A theme for my recent excursion quickly emerged as one of excess and exploration — do the things we hadn’t when we lived in the city, without worrying about the price tag. I have spent every cent I’ve ever made and am likely to make in the coming years. But it was worth it. Ok, the complete uncensored Director’s Cut Special Edition version coming right up! But it’s a little long, so for now, only the first part. Photos also to follow when Stacy sends me some digital shots.
Thoughts from the train Friday Jan 20th and Saturday Jan 21st 2006
4:28pm — Enroute to Toronto. Enroute to Jon Bon and Taia and Isabel and maybe even Kevin. I’m no longer horrified by the idea of seeing him. Whatever’s meant to happen, will happen. And I’ll be able to handle it, no matter what it is. I’ve been aboard The Ocean less than 10 minutes, chugging toward Dorchester, not yet past the prison, and already I’ve traded my boots for the hopefully warm green pom-pommed fuzzy slipper socks and am curled up with a cup of coffee. Not many travelling today in the new coach with the spacious blue seats. Stacy and I might even get to sprawl out yet, depending on how many people we pick up throughout the night. Have the latest issue of Fiction magazine before me. Settled in for the long haul. Life feels good.
5:03pm — Moncton. Inspired to write the hotel scene from the short story I’ve been working on. Two paragraphs scribbled. Jagged dialogue. Hurts to go there.
5:35pm — Can’t get into the story. Enroute to Rogersville in darkness. Staring at my own reflection in the window. Might switch seats when Stacy boards in Miramichi. Had a banana. Buddy in the seat behind me reads the paper and mutters to himself. A little disconcerting. I don’t like him at my back.
Later — Clipping along at a great speed now, no slow mosey today. All day long I’ve had the sneezes. I worry something crawled up my nose while I slept. One of those spiders we eat every year. Or my sinuses are acting up unlike ever before. Or I’m allergic to something.
9:40’ish pm — Between Jaquet River and Campbellton. Shortly after 9 they dimmed the lights. Dimmed is a mild term. They turned them right off. Plunged into blackness. Couldn’t see Stacy sitting beside me. We’ve turned on our overheads to read and write. Just been on a bathroom break. Will NOT be revisiting that one again. Sent Stacy to the next car and she said it seemed better. Cleaner perhaps. Only undertones of urine, no evidence. Functional. Arriving in Campbellton now. Am reminded of the blue grass afternoon spent here many years ago. Back in the days of beer and cigarettes.
12:30am — Somewhere in Quebec. Technically it’s still Friday night, 11:30pm local time. We watched a movie in the lounge. A Jamie Foxx romantic comedy from a few years ago. Hadn’t seen it before so it was a good time killer. The young man travelling with his father that’s sitting behind us now that the mutterer switched seats reminds me of Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys. He joined us about 10 minutes into the movie. A bit annoying with some of his chatter at the beginning but soon settled in and let us watch in peace. Trying to get comfy for sleeping. It’s not too bad maybe. Though Stacy is too short for these seats. She’s moved across the aisle into the single seat to see if she can have better comfort. I forgot about the churches in Quebec. Everywhere red and blue fluorescent crosses suspended in darkness.
Rimouski — There’s a lot of snow in Quebec. So much more than Sackville, which was positively green when I left. Is it possible I’ve moved to the best weather place? My cab driver was definitely flirting with me today. I hate being called sweetheart by people I barely know. Maybe I hate being called sweetheart altogether, cell memories of David. The cabbie is married. At first I thought he must be Dad’s age, but further examination leads me to believe he’s only in his 40’s. He’s got young eyes. Reminds me of Ronnie actually, prematurely aging. It’s disturbing that he’s the only one who ever comes to Salem. There used to be variety. Now there is only him. Maybe I’ll switch cab companies for awhile. I’ve got that greasy bug-eyed travel feeling. Yuck! Wish I could sleep. I’m going to be so zonked upon Toronto arrival with two nights of little sleep on my back. Apparently I’m to do the contacting. I’m to take the hit. I can do it! I’m strong enough and smart enough and kind enough and honest enough and gosh darn it people like me! How does that go? From SNL? Seriously, I need to chill. It’ll work out.
