Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Grass On The Other Side

When I was a university student I was the editor of the campus newspaper The Underground. We were a leftist bunch, forever upset at the provincial government for shortchanging students and higher tuition fees, the federal government for cutting the arts budget, for not sending the army to help the poor farmers of Nicaragua, the university for cancelling several research projects, and so on. Now that I am working and earning, and a bit less idealistic, I am still upset at the government but for different reasons. Why are they wasting so much tax payers' money on useless stuff like ballet and why are students not paying their own tuition? Why is our money wasted in Darfur? Screw them, I want to keep more of my own money! The classic left-to-right conversion.

Ofcourse living in Toronto means many US cities are close by for vacationing. Whenever I would visit a cousin in Chicago, I would marvel at their transport system. Reversible highways! The north becomes south bound during opposite rush hour. What a novel concept! Here in Toronto, stuck in coma-inducing rush hour, I would think about that. Or when forced to use the subway, I would imagine the excellent connectivity of the New York City Transit.

Recently a friend of mine visited from the States. Now he lives somewhere south of Dallas, Texas, in a small village. He must be the only brown guy in the county, and works as a system administrator. He tells me its like Duke of Hazzards country down there, and being a Muslim there is as common as snow in Sahara. He has been living there since graduation, for about three years now.

And boy was he impressed with Toronto.

"Your subway system is so neat!" He gushed. I nearly choked on my shwarma.

"Ours? As in Toronto's?"

"Oh ya! I was in New York and they had piss on the floor of the trains. And were we warned to avoid Penn station after 9! And your streets feel so - safe!"

Now that part I can testify to. Many a time, after returning from a night out on the west end of the city, I have gotten lost there. After driving around a while, I would hit the highway and be back on the road. No matter how late, we never felt unsafe.

Even once in Montreal, we reached there around 11 pm. After, um, seeing the sights on Rue Catherine, the entertainment district, we got lost on returning to our car. A bit of walking around and we found it again. 2 am in the morning in a strange city and we never felt unsafe.

Hah! While going to Chicago for the first time, we stepped off the I-55 to get some gas. And I called my cousin's husband to tell him that. He nearly had a heart attack, and yelled at me to get back on the highway. Later we found out we had alighted on Chicago's famous South Side. So safe, I can understand.

"And the streets are so clean." My friend was going on. "The parks are really nice to sit around, and the litter on the roads are invisible."

Again I was like, "Toronto?" I never noticed the lack of litter. I drive downtown Spadina too. But my friend showed me a few pictures of him while in NYC, Chicago and Houston. He was like, there's good areas of the town, and bad areas. Here you don't see that too much. I mumbled something or the other about our tax dollars going to a useless welfare system to artificially lessen the class gap.

But he wasn't finished.

"And your women! The women of Toronto are the best looking bunch of any city I have been to!"

Now this time, in addition to my dinner just falling to the floor in shock, so too did my jaw.

"Toronto? Women! You must be nuts. Have you been to Montreal?" He confessed he hadn't. My French friends from college had a joke. "Why are all Montreal girls so good looking? 'Coz we have a rule here. If you are sixteen and you are ugly looking, we send you to - Toronto!"

"Seriously, you must be nuts. I mean ya, some women here look after themselves, but seriously, you must be nuts."

"No way man. There so much variety here. In Texas where I am, [switch on offensive mode] I am used to like ... farm girls ... who are like ... big." Naturally he may have been exaggerating. I mean Jessica Simpson seemed all right by me. "And not to mention the diversity of restaurants in Toronto. And not to forget many of them are halal! Oh don't even get me started on Toronto."

No, he wasn't being polite. I could only shake my head. Toronto? Maybe, the grass is greener always, on the other side.

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