Toronto and the problem of fun

I just got back from Montreal. Returning to Toronto from Montreal is a learning experience. For example, I learned that my apartment does not strictly count as indoors. Also, that work and fun are actually two different things.

I have lived in Toronto my whole life and I don’t know Montreal very well. I only have basic impressions of it. Here they are: Montreal is a trading post where you exchange your hopes and dreams for a mansion that costs 25 cents a month. When you get there, angels gently unburden you of your ambitions and hand you a beer. If you want more beer, you can get it at the convenience store, which has a more festive name than “convenience store.” You can drink anywhere and any time you want, because you will never again have to be sober for anything.

Montreal actually has by-laws against working, so if you move there you have to hang out forever. And the people you’ll be hanging out with are friendly and enthusiastic because they live in mansions and never have to work. They’re also very good looking, and they have sex all the time. They would like to have sex with you, too.

In Toronto, everyone works hard and still doesn’t think they’re working hard enough. Those who do not work hard, and instead throw DJ nights from time to time, are known as bums, and they live in flophouses because in Toronto a tarpaulin over a tree stump costs 850 dollars a month. Because rent is high, and because the pressure to not be a bum is so great, people in Toronto are ornery and they want you to get out of their face with your foolishness. Toronto has by-laws against eye contact, so if you want to have sex you have to baldly proposition someone.

Toronto has some fruity things, like Pedestrian Sundays, but they only exist because of the bum lobby.

Every once in a while, Torontonians start talking about how Toronto is too uptight and everyone here needs to have more fun. So they form fun militias to enforce policies like always dancing at shows. Whether you like the music is not an issue, because, if you believe in fun, any music a Torontonian makes is automatically good. The Toronto version of fun is derived from an idea of fun that Torontonians spend a lot of time seriously considering, and it involves playing the glockenspiel and making up kooky portmanteaus like “Torontopia.”

Torontonians have a lot of anxiety about fun because, in Toronto, fun is just another pressure on top of not being a bum and figuring out who’s going to have sex with you. Having fun is an accomplishment, and it’s wasted if no one else knows you’re having it. So the experience of fun is work, in a way, because you have to tweet about it while it’s happening.

In Toronto, having fun kind of sucks. You can stay out until 6 am, but how are you going to function tomorrow? So Torontonians cheat by reading fun into everything. Getting a slice of pizza after midnight is fun. Drinking beer beyond a legal drinking zone is fun. Seeing a friend on the street is fun.

You have to take fun where you can find it, because fun abides a schedule just like everything else. Even if you do manage to schedule fun, there’s no guarantee that others will fit your fun into their schedules.

Deep down, Torontonians know that to really have a good time, we need to get on a bus and go to Montreal for the weekend. Coming back sucks, but, at the end of the day, there’s a reason we live in Toronto and not Montreal. We are the authors of our own misery.



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36 responses to “Toronto and the problem of fun

  1. Amen! Having lived in both cities, I completely agree.

  2. jesus that was the hardest ive laughed in ages. you really know how to make a girl feel good about a city. ps. i live in a mansion rent-free. booyah!

  3. man. you missed the musical swings tho by city hall. when you sat on them and swung, they played heavely orchestral arrangements…sometimes with accordian, it felt like being fondled by downey soft angelwings.

    • Only, in true Montreal form, those swings likely cost $1 million+ of taxpayer money and will shut down promptly as soon as one dumb kid lets go and launches into traffic. Seriously, they’re right next to a busy street.

  4. g.

    I don’t know. you saw montreal in the summer. winters here are long and stupid and also the transitional seasons (spring/fall) are kind of imaginary, which makes summer come across as some sort of ultimatum that pleasure is giving you, take me now or wait another year. so there’s a kind of desperation at the moment. in the winter, there are still parties and things but also a lot more people hiding in their rooms being productive or just reflective, which is the first step to being productive I guess.

    • a.

      I dunnoooooo. I’ve never lived in Montreal, but the first two times I visited were mid-February and early March, and it was…awesome. This is also the time I made the most important discovery in Canadian fun-history:

      Montreal is the Berlin of Canada.

      • Montreal winters are definitely bleak, but i don’t see that summer “ultimatum” at all! The winter provides the contrast needed to really appreciate the summer… People DO tend to hibernate, but there’s fun stuff like igloofest and nuit blanche peppered throughout the season to get people out… and there’s a fun we’re-all-in-this-together vibe.

      • g.

        I am taking montreal-quebec literature this summer and david mcgimpsey, who might be reading this and if so hi dave, read an excerpt from this in class. I see your point and I don’t disagree with it, but I guess I feel that it’s too easy to think of it in terms of montreal – fun and toronto – business. that feels like a tired categorization maybe, too simplistic, mostly because it seems to glorify fun while vilifying business, or something.

        I know party-minded people that moved from montreal to toronto and don’t seem to regret their decision, so there as to be something there that’s keeping them there. also I was in toronto in november and definitely partied while there and I am currently trying ‘desperately’ to organize a reading (or maybe just piggy-back on an existing reading) in toronto as an excuse to go back and also to read some stuff by me to a non-montreal crowd.