Dorval — Not long now, relatively speaking. Comfort Class has declined on this ancient car, remnant of years ago trips. Would have been new then, not so flashy now. Soon everything French will be English again as we hit Cornwall, Kingston and beyond. Knots tightening in my stomach. Montreal station was the same as always only with more restaurants, more cafe seating. We were horrified to find people smoking. Different laws in French Canada perhaps, the tables had ashtrays so we assume no law broken. Had a great breakfast for only $6 with 2 eggs, bacon, dark rye toast, panfries, orange rounds and coffee. Our VIA hostess is efficient, designating two emergency exit window people and a third guy on the doors. In case of emergency I’m sitting amongst all the people who are supposed to know what to do, they’ve been given the talk, they’ve accepted the responsibility. Don’t I feel safe.
Between Kingston and Belleville — Farm country here now. Will soon be a constant view of suburbia all the way into downtown. I want off.
Night 1 — Saturday January 21st
12:29am EST — We’re in Room 204 at the Radisson Admiral. Our window overlooks Queen’s Quay West across the street from a Rabba Foods, staring straight into the base of the CN Tower. It’s Saturday night and I’m dead tired. And severely weirded out. I feel out of sorts, out of bounds, unusual. It started from the moment we detrained. Union Station so familiar, yet so strange. The first thing I noticed was that the city stinks. I mean it seriously stinks. I’m not just talking about one stinky cab ride, the air is thick with scent. It makes me queasy. Stacy can’t smell anything, thinks I’m a little off, and maybe I am, but I smell what I smell and so far I don’t like it. By tomorrow I hope I acclimate. Arrival was like a huge assault on my senses, blurring me, I wanted only to get out and check in. Tunnel vision on the cab ride, focused and quiet as I listened to the radio news of two separate shootings so far this weekend. I had estimated somehow that a shooting happens every eight days or so, should have been able to get in and out without hearing of one while we were here, but as with most math, my calculations appear a little off.
We checked in, unpacked, freshened up and opted to dine in the hotel this first evening. Jerk chicken nachos from the bar menu though we ate in the dining room sitting at a table against the window with a dark view of the water, metro police boats at dock and the Island airport in the distance. Back to the room to get our coats and I called Mary Beth —
Hello. How are you?
What are you doing?
Do you know who this is?
. . . noooo, not really.
Ho-lee shit! What the fuck? You’re here! What the fuck are you doing here? Where the hell are you? . . .
There’s more. Surprisingly more, given the briefness of the call. She was freaked out and drinking a little and tres chatty, just like I remember. Her mother had neglected to mention we were coming into town. She had no idea. I hit her with the news completely out of left field. She wondered if I had run away. Run away? I asked. Yeah, she laughed, you never know with you. She told me about house renovations, a new patio, a pool. Told me lots of stuff, about lots of people. Wants us for dinner tomorrow, but we can’t, have plans with Taia and Ian. I said we’d be out for a visit. So, that’s that. We’re going. Tomorrow. I’ll feel better, less weirded after I sleep. I hope.
After the telephone call we headed out walking North on Rees to Bremner. Something going on at SkyDome (Rogers Centre now I guess). Not sure what. But kids everywhere with white skulls on black flags, t-shirts, balloons, ball caps. Scalpers saying tickets, tickets, tickets. So many people. Alan called Stacy while this wild-eyed guy circled us in the street. We both thought he was going to steal her phone. East on Bremner and in the south side of the Convention Centre for the Home Show. Yes, I HATE these kinds of things. But I figured if I went to something I couldn’t endure for her, Stacy would have to repay later on with something I wanted to do and she couldn’t endure. Luckily she decided it cost too much to get in for the short amount of time we had left before it closed for the day, so I was off the hook.
