A RUSH FAN'S GUIDE TO TORONTO

Conform or be cast out


  1. Introduction
  2. For More Information
  3. In General
  4. Advice for U.S. Visitors
  5. Getting Around
  6. Rush-Related Attractions
  7. Other/Miscellaneous
  8. Weird Canadian Stuff, eh
  9. Back to The Sarnia Online Classic Rock Page

INTRODUCTION

This guide was prepared after a mere two trips to Toronto, five years apart, and a couple of other jaunts into Ontario generally. Naturally, this makes me an automatic expert, especially since I'm a know-it-all American. :) Both my Toronto trips were inspired by Rush; this guide should suffice as a general outline for anyone curious enough to "do" Toronto from an American Rush fan's perspective. My apologies in advance for the inevitable errors and misrepresentations; I would appreciate any and all comments and suggestions, be they positive or negative.

UPDATE NOTE: This is the THIRD edition of this guide, which originally was posted to The National Midnight Star in May, 1994, and is (I hope) going out again in its new-and-improved state in October, 1995. There are many changes, big and small, in this newer edition. My profuse thanks to the many readers who have caught errors and suggested additions to the previous versions.


FOR MORE INFORMATION

You can get almost any phone number by calling Canada Bell information. Just as in the U.S., dial the area code plus 555-1212. For Toronto, that's (416) 555-1212; for the area of Ontario outside Toronto, it's (905) 555-1212. And, of course, once you have a phone number for a particular place, you can call that place for an address, directions, hours or whatever. (Apologies to those for whom calling Information is an obvious thing to do - but a lot of people don't realize how easy it is.)

Most better libraries throughout North America, especially on college campuses and in larger cities, will have the Toronto phone book (and those of most other major cities) available as a reference book. This is great for not only addresses and phone numbers, but for lots of good, basic information about the city in general. If you're lucky enough to get your hands on an intact, consumer-oriented set of Yellow Pages, you'll find such things as diagrams of the seating at Maple Leaf Gardens, as well as information on special events. I highly recommend this route as a way of getting information if you've hit a dead end.

But before you do any of that, read on. Most of the essential poop on Toronto from a Rush fan's perspective (especially an American Rush fan) is below!


IN GENERAL

Toronto is Canada's largest city. Besides being the birthplace of Rush, it's known for being diverse, cosmopolitan, relatively clean, and relatively safe. (Actually, the fact that Rush happens to be from there is just icing on the cake for a place that's already so cool to begin with.) Toronto has a reputation, not wholly undeserved, of being conservative and restrained as big cities go. (You'll hear the locals complain about how the bars close at 1 a.m., and about "a million other things which are designed to prevent people from having a good time," as one resident put it, somewhat bitterly.)

The people of TO (as it's widely known) are almost unfailingly polite and friendly, far moreso than you'll find, by comparison, in most U.S. cities. (Note: At least one Canadian has e-mailed me to say he finds this situation to be exactly the opposite, especially among women.) Service in stores is amazingly efficient and friendly by U.S. standards. You'll encounter astonishing politeness in the most implausible places. The last time I drove into TO, a cabbie slowed down to let me cut in front of him, and the next day a complete stranger got me high. Try that in Detroit !. Not that it's totally risk-free -- the usual big-city precautions apply, as always -- but in terms of grace and class, Toronto is a breed apart. For culture and vitality, it compares favorably with the best of the U.S. (San Francisco, Chicago, New York, etc.) Toronto is probably my favorite city to visit overall -- I often say that if it weren't so friggin' cold......


ADVICE FOR U.S. VISITORS

Americans are generally welcome and well-received in Toronto, as they are throughout Canada. [As if the poor northerners had any choice but to be nice to us, eh? :) ] Even so, a few tips will help make your visit go even smoother.

