So here I am, its 8pm, and I’m at my favourite blog writing venue – yes it’s only a Starbucks across the road from the hostel, but it’s 24 degrees and balmy. I’m about to leave Toronto and the new friends I made here. Dave, my dear friend and lifelong advocate said to me that Canadians are the friendliest people in the world. Haven’t seen much of the world yet but I’m certainly feeling well integrated here and not at all like a regular tourist. The fact that I haven’t spent a single cent on tourist attractions such as the CN Tower, Cash Loma or the Islands (well they are closed anyway due to flooding) might keep me out of that category anyway, but I could still feel quite like an alien ( well more than usual) if it weren’t for the friendliness of the Toronto people. Not to say that my fellow travellers at the HI hostel are not so – but you seem to have only one topic of conversation – your travels – and you have that conversation several times a week – or day – unpacking in you dorm or making tea in the kitchen. All the travellers are all interesting people, and I always have time for their stories, but you are all essentially wandering around in an artificial and even ‘hip’ reality that’s all a bit …vogue.
Being a musician makes travelling a little different. You frequent different places: open mics, bars and cafes where local people go, plying the same trade as you do. There plight is the same as yours, their trials and frustrations, and yes, some would say that, of all individuals living in a fake reality, musicians are there most. But that’s for another day.
At my first Toronto gig I met Sandra, aka Bea Fry, who did an opening set for me at the Cavern. I have very particular expectations when it comes to songwriting and instrumental proficiency, as you all know, and I saw this straight away. I absolutely love her dark, slightly rootsy Americana style and we share a love of non standard tunings. And that is how we met. And she had brought a crowd of lovely people. Then we met at another place and so on. With her was bass player, Subhayu – ebullient and energetic. Also at the Cavern Open Mic was Rebbeka Cynthia from Brazil but now living in Toronto: pianist, guitarist and drummer and just a human onslaught of enthusiasm. To be honest – these guys made my stay.
I met Sharon earlier in the week at an Irish session in Dora Keogh’s up on Danforth. Like me she was sitting alone in front of the music. We shared stories, had a lot in common, and her local knowledge and quiet wisdom was so valuable. She reckoned she might come to the Relish gig, and indeed she did – taking the second set of performance photos for me. She introduced my to stunning guitarist Paul, owner of the Twelfth Fret Guitar shop on Danforth. But so kind, she brought for me an umbrella – which had been her late mother’s. because she remembered I did not have one.
Whilst I was paddling somewhat tentatively at Humber Bay on a baking hot day, there was a guy doing a full on channel swim. Superficial conversation conspired to reveal our mutual interests in art, writing and music; he being a local writer, visual artist and musician. He came to the Cavern gig and fought the noise there to listen to my set. Later in the week I spent a cool couple of hours playing grunge music in the basement of his house in Lansdowne, sharing a strange but not unpleasant meal, and talking 70’s music. Today, a coffee in St James’ Park. I don’t know how I get so lucky.
I will indeed remember Toronto exceedingly fondly and doubtless come here again.