Exited onto Front Street and walked east stopping to take some pictures, sightsee, scope restaurants, find a washroom. Went to the The Library Bar in the Royal York Hotel and drank $12 martinis. I had a Cosmopolitan for Jenn and Stacy tried the Chocolate martini because it was listed as someone’s favourite thing in the People magazine she read on the train. Mine was very good. Hers not so much. Looked muddy, unappetizing. Great setting though. I could’ve stayed there for a few drinks. But I was tired, my head buzzing thick, and Stacy was just buzzing, jittery, not wanting to stay still anywhere for longer than a few minutes. Probably just as well. On our return to the hotel we walked South on Bay to Queen’s Quay West past the Air Canada Centre where we knew the boys were doing their first concert. Limos everywhere. Limos must be a big business here. Likely the famous people travel around less conspicuously.
Day 1 — Sunday January 22nd
8:39am — Listening to CHUM-FM. Avril Lavigne, Complicated. Drinking coffee with powdered milk. Big day today. Lots on tap. Woke with the alarm at 7:30am and headed for the shower, feeling less fuzzy, well rested and recharged. Got Stacy up after my shower and made coffee. Seattle’s Best. Not bad, all coffee is good in the morning, but would be so much better with real cream rather than Coffeemate. People watched out the window for a few minutes, while Stacy’s showering and getting ready to leave. Not many around early on a sunny Sunday morn. A few dog walkers and joggers. Lots of condo dwellers around these parts. It’s a beautiful morning out there. Trying to get the temperature off the radio. Feel so much better today. Going to the AGO. Being here so far (and this could change in the coming days) but so far, I’ve no regrets about not living here. I miss Sackville already. Coming into the Tantramarsh this time back will be even more exciting, calming and peaceful than other trips. High today of +4, sunny with cloudy periods, she says. Good stuff! Wearing my pink boucle jacket with slimming bustier underneath, jeans with pink trim. Almost time to step through the looking glass. Breathe. Just breathe. You can do this, Kel.
Night 2 — Sunday January 22nd
1:26am — Big day. I called Taia before we left this morning to make arrangements to meet later. This worked out well because they could pick us up on Brown’s Line. I worried about the exit, but that problem was solved. We hit the AGO first. Saw a contemporary art exhibit by Michael Awad called Present Tense that was very interesting. Very cool photography. There’s one of Queen Street, for example, that’s like nothing but wide open space, blue skies and greenery. I loved it! We brunched in the AGO Cafe because we were short on time. Stacy got a fabulous souffle (perfect!) but my bacon ‘n eggs left much to be desired (cold and slimy). We raced out of there without even getting to see any of the upstairs sculpture gallery (which is probably the best part) but oh well, next time.
From Union Station we caught the GO Train west to Long Branch. In Mimico I was surprised to see The Blue Goose Tavern still standing, still open, with Sunday matinee cars in parking lot. I went there only once that I recall, and I remember nothing about the place per say, except it was a little “rough.” I either went there with MB on one of those crazy excursions to meet that gorgeous man or the great Bobby-Oh took me there one of those Pogey Days I skipped school to make sure he made it home off the Lakeshore alive. I think the latter. No doubt one of those days I ended up cursing him for his stubborn arrogant loud drunkness and stomping over the hill from The Eastwood all alone in the wee hours. It seems he got in trouble for taking me there, but maybe not, maybe it was just me who got in trouble for going.
Even more shocking was seeing Thurman’s Moose Lodge as we arrived at our stop. Stepping out of the GO Station was deja vu of the hugest kind — the legion, Arnold’s, the stacks on the water, the guy who grows grapes in his front yard, the KFC, even Yu Chu’s, all exactly as it always was. Some new occupants like Blockbuster, some we weren’t sure of like the meat market. But how frigging eerie! Climbed the hill to Brown’s Line like a thousand times before. Nothing was the same. Some things are the same. It was weird. Crazy. Totally out of hand. Centennial gone, renamed something like Hound and Fox, Pizza Pizza turned into a Subway, new buildings, new lamps on posts, new Alderwood neighbourhood signs . . . and there amongst it all one of those big black neon-lettered signs saying “Welcome back to Moonlighting!” Like it was just for us. Moonlighting Restaurant looking small and out of place surrounded by all the newness. Mary Beth told us that it’s just been re-opened by the people who used to run it a long long time ago, when I lived here. Weirdness.
