I must apologize for my absence of late. I promised a regular posting schedule, and I have failed to deliver on that front. But, before you hand me the sword and ask me to fall upon it, you ought to know that I haven’t been updating lately only because I have been having such grand adventures: gathering Horcruxes, taking them north of the Wall, dropping them in Mount Doom and certainly not just being lazy, watching cartoons and eating Oreo’s straight from the box can take a lot out of a guy.
Most recently, though, I found myself in Toronto for a weekend, giving me the opportunity to visit with many old friends, make some new ones, and realize that madness seems to follow me at every turn. What was supposed to be a simple weekend of catching up and getting wasted rapidly turned into the most surreal three days of my life. It truly was an Odyssey, complete with heroes, villains, monsters and magic.
I arrived at Union Station Friday afternoon, and realized that I had been out of the city for far too long when I caught myself thinking, first and foremost, “Jesus, them’s some tall buildings.” I had a few hours to kill before my friends and I were scheduled to meet up, so I made my way over to Dundas Square and grabbed some dinner. From my rooftop patio seat, I could see that there was some manner of festival going on in the square: many people were crowded around a stage, where a man in a gorilla suit was leading a dozen women in some elaborate dance exercise. Across the street, I spotted Batman, Robin, Spider-Man and Spock, pestering tourists for change in exchange for a photo with them. I was slightly disheartened by this; the economic crisis must be far worse than we can imagine, if Bruce Wayne is forced to panhandle.
Eventually, I was joined by my friend Jacqui and her roommate Spencer, and we began to make our way down to the waterfront bar where Sara, a friend from Kingston, now worked. When we arrived, Sara informed us that there were two gentlemen on the patio, and that they would be paying for all of our drinks that night. Not being one to turn down free intoxication, I heartily accepted this odd proposal. What followed was an evening that, while spotty in actual memory, will live forever in lore and song. We moved from bar to bar, following these odd, affluent fellows’ leads, as they continued to push pint after pint at my friends and I. Whether these were two family men going through midlife crises and trying desperately to recapture their youth through a night of partying, or whether they were simply hoping to take home someone half their age, I may never know.
Before I could pry these esteemed gentlemen with questions about ulterior motives, Jacqui and Spencer whisked me away to their apartment on the other side of town. Upon arriving, we were greeted at the gate by a witch. She shot her knobby finger our way and threatened us with hexes and curses, most of which involved the word “bedbugs”. I was terrified; magic in any form frightens me, and any spell involving creatures that live in your mattress and eat your flesh can only bode ill for someone. It wasn’t until later that Jacqui explained that this witch was not a witch, but was in fact the scary, elderly, drunk woman who lived upstairs. It did little to comfort me.
When I awoke in the morning, my fears were confirmed when I discovered that I was alone. Jacqui and Spencer had disappeared without a trace, clearly the victims of a midnight raid by the bedbugs that my rubber mattress spared me from. I quickly made my escape, but before I left, I made damn sure that no one would suffer as my friends had.
A few hours later, I met with another friend of mine, Andrea. I tried to explain to her that downtown was compromised and that we needed to evacuate, contact the national guard and maybe just glass the city from orbit, just to be on the safe side. Andrea dismissed my claims, arguing that I was “being irrational” and “probably off my meds again”. She suggested instead checking out Luminous, a week-long arts festival that takes over downtown Toronto every summer. There were some truly impressive pieces to be seen, as well as tons of nearly-free, delicious food to eat. I’m sure I would have enjoyed myself, but it was really hot out that day, and my flamethrower was bastard heavy. Andrea insisted I didn’t need it, and that I was probably going to be arrested, but I wasn’t about to take any chances.
We eventually found ourselves in the Distillery District, being led into a small white room called Airship 37. Before I could question anyone as to how exactly a building could qualify as an airship, I was silenced by several stunning, wall-sized paintings of women’s faces. They were very impressive and distracted me only briefly from the two women sitting in the middle of the room, wearing all white, drinking milk (I hope) from martini glasses, and wearing hair pieces that would make Lady Gaga’s head spin.
After wandering about downtown for a few hours, Andrea and I made our way north, towards my old stomping grounds at York University. We parted ways, and I began to wander about the campus, looking for a place to rest my head and maybe grab a bite to eat. It wasn’t until that point that I realized just how tired I was. The ordeal with the witch and bedbugs the night before had kept me wide awake for most of the night, and I was long overdue for some shut-eye. Eventually, I found a couch hidden down a back corridor of an arts building, set up camp and immediately fell asleep, being sure to lay as many tripwires as I could.
I awoke a few hours later and, to my great surprise, none of my nice things were stolen. I decided that I had tempted fate for long enough, and met with my friends, Josh and Amelia, for beers. Josh informed me upon my arrival that they had purchased a hedgehog a week earlier, and that I was going to meet him. Amelia was sitting on the couch, gingerly petting a small bundle of itty-bitty spears curled up in a blanket. She placed this ball of pain that they affectionately referred to as “Bruce” in my lap, and it immediately began to hate every fiber of my being. It growled, huffed, hissed, and spat. It went through its entire repertoire of “please bring your hand a little closer so I may bite the holy shit out of it” noises, before I handed it back to Josh. The three of us then proceeded to drink beers and talk about how much of a shitheel Bruce was before going to bed.
The morning of my last day in the Big Smoke, I joined Amelia grocery shopping before bidding her farewell and making my way back towards downtown. Sara had invited me to join her, her boyfriend and several people with “Mc” and “O'” in their names to watch Ireland face Croatia in the Euro Cup. When I arrived, the place was bathed in green and orange. People hung Irish flags from the rafters, and everything smelled like urinated whiskey. Behind the bar, the soccer game was being played on the largest screen I’ve seen outside of a movie theatre. I found Sara at the head of one table, her face all covered in paint and an enormous beer in hand. Her boyfriend, who was actually Irish, already had a decent drunk on, and spent the duration of the game roaring advice at the best athletes in the world. While Ireland didn’t actually win the game, the whole experience was more than enough to get me enthusiastic about a sport that I barely knew anything about. After that, I got some street meat, bid my friends farewell and boarded my train home.
Looking back on the weekend, it’s clear now that I only took away one lesson from the city of Toronto; it is a weird, cursed place that should be feared and observed only through binoculars. Get too close, and you may be eaten by beasts or converted into a sports enthusiast.