It was a month or so ago that my 7-year-old son asked me "What's a coincidence?" I struggled for anything remotely resembling a dictionary definition before I answered (I was driving at the time), "It's like when you're thinking of someone and then 'boom' there they are." He thought quietly for a few moments and replied "Wow dad, you must have a LOT of coincidences!" I didn't say much at the time, but I certainly smiled to myself. At the risk of sounding like a braggart, the truth is that the walk to the corner store or through a nearby festival at Victoria Park can indeed be a long affair. Poor kids. I meet people I know. We talk. The kids are bored. This is the life of being the child of a lifelong Londoner I suppose.
That's actually not entirely true. To be fair, while the hospital was in London (St. Joe's), was in London, my actual address at the time was a dusty intersection in Dutton, Ontario. I didn't move here until the ripe old age of 4-months old, give-or-take a month or so. Additionally, my now wife and I lived in downtown Toronto for just over 3 years, moving back shortly after our son was born. Still, I think it's fair to say London is the only home I've really ever known. (Oh shit, just remembered I also lived in BC for about 5 months) and to be honest - I wouldn't have it any other way. I should stop here for a minute and give credit where it is due. The truth of the matter is that this blog post never would have happened without Abe Oudshoorn and his amazing video - and reminding me how blessed I am to live in such a great city.
For all the complaining that we do for how our city council sucks, there's nothing to do ... and such, I can tell you from personal experience that people who grew up here and left, well - some are moving back. On purpose! To raise their kids. Not just me - other people! I know many people who moved away, some decades ago (worth noting: I'm old) and remember their childhood so fondly that they want there kids to have the same. (Note: not singular. Not one person. I personally know many people. Moving here. To London.) I could literally sit at this computer ALL night and regale you with awesome memories growing up here, but instead I'm going to switch gears ... to a point, To what is great about London today.
(photo credit: OSMAP)
A couple of weeks ago I asked my fellow Londoners to create a list of things that everyone should do at least once. (Ed note: You can read the full list HERE.) As I'm want to do, I've opted to share your opinions instead of my own. That being said, I am going to choose a few of my favourites and add some commentary. I should note that I planned to use these on my TV show, #LdnOnt, and still plan to do so, but what better way to highlight the city I love than to highlight a few of the things that we all love. Speaking of which, I love our unicycling scout trooper and grilled cheese stand, both of which can be seen above. So, what did you choose I what do I have to say about them? Red wine be damned - let's find out!
Roy McDonald: Alright, clearly not the first thing you think of when you think of London, but to be perfectly honest, one of my favourite aspects. Dude was born in 1937 and has been a street poet and all around cool part of our city since I can remember. What;s that you say? He looks like a hobo? How about a poet, published author and award winner. Same deal I guess. My earliest memories of Roy and blurry ... singing "The Gambler" in front of Joe Kool's and such. Make no mistake. he is a part of our city and ... at the risk of repeating myself .. one of our greatest treasures.
Get cut off at Joe Kool's: For starters, see previous entry. I don't try to hide the fact that I lived a booze-soaked 20's. Some might suggest it continues but anyone who knows me will be quick to inform you that the binges are not only less intense as of late, but days shorter to boot. I'm not exactly going to condone irresponsible drinking but if you're going to get cut off somewhere - well, might a well be an institution. (See also: the Ceeps.) Last time I checked, I held the distinguished honour as the person asked most often to be asked most often, which of course I did quickly and quietly. (I am Canadian after all.)
Gibbons Park: Im not even sure this should make my list, but given our title of "The Forest City: I feel I have to include a green space, and heaven knows we do have our share. Furthermore, Gibbons and I go WAY back. (To be clear, I could go on all night, we're it not for the invention of booze and/or work.) I spent many a summer afternoon at Gibbons, and still do - although I'll admit with far less regularity - damn life!) To be fair, I was there last weekend, so 4 days is not that bad - and it continues to be a great place.
We're done here. Suck as it might. This is my love note to the city I love so much. Not because I don't love it. Au contraire! NO WAIT - THERE'S MORE! The battle between brews and civic engagement is now in full effect. Our city, London, the 'City of opportunity' remains.
I conclusion my love of London remains. I love the best of you AND the worst of you. I don't mid when the students are gone and when I (potentially) have to wait in line. It's not my city - it's ours. To be clear - I'm not complaining - that's awesome.