Wednesday, 17 August 2005

Today was our day to be tourists & explore Toronto.

The second I read about this place in the guidebook, I knew that David would want to visit it, & I was totally correct. Yes, the Bata Shoe Museum is one of Toronto's finest museums, & the just the place to take the gay friend in your life. On our way there, however, we stopped in at Ends, a shop that sells remaindered clothing for cheap. I bought a plaid short sleeve shirt (to match all the others I own) for $3 (& that's Canadian dollars, at that, so it was more like $2.50 American), a pair of cargo shorts (to match all the others—but these are dark olive!) for $5, & a very nice soft pink summer dress shirt (hey, I don't have anything in pink) for less than $10. Now that there are some deals!

We continued down the street until we hit the Shoe Museum. From the outside, it's a nice looking building, but it's not like it's designed by Frank Gehry or anything.


Inside, we were greeted by two very nice older ladies, somewhere in their 60s, who took our money & our bags, & then started asking us questions about where we were from, how we enjoyed Toronto, & so on. One of the ladies had lived in NYC for 40 years, & we told her that we were headed there soon. She then mentioned something about Texas, & how she didn't like some of the people there. "That's OK," I said, "We don't like some of the people who come from Texas either." They knew exactly what I meant, & both nodded & said, "Oh no, we don't either." Hey, we want as many Canadians as possible to know we're not like the people I happen to share a country with who made the moronic choice to vote for the worst President the US has had in the last 100 years. Yup, I said it. I mean it, too. I have to say, I haven't seen too much evidence that Canadians like GWB at all. In that respect, it's great being in Canada!

Anywho, we paid the $5 or so it costs to get into the museum (what is it with the crazy cheap prices in Canada?), & walked down the stairs to the bottom. The idea is, you walk up each floor, so after 5 floors you've seen the whole thing. At the bottom of the stairs, & therefore at the bottom of the museum, you can look up and see a looooooooooooooong mobile that hangs from the roof of the stairwell. It consists, of course, entirely of shoes—the same black shoe, over & over, in a circle, with each shoe a foot (no pun intended) or so below the previous one, but with a different word (in some cases, two words) on the sole. As you read up, you see that the words go together to form pithy quotations that have to do something with feet, shoes, or walking. What a super cool mobile!


Looking over, we noticed that the museum had pictures of celebrities, along with the shoes they had actually worn beneath. Marilyn Monroe's was there, as was Jimmy Stewart, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, Shaquille O'Neal, Gene Kelly (little feet), & even Fred Astaire (also little feet) & Ginger Rogers. You can see Fred & Ginger's shoes below.


The first floor display was a history of shoes, starting with the Otze man who was discovered frozen in the Swiss Alps a few years ago. Dating from the Stone Age, his shoes largely consisted of grasses, which actually appeared to work quite well to keep his feetsies warm & dry. Then to Egypt, ancient Greece & Rome, & so on. Very quickly in history, shoes got very gaudy (if you were rich & powerful), as this pair from India shows. Owned by a vizier or adviser, these shoes were encrusted with jewels, & even though it's hard to see in the picture, their ends curve back quite fetchingly.


Platform shoes were really popular in Constantinople & other eastern European cities, where they were worn in steam baths so that people could walk without burning their feet. Over time, they became a sign of wealth & privilege.


There were also platform shoes of a different type. These were also Indian, but worn by royalty during coronations. Wow.


We saw shoes worn by Pope Pius X (I didn't know the Pope liked such bright, eye-catching shoes!).


And shoes worn by poodles in Paris, circa 1950 (gotta get Libby some of those!).


And even shoes made obviously just for fun.


Yes, those are "rollerclogs", made around 1992 in the Netherlands. I wonder if they would have made Xanadu any better of a movie? Nah.

On the top floor was an exhibit devoted to American Indians, their shoes, & their culture. I have never seen so many different kinds of moccasins in my life. My favorite pair, though, was really cool: moccasins made of actual bear paws, & worn during sacred ceremonies. But dang! Bear paw shoes! I'm against fur, but those are seriously bad ass shoes.


Unfortunately, we didn't get a picture of a pair of shoes I found particularly interesting. These were wooden clogs (Dutch, obviously) worn by smugglers working against the Nazis in WWII. Why were these interesting? Because when you saw the bottoms, you found out that the heels were carved in front, so that when worn, they created backwards footprints. As a security nerd, I stroked my chin, nodded, & went mmmhmmmm.

That was enough shoes. It was time to eat lunch, so we left the Shoe Museum (highly recommended as a stop in Toronto), & walked all the way back to Yonge Street. We'd had good luck there the night before, in terms of variety & price, & we were particularly in the mode for some sushi. Mmmmmm … sushi. As we walked, I grew hungrier & hungrier, which means I was getting very cranky. Denise & David went from one restaurant to another, until finally I said "Enough! Scott must eat! Scott hungry!" Right nearby was Natural Sushi, so that's where we went.

