Recently, Spacing magazine and Live With Culture solicited submissions for a contest in which applicants were asked to shoot a 30-second video for the city, using the theme “My Toronto.” You can view the submissions they received and vote on your favourites at www.spacing.ca. Coincidentally, the CTV television network has launched its own “My Toronto is…” video contest, also soliciting videos from viewers. EYE WEEKLY city editor Edward Keenan is not very handy with a camera, but couldn’t resist gathering some notes for his own My Toronto video.

A rail network runs through my Toronto like the open road in a Kerouac novel – representing connection and freedom and possibility – so we’ll want to open with a shot of me in my Battlestar Galactica pyjamas, looking out my bedroom window onto Gerrard Street as the 506 car rumbles by at night. Then jump-cut to me on the same streetcar, lugging all my hockey equipment as an eight-year-old on my way to play on a Saturday morning at Ted Reeve arena. From there, cut to the view of the Don Valley Parkway from the Bloor subway travelling on the Prince Edward viaduct, as I try to spot two red cars (for good luck) before we re-enter the tunnel.

You can pull some footage from the archives of me as a Grade 9 in my Catholic school jacket and tie, sleeping on the subway surrounded by a school bag, hockey bag and stick and saxophone case as the crowd wedged in around me glares. And then get a shot of the building on Dupont where I lived with my wife in my early thirties as a freight train passes on the CNR tracks directly north. Zoom in through the window to find me and Rebecca in bed, sleeping contentedly, the passing train rattling the entire apartment.

And parks – we’ll need shots of parks. My Toronto is tobogganing on the giant hill at Riverdale Park as a 10-year-old, racing towards the valley and the highway across the track and beyond the fence. And my Toronto is going over the handlebars of my bike on that same hill and being knocked out cold as a 13-year-old. We’ll need a shot of teenagers drinking beer at Cudia Park on the Scarborough Bluffs by the light of a campfire, me sneaking a kiss with some girl I’ve just met in the bushes before flashlights flare through the trees and someone shouts “police!” and we run off in all directions.

You can cut to a shot of me in a cook’s apron as a 25-year-old, leaning back on the boulder in Yorkville Park with my eyes closed, trying to suppress the urge to go back into my restaurant and strangle a customer or a server or anyone else who expects me to continue cooking. And then maybe fade to a shot of me leaning over my year-old son in the surf at Hanlan’s Point as he tries to catch the rolling waves, our friends and all the naked people in the background.

We have sports in my Toronto, though most of them are hockey. You can jump rapidly from me scoring my first goal on the ice at Ted Reeve to the bunch of us in Grade 3 playing “foot hockey” with a tennis ball in the schoolyard to me and my brother playing table hockey in a wood-panelled basement in Scarborough to a shot of Doug Gilmour on TV, his faced bruised and cut, as the Leafs have just lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the 1993 playoffs. Pan out from there to find a room full of grown men in tears. Then cut to the same group of men playing road hockey in the middle of Danforth Avenue in 2004.

I suppose there’s some baseball in my Toronto, too, so you can show me dancing in the middle of Yonge Street in 1992 after the Blue Jays have won the World Series for the first time, a stranger approaching me in the crowded streets and handing me a giant Canadian flag that he’s apparently ripped off the side of a building. Then you can cut to me with my hair dyed platinum inside the Phoenix Concert Theatre in 1993, sitting with the rest of the crowd and watching on the big screen as Joe Carter hits a home run to win a second title.

My Toronto is dancing on in the early ’90s at the Phoenix and the Dance Cave and Catch 22; drinking beer and playing pool around the same time at Sneaky Dee’s; shooting the shit in the mid-’90s at the Only Café; talking with James O’Reilly, the playwright, who was a bartender at the Spotted Dick on Bloor in the late ’90s, and then we’ll want some footage of me wasting the early years after the millennium at the bar at Taro Grill on Queen. Somewhere we need a shot of me at the booze can in the alleyway behind Yonge Street, where some girl I kind of know shows me her tiny fake tits in the washroom before offering me a line of coke. And another shot of the booze can in the alley behind Queen Street, where everyone is playing dice games for money.

Politics – let’s get some politics in. Show me at a Citizens for Local Democracy rally in a completely packed church in 1997 as John Ralston Saul gives a speech. And drinking beer and smoking cigarettes with Jack Layton at the Only Café on the Danforth later that year, plotting his campaign (jump quickly to Marilyn Churley in tears at his party on election night). We can find a shot of the Trampoline Hall vs David Miller event at the Gladstone in 2003, with Jane Jacobs on stage holding a big horn up to her ear so she can hear questions from the audience. (That’s me there taking notes.) And then add some footage of that night in 2005 when a public-space activist showed me how to shut off the lights on a billboard.

How can we be at 30 seconds already? I need to add a shot of me and Rebecca eating a tasting menu at Accolade in 1999, and me proposing to her over “cold tea” at a Chinese restaurant on Spadina in 2000, and a shot of me and her – Rebecca in bare feet and her wedding dress – stumbling up Bay Street to our room at the Sutton Place, our honeymoon luggage slung over our backs, on the night we were married in 2002.

And then we need me holding my newborn son Colum in the delivery room at Mount Sinai Hospital in 2006, his mother sleeping beside us after three days of labour. And Colum at his favourite places: the High Park Zoo, the ferry to the Island, running around in the middle of the street at the Junction Arts Festival, on a pony ride at a fair in Scarborough.

Here’s a tagline: “My Toronto doesn’t fit into a 30-second commercial.” Then squeeze in shots of wandering the deserted financial district in the early morning waiting for the subway to start running, of teenagers fist fighting on Kingston Road, of kids playing on the Henry Moore sculptures in front of the ROM, of the staff of a literary magazine drinking wine in the park on McCaul, of grown men playing a burby tournament in a schoolyard….

Originally published in Eye Weekly, October 18, 2007.

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