So it has begun, better late than never I suppose. I leave for India tomorrow and am both nervous, excited and just a touch overwhelmed. Two moths did not seem as long when I planned out this adventure. Until you have been to a place, there is only so much you can know and be sure of, the gravity of that has me wondering quite a bit about what the next 8 weeks will bring.
So far the trip before the trip has been fantastic. I decided to fly out of Rochester, NY where my parents live when I did not think I would be returning to Minneapolis afterwards, that and it is $400 cheaper. Do you know how many vegan doughnuts I can get for $400? Me neither, but its a lot.
So my girlfriend and Laurel decided to take the pre trip together with stops in Chicago, Niagara Falls and Toronto. The Chicago visit was too short, mainly due to the 10hours it took to get there in the snow, but still got to see my friends Jon and Terri and have breakfast at the Heartland Cafe in Rodgers which is always worth it.
Outside of the Heartland, all the places that Laurel and I ate were marked with peculiar wait staff, not bad, just peculiar. There was the ex-football lineman in michigan who questioned most things that he did, the nice girl in Niagara who was more than a bit overwhelmed, the fellow in Toronto who stood in a corner staring at us (we were the only ones in the restaurant) and would occasionally clear his throat which sounded like a cross between a wood saw and when your hand removed pumpkin seeds and wet pumpkin mass from the shell. I can't forget the waiter in Naigara on the lake who did a little bit of the go white boy dance as he left the table.
Haven't been to Toronto? I suggest that you go as soon as you can, think of it as a city with New York amounts of culture and style, with excellent public transportation, right on a lake, and full of Canadians (read: safer). Just be sure to work on your stiff arm technique as the crowds can get a bit pushy at times and people are so friendly they would prefer to walk into you instead of around. Stop by Niagara falls on the way, avoid the IMAX movie and tourist trappings and head to one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring views in the world. If you are in for a full panoramic view, graba drink at the top of the hilton, the lights are on the falls till 11 or 12 and you have never has a better bar view.
The highlight of the trip was due to a wall painting outside Grossmans Tavern, Laurel and I were enthralled by the blues and jazz legends on the outside and decided to check it out. As the door opened at 4pm on a sunday, you could hear live sounds of New Orleans filling the two room space, an eclectic group of people known as the Happypals were blasting out a variety of jazz tuned in their own new orleans style. The ages of the 7 piece ranged from mid twenties to mid sixties and the solos were frequent and well styled. The band was excellent and the adorable old lady dressed up having a pint and a grilled cheese sandwich was the bow on this gem. A talk with the bartender provided some insight to the unique location, the bar was established in the 1940's and is the second longest running bar in Toronto. Unlike the oldest bar, Grossmans still goes by the same name. Many of the folks painted on the wall, BB King (who I think now might be John Lee Hooker), Ella Fitzgerald, Mingus have played at the bar over the years and Grossmans was one of the first places in Toronto to have things to do on a Sunday. Additionally, the restaurant front from Kung-Fu is across the way and David Carradine would come over for double vodkas and coke to get his zen on before giving a monologue about inner peace and the search for enlightenment. The mural on the outside was painted in the early '90s when the city decided to give arrested graffiti artists jobs for the summer, the city paid half and the businesses provided the remainder. I would like to thank the city to the north of my hometown for having the foresight to see artistic talent in those folks, without their painting we would have never had this experience.
Other things we dug in Toronto include, the bloor theatre, china town, st lawrence market, riding the public transportation, good coffee, fantastic Gothic architecture, outdoor skating rinks, and the lake front view.
Thats it for this one, you made it. Tomorrow it begins again.