Ode to Toronto

Oh, Toronto.
The city that stole my heart.

The summer days that I live for.
Wandering the busy streets with my love.

Finding new local gems to eat at.
The mouthwatering array of options.

Vegetarian food is hard to come by.
In cities as small as my own.

Thank God we still own that condo.
That sees us frequently visiting the city.

Our lovely tenant enjoying the sights.
That drew us to our unit in the first place.

We still park in the same condo building.
We still own a parking spot there, too.

Toronto parking can be really tricky.
So we just walk most of the time.

Hours and hours on foot.
Exploring the city that shaped our love.

I remember the first time Tim took my hand.
And lead me through the busy streets.

How could I forget his broad smile?
As he whisked me into the restaurants he had found?

Encouraging me to try this and that!
Exploring the endless culinary options.

Like the delicious spicy fried tofu dish.
From Ruyi Garden in Etobicoke.

One day we rode our bikes there.
From our condo at CityPlace.

It was supposed to take us all day.
We picked a beautiful summer day to ride.

It was one of our first dates, too.
That was the day my bike tire blew.

We laughed all of the way home.
Holding our bicycles and Chinese take-out.

We visit Ruyi Garden now and again.
To pick up more take-out to go.

We bring it back to our home in Ancaster.
And enjoy it as though we were there.

Some days we explore the city.
Finding new places to eat or experience.

Like the picnics we have in Trinity Bellwoods.
With our beers cold in the cooler beside us.

Buddha’s Vegetarian is the choice for those days.
The food pairs so well with our beer.

Seitan that tastes just like ginger beef.
Paired with their spicy Singapore vermicelli.

Some days we’d get eggplant parmesan sandwiches.
Before our favorite Italian joint closed down.

That lead us to discover Mamma Martino’s.
Where I stuffed myself full of their pasta.

That is our favorite Italian joint now.
And I leave that place stuffed every time.

It all just depends on the day.
Where we ultimately choose to eat from.

Exploring the city with our bellies full.
From the fine Toronto vegetarian cuisine.

Walking the streets shoulder to shoulder with strangers.
With other people enjoying their day.

The atmosphere of Toronto in the summertime.
Is incomparable to anywhere else.

You feel it buzz through your body.
And it offers such a nice high.

Take a ride on one of the ferries.
Or perhaps instead choose a water taxi.

They shuttle you to and from Hanlan’s Island.
Where festivals like Electric Island are held.

Festivals we enjoy every summer.
Dancing and drinking in the hot summer sun.

Feeling vibes of those who surround you.
Soaking in the connective festival energy.

Walking tipsy back towards the ferry.
At the end of the good music sets.

We always head to Fat Bastard Burrito.
For our post-festival drink-soaking-up binge.

There is something about those boat rides, though.
After a day spent in the hot sun.

Feeling the cool lake water splashing my skin.
Feeling so good on my newly acquired sunburn.

On these days we always make some friends.
We share joints and some dancing together.

Enjoying all that the summer can offer.
While exploring the city of Toronto.

The winter is just as exciting.
We trek through the cold and the snow.

We bundle up good in our layers.
We pack Mila in her stroller all warm.

We watch our lacrosse players play.
Shouting “Rosie!” while slamming the cow-bells.

I was never a sports fan growing up.
Until I felt the energy inside of that place.

Sipping overpriced beer from our seats.
Cheering loudly in hopes that we win.

There is something about that overpriced beer.
That tastes so sweet on the way down.

I think it is the atmospheres’ doing.
Lively energy infused in the drink.

Perhaps that is why it costs so much.
They know of the secret ingredient.

I promise I don’t drink too much.
But when I do it is beer that I love.

It pairs well with so many delicacies.
Like the infamous vegetarian pho.

That is unmatched on Saigon Lotus’ menu.
In its unassuming location on St. Andrew Street.

I have yet to have better Vietnamese food.
And that goes for my meat-eating days!

Or the all-you-can-eat sushi joint.
That we walk to called Kyoto House.

We went there after Nuit Blanche one year.
We have gone there ever since we discovered it.

Or the places tucked into the Distillery District.
Found during our Christmas Market walks.

Where Tim walks out with spiked hot-chocolate.
While I drink my cold beer under the twinkling lights.

Summer walks hit differently there, though.
No mittens or coats or shivering.

There is a tiny Indian roti joint on Queen Street West.
That sells the best curried roti I’ve had.

It is called Gandhi Indian Cuisine.
And it is beyond comparison.

It’s so spicy that Tim can’t eat mine.
He likes to order his mild.

I like feeling the heat creep up on me.
As the flavor explodes simultaneously.

The sweat pouring down my face.
From the irresistible spice level.

After eating we walk down Queens Quay.
And head down to the water for views.

Some days we grab Hogtown Vegan.
The buffalo chick’n caesar wrap there is to die for.

I choose a side of collard greens with my meal.
Wolfing them down in almost one gulp.