First, use Canadian money while in Canada. It's much easier, much cheaper, and much more cool. U.S. funds seem to be readily accepted almost everywhere, but you'll get a better deal by exchanging your U.S. dollars for Canadian dollars before you leave the U.S., and changing back when you return. (Most large banks will do it, especially nearer the border -- some charge a small fee; some don't.) (Note: Automatic teller machines and credit-card companies will also do the exchange for you automatically when it comes time to charge your account.) As of this writing, the exchange rate has been its best (for Americans) in years: 70 to 75 cents U.S. per Canadian dollar.

Speaking of money, if you spend a lot of it north of the border, save all your receipts. After you get home, you can apply for a refund of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) you paid. That's a federal tax of 7% that supposedly only Canadians have to pay. If you don't mind doing the paperwork, and if the amount of GST you paid is worth the hassle to you, you can get the money back just for the asking. Call 1-800-ONTARIO, and they'll send you the form you need. Proof that this is for real: The Canadian government did indeed send me a check after I applied for a refund after my last trip. (If you'd prefer not to wait, you can get your refund on the spot at any duty-free shop before you cross back into the States.)

If you can possibly avoid it, don't buy gasoline in Canada. During my most recent visit, it was approaching 60 Canadian cents per liter, which works out to be ~$1.60 U.S. per gallon. (It's lower currently (autumn 1995) and has been much higher in the past.) It's cheapest, if you can, to fill up just before entering Canada, and then again just after getting back to the States. If you must buy gas in Canada, get it in the core of downtown Toronto, where it's said to be the cheapest in all the Great White North.

Many other products are also quite expensive in Canada compared with the U.S., especially cigarettes and imported hard liquor (some of which can't even be found except on the black market, believe it or not). Other products, however -- notably CDs and such things as athletic wear -- can be much less expensive north of the border. Shop around.

Speaking of the border: You're questioned by Canadian agents upon entering Canada, and by U.S. agents upon entering the States. The U.S. guys are (of course) almost always the bigger buttholes. Their main concern is that you may be smuggling in people who don't belong in their country, or (much more commonly) goods (legal and illegal) that you can make a huge profit from reselling. They generally won't ask you point-blank if you're carrying any dope, cigarettes, or booze -- but if they have any reason to suspect you may be, they'll search you and your car. They'll most likely just ask where you live and where you're headed -- not to really listen to what you answer, but how you answer. If you appear the least bit nervous, that's when you're in trouble. Therefore, honesty, as usual, is the best policy. If you're not trying to hide anything, then dealing with the goons is a much easier ordeal.

On duties: U.S. law allows you to bring back from Canada up to $400 worth of merchandise without having to pay a duty, if you've been in Canada more than 48 hours. The maximum allowed is $25 worth of merchandise if you're in Canada less than 48 hours. If it's more than the maximum, U.S. Customs will charge you a duty on the excess. I've heard of duties of absurd amounts being assessed, so it's best to keep the amount of merchandise down to a reasonable level if at all possible. Disclose it all if asked. You can best cover your ass if you can produce receipts. Or, buy most of your stuff at a duty-free shop before re-entering the U.S. Most border crossings have a duty-free shop, where you can find lots of merchandise - especially booze; cigarettes; T-shirts and other souvenirs; and cosmetics -- for insanely low prices. The only catch: Once you buy something at the duty-free shop, you're required to carry it out of the country. And you're required to give your license-plate number when making your purchase, so they'll know what you've got when you cross the border.

This may be sheer prejudice, but I've been told that in Canada, as in much of the rest of the civilized world, Americans are looked down upon as being rather boorish and slovenly. If this sort of thing worries you, avoid the T-shirt/shorts/sneakers look if you plan to do anything besides hang out on the street. On the other hand, there are plenty of Canadians who understand the anti-establishment attitude perfectly well, and who won't be offended in the least if you insist on being a slob. (Furthermore, I'm told that some Canadians also look down their frostbitten noses at yuppie Americans who "dress to snub." Another good reason to just be yourself.)

