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Uptown, downtown

Posted by PlayGroundology on July 19, 2008

It was the better part of half a day on the road to get back to Sorel through eastern Ontario thunderstorms and rural Québec bus routes. The pace in Sorel is much less hurried and harried. Thursday morning’s waking was like sweet nectar and I savoured every drop – 2 little babies in our bed rolling, hugging, giggling and laughing. Nothing beats an early morning welcome home.

There were a few moments in Toronto though when I was a little fearful as to whether I would be leaving in one piece. Following our Hellboy II movie outing Kyla and I hopped into her trusty vehicle for the ride back home. This entailed feats of derring-do on the 401 and the 400. I was doing a lousy job of hiding my consternation, read ‘fear’, brought about by finding myself suddenly without warning in the middle of an Indy 500 race weaving in and out of traffic with the barest of over the shoulder glances when lane changing to apparently reduce our chances of getting creamed from behind. It was either the palloresque tinge of my skin, the white-knuckling I was giving to the strap above the passenger door, or my uncharacteristic silence that prompted Makyla to smilingly inquire, “are you used to another driving style, Dad?”

No fathers were harmed in the cross town freeway driving with Makyla but an accident did materialize right before my eyes. On Queen West just in front of The Horseshoe Tavern’s sidewalk patio a black car makes contact with a red jeep – front end to rear end. It is more than nudge, less than a smash – enough to cause a few thousand dollars damage to the car’s hood and slow the traffic to instant replay speed.

A block down the street a tuneless trio is hunkered down on the sidewalk one of them strumming half-hearted chords. The lyrics are indistinct and the song unrecognizable. There’s always the possibility these are original compositions. They’re unkempt, look unwashed and are bordering on just plain dirty. They seem to be relishing their roles in this real life theatre piece. The cardboard sign they display to passersby unapologetically proclaims – “Why lie? Change for pot.”

A short distance away, still on Queen West, a mural of blossoming hands challenges us to get engaged. Goethe is quoted as encouragement, inspiration. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genious, power, magic in it.”

Between Spadina and Bathurst I found the cutest little tops for Nellie-Rose. They are hand-made and personally designed by the owner of the store. On sale for just $7 each, they were a real bargain for simple beauty. And so it goes, this one street continues endlessly with its tens of thousands of daily stories of commerce, love, inebriation and dreams, of fashion, cuisine, art and the club scene.

Back at Jane and Finch, Kyla and room mates were trying to find the time between work and busy social schedules to brighten up the new apartment. They had already started repainting and Kyla had hoped that I would be able to help her with a couple of small projects – putting up curtains and hanging pictures. I am more than inept at this kind of activity and as it turned out, we didn’t have enough time together in their place to attempt these home improvements. Just as well s I don’t have any confidence that she would have been pleased with the outcome.

There was a lot of take out and restauranting during the TO trip. My greatest hope was for a potato roti purchased at the Jane-Finch Mall. It was a culinary letdown though and didn’t come close to Pearl’s legendary rotis that could be enjoyed in the comfort of her College St. West restaurant 30 years ago. I did manage to get some lovely Caribbean food fixes – pone, currant slice, guava nectar and a meat patty. Had there been more time I would have been more seriously on the trail for the perfect potato, channa and chicken rotis.

My last night in the city we discovered a Vietnamese restaurant at the Jane – Finch crossroads. We ordered 4 dishes for under $20 and ate in. The chicken, beef and rice dishes were tasty and generous enough to require the doggy bag treatment. Kyla and I had a good mix of serious and light-hearted conversation with a focus on family – who was so and so, where were they now, what happened between her Mom and I? We also had some chuckles at the different approach to table service and in particular the iceberg bursting out of the glass of iced water I had asked for. Likely one of those you had to be there moments to get the full benefit of the belly laughs, or even just to get it…..

Just prior to finding the restaurant, Makyla did suggest that Bob Marley tshirts might not be the best choice for my continued well-being in the neighbourhood. She was just giving me the heads up, not making any value judgement herself. This is the cultural appropriation rub and although I don’t subscribe to it I did recognize the value of of Kyla’s comments when i saw a 30-something guy glowering in my direction and it wasn’t ‘one love’ in his eyes

Several neigbourhoods away at the Finch subway station there was a lot of love going around. I don’t know why anyone grabbing the southbound Yonge train would choose anything other than Tim’s middle service window. The smile and poise attract like a magnet. All those transit riders looking to get beaned up on double doubles and mokas can get an additional radiant greeting blast thrown in for free simply by choosing this server. I waited to be served one day and watched in amazement another. The line flow does not stop, always 6 or 7 deep and people impatient to get on their trains. I’m guessing our heroine is in her late 50s and her accent suggests a eastern european birthplace. She has time for everyone, has regulars and even asks about the kids – all accomplished in a seemingly effortless flow of efficiency and sincerity. The morning I made it to the window after a 10 minute shuffle to the front and a queue steadily forming behind me, I thanked her for taking my order and said that she was the best Tim’s server I ever met. Her response, without missing a beat, her smile now at full force high beams, “well, you’re the best customer”.

Breakfast with Rod was my last act in the city. I got to the bus with 10 minutes to spare. We ate in High Park’s Grenadier Restaurant – a decent all day breakfast and reasonably priced. We met just about 30 years ago and hadn’t seen each other in 6 years. The couple of hours we spent together sped by. He’s taken up golf so I’m hoping he’ll come east to try our courses. We’re both a little greyer than our last encounter and on parting agreed that on the whole we appeared to be aging gracefully.

Extreme sports driving with Kyla is now a wrap. I’m back to calmer pursuits in Sorel and environs. While I was gone, Noah-David mastered pedalling the tricycle and selected a new favourite tune which he has dubbed musique des étoiles. The song is ‘More than a Feeling’ by Boston. It’s currently on endless repeat on the car stereo the lyrics soon to be seared into my memory. It’s one of the tunes we heard Sylvain Cosette play at his outdoor, night time concert a couple of weeks back, hence music of the stars….

Nellie for her part continues to be the belle of the ball. In just 4 days she seems to have got bigger. One thing for sure she has become much more adept at her raspberries and they are de toute beauté. She generally lets the spray fly to accent her happiness with a given situation. Raspberries are now a showeringly Nellie phenomenon.

Note to self – no more overnight bus rides, too old…………..


One Response to “Uptown, downtown”

  1. […] version of More than a Feeling known fondly in our family by Noah’s name for the tune, la musique des étoiles. We’ve also flipped on sweet songs by Stefie Shock and the Big Bob, Mr. Marley himself, and […]

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