Up to Toronto, Eh

Since my first visit in 1967, Canada has always struck me as highly innovative, the kind of place that would figure out that cops on bicycles would make for effective community policing.

On Wednesday, May 2, I drove to DFW and flew north to Toronto.  As always, I hopped on bus #192, known as the Airport Rocket, that runs from the terminals to the western end of the TTC subway system.  The echo of a self-centered conservative I heard on the radio while heading to DFW – he was bemoaning lawn-watering restrictions, ignoring the searing reality that we just lived through a serious drought in North Texas – bounced around my head as I rode the train into the city.  Here was a place that understood the need to live and work and prosper together.  As always, it was a pleasure to be in Canada.

Checked into the hotel, washed my face, and headed back out, walking south across the University of Toronto campus.  My visits are almost always in winter, and the campus in spring bloom looked quite different.  As I do on every visit, I paused at the U of T war memorial, Solider Tower, to give thanks for warriors’ sacrifices in the two world wars.  (I later discovered that in many earlier updates I had incorrectly attributed the quotation on one of the memorial’s walls; it was Pericles who wrote this vivid idea: “Their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.”)

Detail, names of members of the U of T community who died in World War II

One of the smaller gardens of Dig In!, the U of T’s campus agriculture program; more innovation, in plain sight.

Had a good, quick meeting with two directors from the Rotman School of Management executive education program, a then reversed course back to my room.

At six I met Bruce Williams, with whom I’ve collaborated on some software sales projects.  We had a beer, and shared a small pizza and good conversation.  He’s a new Canadian friend, and a good guy.  At seven I hopped in the car of an old Canadian friend, Lorne Salzman, pal since 1983.  We had a bit of time before our dinner reservation, so he drove me around a couple of prosperous inner-Toronto neighborhoods, including Forest Hill, where he lives.  By 7:35 we were seated in a lively, noisy neighborhood French restaurant, Le Paradis, and updating each other on our lives, families, and work.  A long dinner with great conversation.  Lorne is a swell fellow.

In the prosperous Forest Hill neighborhood

Slept hard but woke up before six, laced up, and rode an exercise bike ten miles.  Headed back to the room, made some coffee, worked some-mails, and suited up.  Breakfast meant a one-block walk to Tim Horton’s for the customary bran muffins, milk, and a bit more coffee.  Bought a TTC day pass and headed two stops north to Dupont Street, at the base of the hill that holds the mansion Casa Loma.  Reading a plaque about the castle (built in 1911 by a utility magnate), I fell into a wonderful and prolonged T-t-S with one, then three young women who were running the 200-or-so steps to the mansion for exercise.  The trigger was a my out-loud comment about the value of interpretive plaques, but from there we went in all directions: her former job as a condo architect; her current job managing a wildly popular coffee shop focused on board games (Chutes and Lattes, where loyal patrons line up for caffeine and Parcheesi, Monopoly, and 200 more); hopeless U.S. politics; what I was doing in Toronto; Linda’s job as a juvenile court judge; couch surfing; and more.  It’s remarkable how much distance you can cover in just a few minutes!  Snapped their picture, headed up the stairs to admire Casa Loma, down the backside, and back onto the subway.

My three new friends; one of them jotted down the URL for this blog, and I hope they check it out!

Casa Loma, Toronto’s castle

An hour later I was back on the TTC, into downtown.  Coming to the surface in the Royal Bank Centre, I was again reminded of Canada as a caring society, in a sign headlined “Do your part to prevent the death of migratory birds.” Beneath was instruction about turning off lights in office towers and other advice to help preserve the lives of honkers, mallards, and other winged creatures.  It made me smile, and gave me more to admire.

After a productive meeting with folks from the Schulich School of Business at York University, I ambled around downtown, hopped on a streetcar, and headed back to the U of T.  Had a pleasant, simple lunch in Innis College, did a bit of work, and at 3:00 met my longtime Rotman host Mara Lederman for a smoothie and a catch up.  Last stop, at 4:10, was a quick 15-minute chat with the Rotman dean, Roger Martin.  Then west on the subway, north on the Airport Rocket, and a Silver Bird back to Texas.

A splendid 19th Century house on St. George St. was spared as the Rotman School expanded; they simply built around it.

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