Damn, it was good. I ordered the Maki Platter, which gave me 3 rolls, & I also got Miso soup & edomame (steamed soybeans). Oh man. I was in heaven. David got a different platter that came with sushi, tempura, fried tofu, & lots of other good stuff, while Denise got the same thing I did, plus a beer. What a tasty lunch … & it was surprisingly cheap! IIRC, my platter was $8, which is nothing for 3 sushi rolls. Another recommended place to eat.

Denise had been complaining (mildly) that her hair was too long & needed a trim, & David said the same thing about himself. I'd already had my hair cut right before we left, so I didn't need anything. However, the 2 D's had seen a place while we were walking—House of Lords—& wanted to get their hair cut there. Denise got her hair cut really short & spiky; in fact, I'd never seen it like that ever!


David took a movie while Denise's hair was cut. It's pretty cute, & you can see how short her hair was.

2005-0817-denise-haircut.mp4 (7.4 MB MP4 movie)

While they were grooming, I walked down the street to City Books. I can always amuse myself in a book store, & this wasn't a bad little shop. I poked around, looking for something to read once I finished Isaac Newton. I was getting close to the end of that one, & while I brought others with me, I decided that if I found something good, I'd get it. Well, I did. When I was in college & studying English, I'd read Cervantes'Don Quixote (in translation), but only the first half of the first book. Then I tried again a few years later, & this time I finished the first book, but didn't get through the second (which was written several years after the first). In the mean time, an excellent translation by Edith Grossman had come out, & I'd read really positive reviews of that edition. Well, Don Quixote is one of those novels that every educated person should read, & I've enjoyed it before, & Grossman's translation did look good, so I bought it. 900+ pages. Whew!

David & Denise joined me once they were shorn, & we walked back to the hotel. Along the way, we passed again the storefront of the so-called "Church" of Scientology. If you don't know about what a gigantic scam Scientology is, email me, & I'll send you some reading. Suffice it to say it's far closer to a cult than a church, & a business than a religion. Disgusting. And the beliefs propounded by Scientology are … well, frankly, the beliefs of most religions are a bit, oh, hard to believe, but those of Scientology go over the edge to complete bullshit. Space aliens? Thousands of 75 million year old souls trapped in our bodies? The great galactic overlord Xenu? Disgusting and ridiculous.


Every time we walked by, cultists (I won't call them "worshippers") were standing on the sidewalk, offering pamphlets to passers-by, & encouraging people to sit down & take a "stress test". Basically, you hold some wires while they ask you questions, & the results show up on an oscilloscope placed in front of you. The device in essence measures the electricity all of us give off, so guess what? Every single person who takes the test needs further counseling & treatment from Scientology! What a shock! What a scam. Sadly, there were people sitting there taking that test every time we walked by, & people taking the pamphlets proferred by the cultists. Barnum was right: there's a sucker born every minute, & that's what keeps Scientology in business.

Back at the hotel room, we divested ourselves of purchases we'd made that morning, I changed to running shoes from sandals (my dogs were barking!), & we departed, this time for the tallest building in the world, the CN Tower. We took a taxi there, deboarded, & leaned waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back to look up at the top of that skyscraper.


David was aghast. "That's the hugest thing I've ever seen! It's so big!" Insert your own joke here. Of course, that didn't stop him from taking a slow panorama of the CN Tower, from bottom all the way up to the tippy top.

2005-0817-cn-tower.mp4 (2.4 MB MP4 movie)

It cost about $20 per ticket to ride up to the observation deck, & then we had to wait about 10 minutes in line with quite a cross-section of humanity. Indians, French-speakers, British, Americans, & more. Then we piled into an elevator & shot up over 1000 feet in aboot 50 seconds, ears popping all the way. We stepped off the elevator, walked out the doors, & there we were, high above Toronto. Off to our right were more of Toronto's downtown scrapers, but none, of course, even close to the height of the one in which we were standing.


Right in front of us were more buildings, parks, streets & neighborhoods making Toronto as big as it is. Notice how far the city seems to stretch off in the distance. Kind of seems to go on forever, doesn't it?


And finally, off to our left was a marina, & the Quays, & a harbor teeming with boats, even that big 3 master you can see in this picture. Beyond the water was a municipal airport, also accessible by ferry, which we watched as it purposefully chugged across the short distance from city to island, finally docking with a smooth sliding motion so that riders could disembark.


David took a movie that pans across Toronto. It's like you were there!

2005-0817-cn-tower-toronto.mp4 (2 MB MP4 movie)

If you go down a level from the observation deck, then the fun really begins. The builders of the CN Tower thoughtfully placed, on each side of this floor, thick glass panels, over a foot thick & about 10 feet by 25 feet in width & length. Walk on those puppies, & you're looking straight down, over 1000 feet. People were freaking out when they walked up to those panels. Girls would walk up to the edge & then just stop, screeching. "Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod! NowayamIgonnawalkoutonthat! Noway! Ohmigod!" And then, a minute later, I'd look over, & they'd all be sitting in the middle of the glass, posing for pictures. Well ohmigod!

Wanna see what it looks like to stand here & bend your head down? Here ya go. Yep, the glass is filthy. Shoes, hands, feet, heads—it all goes on the glass.


Denise got on her back so we could take a picture of her while she made a face like she was falling. Unfortunately, it turned out too dark, but at least you can see the outline of her head (sporting that new funky haircut!).


