CBC TV 50th Anniversary VIA Rail train - Reunion

This weekend, I visited southern Ontario. Even though I’ve only just left, it almost feels like I was never even there.

A few weeks back, Critical Mass announced (to the employees) that it was in the process of pitching a very large client. And no, I still can’t tell you who it is.

Anyway, at the time, there was the great expectation that I’d be coming out to Toronto to help interview people and (ultimately) help set up the team in the Toronto office — assuming that we won the work.

About two and a half weeks ago, though, I found out that I wasn’t going after all. I was quite disappointed, since I’d actually been looking forward to helping with the groundwork.

What happened? Well, as you might recall, there was the opportunity for me to move to Toronto for about two years for this particular client. (You might remember this from a previous journal entry.) I had a big decision to make — to go, or not to go.

This was a decision I did not make lightly. In fact, I had so much trouble trying to make a decision that I couldn’t make one at all. There was no clear benefit to staying in Calgary, and no clear benefit to going to Toronto.

And before you think about it, the decision-making process began before I met Erin, and was finally decided with Erin not being a significant factor. In fact, it was the company that finally made my decision, when I asked it where it felt it wanted me most. The general consensus was to keep me in Calgary.

This is why I had to buy my own way to Toronto this weekend. But why this weekend? Two reasons: 1) I hadn’t seen my sister or brother-in-law for almost a year, which isn’t easy; and 2) because the CBC 50th Anniversary Train crew were holding their first year anniversary.

I’ll come out and say, for the record, that the CBC reunion was the one thing that really got my heiny in gear to flying out east. I hadn’t seen these people in almost a year (except for Angela and Tracy, and Julie and Enza in early June), and living in Calgary left me feeling very separated from the rest of them.

Besides, Amy and Stefani were refusing to take “no” for an answer.

Friday, 3 October was a complete blur (not that this entire weekend hasn’t ended up that way). I awoke at 5:00, showered, dressed, drove to the airport, checked in, fell asleep during the flight, got picked up at the airport, went to Cathy’s house long enough for a couple of beers before getting on the train to Toronto Union, almost sprinting down the street to CBC headquarters to meet with Stefani, and then bolted over to the Elephant and Castle to start the party.

Stefani was the first CBC crew member I saw that day. I had been staring at the trophy case, waiting for her to come down. Suddenly, there was a “Geoff!” from behind me, and there she was.

It was two days shy of a year from the last time I’d seen Stefani. Nothing had changed. She had the same great smile, the same joyous laugh, and the same great conversation. Already, I felt like the train hadn’t really ended.

When we arrived at the Elephant and Castle, we weren’t the first. There was already one person waiting for us — Richard, the bass player with the band. The last time I’d seen Richard was in Ottawa, not long before he suffered an aortic dissection — the same disease that killed John Ritter. Richard (obviously) survived, owing to being extremely close to a major hospital at the time.

We moved into the backroom where we would meet everyone, and started chatting. For a while, it was just the three of us. But as 17:00 rolled around, more and more people started to show up. Chris was the first, followed soon after by Tracy and Angela. Gerry and Bill C. appeared soon after.

That’s about where the accuracy of my memory starts to break down. Exactly who appeared in what order is a bit fuzzy, even more so when you ask what order they left in. Needless to say, I was having a good time.

Neil and Julie both appeared at the same time, and stayed about as long — not even 10 minutes. Neil had to run to be with his family, and Julie had a wedding. Analisa was around quite a bit longer. Roger, thankfully, hadn’t gone to Halifax yet, so was able to drop by before going home. Emma, despite her own personal hell, burst into the room like she’d always been there, and had to run a short time later. Bill S. would stay to the end, as would Amy when she finally arrived. Cliff, whom none of us thought would come, came for a brief while, about long enough for Rob W. to remember who was Cliff and who was Geoff (apparently, we look too much alike).

Admittedly, I’m not too sure if anyone else came out. Towards the end of the night, I was feeling pretty lousy. Though I would later realize that it wasn’t due to the drink — it was all the smoke in the tavern (it make several others feel pretty lousy, and is probably the root cause of a new illness I seem to have acquired).

I fled just after 23:15 for the GO Train. I needed sleep, I needed greasy food (luckily, there’s a McDonald’s in the train station), and if I’d had anything else to drink or stayed any longer, I’d probably have had to expel the contents of my stomach at least once.

(Such as it is, I didn’t, nor did I wake up with a hangover the next day.)

Friday night was great. It was reminiscent of parts of the Great Trans-Canada Pub Crawl, er, the CBC Train.

Waking far earlier than I’d planned on Saturday, I proceeded to help Cathy with some home improvement. Not anything like renovations, but Cathy had a desire to hang a series of pictures in her bedroom, and it was just a matter of which ones.

This is where being an amateur photographer and watching far too many movies for my own good. I was able to help Cathy choose a series of pictures that (when some were cropped) provided a great series of shots to hang on the wall.

