Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cross Cultures the Diversity - and Diversions - of Toronto

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cross Cultures the Diversity - and Diversions - of Toronto

Article excerpt

COME HERE, and before long you will be directed to admire the world's tallest free-standing structure, the world's longest street and a stadium with the world's only fully retractable domed roof.

Be polite - that is something of a religion here - and have a look. But keep in mind that this is not why you came.

You are here for the subway musicians who submit to auditions every August to assure their proficiency.

For the ticket scalpers at ball stadium entrances who commonly call their customers "sir."

For the Saturday night crowd in the Bovine Sex Club, a bar in the city's bohemian Queen Street West neighborhood, where, as you might expect, pierced, tattooed and leathered young Torontonians slouch like thugs. But they remain Canadian. Meet their gaze, pose a question and they speak so amiably and thoughtfully that a discussion of Margaret Atwood's early fiction seems likely to break out at any moment.

And you are here to savor the greatest strangeness for an American in Toronto: the pleasure of wandering through a metropolis studded with ethnic neighborhoods, swollen with recent immigrants yet notably affluent, largely at peace with itself, courteous to strangers and orderly to boot. Bright lights, benign city.

Do the landmarks. The CN Tower may look like just another waterfront needle with a revolving restaurant on top, but it is 1,815 feet tall. Yonge Street is a largely unremarkable urban artery lined mostly by standard-issue 20th-century architecture, but it does reach more than 1,100 miles into the hinterlands of the Canadian North.

And SkyDome Stadium does feature that famed retractable dome, a built-in hotel with rooms overlooking the playing field, an on-site Hard Rock Cafe and tenants who frequently win the World Series.

See a show. The theater district may not remind anyone of New York's Broadway or London's West End but the volume and quality of productions far surpass those of most North American cities, thanks in part to the support of local retailer "Honest Ed" Mirvish, who headed the refurbishment of the historic Royal Alexandra Theatre.

On the day I arrived, "The Who's Tommy," "Phantom of the Opera," "Miss Saigon," "Show Boat," "Crazy for You," "Forever Plaid" and "The Mousetrap" were all running, along with many smaller productions. …

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