There’s something about Toronto that makes me want to write.
I just returned to Windsor after a weekend up there and Toronto, for some reason, prompts me to be introspective. Maybe it’s not Toronto, but the friends I have up there. They are truly inspirational. You know who you are.
While nothing truly blog-worthy happened to me while I was visiting this weekend, I still feel the need to record and elaborate, broadcast and divulge.
Thursday I hopped on the train at Windsor’s VIA Rail station (10-minute walk from home, here in Walkerville). The new train station is very bright and shiny, and it’s crazy that I hadn’t been in there yet! The train ride up was uneventful, except that I met a nice older man from Chatham (he asked me why I wasn’t married and I stumped this otherwise chatty guy by saying, “Because I think marriage is dumb”), and I really, really enjoyed the view from the window. I was entranced for a while and as always, felt a little butterfly when I was first able to see the CN Tower. Back when I lived in Toronto, returning the city and seeing the tower always meant that I was finally “home”. This time around it wasn’t quite that, but it’s definitely still a trigger.
What didn’t feel like home was Union Station… that’s all torn apart. And Queen Street – no street cars for the summer, WTF. And the amount of people… honestly felt like it had doubled, at least. The city is very different from when I lived here 10 years ago; it’s different even from when I visited for the Ontario Bike Summit in 2013.
Ok, so I’m in Toronto. I’m right downtown. What I do? WALK! It’s honestly the only mode of transportation I felt safe with while I was there. My uncertainty with the new streetcars, and the lack of cars on Queen, really threw me for a loop. Besides, walking is the best way to see the most.
First things first, I needed to grab a frame and get a print done up for Stef’s birthday. I consciously decided NOT to go to Henry’s for the print. I was working my way west, after all, and after being laid off from there in 2009, I decided not to drudge up any of those memories. West Camera would fill the need – and I’m glad it’s still there. The young man who helped me there was a cutey – informing me that my photo will be blurry (I captured some motion blur purposefully, I told him), and he even let me keep his first, unsuccessful attempt at the print (the sizing wasn’t quite right). I picked up a frame from Winners (inside the monstrosity that used to be… something not quite so shiny… oh ya – a parking lot!), and then made my way to Kensington, which is always high on the list of neighbourhoods I must visit while I’m in Toronto.
Even Kensington, though, was different. The old stand-bys were still there, which I was happy about – Essence of Life, Global Cheese, Dancing Days, Roach-a-Rama – but there were much more shiny shops there… and a Starbucks, FFS. I squeezed my way through the tiny aisles at Essence, my nose guiding my way more than anything else. Various spices, peanut butter, eucalyptus… all the smells of health. Olfactory overload passing by Global Cheese, too, and I bought a lovely dress from Dancing Days (I have to limit myself to just one purchase in there, otherwise I’d definitely go broke).
I had a couple hours to kill before dinner, so I checked out the new and improved Hot Box Cafe. I got a seat in the sun and enjoyed a nice toke and a few pages of the book I’m reading. After a while, my appetite was sufficiently worked up – just in time for some King’s Crown nachos at another must-visit location – Sneaky Dee’s!
What I was looking forward to even more than nachos was seeing Becky. Rebecca Adams. The hardest working lady I’ve ever met. This woman knows how to hustle, and she makes it look GOOD. Becky is like a little sister to me, but one that I listen to for her sage advice and comforting words. We don’t talk to each other often enough – but I know that we’ll always be good friends. I’m going to try and make more of an effort to contact her regularly. Because she is beautiful and inspiring.
Dinner was done and I was on my feet again, heading for Stef’s house in Little Portugal. My phone had died, and I didn’t have the address. I popped into a laundromat to recharge just enough to message Stef for the exact address, and 20 minutes later I arrived – just in time for bed.
Friday morning was an early one (every morning is with a toddler, which I wouldn’t know, of course), but that’s OK. Lack of sleep for a weekend of reminiscing and reconnecting is definitely worth it. This was Stef’s birthday, so after a cheap (but abundant and delicious) breakfast at the Egg Sunrise Grill on Dundas, she took off for her birthday pampering plans – pedicure and massage – and I settled down at the house to read some more, trying to be as un-intrusive as possible while Chris (Stef’s partner) and Jude (the labourman) worked on the basement renovations and Emma (the housemate) went about her day.
Friday evening I planned to visit a relatively new friend that had recently (relatively) moved to Toronto from Windsor, after finishing law school. Tamara is another go-getter, also inspiring and beautiful and I’m glad that I got the chance to see her. Her apartment is AMAZING, and she has a good network of friends, many of which I met that day. She told me of some of the struggles she’s faced since moving up there (boys, jobs and apartments, boys, jobs and apartments), but she’s the cream of the crop, floating to the top. She’s going places – I know it, and I hope she does too.
Friday night I was supposed to see James at a party in the west end, but I forgot how long it takes to get ANYWHERE in Toronto on a Friday night, and I missed him (he had just flown in from Spain, so he was pretty tired). I did get to use Uber for the first time though- a fantastic service! The party, sans James, was alright I guess – lots of people in the dark by the burn barrel, and lots of meat, cake and conversation.
Saturday, another early morning, started with a walk to “Damien’s” for my first Dirty Chai and a delicious cheddar bacon scone. I’m realizing now that the cafe is actually called Cygnet Coffee, but when Tyler (the toddler) chooses where to get a croissant, it comes directly from Damien, I guess!
That afternoon it was supposed to rain, but Stef wanted to get some work done in the backyard. We hustled and got the place looking less like a junkyard and more like a garden just in time to BBQ – I had invited James and Maria, Stef’s brother Jeremy was down from Barrie, and Chris had invited Jude and Ashley (and their toddler Shelby), and all of a sudden the yard was full of amazing people, lots of mud (the rain eventually came, just as we were sitting down to eat – thank the gods for humongous awnings and kids that like to make mud-pies), and more meat! Another bonfire ended the evening perfectly.
Sunday morning, we had scrumptious Mother’s Day breakfast prepared by Chris, and then I was off. Back to Union Station via one of the new streetcars (which I hate, BTW – I really wanted to talk to the driver but there was giant piece of plexiglass separating them from the rest of the car – and where the fuck do I put this token??). Unbeknownst to be, there was a marathon in the city that day, holding up traffic, so I had to hop off the car at Bathurst and catch a cab in order to get to the train on time. It was pretty close, but I made it and had an uneventful ride home back to Walkerville, back to Queenie, and back to real life in Windsor. 🙂 😦