Blue Eyes surprised me with a trip to Toronto for the Fourth of July weekend. Last time I was there was in 1992 or 1993, for all of 48 hours, young, with no money. I remember an overcast fall day, the CN Tower looming somewhere in the distance, and a place called the Moose Bar. When we drove in from the airport, I was struck by the multitudes of gleaming new construction lining the lakefront. There's been a hell of a lot of movement up north since I was last there.
Yet it's still so very Canada. Waiting for a streetcar on King Street, we asked a couple passers-by if they knew how frequently the trolley came.
Helper 1: "Oh, it's a lot more frequent than the Queen Street streetcar."
Helper 2: "Yeah, that's true."
Helper 1: "Do you want me to look it up for you?"
Us: "No, that's not necessary."
Helper 1: "No, really, I can do it right here on my iPhone."
Us: "Truly not necessary."
And their version of razzing the opposing team (Phillies played the Jays) consisted of multiple iterations of the following:
"Hey Polanco! You're a terrible player!"
"Yeah, you're horrible!"
A more creative quip came from a quartet of drunken twentysomethings that looked like they were members of the Royal Canadian Hacky Sack team.
"Victorino, why do you have double ear flaps [on your batting helmet]? Look at the double ear flaps. I hope you get hit in the ear!"
No shit, that is the worst of what we heard at the game. Quite a welcome change from the usual "Asshole! Asshole!"
At The Keg, Canada's version of Houston's, we sat at the bar eating chicken wings and watching sports highlights. A commercial came on the air for some show we'll call "Canada's Next Top Junior Philanthropist." Blue Eyes and I reflected that the majority of new reality shows stateside are generally some variation of "America's Next Top Skank."
Speaking of, young Torontonian girls are an interesting crew, more like something you'd find in the outer boroughs of New York City (read: bridge and tunnel). They like to dress up with the hotsy-totsy outfits (miniskirts up to their ass, stilettos that could give one a nose-bleed), even if they're only hanging out at a mid-level restaurant or on the roof of Wayne Gretsky's sports bar. While lounging with my sweetie on an oversized couch I watched these girls struggle with general insecurity, outfit creep and complete lack of party etiquette (their noses were buried in their smartphones almost immediately). Never have I felt so glad to be 41.
My favorite random thing was in the gift shop of the Hockey Hall of Fame. I thumbed through the rotating shelf of personalized key rings because I'm always looking for a souvenir for any one of the strange-named children in my family. I came across the usual suspects: Michael, Brandon, Doug. I also found Claude and Rene. It's the demographic after all.
Our hotel, the Sheraton City Center -- whose decor was weirdly reminiscent of a Disney World hotel circa 1976 -- was across the street from a glass structure that housed both a TD Canada bank and a Starbucks. And by "housed both" I mean it looked like the branch manager could reach behind him and pull his own cappuccino. Starbanks, on dit.
By far, my favorite Canadaeque quirk could've been a PSA for your tax dollars at work: clean up after the Pride Parade. When New York does the Pride Parade there are half a million people on Sixth Avenue for an hour and then a bunch of shit littering the street for days. When Toronto does the Pride Parade, there are 1.2 million people for half the day not an errant paper to be found afterwards, like something out of fucking Burning Man. Here's how it happens: at the end of the parade a fleet of street Zambonis follow the last float down Yonge, and following them are people sweeping the sidewalk. And those sidewalk sweepers are RUTHLESS. If you are hanging with your peeps afterwords trying to work out where to grab a brew, do NOT get in the way of the street sweepers. They will sweep the trash through your group. Now, that's how I would run my city.
If you go, be sure to Bixi all over town. I experienced a sense of exhilaration I haven't really felt since I was about 12. Until I woke up the next morning, of course.
And beware: Toronto is a lovely place to be in the summer months. But the sun doesn't go down until about 9:30/10:00, which can make for a brutally hot day under the right conditions. Somebody turn off the sun!
PS: We found the Moose Bar. It's called the Loose Moose, and it's as douchey as ever. But I love it.