Toronto a city with everything except a soul.
It's small consolation, but Montrealers can at least take a measure of perverse pleasure in knowing that the local alumni has had a considerable hand in making Toronto the country's center of business, commerce and real political power. In the afterglow of Expo 67, Montreal was poised to become the most dynamic city in North America, until Quebec politics intervened and chased the future down the 401. Ironically, the PQ was the party that built Toronto.
Makes you wonder what they could have accomplished if they'd had Montreal's best interests at heart.