Monday, 17 March 2008

On......the beginnings of the road trip and getting a year older

Here I am teetering on the edge of the age gap, wondering what adventures the other side of the great chasm will afford me. Let us just say that I am celebrating a “noteworthy” birthday this year and that I had decided that I would celebrate it by dissecting North America in a Ford Mustang. However my journey was to start in Toronto, Canada, a city which I had always planned to visit and which had always held a certain mystical allure. So here I am, teetering on that age gap, reflecting on the past tri-decade and feeling distinctly underwhelmed.

I should have known better really. I mean, what did I expect? I have lived in London now for approximately half of my adult life and once you’ve lived in one big city, you’ve lived in them all. I can therefore say categorically that I have visited Tokyo, Munich, Paris, Sydney, New York, Los Angeles, Moscow, Chicago and Seoul. The stamps in my passport are irrelevant. I have lived in a city therefore I have lived in all cities. Toronto is no different. Although I must say there is something particularly soulless about this great city. Yes I know what you are thinking. The city is artifice, it is constructed, manmade. But no, there is something that found spookily bland about Toronto. It is a city that appears to live in the shadow of another great city. It is the younger sibling that strives to find its own identity yet labours under the personality of the more dominant offspring. It is America-lite or Yank Zero if you like.

I had come to Toronto hoping to find my own private slice of Canadia. I wanted to discover the distinctions that provided Canadians with justified umbrage every time one mistook them for Americans. I hoped to understand the culture of the people and to see what it meant to be Canadian and not American. I wished to become fluent in the Canadian tongue and understand the distinctions that existed between the Canadian accent and its American cousin. So how did I achieve this? I went to Toronto, and stayed at the Sheraton. Beat that for immersing yourself in Canadian culture. It is like the man who travels to Abuja for the first time, spends two nights at the Hilton and feels qualified enough to deliver a three hour sermon on the ills of the entire Nigerian nation, simultaneously offering remedies for its improved economic performance. I felt like a fraud and I had to get my hands dirty.

On the Friday I landed I was Toronto bourgeoisie, sipping Patron and dining a la carte. On Saturday I devolved to the middle-class. By Sunday I was a plebeian. The irony is that I endured the greatest joys as a plebeian. On that day I explored parts of Toronto that I doubt any respectable tour company would include on its itinerary. I went to Chinatown and ate Indian. I went to College Street, stood on a soapbox and orated. I talked of my wanderlust. I spoke of human passion and its unvarying ability to surprise. My audience was small but captive. I visited Yonge Street and listened, nay vibed, to Soular. I marvelled, as I always do, at artists who swear by their passion. They were not famous. They were not rich. The words were often not theirs, but for the sake of a free meal at the establishment that provided platform, they sang and they performed like gods. An extraterrestrial visitor would have witnessed their performance and compared it with the MTV radio signals they received in Delcrum 9. They would have struggled to identify who was the more talented, Soular or Beyonce or Rihanna or whoever. At last my hands were grubby and I realised that this was the fragment of the city that I most loved – its heart. For even amongst the mechanical and the logical aspects of every city - its imposing skyscrapers and dirty, overcrowded public transport systems, you will always find a small but thriving organ that allows for the rest of its adjuncts to thrive independently and function harmoniously.

On now to Boston for St Patrick’s Day. The colour of my money and my underwear are both green so I suspect that I will fit right in. The rest of my four week sojourn will involve a variety of accommodation from the opulent rooms of Las Vegas to the cockroach infested motels that are strewn across Route 66. Each moment will be an adventure and I promise that there will be images, plenty of images. For all my American dwelling friends I may be coming soon to a town near you. I am hopefully meeting with at least two fellow blog-villains. If you holler at me then lunch is on me. If not then look out for the cherry-red Ford Mustang. You will recognise me I think. I will be the black guy getting stopped by the Police in every State for doing 100mph.

28 comments:

UndaCovaSista said...

Wow, atutu! You are living my dream. I'm so envious!!

Sounds like your having a ball. Please update frequently so i can vicariously partake in your adventure. Drive safely and God speed...

Nyemoni said...

ATUTU! Where have you been?

Nyemoni said...

30 at last eh? Have fun in your sojurn Atutu....Best wishes in the coming year!

Naapali said...

Like an Oyster, you have spatiotemporal depth. Your value increases with the passage of time, as it does as you open up to reveal the treasure within. I understand you completely when you said "I have been to every major city". I understand but I disagreed. Every city is as alike on the surface, as all oysters are alike. Like oysters, it is what lies within that differentiates them, that makes Lagos different from Tokyo as it is different from Bombay. My faith in your powers of discernment was not shaken as I have come to learn your writing is always multilayered. This you revealed as you drilled down the strata of Toronto, getting to the rich underbelly that spills out onto its streets.

My first stop in my journey to North America was Toronto. My initial reaction was disappointment. I also found it to be Diet America, same colors, weaker taste. This premature summation changed as I walked along Yonge (not the whole length o!!!). Since then I have found Toronto to be a younger, hipper, broker, New York with a Canadian twist.

Dude, you have my numbers, call me when you are in my neighborhood, remember US 66 starts in Chitown.

Afolabi said...

Wow, you must be having the best time ever..I'm jealous. But, its cool you're actually tried to feel what Toronto has to offer.

