Unreal city: a black hole of dazzling light

A picture of the unreal city at night.

I remember the moment, but I can’t place it in time.

We were returning to Waterloo from Toronto. It was night. The stream of lights heading east on the 401 was an endless milky way.

It struck me: behind each set of quivering headlights, there was at least one person. It struck me: on one side of this narrow strip of highway, heading east towards a moderately-sized metropolitan city, there was a galaxy of human experience, unique distinct breathing and, like me, living at the centre of its own universe. It struck me.

At high school in Ottawa, I remember it often felt like I was surrounded on all sides by unknown, colourless, cardboard people, who reappeared over and over again like the recycled backgrounds of a low-budget cartoon. Many years later and long after the moment of dread on the highway heading west from Toronto to Waterloo, it struck me: I was as colourless and unreal to the unknown others as they were to me.

I now live in Toronto, a city as unreal as Eliot’s. From my window, I see towers and towers of existences. When I walk to and from work, there is always a hornet’s nest of activity. When I shop within minutes of my home, I see faces that I know I will never see again. Like a shovel of dirt from a wild and healthy field, these few blocks of my existence are teeming with life.

If I reflect for too long on the scale of life in this city and on this planet, it obviates me. If I focus instead on the energy, colours and details of this urban microcosm, I am dazzled by it all, and happy to play the role of cardboard cutout to the unknown universes of life booming and buzzing around me.

Oh, unreal city, at the centre of a black hole where all light is trapped, could it be as dazzling as this?

East of Yonge, On Eglinton: Love Cats

Dateline: Toronto, December 9th, 2009.

The friends I am staying with in Toronto have two kittens. They are cuteness distilled times four to the power of five. They are a constant source of uncompromising joy.

I love cats. Some of the best people I’ve met and known are cats. I am sure if it hadn’t been for cats (and a few good teachers) I would have turned out a sociopath.

I want to post photos of Jack and Buster in action but I forgot my camera. Unfortunately, I don’t have the thousands of words necessary to express their cuteness.

The story of my life with cats would be a pretty comprehensive and illuminating autobiography. I think I want to write that story but it’s too much for a Second Cup east of Yonge on Eglinton.

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