Monday, 19 March 2012

A Different St. Paddy's Day

Last weekend my daughter and I decided to hit the road and visit Toronto for the day. She had a few places she wanted to visit, and the nice weather prompted us to drive to the Finch station and take the subway downtown.

We were lucky to snag one of the fancy-schmancy new subway trains with no partitions between the cars. We could see all the way from front to back. As we settled in, a small older woman entered, smiling. I was about to get up to offer her my seat when she started to dance.

She chanted to us, entertaining us with her one-woman evangelical flash mob. Many patrons smiled, and some kept their gaze at their laps. Of course I applauded during a pause, thinking her performance was over. But she kept going for three or four stops before blessing us and leaving the train.

Halfway through her gig, a young man sat across from us. He quietly slid a single Tall Boy of Carlsberg beer out of his LCBO bag and cracked it open. After draining it, he put the paper bag and the can under his seat. The doors opened and a breeze sent the paper bag into the next compartment, and the can tipped over and rolled against his heel. He ignored it. Perhaps he was christening the new subway train in his own way, or maybe he was pre-drinking in preparation for St. Patrick's Day.

We exited at Osgoode Station and walked along Queen Street West to a store called The Silver Snail. I expected a cramped store with stacks of comic books like in The Big Bang Theory, but this place was awesome. Every collectible you could imagine (except Game of Thrones, darn them) were stacked on shelves on two floors.

I couldn't resist the 12" figurine of Simon Pegg as 
Shaun of the Dead (you've got some red on you) 
and lucky me, it was 20% off.

If I had $450, I could've got one of these.

We walked north on Spadina and happened upon a parade in Chinatown with lots of young people carrying yellow placards and beating drums. I helped an elderly gentleman extract his scooter from a dip in the sidewalk, and we forged on through the vegetable markets.

We waited at the cash register and a family walked in with a boy who looked around twelve or thirteen. His eyes lit, his face flushed. "Whoa! This is awesome! This is the best place ever!"

He looked like he was going to hyperventilate. If I'd brought my kids here at his age, they would probably have reacted the same way. I told his mother there was a guy restoring stuff on the second floor, and she immediately summoned her boy and told him, "Come upstairs! You're going to see something amazing!"
I'll go there again, especially if they have a Wesley Crusher action figure.

As we passed Grossman's Tavern, I noticed that Stevie Ray Vaughan had played the previous night. My brother would have loved that. I also noticed the graffiti in the doorway, which made me pout a little. Grossman's deserves better, and somebody had better get their ass out there and scrub that stuff off.

We skirted U of T and hit a small game store near Bloor. While my daughter scanned the shelves for vintage bargains, I hit the used book store a few doors to the south.

Books! Books stacked to the ceiling! Books piled on the floor! If this store held wands, it would be Ollivander's wand shop. When I entered, I saw one brave soul at the top of one ladder, going through books near the 20 foot high ceiling. At first I thought he was one of the owners, but no, he was a customer, wearing his trench coat and carefully going through the titles.

I didn't have his energy. Wooden plaques graced the shelves, from Anthologies to Zambia. Fiction and non-fiction, paperbacks and old art books. I suffered from sensory overload and every book I ever wanted to look for flew from my head like so many little birdies.

I looked for the proprietor, and as I approached the back wall I saw her wooly white hair floating behind the high counter as she sat reading and listening to the radio.

Our day ended with a desperate bid for street meat (we hadn't eaten for five hours) and a subway ride back to Finch station and a drive home, where the fog hung over our home town, showing a pale disk that was the sun. It looked like we were descending on some dystopian Newmarket. Dinner ensued.

The End.