Operation: Mapleleaf (2008 edition)

typed for your pleasure on 22 October 2008, at 1.31 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Action for green 3’ by Merzbow

Many of you under the age of, say, twenty-five, won’t remember this, but back in the olden days, television didn’t always broadcast a relentless twenty-four hours a day. Stations would actually shut down and go off the air at certain times, usually after midnight. As I live in the metro Detroit area, within gazing distance of Canada, I grew up watching a lot of Canadian television, which undoubtedly explains a lot. But I remember, particularly after the foreign films that CBET, CBC’s station for Windsor, Ontario, would show on late Saturday nights, that they’d shut down for the eve. This was followed by their national anthem, invariably played over footage of their flag in the breeze, some elk, and Don Cherry shouting at a puppy.

O, Canada
Our home and native land
Hm hm hmm hmm
Hm hmm hmm hmmmmm hm hm hmmm
And the rocket’s red glare

Or something of that nature. As I found myself staring out the rear window of goshou and Steph’s van, watching the cornfields and cows go by, and listening to Zip Gun and SafeT play their PSP and DS (respectively), that anthem played subtly in my head. Then it was replaced by ‘Princes of the Universe’ by Queen. But I’m getting a wee bit ahead of myself!

It had been two years since our Algonquin End Table had made our annual day trip to Toronto — financial setbacks and scheduling issues prevented us from going the last couple of years — but we made firm plans to visit this year, despite the exchange rate beating the American dollar insensate. Actually, I think that’s partially why we didn’t go last year. But it had been too long, so we just figured we wouldn’t spend as much. So Zip Gun, goshou, Steph, SafeTinspector, and I located our appropriate papers to present the various border guards, and made plans for the third Saturday in October.

When the chosen date arrived, we all gathered at Derek & Steph’s place at 7am. It was cold, as you’d suspect, and darker than I thought it’d be. We all made our final checks of what we’d needed (Cds, various games, recent MetroTimes, maps), and piled into the van, taking off about 7.30. Once again, we took the Blue Water Bridge instead of cutting through Windsor, as it tends to shave a bit of time off the trip. However, it didn’t really count, as the van was stopped and searched when we got to the Canadian side. Heh, can you imagine?
I have to say that this time round, I could kinda understand the ‘reason’ why we were stopped — five daffy-looking individuals from all walks of life in one van. I mean, we got stopped last time we went up there, and there was only four of us in a car. I guess if there’s a vehicle with more than two people in it, the border guards are going to have you pull over, and rifle through your things. Much like last time, while they were doing that, we had to enter the building and answer questions, such as ‘what’s the purpose of your visit?’ and ‘how do you all know each other?’ and ‘can you name two cast members of Saturday Night Live that are originally from Canada?’ (Dan Aykroyd and Mike Meyers — write that down, you’ll need it). After not finding anything suspect, they bid us go about our business. Ahh, security.

Although I fell asleep after writing most of an Email on my phone, I woke up when we reached the metropolitan Toronto area round 12.30, and as goshou had gotten distracted by something — probably Don Cherry shouting at a puppy — he’d missed an exit, so we were driving round the suburbs of Mississauga for a half-hour. Which wasn’t all that bad, all told, as it was a side of Canada that we’d never before seen, except in episodes of ‘Hangin’ in‘ or similar. Very pleasant-looking. I wondered aloud how much rent for a single-bedroom apartment was running, so I decided that I’d buy a paper before we left, just to see what kind of insurmountable odds I’d have to face in their job market.

After locating downtown T.O, as the locals call it, by finding Lake Ontario and driving alongside it until we sighted the CN Tower in the distance, we pulled into a car park, and summarily tumbled out of the van into brisk 50°F weather. Our first stop was for food. Derek & Steph’s roommate Dave Z had been to Toronto for two separate weeks for work purposes, and while he was there, he’d scouted out a couple of places of interest, one of which was a Japanese restaurant named Asakusa, located on King st.

Asakusa, with Zip Gun’s big head to the left (for scale)

It was an intimate venue; featuring no more than six tables and a sushi bar. Their menu was affordable, but one of the two things I’d ordered (the onigiri) was a wee bit lacklustre. Everyone else enjoyed their meals, though.

