Toronto is packing heat this summer in more ways than one. I am glad to have left the escalating temperatures, the kind that causes the mercury to skyrocket and humans to explode.
The online Urban Dictionary, when explaining this slip of gangsta slang equates it with carrying a gun, usually a pistol. It also does a fine job of defining heat, describing the simple, four-letter word as “an increase in energy of particles, causing them to move or vibrate more rapidly, to melt, then evaporate.”
In this Toronto summer of humidity, with the thermometer reaching 34, 35, even 36 degrees Celsius and barometric pressure sending those temperatures even higher, melting seems highly probable. It’s so humid that if you clench your fist, you expect to see a puddle of water on the street.
It’s small wonder that tightly wound, dissatisfied young men are taking their pent up rage into the streets. Sadly, their fists produce blood, not water.
I have left the heat and the terrifying rage behind. At least I’ve done that in a physical sense. Toronto’s heat still takes up mental space in my head.
I check Twitter feeds for news updates, listen to the radio newscasts for commentary on what police and government will do as they try to hem in what seems to be unrestrained violence. I do not envy them the hard work of trying to contain unpredictability.
I am not afraid to go back to the city I am beginning to call home. It still feels safe to me, although I am not unaware that I could be anywhere – a mall, a neighbourhood – and find myself caught in crossfire.
I did not come away to escape. Rather, I have done something that is habitual, coming away on vacation, taking time to reconnect with family and old friends, letting my mind and body relax, cooling down.
I am far, far away from the claustrophobic city, spending almost three weeks beside a lake in western Newfoundland where there are more trees than people, more rocks than bullets, and space enough for everyone to decompress when temperatures rise. Even on the hottest days there is some place outdoors where the temperature suggests socks would be a reasonable idea.
I know violence happens here, too. But it’s more likely to be caused by a moose slamming into a car on the highway, a drunk driver stupidly taking more than her own life for granted, or a domestic argument that veers tragically out of control.
As far as I know, there are no gangs in Newfoundland, although there are plenty of illicit drugs, which means there are also robberies and break-ins, necessary activities to keep those disastrous supply lines fed.
There’s also a good supply of hunting rifles in this province, although most of them are stored safely away, hunting season still a few months off.
These days, people are more likely to pick up a fishing rod, cast a better line and stare lazily into a river or lake as they wait for a responsive tug from the depths below. Whether they catch anything or not, the very act of standing knee-deep in moving water seems enough to tend to the soul.
At least, that’s what fishermen and women tell me. I’ve never been much inclined to cast a line myself, but I believe them, and wonder if fishing might be an antidote for those angry youths of Toronto.
Perhaps the police should invite gang members to spend a day standing on the shores of Lake Ontario, fishing rods in their hands, the horizon in their sights and the city at their back. It might just give them a different perspective on the city that seems more of a snare than a place of release.
I don’t know how good the fishing is on Lake Ontario but I often see fishermen and women passing the early evening hours there. I suspect it’s not so much about what they catch as it is about what they are doing, which when it comes to fishing, is not much of anything and yet so much more than that.
Perhaps an even better idea would be to give Toronto’s heat-packing youths a three-week vacation in the wilds of Newfoundland.
Here they could escape the congestion of city. Here, the breezes might cool temperatures in more ways than one. Here, they might discover a sense of freedom that releases their anger and sends it spiraling off towards unpopulated hills, valleys, woods and water where it cannot possibly ricochet back on themselves or, even worse, on some unsuspecting passerby.
Lynda MacGibbon is a transplanted Maritimer living in Toronto. This column first appeared in the Moncton Times & Transcript newspaper. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @lyndamacgibbon.