I am hijacking this space today away from the usual tone of snark, outrage and despair, replacing it with a little bit of uplift and positivity. Chicken Soup For The Injured Municipal Soul. Tastes good and better for you.
Last night, amidst the Learian wind and rain, the definitive exclamation point that fall was indeed upon us, I had a moment of sublimity. (Yes, it’s a word. I checked it myself.) A glowing realization that we here in Toronto live in a fucking pretty good city. (See how I did that, the sublime with the profane? Just in case you were wondering why I dropped the f-word like that. Entirely intentional and not the least bit haphazardly extraneous.)
It came upon me at Hugh’s Room, a west end music and dining establishment not a usual haunt for me. I was there to take in a friend’s CD release show. Michelle Rumball is her name. Welcome To The Beauty Saloon is the name of her CD.
Early on in the set, it dawned on me just how full of top notch musicians and songwriters this city is. This is not a revelation. Evidence of such has abounded for years now.
But I extrapolated from that not just to the arts community in general but to a wider view of culture and all round civics, for lack of a better term. Yes, I’m thinking political activism specifically. As a part time contributor to that here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, a dilettante onlooker some might say, I am constantly amazed at the quality and depth of talent out there. Such a depth of analysis, writing, hands on involvement. It’s truly breathtaking. From the high profilers like John Lorinc and the gang at Spacing, Shawn Micallef, Matthew Blackett, Dylan Reid, Luca De Franco. Ivor Tossell. Edward Keenan at The Grid. The city watchers at the Torontoist. John McGrath at OpenFile TO. Friends of this site. Matt Elliott. Sol Chrom. David Hains. Jonathan Goldsbie. Dave Meslin.
A partial list to be sure but indicative of the reason so many of us move to Toronto or who stay having been born and raised here. Mixing in with a critical mass of like minded individuals to elevate your own game whether it’s to create music, theatre or to be a part of the grand urban design. It’s one of the main answers to the question: how can you live in a big city? How could you not?
With such strength, it is then fair to also ask: how the hell have we landed in the current mess we’re in? To answer, I go back to the example of my musician friend, Michelle Rumball.
I’ve known her for, well, gulp, over 20 years now. Back then in a previous musical incarnation, she was part of the upcoming band, The Grievous Angels. I remember a glorious night in 1988, and a packed and enthusiastic bar at the then Spadina House (King and Spadina). The joint was jumpin’, as they say, and the group paused in order for all of us to stop and watch Ben Johnson win a gold medal in Seoul, smashing a world record in the process.
Oh, the things we were going to do. The heights we would climb. The world we would change.
Safe to say, things didn’t work out quite like we planned. The trajectory very different from what we envisioned. The road got much rockier than most of us could foresee at the time.
And yet, here we were, 23 years later, in a crowded Hugh’s Room, Michelle with her band and long-awaited and fought for CD released, lighting the place on fire. It was a tough slog for her with plenty of sacrifices made. If it had only been about talent, her journey would’ve been a whole lot easier. But the fact is, unless you are supremely lucky, determination and perseverance are all you can truly rely on. The unwavering ability to get back up and dust yourself off after each stumble or knock you face. Resilience, in a word.
Fighting for what you believe in, whether it’s your chosen career or contributing to the well being of the place you live, ultimately will determine if you succeed or fail. Toronto’s been knocked for a loop, for sure, but the final outcome is far from settled. We get back up on our feet and engage in the battle once more. The alternative is defeat.
Once more into the breach, Toronto, and good luck. Good luck to you too, Michelle. Enjoy the moment. You’ve earned it.
— upliftingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat
Thank You. For your thoughtful words and for making your way through the weather. I was just so happy to see a crowd and have my suspicion that art really does breed community confirmed. I have been lacking a bit of love for Toronto of late, but I saw a cross-section last night that reminded me of why I stay here and do what I do.