Have you ever noticed how rain on city streets makes them look better? This is especially true at night, when light reflects off the slick asphalt. I think this is a reason why movie sets are watered down for night scenes; everything assumes a uniform sheen; no stains, uneven patches, or dirt.
Last night, we were driving downtown after a day of rain. The roads were slick. The effect on the city was that even down-and-out neighbourhoods seemed to look a little more polished. Street lights, automobile lights and store lights all reflected on the shiny black surface, creating an impressionistic collage of colours. The wet rails of the streetcar tracks and the wet overhead wires added to the reflections. Toronto seemed so much more like the big world capitals we see in movies.
The fact that it was a warm summer night made it even better. No need to wrap ourselves in scarves and heavy clothing, shielding ourselves from the wind. What breeze there was, was refreshing; and the warmth of the evening made everything feel, well, warmer. We passed by a spotless coffee shop, it's beige and brown interior and soft lighting spilling out onto the sidewalk in an inviting way. It reminded me of Hemingway's short story about two bartenders in Europe. He called it "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"... This place certainly was.
I walked up the steps of St. Paul's Basilica, just east of Parliament Street, and read on the plaque that it was built in the early 1840s in the first Roman Catholic Parish in Upper Canada. The architecture is Romanesque, with a tall square bell tower. I had not seen the church before. It was also the site of an early Catholic cemetery in Toronto. The basilica stands on a small plot of grassy land. The rain on the natural stone exterior was so much better looking than the wet concrete on some of the other downtown buildings.
The wetness of the evening also brought out the smells of nature; the leaves on the trees, the wet grass, the subtle scents of flowers in planter boxes. We drove in the Don River valley and entered another world; vast greenery in the heart of the city: the lamplights on an empty walking path; a baseball diamond, green and wet under the lights, vacant. We drove up Rosedale Valley Road, a dripping, tree-covered tunnel, and then, suddenly, emerging near Yonge and Bloor, with trendy Yorkville at a stone's throw. And, again, lights and billboards reflecting on the pavement.