Val David, Toronto, 2001

Wed Oct 24/01

I got a call that my visa letter was ready at the hospital, so I packed up the last letter that I'd been given, from my last job, and biked over to the office. The Radiology dept's hr liason person, Cheryl, had left it with the SPL's secretary, Vaughan, who, of course, wasn't in today. I spoke with a different secretary and she gave me the envelope with the letter. A quick glance at it showed that it was wrong in a couple of particulars, and I was directed back to Cheryl, who, luckily, was in. She then took me to talk to Sue to verify that the changes had to be made (they weren't used to dealing with Canadian TN visas apparently, so the form letter was wrong) and we went back to the SPL to get the secretary to edit the letter and print it out again on the presigned letterhead. They only had one paper left, so we ended up printing it out a couple of times, as I dictated the changes that had to be made, once she figured out how to resize a window on a mac. *sigh* Anyway, we finally got it edited and printed out on the proper paper, and I grabbed it and hied myself out of there before anything else could go wrong. I reserved a car for rental the next morning at 8:30, and set my alarm for 7:30. I packed for an overnight stay in Val David, since a quick call to my aunt verified that they'd be home tomorrow night and I could come for dinner and leave the next morning, as well as for the weekend trip to Toronto, since my flight left Friday afternoon. I even remembered the boots for Steph.

Thur Oct 25/01

At 8am I called for pickup from the rental company, and they showed up eventually. They took me back to the first office that I'd rented from, despite my having called the last office that I'd rented from - visions of being kidnapped by the pick up driver were briefly entertained. We arrived at last at the office, a bit delayed by traffic, and I decided to skip on my free upgrade option, since my suitcase was left in the trunk of the car that they'd come to pick me up in and it seemed to be a decent auto. No tape deck though, so I had fun browsing radio stations. I managed to not get lost getting out of the city, (huzzah!) despite going a totally new way. Okay, I made one wrong turn, but firmly squashed any thoughts about looping around a block to get going the right way.

I followed 20 out through Watertown to I95, then took it up to I93 north. Stopped at the liquor store just over the NH border and was able to find the table wine that my aunt, uncle and I had imbibed at our dinner at Legal Seafoods. Grabbed a bottle of that as a thank you for having me over, and continued up through NH. The leaves were gorgeous, though they got scarcer as I went north. I was going fairly fast, keeping an eye out for troopers, since I just really wanted to get the visa stuff over and done with. Turned more directly north in Vermont to hit the Quebec border on this side of Lake Champlain, and managed to roll up to the booths at 12:30.

I explained to the woman at the window that I was going to loop back around to get my visa renewed and then come back again and through to go up to visit my aunt and uncle. She wave me through and I found my way back to the US border building, going through the check point with the statement that I was here to do visa stuff. Parked in a parking lot designed to make one feel vulnerable - under the eye of the border guards, the customs house, and the immigration office, no barriers around it to guard your car from the people speeding away from the check point. Gathered my papers, and tucked them inside my coat, since at this point it was raining yet again. Sun and rain and wind dodged the whole trip, all that was missing was solid precip. No wait for an INS agent, I think I got the nice one again. He gave me a couple of bad moments by saying that I was out of status and should have come up as soon as I was laid off from my previous job to clear things up, or gone home!, and that the much sweated over letter didn't clearly enough lay out my position. Eeep. But he let me through, I handed over the cash for the I94 and the stamp, and then he paused a moment. "You don't mind if I go over this again to show this border patrol officer, do you?" Dammit. Of course I agreed pleasantly, and stood around being nice for another 15 mins while he went over the whole application process.

