Mon, Dec
30
2002

What Makes Toronto a Good City

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In a coffee shop that used to be a corner store of my youth, Wayne Tonjes and I sit and write our fantasy stories. There is no seating time limit. We just keep ordering more coffee.

In the next table are two old ladies from Holland who remember the War. When one of the two steps away to go to the bathroom, the more exuberant of the two leans over and asks us what we're doing. We're writing, we say, and that should end the conversation, but it doesn't. What are you writing about? Sort of fantasy/science fiction. Oh! the woman exclaims.

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We are two tall men in our thirties. Wayne has shoulder length hair and a devilish face, but the woman still engages us, takes an interest in our work and discusses Flatland, the first science-fiction book she ever read. She's looking for books for her grandchildren; something other than Harry Potter, which they've read already. The other old lady returns. These men are writing, the first lady says. Ah, I see. And (turning to me) you are an artist. You have a fountain pen. You do calligraphy?

Two years ago, my father and I bought donuts, coffee and a life story from a black woman in Brampton who had four children by the time she was twenty. That donut shop is hers, and she has no regrets.

Outside, the streetcars rumble past like battleships. The city moves on.

Photographs by Marguerite Belt-Tonjes.


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