I went to Toronto to write the book, and the book is more-or-less done. (I still use the word “write” when really, it’s a bunch of information graphics; but I kind of feel like write is the correct word, as there are six essays in the book, and like a proper non-fiction writer, a crap load of research was involved. It is odd, though, when people ask what it is about, and I just shrink and mutter stuff about charts and graphs.) Now it’s time to move on. Not back to Europe just yet. Not sure exactly when that will happen. I figure I’ve spent enough of my life in Europe. Time for something new. Just after I’d turned 30, I moved to Berlin. Now, as I hurtle towards 40, I find myself a bit listless, out of sorts. Toronto has been very nice. I’ve met some nice people. The city, the atmosphere is… nice. It’s a little bit of an emotionally cold city, though. I’m glad that a couple of Canadians (that is, Canadians not raised in Toronto) confirmed this, and it wasn’t just me. I can be emotionally cold, too, so these two things colliding probably means that Toronto will not be my home again. But I realised I’d miss it on Saturday. I’d been at the Blue Jays game and as I left the Skydome, I took one last walk around the Douglas Coupland-designed Toronto Park. (I wrote about it earlier in the year.) It hit me there, that I would miss Toronto. It hit me three more times, too. I went into my local bar Squirly’s, a place where I’ve spent so much time that I’ve developed genuine friendships with a couple of people who work there (ie. meeting up at other bars to go drinking, going to ballgames, etc.). So I went there for one last drink on Sunday night, and after goodbye hugs, I walked out with a lump in my throat, widening my eyes to make sure I didn’t weep.
Hit number two was at the airport early on Monday morning. The plane was boarding, and along the walls of the skywalk, there were the usual smug-ass HSBC ads that seem to be in every bloody airport in the world, but there were also a few Toronto tourism-y pictures. The very last one before I stepped onto the plane was of the SkyDome. I stared at the ground, shuffled into the plane, and thankfully, got engaged in a baseball conversation with one of the stewards who saw my Yankees cap and asked, “Do you just like the cap or are you a fan?” So while a guy who was seemingly oblivious that standing in the aisle and taking off his jacket and getting stuff out of his carry-on was holding everyone up, we had a chat about the games the Yankees are currently playing against the Tampa Bay Rays.
I had a middle seat. Always a joy. The guy with the aisle seat was probably in his late fifties, looked like Humpty Dumpty with liver spots and a sparse head of pomade-laced hair. He also took up about 10% of my seat, too. Thankfully, the window seat guy was a stick insect, so I could kinda dominate the arm rest there. Hit number three came when I flicked through the channels on the telly system, and found a few episodes of the Ken Burns documentary series, “Baseball.” Watching black and white images of Babe Ruth drilled home that I was leaving baseball behind, except for watching games on my laptop.
But, it did distract me from the middle seat-ness; time flew by, and soon enough, the plane was on the ground and my passport had been stamped, and I picked up my luggage. They have x-ray machines at Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México. You hand in your form, put all your luggage on the conveyor belt, pick it up, and head out to get a cab. Except they had some questions. They wanted me to open my suitcase and look at something. I had a jar of Marmite in there, so I wondered if having a jar of that gorgeous, dark, yeasty gloop was considered importing food that you’re not supposed to import. But no, they wanted to know about my baseball caps. Now, I realise it is utterly ridiculous to have over forty baseball caps with me, but, y’know, I only own two pairs of shoes, and three pairs of trousers, so my clothing priorities may be a bit askew, but this is the United States* and I can do what I want.
* Okay, technically, it’s not the United States we all know and love, but I am in the Estados Unidos Mexicanos.
The lady was under the impression I was importing goods to be sold. She asked how much they were worth. I low-balled her. She asked why I had them. I told her that I really liked baseball and gestured towards the baseball books, the baseball glove, and the Dave Stieb bobblehead in the suitcase. Clearly at this point, any normal person would think I was just a mental person who liked an American game way too much. But she was insistant that I had to prove they were mine. She wanted to see receipts, she started counting them. One by one, I got them out, pointed out sweaty stains on the inside, the faded colours on the older caps, and the ungodly stench coming from my Montreal Expos cap. It must’ve been the smell that convinced her than no-one in their right mind would be trying to sell something as disgusting as that Expos hat.
So, yes, I’m in Mexico City y tengo aprender español.