Toronto in 36 Hours

Toronto in 36 hours: 

I love traveling more than most things in life—the joy of which I've only been discovering in the past several years, enabled and fostered by traveling for work. While this trip was purely personal, I think trips in general feed the soul in such a way that it's hard to say they aren't in service of one's creative work too. Anyway, I've gotten in the habit of doing posts about all my travels, big or small, work or personal—it helps to mark and reflect upon the adventure, so without further introduction, here's my story:

A Radiohead Journey.

Once upon a time, a 12 year old girl named Sara became completely obsessed with a band called Radiohead. She had learned all the band members full names and birthdays, had created a Radiohead trivia binder. She had also successfully coerced her family into taking a day trip to Oxford during a vacation to London to go on a "Radiohead pilgrimage." As some people take bus tours, so the Blake family did the "Radiohead, the early days" tour. Sites included the former Jericho Tavern, now called Philanderer and Firkin where Radiohead first played in '91 under their old name "On a Friday" (the owners actually went to the cellar to get my a Tshirt with the old tavern name!), Cult Clothing where Thom used to work, and Brown's Restaurant where Ed worked... etc. etc. etc. It was completely unexciting for the other 3 members of my family, but I felt as though I was in the midst of holy relics. Bear in mind, if memory serves, this was in between The Bends and OK Computer, so Radiohead was successful but by no means the megaband they are now. Fast forward to 1998. Now I'm 13 and have obtained a one day ticket to the two day Tibetan Freedom concert in DC at RFK stadium. The lineup is impressive and I had convinced my dad and my friend to leave our nosebleed seats behind the stage and "sneak" to the floor. We muscled to the very front of the stage, packed so tight that I could lift my feet and still be wedged in midair between my floor neighbors. At this point I'm downright euphoric...when it starts to storm. No biggie, right? A little rain never hurt no one. But lightning has. A stadium rail was struck and a fan rushed to the hospital—and needless to say, the rest of the day was cancelled. No Radiohead for Sara. They of course played the 9:30 Club that night and the festival the next day, both of which I didn't have tickets to. Fast forward again to 2001. I'm between freshman and sophomore year in high school, and this time I've convinced my mom to drive me and 4 friends to Bull Run in Northern Virginia. As we're driving somehow we get news that the show, yes, has been in fact cancelled due to flooding—specifically, flooding that has affected several nearby septic systems... I remember a very solemn return trip drive to Richmond, pushing back tears in front of my friends. Finally in 2003 I once again had persuaded my dad to give it another try and drive to another show. We had tickets to Field Day Festival set to be in Calverton, NY. As luck would have it, right before the concert it was discovered that there were permit problems and the show could not go on at the planned venue. But hark, the rock show angels finally smiled down upon us, and the festival was relocated to Giants Stadium in New Jersey. I'd finally made it. I remember crying through most of the set. I was with my dad so, y'know, it was pretty embarrassing. The openers Underworld, The Beastie Boys, and Blur were all fairly decent but when Radiohead came on it was as if they were playing in an entirely different environment—the sound was perfect. A near miss for my third try, but Radiohead redemption was mine. Beck wasn't so lucky. He slipped backstage, had to go to the hospital, and couldn't open. 

When my friend Joris emailed me on Thursday offering me free VIP and afterparty tickets to the last Radiohead show of their North American headlining tour in Toronto, maybe I should have been wary—maybe I should have considered my past luck. But it had been over a decade. Certainly my Radiohead karma must have reset itself by now. I OF COURSE jumped at the opportunty and booked not so cheap last minute plane tickets to fly in Saturday morning for the show that night in Downsview Park. The day was going swimmingly until about 4PM as Yoris, Liam and I were enjoying our delicious tacitos... Liam's phone started going bonkers: the stage had collapsed and one crew member was killed. Needless to say, the show would not go on. When someone gets hurt, it becomes very difficult to genuinely feel disappointed or angry about a show being cancelled. Our thoughts are with the band and family of Scott Johnson, the drum technician who was killed by the collapsed stage scaffolding. For me I think I stirred up the collective funk of the past missed shows, and could not help but think that I was somehow cursed and cause natural disasters and freak accidents when I come to the same zip code as Radiohead (don't you like how self-centered my thinking is?). Of course, I had not caused the accident. It was a tragedy, but we were all safe and happy. The reality was that I was still in the company of some amazing new friends who had taken me into their home and also shown me around a new city. If I've learned anything on my solo travels over the past 3 years, it's that locals absolutely have the power to make your trip. The rest of the weekend was spent eating excess amounts of meat at The Black Hoof (including declicious horse tartare and about 6 assortments of taurine), hanging out in the backyard until all hours of the night, visiting Trinity Bellwoods Park with the doggies, and exploring the city solo on foot. All was certainly not lost—an adventure is an adventure is an adventure. 

My heart goes out to the band. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

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And finally, some photo evidence of how awesome the weekend actually turned out to be.

CN Tower: I've done the skywalk at Sky Tower in Auckland before and remember it feeling absolutley towering (probably because I was in a jumpsuit walking along the outside rail attached by a bungee.) CN Tower is in reality taller than Sky Tower, but I think it must just be an optical illusion since Toronto is simply a bigger city than Auckland. The CN Tower edgewalk around the perimeter was booked so I settled just for the observation deck inside like a normal person. It's still 1,151 feet in the air, so it's quite a thrill. It was also pretty neat that the Rogers baseball diamond is right below and the Blue Jays happened to be playing the Philllies when I was up there. The highlight was of course the glass floor. It's amazing how your fears can overpower your logic. The glass is apparently far stronger than industrial flooring and could support the weight of 14 hippos. When a fearless little girl started jumping up and down I about lost my mind. And it was fantastic... what's better than nerves and butterflies?

I was walking down Queen Street scouting out the small gallery world when... ::gasp:: giant Winnie Truong peices! Sadly ESP Gallery was closed, but I did the best I could ogling through the window. Really wish I could have gotten a peep up close. 

Most of the weekend actually consisted of hanging out in the backyard and park with the pooches. Hector is an enourmous Bernese mountain dog. He's knock kneed, will only acknowledge you as a sentient being if he makes friends with you outdoors, he frequently collapses mid-stride for a breather for no apparent reason, and when he lies down he looks like a chalk drawing from someone who fell out of a 20 story building. If you know me, you know I'm a dog person who has been forced to redirect her affections to cats due to the circumstances of Manhattan living, so I was pretty much in heaven with the pups. Scout seemed to have far less personality quirks but she did have the most beautiful mismatched eyes and little piggy spots on her belly that showed through her white coat. Awww pups...

And my lovely hosts! On the right we have Joris Jarsky (or Yowwwww-ris, as he sometimes prefers it pronounced)—he's an awesome actor and dog wrangler. He's the owner of that fine white hound. Here he is getting cut in half in a Saw movie. Guts are neat. Liam lives there too. He's the guy with the amazing beard. We've affectionately dubbed him the Shaquille O'Neal of hobbits. Sometimes he likes to drink from very small cups and pretend like he's even more of a giant. He was banned from the Shire because he didn't fit through any of the tiny doors so instead he learned how to play piano really really well. He's the keyboardist from my one my favorite bands, The Stills and now is in Eight and a Half—ALSO a super awesome band. These two had me laughing all weekend.

Thank you Yoris for being an amazing host, making your home mine for a weekend, and showing me around your lovely city. Also such a pleasure to meet the charming and talented Todo Kobakov and Philip Kurt Kressin of Neon Legion

And life in instagrams!