Toronto, 2011

I had to do an in person interview for my NEXUS card and the best option seemed to be to go up to Toronto for the weekend and take care of it up there, rather than driving up to the border with Quebec (the limited number of offices was a bit of a shock, I might not have applied if I'd known how far I'd have to go for the interview) - I guess the program is aimed at people who cross at land crossings rather than semi-frequent air travellers. I picked this weekend since it coincided with Stephanie's surprise birthday party.

Friday April 29, 2011

I took the T in to work, late after repacking my stuff first into Cris's roll aboard suitcase and then into mine after finding that one of the wheels on his was broken. I had an intense day of coding, plowing through bugs and just barely getting everything checked in and tested and fixed before having to leave for Logan. I took the Green Line from Hynes since there was a Red Sox game that night and I didn't want to risk the street that would take me to the closer stop being closed off. Then realised that I should do the Blue line to the shuttle bus rather than taking the Red line a stop to pick up the Silver. Worked out well, and I was able to get my bag checked easily. I was about to walk through the metal detector at security, behind a trio of flight attendants, when I was waved through to the body scanner. Dammit. Opted out and was a bit snarky to the woman doing my pat down, but at least explicitly saying that she couldn't touch me between my legs kept her from actually doing it. :/ From what she said they're supposed to go up the inner thigh until they find "resistance". Hmph. Still not impressed. Gathered up my stuff and found my gate easily enough, and had time to browse Hudson News and Borders for books, as well as getting a snack for supper, before settling to wait. They boarded a bit early, and we waited a while for the runways to be reorganised before we took off. The landing was *hard*, we had come in over Lake Ontario and then dropped quickly once we were on the other side of the Toronto Islands.

I was a bit short on cash for a taxi, so I ended up taking the TTC, the 509 streetcar this time, over to Union Station. From there it was just a couple of stops north to Osgood and a block down to the hotel on Richmond. My friend Art was also in town, from Detroit, and had offered to let me have the second bed in his hotel room (free since he had used points to book it). I had hoped to lure a friend from Boston into coming with me and splitting a hotel room, and was getting a bit nervous about covering one all by myself, so this worked out well. He was already at Pauper's Pub for a birthday gathering for Jackie, so I dropped my stuff, cleaned up a bit, and took the subway up to Bloor and along to Bathurst to join them. I just caught Jackie before she had to run over to the concert hall to see a band, they were going on at 11:30 and I arrived at around 10:50. Art and Axel were there and stayed, along with Angel and her husband. We were in a little room just beside the bar, but somehow it was quite loud in there. I was able to get money from the ATM in the pub's entrance (my new bank card isn't on many networks, so I didn't even try it on the CIBC, but I think it works on the stand alone ATMs via the Mastercard network - or something). Got myself a G&T at the bar and decompressed and caught up on gossip from Montreal. :) Art and I took a cab back to the hotel, I had a shower, and was in bed around 2am. Unfortunately, I didn't really sleep. :/ I built up a little pillow fort to try and block the light, and put in earplugs to block noise (the hotel was full of young adults for prom or something, and MMA fans for a fight the next night), but my brain wouldn't stop racing. :/

Saturday April 30, 2011

I pried myself out of bed at around 9/9:30, got myself into business casual togs for my NEXUS interview, and just missed the free breakfast on the 32nd floor, as it closed at 10. I ran out to Tim Horton's a couple of blocks away and enjoyed a decent breakfast for <$6 (tea, juice, english muffin, regular muffin (though the last was a low fat one and just tasted off)). I was back at the hotel lobby by 10:45 and ready when Martin came to pick me up at 11 to drive me up to Pearson. It as a quick drive, and I was walkign into the NEXUS office in the Departures area of Terminal 1 at 11:25, nice and early for my 12:20 appointment. The clerk at the desk suggested signing in and I might get seen early. The family with kid sitting across from me were slightly annoying, and with that plus severe sleep deprivation, I had a hard time concentrating on the book I'd brought. I was called eventually though, and raced through the Canadian officer's session. He scanned my irises and explained a bit more about the program to me, and gave me a demo on the training machine. Then I sat and waited for an American officer to see me. This time I listened to a World Famous DJ (that I can't find via google, it sounded like Pseudosonic) who has regular gigs in Vegas and Ibiza talk to the father of the loud family who were also still waiting to be called. I was finally called up to the counter again, there were only 2 American officers working that day and one had gone on a lunch or coffee break. The one I had wore a name tag with Giroux and wanted to talk about my family name and how his came from Vermont by way of Quebec, and he actually said to the other officer "don't bother me, I'm trying to flirt with this beautiful young lady". Um, okay, smile and nod. Then my fingerprints wouldn't scan properly (shades of my green card biometrics appointment) and he had to press my fingers down on the scanner to try and get them to take. I suspect that too much typing on the computer has worn down my fingerprints, or else they were just dry. Then he took the picture and explained a few more things from the US side of the program, and said that I was automatically enrolled in the Global Entry program that would let me use my permanent residency card and scan my finger prints to skip the line when coming into the USA from countries other than Canada. My sleep deprivation was slowing my brain down, so I tried not to ask too many stupid questions.

Things to remember:

I called Martin to let him know that I was done and went back outside to wait for him. It was a bright and sunny day, prefect for a nice drive back downtown, until we spotted a huge back up on the onramp to the 427. Martin swung us wide to the west and we made our way back to Parkdale, calling Steph along the way to organise lunch. We dropped the car off at their house and all walked down to Queen to get lunch at Beaver (where they do a regular goth/gay night). The chocolate almond croissant french toast sounded very tempting, and it was delicious, but super sweet. More tea got me approaching conscious, and then we dropped into to an Etsy fair at the Gladstone. I was tempted by a lanyard but mostly to use it to base a custome necklace on. From there we split up and I hopped on the streetcar back along Queen. It was diverting, so I got off at Bathurst to walk from there, as it was still a gorgeous day.