Speaking of showing a bit of class, be forewarned that knowing (and using) your manners will get you a lot further in Canada than it will in most U.S. cities. Canadians, even in urban Toronto, are usually polite to a fault, and you'll feel better if you return the favor. But don't do it Because I Said So -- do it because it's the right and decent thing to do. [Again, though: Feel free to refuse to be civilized. You can be assured that the Canadians are used to it in Americans. :) ]

Really rude things Americans have been known to do in Canada include actually thinking they can take guns north of the border (don't even try it), and getting "free" health care from the world-famous "free" Canadian health-care system. Yes, both of these things have been known to happen many times. Fortunately, none of the perpetrators have ever been proven to be Rush fans.

Also not allowed in Canada: Pepper spray. If you have any, they'll confiscate it at the border.

Another aside: Don't try to enter Canada carrying little or no money. The Canadian border authorities, probably suspecting that you're only up to no good, won't let you in if they find out you only have a dollar in your pocket, as one NMS subscriber once discovered.

No, you needn't know French to get by in Toronto. If you're going to Montreal (or anywhere else in Quebec), that's another matter. But Ontario is by and large an English-speaking province. (However, given Toronto's large ethnic population, it would behoove you to brush up on your Chinese, Farsi, Punjabi, Vietnamese, Greek, Korean ...)


GETTING AROUND

The main drag of Toronto is Yonge Street. If it's for sale in TO, you can generally find it on Yonge (pronounced Young). Lower/middle Yonge is teeming with hundreds of great restaurants, bookstores, record stores, specialty shops, bars, clubs of all types, and you-name-it. If shopping's your game, allow at least a day or two to do nothing but cruise Yonge. Wear a good pair of walking shoes; you'll need 'em. And take your credit cards. (Yes, American cards are accepted in Canada. All too gladly.)

There's also a vast shopping district underground, extending from near the lakefront several blocks north. Besides being a unique experience on its own, it's a great way to avoid traffic, crowds and nasty weather.

The central business district is generally centered around lower Yonge, toward the lakefront. This is the optimal area to find lodging, although you do pay for location. Prices vary wildly, so call around. The best deal among the major chains that I could find for my 1994 visit was at the Ramada Downtown City Hall (89 Chestnut Street), which charged $89 Canadian (about $65 U.S.) per night for a two-bed room, for either one or two people. If that sounds steep, consider that many other places in the same general area run hundreds of dollars a night. There are many off-brand places that are even more affordable than the Ramada. As with most things, the more you shop around, the better you're likely to save. (And it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Staying out in the 'burbs is always lots cheaper - but you pay the price of being removed (sometimes a long way removed) from the heart of the city, often with no convenient transportation downtown.)

Here's a lodging option courtesy of one John W. Connelly [ jwcst4+@pitt.edu ] ...

     >... for the benefit of any TO visitors who have cars and
     >are looking to save some $$, I stayed at a campsite about
     >40 mi northwest of Toronto which was fairly inexpensive,
     >not over-crowded, and well-maintained.
     >The site is just nw of Bolton, called the Albion Hills
     >Conservation Area or something to that effect.  (It's listed
     >under Bolton in the AAA CampBook for Ontario).  It was only
     >$13 CA per night, and the location was much less bug-
     >ridden than some other sites I tried in Ontario.

As in all big cities, parking in Toronto is difficult to find and horrendously priced. Your best bet is to find a place to park the car when you first get into town (ideally at your hotel), leave it there for your entire stay if possible, and then just gulp and pay the ~$10-$15-a-day cost when you leave. It just ain't worth driving around all the time when you have to look so hard for parking that's gonna be expensive no matter where you go.

What?? Get around without a car??? Yes -- unthinkable as it is for many Americans, it's quite doable in a city as progressive as Toronto, which is blessed with an excellent public transportation system. There's a top-notch subway that'll take you most places you need to go (downtown, anyway); a system of electric streetcars; buses; the old reliable taxicab system; and even a roving band of rickshaws. The latter are powered by athletic young men who I suspect take the job mainly for its value as a training regimen. I don't know how much a rickshaw ride costs, but it's a beauty way to go.

