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Pants for the memory
Oliver Moor

Never ask a Canadian anything which might need an answer that puts Canada in a bad light. They hate it. Anything which allows them dispute this, and instead allows them to talk at length about the greatness of the place – whether it’s the quality of life, the size of the country, the tallness of the buildings (or at least the tallness of “free standing structures”) – will be seized on and expounded on until you either back down, commit suicide, or murder them. And for God’s sake don’t ever suggest that any of them might wear elasticated trousers.

This is, of course, true of citizens of any country who feel a little unsure of themselves. It’s a British trait too, now that the glory days are long gone. But why should Canada feel this way? It’s a fine place. The quality of life is good. The country is enormous. Toronto possesses the highest free-standing structure in the world (the mighty CN Tower, of course). Those trousers, though…

I was visiting Toronto primarily to see my brother, who moved there about a year ago. But I also wanted to walk for the first time beside a
Great Lake, and I wanted to go to one of the famous comedy clubs. So, with my ears pricked for the sound of twanging waistbands, I got hold of a cheapie ticket from La Guardia and headed north for the weekend.

The first view of Canada was from the air. We flew right over Niagara Falls: I could tell it was Niagara from the gigantic sprawling suburb that surrounded it on both sides. Waterfalls look best from the air anyway, and although I only saw it for about a minute and a half that’s probably about as long as I would have looked at it had I been on the ground, before retiring to my (hopefully) vibrating bed in the Niagara Falls Wahey! Holiday Resort. I dutifully ticked it off my list of Things To See In Canada and thanked God that I wouldn’t now have to bother driving for nine hours to check it out.

Toronto was grey, and from the airport I scanned the horizon for the CN Tower. There it was – a graceful spindle off to the east. As we drew closer I wondered where the rest of the city was. Finally the endless ranks of tract houses opened to reveal it. I knew that film makers on a budget used the city as a Big Apple double: but how on earth could they? It seemed far too small - the cab driver whipped us through the city centre in about eighteen seconds and we popped out the other side into a attractive old-fashioned district which reminded me strangely of a Deep South town – iron balustrades and huge, spectacular trees very much the order of the day. Unlike, say, Mobile, Alabama, the temperature was well under the melting point of titanium, which pleased me no end.

Kid brother Ben was fine and immediately offered me a choice of cycles for our Great Lake ride. The only pedals I like these days are gas, brake and clutch, and the thought of riding through a city centre on a bike unnerved me somewhat. But Toronto was easy. It was very bike friendly. Everyone was very helpful, I only got yelled at twice, and removed paint from only one parked car.

The Lake itself was something of a disappointment. We cycled for miles through deserted grain silos, past scrubby trees and underpasses, before arriving at a small beach from which energetic people were zipping around on the water being pulled by kites. “Parasurfing?” I suggested. “Paraboarding?” Ben thought. Paraplegic seemed to be the obvious outcome, so we left them to it and cycled back to the flat by way of a footpath alongside a grim looking drainage ditch.

The comedy was next and we boarded one of the excellent trams and were downtown before you could say “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” Second City is the legendary club where Dan Ackroyd, John Candy and Rick Moranis, amongst others, cut their teeth. It’s a huge place (for a comedy club, anyway) , with a good size bar and restaurant: the comedy takes place upstairs. At least it does on most nights. Second City runs a comedy school, in which “anybody can learn to be a stand-up comic”. This is, quite frankly, an outrageous lie. Anybody cannot learn to be a stand-up comic. Anybody can, however, stride on to a stage looking purposeful, grab a microphone and say “OK, thank you everyone – hey, is anyone here wearing a pair of elasticated trousers?” Our show wasn’t even that good: we got Class 5E’s “Improv Night” which made me think that the Japanese must surely have learned their treatment of POW’s by attending a similar establishment. It seemed only good taste to leave after twenty minutes, and we retired to an excellent Italian restaurant which more than made amends.

Sunday dawned and we decided to round the trip off with a meal at the CNT. The elevator zipped us to the top along with a couple in full wedding outfits so we reckoned we weren’t to be disappointed. We were right. The meal was spectacular: I had an excellent prime rib, and a pudding describing itself as “Not Your Usual Lemon Meringue Pie” – while not unusual (it wasn’t made of pork or anything, it was definitely lemon meringue pie) it was certainly extremely delicious.


Sitting back, completely stuffed, we contemplated the view as it rotated gently past (miles of suburbs on one side, and miles of empty lake on the other, but delightful nonetheless.) I did, however, become suddenly conscious that my jeans were feeling uncomfortably tight. Looking around I noticed no signs of discomfort from my fellow diners. What was their secret, I wondered? Then I remembered. Unmentionable it may be, but those Canucks are light-years ahead in the trouser department. I have seen the future, and it’s elastic.

Oliver Moor flew to Toronto from La Guardia for $150. He stayed in his brother’s spare room ($0). A meal for 2 at the CN Tower costs about $100. 

© Oliver Moor 2001

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