This City Lives

Erin and I booked a hotel room downtown to stay overnight as I did the midnight promotion and the Saturday noon follow-up. At ten-thirty, I gathered my placard and walked over to Union Station to begin my trek to Roncesvalles Avenue. I pass through the sprawling complex, going through the GO Transit section to be greeted at the TTC side by a crowd of people. What had happened to make the system so busy so late on a Friday night? Did a game let out? But I see no Blue Jays banners or anything to suggest that these people are here for anything other than a fun night out. It’s a long line-up at the token machine, but I get to the head eventually. Then I set out through the Underground City to reach King Street and take the streetcar instead.

The PATH network of shopping corridors has closed all of its doors for the night, and the lunchtime crowds are long gone, but there are people here, not a business suit among them, but still rushing to get wherever they are going. Their footsteps echo. I think of Perpetua at work as I mount the steps up to King Street, surfacing amongst the Mies Van der Roche towers. A streetcar pulls up as I reach the stop.

It’s slow going through the entertainment district. Parked cars have reduced King Street to two lanes. People fill most of the seats, even at 11 p.m., and there is a good cycle of people getting on and off the streetcar at each stop. The boutiques are closed, but the restaurants are open. A few convenience stores gather in the stragglers looking for groceries.

And as the streetcar picks up speed west of Spadina, I can see that this city lives. It lives in its size and diversity, in a shared desire to enjoy ourselves, to be somewhere other than we are, even this late at night. The wild energy that permeates the downtown and its surrounding neighbourhoods puts the lie to any cynic who believes that this city is on the wane, that its challenges are too great. This city’s spirit won’t be quashed by powerless and grandstanding council members, or complacent provincial leaders, or hostile critics. It quite simply won’t be quashed.


So, How Did It Go?

Oh, it was horrible! They set fire to my signs and chased me down Roncesvalles Avenue waving magic wands and shouting crucio and aveda kedavra curses at me!

Just kidding.

I arrived at Another Story Bookshop at around 11:30 and found the lineup gathering already. I introduced myself to the half dozen individuals (ranging in age from 8 to 80), showed off my placards and talked to them about Harry Potter and what books they might read once they finish The Deathly Hallows. The attendees were very kind, and asked me to read from The Unwritten Girl, which I did. They seemed to like it, and complemented the bookstore for providing entertainment while they waited.

Then more people gathered, and more. I got complements about the signs and I talked to a number of people, asking them how long they’d been reading the series, what other fantasy books they had read and what was in their future. We talked about books to stave off the withdrawl symptoms. A few people mentioned Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn and Skybreaker and noted that he lived in the area. He didn’t show up at the launch, however.

A number of the people (most were in their mid-twenties, I’d estimate) mentioned that their attendance here was a spur of the moment thing. They just happened to be in the neighbourhood at the right hour and they decided to venture over to the store to grab their copy. The store was kind enough to pass out cookies and juice while we waited.

By midnight, the crowd was at least thirty strong, and the bookstore gave out tickets to ensure that the people who preordered got their copies. People who emerged from the store with their copies skipped as they headed up the sidewalk; young and old. The store quickly sold out the few extra copies they had and they had to turn away a couple of people who hadn’t had the foresight to preorder.

And a few people picked up The Unwritten Girl as well.

All in all, quite a productive event, and some may turn out at noon tomorrow (today) to hear me read from a variety of possible Potter substitutes.


P.S.

Coming back from the event at 1 a.m., I take the subway. While there are plenty of seats, the trains are coming every five minutes and there are enough passengers in each one to choke multiple buses. Does the city never sleep?

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