Monday, August 06, 2018

Weekend adventures and fears conquered.

What an amazing weekend.

Eva took me halfway to Kathy's on Friday night. We had a happy chat in the car: she's loving her job. The handoff was completed in New Hamburg, and we went home to a mess of spaghetti.

Kathy had inadvertently dropped most of a bag of spaghetti noodles into her pot the night before, and so there was enough to feed several armies through several wars. Not for the first time, or the last, I found myself reflecting on polyamorous life. (I know, I know, I can conjure polyamory out of dust....bear with me.)

Spaghetti is part of the Eva-Ken myth: it was the first thing Eva made me, on our first date, back in June of 1999, and it was absolutely delicious. I won't divulge all her secrets here...actually, I couldn't if I wanted to. To this day, I couldn't tell you all the spices she puts in her beef, only that each one of them is necessary and all of them combine into something best tasted to be believed. She still makes spaghetti every fortnight or so and I still love it.

Now spaghetti is far from the first thing Kathy has made for me. But I was eager to try hers. And it was equally delicious...and fundamentally different. Again I won't spoil all  her secrets. But she butters her pasta. Mmmmmm. Two different takes on the same dish; each delectable in its own way. Eva's spaghetti is no less tasty for my having tried Kathy's. But I knew that, right? (smile)

On Saturday, Jade transformed herself into Venus from Sailor Moon....

...and we ferried her, along with her boyfriend Darien, to a cosplay convention in London. Faced with six hours to kill, and not wanting to go home only to have to come back out, we made our way to Byron and Springbank Park and had a nice, if hot, stroll along the Thames. We went to McIck's for lunch, then went sandal shopping for me.

One of the shoe stores was advertising $100 sandals on for $, I'm not usually one to fall for the "mark-it-up-so-we-can-mark-it-down" trick, but I am hard on footwear, as I have related here. This would be my second pair of sandals this summer; Eva has been texting me today, telling me she's put some extra money in my account specifically for me to get a pair to replace the one I'd busted.   One hundred dollars worth of sandal would probably suffice. And for thirty bucks...well, I had to look.

I take somewhere between a 10 and an 11. These things were only available in sizes 12 and 13. Figures. Damnit.

Off to Craig's. He's one of the last of my closest friends to meet Kathy. Craig has actually done several shows with Kathy's niece, and had friended her on Facebook.
Short but sweet visit. After a stop at Walmart, because apparently I am a glutton for punishment, we picked Jade and Darien up. They'd done well for themselves: their team had won movie passes AND a free round of laser tag. We headed home to more spaghetti and a horror movie called Life, a kind of Gravity meets Alien.

Not bad, although not on anything like the level of Gravity or Alien. Some very creepy moments. Very predictable ending, even if the path there was confusing at times. I'll certainly never hear the name 'Calvin' the same way again.

Sunday: the highlight of the weekend, in more ways than the obvious..Niagara Falls.

Kathy thinks that she is a bad driver. She's not.

I mean, let's not spew bullshit here. She's not on the level of someone who drives for a living. But neither is she anywhere near Canada's Worst Driver material. (That'd be me if someone would ignore all the protocols and give me a license.) Like most of the drivers on the road, she is...average.

One of the perfectly understandable things that has held her back is a fear of urban driving. My weak protests that she handles London with aplomb (and London is horrific for traffic) are brushed aside. By urban she means Toronto--the 401/427/Gardiner/DVP, and the areas they surround and are surrounded by. No shame in that: many people are scared of doing 130 km/hr with ten feet of space between cars, you know? And Toronto downtown is daunting, especially when you've hardly been there.

Oh, and she's also afraid of places like Niagara Falls--which is officially twice the size of Woodstock and barely a fifth the size of London, but unofficially...let's just say I can't blame her there, either. Forget how many people live there...because eight MILLION people visit each year and most of them drive. I can't find traffic figures for the tourist district, but I'd wager Clifton Hill, Lundy's Lane, and the Niagara Parkway easily hold their own with the busiest thoroughfares in Toronto and most anywhere else in this country.

So she was nervous about the drive. But she had two tools at her disposal:Gertie and Ken. (Yeah, I'm a tool, what's it to you?) Gertie is what she's dubbed the voice of Google's navigation software, and Kathy's not above telling Gertie where to go if she doesn't like where Gertie's telling her to go. Kathy navigates by landmark, and like most of us she derives comfort from familiarity. She'd BEEN to Niagara before, many times, which made the drive there easier than it would have been. I'd like to think I made it easier still: I definitely have a calming and grounding influence on her. Between the three of us, Gertie, Ken, and Kathy, we arrive the Falls without a hitch around noon and Kathy easily finds the parking lot she remembers from previous trips. The last of her nerves dissipates like so much Falls mist.

She has packed a cooler bag full to the brim with picnic food, the better to avoid getting gouged by the outrageous meal prices on Clifton Hill. (Eva and I had lunch at Denny's there...$70 for the two of us. For lunch. IN 2003. God alone knows how bad it is now: we have no wish to find out.) We'd originally intended to find a nice romantic picnic spot along the Parkway, but that would have necessitated hauling that fully loaded cooler back all around town. Did I mention it was sizzlingly hot? So instead we spread out our picnic overlooking the...parking lot. The food made up for the view.

First up: the SkyWheel.

