I’m from Toronto, born and raised, and I absolutely love this city.
Sometimes you just don’t realize how much there is to see and do, and how many different types of people and places there are.
And I often find that adventures occur when you least expect them…
One of my favorite things to do when in a new city on foreign soil is to simply walk around. Sounds simple enough, but there’s more to it. I mean truly walk, walk, and walk some more. Last December while in Budapest, I put 15 KM a day on my poor feet, but I took in more of the city than any tour bus could have ever shown me. I made my own way from point-A to point-B, and saw everything in between.
Saturday night, I was at a friend’s birthday party at a bar near College & Manning. For whatever reason that night, I just wasn’t “feeling it,” and I decided to leave early.
Here is a question: when you prepare to get in a cab, do you a) take a couple steps out of the establishment you are leaving, walk to the curb, and simply wait for a cab to pull up, or b) start walking?
I start walking.
Saturday night, I started walking east on College from Manning Avenue at about 11:35PM.
And my spontaneous adventure ensued.
I kept thinking to myself “Just a bit further, then I’ll get in a cab.” Little did I know, I would eventually walk all the way home…
I continued along my merry way past Euclid Avenue, and nodded to Eric the bouncer at Andy Poohhalls whom I used to train shotokan-karate with back in 2000.
After a few minutes, I was at the corner of College & Bathurst, where I have consumed many street-meats before. The southwest corner of College/Bathurst could be the street-meat capital of Toronto, since every College-West club-goer stops here at 2AM to consume a half-cooked hot-dog.
Have you ever actually enjoyed a hot-dog purchased on the street at 2AM? The enjoyment, if there is any, lasts for 42.8 seconds. That is the average time it takes to consume the hot dog, and then less than seven minutes later, regret sets in. That dirty piece of meat sits in your stomach and we can all agree there’s nothing worse than a gastro-reflux an hour later and re-tasting the pork-chicken-raccoon concoction and its accompanying onion, artificial bacon bits, and sauerkraut.
I passed by Sneaky-Dees and then both Rancho Relaxo and El Rancho. I’m sure many people have been lost and confused within those two similarly-named bars…
I reached Spadina Avenue, and contemplated taking the streetcar south. I didn’t have exact change, and I didn’t want to offend whichever grumpy, power-tripping, TTC union-member happened to be pushing “Stop-Go” pedals on the streetcar while collecting more salary than the average Torontonian as well as massive medical and dental benefits…
I passed through the University of Toronto campus and wondered how anybody could enjoy a school that is spread out over the downtown core of a major metropolitan city, as opposed to a quaint university campus like Guelph, McMaster, Laurier, and the like.
Once at Queen’s Park, I gazed upon the building that dates back to 1860, although I found it humorous that the term “Queen’s Park” these days usually conjures up thoughts and images of political upheaval and social discontent.
I reached Bay Street, and looked north up the most unattractive street in the city. Bland rental building after bland rental building. Yeccch! Zero character, and as unattractive as a building can possibly be.
At the corner of College & Yonge Street, I became extremely jealous of the happy folks in Frans. The rubbed their hands together in anticipation of the pancakes, waffles, and other syrupy creations that would soon be placed in front of them for their rapid consumption.
On the other side of Yonge Street, I marvelled at the new Met Condo and how fast they threw that sucker up!
I continued walking on the north side of College (which was now Carlton Street), and it took me a few minutes to realize that this miserable, decrepit, disgusting old building was actually Maple Leaf Gardens. My, how the mighty have fallen! I reminisced about waiting in that very spot for the new expansion San Jose Sharks players to exit the building after a game in 1991, and how soon-to-be-bust Pat Falloon pushed my friend Will out of his way to get on the team bus.
By the time I got to Church Street, I had become somewhat bored of the College-Carlton strip. I paused on the northwest corner for a moment to ponder whether to begin my descent southward. That’s when a black car with tinted windows slowly pulled up to me. And then, the window slowly rolled down. Wait a second….tinted windows….window rolling down…..egad! Is this the untimely end of David? I’m happy to report that no caps were popped, and no Tec-9’s were discharged sideways in a haphazard manner. But what ensued is even worse…
The calypso music spewed out the window while a small, clean-cut man smiled at me and said “Heeeeee-eeeeeeeey!” I turned my head to ignore him like I would if I encountered a homeless man, and he began to honk the horn at me. Finally I understood what it’s like to be a woman and have construction workers whistle at you! He then began to shout from the car, “Come here, come here! I wants to talks to you!” At that very moment, I saw another car pulling up on the other side of the street, and a man on the opposite corner to me approach the car window. And THAT is when I realized I was in the gay-ghetto, and this man presumed me to be a male prostitute…
I walked south on Church Street and passed by Gerrard Street and the building at 86 Gerrard where I sold my first condo five years ago!
Continuing south, I found myself in the Ryerson University campus which has undergone rapid expansion in the past few years! It certainly lacks the originality and 19th century architecture that the University of Toronto buildings possess Isn’t the use of glass a little overdone?
Passing through Dundas Street, I looked up to see the rental building called “Jazz.” It’s interesting that the developers chose to go the rental route rather than condominium. These are two very different investment vehicles! On the one hand, you spend a year marketing and selling condo units, then three years constructing the building itself. Five years, in-and-out. On the other hand, you collect monthly rent in perpetuity. I wonder which route is more lucrative?
There were no shortage of pawnbrokers on Church Street in between Shuter and Queen, and while I thought about entering the all-night pawn-shop and asking the man to estimate the dollar-value of my uncanny sense of wit, I thought better of it and continued along…
As I turned left onto King Street, I found an extreme sense of irony while walking by St. James Cathedral since it happens to be one of the more popular wedding chapels for young couples in Toronto. A few months from now, a beautiful bride in her beautiful dress will stand with an ear-to-ear grin in the park taking wedding photos that will last a lifetime…..right in that very spot where three vagrants are currently urinating and others are sharing intravenous drugs….
I continued along King Street, finally reaching my destination at Sherbourne, but the last thing I saw on my journey was the most telling.
There on the bus shelter was an advertisement reading “Beautiful Thailand!” I kind of smirked a bit, and thought “been there, done that” in what was my solo-trek of December 2005.
A person need not travel all the way to Thailand in search of adventures.
Just look at what I encountered during my 4.6 KM, 70-minute walk through Toronto on a lively Saturday night…