Before I start on this belated entry, I want to note the celebrity death of last week. Alan King was one of the most important comedians of my childhood. I remember seeing him on television several times and I know I read and enjoyed at least one of his books.
Toronto used to be saddled with the catch phrase "Toronto the Good" because its inhabitants had a reputation as being rather puritanical sorts. Nowadays, Toronto is more politically correct and considerably grubbier. There are still, however, several good things about it, particularly as a place to go for a weekend.
The first good thing is that it's a short flight away. The downside of that is that Air Canada (code share with United) flies there from Washington using those awful regional jets. For an hour, they're just about tolerable, but that's the best I can say. And, of course, at the other end you're at Pearson International Airport, an airport that was built on the principle that signs are a needless distraction. Canadian immigration and customs is fine, but then you get dumped out into the Siberia of Terminal 2. The ATMs don't work with Visa-denoted cards (and all of my banks have switched to Visa) so one is forced to wait in line to change money. And there is no sign whatsoever inside the terminal for the Airport Express bus into downtown. There is also no information desk. I went outside and wandered and found things that way.
The suburbs near the airport don't look very promising, so the city comes as a significant relief. Downtown Toronto has one ugly landmark (the CN Tower) and a lot of tall modern glass buildings, built up and over older stone and brick. My understanding is that this comes from the abuse of some historic zoning regulation, but it works surprisingly well. The short walk to my hotel revealed one of the less good things about Toronto. There is a large homeless population and one cannot walk down any downtown street without confronting several men sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk.
I spent Saturday wandering around the Saint Lawrence Market, followed by a visit to the Bata Shoe Museum, which is fascinating. The rotating exhibits, which had to do with Native American stuff (one on Alaska coastal cultures, one on shoes and moccasins of Plains Indians), were less interesting to me than the permanent collection. I was, however, interested to learn the difference between a moccasin and a shoe. (A shoe has a separate sole, while a moccasin is made in one piece.) The permanent collection was wide ranging. I was amused to learn that the footcase for a mummy was often decorated with pictures of the deceased's enemies, so he could step on them in the next world. Another item of trivia that stuck in my head is that Caius Caesar got the nickname "Caligula" from a sort of sandal worn by soldiers, which he liked to dress up in as a child. The section on shoes of the stars was also fun, though I can't say I'm surprised to learn that basketball players have huge feet! All in all, the museum is worth a couple of hours. It's also conveniently located for a good wander down Bloor Street and around Yorkville afterwards. Which leads me to ponder whether I am the only person who is horribly amused by the existence of a major street named Avenue Road.
That's a prime shopping area, but the only shopping I really had much interest in was a trip to the Tilley store at Queen's Quay West the next morning. The limitations of weekend luggage kept me from buying a whole new travel wardrobe, but I did enjoy browsing and picked up a catalogue. Then I meandered over to the Sky Dome, which was the actual point of the trip. The Blue Jays were playing the Red Sox, making a nicely colorful excuse for checking off another ballpark. I was fortunate in the weather and the dome was open, making for a far more satisfactory experience. I also got a nice promotional item - a Roy Halladay bobblehead doll. Which was particularly amusing as Halladay was pitching that day. So was Pedro Martinez, making for an interesting game. Alas, the Red Sox failed me. I will note that the Sky Dome was half empty and that I saw a lot of other Sox fans there. However, the Jays fans did counter the myth of Canadians being nice. They taunted several of the Sox players (particularly Johnny Damon, who really could not possibly have more hair, could he?) and, most painfully, chanted "1918." By the way, I still hate mascots, but at least the Blue Jays have one that is more or less recognizable (i.e. it is blue and birdlike) and confines his antics to breaks in the game.
I flew back early on Monday morning, which is why I was too zombie-ish to write sooner. None of that helped by having a meeting which went latish on Monday afternoon. Another day and I am more or less recovered, though I have tons of stuff to do at home, sigh.
Copyright 2004 Miriam H. Nadel