Operation: Mapleleaf (2005 edition)

typed for your pleasure on 24 October 2005, at 2.50 am

Sdtrk: ‘Nonstop to Tokyo’ by Pizzicato five

Saturday was fat-packed full of Excitement and Adventure, as instead of getting together round at either Derek or Jeff’s in the evening as per usual, we decided to make a day trip to Toronto, as we try to go at least once a year, and we missed out last year. Plus, we wanted to go before it got unspeakably cold, and before having a passport was absolutely necessary. Those of us living in Southeast Michigan are lucky, cos we can visit a whole other country after simply crossing a bridge or a tunnel; however starting next year, foreign visitors will be required to have a passport to visit Canada from Detroit, for the first time since the bridges and tunnel were built. Naturally, you can chalk that nonsense up to homeland ‘security’.
Aaanyway, it was to be a proper group outing, involving Jeff, Derek, Mike, Tim, Marika, and myself. Tim was the first to cancel, as he claimed financial embarrassment; plus he had to do something with his aunt on the week-end. Mike pulled out on Friday eve, due to some loan shark issues or some such. Since we were only going to be there for the day, none of us were carrying a lot of dosh; out of all four of us, I think I had the most, at $125. So, with our reduced numbers, Derek decided to stuff us all in his Cavalier as opposed to the van, as the mileage would be significantly better.

Having awakened at an unspeakable 4am Saturday morn, I left my house at 5.15 to obtain Mari, and she and I got round to Derek’s at maybe 10 after 6. Jeff was already there, polishing off his Egg McMuffin. We took off at about 7am, stopped at an ATM, bought fuel, drinkies and snacks, and were off in due course to the Blue Water Bridge.
Now, taking the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel is fine if you’re only going to Windsor, but the Blue Water Bridge is much better for Toronto journeys, as it cuts the five hour drive time down by about an hour, as you don’t have to navigate through Windsor. However, we’ve noticed on our trips up there, that they’re a little bit more likely to stop you at the border, cos there’s less traffic, and the guards therefore have more time to inspect cars. So we were pulled over! Of course, adding to the suspense is that, apart from Jeff, none of us had proper ID — drivers’ licenses just barely count, and Social security cards aren’t valid. Don’t even bother with a school ID, and, as you well suspect, those ExpressPay cards they give you at Kinko’s aren’t an option, either. Whilst they disassembled Derek’s Cavalier, we had to go inside and present ourselves to an official over at the Immigration booth. After we proved that we were indeed on a peaceful mission, they let us go on our way; the whole process taking about 20 minutes. It was inconvenient, to be sure, but as we didn’t have to submit to a forcible cavity search, we left pretty satisfied.

Fueled by high spirits and various songs by Pizzicato five, the Space channel 5 sdtrks, and that song by Black eyed peas where the lass is singing about her ‘lovely lady lumps’ — a song so stupid, it’s funny, we all agreed — Derek drove, Jeff belched profusely, Mari knitted, and I passed out. I woke up round 10.30ish, when we had made it into Toronto airspace proper, and it was raining. As I’d brought Clicky Mk II, I had intended to take photos of the city from the view of the motorway, but it was too windy and cold (it was in the low 40s) to roll down the window, and with four people occupying a small car, the windows were perenially fogged up. C’est la vie..
After barely successfully navigating our way down several one-way streets, we pulled into an underground car park near City Hall. Fab Thing About Toronto, No.342783: You know how in ordinary car parks you have to remember ‘Red F’ or ‘Blue 6’, so you have an inkling as to where your vehicle is at? This being Canada, the floors were identified by various Canadian-related animals, such as ‘Squirrel’, or ‘Moose’, or ‘Rabbit’, as seen here.

Left, a 2D silhouette of a bunny; right, Mari

Very nice!

We hit Eaton centre first, to get out of the fucking rain (Normally, I don’t mind the rain, as you well know, but when the wind is actually flipping your brolly inside out, then it’s a problem) and to have lunch. We hit Sushi-Q, which was both good and bad — Good, cos I was hoping it was still there from the last time we visited T.O, but Bad, cos I had forgotten how small the portions were. Should’ve expected as much; after all, it’s a sushi stand in a mall, not an actual restaurant.. After scarfing the lot, we stopped round to Indigo, a book chain store akin to Borders, where Mari and I unsuccessfully tried to locate a copy of ‘Still lovers‘ (out of stock, the bastards), but I did see a copy of ‘The Stanley Kubrick Archives‘ by Taschen. It even comes with a Cd of an interview from the Sixties with Kubrick, as well as an actual 12-frame strip of film from ‘2001: A space odyssey’! Who wants to give me $200 USD to pick up a copy? You? Good!