      • AMEN… I lived in Montreal for 10 years and it will always be home… I’m now in Toronto for 17 years and it will never feel like home… I have great friends here but will retire in Quebec for sure…

      • OH @ Mytoboggan… Montreal is still alive in the winter… Toronto Hibernate all year around.

  5. Montrealer

    Though it isn’t stated blatantly, being a negative/critical human being is so NOT Montreal style. Let’s live a little. And worry a little less.

  6. TBY

    If it weren’t for the long winters, summers here would not take on the transcendent-like quality that they do. I’m with ‘Montrealer’.

  7. MTL of yesteryear

    Too bad you did not visit Montreal years ago,
    when the cops would not run you out of the park at 11:01pm, acting like they just saved the planet from Dr. Evil.
    When you could actually make love in the park! :-0

    Too bad you did not visit Montreal years ago,
    when half the city took off for the hills to ski after a great fresh snow fall.

    Too bad you did not visit Montreal years ago,
    when half the city skipped out to the terrace for a “cold one” just ’cause it was hot, or cold, or sunny, or rainy, or cloudy, or Monday, or Tuesday, or just any damn reason to be outside with a beautiful young quebecoise.

    We are becoming a TO wannabe,
    which is just a NYC wannabe!

  8. a.

    Ugh. Why am I moving to Toronto, again?

  9. jen

    Such a hilarious and apt synopsis!

  10. Loved this article. You are a very good writer with a very keen eye for fun. I live near the Old Port in Montreal in a new condo that costs less than an average Torontonian hydro bill and I love it! Festivals winter and summer music, beer and lots of good looking men too for us girls! Come on down Toronto, long weekend coming up July 1st! Your hangover will be subsiding around the 4th, in time for your trip back up the 401!

  11. Steve M

    Toronto and Montreal are both great cities, but if you want to succeed in this one life you have, you have to go to LA or NY.

  12. Anonymous

    Having lived in Montreal most of my life, and visited Toronto many times. I was always happy to return to my humid tropical temperature city. Great Article. Thank you



    be glad you all don’t live in the middle of nowhere , Winnipeg!

  14. Kate C.

    Yet another silly sheltered kid who knows nothing about anything. Embrace your own city, for heaven’s sakes. Believe me, it’s a great one (says someone who’s travelled right across the globe and back again).

  15. Dome

    I dont no
    if you are english and you wanna live here and you dont speak french , dont come here because the french people are just rude . And there want be friendly . in Quebec there dont like the english , this is my experience here

    • moustache

      And you my dear sir, where are you from?
      As a native French-speaking Québécois, I can tell you the vast majority of us have nothing against Anglophones or the “English” as you say. Now, if you’ve lived in Montreal for 10 years and still can’t make a decent pronoun-verb-complement sentence in French, yes we might look at you a bit differently. And you can’t blame us.

      That being said, I don’t know Toronto much, but have lived in Montreal for 7 years, and I absolutely love it here. All the impressions in this article are 100% accurate, especially the by-laws against working.

      Great article!

    • Anonymous

      So not true! I’m anglophone and live in a very franco neighbourhood and people are lovely, (Maybe it’s cuz you don’t speak any particularly comprehensible language…?)

  16. Dome

    And if you just wanna move to Montreal for party , dont waste your time. Move to europe like germany or amsterdam there dont closed at 3 a.m and you can buy alkohol everywhere and every time and you can drink it everywhere without getting a ticket . In Montreal there are almost the same laws like the rest of canada

    • I think they were just pointing out energy/law differences in the two cities particularly… You wouldnt need new citizenship to move from one to the other. But yeah, amsterdam and berlin are the greatest.

  17. Anonymous

    Legal Drinking Zone was one of the best 1990s T.O industrial acts.

  18. Ryan

    Great article. A well-traveled Irish friend of mine suggested this scenario exists directly due to protestantism vs. catholicism dating back to the colonial days. After living in South america for awhile, i think this makes a lot of sense. there are festivals for every damn weekend of the year. Who knows what this country would be like if the war of 1812 went a different way…

  19. Wilma

    I’m from Vancouver but live in Montreal now because for one thing you couldn’t buy a box in a back alley for what we paid for this house. I love that in our local park – and we’re in a pleasantly bourgeois neighbourhood – you can see kids from the local high school getting high, the smoke’s wafting everywhere, at one picnic table and cops having their lunch at the next.

  20. Luv MTL

    Toronto SUCKS!! People are always in a hurry to meet a deadline or be somewhere. The stress thermometer is about to explode.

    People are so chilled out in Montreal.

    F Toronto

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  23. I just stumbled upon your post when googling things to know about Toronto since I’m moving there and this seriously made me laugh out loud! Toronto sounds a lot like Vancouver in regards to having fun, so i guess I’ll have to make quite a few weekend trips to Montreal. Cheers!

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