Finally, I was done, and free to loop back around to Canadian customs and immigration, and the woman waved me through, w/o even asking if I had anything to declare. Hrmmm. In any case, 55 up to 10, and then managed to successfully navigate construction and heavy traffic through downtown Montreal, my eyes firmly fixed on signs for 15 north. Made it up to Val David w/o once glancing at the map, the way is apparently imprinted on my brain from all the trips we took when I was young, and pulled up at 3:30. The car was so quiet that my uncle, trying to rake the leaves in the high wind, didn't hear me until I honked. He helped me bring in my stuff, settling me in the upstairs spare bedroom. They built the house themselves, taking 30 years to do it while working in Montreal, and retired once it was done - but it was designed for large family get togethers. They'd cleared a lot of the land so that it was tons more open than the last time I'd visited, as I found out when I took a tromp through the plot of land it was built on. The view across the valley (it's midway up the slope on one side of the valley) was a mix of flame yellow leaves, bare branches, and evergreen swaths. It was a nice relaxing afternoon, I read, wandered outside, took a walk to get the mail up the road with my uncle, and listened to CBC radio and classical CDs. We had a nice dinner, and I had a tiny bit of the wine that I'd brought, and then I took advantage of the dry sauna that they'd incorporated into the upstairs bathroom, and it worked out the knots that driving had given me. I was in bed fairly early, knowing I'd have to be up at 7 the next day.

Fri Oct 26/01

It was my brother's birthday, but he was in Berlin and I was traveling hither and yon so I didn't get a chance to send him an email to wish him happy birthday. My aunt woke me up at 7am, by turning on the room light. I'd left the curtains open since the stars were amazingly clear and the moon gorgeous through the huge windows, but the sun wasn't bright enough to wake me on it's own. When the room light flicked on, my first reaction was that I was going to kill my room mate, why was he waking me up like that?!?! Reason returned as I opened my eyes to the room I'd actually slept in, and I hauled myself out of bed to get ready for the drive back to Boston. I'd calculated that if I left by 8am I'd make it home in time to turn around and head out to the airport for the trip to Toronto. A quick breakfast and hugs good bye and I was off down the road again. Navigating Montreal wasn't quite so bad this time, I was able to get back to the border and through in a reasonable amount of time, and the border patrol officer who'd been walked through my application was in the booth with the border guard and waved me through. I went back the same way, and manged to make it back to the rental place around 2pm. I figured I had just enough time to go home and unpack the stuff I'd brought to Val David with me (ie visa papers and maps and such) and head out to the airport for my flight to Toronto. The rental guys gave me a ride home, dropping off an employee on the way (after I emphasised that I was in a bit of a hurry), and I had 10 mins to turn around. Quick hi and bye to my room mate, dumped the papers, made sure I wasn't carrying anything subversive, and dashed out the door to catch the bus.

Took the bus to Harvard Sq, Red line to green line to blue line to airport shuttle. The check in line was huge, split by the entry doors, but I got into it just before it surged up in size. Took me an hour and a half to get through it, but I'd left 3 hours before my flight, so I was calm. Until they started pulling people out of line who hadn't left enough time before their flights, and taking off people working the check in counter. Grrr. I managed to check my bag finally, and made it through security no problem. So of course I had 1.5 hours before my flight, and the concourse was packed. I found the food court, which was slightly less busy, and had dinner, before making my way into the crowd to find a seat near my gate. I read for a bit (a book which I can't remember right now, but I'm sure I shouldn't have been tempting fate with it) until boarding started. They were spot checking a few people before they got on the plane, but I wasn't picked. We were a bit late getting off the ground, and a quick flight didn't quite overcome the long taxi at the other end. C&I was easy this time, but my suitcase was 20 minutes delayed. I was fretting at this point, since Dorothy was waiting to pick me up. She was still there when I made it out and put up with my babbling and somewhat confused directions to get us downtown to Pauper's pub to meet up with our henchmen. It was nippy out and we dashed from the public parking lot into the pub and started poking around for our group. Found them in a little side room, which they'd filled to bursting. :) I'm sure I'm going to forget names but: Greg and Sheryl, Lee, Axel, Trevor, Siobhan+2 friends, Casper, Liz and Ray I think, Steph and Martin, Matt and Alison, Dorothy and I were all crammed into the alcove.