Shortly after that, we made our way outside, where it was still pissing down. We’d noticed a lot of commotion towards the Sears side of Eaton centre, where various people were running — literally running — with tags of a sort stuck somewhere on their clothes, and more often than not, holding a piece of paper. As we left Eaton centre, we encountered more and more of them as we walked toward Chinatown. Over the course of observing several small groups of these people, we overheard a couple of conversations they were having over their cellphones; it was a good ol’ fashioned scavenger hunt. Hm! Although finding anything in a city that vast would be an epic undertaking, without question..
Chinatown was ace, as it always is. We hit a couple of bootleg backup DVD shops, and variety shops — there were more than a few places that had cheongsams on offer that would’ve looked delicious on Sweetie, but I passed — and eventually, we hit the creepy Chinese mall (Chinatown Centre) on Spadina, which is just an experience in itself. You kinda get the impression that the place was bought at a discount. The floors are always covered with leaves, the elevators sometimes work, the escalators don’t work at all, but it’s ace regardless. Plus, it’s got Kikiwai!

From there, we made our way back to Yonge (still raining, although not as windy), hitting Silver snail in the process, and then spending time in Sam the Record Man. Looking round as we walked, you couldn’t help but notice how much construction was taking place. Lofts. EVERYWHERE. Giant outdoor television screens. EVERYWHERE. New shops and restaurants. EVERWHERE. Having grown up in Detroit, one of the qualities that draws me to T.O is that it’s an actual, functioning city, with people, and transportation, and hundreds of places to visit and things to see. There was a metric ton of people making their way up and down the sidewalks, despite the inclement weather. Not only is it a living city, but it’s a friendly city, which amazes me no end. I mean, I don’t see myself suddenly becoming a people person upon moving there, but I’m sure my interactions will be, by and large, a lot more pleasant. I’ve been to Toronto probably about twenty times, and it’s always been like that. As I mused aloud to Mari, everytime I go up there I see something new, even in the places I’ve visited before, and I love that. And this is coming from someone who swears by consistency.

As we were running out of time — we wanted to leave Toronto by 8pm, plus, the walking was knackering us — we made our way back to the food court of Eaton centre for dinner, made a quick stop to Shoppers drug mart, where I acquired my requisite chip booty (four bags of Miss Vickie’s Original recipe, two bags of Ruffles All dressed), and we headed back to the car park, but not before getting one more decent photo in. An hour after leaving the city limits, driving through rain mixed with snow (!), I fell asleep again. All told, we really didn’t spend a lot of money, which I suppose is good. Jeff purchased the latest Goldfrapp Cd that’s not yet available in the States, I believe Derek bought a couple of DVDs, a wooden sake set, and a geomancy mirror, and Mari bought some Tylenol. Naturally, we had to let the border guard on the US side know that I bought some chips. Don’t you feel safer?

All in all, a lovely trip, weather and time restraints aside.

Yonge st, from the second floor of Sam the Record Man

Y’know, it’s all I can do to not drop dramatically to my knees and kiss the pavement every single time we visit Toronto

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3 have spoken to “Operation: Mapleleaf (2005 edition)”

  1. SafeTinspector writes:

    “an actual, functioning city, with people, and transportation, and hundreds of places to visit and things to see”
    Oh, God, if only Detroit were such an thing.
    There are places to go and things to do here, but the places all look alike and most of the things to do could easily result in your death.
    I felt the same way visiting New York City. Me and Heather just looked around and said, “Now this city isn’t dead.”

  2. KILLBOT writes:

    you have good taste in chips. 😛 mm mmm!

  3. Davecat writes:

    No-one else seems to understand my fervent passion for Ruffles All-dressed. In fact, Zip Gun hates ’em. Which I’m okay with, as that means more for me. 😉

    Catsup-flavoured chips, though… I don’t know. I just… don’t know.

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