We walked down Brown’s Line to Woodbury. My old street, and Stacy would go no further. Woodbury to Foch. I could see my old apartment, where Kevin still lives. A truck parked on the side of the street. His? Stacy seemed to be freaking out, thought she saw Jane walking the dog. I kept saying it’d be okay, but who was I kidding? I was traumatized before we even got to the house. Some new houses in the neighbourhood. A Hummer parked in the drive across the street from the old homestead. I knocked on the door and when this teenaged boy looking so much like Mary Beth opened it, I just stood there with my jaw scraping the ground. I think Stacy said, “Oh my God!” And that was it. But the kid let us in anyway. Chad, aged 15, wow! The last time I saw him, he was 8. That was the summer everyone came east for Violet’s wedding (now divorced MB tells me). The summer I had the club and Marty nearly ran me over in my field, doing power turns, angry with me, jealous. Kevin took me out of there, kept me with him for days, wanted to keep me forever. The last time I saw Chad before that, he was a baby, a toddler wobbling around. It’s hard to believe this child is the teenager who answered the door with the long hair hanging past his shoulders. Time has passed.
The house was different, but the same, seemed smaller than it used to be, different furnishings, different furniture arrangement. How did we all live there at the same time without someone killing someone? But then again, it did get pretty nasty by times. Ended up in the basement, the room Ronnie built originally, now made larger, still used for partying. Found out what everyone’s been doing, where they work, live. Who got married. Who has kids. Some things are really different. Some things are amazingly the same. I felt numb, so surreal being there. But it was fine, things were okay, going along well, until I went to the washroom and returned to find Kevin there.
When I came out of the washroom I could hear a voice that sounded like his, but I hadn’t heard anyone come downstairs, thought it was just Chad or the tv or something. Opened the door and there he was, standing in the middle of the room. I was thrown. And I wasn’t the only one. He was like, “Whoa!” visibly taken aback. I think we both teetered on our feet like we’d hit a brick wall in mid-stride. Stacy thinks I said, “Oh my God!” But I thought he said that. Didn’t think I said anything. I know I stopped breathing. Must’ve looked even more shocked than I felt because as I plopped back into my seat on the couch he was like, “What?! Do I look that different or something?” On the edge of anger. I said no, it was nothing, he looked the very same is all. And he does look the same. A little older, a bit crinkly around the eyes, a bit bigger around the middle (but he was always so skinny anyway) but basically the very same.
I know I should’ve expected to see him. I should’ve been prepared. But we’d been there over an hour before he arrived, I had decided I was going to get out of there without running into him. And then like every other god damn time with him, this frigging dramatic movie moment. I should’ve anticipated it, because of course that’s how it would happen. Like that time at Union Station when we had broken up (supposedly forever) and I was leaving for NB and he was catching the GO Train back to Long Branch and we ended up in window seats across the platform from one another on trains that pulled out at the same exact moment headed in opposite directions and we held each others eyes until the very last. I remember we talked about this later, all the movie-like dramatics we’d had, some instigated, but most like this, completely the work of the universe. So no, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find he had snuck into the room when I wasn’t looking and likewise he shouldn’t have been surprised to find I had snuck out and wasn’t where he thought I’d be either. This is just the way it is between us.
I think he was nervous, chain-smoking, chattering away non-stop, asking tons of questions, offering up tons of information. Meanwhile I went quiet and jittery with a severe case of foot-in-mouth. Everything seemed to come out wrong. At one point I even said something to Stacy that didn’t seem particularly nice the way it came off, which wasn’t my intention, but from the high-pitch of my voice I’m sure it was obvious I was losing it.