One option that sounds like a good value to me (but I haven't tried it): Get a weekend bus pass (they're on the order of $3 or $5) -- you can use it an unlimited number of times over a weekend for buses, streetcars, and the subway.

And another boffo bit of info: The TTC (Toronto Transit Corp.) puts out great, free little maps that show all the bus routes and subway routes. Highly recommended.


RUSH-RELATED ATTRACTIONS

At last -- here's what you're reading this for. (Sorry for taking so long to get to it, eh.)

Actually, Rush seems somewhat taken for granted in Toronto, at least on the surface, probably because the group has been such a longtime institution -- and because so many other entertainers have also come from the Great White North. However, there are a handful of special places dear to the hearts of Rush freaks ...

1. YYZ: This is what your luggage tags will say if you fly into Toronto's Lester Pearson International Airport. I couldn't care less who Lester Pearson is or was, but the fact that Rush titled the song after the international code for their home airport makes this a great way to arrive. Even if you don't fly, YYZ tags are easy enough to come by -- just hang around hotel lobbies and ask people to let you have their luggage tags. Hey, it worked for me. (I got some strange stares, but it worked.)

2. Subdivisions: Willowdale, the suburb where Geddy and Alex grew up, and which is mentioned in "The Necromancer," is on the northern edge of Toronto. (Rush trivia: It's Willow Dale in the lyrics, and you can indeed ford the River Don, which was rendered as the "River Dawn" in the song.) Anyway, I've never been there. I suspect it's just your basic suburb -- in between the bright lights and the far unlit unknown, and all that. I suppose Fisherville Junior High School, where Geddy and Alex met, is somewhere up there. There's also Scarborough, where the residential portions of the "Subdivisions" video were filmed. (One NMS subscriber tells me that L'Amoreaux High School, near Warden and Finch Avenues, was used for the "high school halls" sequences of the video.)

3. Massey Hall: This is where All the World's a Stage was recorded in 1976. It's at Victoria and Shuter streets downtown.

4. Maple Leaf Gardens: Another venue Rush has played often; this one's on Carlton Street, just east of Yonge. The subway stops right at the Gardens, at the College station -- known far and wide as the MLG stop by hordes of hockey fans, Rush freaks, and ticket scalpers. Near MLG (on Mutual Street?) is McClear Pathe Studio, formerly known as McClear Place, where the band has done most of its Toronto recording over the years.

5. Yonge Street: Might as well make this a separate entry of its own, since it has a way of coming up over and over again. And Yonge is a genuine Rush artifact in its own right: It's where the night cruising scenes were shot for the "Subdivisions" video. Look for Sam the Record Man and Pizza Pizza, both prominent in the video.

6. Danforth and Pape: Many an astute Rush fan has noticed this intersection in east-central Toronto. Its precise connection to "La Villa Strangiato" is unknown (possibly even to the band, after all these years). The intersection itself is graced by three banks and a donut shop. (In 1989, when I made the pilgrimage there, it was three banks and a Baskin-Robbins. How times change.) Interestingly, it's an ethnic Greek neighborhood, so most of the signs are in Greek. Conveniently, the subway stops right at the intersection, so the best way to get to it is to hop the turbine freight: Take the Bloor-Danforth line east to the Pape station, and you're there.

7. The Parliament Building: Famed as the scene of the cover of Moving Pictures, I was surprised at how easy it was to find and access this one. It's at the south end of Queen's Park, which is west of Yonge Street and south of Bloor. Once again, the subway conveniently stops right near the holy spot -- in this case, it's the Queen's Park station, on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. When our troop of Rushfreaks visited on a Sunday, we had no problem parking for free right in front of the building and fooling around on the steps all we pleased. However, since this is the seat of the Ontario government, after all, I'd imagine both parking and access would be much more difficult on a business day. But in any event, you can at least take pictures, moving or otherwise.

