Twenty Years of Toronto
Brian Finch: Last week marked a small personal anniversary. Twenty years ago, I moved to Toronto from Winnipeg. The old cliché of how time flies certainly can’t be said enough. Where has the time gone?
Last night, my first improv class at Second City began with the fellow beside me saying, “Hey my middle name is Brian, and that’s my father’s name. So if I call you dad, you’ll know why.”
What a difference 20 years has made. I grew up and became a daddy of sorts. It’s these moments when I realize that two decades have gone by.
For those who are not from Canada, let me just say there are two things that bring Canadians together and those are the shared hatred of Air Canada and Toronto.
The mere fact of writing about Toronto brings out the incredible provincialism that comes out of petty regionalism that is so rampant in this country. We all have our preferences of what we like and don’t like. But really, when I mention Toronto, they have to shit all over what I like. If someone were to tell me that they are from Montreal, I wouldn’t start rattling off everything I don’t like about the city.
Without a doubt someone will leave a comment extolling the virtues of where they live and how horrible it is in Toronto. That’s how engrained the mentality is.
My first trip back to Winnipeg I felt like I had to almost apologize for living in Toronto. In Vancouver when I said I lived in Winnipeg I’d hear, “I’m so sorry.” To be frank, anyone who thinks they are special because of where they live simply tells me they don’t get out much.
The fact is that Toronto has provided me with so much. I’ve been able to do so many different things here that I’d not have an opportunity to do elsewhere. I have incredible housing, and a decent life. In those respects I’m very blessed. Indeed the city of Toronto has treated me quite well.
In my teens, I’d watch SCTV all the time in Winnipeg. I loved the show and dreamed that one day I could actually go to Second City. In those days that was an impossible dream. Just getting out of Winnipeg was a dream in itself. To me Winnipeg was the Prison on the Prairies, and I desperately wanted to escape.
Last night as I reflected momentarily on this anniversary, and particularly after a very long stretch of what I call “unwellness” and being depressed, I realized that I am living the dream. OK, it might not have been the way I imagined it, but I am.
To be frank, simply being alive is living the dream from the 80's when there was no hope of treatment, leaving me waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it didn’t drop, although it’s kicked me around a lot.
I forget that simple act of taking a class at Second City is actually living a dream. Being able to continually find healthy challenges such as performing is a gift that Toronto has given me.
The city has been full of guardian angels. There were so many opportunities for me to fall through the cracks. I never did. There have always been people here that have supported me beyond belief, some of them I had just met and didn’t know me at all.
I’ve got a great storytelling workshop to go to this Sunday, and I’m starting a storytelling show with a friend of mine who runs a show called Awkward at The Comedy Bar. CBC wants to interview us for our first show November 12th.
Toronto, while being far (sometimes very far) from perfect has provided me with all the support, services, and the opportunity to live out forgotten dreams of so long ago.
When I became Jewish, I picked the Hebrew name Baruch, which means blessed in Hebrew. I have great housing, my little Chihuahua, great communities to which I belong. Life can still be an adventure.
Considering the alternative, I am definitely Baruch.
Now I just have to get a hold of plastic surgeon, and I’ll be set.