I had hoped to see him and learn about some sort of wonderful life he had made for himself, but instead he seems to be going through a tough time right now. I felt bad. He seemed a bit more defeated than I recall, less optimistic. This is the guy that made me believe I could do anything I wanted, he could do anything, nothing was impossible. It doesn’t seem like he believes that anymore. He has doubt. I’ve never known him to have doubt, or if he had it, to show it, to wear it in his eyes. Every other time we’ve been apart he’s excelled without me. We’ve always been better apart. We’d come back together from great places and then tear each other down. We’ve talked about the way we drag each other down when we’re together. Not intentionally, it just happened that way everytime. But now he’s not excelling. He’s barely getting by it seems. And he seems resigned to it and that makes me so sad. So while I felt really happy with my decision to not be there, to not be living in the old neighbourhood, to make a different life for myself, to be in Sackville where it seems that I really do belong, lord help me there’s a part of me that wants to reach out and take care of that man. Find the fire in his belly. Help put the spark back in his eyes. There wasn’t even any sarcasm coming out of him. No contempt. It was all wrong. And yes, I know I can’t fix anything and to try would be disastrous. Logically I know this but my heart breaks to think of him being less than I know he can be. What is with me and this insane weakness of mine to take care of guys?! Prop them up and make their lives a little easier? Is this where my mothering instincts come out? I’m too chicken shit to commit to well just about anything, but willing to undertake the fixing of the most unfixable men on the planet. Maybe I should just have a child and be done with it. A child can’t be more expensive than bikes and guitars and booze and drugs and golf. Oh my God! Golf! Nothing is more expensive than a bad golfing habit.
Yes, the whole visit turned unsettling and uncomfortable for me. In separate unrelated occasions both Kevin and MB mentioned a photo of me and him and Chad that still hangs on the wall in the party room. She showed it to me before he arrived. I think I also have the same one. Double-prints. Mary Beth was always big on double-prints. She gave both Stacy and I two photos of Chad. One from this year in his hockey uniform. The other his class pic from last year. Will I ever see the child again?
Taia and Ian arrived to collect us just when it seemed if it got any more unbearable things would turn truly ugly. Oh God! What an idiot I was! Could not get out of there quick enough, rushing the goodbyes, trembling, fumbling with coat and boots, giving Isabel the Sackville souvenir book and fridge magnet, the fake smile, great to see ya, if you’re ever my way come visit. Blech! Phonier than a three dollar bill Thurman would say. Didn’t know which way to turn or what to say, autopilot all the way. I couldn’t even look at Kevin. Wouldn’t look at him. Felt on the verge of the horrible ugly cry or a hysterical collapse of giggles. Don’t know which would be worse. Just turned tail and ran. Awkward. Awkward. Awkward. Practically hyperventilating for hours afterward. Stacy kept telling me I was breathing on her, all the sighs coming out of me.
But it’s over. I did it. And nobody screamed. And nobody cried. And I got out basically in the same shape I went in. I think. Though I’ve got a nagging feeling about it. Something remains. I don’t know what it is. I suppose it’s just my guilt still. But I’ve lived with it for about 8 years, I don’t suppose another few dozen will kill me.
We had some time before picking up the divine miss M from a birthday party, so we went to Sherway Gardens. I was still zonked, unrecovered from Alderwood. I used to like shopping at Sherway when I lived here. My first job was at PJ’s Pet Centre in the dog department — grooming, walking, selling, those dogs broke my heart. I hated that job. But I liked the Sherway mall because it was a little more upscale and therefore not as crowded as the discount places like Cloverdale and Dixie. You could walk around leisurely even at peak times like near Christmas. Not so now. Or not so late Sunday afternoon near closing. It was like being in Champlain Place. Ugh! I’ve become such a street person, clausterphobic in the mall. Though I really barely noticed at the time, I was so shell-shocked, it’s only now hours later that I realise how crowded the mall seemed to be. Stacy and I are not on the same shopping page. She needs kids stuff and homey things. I need clothing, in particular, tops. My wardrobe is severely diminished, I need to either fatten up a bit or get some new stuff. I choose new stuff. I’m quite fat enough. We looked around Tommy Hillfiger and The Pottery Barn and a kids store or two until the mall closed.
Then we piled into the car and headed east to Taia and Ian’s house. Seems like a lovely old neighbourhood. Great house! With a porch. Jealous of all her movie paraphenelia, especially the Lost in Translation poster. She thinks her bathroom is small but I had a peak and it’s truly got nothing on my Smurf bathroom. You could easily fit two of mine into hers. No exaggeration. I’ve seriously got the one where you can pee, wash your hands in the sink and your feet in the shower, simultaneously. Someday I’ll have a real bathroom and I won’t know what to do with the luxury of it all. We listened to ’80’s tunes, enjoyed snacks and wine and conversation. At some point Ian collected Mad, who returned with a new look, parrot painted on her face. She showed us all her Barbie dolls and hoped to trick someone into eating last year’s chocolate Easter egg discovered earlier under the stereo. She’s grown since I last saw her. What a cutie! And quite the crafty little character. She told us about the sign Ian made for The Rushton, a restaurant (that one of the Ferro owners opened) on St. Clair West across the street from Ferro where he works as a manager. It’s a cool sign. A common topic of conversation and chuckles throughout the evening.
