you know, i seemed to have forgotten the real purpose of this blog, which was to preserve for myself the memories of my journeys. that said, i have been horribly remiss in not writing about the epic nineteen hour odyssey that was my land travel from Down South to the True North: canada. home of…umm…the great…uhhh…well, let me see if i figure out a thing or two worth mentioning as i go. (wow—burn, right?? LOLz.)
first to dispense with the legalities
so, i started out by driving four hours up to philly to catch an overnight bus to toronto. just before i go to get on the bus, i check my email and discover that, lo and behold, that pain-in-the-ass lawsuit business ( http://tinyurl.com/original-mention) is back in the mix courtesy of a new motion the plaintiff has just filed. now, the original suit was filed against me when i was in paris, and it caused me to lean on my new friend “Ami” (http://tinyurl.com/amimention1) to help me figure out how to get an answer back to the states. so now it looks like, once again, i will have to deal with american civil court issues from outside of the country, and just who am i on my way outside of said country to visit? that’s right—none other than Ami! i’m starting to suspect a correlation.
i think the most important thing to note about this northbound travel is not the fifteen hours i spent on a bus (!!!) but the timing of it. you see, it took place on may 1, 2009, which was pretty much the apex of the Great Swine Flu Pandemic of 2009. further to that, my bus was leaving from philly, but i would be changing buses in nyc. please to observe this swine flu mappage:
do you see nyc? no? well, that’s because of all those Confirmed Swine Flu markers covering it. having noted this at the time, believe you me, i tossed and turned the night before i was to set off. i considered canceling. then i strongly considered canceling. but in the end, two cases of swine flu were confirmed where i was, in virginia, and i thought to meself, self, methought, if you are going to die of swine flu, would you rather do it crouched and cowering in virginia or on your feet some place new? it was a good time to apply one of my favorite quotes: “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
so i rubbed elbows with the teeming bus station masses (are there any worse masses imaginable? 😦 ), and every cough, every sneeze had my hair on end. can you imagine sitting trapped in the confines of a bus—with un-openable windows—while someone hacks and wheezes behind you during swine & flu season? fock! but on we trucked. bensalem. binghamton. syracuse. rochester. buffalo. a relay of drivers—four all told—and one moment of brand new horror when an officer got on the bus at buffalo and requested to see everyone’s passport. passport? wtf? it’s CANADA! i’ve been to canada before. no passport required! same like Jamaica, mon. same! i had actually gone through this exact train of thought before leaving home…
…but i just happened to come across my passport while packing and, on a whim, tossed it into my bag. for shits and giggles, i thought. yeah, shits and giggles alright. i damn near shit myself when passports were requested, and then i nervously giggled my way through freakin’ customs at the border…
“why are you visiting canada, ma’am?”
“how long will you be staying?”
“where will you be staying when you arrive?”
“do you have more than $10,000 in cash on your person?”
don’t i wish.
wanna see my passport?
so my bus was an hour late, and i had slept very little. one driver didn’t know how to work the air, and we all peeled off clothes, sweated, and griped. the next driver, naturally, changed our sauna into a meat locker. then there was the passport incident. then customs. after that, it was too late to sleep anymore—the sun was up, we had crossed the border, and i had that familiar excitement of entering a new place, that familiar feeling that the hassle was all about to pay off.
my eyes were burning as i started taking in the first sights of ontario. every time i go to canada, i think, “i should move to Canada.” granted, this was only my second time going to canada, but as with my first, i had an immediate impression of clean-and-safe. the ontario green belt with its pristine farmland. the sixteen mile creek area, with its perfect, peaceful houses in their idyllic, sleepy little neighborhoods. granted again, it was 7am. or…
crap. it suddenly dawned on me that i had just crossed over into one of those dreaded non-foot-pound-second lands, and that the sign reading “TORONTO 89” told me nothing. that 89 might as well have been pi for all its use to me. i don’t do math. i don’t do conversions. so once again, i would have no idea how far away anything really was, what the temperature was outside, and maybe even what time it was. everything becomes a guessing game for me outside of the u.s.:
- i think the temperature is around…sixty? sixty-five?
- what does this really cost?
- is that a walkable distance?
- holy crap—the speedometer says she’s taking this exit ramp at 60…but this feels more like, i dunno…20? 25?
