Thu, Apr
9
2009

The River of Humanity

Thu, Apr 9, 2009

The River of Humanity

Leaving the VIA train at Union, I enter Toronto at the heart of rush hour, and encounter stop-and-go foot traffic all the way north to King Street. People line up to leave the platform, people line up to get through the doors out of the station. People certainly line up to get through the turnstiles. Once out of the TTC station, the pace picks up, but it’s still wall-to-wall people, and woe betide the pour soul who has to swim upstream.

Welcome to the daily life of a Toronto GO Transit commuter. While they may have avoided the serious stress of trying to get through traffic on the 401 or the Gardiner, their lives are still stressful ones in the morning, if this daily ritual is anything to go by.

On Tuesday, Erin and Rosemarie allowed me to drop everything and take the train into Toronto. I needed a day to get away from the kids and do some work on the rewrite of The Night Girl. It felt good to devote the whole day to writing, and there was also some research. I decided to explore Perpetua’s stomping grounds, and these were some of the photographs I took:

Banking Pavilion

This is a corner of the banking pavilion building at the Toronto Dominion Centre. Basically, this was my attempt to copy what Sam Javanrouh achieved (see also the unofficial draft cover of the Night Girl). Well, to no one’s surprise, it can’t be achieved thorough a cellphone camera.

Adelaide Street

I also took a walk along Adelaide Street, one of the second tier streets through Toronto’s downtown, to get a bit of the atmosphere as Fergus and Perpetua head to a particular restaurant that Fergus knows. The downtown tends to turn its back on this street.

Adelaide Street near Peter

As you head west on Adelaide, the skyscrapers fall away, and brick buildings dating back from the street’s legacy as a commercial street start to appear. There are a number of restaurants and clubs here. They get a fraction of the foot traffic of King Street further south, but they hold on.

The Corned Beef House

And this is the restaurant, the Corned Beef House, at the corner of Adelaide and Widmer. Excellent corned beef sandwiches, good service, and definitely the place where Perpetua and Fergus will have their regular breakfasts. I’ll have to turn it into an all-night diner for the purpose of the story, but what good is being an author if you can’t summarily change the opening hours of the establishments your characters eat at?

All in all, I managed 3,200 words yesterday, these among them:

They left the underground and emerged into a city that was just waking up. The tops of the towers glowed orange in the sunrise, and the traffic, still lazy, breezed around them. Already, however, they could hear the footfalls of people heading to work. Perpetua looked to Fergus, who nodded, and motioned her to follow him.

They walked along Adelaide, one of the lesser streets of downtown Toronto. Cars trampled abandoned streetcar tracks into the pavement. The office towers turned their backs on this street, and they passed several garage doors prohibiting parking, and empty receiving docks awaiting the days deliveries. Past the blocks of glass and steel towers, they passed buildings of brick and stone that had been allowed to live. Fergus walked slouched forward, with his hands in his pockets while Perpetua followed, looking up at the cornices.

Finally, they came to a restaurant that had been packed in the ground floor of a hundred-year-old home. “Corned Beef House” advertised the sign above the door. “Best kept secret in Toronto!” blared a sign in one window. And next to it: “Try our world famous corned beef!”

Perpetua looked from one sign to another, then opened her mouth, but before she could comment, Fergus said, “Yeah, I know. But you’ve got to try the corned beef.” He held the door open for her. She frowned at this gesture, but stepped past him into the restaurant.

The place was small, filling out what would have been the front room of this house a hundred years ago. There were booths along one wall, and wooden chairs and tables filling in the remaining spaces. The place was crowded, but Perpetua and Fergus found a table by the front window, and ordered their breakfasts from a waitress.

“So,” said Fergus after the waitress delivered two dishes of scrambled eggs and bacon. “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a big city like this?”

Perpetua looked at him over the rim of her coffee mug. “What makes you think I’m a nice girl?”

“Aren’t you?”

Perpetua set down her cup and squirted ketchup on her scrambled eggs. She took up her knife and fork and started eating.


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