Friday, June 7, 2024

To the Great White North we go, this time without the guy on stilts

A street performer very similar to this one
almost cost me my marriage in 1994.

My son Jack and I will be taking a weekend trip to Toronto, a wonderful city that is conveniently situated a mere 4 1/2-hour drive from our home.

I love Toronto, but more generally, I love Canada. This probably has to do as much with my passion for hockey as anything else, but there are many things to embrace about our neighbors to the north.

The first time I traveled to Canada was in 1985, when my dad took me and my friend Mel to Niagara Falls for a few days. There was something exotic about getting into the car and driving to a foreign country.

Because, let's not forget, Canada is its own nation. Many Americans, while acknowledging all that Canada has to offer, see it merely as the 51st U.S. state. This is both insulting to Canadians and ignorant of the fact that they have their own unique culture and worldview.

That should go without saying, but sometimes it feels like it needs to be said.

Over the years I have often returned to Niagara Falls (probably 10 times since that first expedition in '85) to go along with half a dozen trips to Toronto, five visits to Montreal, and one memorable-but-short stay in Ottawa. I've never been to Western Canada, but I hope to get there eventually.

The memorable day in Ottawa occurred in 1994. Elissa was only a few months old at the time, and Terry and I took her with us on a week-long driving vacation with stops in all of the cities named above.

When we got to Ottawa, Terry was feeling a little sick, so she tasked me with finding a drug store and getting some medicine while she stayed in our hotel room with infant Elissa.

Without an Internet to rely on, I asked around for a local drug store and got directions to a place a few blocks over. On my way there, I came across a street performer on stilts. He was very talented, so I stood for a while watching him.

I watched him longer than I realized, because by the time I reached the pharmacy, got Terry's medicine and returned to the hotel, an undeniably lengthy period of time had passed. She was understandably well shy of pleased at how long I had been gone.

For all she knew, I could have been dead.

But no, I was just watching the guy on stilts. Did I mention how good he was?

Anyway, I had just gotten into hockey around the time we visited Ottawa and decided I needed an NHL team of which to be a fan. The Ottawa Senators had come into the league a couple of years before, so I decided they would be my team, no matter how horrible they were at the time.

They have remained my team ever since. I have seen them play in person eight or nine times over the years in a variety of cities, though never in Ottawa itself.

I hope to get back there someday. And this time, if my wife is again sick, you can be sure I'll ignore the guy on stilts and focus on my mission of getting her medicine.


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