- suuuure, i’ll meet you at sixteen o’clock—just as soon as a i find a clock with a fuckin’ 16 on it.
as much as i’ve traveled out of the country now, i don’t think i’ve ever had a person known to me receiving me at the other end. so when the bus pulled up and i saw Ami riding up on her bike, i thought:
(a) *insert gleeful squeal here* and
(b) here we go with the damn bike business again.
see, she would ride her bike all over paris, and since i didn’t have one there and we couldn’t rent me a velib one with my american credit card (because it didn’t have the Magical Golden Chip)—
—there was the complication of splitting up so that she could travel above ground while i traveled by train below it. but no worries, i had made it! i was in canada! i got off the bus, went to grab my bag, hugged my friend…then closed up my coat and broke out the mittens because…brrr…it was, like, twelve degrees celsius out there! whatever the fock that means. 😐
yes! i’d finally made it! for a mere loonie (see vocabulary, below), we stashed my suitcase in a public locker and headed out, on foot, to jump right into things. at this point, i will summarize, via bullet point and photomuhgraph, the highlights (and lowlights) of what i did and saw while oot and aboot in canada. here goes—i:
- observed that they ain’t that clean
- met their utterly FEARLESS black squirrels
- took a jane’s walk (hosted by chuck, who proved that canadians also ain’t that friendly)
- turned when Ami pointed out: “look, it’s the cn tower!” (she hadn’t been back in canada for long and appreciated seeing toronto’s landmark building as much as i did…[to be cont’d])
- rode the rocket (toronto’s slogan for their subway); toronto has really good public transpo, including a subway system, streetcars, and plentiful bus routes—the only problem is the price
- made it to headquarters, still under construction
- hit up dufferin mall to get provisions at wal-mart and joe’s no frills; i wonder if, at some point, there was a canadian stink about having to put things in two languages, the way folks get all pissy about the spanish infiltration here in the states
- fulfilled the Lost Mitten Prophecy 😦
- walked bloor street through high park; crossed the humber river
- ate a surprise elk burger (as in, “guess what—that’s elk you’re eating! surprise!”); it takes canada to surprise-elk-burger you
- turned again on hearing “look, it’s the cn tower!” ([cont’d]…as much as i did the first time or three, that is)
- saw lake ontario
- visited niagara falls; took eighty-seven hundred crappy pictures complaining of no rainbow before…
- rolled my eyes at the bootleg cn tower (the rinky-dink niagara falls version)
- didn’t even turn when, upon returning to toronto, i heard: “look, it’s the cn tower!” (*sigh*) (once the world’s tallest land-based free-standing structure, it is now merely the world’s most annoying landmark) (just kidding) (sort of) (hee hee) (hi, Ami!)
- learned what part of the female anatomy the street name “spadina” rhymes with
- hit up little india
- visited chinatown
- located kensington market
- tried a nanaimo (nuh-NIGH-moh) bar; this is a popular canadian no-bake dessert square consisting of a wafer/cocoa/coconut base, topped by a layer of light custard or vanilla butter icing, and covered in chocolate made from melted semi-sweet chocolate squares; umm…did you hear me? i said chocolate and coconut!
- popped into honest ed’s (http://www.honesteds.sites.toronto.com/), another toronto landmark
- tried another nanaimo bar at lettieri (these ones, though vastly more expensive at $2.75 apiece, were gawd awful turrble)
- watched the movie “religulous”; learned how uncommon common sense can be
- turned “spadina rhymes with…” into my very own “look, it’s the cn tower!”
- shopped on queen street (tried on sneakers and spent, like, an hour in Lush)
- and finally, shook my head as Ami said: “look, it’s the cn tower!”
overall, being in toronto doesn’t feel much different than being in the states. it’s a nice city, though, and it was great hanging out with Ami. also—due to my finally hitting on a favorable exchange rate—it was a pretty inexpensive endeavor. the combo of these things places this trip firmly in the W column, as far as i’m concerned. it’s no granada, but it’s no providence, rhode island either. (oooh! burn!)
the bus ride back was relatively uneventful, save for the obese woman who got on in syracuse (on her way to florida…damn) and wanted to chat. as she oozed across the border into my seat, she had the nerve to say, in convo about her health, that it was a shock to her that the doctor said she needed to lose weight. “i weigh more than you’d think,” she confided. (word?, i thought, so it’s more than three bills?) and then she added that she’s “big boned.” yes. she really said that. later, upon observing the copy of anna karenina sitting hopelessly on my lap, she asked me, “is she a good writer?” 😦 i decided that forced sleep was my best option.
many, many hours later, i made it to d.c. and enjoyed the company of a friend from waaay back who was on a rare visit from the left coast. i hadn’t seen her for seven damn years, and in that time she has multiplied twice over. i got to see her gorgeous little hatchlings, but i shan’t put their picture up here. instead, i offer to you another little hatchling, one that i worriedly observed on the sidewalk when i arrived back in philly. it couldn’t fly, so it must have fallen from its nest. all it could do is walk back and forth on the busy sidewalk peeping (surprisingly) loudly until, over and over again, a mama sparrow would approach its gaping maw and insert some food. perhaps in hopes that it would shut the hell up. it was nature in action, right there on the sidewalk. and, in all honesty, it made me relieved to be driving home all by my lone. whew!
- loonies (dollar coins, so named for the loon pictured on the back)
- toonies (two dollar coins; should really be spelled “two-nies,” but you get the idea)
- washroom (they all say it this way!)
actual date of this posting: may 24. turrble.