Mila loves their macaroni and cheese.
While Tim chooses the vegan pulled pork.

It is options like these that keep us coming back.
Unparalleled in small cities like ours.

Plus, it’s right near Urbane bike shop.
Where Tim purchases his fixed gear parts from.

That is how he finds us new places to enjoy.
By exploring the city on bike.

My mother once told me something.
She said I had better marry a cook.

Or at least an Italian man to cook me spaghetti.
Since at the time that was my favorite food.

It so happened that my husband is Italian.
And has a wonderful penchant for cooking.

He revels in the flavors alongside me.
As we explore the food that Toronto offers.

He makes meals good enough to write home about.
They deserve poems all on their own.

For now I will talk of Toronto.
Because it fed us while we grew our love.

Ever eat a meal and just think to yourself?
Of how lucky you are to consume it?

That is me every time we get food.
I could cry sometimes it tastes so good.

Food sustains us and I’m thankful for all of it.
Nothing wins my heart like a good meal.

After eating we typically grab coffee.
From small shops or perhaps a Starbucks.

Tim walks ahead with the stroller most graciously.
While I smoke my post-dinner joint.

It is indescribable the feeling of freedom.
Walking down a street filled with connected strangers.

Openly enjoying my weed and my coffee.
While my husband and daughter walk up ahead.

Striking up conversations with buskers.
Passing by them routinely outside.

Waving hello as we pass by with Mila.
Listening to their music fill the streets with excitement.

Hearing the echoes of music following behind us.
As we walk into the Eaton Centre to shop.

Each time that we visit the Indigo there.
I think of the time that I was pregnant with Mila.

It was a beautiful summer day on that walk.
Where I picked up my first book to begin writing.

Jotting down notes for my unborn child.
And explaining all that I want her to know.

Those books sit neatly on my bookshelf now.
In Ancaster inside our forever home.

They once sat on that same bookshelf in Toronto.
In the study nook we had created for the condo.

Where my Energy Medicine book could also be found.
That I purchased in Kensington Market.

We walked there on a date one day.
Tim wanted to show me the occult shops he found.

This one book held my eye and I bought it.
The techniques that I learned are still used to this day.

There is something magical about that place.
Where big city meets small metaphysical shop.

That was the first place I had purchased a pendulum.
These things I still own to this day.

One time during the CNE there was a vendor.
From who I purchased a small pyramid as a souvenir keepsake.

We chatted and realized the power of synchronicity.
Like how she and I grew up close by.

She also had a small ladybug necklace on offer.
Mom used to call me her “ladybug” so I bought it.

Tokens of Toronto summertime to take with me.
It has been a long time since then.

That pyramid sits on my desk now.
In front of photos of my growing family.

There is one experience that sticks with me, though.
I was pregnant when we went to the CNE.

I had never been there before.
I wanted so badly to visit the animals.

Upon meeting a cow in the animal tent.
I noticed that she seemed to be weeping.

My eyes did not leave that cow’s eyes.
That experience changed my perspective.

All I could think of was my growing belly.
And if she suffered the loss of her calf.

Was this cow supposed to be nursing her baby?
But brought here for showtime instead?

That image has never left me.
Tim consoled me the entire way home.

I cried on the TTC rail-car that night.
Thinking of the inconsolable cow.

Other than that it was a good experience.
Though I’ve never been one for dodgy fair rides.

I think I was meant to see all that.
And to bring home my small pyramid and amulet.

It drove home the importance of humanity.
It reinforced my choice to feed my children meat-free.

I apologize that it got so dark there.
Alas, it is part of the memory.

But that is one memory that has not left me.
Despite the wishing that it would.

Let us get back to the happier times.
Like how I watched them build a new condo.

From my spot perched on the twentieth floor.
As they dug out what will one day be the car park.

Each morning I sipped on my coffee.
And watched them continue to build.

I watched as the heavy machinery was brought in.
And took photos of them neatly lined up.

They are almost done and it’s been a few years.
This new condo will have tons of green space.

It looked futuristic in all of the drawings.
Flaunting what it will be.

There was a debate over the zoning.
Perhaps a condo or a school type of building.

From my understanding it will kind of be both.
Offering families like mine a new space.

In another life we’d still be in that condo.
Enjoying the newly built condo-school across the road.

However, we both work in steel manufacturing.
And were forced to relocate closer to work.

I could no longer handle the commute.
When the Hyperemesis Gravidarum kicked in.

But I am so thankful we still have that condo.
Frequently visiting our tenant for upkeep.

I will ask Tim to visit this weekend.
Writing this poem has made me crave things.

Like the restaurants unmatched by ones here.
Or simply walking down streets like Spadina.

Not that my city doesn’t have its own gems.
It is just different is all.

Perhaps one day I’ll write about it.
And the local places that I love.

So until my next visit, Toronto.
Thank you for all that you do.

Kaila A. Notto

Copyright © The Mindful Millwright 2020. All Rights Reserved.


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