Leaving Asakusa, we made our way over to a place that was established since our last voyage, Anime Extreme, on Spadina. A subterranean affair, their store was nearly crammed from floor to ceiling with anime-related models, manga from A to Z, and various other peripherals geared towards those into “Japanimation”. It was here that I was to encounter a running theme that would plague me during our entire trip: either a shop wouldn’t have what I wanted in stock, or they’d have something that I wanted, but it was desperately out of my price range. I’d only brought $120, so I wasn’t gonna go crazy with my spending. But o, the Things I Saw… So I ended up buying a fab silver skull ring for $5.
As we were in Chinatown proper, we ducked into a place that sold *coughbootlegcough* DVDs, but shortly after that, something rather fantastic occurred. We were making our way towards our favourite scary Chinatown mall, Chinatown Centre, with SafeT, ZG, and goshou several paces ahead of Steph and myself. We’d just crossed the road, when Steph garnered my attention, as someone was apparently calling my name. I turned round and saw a bloke on a bicycle at the corner. He kinda resembled Elton from that Doctor Who episode ‘Love and Monsters’. ‘Davecat?’ he asked.
ME: ‘Ahh… yeah?’
CYCLIST: ‘I saw you on tv. Nice to meet you, I’m Brooke.’ *extends hand for shake*
ME (shaking hand): ‘Good meeting yer, Brooke. O, where on tv did you see me, anyway?’
BROOKE: ‘It was on that documentary! Do you live in Toronto?’
STEPH: ‘Oh no, a bunch of us are just up here for the day.’
BROOKE: ‘That’s cool. Have you ever been to Toronto before?’
ME: ‘O, gods yes, a couple of times. It’s a great city.’
BROOKE (nods): ‘Okay, have fun!’ *bikes away*
Huh! If Steph wasn’t there as a witness, I wouldn’t have believed it happened! Admittedly, I was a wee bit taken aback when Brooke (I hope I got his name right) stopped me, but then, I remembered it’s Canada, and people by and large are less antagonistic there. Pretty impressive! I should’ve asked which documentary, upon reflection…

The five of us entered Chinatown Centre, Steph and I explaining our amusing delay, and headed straight upstairs to KiKiWai, an anime shop crammed into a space the size of a public lavatory. Apparently we had arrived when they were out to lunch, as the doors were shut and the store was dark. *grits teeth* So Steph and I milled round the merchandise counters on that floor, whilst ZG visited one of the *coughbootlegcough* DVD booths, and goshou & SafeT hit the arcade downstairs for some Dance dance Revolution action. By the time we converged on the arcade, SafeT was drawing a crowd, playing doubles on a high difficulty level. Earlier on, whilst we were eating at Asakusa, he’d used his Treo to check out an online site for DDR fanatics that lists the locations of all machines worldwide, as he loves him some dancing and… revoluting. Initially I thought he was kidding when he mentioned it, but no, it actually exists. By all appearances, he did well, but according to goshou, the sight of a large white dude showing off his skillz on the metal pads had cleared out two-thirds of the arcade. Sorry Joe, you’re just too much of a frantic badass for them to handle. Ah well.

Several blocks later, we once again hit Silver snail on Queen st. West, which was crowded as hell. I suppose if you live in an actual functioning city, it’s not that big of a deal, especially on a Saturday afternoon, but good gods! Once again, I was in a situation where what I wanted, they didn’t have (‘how could they be out of “Monster”? It’s a taut psychological thriller!’) and what they did have was overpriced (‘$90 for the Sonic screwdriver and Laser screwdriver set??’), so I left empty-handed. I think I might’ve been staring at their wall of Revoltechs for like five minutes, vainly trying to make a decision. Amusingly enough, though, at one point, they had the theme song for ‘Wonder Woman’ playing over the PA, which naturally got stuck in everyone’s heads. Technically, I think it’s still stuck in my head.
After that, I wanted to hit a Goth boutique that I didn’t spend enough time in during our last trip years ago, also on Queen, but they were closed. As in shut-down, boarded-up, capital-C Closed. I wept and wrote a poem about it, feeling those to be entirely appropriate courses of action.

