Tuesday, April 2, 2024

My Toronto Love Affair

It was in the summer of 1963, me soon to enter 7th grade, when I first ventured beyond the U.S. border. My father had a business trip planned and decided to make a family vacation of it. Though it was 61 years ago, I still remember driving through New York State, stopping at the Corning Glass Wares, checking into a little hotel near Niagara Falls and serendipitously, watching the movie Niagara with Joseph Cotton and Marilyn Monroe. This would have been on broadcast TV on one of the four or five channels available at the time, so it indeed was serendipitous that it happened to be showing that night. 


Once arriving in Toronto, it didn’t feel all that different from the U.S., but still there was the excitement of being a tourist. We visited the home of my Dad’s business acquaintance (Don McNabb, if I remember correctly) and went from his house in two cars to visit the Casa Loma. My mother was worried about us losing him while we followed and told me to remember the license plate number. It is one of the odd quirks of my eccentric mind that to this day, I still remember it. B23-882. I’ve told this story to many people over the years and wonder if this license plate number will be my “Rosebud,” muttered as I pass out of this world to the great confusion of everyone present. 


Another tourist attraction I remember was the Botanical Garden and this was particularly sweet because a young girl who was a neighbor came with us. Her name was Lizzie and somehow, we both were struck with our first case of puppy love. We might have even held hands while walking through the garden. I don’t think we even met again after that walk, but I do dimly remember it as my initiation into Nature’s Law of Sexual Attraction that was the portal from childhood into adulthood. A foolproof plan for the survival of the species, a purely biological instinct that the human heart has transformed into the heights of sweetness, ecstasy and joy coupled with the depths of misery, suffering and confusion. Knowing what was ahead, would we each have chosen to pass through that portal? Of course we would!


So that trip’s initiation from puppy to dog to human love was also the beginning of a lifetime of travel beyond the known borders of my mother culture. Next on the stop was some four years later, again crossing the Canadian Border with my Aunt Flo to go to Expo 67 in Montreal. This city, with its French speakers, was a bit more alluring and exotic. My Aunt stayed with an Uncle Ben who didn’t have enough room for us both in his apartment, so he rented a bedroom from a French couple down the hall. I was a 16-year old feeling my approaching independence as I slept alone in that room with the sounds of French television coming from another room in the apartment. 


On my last night, I came into the room as usual and there was the wife in my bed!!!! This could have been an unforgettable initiation into my first sexual experience from an experienced lover and at 16, my body was ready for it! But my mind not so much as I quickly ran out of the apartment and knocked on Uncle Ben’s door. 


Turns out that there was a miscommunication about the length of my stay, so my French Mrs. Robinson fantasy was wholly unfounded and I slept on Uncle Ben’s couch. Oh well. 


My next sojourn into foreign territory was six years away, a trip to Europe with my Antioch College Chorus singing Renaissance Sacred Masses in the great cathedrals of France, Italy, Belgium and Holland. But that’s a story for another time. 


Meanwhile, I’m back in Toronto. Should I try to look up Lizzie? 

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