Whew! I never thought that moving to a new city would mean living in many other cities at the same time. Four weeks after moving on Montreal, I've also done amazing things in Toronto and New York. In fact, it feels like I've barely worked, which is probably why I'm having some major career anxiety (where I am going?).

At least, I haven't had to get coffee for anyone. Sometimes people buy me coffee -- novel! In Montreal, Tracy makes stir-fry, we drink wine, we live on the Internet -- life is good.

Still, I thought it might be nice to reflect on the last two weeks and share things I've learned, read, and thought about while jetsetting between borders (provincial and national).

First, to answer the questions about whether or not I like my job: yes. I am learning lots about magazine publishing and I get to choose content for Reader's Digest, and edit without much supervision. Plus, I am being moved to a cubicle with next to the floor-to-ceiling windows in a corner. CORNER OFFICE, foooos!

That's next week. So let me recover the trip to Toronto, which was at the end of May. I headed to Canada's biggest city to visit friends from MPub, to hang out with old colleagues, new friends, and of course, my brother. William and I shared his tiny studio apartment, which is so small the bathroom and the kitchen share a sink. And since my brother is a hoarder (I might nominate him for the TLC show), there is barely room for one person to live. Guests staying over, such as myself, need to find room for a sleeping bag between stacks of Wallpaper* (he's a designer) on one side, the defunct toaster oven filled with interesting packaging on another, and snuggle up close to the overflowing laundry basket. Also, there was no Wi-Fi so I considered moving out (just kidding... kind of).

Anyhow, Toronto, I am told, has the highest rate from point to point for any public transportation system in the world. The price sort of confines you to staying within a familiar radius of restaurants and shops. Luckily, William lives in the Annex, where he's close to some of my favourite places in the city-I-love-to-hate: Kensington Market and the Annex. Unfortunately, that meant that I have been missing the wonders of Toronto west: Trinity Bellwoods Park on a nice day is actually nice. Plus, Type Books is a fantastic indie bookstore -- interesting curation and lovely attention to presentation/merchandising. Some points lost for obnoxiously loud staff but I would never complain about spending an afternoon browsing their shelves.

Toronto also offered some culinary treats: I sipped beers on patios, devoured jumbo empanadas, and slipped into small restaurants in Chinatown's basements for juicy dumplings.

Ultimately, the primary reason for coming to Toronto was professional. I came to see David Granger, the editor-in-chief of Esquire, speak about mags, ketchup (the squeeze bottle makes it easier for consumers to get the same content as the old form! Where's the squeeze-bottle parallel for modern magazines?), and wining-and-dining your staff (Oh, so American! Oh, so New York!). Granger was a charismatic speaker -- a salesman at heart and a gifted storyteller.

Inspired by Esquire's front-of-book section, "This Way In," here are some of my notes from the talk without any context:
  • All magazines and great things start from disappointment, depression and despair
  • The magazine is at its best when it is simply an expression of our love of life
  • Hates Dave Chappelle
  • ...And it makes readers mad
OK, I picked up some great tips about making magazines, too. Granger noted that a pretty package was essential to bringing a reader into a magazine. When someone in the audience implied that the repackaging of the magazine four years ago meant less consideration for "content," Granger was quick to point out that no one remembers the writing (unless it's stunning), and no one will even approach it if the design is sloppy or boring.

He stopped short of saying that design and visuals are content. And I think that would've have been important to point out. Photography, typography and illustration are integral to the modern concept of magazines. They deserve equal recognition in magazine publishing. Give the art department some respect, please!

However cursory the 60-minute keynote was, I left feeling inspired to go to New York offer my own talents to the magazines I get excited to read each month. I felt that if I could be confident about offering my opinions, at least people would know who I was. Granger has taken risks over the years, even admitting that some of the covers he has signed off were "gimmicky." But even now, years later, he stands behind his decisions, able to offer convincing rationales for doing some very advertising-oriented work. For this, he's been highly criticized but in the end, he's one of the most recognizable faces in American magazine publishing, and a highly respected one at that. Also, have you really not read that Chris Jones story I endorsed? Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Right after the talk I whisked myself out of the fancy (hors d'oeuvres and wine, thank you) Yorkville Hotel and ran into the Annex to pick up my things. Perilously, I took the TTC, Toronto's public transportation system, and made my way to the airport. Some years back, I took this route in the middle of a snow storm and the journey took three-plus hours. I nearly missed my plane. This time, I made it to the airport with time to spare, and time to get thoroughly searched at security and lose my boarding pass.

...I was dead-tired... as I am now. So, part deux tomorrow: reflections on New York City.

A preview: "The Leap," the cover story from last week's New York Magazine about the sudden suicide of a gifted New York teenager with a mild form of Aspergers. This piece is not for the faint-hearted, but even if I step away from the phenomenal tragedy told, there is some deft, powerful writing here.

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