I tried on a couple of things at Hell's Belles, the one dress would have been perfect a size larger but it was on the sale rack by itself. I popped into Fashion Crimes, but it was mobbed, I think it was prom dress shopping season. I tried on a sun dress in Le Chateau but the top wasn't flattering on me but I renewed my intention to make more A-line skirts. I checked out the $10 sale at Black Market and poked through the racks at Tribal Rhythm, wishing I'd had time to head up to Kensington Market. It was around 5pm, so I headed back to the hotel and caught up with Art. He'd had an annoying day, as the valet service had lost his rental car keys and he had to go with it as it was towed to the airport to pick up a new one. He'd already had a snack, so borrowed his computer to check out nearby restaurants and headed out on my own.

I had a wonderful meal at Nota Bene, walking in and getting a table for one in the lounge area despite OpenTable showing no reservations. I had:
Their Nota Bene cocktail (citron vodka, St. Germaine, limoncello) - it would have been better with gin, it was too lemony.
Yucatan Hot and Sour Soup: Smoked Chicken, Goji Berries, Coriander - delicious and spicy.
B.C. Black Cod: Sweet Potato Pure, Long Beans, Black Bean Sauce - this was divine, I savoured ever bite.
Cheese course: Alpindon, another Canadian one, bleu d'Auvergne (amazing)
Tea (in an iron pot)
The way I was sitting I could check out people going by on Queen W and I enjoyed the fashion parade. There was a guy seated facing me at the other end of the lounge and pretty much every employee of the restaurant came by to talk to him. He reminded me a bit of Alexander Skarsgard, but he had a script tattoo across his collar bones. The poor guy barely got to eat, he kept getting interrupted. He was with an older woman, she didn't seem to be getting any love.

I just had time to get back to the hotel room and finally change out of my business casual togs and get into my party dress, well, my polka dot circle skirt and a nice top. Art was wearing a suit and didn't want to risk getting caught in the impending rain, so we took a taxi over to Laide. Axel and Siobhan were there, we spotted them right after being greeted by Jessica, the other organiser with Martin. I had a Manhattan, then when Steph arrived (and was floored) I bought her a Hendrick's martini. Then I collaborated with the bartender on a sloe gin concoction that would have worked a lot better if they had lemons. I finished off with a gin and tonic with some organic gin - we were close to drinking the bar out of gin. :) Art and Axel popped out to get some food, I had a chance to chat books with Panic, and talked a bit with Heather who was knitting and also a fan of bourbon. :) I was still stuffed from dinner and took a pass on the lovely looking chocolate birthday cake. It took me a while to notice that the bar was inlaid with tiny explicit pictures, and from where I was seated I couldn't see the porn projected on the far wall. The stripper pole didn't get a workout at all. I stayed to about 1:30 or so (it got packed!) and then walked back to the hotel with Art. I slept so much better that night, it was amazing.

Sunday May 1, 2011

I managed to get up at around 9 and this time made it up for breakfast. Great view from the 32nd floor. I could see a run route being cleared of barriers as I ate. Without tea in me it took way too long to figure out how to get hot water to make tea from the complicated espresso/coffee machine. Back down to the room and packed up my stuff, then ran out quickly to run some errands before we had to check out and meet people for lunch at noon. I took care of the drug store first, stocking up on allergy pills, hair dye, shampoo, and killed enough time for the Chapters to open at 11. I looked for Canadian Notes and Queries but no luck, so headed back to the hotel via the bank machine where I transferred money to my Canadian account. The valets hadn't lost the new car's keys this time and we were able to drive over to Parkdale to the Cadillac Lounge. We were the first to arrive, so we grabbed a table for 6 and got our caffeine orders in. Axel, Martin and Steph soon joined us (bit of rain came down between when we came in and they arrived). I had a lovely eggs florentine and mostly listened to the in depth car talk going on by the guys. :)

After we finished eating, I grabbed my suitcase from Art's car and walked with the others toward Landsdown to visit the drug store to get some stamps to mail stuff that had to go to BC. Then hit up the liquor store and got some help finding the three types of BC wines, and got the nicer red one (looking forward to trying it, but I got it for Cris so it's up to him when to open it ;) ). I was a bit early, but without enough slack time to do anything else before heading to the airport, so I got on the streetcar. Apparently people had been waiting a while, and the driver apologised twice for the inconvenience. Off at Bathurst and just missed the street car going south. Caught the next one and then deposited the rest of my Canuck cash in the Scotiabank next to the stop. Walked down to the ferry stop and had time to repack my suitcase to cushion the wine well before the next departure. 60 seconds across to the Island and then checked in and through security. I beeped going through the metal detector (no idea why, I had on a dress and there wasn't even an underwire in my bra) but I got wanded instead of patted down, a nice return to normal. Had time for three cups of tea and two biscotti in the lounge before they boarded my flight. Quick trip back to Boston and then I got to go through the US Citizens and Green Card Holders line at Immigration, it went smoothly. *phew* Also noticed that the arrivals lounge there only had Global Entry kiosks, so it's a good think I'm signed up for that. Silver line to Red line to a very confusing 73 bus (it went half the regular route, half the weekend route, and never turned off it's out of service sign). No apologies of course, welcome to Boston. Got home and just had time to unpack before watching the next episode of Game of Thrones with Cris. :)


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