And now I'm nervous. I have absolutely no reason to be nervous. None. I have tackled the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point (420 ft tall), among a multitude of other roller coasters. This is a Ferris wheel, for chrissakes. A gentler ride you couldn't imagine, and it's "only" 175 feet tall. So why is it my palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy? No sweater on a day like this, unless I'M the 'sweat-er', and I ain't pukin' up Kathy's spaghetti...but I can't deny I'm nervous. This thing would make an excellent target for a terrorist attack, my mind burped up.  Here, look, you can see the burp:

The music seems deliberately chosen to calm me: movement two of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Autumn from The Four Seasons. Also calming is Kathy's smiling presence next to me. This ride is a favourite of hers.

Safely back on terra firma, we start to meander down Clifton Hill. I'm sure most if not all of my readers have experienced the pure kitsch of this street. I haven't been here since 2003. A lot has changed, but many of the old favourites are still going, and I HAD to drag Kathy into this one:

In 2003, I went in here at 31 years of age and by the miracle of sheer terror, came out about six. It was EASILY and BY FAR the scariest of the haunted houses Eva and I tried, This time, the attendant decided Kathy and I could handle the "hardcore" setting..and I had one of those 'you can't go home' moments. It was only mildly scary. It helped that I was leading Kathy, calling out the changes in the terrain of the floor for her, and also that they seemed to go after her exclusively. But sad to say this attraction has markedly declined.

At the foot of Clifton Hill, we looked for something that might be able to shuttle us to the Whirlpool Aero Car, Enter WEGO.

Parking cost $25, which to me is outrageous. The thought of spending a further $8 -- EACH -- for a 24 hour pass rubbed me a bit the wrong way. But not Kathy. To her, this represented a deal. And as we wended our way down the Parkway, I quickly came around to her way of thinking. $8 for a day pass, by Niagara standards, is almost criminally cheap.  And Kathy had never been on a bendable bus before.

The Whirlpool Aero Car was undoubtedly the highlight of the day full of highlights:

Simply stunning. And somehow this thing didn't bother me in the slightest. It's been in operation since 1916; the guide was sure to reassure us that the cable wasn't anything near that old. It's open to the air, and entirely possible to drop things, like, say, your phone, from. I wish I had remembered to bring a big bolt on board with me (if we'd shared our SkyWheel car with anyone, it might have been better suited there...but, in the manner of Ken Breadner Sr., who has pulled this stunt more than once, I would wait until we were high aloft/out above the middle of the river and then call out "hey! where'd this thing come from?")

From here we hopped another WEGO bus to the end of the line and the Floral Clock:

Pardon that dazed expression on my face. It was BRUTALLY hot...and about to get a whole lot hotter. See the time there? The bus was supposed to run every ten minutes. We'd arrived at 3:20 and we were ready to go at 3:40. No bus. No bus at 3:50, either.
By 4:00, the sizeable crowd was getting antsy. I found it a little hard to maintain my cherub-like demeanour myself, even being used to the ways and delays of busses. It was just INSANELY hot, and there was no shade anywhere near the bus pick-up point.
When the bus arrived at 4:02 -- and yes, every minute felt like an hour -- there was a mad rush to get on. An attendant counted us off: we were the 39th and 40th person on the bus. Shouldn't have been a problem--even a Grand River Transit bus has about that many seats, and these things were easily twice the size. But it being the end of the line, I hadn't thought to account for all the people that were already aboard -- probably people who had gotten tired of waiting for a northbound bus and just taken the next southbound one instead. Whatever, the bus was absolutely PACKED, such that Kathy and I had to stand for a while until a very nice gentleman gave up his seat for her.
Standing wasn't much a problem for me -- again, when you don't drive, there are some trivial skills you develop to compensate, and standing on crowded moving busses is one of them. That said, I don't recall ever having to stand quite so long on a bus that was moving quite so FAST. It took some fancy dancing at times, and by this point in my first day in my new sandals, my feet were killing me.

I finally managed to snag a seat next to Kathy one stop before we disembarked. What with the traffic, which had been the source of the delay in the first place, that still meant ten minutes to discuss (a) how we'd be back; (b) all the things we'd do WHEN we came back; and (c) that this WEGO bus was DEFINITELY one of them.

We got off at Table Rock, near the Horseshoe Falls, and I snagged a couple more pics:

...and then it was time to take yet another WEGO bus up Clifton Hill to the car. I was ever so thankful  we had the pass by this point. Clifton Hill is STEEP.

Then the most difficult part of the whole day: getting out of the parking lot. Gertie wanted us to go left. That was a flat impossibility: what with two lanes of bumper to bumper traffic, turning right was just as difficult. We were frozen in place for about fifteen minutes and yes, the frustration was starting to mount. But then we got out, and got maneuvered around and homeward bound, and relaxed.

One more stop, at a Viet-Thai place in Fonthill called Pho Day Bo, or in English, "Pho Real". She'd never had any of this cuisine before; Nicole had introduced it to me years ago and it's filling, cheap and delicious. And so it was.

This place had durian milkshakes.

I had to.

I've been hearing about durian for about thirty years. How popular it is. How delicious it is. And mostly, how it smells like an old sweaty gym sock garnished with onion. Over and over I heard that if you could get past the smell, it tasted incredible. But I'd never even seen one for sale anywhere. So I had to.

Honestly? Take out that onion aftertaste, which got stronger as I went along, and it really was delicious. (Kathy vehemently disagrees). I found it unlike anything I'd ever tasted, even without that more-than-a-hint of onion. Sweet pineapple/avocado/coconut/just a touch of berry. But then onion. Nobody expects an onion milkshake.
Still, I'm glad I tried this. I don't think too many people on this side of the planet can say they have.

We got back to Kathy's  without any fuss at 9:00 on the dot last night. She took me home this morning just in time for work.

Hon, I had an incredible time. Thank you for...absolutely everything. And congratulations on conquering your fear. I love you.

Next weekend is something big. Stay tuned.

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