The Great North American Adventure – Part 1

The plane touches down in Toronto, on time and in the dark. I’m calm now but there was a time earlier in the day that I wasn’t.

Jump back to me standing at the check in desk at terminal two in Dublin airport. “Do you have your ESTA?” the girl asked. I stared at her and started to panic. “My what?”. She then explains that I need an ESTA to enter America. I race over to an internet booth and feverishly fill out the form online as my family try to calm me down. “You’ll be fine, you’re not going to miss the flight”

Now I’m standing in front of the security officer explaining my trip. I’m frozen solid for a split second as I form a sentence that doesn’t sound like I’m back-pedalling “Yeah, no. I’m doing the internship in Toronto. I’m just visiting Brooklyn on vacation”. The guard ponders for a minute, someone tags him out and tells him he’s on break, he turns back to me says “Ok, enjoy your trip” and stamps my passport.

No matter how prepared you feel, there’s always something that doesn’t go according to plan.

So a little context now that I have you drawn in. I’m a month into a 3 month journey around North America. I made the decision after going to a web design conference in January. I had met a bunch of people who were living and working in the US at both Build and NAConf, all of whom were courteous enough to extend invites, offer couches and describe culinary and alcoholic delights which I just had to experience. How could I pass this up.

Let’s go back to me touching down in Toronto. I’m greeted with two texts. One from Bell Canada welcoming me to the country with outrageously expensive per megabyte data rates and the other from my good friend Teika. “Hey kill it’s Teika. We will be at arrivals soon”. This is the beginning of a common theme. I have incredible friends. Teika’s Dad is driving now, apologising on behalf of Teika for not picking beer up so I had something to drink when I got in. We pull up to the familiar house—I had slept here a year previous on my third night in Toronto—and I get out into the balmy night air. Toronto. Home.

Jump to the reason I’m writing in this style. I’m sitting on Teika’s front porch waiting for her to arrive home after dog-walking. I’m seventy pages deep into Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk. My first attempt at a Palahniuk novel since Fight Club when I was 18. I had found the book on a shelf in the attic and decided to give it a go. I love the writing style and it’s made its way into this blog post inadvertently. When Teika arrives back I thank her, hug her and walk up to a streetcar stop on Roncy. It’s time to go back to Bellwoods.

Standing in the porch, I stick my hand into an empty letterbox, pawing around for potential keys. Nothing there. They must not have left yet, I think to myself. I ring the doorbell and a minute later I’m greeted by newly-wed Dave. “Kilian right?” and instantly we’re friends.

The front room in Ren’s place, with the chair that Mel re-upholstered

My dearest Canadian buddy Ren had graciously let me stay in his apartment while himself and his, equally dear, girlfriend Mel were travelling around Quebec. Dave, who let me into Ren’s apartment introduced me to his new wife, Meghan and we chatted away for a bit as they gathered the last of their belongings. They had made a short stop in Toronto and were about to head south, down through Niagara and onwards on their honeymoon. I waved goodbye and breathed in the familiar air. There were some very fond memories in this place and they were trickling back to me.

Those first days in Toronto were spent reliving my experiences of last summer. The very first stop was Crafted, the coffee shop on Ossington which I had lived above for two months. I had really hoped that my friend Scott—one of the baristas in Crafted—was on his shift when I arrived in. I step into the relative darkness of the coffee shop and as my eyes adjust to the change, I see Scott and I smile. He points. Disbelief and a smile occupy his face.

My first Dark and Stormy in a year, alongside my laptop and a cookie

After catching up a little and explaining that I’m only in Toronto for two-and-a-half weeks I order my usual. A dark and stormy—an espresso poured over ice and topped up with Canada Dry ginger ale. Cringe all you want coffee snobs. It’s delicious. One of the other baristas, Brett, spots me and without even saying anything goes out to the store to gets a Canada Dry because they were out. I have incredible friends.

Then it’s time to grab Ren’s bike from behind his apartment and ride the streets. The saddle is about a foot to high for me, making me stretch for the pedals. The wind whips through my hair and beard as I pedal up Dundas, then Bathurst, then College and pull into Kensington market. I quickly hop into Bikes on Wheels where I had bought my lock the previous year and one of the staff adjusts the saddle for me. Now it’s time to grab a burrito and go for a wander…

I’m going to leave the story right there. I’ve tons more to tell, even just from Toronto never mind Brooklyn and my trip back home for Funconf. Right now I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Vancouver, slurping back lemon flavoured italian soda’s and feeling quite peckish so it’s time to go explore and find something to eat.

All the best

– Kilian