8. Lakeside Park: Not in Toronto, as is commonly assumed. It's about an hour to the south, in St. Catharines, Ontario, where Neil grew up -- in a suburb called Port Dalhousie (pronounced Da-LOO-zy), to be exact. The best directions I can muster are: From Queen Elizabeth Way (the freeway), take the Ontario Street exit (Exit 47), and head east (toward the lake - duh). Go down about three lights, and hang a left onto Lakeport Road. Follow that road until you cross a small bridge over what looks like a harbor (there's a yacht club there). Lakeside Park is on the right, immediately after you cross the bridge. WARNING: There is no sign that actually says "Lakeside Park." The best way to identify it for sure is that it's at the intersection of Lakeport Road and a small street called Lock Street. (If you get lost, just ask a local; they'll know. If nothing else, call the St. Catharines Chamber of Commerce at (905) 684-2361; they're very helpful with providing directions.) Anyway, Lakeside Park these days features three or four restaurants and a couple of bars near the road, and parking is usually plentiful on both sides of the road. And yes, there are piers, lighthouses, a beach, and willows (complete, at certain special times, with a breeze). Admission is free, but the carousel, which operates only during the summer, will cost you a nickel. The place was deserted the first time I visited (May 24, 1989), but jam-packed the next time (Mother's Day 1994). We were told by an Authentic Canadian on the premises that they do have a fireworks show every Victoria Day, which is traditionally the 24th of May but now apparently celebrated, U.S. three-day-weekend style, on the nearest Monday. Ah, tradition.

9. Geddy's, Alex's and Neil's homes: C'mon, you didn't really think you'd find out where they live from here, did you? Even if I knew, I wouldn't tell. Aside from the fact that they've more than earned their privacy, it's just uncool to barge into anyone's lives, be they celebrities or not. And they're probably not even home most of the time, anyway. (They're only at home when they're on the run.)

10. SRO/Anthem: The office of Rush's longtime management company is at 189 Carlton Street, several blocks east of Yonge (take the streetcar), on the south side of Carlton. Entrance is via a nondescript downstairs doorway. Yes, the office is somewhat open to the public (I had no problems breezing right in, both in '89 and '94, but see below for a different experience) -- however, don't expect much in the way of real information from the folks who work there. Probably the best thing about the joint: Hanging on the walls are some notable glittering prizes -- several of Rush's gold and platinum records. It's worth a stop just to say you've seen these.

(NOTE: The following comments on the SRO/Anthem office from Puanani Akaka, an NMSer who visited this year ('95), should prove useful ...):


     > There is no sign along the street indicating the office's
     > location. A simple "189" on the office itself gives any hint
     > as to where you are. :) 
     > 
     > If you do, for whatever reason, wish to visit the office,
     > CALL FIRST. It is a place of business and courtesy dictates
     > that you consider calling ahead.  Besides, it's near impossible
     > to simply "walk in".  There is a buzzer by the inner door, and
     > unless someone in the office unlocks the door, you can't enter.
     > When you do call, indicate what time you plan on being there,
     > and BE THERE on time.  Otherwise, you're just some bum off
     > the street and they may not let you in. I would strongly
     > suggest, tho, that unless you have real business with Anthem,
     > that perhaps any visit to the office be kept to sightseeing
     > from the outside.  We don't want to inundate them with
     > Hordes O Rush Fans, eh. :)  

11. The Spirit of Radio: Yes, CFNY (102.1 FM) is still alive and well, and plays pretty decent tunes -- but don't expect to hear any Rush. CFNY has always played cutting-edge stuff, and it's that fact to which the Rush song pays tribute. (For all some people know, CFNY never did play any Rush, even in the old days.) You can get a peek into their studio through a big window on Bloor Street, just east of Bathurst Street.) Another coupla good stations, where you can hear Rush, are Q107 and especially 97.7 out of St. Catharines (which you can pick up fine in downtown TO). Crank it!

