Did you ever step outside your door and meet a stranger? No, like bump into a stranger? Full frontal contact? Well, living near one of the busiest intersections in Toronto, I do almost everyday. This will take some time to get used to. Moving from London, a relatively sleepy town, to the big Tee Dot, I’m feeling quite clumsy, or even goofy, in my new surroundings.
When I do step out onto the street, that being Queen, I’m shell-shocked with stimulus: cars, people, store front lights, street cars, more people, pretty shops, more pretty shops, people …. it’s overload. But, I must say, I walk down the street with a mile long grin on my face, because, for the longest time, this city was a place I visited. I came to eat at the amazing Mexican or Italian restaurants that are so authentic it makes you feel like you’re in that country. I came to dance at places like The Orbit Room. And Kensington Market. I always came to visit Kensington with its fun-loving hippies and free spirits. I didn’t feel so out-of-place here. I belonged.
Now, walking into Kensington, stopping at Cheese Magic, the guys behind the counter know me. “Beemster please!” Turning onto a new street in the market, one I’d never visited, I sit down near a window, drinking a coffee, and staring out at my Kensington. My city.
Ok, I’m a fine dining gal, but I also adore a cheap meal — especially when I spent everything on fois gras and wine all weekend. So, here are two of my favourite spots– so far.
The Java House (corner of Augusta and Queen) is undoubtedly a dive, but in the way that you love and respect. You pass the ‘kitchen’ on the way to the downstairs washroom — ladies peeling potatoes sitting on milk crates. But, nothing on the menu is over $10. My friend had grilled cheese and fries; I ate an avocado salad and sipped a giant hot chocolate. Bill: $20. Spicy Thai soup is also full of yums: shrimp, mushrooms, fake crab (mmm fake crab).
On Sunday nights, The Cloak & Dagger Pub, again, I’m not promising luxury, serves $3 tacos. Or, $10 for all you can eat and pulled pork no less! Soft or hard shell. (394 College Street). The cool part: music! We were just heading out around 10 pm when some guys started to congregate in the front to play some tunes.
Dagger dancing: my cousin Jodie and I can’t stop swing dancing! Tacos will do that to a girl.
So, tonight I began my dance odyssey across Toronto. I am in search of introductory free classes for a variety of dances all over the city, then I will decide which one I want to pursue.
Tonight was swing, the Charleston to be precise; it’s an earlier version of swing that began around the 20s. I found Bee’s Knees Dance on Yonge and Bloor: www.beeskneesdance.com
I love the speed, flow and energy of swing, but most of all, I love that it’s a happy dance. It’s not sexy like salsa. Less sass more athletic.
I’m glad I brought my cousin because it was mostly couples, but you could have easily gone solo. In a circle we rotated partners all night: this is my favourite part. Dancing with strangers; in the first few minutes you can tell so much about a person: how he holds your hand (is it firm, flimsy?); is he confident in his steps?; does he hold you close?
And there are tons of places to practice and tap into the swing community; I plan to attend a Saturday night social dance at Dovercourt House. From 7 until 9 red jacket wearing ambassadors go around helping newbies and then you can swing until 1pm. www.torontoswingdancesociety.ca.
Next stop: salsaholics! Bring on the sass.
Transitions. The proverbial stop-overs in life. Leaving one person, place, thing and moving onto the next. But not knowing what is next. Spooky? Life.
Made the big move to Toronto last weekend (UHaul full of bed etc…) and make the big, big move this weekend. Cleaning up, repainting walls, filling in holes, covering some spills. For the next few weeks, between homes. So, it got me thinking: what is home? Is it just a place where you hang your coat, sleep? Someone once told me that the town where you live shouldn’t matter: home is a state of mind. But why do I feel so weird about this move?
I leave London all the time. In fact, every summer for the past decade, I pack my bags and go. But why has this ‘permanent’ move got me so whacked out? Maybe it’s because I have always returned to London. In its weird little way, this place has gotten under my skin and become my home, my base? Gasp? Wash your mouth out with soap! I hate this place. Or that is what I shouted from the mountain tops for years. But I have carved out a community here–despite its reputation as not the friendliest town, London has some people and places that have become home.
For one, Wortley Village. I walk to my yoga studio; I talk to my neighbour whose life is almost polar opposite to mine: she is getting married again, has the most adorable home and is a mom. I will miss our ‘getting-into-the-car’ conversations.
