Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vacation in Muskoka

I've been at Wayne's cottage for three days now and am going home today.  He's a former teacher of mine who I met again at a dinner party given by a friend of my father's and he invited me up to his beautiful family cottage north of Huntsville near Burke's Falls, Ontario.  I was looking forward to going for a couple of reasons, one being that I recently discovered that my teacher's from high school were all living breathing human beings with lives and hopes and dreams of their own.  I think in my youth I largely ignored that fact, as one ignores the fact that their parents are people and just sees them as a parent.  The other thing is I had some extra vacation time and a week away, particularly while I was trying to quit smoking, sounded appealing.

On Sunday I went to the AIDS walk with my mom and step-dad and it was a great experience, I am fortunate that so many wonderful people pledged me.  I really appreciate that.  Afterward we went over to the Word on the Street, Canada's largest book fair.  An author named Brian Francis was reading from his new book "Natural Order", a story of an elderly Ontario woman.  The author began with the idea of shame around deaths from AIDS in the early part of the disease, and wondered how these people felt now that there was more acceptance.  How did they feel about the cover ups and lies and decisions they made at the time, and that is largely what the book is about.  I was anxious to go as the author lives in Toronto and as I have aged I have also developed more appreciation for local talent. I remember a time where I mostly read John Grisham or Stephen King or very commercial authors like that and now I am interested in local people and the art of others similar to me with similar experiences. I find it very satisfying to go and see a play with an actor I have met, or see music from a local band, or read the writing of another gay Ontario man.  The reading was fantastic and meeting the author was great, although I still didn't have my voice back fully from my recent flu, however it has now come back more or less 100%. I mentioned to the author the book club I am involved with and he said he would be interested in going to one of our meeting to discuss his book which sounds amazing.  I am looking forward to that and plan to contact the local paper and produce flyers to publicize the event, it would be great to get a huge turnout both for the author Brian Francis and for the club.
Over the course of the next three days I quickly devoured the book. It was great, near the end I started to read more slowly as I felt that at the end my heart was going to break, and it did, although not as badly as I had feared.

From the word on the street I spent the night at my mom's in Minden and then went to meet Wayne my former teacher and off to his cottage.
On the way we stopped in Huntsville and went to a lookout, notice the little island in the middle right:
I thought this little island looked like a cool place.
This is the town of Huntsville:
I thought this house looked cool:
This is a nearby dam:

Wayne's cottage is a beautiful property right on the lake with boats and a huge porch.  My memory of growing up is that when I was 10 or so we moved from Toronto to a small town and I remember not wanting to go.  This coloured my opinion of small rural living for about the next 20 years and it's only recently that I stopped coming up here with a feeling of dread, as if my entire world were being ripped away from me.  I still can't say I really enjoy it, but it is less painful and I am more apt now to look around and enjoy my surroundings.
When we got here Wayne quickly decided we should go out in a boat and asked whether I wanted the paddle foot boat or the canoe.  I opted for the paddle boat and we went out into the bay and it was quite enjoyable, although still quite hot.  I think Wayne had some trouble steering so we quickly gave that up and soon went on a hike in the bush.  The bush is not my best friend, and although I'm glad I went on the hike, I spent most of it staring at my feet, trying not to step on poison ivy, or a snake, or run into anything like a bear, which he said frequented the woods. By the time we got back I was quite glad the forecast for the next couple days called for rain as it might put an end to the parade of activities that had yet to allow me to sit down.
We did go to the home of a nearby artist who makes sculptures from cement:

This is Wayne:

This is the guy's house. His chimney is a dragon and smoke comes out his mouth when the fire is lit.  A bit over the top perhaps. I just kept thinking about the resale value.

Supper every night has been wonderful but there's a lot of preparation involved when you have to source all the ingredients yourself from the land, pick and wash everything and clean the meat.  Wayne's sister Pam and her boyfriend live here full time and are quite into the land, having spent the day I arrived picked cranberries from the bog and shooting partridge. This also must be tiring as everyone here was in bed by 8:45 pm.

The next day everyone got up around 5 or so except me, and the big controversy in the morning was that someone had raided the pudding in the night.  Pam had made a fruit pie covered with biscuits and fruit she had picked and apparently someone had eaten some of it in the night.  I finally fessed up and wasn't run out of town on a rail although I'm not sure they appreciated it and may still be lying in wait to give me my come-uppance.  It was sitting on the counter and was the only thing readily accessible and I always eat in the night. Oh, well.  Shortly after rising I was asked about fifteen times or so if I wanted breakfast and after the 15th "NO!" they gave me fruit and yogurt.  "I just finished a huge pudding hours before!" I wanted to say, but didn't want to get them started on that again, so I quietly ate my meal.  We got up and Wayne decided we should now try the canoe. I have only been in a canoe once before, when I was 19 or so my partner at the time and I and another couple camped somewhere only accessible by canoe. I remember it involved a portage and the canoe ride seemed never ending, we were in the thing for hours, and I really didn't want to try it ever again.  It didn't seem to be a question however and before you know it I was in the canoe.  The thing was so tippy every muscle in my body was tensed. If I relaxed one muscle at the back of my elbow the thing would heave violently to one side and threaten to tip so I tried not to breathe for the entire ride.  Wayne would talk about the scenery and I'd move my head for half a second, say "YES!" and then move back into position to prevent a tip over. Eventually we made it back and Wayne said something like "That wasn't so bad" and I said "It was a spin through Hell for me". It may shock you but I can sometimes be a little blunt or direct, and I'm not sure how that's gone over with Wayne. He's so quiet and reserved. I gave him a book on the life of Phil Andros when I arrived and he said he would need a shower after reading 50 pages of it. I offered to take it back but he said "No, I didn't say I didn't like it" and who knows what that means. I feel sometimes as if I may be offending his delicate sensibilities, but then he'll tell a bawdy joke and appear to get right in there. He's a riddle inside an enigma.

