The City Sleeps (In)

Not a soul at 8:30am

To his dying day my father was a morning man. This may have had much to do with the fact that he went to bed about 7:30 in the evening to listen to baseball (or some other sport) on the radio. It may also have been because he simply recognized the first rays of dawn as the very best part of the day.

I’m now a morning man. Whether I got that way because of my job or because the dawn is in my dna is debatable. Most of the Western world seems disinterested in the sunrise. Too bad. There is a quality of light and atmosphere there that is unsurpassed by the rest of the day.

I went for a walk early this morning and because it is a national holiday the city was still slumbering. I mean, it was deserted. It had the pillow securely over its head. Even the sleepiest Mexican village (and I’ve visited many) has got something going at 8am. There’s somebody sweeping, someone carrying merchandise or unlocking some shutters. Not Toronto. Not downtown and certainly not on the Monday of a long weekend. Has everyone fled to the cottage? Perhaps.

Top of the morning from the top of Haleakala

(If you really want to experience a mass celebration of dawn you must go to the Hawaiian island of Maui where busloads of people are taken to the top of Haleakala to ooh and ahh and get all esoteric about the emerging day.)

But even on a normal weekend you are hard pressed to find that the city awakens much before 10am.  Some of Toronto’s most vibrant neighbourhoods (and it is a city that prides itself on the diversity of its neighbourhoods) register nary a vibration before someone breaks out the lunch menu.

At 8am on a holiday Monday the city is stunningly quiet. There are a few joggers and dog walkers and people who carry their lives in a shopping cart, but that’s about it. The hardware store, the pilgrimage of the home improvement crowd, doesn’t crack the door till mid-morning( if it opens at all). I stopped by the 24-hour supermarket and it is closed for the holiday. I suppose the staff deserve a day off too. But on a long weekend you’d better have your booze and your barbecue basics in hand by Sunday night. There are some Canadian cities where the businesses never close…..maybe Christmas Day…but that’s it.

The sidewalk bistros where you find the daily coffee sippers are empty. It’s like someone dropped a neutron bomb. I don’t know what time these establishments do open, but it’s long after I require a cup of joe. Tourists, who are trying to get a jump on their day, must find the sense of desertion unsettling….or perhaps delightful, I’m not sure which.

No joe.

What you do get is terrific air….air scented with lilac and hyacinth and lily of the valley. You get a gradually warming daybreak before the wind and the thermals build and have a chance to start wafting less savoury odours about the streets. There are no horns at this time of day. Cab drivers might as well sleep in too. There are no leaf blowers or power washers. I can hear the subway swoosh beneath the street but I can tell without even looking that there’s not a soul on it.

It’s a private pleasure…the city at this time of day. Wonderful but weird.

Wake up Toronto! The day is wasting.


5 Responses to “The City Sleeps (In)”

  1. Pamela J. Davi Says:


  2. I enjoy your writing, Dave! Great pictues too!

  3. Annie Quinty Says:

    So well written, as usual!
    I’ve always been an “early riser” and there is something about the quietness of early mornings and sunrises that is full of hope.
    Thank you for sharing your impressions on a city “sleeping in.”

  4. hi Dave,

    I don’t think I have ever experienced T.O. in the early morning hours when the streets are deserted. Usually when hubby and I visit the big smoke we sleep in a wee bit. I love your pictures. They tell the story. I like the quality of the light at first light also but find that I love the twilight just as much. I find the day is divided into 4 parts; morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, and evening. For me, anyway. There used to be a late evening part when I was younger, but not so much anymore. I would love to visit Hawaii someday, especially Maui. Looks gorgeous. Thanks for sharing:) and hope you and Angie are enjoying the long weekend. See you tomorrow morning on the tele.


  5. Can’t get enough of your charm!
    Check out,


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