A couple weeks ago Eve and I decided to head to Toronto and take in the Photographic, Video, and Digital Imaging Show put on by Henry’s. As simple as it sounds, this was not a decision to be taken lightly, because, although I love the thought of cruising through aisle after aisle of all the latest camera gear, touching, trying things out, adding to my wish list…. I hate Toronto. I guess that sounds a little harsh. After all I don’t really hate Toronto, I just hate getting to, getting around and getting out of Toronto. Now BEING out of Toronto I love. Eve on the other hand loves it, thrives on it, and generally connives to get me there at least twice a year.
We talked about going overnight and making a weekend of it. Fantastic I thought, two days at the show. Since it was being staged in one of the massive display halls at the International Centre by Pearson International Airport, it seemed like a do-able plan to me. You see the trip to the airport doesn’t really bother me, I have a lot of experience with it and I can pretty much do it on auto pilot now. (Eve leaves me a lot) Yes it’s a mind-numbingly long and boring 3 hour drive from Chatham but it’s mostly highway and it’s well marked. Follow the little airplane symbols, follow the number corresponding to the terminal you want, follow the little P signs to park and you’re there. So in my mind it only made sense – we get a hotel room near the airport – Hey! maybe within walking distance of the International Centre! Foolish small town boy. I should know better really but I always hope for the easy out, sort of an escapist trick my mind plays to convince myself that this time, maybe, just maybe we won’t have to go there, to the dark place. We won’t have to go… Downtown!
I guess it’s just part of that whole opposites attract thing or Yin and Yang or the balancing act of personalities that pairs us in love with someone who can fill in our gaps, cancel out our weaknesses, and show us what we’re missing in life because head down the road for a weekend away and I invariably take the left fork while Eve is pulling for the right. Downtown it is. The Hilton on Richmond Street to be exact. This will position us in perfect walking distance to cruise Yonge Street on Friday night. Already I can feel my arteries restricting.
In preparation for the trip I bit the bullet and purchased a map upgrade for my GPS which to this point has given me less then stellar performance. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always directed me from Point A to Point B without fail but it seems to show me a lot of the rest of the alphabet along the way, kinda like a cabbie’s shortcut when you’re new in town. I’d come to the conclusion that it was named a Tom Tom because that was the noise it made when you beat it on the dash.
Well the map upgrade seemed to work and it plotted a course for the hotel that was pretty much right on the money. Pretty much that is until we hit Yonge street at five o’clock. Seems the GPS doesn’t take into account intersections that only allow turning during certain hours, like midnight to 3 AM and that IS Yonge street. Sometimes you’re left to wonder “If I can’t turn to get off this street, how the hell did I get on it in the first place?” So you play the grid game, driving several blocks past looking for a place you can turn right and hopefully hook around and make a convoluted left turn but between one way streets and no turns in any direction I’m soon wandering the downtown core cursing at the smarmy voice of the GPS as she tells me “Turn left here”. Soon I’m yelling back “I CAN’T TURN HERE!!! You think you’re so smart, find me another way”. Then she loses signal in the tall buildings. Tom tom tom tom tom tom tom tom.
I should mention that I’m having this adventure from the driver’s seat of a full size pickup truck. Now Toronto, the town that thinks everyone outside it’s borders are farmers, is not very pickup friendly, nor am I very urban pedestrian friendly. I’m trying to make sure I don’t smack some bicycle messenger in the head with my mirror and at the same time avoid running down the jaywalker with the Ipod and cell phone with his nose in a newspaper. There has yet to be a trip to downtown Toronto when I haven’t muttered, “the next person who steps off a curb in front of me I’M TAKIN OUT!!!!!”
The goal is simple, a left turn onto Richmond that can’t be made. On the fourth time around I’ve reached my breaking point, I’m going to do something radical and totally against my upbringing. The traffic cleared, pedestrians be damned – and I made an illegal left turn. (Sorry Dad) I’d plead ignorant if busted. “Sorry officer – ya see I’m just from a small town where we can turn most anytime. I’m real sorry.” But my brief sojourn into a life of crime went unnoticed.
Richmond street at last. Almost there. I’m already imagining parking the truck, locking it, looking around to see if anyone is watching us park it (I told you I’m from a small town), and ridding myself temporarily of this overly large metal entrapment. For me it’s sort of like navigating the crystal and china aisles of a department store in a suit of armour – it can be done – but you have to watch your sword. We finally spot the hotel up ahead on the left hand side of the one way road – and we’re in the far right hand of three busy lanes. Now for reasons (reason) I won’t go into and for which Eve often reminds me, turning into the left-hand lanes of a one way street makes me real nervous. Skittish. I may have even developed a tic. I slowed to a crawl and waited until I had an opening then shot across all three lanes and into the hotel reception lane. The exit of said lane to be exact.
Facing a pair of exiting limousines and an SUV, and with rushing traffic behind me I had nowhere to go. Nowhere but the underground garage to my left. A sign warned all fools who enter of a 6’4″ clearance but luckily my truck is 6’1″, maybe 1-1/2″ so what’s to worry about besides height and width. Entry required a sharp left turn marked by sharp cement corners and squeezing past another SUV someone had graciously left in front of the garage opening. The ramp made an immediate 90 degree turn to the right and downhill. As I crept around the turn my left front bumper was inches away from the wall while Eve kept peeking out the passenger window and reassuring me we were okay for room on that side. That’s when I heard the tires squeaking on the curb. Kinda like the guide rails in a drive through car wash, the curbs kept us somewhat centered in the lane as I tried to block out the sounds of rubber being ground from my side walls.
As it turned out the garage had well over 7′ of clearance, 7-1/2′ in some spots. It’s just that someone had hung all the sprinkler pipes a foot from the ceiling to remind you that your vehicle paint may not be as permanent as you had hoped. I spiralled down through three levels at a slow crawl, afraid that I would hit a speed bump, a piece of gravel, or maybe a really new loonie that might bounce me up into the sprinkler/scraper system. When I finally found a free parking spot to squeeze into I was forced to fold the mirrors lest somebody else do that for me. But Hey! we’re near the elevator!
We checked in, dumped our gear in the room and set out to explore the wild mysteries that are Yonge St. Didn’t have time to go into the individual stores, usually a favourite of Eve’s, but we made a rather high speed run through the Eaton Center, hitting a few shops for necessities (apparently really good make-up is crucial to life as we know it) then we went for dinner. I’m okay walking through Toronto. There are too many people, too much noise, and too much pollution for my tastes, but, free of the hassle of negotiating traffic I could finally begin to relax and maybe even enjoy it a bit.
But the beer at dinner helped.
After dinner we roamed the streets some more and took a few skyline shots.
Eve was still warming up to her new Canon 7D and quickly falling in love with it. After handling it myself I tend to agree that it is a nice rig and my 50D backup was put on notice that it had better behave.
Continued in Part II.