Yesterday Wayne had a meeting to go to for most of the day. I got up and took some great photos of the sun rise, it was coming up behind me, but you get the idea. Then went back to my room and watched some tv, napped and read for most of the day. It was quite nice and gave me the relaxation I needed. 

This is the sun set that night from another vantage point.

Today it's 8:47 and I'm taking the bus back to Toronto at 2:30. I have a play tonight at 8 in the city.  I'm kind of hesitant to get out of bed as these people watch the news incessantly and I don't like TV and can't read while it's on. Also I know the second I step outside I will be hounded to eat something so I may hide hear a little longer.


We had some time to kill today before the bus from Gravenhurst so Wayne and I stopped off at a local nursery to see their "giant straw maze". Turns out the maze was only giant if you were 3 feet tall but it was still fun and they had lots of cool tableaux set up with pumpkins.

This one is my favourite, the magician cutting the woman in half:

There was a long train and this at the start of the tracks, also so cool! They just needed a pumpkin Snidely Whiplash.

From there on to a park with a waterfall as we still had more time before the bus came. I love the beach in the distance, I wonder if there's a time you could sit on it on a nice day when it wasn't full of children?

Wayne looking serious.  I said "SMILE!"

and then the bus.
I noticed the bus had WiFi and took my laptop so I got to surf the net for a while before the battery died just outside of Barrie. I noticed a plug on the bus and got off to get my cord out of my bag but the driver decided to let 300 people on before he let me at my bag. After about person 250 I realized the seat beside me would now be full and I had left my bag on the aisle seat - the outlet was on the window seat!  I raced back on the bus as the driver was calling "Once all these people are on you can access your bag!" and found some damn woman sitting in the window seat. As I didn't think she'd let me drape my computer cord across her lap, that was the end of that idea and I sat back, resigned.
I have been getting progressively more grumpy about this smoking thing and with nothing to do, this woman decides this is a good time to brush out her hair for an hour. The whole trip this woman is brushing and flicking her long hair all over me and it's all I can do not to grab it all pull it out by the roots. Once we hit Yorkville, I made a dash for the exit and took the subway downtown. The bus passed me as I was waiting for a streetcar so I made the right decision.
This no smoking thing, it gets easier, right????

Monday, September 19, 2011

New York - I Nearly Died

Back in the land of the living. After 12 days of being sick in bed I am back up.  I'm not feeling 100% yet but definately 70%, although I still cannot speak at all.
On my last day in New York I got up long enough to head down to Mood fabrics.  I was still very sick, I got there about 10 minutes before they closed, but I did make it.  I ended up walking past it about 3 times as it's under an awning and I had to cross the street to be able to find it.
There's an old-fashioned elevator there with an elevator operator working it who takes you up to the third floor. The place is massive, I had thought about looking for some fun fabric while I was there but there was so much there picking something in 10 minutes proved impossible so I just walked around and looked.
I don't know what I caught in NYC but I'm glad I'm near the end of it. 
One good thing that came out of it is I quit smoking.  I'm now on the patch.  At one point today I was tempted to try to lick the patch but that passed.  Smoking is so pervasive, I was sitting at my desk and thought "Something's wrong.  Go have a smoke and try to figure out what it is."  And then I realized that not smoking was what was wrong.  But it's right, the time is now, and I don't know what to expect when the cloud clears but I'm ready to find out.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New York 2011, Day Five and Six

I think I've died. Last night as I was leaving Avenue Q I knew my cold had finally caught up to me. I now can't breathe at all, I ache, my head hurts, the cold pills are doing little.  I called my airline as I have a $150 ticket to see "The Book of Mormon" tonight but can't go to a crowded theatre with my cough and nose and the feeling of death.  They said $400 to fly back today, $300 to fly back tomorrow.  So I said I'd wait.  I suppose I could change my mind later but if I'm just going to lie in bed and feel bad, I suppose it's not worth spending $400 to do it at home, although it would be nice.
Day five I got up and went to the Tenement Museum.
 Excellent guided tour, excellent place full of history, loved it.
 Yesterday I went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I loved this sign.
 Here's the registration hall at Ellis Island, this would have had a very large winding path that people lined up in.
 This was super cool.  The building was abandoned for 50 years and this is all stuff they found when they went back in.
 Here's the World Trade hole.  Not much has changed since I was here in 2008.
The outside of where I'm staying.
 I walked past this last night on the way to Avenue Q and I was like "Hey, I know that place."  It's Rockefeller Centre from SNL.

