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Toronto, Part 1

February 3, 2003

Mr. Karen and I spent forty-eight hours and five minutes in Canada this past weekend, pulled over the border by the chance to attend The Usual Suspects TorontoCon II, hosted by Amy and Blake. The festivities started Saturday evening at The Bow and Arrow. If you, like me, are the type of person who likes to use MapQuest to see just where things before heading out, you might just have to get over that before going to visit this pub. Before leaving, I typed the address from that web site into MapQuest and printed out the results to put in my folder o’ important trip stuff. It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that I figured out that the map was wrong; it told me the pub was south of Bloor, which it could not be if the directions on the Bar Towel site were correct, which they were, as we verified when we were out and about earlier in the day. I tried this morning to get an accurate map– yeah, I know I’ve already been there and now know where it is, but I want to figure out what I should have done differently; call me compulsive if you must. Clicking on the map link next to the Bow and Arrow’s listing in the Yahoo!Canada Business Finder yields a map that show the pub is north of Bloor but north of Eglinton as well, which is most definitely is not. The key to getting the right location was using the postal code from the Bar Towel site (which, oddly, is not the same as the code in the Yahoo! Business Finder). I guess the moral of that story is use the zip or postal code to get maps, but make sure it’s the right code.

Incorrect map aside, we made it to the pub with no difficulty. I was a little worried about recognizing everyone, but Amy and Don had thoughtfully and strategically placed themselves at a table right by the door and were sending out “hey, we’re here to meet people from the Internet” vibes (well, maybe I imagined the vibes, but the empty chairs at the tables they’d pulled together were certainly a clue that there was room to join the party). Don was sitting with his back to the door, and Amy had gotten her hair cut too late to post a picture of her new ‘do before I left on Friday, but they looked enough like the pictures I’d seen that I felt comfortable approaching the table with my oh so smooth opening line, “Are you them?” Oh yeah, me make good impression. We were settling in and getting acquainted when Blake returned from the errand he’d gone to run; he didn’t seem to mind that I’d usurped his rightful place next to Amy. Stacey and Len arrived while I was still pondering the beer list trying to figure out which would be the least beery, and soon after that Iko and Mike came in. Last I’d read the planning thread, it wasn’t certain if the male halves of these couples were going to be able to make it, so it was good to see that they had. I’d really been looking forward to meeting mayaroo, too, but she’d been prevented from boarding her plane because she didn’t have a birth certificate or passport with her. At the beginning of the night, it seemed she might be able to come on Sunday instead, but she called Amy back during dinner to say that just wasn’t going to be possible because she’d have to essentially buy a new ticket at the last minute fare. Bummer.

Iko brought food swag, which we all managed to restrain ourselves from dipping into right then, though the artichoke and lemon tapanade I got looked very tasty indeed. We drank and talked and ate the excellent pub food. I persuaded Mr. Karen to share a plate of poutine with me before the meal, since we certainly can’t get fries covered with gravy and cheese curds at home. Cheese and gravy– there’s a combination that even this cheese lover hadn’t thought of. Mmmm, fatty goodness. The conversation flowed along with the lagers and ales; I justwish I could remember more of it than the speculation about whether one’s tongue would freeze to the exposed belly ring of a 17 year old girl out walking in the Toronto winter and the feasibility of self-heating body jewelry.

After dinner, we moved on to Amy and Blake’s for dessert. Mike left us at this point, saying cake had no appeal for him. He’d seemed like a perfectly reasonable guy up ’til then, but his not wanting cake made me wonder. Who doesn’t like cake? Maybe Iko will talk him into coming to another gathering where I can quiz him on his dessert preferences. He did stick around long enough to take this group picture before heading off into the night. Blake and Amy have a gorgeous condo; I’d seen pictures, but they didn’t do justice to the place or the view. The cats did not seem overjoyed that TorontoCon had come to their home. Mimi did consent to let me pet her briefly, even though I called her chubby, and Thomas posed regally for a few moments before both cats disappeared for the rest of the night. We ate not one but two kinds of cake– a rich chocolate and a tangy lemon– and talked some more, covering diverse topics including Don versus Wal-Mart, Don versus beige, Iko’s glass-walled bathroom, and where you can eat in Pittsburgh if you want a view of college students working out while you dine. I’m sure we could have gone on all night, and maybe the rest of the group did, but Mr. Karen and I had made a date for breakfast the next morning and forced ourselves to leave while it was still Saturday (barely). The story of who we made the date with and all the other things we did in Toronto will have to wait to be told until the next entry, coming soon to a web browser near you.

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