All the people listed in this blog post are real; however, names have been changed to protect anonymity and to also avoid name-dropping like Dick Cavett.
So yes, I was in Toronto this weekend for my friend Edmund’s wedding. No, I was not at the Eaton Centre when that guy got shot, but I was there the day before.
I honestly got far too little sleep the night before my 7 am flight. My internal clock is all wonky, and most of the night was filled with being pissed off about not being able to sleep, as well as a handful of anxieties I’d been nursing the past little while. Flying to Toronto itself went without issue, and while I had misplaced my downtown shuttle ticket, the booth worker got the go-ahead to print a replacement at no extra charge. Once I got to the Hilton I ended up crashing for a few hours, before my desire for adventure (and practical need for an umbrella) took me into the subways. There was some flooding at Union Station, so I couldn’t go south from Osgoode, so I ended up going north, changing trains and getting out at Yonge and Bloor. While around there, I finally met Leon, someone who I’d known online for about 10 years. I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly exciting or talkative; I’m someone who needs to be in the right frame of mind to draw out of my shell. After we parted, I did a little more exploring, decided to put off the Picasso exhibit until a day when I had a little more time to walk the Art Gallery of Ontario, and ended up browsing the huge HMV near Eaton Center for a while.
I headed back to the hotel for a little bit of pool time. I’m not a particularly strong swimmer, but whenever I have the opportunity to float around in a body of water I want to take it. The pool at the Hilton is an indoor/outdoor one; it was raining outside but the water was heated. Sometimes all one needs is a few minutes to just let the water slow their movements into grace and calm. I was a little curious to check out the Church & Wellesley nightlife, and was actually getting something to eat nearby when I noticed I had got a text from Ed about a half-hour earlier inviting me to go for drinks. The bar was a little far away, so I took a cab all the way there. Glenn met me on the street and told me I had just missed Ed, who was a little too far gone and needed to make sure he would be in proper condition for the wedding tomorrow.
During the ride back to the hotel, I found myself lost in thought about what good people some of my friends are, and how I still managed to withdraw from them. Maybe I’m just concerned about overestimating my bonds and ties with people. Part of that I think comes from this concern I have from time to time that maybe I’m just one of those people who needs to work myself insane just to achieve mediocrity; that I just don’t have the drive, discipline or personal qualities to make a push beyond the low-hanging fruit worthwhile. After arriving in an underground parkade, my fellow riders were cracking pitch-black jokes about how this would probably be the worst place to find someone strung out on bath salts. I got a text from Ed inviting me to come up a floor for a drink. Upstairs, among an assortment of friends, relatives and the bride-to-be, we had a low-key gathering, which an exhausted Ed still managed to infuse with his characteristic wit.
The next morning, I floated about the pool yet again, thinking more and more about the path to success, missed trains and bricked-up tunnels. After securing a fairly unsatisfying bite to eat, I rushed to dress myself up for the wedding, concerned about not forgetting one thing or another. A $16 cab ride to the church later, I was summoned inside a white limousine where Ed, Glenn, Arno and a few others in the wedding party were gathered before the ceremony started.
Once it was time to head inside, I took a program and book of common prayer from Nash, another university friend. Yet for some reason I didn’t feel like sitting near anyone. Part of the reason I guess was to be close to the aisle, but I had this wave of asociality come over me for a moment. It all felt surreal to be in this beautiful Anglican parish, watching the guy with whom I took 2 am cab rides to the truck stop out-of-town solemnly get married. Bramwell, another person from our university past, was performing the homily as a man of God, and well-chosen works of classical music mingled with familiar hymns. Once again, my thoughts turned to myself and guilt over my evaporated faith faded into guilt over my solipsism during my friend’s big moment. He seemed to exude a great happiness from the altar that poked through my self-involved bubble.
After the wedding I discussed life with Nash, where he reassured me that the path so many of my friends have chosen would probably bring me too much stress and misery to be worth it. I also took the time to mingle with a handful of other fellow alumni, discussing uncertain futures and trying to keep balanced between masking and wallowing in my aimlessness. The group I was with had a creative bent, members of which I would run into time to time at a music festival I’d gone to a few times. Jonas and I talked about photography, as Greta, Denise, Veronica and Nedra milled about observing brief breaks of sunlight and the beauty of the neighborhood. We took a long-overdue taxi van down to the spot where the reception was being held, a very exclusive private club. I knew this would probably be a rare night when I saw the wood-paneled walls and portraits of the knighted.
After a pre-dinner mingle, the evening began in earnest with exquisite food served between speeches from family and toasts. A steady flow of wine and water lubricated our souls and conversations were punctuated with fond memories. Ed and his wife Ellen had their first dance to a Ray Lamontagne song, infusing the moment with a shared humor and mutual joy. The night was full of music, spirits and dancing; perhaps the peak was Ed hosted upon a chair to the strains of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton”. The anxieties and thoughts that were plaguing me were at bay, muzzled by time to listen to some stories and share some memories.
Once the official reception dispersed, Ed led a group of us to the basement bar in Koreatown for karaoke. This was the point where things become a blur, but confirmed that career and marriage had not really changed Ed in the least. By the time I was back at the hotel, I was in no condition for any more, and I would pay dearly for my celebration with the way I felt the next morning.
Despite my condition, I got myself checked out of the hotel and braved my way to the post-nuptials brunch Ed’s mother put on. Deciding I was in no condition for mimosas, I stuck to orange juice, and talked a bit with Nash, Arno, and a few others I had met that weekend. I lingered around to see Ed and Ellen open my gift, and by the time I drifted out of the party and said my goodbyes, I felt mostly recovered on multiple fronts. The rest of the afternoon was spent browsing and walking, and I finally went to that Picasso exhibit. By the time I had to take the shuttle back to the airport, I was exhausted and ready for rest.
Checking in at the airport seemed fairly uneventful (aside from watching a businessman anxious not to miss his connection raise the ire of the security personnel), and although my plane was a little late in boarding, it seemed like it was going to be pretty routine. I nodded off for a little bit on the plane but drifted back into consciousness to see city lights. The ride seemed to be going on for a little longer, though. The pilot then announced the plane was having trouble with getting the flaps on the wings to the correct position, and while a normal landing was still going to be likely, emergency vehicles would be waiting for us “just in case”. Eventually, we descended over Dieppe, and while the landing was a tad bumpy, the pilot managed to pull it off and get the applause of everyone on board. I was just a little thirsty and wanting to sleep in a real bed.
I’m still settling back into life after using yesterday to rest and recover. There will be other adventures later, but right now I just need to get myself out of the space between paths.