Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tale of Two Cities: Subtext

Reflecting on my rather peevish post comparing Toronto and Montreal below, I realized that there's a subtext for those not in the know about these two cities. For me, it went almost without saying -- well, almost.

That subtext is: Toronto is basically soulless. At social functions, opening gambits frequently begin with not just with what you do, but how much you make, even the kind of car you drive; more than a critical mass have swallowed the North American money quest hook, line, and sinker; because of TO's high cost of living, if you aren't making a significantly high income, you're a second- or even third-class citizen and feel like one. TO has a dominant type: he wears a suit and carries an attache case.

In Montreal, there is no dominant type. Until recently, it was possible to live quite well in Montreal on very little; it remains, even amid an unprecedented apartment shortage, one of the most affordable cities to live in North America. Add to that the architectural and even geographical beauty, French culture, a certain laissez-faire quality that runs deep, particularly among the Quebecois, and well... that's the prism through which to consider the paragraphs below.

Of course, describing the social mores of two such different cities is rather like a blind man trying to describe two elephants: the only difference is, I've been feeling (and feeling up) those elephants all my life!

About my rather superficial style and fashion emphasis, which even, on some levels, annoys me: one ex-Toronto friend who had trouble relating to this city exclaimed on day, "Montreal is nothing but a fashion show!" (He since left.)

I can see what he means -- but if people are going to be relentlessly superficial, why not be relentlessly superficial in an attractive, stimulating way, rather than a drab, colourless way?

1 comment:

Brian Campbell said...

From a student of mine: I've cut and pasted it just to see if there is indeed trouble posting it, as he says:

I tried to send this email through your Blog, but it seems to be limited to 300 caracters, so here it email....sorry

I read your Blog and I liked it. In the last one"Subtext" you finish with a remarquable analysis. Thank you for sharing so much positive energie of yours. Immigrants should read your two texts before judging MNT or TO or even the culture in North America and Canada particulary. We (the immigrants) are the immense force of the North America in a way, but we shouldn't forget the native people of Canada and your values. But... you are Scottish, I'd rather not say :)
Joking of course and thanks again, your opinion matters !!!

This "Scottish" thing is a running gag between us. Anyway, obviously I have no trouble posting here.