Mom arrived about 11:15 and proceeded to reorganize the furnace/storage room. This is what Mom does well — organizing things. We all freely acknowledge that she’s extremely good at it, And regularly raise the point of her keeping her tax returns from 1965 just to make sure that this success doesn’t all go to her head.

We lunched on “Cheese and Bacon Dreams”. I suspect there’s a more mature name for these, but that’s all I know it as. Basically, it’s a piece of bread (usually a quartered slice of loaf bread), a piece of process cheese (though we had to use real cheese this time) and a small piece of bacon. They’re definitely the sort of thing that would receive a blistering glare from Arthur for eating them, but they’re a piece of my childhood that I hadn’t experienced in a long time.

Following lunch, I had to take a nap. I was wiped. The previous day had been so energetic that it had taken until after lunch the following day for my body to wind down. A couple of hours later, and I was preparing to go back into Toronto.

This particular night was a dinner with Amy. She was determined, beyond any doubt, to have a dinner party. (Amy seems to do this when someone from out of town manages to come in.) She had gone completely overboard: paella, octopus in red wine sauce, marinated asparagus and eggplant, organic spinach salad, cheeses, and a raspberry/almond Grenadine cake.

I arrived downtown well of the scheduled 20:00. Amy wasn’t quite ready yet, so I returned to the nearby Yonge and Dundas area to investigate.

It’s been quite a while since I was last at that intersection. I don’t honestly know how long, but it’s been at least four years. At the the time, the only thing I’d known was the demolition of two buildings, on either side of Dundas on the east side of Yonge. In that time, little change been done, save for the creation of Dundas Square.

The face of Yonge has received a good scrubbing. New facades to the Eaton Centre, combined with with hew stores have polished the Old Girl up nicely. When I came up from the subway, I had for a flittering moment thought I was in Tokyo. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a start.

Returning at 20:00, I found Chris already in attendance. (Amy was still in finishing touches.) Stefani would arrive soon afterwards, completing what would become the foursome. (We had hoped for more, but ended up with a great number for conversation and reflection.)

Topics periodically turned to the more recent, but we talked mostly about the train: our experiences, our favourites, our horrors. You can wash well in those memories without feeling like you’ve sat in the bathwater too long.

Amy had gone far above and beyond the call for dinner. The opener of squash soup (only the second time I’d had it — I’d thought it was the first until Mom reminded me about Mark’s wedding) was outstanding, the paella luscious, the octopus so thoroughly intriguing that I might have to obtain the recipe, the salad devine, and to describe the dessert would require a few modifications to certain complimentary phrases in the English language. All of it washed down with some of the best sangria I’ve ever had.

Time, it seems, either moves far too quickly or not fast enough. And it’s always contrary to what you want. Before I knew it, midnight had arrived, and I was only getting warmed up. But I had to get home, and the last GO Train was at 00:43. (Actually, I would find out later that, at least on Saturdays, the last train is 01:30.)

“Parting is such sweet sorrow” doesn’t cut it. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay up until the trains ran again the following morning, being with Amy, Chris, and Stefani. But I knew my family had plans for the following day, and I wanted to be with them as much as I did with the CBC crew. A bit rushed, I acquired a few quick photographs of my friends before running out into the Toronto night. I saved the tears of goodbye until I was safely on the train home.

When I woke up this morning, I knew I was coming down with a cold. It never fails. Every time I come to Ontario, I seem to get one. I don’t know why. It bugs the hell out of me. Tylenol Cough and Cold seems to help, but I’m going to need some Contact C when I get home.

Cathy and Craig were already up when I rolled out of bed. They were listening to the radio in the living room, having had their morning coffee and TimBits. I sat and read the paper a bit while we took turns showering before heading down to pick up Mom.

In what’s become a sort of tradition, we went for brunch. While we love going to the Water Street Grill in Burlington, a running race of some kind would have kept us from enjoying brunch due to shortened hours. Instead, we went to Glen Abbey. The food there is excellent, though the attendance is perhaps a tad too upscale for me.

Brunch aside, we toured through town to go look at Mark and Darla’s new house. We didn’t know which one it was exactly (the one we thought it was didn’t seem right, and had people there who weren’t Mark and Darla).

We eventually ended up back at Mom’s. Cathy and Craig finally decided on a long-overdue computer, and I did some maintenance work on Mom’s system. (Hopefully it helps speed it up a wee bit.)

Soon after, we were back at Cathy and Craig’s. Richard dropped by to pick up the CDs for the band. We talked a bit. I saw their dog Bear probably for the last time (he has bone cancer, and will likely pass away before I return again).

Next thing I know, I’m waiting for my Jetsgo flight. And I mean waiting — at least 30 minutes late leaving, for some reason. It’s cramped, hot, and I just want to get some Contact C to combat this freaking cold.

It’s been another blitz visit of Toronto. I do these far too often. Maybe next time I can spend longer there — maybe with Erin. But hopefully it won’t be too long until I see my friends again.

Hopefully, all of them — because I don’t see them nearly as much as I should.