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Many listeners know that I have been absent from the host position of These Days for much of the past four months, due to rehab that followed a serious cycling accident. Yet my most recent absence over the last couple of weeks was actually for a visit to family in faraway places.

Spending time with far-flung family is a hybrid model of vacation. It's part fun and part obligation. At any rate, the excessive mobility and dispersal of modern American society makes it necessary to travel long distances to see relations. If there are any people whose core and extended families live only in San Diego, I don't know them.

In my case, vacation meant going to a foreign country. It's a place where they speak English, eat sausages and talk quite a bit like we do. Correct! The answer is Canada. My destination was, in fact, Toronto . I'm told Toronto became Canada's commercial center partly because money fled Montreal due to fears of a possible Quebec secession from the national union.

Toronto is a wonderful city but not a beautiful city. Residential areas are stuffed with rather drab brick homes. This is due to an old ordinance that required construction of brick buildings, only, following a disastrous city fire early in the city's history. The only iconic structure in Toronto worth mentioning is the CN Tower , located downtown.

As for the Torontoans themselves, they're civil yet very reserved. We Americans expect a lot of "Hi, how're you doin'!" And we often have these conversations with people we've never met. Canadians, at least in Toronto, are not overly friendly. Good folks and helpful, yes. But don't expect them to meet your eyes, nod hello and strike up a chat as you encounter them on the street.

All in all, I had a great time in Toronto, a large cosmopolitan city with lots to do. Rochester, NY, was my next destination. Today, Rochester still has some great neighborhoods and some fine educational institutions. But a lot of jobs have been lost and some parts of the town are looking down at the heels. It's the home of Kodak, of course. But some rascal had the nerve to invent the digital camera.

Now that I'm back in San Diego, I'm in the city I'm lucky to reside in. Sure, not all things made by humans are worth mentioning. But we've got the weather and the Pacific. And it's good to be home.

Louise Siddall
August 29, 2007 at 04:45 AM
Thanks for your vacation report. One of my major complaints about the programs I enjoy most--These Days, and Weekend Edition, and other non-local shows--is that we get no information about why the host is missing this week. Or what he/she is doing. Scott Simon tells us--later--that he went to China to adopt another daughter, but it would be so satisfying to know why they are not present. After all, you come into our homes on a regular basis and you feel like part of the family. It was frustrating to me when you had your accident and we didn't get any reports about the extent of your injuries or whether they were life-threatening. I know, it's the privacy issue. Spare me. MOST sincerely, Louise -----

joanne faryon
August 31, 2007 at 06:23 AM
Tom, Tom, Tom....what do you mean not a beautiful city? Toronto is not San Diego. It doesn't have lush landscapes, palm trees and trendy new buildings. It's beauty lies in its un-abashed display of age and history - the brownstones, the one-off shops, and ethnic restaurants that fill the streets of downtown neighborhoods. And the're right, not likley to bring you cookies when you move next door. They're not so willing to indulge in small talk. But walk into any coffee shop or pub, and they'll welcome any discourse on politics and things that matter and if you disagree with them, they'll still like you and welcome you back. I'm spending my holiday in Toronto too, later this month. I'll be staying in one of the old brick houses on one of the narrow cracked streets in one of the cluttered and slightly decaying downtown neighborhoods with my aloof, but kind Canadian friends. I can't think of a more beautiful or friendly destination! (full disclosure...I'm Canadian)

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