I ordered a pint of cider, but ended up sipping slowly and talking, playing musical chairs so that I could talk with everyone. I popped out to get my suitcase from the car when Dorothy had to leave to go and pack some more. Various bits of the party left to wander over to clubs, and eventually Axel, Trev and myself took off for their place. Luckily it wasn't all that far, and the suitcase decided to roll nicely. Elvis was rearranged on the porch so that he could keep an eye on the street. I'm pretty sure that we just dropped off my suitcase and headed down to the Bovine to meet Lee. It was packed, so we jumped over to Savage, just missing Matt A. Waved hi to Dylan and Stephan but lost them in the crowd. Danced once I think. Yes, it's a blur, I was up at 7 and it was now around 2am. Left just before the lights went on, and a group came back to Axels to drink a bit more. Casper's pseudo stalker came with, not quite sure how that happened. Lee was looking extra toasty by this point, and I was way tired so we eventually kicked everyone out.

So, in one day, I'd managed to hit Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire, Mass., and Ontario. Not bad.

Sat Oct 27/01

I'd mapped out an ambitious day since it was my only full day in Toronto. It started fairly early, considering how late I'd gotten to sleep the night before. I packed up the boots that I'd brought for Steph in my backpack and walked up to Bloor Station and ran into Dorothy as we were both approaching the doors. We went through and found some of the TGPP members waiting on the top level. Voltaire's Bastard, Annika, Nikos, girl, boy, Dorothy and I took the Bathurst street car down to Exhibition place and stormed the Everything To Do With Sex show. The group discount we were hoping to get had fallen through, unfortunately. We managed to stay mostly together, though actual purchases tended to split up the group. Nikos bought a neat leather waist pouch with the clasp that I really like (the one on my leather kilt) but I passed on it since it was $50. I did get sucked into a hand made jewelry booth and picked up a hair stick for my room mate and a cool necklace for myself. We were accosted by various vendors wanting to demonstrate their wares, I picked up some yummy tasting powder with a tiny feather in the sample bag. The one cream they rubbed on my finger didn't really seem all that great. Dor avoided the thongs on display with single mindedness. We eventually gathered at the fashion show, and all agreed that the one model with the amazing smile and great body was our favourite. The posturing rubber clad male model was a bit silly, but hot nonetheless. I had to duck out now to make my appointment with Steph in Kensington Market and I dragged Dorothy and Annika along with me. The latter ran into a former school chum on the TTC and spent the ride up to Dundas chatting with him.

We walked over to Blue Moon and settled in with hot drinky treats, and a wedding in the intersection to keep us amused. Steph arrived a bit late from her hair appointment, but was nicely widow-peaked. I indulged in a cup of Monk's Blend tea, one of my staples from my frequent trips to Nine of Cups Cafe - no Victorian Garden though. We browsed the shops, being forcefully reminded that it was the Saturday before Halloween by the crowds, trying to build up 80's night ensembles. I passed on some cheap crinolines which I regret now. It was getting close to sushi time, though we had a reservation at Sushi Place. ;) We walked down to Queen St. and claimed the table and waited a bit for everyone to arrive. We couldn't handle it any longer once most of the group was there, and ordered. Matt and I shared a sushi pizza yummmmm, and I had the middle sized combo to refuel me. I handed off the boots to Steph finally at this point. After dinner, Axel and I headed back to his house to get ready for the list meet at Wheat Sheaf and the 80's night at Reverb.

