So, Toronto. Getting here began by dragging a rucksack, backpack, and big-ass suitcase from Barnet (at the northern edge of London), to Gatwick airport (south of London). A fairly harmless journey apart from the bit where I had to change from the Northern Line to the Victoria Line on the Tube. Trains came and went and were uniformly packed full of people. People who were waiting to get on the trains avoided my gaze; the gaze that was trying to say, “C’mon chaps, gimme a break, I know I’m gonna take up the space of three people but I kinda do need to get somewhere just like you do.” Eventually, I just did what the other people did: thought about myself. Positioned myself right in front of where a door would be and launched myself on there.
Here’s a piece of advice, which I wish I’d looked into before choosing to fly with Air Transat: check the baggage allowance before booking what seems like a reasonably-priced flight. My excess baggage more-or-less doubled the price of the flight. But it left on time, arrived on time, and I had an aisle seat to stretch out in.
Getting into Canada, though, was a piece of piss compared to the nation to its south. Just a couple of questions about why I was visiting and if I had any meat or vegetables with me, and I was in. A cab ride later and I’m opening the door to my friend Scott’s place, my home for the next three months. And within two hours of that, I was doing what I’d been looking forward to for quite some time: sitting, drinking a beer at a baseball game.
The Toronto Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers 16-10, Scott, his (and my) house mate Kevin, and I went for a couple of beers in a local bar, then ate the food that has made my saliva glands overproduce ever since Scott described it to me. I’d not heard of poutine before, but it’s essentially chips and gravy with cheese curds in it. Mag. Nif. I. Cent. I’m glad I went for the small, though. It’s very, very filling.
Saturday, I was up early, out to get coffee, and for a walk. About ten minutes away is a wonderful area called Kensington Market. Good fruit and veg, grocery stores, some clothes shops, plenty of cafes and bars of many nationalities. I’ve been back there most days so far, partly because there’s a pleasant bar with a not-unattractive waitress working there and I’ve been enjoying an afternoon pint now and then, but mostly because there’s all these enticing looking places to eat that need to be tried out.
Another baseball game on Saturday afternoon (this time a 6-0 win for the Jays), followed in the evening by going to hang out with a bunch of Scott’s pals who get together now and then to draw. Essentially, it’s friends hanging out, having a beer, but with everyone doodling away at the same time. Naturally, after forgetting everyone’s name within moments of shaking their hands, I sat down and stared at a blank page for a good half hour. I’m not used to this public drawing. And even if I do draw in public, like in a cafe or something, I tend to hunch over my notebook so nobody can see what I’m doing. Mostly because I spend my time drawing giant flaming swastikas.
Sunday – oh yes, we’re going day by day – and I tag along with Kevin when he goes out to do a bit of shopping. A “quick pint” at lunch time turns into a good eight hour long crawl, which I justified quite easily: I’m getting to know Toronto. Something I repeated, mostly alone, on Tuesday. I’d been at another Blue Jays game (an 11-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins). I’d intended not to drink at all. It was a 12.30pm start, so I imagined it’d be easy to stay away from the booze. When I arrived at the Skydome (it’s current name is Rogers Centre, but that’s a horrible corporate name compared to the lovely futuristic Skydome), there was that unmistakable sound of thousands of children. Understandable, really, that on a midweek afternoon game, the Blue Jays should do some sort of deal with schools to get a ton of kids to come out and buy fizzy drinks and popcorn, but for the adult customer, well, it very literally drove me to drink. I went to the same beer stand each time I bought one, and the first time, had a little chat with the two ladies serving. They asked about my accent, I told them I’d lived in Germany, one of them told me her best friend was studying in Mönchengladbach. Very pleasant interaction. Next time I went back, they said hello in that way that acknowledges we’ve spoken before, and one of the women asks for my ID again. Each of the four times I went to buy a beer she asked to see my ID. I began to think she was stood underneath a security camera, a bit like a casino worker, constantly being watched by the Blue Jays’ Beer Police. Those four afternoon pints ended up being a good, solid twelve hours of drinking. I need to slow down a bit, really.
The last couple of days, I’ve been trying to do a bit of work on the book, but it’s not really been that easy. There’s a big, wonderful-seeming city out there to be explored. Today, though, I’m determined not to explore; to sit in front of my computer and try and have a normal day. Even typing those words, I can feel my willpower draining away.
Finally, in Tic Tac news, not only do Canadian fresh mint flavour (menthe fraîcheur, if you must) have “More Enjoyable Freshness”; they also have an interesting lid flap that I’ve not seen in Tic Tacs elsewhere. It’s got a kinda plug thing. I’m guessing that helps keep the Tic Tacs’ freshness intact.
Title of this blog post translates as “toasted flakes of corn.” It’s what’s written on the pack of Corn Flakes on the table.