12. The Orbit Room: The restaurant/nightclub/hangout owned by Alex opened after the last time I was up there, so I'll have to leave it to others to provide a more complete description. (See below.) I can, however, say it's at 580A College Street, and the phone number is 535-0613. Directions from the subway, according to the nice lady on the phone: Get off at the Bloor and Bathurst stop, take the streetcar south on Bathurst to College Street, then walk two stoplights west on Bathurst, and you're there.

(NOTE: More detail on the Orbit Room, courtesy of Puanani Akaka, follows ...):


     > If you want to experience the place without the cover charge,
     > try getting in before 9 pm.  The cover charge is $5.  Right
     > when you walk into the red door, you'll come across stairs.
     > Go up, and you're in.
     > ...
     > Good atmosphere, dark, but not gloomy.  Picture of Alex is
     > down at the back end of the bar (near the windows), but is
     > fairly hidden.  Generally, crowd tends to be well-dressed --
     > no sleaze balls, here - and around the "older" crowd (30-40
     > years of age).  Personally, and as one who very rarely
     > even walks past a bar much less enter one, I give it a Rush
     > Fan Stamp of Approval!  BAM

OTHER/MISCELLANEOUS

Free TO info: There are two free newspapers that do a superb job on listing the entertainment things to do in Toronto. They are "Now" magazine and "Eye" magazine. They are widely distributed on Thursdays downtown in shops big and small. Their articles, reviews and ads generally are devoted to performing arts, movies, recent music releases, concerts, the club circuit, etc. They are the only comprehensive way of keeping up with who's playing in the club scene (which is incredibly extensive). Anyone visiting should definely consult these to fill in the odd free night. (Note: an address for "Eye" that might be useful is a URL -- http://www.interlog.com/eye/.

Beer: Don't forget to take advantage of the fact that in Canada, such superb brands as Moosehead, Molson and Upper Canada are domestics -- which means they're much, much cheaper than in the U.S., whether procured from a store or in a bar. Drink up!, eh

Bob and Doug MacKenzie-related stuff (speaking of beer, eh): Gee, where to begin? There's all the LLBO (Licensed Liquor Board of Ontario, or some such) beer stores; approximately 42 trillion donut shops (at least 16 per capita, by my estimation), and, presumably, all the back bacon you can stomach. And don't forget to pick up your toque at Eaton's (or wherever).

Steve's Music: Anyone who is a musician, or just likes to browse instrument stores, should check out Steve's, on the south side of Queen Street just east of Spadina Avenue. It's the music capital in Canada's recording capital. One source says Rush get a lot of their stuff there, and that there's plenty of Rush paraphernalia to gawk at. Another source says he's seen Tom Cochrane, Jeff Healey, and Bobby Baker (the Tragically Hip) at Steve's. Sounds like a pretty happenin' place to me! The Queen Street streetcar goes right by the front door.

Record shops: There are many on Yonge Street alone. All are worth checking out, since you never know what you'll find, but I'll recommend four: 1. Sam the Record Man -- on Yonge at about Dundas; you can't miss the enormous neon records on the front of the building. Very large record store, excellent selection. Sam's is in the "Subdivisions" video, as noted before; there's also said to be a big ol' Chronicles poster inside, signed by our heroes. 2. HMV -- also on Yonge, just a few doors away from Sam's. Another enormous store with an excellent selection. Last time I stopped in, there were CDs selling for as little as $7 Canadian (that's ~$5 U.S.) -- AND they were having a buy-three-get-one-free sale. I ended up buying four first-rate albums for an average of $9 U.S. apiece. 3. Incredible Records -- Don't miss this place. Run by a genuine former '60s radical (who used to be the Grateful Dead's gardener, among many other things), this store is crammed with thousands of rare items of all description, from old vinyl to drawings by Jim Morrison to scads of Grateful Dead (and yes, Rush) material. Must be seen to be appreciated -- on the west side of Yonge, just south of Bloor. 4. The Record Peddler, 621 Yonge, across the street and down a piece from Incredible. They get a lot of import material from Europe, and some neat rare stuff, including from Rush.