As it was getting late, we decided a whip-round through Eaton centre had to be accomplished, otherwise how will we truly know that we had been in Toronto? Much like Silver snail, the place was brimful of people, and we had to stick close to each other, otherwise we’d have been easily separated. We made a beeline for Indigo, one of Cananada’s book chains, where I looked grimly at a copy of ‘Edie: Girl on fire‘, but Steph mentioned that I could just as easily pick that up at a bookstore at home, or online. Then, we hit a Shoppers drug mart, where I bought my requisite four bags of Ruffles All dressed chips, as it’s tradition. Finally, a purchase!!1!
I have to say at this point, that I really regret not having taken more photos. The last time we were in downtown T.O, we were gobsmacked by the constant construction of skyscrapers and other buildings. Well, they’re still building. In leaving Eaton centre and walking on Yonge, there were some new developments, such as the whole Yonge-Dundas Square area, and the enormous billboards and plasma-screen televisions that enclosed it. Derek & Steph admitted that although they were jaded, as they’d visited Japan last year, they were still impressed by the overall look of the architecture and skyline that Toronto was becoming. As far as I can see, the development shows no signs of stopping. If I were to live in, or at least near, Toronto, I’d probably quickly forget my fear of crowds. As I often explain to people, it’s a big metropolis, but it’s very cosmopolitan and open-minded. Heh; you should have a look at the last twenty pages of NOW Magazine, their local free alternative rag (hint: it’s all sex service adverts)… In short, it’s a progressive city, with no lack of things to see and do, where I don’t think I’d feel intimidated, and that’s a tremendous bonus.
Also, as we were travelling amidst the buskers and shoppers, some cute blonde lass actually shouted my name! I turned round just and time for a wave and a smile before she had to cross the street. Did they just air ‘Love me, love my Doll’ or something in Canada recently??

Rounding out our visit, we hit the HMV on Yonge — ZG and I were particularly saddened to see that the famous Sam the Record Man had gone out of business — as well as World’s Biggest Bookstore (formerly Coles), where I picked up a Saturday edition of the Toronto Star, that outlet bookstore next to it, and the BestBuy Gaming Invasion expo that happened to be going on that week-end. All that walking was killing us, and unfortunately the path we took back to the car park didn’t go along a streetcar route. As we stopped into a Tim Horton’s (cos y’know, we don’t have those at all in the States), I’d noticed that I hadn’t seen a single Harvey’s restaurant, which was a disappointment, as I remember they had some delicious burgers…
We finally left Toronto about 7pm, and were well on the way home an hour later, thanks to traffic congestion. Apart from Zip Gun having to pee in a darkened cornfield, as the rest area we’d stopped at was inexplicably closed, we made it home without incident at about 12.30am, playing Queen’s soundtrack to ‘Flash Gordon’ during the last leg of the journey.
And here we are! Doesn’t it feel like you came along with us?

I think the lesson we primarily came away with was one that we more or less knew from the last two day trips we’d made up there: a day trip simply isn’t enough time. Sure, you can argue that that’s an inexpensive way to go about it, as opposed to a weekender (Derek had originally proposed that we get a cheap hotel room for the eve, as he thought he might be too knackered to drive home), but honestly, with all the city has to offer, and with more to offer with each successive trip, running around for seven hours ain’t gonna cut it. A lot of the places we stopped at were either a blur or a haze. Nevertheless, a Grand Time was Had by All, needless to say.
So! Any metropolitan Toronto-area data entry places want to hire me, then? You won’t regret it

Wonder Woman,
Get us out from under, Wonder Woman
All our hopes are pinned on you
And the magic that you do

Stop a bullet cold,
Make the Axis fall,
Change their minds, and change the world

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman
You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman

Random similar posts, for more timewasting:

End of an era on November 30th, 2005

Off my chest, onto your monitor on October 18th, 2005

12 have spoken to “Operation: Mapleleaf (2008 edition)”

  1. Kat writes:

    Thats so cool that you can make a day trip. Honestly, I dont blame the bloke for approaching you to see if he was really seeing you or it was a case of mistaken identity. At least he was nice about it and didnt totally sidetrack you from your mission or hounding you.

    Too bad Sidore couldnt make it. She probably would of loved the shops.

  2. Jamie writes:

    Ontario sounds like a cool city. I grew up Alaska, and my grandmother and I would drive through Canada every year to visit relatives in California (because they wouldn’t dream of visiting somewhere like AK). I haven’t been through in years, way before passports were required. Of course the Yukon Territory is a lot of beautiful nothing. I hear good things about Vancouver, but by the time we get that far south we just head straight for Seattle. We never did drive past Edmonton, just to visit the big mall and spend Canadian dollars on the same stuff we could have bought in America. It seems like all of the coolest Candadian places are in the Eastern part of the country.

  3. Davecat writes:

    Kat-chan –
    Yeah; if he were one of those people who are like ‘you and I have made eye contact, and now we are best friends until the grave’, then that would’ve been bizarre. Which wouldn’t have worked anyway, as I was wearing my shades. 😉 But if he, or that cute blonde lass wanted to hang out for a couple of minutes, I wouldn’t have said no. Besides, they’re locals; they might have been able to point out some cool things we could have overlooked… Admittedly, in both instances, I felt like I should’ve autographed something.

