Old friends in Southern Ontario

With Cathy at work, and Craig sleeping for the day (he’s currently working nights), there was little that would cause me to rise early.

Well, almost nothing. I had a lunch date to keep.

Rising at a reasonable hour, I showered, shaved, dressed, and headed out for the GO Train (thankfully, within walking distance — though I ended up jogging most of the way there). My ultimate destination that day was the corner of Bloor and Spadina. On the south side, a few blocks west of that corner, I would find New Generation Sushi, where I was planning to meet up with my dear friend Kathryn.

I should emphasize the word “planning”. You see, at that point, planning was all Kathryn and I had done. We hadn’t really confirmed anything. I had left a couple of messages with Kathryn, and over the course of the morning, kept calling to see if things were still a “go”. But the cell phone wouldn’t pick up, nor would the land line be answered. Deciding that in the worst-case scenario that I’d still find something to do, I proceeded with the plan as I knew it.

I hopped the University line upon arriving in Toronto and headed to the Spadina station, mistakenly believing that it was part of the Bloor line station as well (meaning it was near Bloor St.). Of course, it wasn’t, and was several blocks to the north. No big deal — it wasn’t that cold, and was worth the wander. Besides, I was almost an hour ahead of schedule, and had a little time to kill.

I’ve gotten really good at killing time. I really need to get “Professional Time Assassin” business cards printed up.

I found the restaurant, but passed it by in favour of seeing what else I could find in my spare time. Almost reaching Bathurst, I spotted a Starbucks on the north side of the road, and suddenly felt the need for a hot chocolate.

I soon found myself sitting in a Starbucks on the corner of Bloor and Albany, the radiant sun pouring into through the south-facing window, warming my back, the hot chocolate heating my soul. Sitting by the window, listening to Jazz playing in the store, watching Toronto pass by in their daily lives, I felt purely decadent. For a powerfully brief moment, I remembered what I liked about being in Toronto.

Kathryn and I finally connected, and confirmed plans to meet up at the restaurant at 13:30. This meant I still had a little time to kill. So I wandered down Bloor St. back to Spadina, crossing over and coming over to the restaurant. I got a seat for two and started to wait. Thankfully, Kathryn is punctual.

You’re probably wondering how it is that I can meet up with Kathryn at 13:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. Doesn’t she have to work? In fact, Kathryn is one of Toronto’s shining stars, and a very busy stage manager. Since leaving school, she’s done 35 shows of one kind or another. Thirty-five. (I don’t think I’ve done that many websites.) Her line of work keeps her busy, but usually at night (during production, that is), meaning her days are somewhat free.

Currently, Kathryn is engaged in a play called “China Doll”, which is about the Chinese tradition of foot-binding, which ended around 1911. The play starts in the early 1900s and goes until 1917. Had I more time, I think I would have very much enjoyed seeing the play.

We talked for about 45 minutes before finally ordering food. Then we walked for another half hour before the food arrived. We ate, chatted a bit, then talked more. Finally paying the bill, we headed out down Bloor St., still talking. We babbled the whole way into Yorkville, and into cups of coffee and hot chocolate. We chatted until we could chat no more — and that was only because Kathryn had to go to work, and I had to go meet up with my friend Ed down at Union Station. So we talked all the way to the Museum subway station.

It had been almost exactly three years (give or take a couple of days) since Kathryn and I had spent a significant amount of time together. There had been a bit of time when Kathryn had attended my sister’s wedding, but because of things that had to happen, we had talked only briefly before she’d had to leave for a performance that night. Three years. So needless to say, when Kathryn’s train disappeared into the tunnel as I waited for mine, there was a distinctly hollow feeling — I don’t get to see my close friends often enough.

It had been nearly a year and half since the last time I saw Ed, but he hadn’t changed much. The hair was a bit longer, a little lighter (due to some streaking, so I understand), though he looked a lot more tired than I had remembered. (Given how hard he was working, that wasn’t too surprising.) We met up and headed off for the 17:34 train to Oakville.

Brian was waiting for us when we arrived. I don’t really know for sure, but I think the last time I saw Brian was New Year’s Eve, 1998. Aside from the hairdo, he hadn’t changed, either. The three of us piled into Brian’s sports car, and went off in search of a place to hang out for the evening. We ended up at Sharkey’s.

Sharkey’s has been a mainstay in Oakville for ages. Apparently, it won’t be for much longer, as it is slated for demolition. Oakville needs another block of condominiums. But for now, it still reigns supreme on the shores of the 16 Mile Creek, and in the bar, we set up shop to catch up on old times.

Brian and Ed were roommates of mine at the University of Waterloo, living in the Columbia Lake Townhouses. We shared the four-room unit with my roommate from first year, Roger. (Roger is currently living in Prague, so unfortunately was unable to attend the reunion.) The four of us had spent an almost bizarre eight months living under the same roof. It had been together that we’d witnessed the Blue Jays winning their first World Series, and the Montreal Canadiens winning their last Stanley Cup. And numerous other events, including the Penny Fight, broken shower floors and back doors, watching the “ducks”, scaring the hell out of each other, The Neutral Zone, and chemical warfare.

Brian and Ed have had the luxury of seeing each other quite a lot over the last few years. So needless to say, I felt like a bit of an outsider. But it’s not too bad … they made sure I felt completely included in the massive string of insults and personal attacks, all good-natured, of course. This was how we’d conducted ourselves in university, which more and more felt like it was only months ago, not years.

Things have changed over the years, though. We all got engaged, though only Brian, Ed, and Roger got married. I supposedly had enough sense to back out of my engagement before it was too late. Brian is now separated, as is Roger. We joked quite a lot about the “Columbia Lake Curse”, and kept looking at Ed to see if he was next in line (for the record, he gave no indication that he was).

Although it was a time I would have gladly continued until the bar closed, both Brian and Ed have to work tomorrow. Such is the sadness of being on vacation — you can’t always do what you want to do. But plans are sort of in the works for later this year, as I might be coming out for a camping trip with the guys. It’s been far too long since the last time I camped.

They dropped me off at Cathy’s, and I bid them both a good night. I was brought forward into the present, leaving the past of university behind. But it won’t be the only time on this vacation…