Last Thursday evening, I slipped up to Toronto for an all-too-short weekend visit (remember that in my line of work, my “weekend” is Friday and Saturday) with my boyfriend George, who lives and works there. The trip itself takes about four hours – three and a half, if you get lucky and don’t hit traffic or a backup at the border crossing. This time, the trip was uneventful, and the border guard was satisfied asking just a few simple questions. I think the best thing that I have going for me at the border is the unorthodox reality of the situation: a gay Presbyterian minister with Ohio plates but who actually lives in New York, who’s traveling across the international border to visit with his world-class violin-maker boyfriend. Really, if I were an international threat trying to unobtrusively slip across the border, would this be the cover story I’d come up with?
I was actually about five minutes away from George’s place when I received an incoming call from my mother. I was trying to work my way through downtown traffic and couldn’t take the call just then, but somehow I knew in my gut what the call was going to be about. Once I got to the condo, I returned the call and my worst fears were confirmed – bad news about my uncle, who has been battling cancer for some time. I’ll be making a separate blog post about this in the next few days. For the moment, though, suffice it to say that I was very upset when I got the news that his treatments and surgeries had not been successful, and even more upset when I got to speak with him by phone the next morning.
After that phone call, I told George that what I really wanted to do was to just go somewhere to see or hear something of great beauty. He suggested walking around a particular neighborhood that was very picturesque, so we hopped the subway and enjoyed walking through the area in the sunny crispness of the late morning. George had his camera, and we were going to take a picture or two with it or my phone, but in the process of walking and me trying to clear my head, we both forgot. I can’t even remember the name of the place we were, but it was very nice and helped me to feel a little better.
After that, we took the subway and a trolley to the Roncesvalles area, a neat bohemian neighborhood on the west side of town that at least historically has been considered Polish Village. I’d said that I wanted to see or hear something of great beauty. I hadn’t said anything about eating something of great beauty, but we managed to do that when we stumbled across Cafe Polonez, a nice, reasonably-priced little restaurant featuring, as the name suggests, Polish cuisine. Since I’m always on the hunt for a great cabbage roll or pierogi, we stopped there for lunch. We sampled both of those Polish delicacies, and they were fantastic. A good cabbage roll is a work of art. These were the cabbage roll equivalent of a Michelangelo charcoal study.
Part of the reason for this particular visit was to be there for the city’s big Halloween celebration, and we were able to experience that later Friday evening. A number of blocks on Church Street, not far from George’s, are blocked off to traffic, and the street and sidewalks are packed with people in great, creative costumes and the people watching them. This was right in the heart of the city’s Gay Village, and never having experienced a Halloween there before, I wondered if the costumes (or potential lack of them) might be a bit over the top. In fact, with the exception of one costume that would have been considered R-rated, everything else that I personally saw would have been a solid PG-13. There were even a number of families with kids in the crowd. A few times, we caught some pretty good whiffs of weed as we walked through the crowd, but not as much as you’d typically encounter at an average college football game. George and I wandered around checking out the sights, then we stopped for a short break at Timothy’s, a local coffee shop on Church Street that’s one of our favorite stops. We sat outside enjoying our coffee and watching the throng, until I pointed out that I felt ten years younger walking through the crowd, but I was starting to feel like Statler & Waldorf just sitting there watching and commenting on it all going by. So we finished off our coffees and headed back out into the mix.
It was actually getting late by that point, so we started to work our way back toward the condo. As we did, I noticed at one point that there was a costumed couple walking immediately ahead of us. They were a good looking couple – a young Anglo guy and a young Asian guy, maybe in their mid-twenties, both dressed up as some kind of Roman soldiers, I guess, holding hands as they walked down the center of the street. And then there were George and I – A middle-aged Anglo guy and a middle-aged Asian guy, both close to twice their age, holding hands as we walked along right behind them. I couldn’t help but think about how, with the difference of barely more than twenty years or so, the reality of their lives was so different from the social and cultural soup that people our age have had to swim in. I envied these two young men. Their reality is a world that’s so much better than that of my own generation with regard to LGBT acceptance and inclusivity, and which must seem downright miraculous to the so-called gay-rights “trailblazer” generation just beyond my own.
All in all, it was a good trip. Of course, it’s always great to spend time with George. While it started with a disheartening phone call with terrible news, being able to do these things with him, sharing the time, the company, the conversation, and the experiences, helped me to start coming to terms with the bad news. But Sunday morning was coming all too soon, and now it was time to get home.
“… Hello officer. Yes… Yes… Just visiting my boyfriend… Yes, I came up Thursday night…No, no alcohol, food, or firearms.”
“OK sir, welcome back to the United States.”