We went to Ferro for dinner. I loved the atmosphere there, loud, bustling, friendly. It’s kind of like going to a big family dinner or something. Like being at a cousin’s wedding maybe (a cousin you like and get along with, not the other kind). There’s this feeling like at any moment someone could walk up, give you a bear hug and kiss both cheeks and that’d be okay. It’s very relaxed. For the first time since leaving Brown’s Line the knots in my stomach really started to unwind. I had the chicken with mashed potatoes and it was spectacular. For years now I’ve been saying the best chicken dish I’ve ever had was the chicken in mushroom sauce at Saddler’s Cafe in Chatham (which isn’t even on the menu there anymore) but this dish blew that one away. Juicy! Full of flavour! Scrum delicious! I licked the plate clean. Stuffed to the gills. The mashed potatoes were a bit of an accident, I didn’t order them and I think the dish comes with roasted potatoes, but both Ian and Taia ordered mashed with their dinner so mine came the same way and now I know why they specified. Simply the best mashed potatoes ever. I’m not kidding. They were special. I will return to this place the next time I visit. And I do plan to visit again. I won’t let so many years pass before I get back again.
After dinner we drove past Casa Loma so Stacy could see it, knowing we’d not have time to go there this trip and she’s never been. I don’t know how she escaped Rob’s Casa Loma tourist train. I’ve been there several times. Everytime anyone would come up to Isabel’s from NB, me and Rob took them to Casa Loma and up the CN Tower, cruising Yonge Street on Saturday night and through China Town in the middle of an afternoon. Always seeming to get stuck on the Lakeshore in a Blue Jays traffic jam. But somehow Stacy missed out on that. I guess because she came to stay, not to visit, so we didn’t do the tourist scene with her. I don’t even remember who all I took these places. But MB and even Kevin weren’t ever that big on going downtown.
We said goodnight to Taia, Ian and Madeleine in Yorkville where they dropped us off. A beauty night for walking about. We cruised around a bit and then hit the Avenue in the Four Seasons for one drink. Nice! I could get used to these hotel bars. I wonder how much a night at the Four Seasons costs. Next time we’ll stay one night at every hotel we love. From the Four Seasons we walked to Sassafraz. Horrified to find that their lounge allows smoking. Not at all what we expected. The restaurant part appeared to not be receiving any new customers, though there were some people in there the whole time we were there. Perhaps only VIP types were permitted in there. I have no idea. I don’t know that we were in the right part of the place, but oh well, it was a touristy thing to do and we did it. We had the vanilla cheesecake and drinks. It was good. Interesting cheesecake though. Very light. Our waiter was young and good looking and foreign. I think Eastern European accent of some sort. So thick we couldn’t understand a word the man said, but it didn’t matter. While Stacy was in the washroom a man came in off the street with a professional camera in hand and took pictures of the couple sitting by the window. Thanked them and left. No idea what that was all about. Didn’t really recognise the pair. Though I supposed the girl could’ve been Hilary Duff, the scruffy dude, her rocker boyfriend. But that seems rather bizarre. Stacy didn’t think she looked like Hilary Duff, but turns out she thought I was talking about a different girl with the long bleached blonde Jessica Simpson hair. This girl was a little peaked in the face, hair pulled back, not so blonde, not bleached out, little make-up . . . but it’s the teeth that make me think it really could’ve been her. Of course the whole idea is bizarre and I’ve had drinks and a long shocking day, so who knows? All I know is that whoever it was let this guy off the street take their picture like he belonged there. No idea what it all means. What’s the use in celebrity stalking if you don’t recognise the stars when you see them?