Wednesday, July 23, 2014

fire breathers, Canadians, old friends, new friends

Greetings from a house referred to as "The Bunker". I'm in Detroit, staying with some friends of Toon, my first roommate in Portland. One of those full circle moments in life. It's called the bunker because the walls are cement reinforced. Toon's art is on the walls, and it's nice and cool. In a few hours I'll head out to Grand Rapids to see my school friend Megan, and stay there! But I'm so far ahead of where I last reported, and it's only been a few days! I love it when this trip accelerates. I'm getting my wind back and it is blowing me west.

My Day in Toronto

I set out at around 10amish. On foot. I had drawn up a few maps of where the comic shops are and where the St. Lawrence Market was, and I looked at the map of Toronto and knew it would be a walk, but hey! Gotta see the city! It was less hot today than it was when I arrived. Perfect for walking! I went down Avenue and turned right on Bloor (rhymes with door). I walked past the Royal Ontario Museum, which had a funky architectural construction. The mix of people in Toronto was refreshing. Not overly suited like DC, not obviously students like Burlington. Just a good blend of all sorts in all ranges of fashion.

I swung by Little Island Comics, which was cute and all ages. Then I wandered into Honest Ed's, which is this massive store of discount goods of all sorts. Wonderful signage throughout, hand lettering and slogans. You gotta go upstairs through a room of bins of men's clothes and cut across and go down into the basement to get to food. And lots of that backtracking. It isn't easy to get around, but damn it was fun. I bought some snacks and headed out to the brilliant light of day.

The Beguiling is the best comic shop I've been in since Floating World Comics in Portland, Oregon. That's saying something! Indie shelves, foreign comics, zines, and knowledgeable staff. Made my heart swell to be in such an awesome spot, and really made me realize how far out of the comic loop I am. I was so into comics, what happened? I'm still into them, just not as much and not as actively.

South on Bathhurst was my next course of action, and I consumed my snacks (a canned iced tea and some chocolate) as I strolled down to downtown. Through a park. Past huge buildings and so much road construction. There is a lot in Toronto, but it doesn't have the hustling feeling that other cities have had, but it doesn't have the same concentration of stuff that Philadelphia had when I walked several miles through it. Caroline and Gary said it's a good city for food and beer. And the beers we had at the little pub last night were very good. And the beers we had tonight were also good, but that is jumping ahead!

So I wanted to grab lunch at St. Lawrence Market, which is a huge closed market with tons of stalls. And after walking for ages to get down there, I found it closed! It closes on certain days! Damn!! All that walking! Had I known, I would have stayed up around Bloor where it was more trendy. But also if I had an operational smart phone (mine doesn't work internationally) then I could have Googled stuff.

As it was, I just found a park and stretched my aching feet and read and ate snacks. Then I found my way into the Subway station and looked at the map and figured out roughly which station would be best to get off on (not many lines in Toronto, so no transfers!). Paid by $3 Canadian (Uncle Mark gave me some Canadian dollars) for a token, dropped the token in the thingy, and got on the train. Easy! And while I overshot the return to the apartment, I overshot it going uphill, so it was an easy walk down. I was loaned keys, so that I didn't have to coordinate with them when I was going out and about.

I lounged in the apartment for a bit and Caroline came home and I threw my shoes back on and off we went downtown to meet Gary at Wvrst for sausages and beer. We got on the bus, got a transfer slip, got off the bus and on the subway, then off the subway and onto the trolley! Such scooting about.

Wvrst has a great menu with interesting meats. Kangaroo. Guinea fowl. I went with the wild boar. And Caroline got some duck fat fries. Oh so good! Such carnivores. I'm glad that I can travel and consume with no allergic limitations. And as it was Monday, all Ontario beers were $5! Tasty tasty. Time flew by at our long bench style table. And oh the sausage was fantastic. We grabbed a subway back and arrived home after dark, and we all went to bed properly tired.

Escape from Toronto

You know how hard it is to get out of a city when you don't have any GPS and your printed out instructions end up being useless due to road constructions? Very. It's very hard. I said my goodbyes to Caroline and Gary in the morning, and loafed around a bit in the apartment before packing up. I dropped Caroline's loaned key off at the front desk of her work (which was really difficult to find due to it being on the second floor of a complex with a not so obvious elevator). My car was in a parking garage, which had decent rates. No harm was apparent on my car, hurray! I didn't think it would be. So I loaded up and put on comfy shoes and drove off. I had printed instructions for how to get to Detroit, but the route was blocked to construction, so I decided to get on Gardiner and hope there would be a turn off to 401, which I seem to remember seeing. But getting to Gardiner was tricky, and I ended up at the entrance to an airport or something. But the attendant at the gate and a truck driver gave me instructions (go out, second right, first left, right on this, then there is Gardiner) and I followed said instructions, and they were perfect! Mind you well over an hour has passed from me leaving the garage to this point, and I've only covered a few miles of distance across Toronto, but despite the congestion it was better than Nashville, which was heinous for driving.

And Gardiner did have an exit for 401! And thus the hours of driving began. The windmills were cool, but it was a whole lotta the same. Vast, sure, but no scale besides the windmills for the expansiveness of it all. A hill would have been nice. I took a mininap at one of the "ONroute" rest stops and spent some of my remaining Canadian coins on an iced coffee.

I crossed the border by way of the Winsor Tunnel. The wait to get to the customs agent was less than it was getting into Canada, but they made me park and leave my car so they could check it. I guess I haven't crossed the border into America on this passport, and the car isn't in my name, and I've been camping. I can see why they'd search me, and I have nothing to hide except carrots and a mallet. And even that I was honest about. So I sat in the waiting area and read and then struck up a conversation with some of the other waiting people about border crossings. I explained myself to the agent, the trip I was on, who the car belonged to, in all honesty of course. I'm not good at lying. And I was good to go! Nothing in my car looked ruffled. I was worried I might have to reorganize, but I didn't. Whooo!

Put a little bit of gas in my car and headed to Cyphar's. Cyphar being a friend of Toon. He, Mishiu, Eric(Rick?) and I went to get Lebanese food and oh what a platter of tasty meats that was! And tabuleh and rice. Shwarma. Mmm. We ate our fill and then some. My jaw is still giving my trouble. Have to eat slowly. I'm trying to feel out if my bite feels crooked, like my jaw somehow is a little out of sync. The alingment of one's jaw is really something taken for granted.

After food, I got a bit of a driving tour of Detroit (and we picked up Steve). And we stopped at an abandoned building and walked up the stairs to the roof and looked at the city from that vantage point. Gorgeous view. The light of Detroit obliterates the stars in the skies, and there are many buildings lit up all sorts of gleaming colors, but there are also dark patches where there are no lights, where there should be. It's a strange city, and very much on the surface how it is perceived: graffiti, obviously bad neighborhoods, deconstruction, abandoned buildings with shattered windows.

I have a bed to my own here at the house in Detroit, and I slept well in it. Now to go to Grand Rapids and see Megan!

Michigan makes 34. 14 to go!

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