I will miss my coffee shop, which is also in transition. The East Village Cafe on Dundas. The old one was a small little spot that served a mean Mexicano near the Aeolian Hall. Every Saturday morning I’d be fixed to the church pew chair marking paper after paper. Coffee after coffee. Paper. After. Paper. Now, the shop has crossed the street to a bigger, better and beautiful location. It’s not officially open, but Linda said there is a chair in the corner reserved for me when it does. I asked for a plaque. One day last year I spent the day helping them clean out some cupboards for a little music event–an event for regulars only. In the afternoon, I looked up from cleaning to see the snow falling on Dundas Street through the giant floor-to-sky windows. Cars zooming by, snow falling, people walking… inside this cafe, watching the world go by. That night, Linda poured me a glass of red as Reid Jamieson and his wife sang from the tiny stage in the corner. The snow still falling outside, and inside, all of us, quietly listening. Great things are happening in this place.
I love my bar: The Morrissey House www.themorrisseyhouse.com is more than a local watering hole. Aaron, Walter, Trev, Paul, Ollie, Mike, Len, Andy, Jimmy, Amy…and of course, Mark. Ahh Mark, you wonderful red-head you. Nay, not a lass that can tame that one. I can step through those doors any day of the week and one of you is there. It’s like you’re waiting for me? No? Ok, it just feels like it. I love how I can stop in for a glass of wine for half an hour, or stay for an entire Sunday afternoon sitting at the bar, and then when I leave, I give my boys a bear hug goodbye. Who doesn’t need a hug?
I will miss you London, Ontario.
When I was a child, and even into my teen years, I played this mental game. I’d pretend that my house burnt down and everything in it. I’d pretend that I had nothing: gone was my sticker collection, my dolls. As a teen it was my Esprit tops or maybe that new Roots shirt I got at the Mall after working weekend shifts at Baskin Robbins. I’d try imagining what it would feel like if I truly had…only me. No stuff.
Well, I find myself moving once again and this means purging stuff. As a 40-something woman, I’m playing that game again: what would it feel like without anything? And at this age, what role does stuff play in my life?
If you’re a woman who grew up in the 80s then any time you smell Body Shop’s White Musk perfume, like me, you’re taken back to your teens. I smell that stuff and I’m transported to my grade 10 bedroom with my Gone With the Wind poster on the wall; my red ghetto blaster and shoe box of mix tapes.
When I began to travel extensively, I had this little trick to help relive my travel memories: every country had its own scented lotion. As long as I travelled in one country, I used one smelly lotion and voila–the smell was associated with the place forever; Norway was mango; Iceland was orange; Poland was vanilla. Leaving a little lotion in the bottom of the container, I pull them every so often to remind me of these places– and it’s like some magician is messing with my head: the smell takes me back immediately. Try it.
And even one of my favourite poems, The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje, is about smell’s seductive powers.
If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
And leave the yellow bark dust
On your pillow.
Your breasts and shoulders would reek
You could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.
….and the end
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
Peeler’s wife. Smell me.
Lately I’ve had some smell encounters that are less than lovely. In fact, it’s down right nasty. A skunk has found its way under my home and parked himself there. Spraying his love juice all over the furnace, the spray is now emanating through my heat vents. But it’s not just regular skunk smell–I think buddy has kicked the bucket. Yes, stinky butt dude has up and died and his death smell is in my clothes, my sofas, matts, and even my car now smells of this guy’s death rays. But more than that, when I leave my place, the smell follows me–it’s stuck in my nose hairs. It’s in my skin.
As a result, until the skunk is found and removed, I’m sofa surfing. I’m trying to be upbeat. Really. But if I hear another freaking holly jolly xmas tune, I’m going to take a shotgun to the radio. Maybe it’s time to buy a new lotion and go on a trip. Soon, but not soon enough!
When you have a family there are milestones that move you along in your life— kids first poo, first day of school, first date, first day when they move out, first marriage (too cynical?) etc… When you’re single, there are other milestones: career, and personal projects, life goals, plans. But here’s the difference: these are all self-propelled.
And if they aren’t career driven, exactly, then what propels them? Oh sure you have your list of life, ‘to-do’s–but what if you find yourself wondering, what am I here to do, and you come up blank? What if you find yourself asking: ‘what’s next?’ Unlike the child’s timeline of life events, you’re not spurred on by some predetermined events, these events are all up to you. You find yourself asking: ‘what do you want if you had all the cards and possibilities at your disposal?’ That’s a pretty tall order. It’s like that stupid question: ‘what are your five desert island CD’s?’ You can only choose five? The options make you dizzy. In a way it’s a bit terrifying, but on the other hand, so wonderful; it means one has choices in the first place. How many people and countries cannot say this? Wow, you can go into the store, so to speak, and choose your life. Wow. Now that my friends is a beautiful thing. What do you choose?