TORONTO, ON Aug. 5, 2015/Troy Media/ – There are many signs that you’ve made it in the big city. I like carrying my MetroCard from New York, just to show I’m a regular there. Having a regular driver in a car service is a good omen, but so is just walking the busy streets and being part of the urban street theatre that urban critic Jane Jacobs loved.
But, it’s really where you eat a celebratory meal that separates the successful from the aspiring – don’t you think?
Dinner at Hy’s in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa announce you’ve arrived. Carver’s in Saskatoon, the Carvery in Edmonton, Golf’s in Regina, Barbarian’s in Toronto, Moishe’s in Montreal and the Maverick Room in Fredericton have been the scene of many a celebratory dinner in my life, and, no doubt the lives of many others.
But then there’s the calculus involving the time of life. A&W with that special person may linger longer than an expensive dinner after you’ve made it. A buddy of mine and I once invited two young women out for a drink in Fredericton. We bought a bottle of wine at the liquor store on Prospect Street, opened it as we drove into the Irving car wash at the corner of Regent and Prospect. We had the wine finished by the time the car was clean. It might not have been what the young women were expecting, but we did take them out for a drink.
One of my most memorable meals that announced I’d made it was breakfast in Regina.
While still in university I had part-time work in broadcasting, mainly on the CBC morning show Saskatchewan Today. I had been impoverished by the daily wage at CJME (20/20 News), and CBC’s half-day rate was a big step up.
My first morning, one of the French announcers from Radio-Canada’s morning show walked around asking people if they wanted breakfast at the end of the broadcast. “Sure,” I said, having eaten at 5 a.m., but knowing I’d be hungry again at 9:15. He took my order – bacon and eggs.
When our English and French shows were over, we all walked out to McIntyre Street and a bit north to the Empire Hotel. Saskatchewanian Joni Mitchell had written about ” . . . sittin’ in the lounge of the Empire Hotel . . . ” in her song Raised on Robbery, but I had a low expectation that she’d actually be there.
In we walked, and in my mind’s eye, there was actually a drunk sleeping on the floor from the night before. We took a left into the restaurant, and there was my breakfast waiting in a little booth.
There was more aroma than what was coming from the welcome bacon frying and coffee, but I was focused on something else. I was wedged into a decades old booth with my fellow performers. We had the camaraderie that only those who’d been through a trial by fire could have – circus performers, politicians, singers and broadcasters.
We knew the tight rope of live radio, tape that broke, stretched or didn’t play, guests who didn’t show and dead phone lines. All the while what saved us and the program was an inexhaustible ability to talk. We’d cover any and all problems with talk about the last guest, the next guest, the guest who didn’t show up, the weather or the roads. When it was all over, we had a much deserved bond and minor celebration.
The breakfast probably cost me one-half of one-per cent of some of the celebratory dinners I mentioned above. But it was my first earned bond with grownups who had real jobs, cars, mortgages and lives.
I was on my way.
Allan Bonner has consulted on the major planning and public policy issues of our time on five continents over 25 years. He loves cities. His next book will be entitled Safe Cities.