Being the semi-reformed frat boy I am, I decided to be totally obnoxious & jump up & down—yes, jump up & down—on the glass. I tried to land on my heels, so that I really shook the floor & made a satisfying thunk when I struck the glass. David took a movie of the second time I did it, which is partly sideways (sorry 'bout that). He said that when I jumped the first time, people scattered away from me & the glass … quickly. Guess they were worried. Hehehehehehehehehe.

2005-0817-cn-tower-glass-scott.mp4 (1.2 MB MP4 movie)

Back down on the ground, David took one last movie of the Tower while I contented myself with a lemonade purchased at a nearby stand. If you watch carefully in the movie, the thing you see flashing on the bottom of the observation deck is, I think, the glass that I had been leaping onto just a few minutes earlier.

2005-0817-cn-tower.mp4 (1.6 MB MP4 movie)

After earth (our walk around earlier in the day & our visit to the shoe museum), & air (our ride up the tallest building in the world), it was time for water (as for fire, I wanted to burn down an abandoned building to round out the four ancient elements, but Denise wouldn't let me … damn!). We hiked over to Queen's Quay, not that far, really, & found ourselves in an absolutely gorgeous part of town.

Walking just a few feet from the water, we enjoyed the smells of the sea side (yes, I know it's a lake, but it's so damn big that it's just like a sea), the sights of the boats & the birds, a cool temperature in the upper 70s, & the sudden sounds of a symphony orchestra. What could that be? We walked over a short bridge connecting one giant dock to another. The music got louder, the boats clustered more thickly in the water, & people were everywhere. Look on the left in this picture, & you can see them.


The Toronto Symphony Orchestra was playing a concert on the waterfront, & there were thousands of people sitting & listening to them. It was pretty damn close to perfection, really, & I was very happy.

Notice that big boat parked further away in the picture above? There was a rainbow flag on it, & three guys sat on chairs on the deck, listening to the music. "David," I said, "See that rainbow flag? Go give them the secret gay handshake & get us on that boat!"

"We don't have a handshake," David replied, "but I do know the password: 'Heeeeeyyyyy! How about some margaritas!'"

David took a movie that gets in some of the music & gives you an idea of this ultra-enjoyable setting. It's short, but it's nice.

2005-0817-quay-symphony.mp4 (1.7 MB MP4 movie)

We continued on past the music & walked to the left. Denise & I posed for a quick shot on one of the docks.


As it slowly grew darker, we started looking for someplace on the water to eat. All the restaurants were packed, natcherally, but then we found a crepes stand. Yes, a stand selling ice cream & crepes, both sweet & hot. Sounds great! I had the spinach & mushroom, while the 2 D's had the pesto steak. We sat on a short concrete wall facing the water & ate our tasty meals; when I finished, I went back & ordered a dessert crepe too, which was wonderful but terrifically messy. I washed my hands using some bottled water, & we proceeded along the quay.

Turning around, we took a look at the now brilliantly lit up Toronto. It's not a great picture, but heck, I'm impressed my cameraphone even took it at all. Notice the big CN Tower on the right. Kind of dominates the scene, doesn't it?


It was time to start heading back to the hotel after a long day filled with lots of walking, aka, much-needed exercise. Before we left the water, though, Denise asked for one last picture. I complied, but on my terms!


We walked into a little grocery store—in the states, I would have called it a bodega, that's how small & compact it was—close to the waterfront, purchased a few things, hailed a taxi, & rode over to HoJo's. Along the way, our Middle Eastern taxi driver was flipping through the radio dial, when I heard a female voice talking to a caller about someone the caller deeply loved & cared for. "Hey," I said to David, "isn't that Delilah?" "Yeah it is," said David. For those of you don't know, Delilah hosts a nationwide radio call in show at night for soft rock stations in which she takes calls from people about love. Lost love, familial love, married love, young love, old love, love sundered by death, troubled love, love love love. She chats with the callers in her smooth, husky tones, reassures them, promises them that the power of love will conquer all, & plays mellow songs about—you guessed it!—love. It's not like I listen to her all the time, but I will confess to having listened for a few minutes while I was flipping through the dial.

Suddenly our taxi driver, who did not speak good English, broke in. "You know Delilah?" he asked. "Ye-es," I tentatively answered. He chuckled, & then turned it up. He drove on, & she took a call from Mark, who wanted to talk about how great his wife of 19 years was. He did, & then Delilah started telling him that she was going to play a slow song, & he should turn down the lights & do a slow dance in the kitchen. At that point, our driver broke in, again in his broken English. "Ridiculous!" he sneered, & "Stupid!" he snorted. I wonder what it was he hated: Delilah, or Mark, or slow dancing in the kitchen?

Back at the hotel, we repeated the night before. I computed, but this time I made phone calls over the Net using Skype (how cool is that?), answered email, & worked on this trip journal. Denise & David ate chocolate, drank wine, & relaxed. I came up after an hour or so, got into bed, & read all but one chapter of Isaac Newton. I went to bed by 1 am this night, because we were planning to get up early the next morning for the biggie: Niagara Falls.

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