New York 2011, Day Three & Four

New York`s Transit Museum was my first stop today.  Built in a dis-used subway tunnel, the museum houses a lot of cool things but the best part was downstairs where they have subways from different eras, all with original period advertising.  Loved it!

Make the healthy choice and switch to Viceroy cigarettes. Speaking of which, cigarettes in Manhattan cost $15 for a pack of 20.
Face powder for that "Hollywood" finish, like on Lucille Ball!

I didn't know this was made into a movie.  I checked it out and people said this version was terrible and they preferred the 1974 TV movie version with Katherine Hepburn.  I'll have to watch that. Also when I saw this ad telling people to "leave those dinner dishes" it got me to thinking about how people took this a bit too far. It seems like this kind of thinking lead to the "do whatever you want whenever you want do" attitude we have today, no?
Perhaps I should try wearing a hat?
What exactly are "jumpy nerves" and how will this stuff help them?
 I love how this guy is like "Yeah!" like he's on the team.

 I think my mom was in this group.  Perhaps that's her on the photo?
"Slap down the Nips".  I don't even know who the "Nips" were.
I'm not sure what Gold Dust is, isn't it like a foot powder to stop itching?  So aren't they in fact mocking women with this ad, saying "Oh, sure you'll vote.  For foot powder!  Ah ha, ha, ha, ha!" And finally, is this is an ad for foot powder, why do they have two baby darkies doing the dishes? Oops, one last thing, is there a term for this style of racist baby drawings?
When I came in 2008 I took a boat cruise and saw these cable cars in the sky and thought they looked cool.  I later found out they are part of the subway system and you can get on for the same $2.25 as the subway.  This time I bothered to find them, they're the Roosevelt Island Tramway or something, and they go over the Hudson River and give a fantastic view.

My days get a little mixed up at this point.  Let's say I went home and had a nap as I still am not feeling well.  Perhaps it's the pollution or the humidity or maybe I do have a cold I don't know. Everyday here it's like in the 40's with the humidity and I come home every afternoon with my clothes soaked with sweat, I can't breathe, the only saving grace is the mornings I usually start off with renewed energy.
I don't remember exactly the order but let's say I woke up from my nap and went back to get Daniel Radcliffe to sign my other poster, the one for his new play.
I get there about 10 and the show lets out at 11.  The line is already two people deep so I'm in the third row.  This short Indian lady cuts in front of me and is stinking drunk.  She's ranting and raving, screaming Daniel Radcliffe's name, etc.  She says she's just there for a photo and she's short.  She says to me "Give me your poster, I'll get it signed for you!" and I'm like "No, thank you!" as I'm trying to dissuade her from talking to me or looking at me.  She finds out the people beside her are French and she talks in a phony French accent the rest of the time, screaming "Danielle!  Where the fuck is he!" and at this point there's the usual crowd and 12 police officers, etc. He comes out and I've been standing there for an hour and a half, even at 11:30 its still hotter than hell and I'm crammed against 500 other people. He comes out and this woman, directly in front of me remember, starts shrieking at the top of her lungs, "DANIELLE!  COME OVER HERE!" without taking a breath until a few minutes later he comes over.  She commands him like "Pose for a photo!  No pose better!  Sign my arm!  Try for a better photo!" which lasts for about 5 seconds until he gets fed up and walks away.  My poster has not been signed at this point and the girl turns around, sees it, grabs it off me, and now waves the poster shrieking "DANIELLE!  SIGN HIS POSTER! HE'S BEEN HERE TWICE!" Ah, good times.  Daniel does actually turns and gives me a little head nod but does not come back to sign the poster.  I was being pushed by 500 screaming girls and was trying to not have my poster destroyed in the rampage so I didn't get a photo of him from the front.  However I did manage to get some wonderful shots of the back of his head.

I did manage to get a photo of John Laroquette and he did sign my new poster:

And this is the poster he did actually sign from the night before.

I went down to a street fair at Union Square and then the Hell's Kitchen flea market the next day which turned out to be a bust. It was a junk fair mostly with stuff you couldn't give away except for women's jewelry and clothing.  And women's fur coats, I remember they had some nice fur coats.  Of course it was 100 degrees but if I was a woman I would have bought one. On the way back home I walked past Parson's, famous for Project Runway.

And I tried to find Mood fabrics but I was looking all over 38th street and when I got back to the hotel I checked again and it was on 37th, I had written it down wrong.
I did manage to find the High Line, a park that is converted train tracks that has a great view of the water.  The only this is I don't know what kind of plants were up there but there were a lot of them and they stunk.

I liked this ad with the water in the background: 
Also I thought this parking lot was quite cool:

Finally I made it over to the Christopher Street pier were the gays hang out on hot days.  It was sunset but there was still quite a few people there so I stopped for a while and read my book.
I got someone to take a photo of me.  Note the lack of glasses!

This is my room.  Note the Radcliffe-esque t-shirt:

And finally I bought a pair of sunglasses.  My first non-prescription sun glasses possibly ever.