A Night Beneath the Towers


Well, my mother-in-law (Rosemarie) and my sister-in-law (Wendy) are here, with their husbands, and we spent yesterday in Toronto. As you can tell, we had a whale of a good time. The centrepiece of the trip was watching The Two Towers, but I'll review that (excellent) movie along with the extended Fellowship of the Ring video release at a later date. We had plenty of fun outside the movie theatre as well, and some interesting mishaps that enhanced the day.

So, we have four guests in our home, the most I think we've ever had at one time, and we all decide to head into Toronto for a day out. Most cars can't fit five people comfortably, let alone six, so we decide to go in two cars. Lars (Wendy's husband) drives his car, with Michael (Rosemarie's husband) in the back seat, and myself as navigator. Rosemarie drives Wendy, with Erin as the navigator. I mange to get Lars and Michael to the westernmost terminus of the Toronto subway (Kipling station) where parking is still free, and the downtown is just thirty stress-free (compared to the roads) minutes away. We decide to detour, taking the Spadina streetcar for a quick tour of Kensington Market, Chinatown, the Garment district, and Harbourfront, not to mention the CN Tower.

While we're on the streetcar, Michael's cellphone rings. It's Erin, calling from a payphone. They're a little late. You see, they've just arrived at McCowan station, the extreme easternmost terminus of the Scarborough RT (an appendage of the crosstown Bloor-Danforth subway, that we had just taken to get from the western suburbs). When I say that they've overshot, that's an understatement. They had almost cleared through Toronto (a city of 2.4 million people) before they realized something was amiss and turned back. We realize that we now have some time to kill.

However, it's a testament to Rosemarie's driving skills, and the efficiency of the Toronto subway that Michael, Lars and I are only a half-hour into our lunch when I decide to check our arranged meeting place (the information booth in the Great Hall of Union Station), and I see Wendy, Erin and Rosemarie just arriving. They join us for lunch. Wendy has written a poem to describe the occasion. It rhymes.

We crossed beneath Front Street and marvelled at the Royal York hotel and its posh shops. Then we walked to the Paramount Theatre (about twenty minutes away) and saw The Two Towers. Coming out of the theatre feeling as though we'd been through a battle (but in a good way), we decide to head somewhere for dinner. I'm leading the troupe to the Spadina streetcar in order to head around to Shopsy's Deli when Wendy spies a Mexican restaurant on King Street. On a whim (and whims sometimes make the best dinner decisions), we step inside Bandidos. We're treated to a pricey but authentic Mexican dinner, with great atmosphere and a very friendly and charismatic host/owner. This was another highlight of the night. They had sombreros, which we tried on, and the host (Cesar) was happy to take our photograph, and e-mail us the picture (seen above).

Heading back, we decide to split up as we had done in the morning. The girls had to essentially double back, so Lars, Michael and myself expected to arrive home first. The trip home, however, was very different. We boarded the train at Union station (we'd paid a visit to the lake and Toronto's Music Garden beforehand), just when the Toronto Maple Leafs game let out. It was busy on the platform, and our car had quite a buzz to it. Then I found out why: Mike Myers, Mr. Austin Powers himself, had attended the game, and was heading home on the subway, in our car. He was a few seats in front of us, wearing a blue winter jacket.

There was a bit of a mob scene in the train, as a number of people asked for (and received) his autograph, and took pictures. Mike Myers handled the attention very well, and a number of the people in the car were most impressed that he was taking the subway home. "He could have had a limousine," somebody said, "or taken a taxi." Mike came off as a man of the people, and the TTC came off as a vehicle for celebrities.

Mike and his friend got off the train at Museum station.

Heading onto the Bloor-Danforth subway, we made good time until Lansdowne Avenue, when we halted in the station for about five minutes. The driver was most apologetic over the PA system as he explained that there was a service adjustment going on. Across the platform, however, I saw a TTC worker on a TTC phone, speaking in a rather animated fashion. Finally, he puts the phone down, and our train closes its doors and we continue west. After passing Dundas West station, we're told that the train is coming out of service at Keele, where it will switch ends and head east. Apologies are made for the inconvenience, but there appears to be a problem at High Park station. We're warned that shuttle buses might be required.

At Keele, I realize that the downstairs is quickly going to become a sea of humanity, and I tell Lars and Michael to wait on the station platform. Shuttle buses won't arrive for another thirty minutes, anyway, and so we might as well wait and hope that the service disruption clears. The PA system notes that service both ways between Keele and Jane (three stations west) has been held up due to a "security incident" at High Park station. Westbound trains arrive at Keele station to drop their loads and head east. Personally, I would have had the trains switch onto the eastbound platforms to drop their loads because a large crowd of people are gathering on the eastbound platform heading east, but the trains are leaving Keele eastbound empty (except for one or two enterprising people that board the trains on the westbound platform).

After about twenty minutes, the TTC announces that service has resumed, and the next train into the station will go to the end of the line. We board, and finish the rest of our journey, arriving home five minutes after the girls.

In general I think the TTC handled the incident very well. Most of the drivers were very polite in explaining the situation to the passengers, even though I'm sure the drivers themselves didn't know exactly what was going on. The passengers were also patient, which impressed Lars (a former New Yorker) no end.

So, it was a night to remember, for many reasons, most of them good. The City of Toronto has given itself a few more fans.

Wendy and Lars will be heading back to Ann Arbor this afternoon, leaving Michael and Rosemarie to stay with us until Thursday or Friday. As a result, we opened some of our presents early, but have saved some others for Christmas Day.

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