We considered napping for an hour, but decided that it wouldn't do much good. Axel took a while to get tarted up, but the results were worth it - old school 80's goff, with original clothes from that time period. *wolf whistle* We called Sio's place and decided to head over there since the bottle neck (Casper was teasing up his hair and hogging the mirror) was going to delay us enough as it was. Taking the secret ninja back route to Roxton Manor, we arrived just ahead of BC, who seemed quite amused by the primping and preening going on. Axel borrowed her fedora and Sio's concho strap, as well as some scarves from Alison, to top off his outfit. *swoon* We bundled up and started the hike down to the Sheaf, with me being hard pressed to keep up to the power walkers, my foot still not 100% better and my stompy boots adding some weight. Got there eventually, the last party to arrive, and boggled at the outfits present. Louise was a very creditable Boy George and lisiblac was just jaw droppingly 80's. Matt A. had missed us the night before. Tetsab got a drink bought for her by a guy who decided that her costume was the best. We trickled over to Reverb in groups, and found a spot in the chill out room to settle in, after taking advantage of the guest listing. I ended up keeping my sun glasses on, since there was a strobe right near us. Martin gave us an explanation of his future performance art pieces (he's a sick boy). I occasionally ventured out into the main room but it was too fucking loud[tm] and I kept retreating. I did come out near the end to mosh a bit with Trev and Axel. Saw bathory and Klaus very briefly, the latter's Columbian necktie costume was far too authentic looking. Dorothy didn't make it, and I didn't make it over to Savage at all that night. I think this was an earlier night, since I was pooped by this point.

Sun Oct 28/01

Axel and I headed out for brunch at Sneaky Dee's, after calling Monica and her husband to make sure that they could make it, and Lee as well. We stopped in at a drug store so I could pick up some allergy pills and he could replace his sunglasses, then walked down to College. It was packed and Monica and her husband weren't able to save enough seats for us. We ended up split over two tables, consolidating as people had to leave. Mmmm, nothing like a big Mexican style breakfast to recharge after a night of debauchery. Lee showed up, still looking a bit fragile, and said that he'd just spent the day before recovering. Matt and Alison were leaving to drive back fairly soon, and Sio had to go home to take some pain killers, but I ended up staying almost to the last. Etienne tagged along as I wandered up to Bloor to deposit a cheque, pick up some cheap leggings, and grab a copy of the Tao of Pooh from Seeker's Books. He came back to Axel's with me and they had a smokey treat while I packed up for the trip to the airport.

I was leaving to get there about 3 hours before my flight at 9:30. Grabbed the TTC down to the Royal York hotel and caught the airport express bus over to Pearson. Tried to do an express e ticket check in and was foiled. Turned out that they'd removed the flight I'd booked from their schedule. Travelocity had rebooked me, but I'd not had a chance to confirm my flight before leaving. Big mistake. Last flight to Boston that night was 6:45, and at 6:15 I was too late to make it. Panic. Talked to customer service agent, who rebooked me on a flight to Providence with no charge. There was a woman at the station next to me with the same problem, also starting a job at 8:30 the next morning. Got through immigration, after a chat with the officer about my hair style (he asked why I had it that way, I like it, I said, he then started going on about his being the shortest it's ever been, but I just couldn't deal with the delay and rushed off to the customs check). Had forgotten my suitcase at the e ticket baggage check in counter, since I was flustered and forgot that I had to have it with me going through customs. Luckily they didn't blow it up or search it when I popped back out to claim it and bring it in with me. I ended up getting shuttled over to the tiny ancillary terminal for the Providence flight. They had business work stations and I settled in one to call my room mate to try and figure out how I'd get home from Providence. I knew he was gaming in our living room with a group of friends and I hoped one of them might know bus schedules. No luck, but he said he'd come get me anyway. He's amazing. We got cut off, but not before I gave him my flight info. I kept trying to call back, on the fancy phones and the pay phones, but apparently the TD bank machine network wasn't the only network down and I could not get through. It ended up being a smaller plane but a shorter flight, no idea how. My bag came through fairly quickly, and I wandered trying to find Q for a bit before calling his cell. He was in the terminal, we were just cut off from each other by a staircase. Loaded things into the car, and an hour later we were home. Threw dirty clothes in the hamper, packed for my first day of work the next day, and fell into bed.

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