J Adamthwaite said...

I wonder if you will look at London differently when you return. I tend to find that when I've been away, I come back with tourist eyes and look at home differently for a few days - which is a nice extension of the holiday in some ways.

Ms. Catwalq said...

DANG!!!!!
how did this happen?
omo yiii o ma jegba seriously. chei..after camping out here

Ms. Catwalq said...

if i did not love you so much, i would have vexed and not left a comment...but since I do...have fun and if u can brach our side

guerreiranigeriana said...

i am green o!!!...not with envy, of course not...it's the vegetables i eat!!...i have yet to do that-trek across the us in car...i am re-inspired...how exciting!!...

...when you branch in southern cali, you hit me up...we can play a little in la's nightlife...i am with undacova, as i wish to live vicariously through your adventures, update frequently and in color!!...

30+ said...

So long brother, so long.

Speak to us soon with words and pictures from your sojourn.

Arewa said...

growing older and wiser.....Live life to the fullest!!

Ms Sula said...

That sounds like so much fun!!! And yes, there is a heart lurking behind the "sameness" of every big city... A character in a book I read baptized it (very cleverly I might add, lol) "the word of a city", the verb/noun/adjective that defines said city...

Apparently, you discovered what was Toronto's "verb"... And it might have to do with lounge-pop music-covering-singers...

Have fun throughout! And if you happen stop in Texas, honk twice I'll wave back! :)

TheAfroBeat said...

Ahh, another pisces brother..happy birthday o! Abeg, when are you coming to NYC? Pls pls, would love to meet up if you're going to be here (email @ theafrobeat@gmail.com) - you have no excuse not to if you're hitting up boston, although, you really wouldn't be missing much to be honest.

Laughing my head off about your Yank zero comment, have never been to Toronto and for some reason, have never really desired to, but i'm sure it's worth seeing for myself just how lite this America lite is. Happy Travels!

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Uncle Ah22, this sounds like so much fun. I wish I had done something like thi. Take time off to explore halfway across the world. For me, it owuld be Asia. I can't wait to go to Nihon (Japan), China, Thailand...

Anyway, have fun and if you come anywhere near Washington D.C./Maryland/Virginia, let us know so we can have you over!

Take care!

NIGERIAN CURIOSITY
IT WAS SO MUCH EASIER WHEN I ONLY HAD ONE...

Zephi Fahrenheit said...

ey ey ey.. the big thirty..atutu don old oh.. I bet your sexy in your green underwear..lol..well have fun...cant wait for the pictures...ohhh and I am pisces too

Jaycee said...

On the Friday I landed I was Toronto bourgeoisie, sipping Patron and dining a la carte. On Saturday I devolved to the middle-class. By Sunday I was a plebeian...

Awww...Atutu u're such an interesting phenomenon. Did u really stand on a soapbox to become an orator for a day? Wow, I love that! Do blog about the things u spoke about...please *wink*

Atutu, I promise I will be like u when I grow up...and the color of both my underwear and pocket will be "green." Loved this........maybe because I love the idea of treavelling the world and absorbing the various experiences!

Olamild said...

Happy Easter

Pink-satin said...

i want to travel d world too

Jem said...

lol, u forgot to add Toronto is noted as a very multi-cultural society with unique winter weather .... Next time....also visit Montreal, Quebec to see more.

Waffarian said...

Hissssssss! abeg, do and come back to Europe jare we dey wait you! America indeed!

Waffarian said...

Oh, Happy Easter!

fantasy queen said...

i so envy you..so you going on the road trip alone? need a compaion? lol'
i've always wanted to be adventurous and explore cultures of different countries(mostly asian) and what they are about, like i tried hardest to differentiate between the chinese and the korean traditions...you know its sort of the canadian/american thingy. i couldnt get it, i dwelt amongst them respectively, but.....

but doing it your way? na...i'd rather relax at the hilton and watch from my castle
'bourgeoisie' rocks for me. i dont get along with the roaches.lol

have a fun trip, hope we get to hear all about it soon. dont drive too fast k? we dont want no mug shots of you splashed around for going over the speedy.

enjoy your birthday and hope its a happy year for you.

princesa said...

Enjoy ur road trip dude!

Moody Crab said...

I love Torontoe and NO it is nothing like Paris or London. It is far better. There is life in every str in that city. The 'little countries' are uniquely Toronto.

Damn their Chinatown! 3 in one city? Can London or any other city beat that? Don't even get me started on Eaton Center...I literally lived in that mall when I used to live in that country. Ahhh..fun memories. I miss Toronto.

Happy belated bday, btw!

Patrice said...

A mystical allure for Toronto? Really? When you have a moment, please tell me how this developed?

" . . . there is something particularly soulless about this great city."

Yes, I agree, but it wasn't always this way. The problem is, I think, that the city is expanding too rapidly for its character to keep pace.

laspapi said...

I wish this could be done around Nigeria. But one would probably get robbed by cross-border guerrilla fighters/bandits/vigilante etc.

Happy birthday.

archiwiz said...

I totally love the name of your blog. Atutupoyoyo!!!!:)

khasiat sarang semut said...

Sarang Semut Papua
Buah Merah Papua
Rumput kebar Papua
Kayu Akway