The folly of Dick

Posted on May 4th, 2009 2 great comments. Room for one more!

Toronto the good? Is that the best they could come up with?

You can just see the committee (and you know it was a committee), discussing how they were going to present Toronto to the world:

“Well how about Toronto the So-So?”

“I don’t see that as being particularly appealing, Mary.”

“Well, Dick, it’s about not raising visitors’ expectations. That way they’re mildly surprised when the city’s not that bad.”

“What I meant was that we had a vote last week on that word and we decided that the first ‘So’ was negative and the second positive. We had also decided that we didn’t want any negative connotations for Toronto in its slogan. Since half of that word is, as unanimously decided, negative, I must object to its use.”

“I second that motion.”

“Thanks, Bob, but this isn’t a vote.”


“I’ve got it! Toronto the Adequate! Same idea but no negativity. High five!”

“Thanks, Larry. That’s a great start, but I think we could punch it up a bit. You know, give it a pair of balls; tell ‘em what Toronto’s really made of.”

“What do you think of Toronto the Good, Dick?”

“That’s great, Mary! You’re finally using that girl brain of yours; good for you! All in favour? … all opposed? Motion is carried! Now, onto the urinal cakes at city hall…”

Eighteen ninety-eight. That’s 1898.

That’s when that name was invented, and I believe a new meaning of word “suck” was invented that very same day; call it coincidence. You can also call it coincidence that every hack/lazy writer and their dog has been dredging that old nugget out for irony ever since. The “Good” tag is just so entirely inadequate. Good what? Hot dogs? Weather? Footwear?

As I was deviating from my regular route home, I ended up in Little Portugal. I didn’t know Toronto had a Little Portugal, but it didn’t surprise me. I’m sure there’s a Little everything out there. And that’s why “Toronto the Good” is such a crappy choice. It could be “Toronto the Cosmopolitan” or “Toronto the Global”. I’d even live with “The City of Communities”. It’s a bit long but it’s both correct and sounds nicer.

To the casual observer, it might seem like these communities were planned by the city. Street boundaries are surprisingly strict with little spill-over; one block further in any direction and you’ve missed it. The street signs all tell you what community you’ve just walked into and if you happen to miss that, just look around. If it’s Portuguese, it’s in front of you. Even the people on the street suddenly suddenly seem more tanned.

It’s the same in Chinatown, of course. It all looks so genuine that it seems like it’s a setup. You might get the impression that this is mostly for tourists and occasional 4 a.m. revelers in search of greasy Chinese food and “special tea”.

In fact, I think that most of these areas are one-hundred percent authentic, functioning communities in every sense of the word. I base this on a little hard evidence I gathered on my romp through one of Chinatown’s markets. I happen to know that the products I found would only be purchased by actual Chinese people who hadn’t lost their taste for food back home, or the reconditioned expat who had acquired the taste for such items over many years living abroad. As I had.

This first example can be found widely throughout Toronto, but it’s still a proudly Taiwanese drink. The Taiwanese version of this labeling guarantees a minimum caffeine content! Awesome!


I’m still not sure exactly what Oligosaccharides are (“Oligo!”), but this sure is a tasty drink/meal:


With ingredients like lotus seed, red bean, black bean, and artificial  creamer (a must for all Taiwanese beverages), you know this is authentic:


There are products that aren’t fully legal in Canada, like this original Thai Red Bull with no English whatsoever:


And with Engrish like this, you can be assured that the Western market probably didn’t figure big in ChaCheer’s marketing:


No folks, those rats in the windows weren’t put there to draw crowds, they’re the real thing. This is authentic; I truly feel like I’m walking the streets of Taichung again. I still don’t know where it comes from, but they even managed to recreate that special stench of human excrement I remember so vividly from Taiwan’s open sewer/rainfall-runoff canals: kinda eggy with hints of fish and barley.

It’s a genuine, fully-immersive experience that’s within walking distance of home. That’s how the city should be billed: “Toronto the Experience”.

Jimmy Hendrix wailing on guitar….and….cut!

You’re welcome, Toronto. Now use this knowledge for good.

2 Comments on “ The folly of Dick ”

  • Fab
    June 19th, 2010 11:43 pm

    This post is hilarious!

    I can across it so randomly that I just have to force the story upon you. I was googling "Mr. Du + Bickford" (a really lazy and bad search for someone whose name I can't really spell) and I accidentally went into the image search.

    When I saw Mr. Brown, I just had to look at the original post. You see, I recently moved to China town and I'm borderline addicted to Mr. Brown and its slightly mysterious aftertaste.


    I like imagining Toronto as a city of communities, but as a Salvadoran-born, quarter Italian woman who grew up in little Portugal and later moved to multicultural Rexdale…I'm not quite sure where I fit! While I figure it out, I think I'll finally brave the international red bull.

    Read more from Fab at:
  • Patrick
    June 21st, 2010 6:46 am

    To start off with, Fab, welcome to Chinatown! As a Salvador-born, quarter Italian lady with ties to little Portugal and Rexdale, you fit right in! :) I'm glad to see the image search is paying off! Yeah, Mr. Brown is something special. At T&T (A Taiwanese supermarket on Cherry Street), they sell the other varieties of Mr. Brown as well as some of the other canned coffees I used to "enjoy". My fave was American Coffee, a standard-sized, blue-jeans-labeled can. Another "coffee" with an unusual aftertaste but I found it more pleasant as a first drink of the day, milder. Then I'd usually follow with a Mr. Brown chaser.

    And welcome welcome and welcome again to TCL — I can't tell you how nice it is to hear from someone else that's had the experience! Please keep on sharing :D

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