    Now, if the Missus were with us, that’d be a bit of a giveaway! 😀 She’d have been even more disappointed than I that that Goth boutique was closed, though…

    Jamie –
    Ontario is a fine province, a fine province! Although I’ve only been to Windsor, Toronto, Montreal (back in the single-digit age range), towards Guelph, through Sarnia, Chatham, Woodstock, Niagara and Brampton, I liked what I’ve seen. Never been to Vancouver, but I hear it’s just as engaging as Toronto.
    I can imagine the Yukon being cold as the last circle of Dante’s Hell, but beautiful in that vast snowy expanse fashion. The views at sunup and sundown must’ve been amazing.

    And you grew up in Alaska? No wonder you hate Sarah ‘Caribou Barbie’ Palin so much. Although that’s not a prerequisite. 🙂

  4. Davecat writes:

    SafeT just sent me an Email about Chinatown centre:
    ‘That mall was awesome. When Derek and I were heading down to find the ITG the escalator we were riding melted. Or, at the very least, stopped unexpectedly and produced an awful burning rubber smell.’

    We <3 you, scary Chinatown mall.

  5. Jamie writes:

    Tee-hee- I meant Toronto, the city, not Ontario the province. Silly me!

    And even thought I left Alaska before Palin’s reign of terror, I do hate her with the fire of 1000 nuns (not a typo). I feel like the Rethuglicans are trying to punk America or something.

  6. carissasart writes:

    hey dovecat,
    wish we could chat online….i find a weird connection to you–carissa

  7. SafeTinspector writes:

    THe machine locator I used from my cellular phone was actually the one at ddrfreak:
    There’s a nice one at GrooveStats as well. I should’ve used that one, as it looks like it would’ve been easier to use on the ol’ Treo.

    Regardless, Toronto was a fun place to visit, and perhaps the next time I’ll not have a debilitating mouth condition.

    Someone who is into DDR and ITG must’ve scoped that place out at SOME time or another, as the entry at DDRFreak was pretty well fleshed out and groovestats shows four players calling that location their home arcade.

    I wonder where Funland arcade is, though? It has a huge stable of players from what I can see at Groovestats.

  8. Laura writes:

    Isn’t ‘Princes of the Universe’ the theme song for ‘Highlander’, also? My mom is in love with that show.
    I’m foaming at the mouth at Anime Extreme’s Gundam selection. I’d love to move to Canada, since London is too expensive.

  9. Davecat writes:

    Carissa –
    I am not opposed to connection! 🙂

    Well remember, bemani games are an integral part of Asian culture. Many kids play these games because their parents did, and their parents’ parents, and their parents’ parents’ parents, and their parents’ parents’ parents’ parents, and etc

    And unfortunately, Funland has gone the way of the electric dodo. Which is depressing. I can remember when my parents, my best friend Sean and I first started visiting Toronto back in the late Eighties, Sean and I would make it a point to hit Funland, as well as the other arcade on Yonge street. Either that one or Funland had the sit-down version of Space Harrier, which had motors that would move the seat as you played. How awesome was that?? Also, it (or the other arcade) was the only place we knew that had Astron Belt.
    As much as I always go on about how much Toronto is constantly developing new and different places to visit, there’s quite a few of the ‘old’ things that need to be preserved, y’know? I mean, no more Sam the Record Man, among other landmarks?? That’s sad.

    Laura –
    Yep, that’s from ‘Highlander’. We were on a ‘soundtracks performed by Queen’ kick during our rides up and back. It is the Will of Freddie Mercury! We do not question it.

    You would’ve squealed like a cheerleader at their Gundam models selection. An entire wall — literally, an entire wall — had High Grades, Master Grades and SD kits for sale. They had a Zeta Gundam MG for like $270 or some appalling price! The box was the size of two big cats!
    And as a happy medium, you could move to London, Ontario. I’m led to believe that it’s like Toronto, yet not as expensive.

  10. SafeTinspector writes:

    Hah! I used to play Astron at Rick’s Arcade in Eastpoint.
    Rick is so insane, now. I need to find him and talk at him again…

  11. SafeTinspector writes:

    We should’ve visited Playdium.
    They have a Pump It Up Pro!

  12. Davecat writes:

    We tried to visit Playdium, remember? We couldn’t find it entering Toronto, and we saw it whilst exiting Toronto.
    ‘Hey, there’s the Playdium!’ And we just kept on goin’.

    And talk to Rick before he dies of acute apoplexy. He has books and ledgers to show you, y’know.

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