i've tried to explain the various differences between montreal and toronto to many people over the years, but i've never really found an appropriate metaphor, until today. the exultation of montreal's extraordinary joie de vivre ignores the difficulty many people have in finding decent work at a living wage. the dismissal of toronto as being conservative likewise dismisses the absolutely shocking variety of experiences available.
but, fresh off a weekend in montreal, i suddenly thought of a very appropriate way to judge the differences between cities. and it's one you would have thought would have occurred to me earlier: shoes.
so what do the shoes have to tell us?
well, in very literal terms, that montreal weather is harsher than toronto's, so shoes don't last as long. as aa result, montreal shoes tend to look like they've had better days, whereas toronto shoes often look as if they're just seeing the outside of the box for the first time.
shoes in toronto tend to show very little wear. in fact, worn shoes are a fashion statement (or a statement of dire economic straits) in themselves. they also tend to be pricier and from a handful of brands that enjoy an irritating ubiquity (yes, i can spot them).
this points to an economic disparity, because people in montreal tend to have less money, a lot less, than their counterparts in toronto, meaning the shoes are both cheaper and forced to last longer.
there tend to be fewer running shoes in montreal, including those odoious puma "sport lifestyle" shoes, which are everywhere in toronto. why? because montrealers are a lot more fashion conscious and have worked out that, unless you're in a gym, running shoes are a bad end point to any outfit. montrealers would rather buy a good looking pair and wear them wherever they go than stroll in shoes which are built for activity. (which, in turn, says something about the practicality of torontonians.)
the most interesting thing, for me at least, is that shoes in montreal, being more worn, show that they are lived in. they aren't simply slipped on before hopping in the car and then slipped off at the end of the day, having never touched any outdoor surface. shoes carry people in that city from one part of their life to another- often involving being outdoors, walking around the city, or taking the rather admirable public transit system. torontonians are a more predictable, sedentary lot, who move from indoor space to indoor space and tend to treat mass transit like a biohazard zone. shoes are in better condition because they simply never come out to play.