Bookstores: Again, there are many, but the one you have to hit is The World's Biggest Book Store. I'm not certain it actually still is the world's biggest, but it's humongous. If you're looking for any particular title (a book about Rush, perhaps?), it'll be here. It's at 20 Edward Street, one block north of Yonge and Dundas.

SkyDome: If you're any kind of baseball fan, or even if you don't give a hoot about the sport, this is a must-see. (Hey, if nothing else, Geddy hangs out here a lot.) It's the fanciest, snazziest, most expensive stadium ever built. It's most famous for its retractable roof, but it also includes a hotel, a Hard Rock Cafe (both with views of the field, of course), and many other unique features. Be prepared to pay a lot to experience it -- Toronto is the most expensive place to see a Major League Baseball game, both in terms of ticket prices and concessions. But it's worth it. SkyDome is within walking distance of Union Station, which is on the subway.

CN Tower: The tallest free-standing structure in the world -- a big deal for first-time tourists but probably few others. There's a restaurant/bar at the viewing level, and of course it's a great view (especially impressive at night). Supposedly you can see Niagara Falls on an especially clear day, but I dunno about that. You can definitely see Willowdale, though! Next to SkyDome -- you can't miss it. Great big tall thing.

Eaton Centre: Big-ass shopping mall in the heart of downtown. Malls are pretty much just malls everywhere, but this one is a monster, and with some nice urban architecture to show it all off. On Yonge Street (where else?) between Dundas and Queen. Subway stops: Dundas or Queen.

The Harbourfront: Lots of stuff to do on the lake, and I still haven't gotten down there. Just looking at the map, I see a Sports Hall of Fame; a Marine Museum; Ontario Place (a cultural and entertainment complex); the Canadian National Exhibition; and various beaches, islands, and shopping complexes. All this is south of the CN Tower/SkyDome.

TV: I shudder to bring this up this as a possible activity when there's so much to see and do in the real world, but MuchMusic, Canada's version of MTV, probably deserves a mention. I've watched very little of it myself, but from all I've heard, it's generally no better than MTV (and that's pretty bad), especially when it comes to any hope of seeing anything Rush-related. One novel idea that MuchMusic is worth a small amount of praise for: Speaker's Corner, wherein a person can enter a booth (at MuchMusic's building at Queen and John Streets), put a coin in the slot, and record a video message of a minute or so in duration. If the MuchMusic gods like it, they'll put you on the air, and you'll enjoy dubious fame all over Canada. (It is said, by the way, that the Barenaked Ladies were discovered when, after exhausting all other options for being seen and heard, they recorded "Be My Yoko Ono" via Speaker's Corner.)


WEIRD CANADIAN STUFF, eh...

-->The currency is different colours (harder to counterfeit; makes you wonder why the U.S. doesn't try it). There are no $1 bills - they were all pulled from circulation when the gummint introduced the widely reviled "looney" $1 coin. So called because (on most of them, anyway) there's a loon on one side, loonies are ideal souvenirs -- small, inexpensive, and uniquely Canadian.

-->Canadian spelling is British (usually), so there are "extra" letters in words like colour, favourite, and jewellery. They also like to use S instead of Z in words like civilisation.

-->And of course everything is metric, as in almost all other civilized (or civilised) nations on the planet except the United States. So get used to the thermometers saying 30 degrees when it's hot. (And I have to wonder how many jokers from the U.S. have tried to drive 100 mph on the expressways, where the speed limit is 100 kph.)

-->Canadians really do say "eh" a lot, eh. And, just like in "The Great White North" skits, the country is absolutely crazy for beer and donut shops. (If you're a donut fan, do not fail to visit Tim Horton's, which is apparently the Canadian version of Dunkin' Donuts and can be found approximately every three blocks.)

-->Canadian geographical trivia: Look at a map. The southern part of Ontario looks like an upside-down dancing elephant. It's true! Windsor is at the tip of the trunk, Sarnia is on the top of the head, Niagara Falls is at the bottom of the front foot, and Toronto is, uh, in the naughty spot. Would I lie about such a fascinating fact?

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