From Sunset to Sunrise: Nuit Blanche 2016

Nuit Blanche
/nwē ˈbläNSH,ˌnwē ˈblän(t)SH/

noun

a sleepless night.

One night, from sunset to sunrise, a city is transformed by artists.

The first weekend of October, Jon and I woke up with the birds at 5:30am. This was the day of our second real estate exam. We had to be out the door for 7am to make it to our exam. Needless to say, it was a tiring day. By the time we arrived home later that afternoon, we were both looking for excuses to stay home and not leave the house for Nuit Blanche that night. We were soooooo tired.

There was an 80% chance of rain and we were both (not so) secretly hoping it would rain. Our first year home full time and our first Nuit Blanche together. That sentence right there was our motivation to get off our lazy butts. It was our first Nuit Blanche home! We HAD to go.

We found the energy and pushed ourselves out the door (without an umbrella, stating that rain would be a sign to come home.) We were so happy that we did! The rain stayed away for the entire night, with temperatures that felt more like a mild summer evening than the early weeks of fall. It was almost too perfect. We were off to experience 90 different projects strewn throughout the city, by 300 artists. Our city was illuminating.

We began our Nuit Blanche journey walking to Union Station, worked our way up Bay Street to Nathan Phillips Square, then on to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and down John Street. Just a 4 km loop around the main downtown core.

As we walked down our street, we noticed that the CN Tower looked more like a guiding spaceship than our usual landmark. Maybe just a weeeee bit creepy, but these low hanging clouds and humidity in the air seem to only add to our experience of the night.

 

We had a map of all of the art, but Toronto was organized with signage everywhere across the city directing us where to go. Great job Toronto!
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First stop - Union Station. Here we found 3 installations and the crowds were just beginning to build.

On to the Design Exchange where we easily walked into the building without any line up.  We headed straight to Vertigo Sea, a video installation by John Akomfrah. This multi-screened video installation had both Jon and I completely under it’s spell. We were mesmerized by Vertigo Sea, the beautiful and haunting visual story of the “sublime sea”. We were so taken with this installation that when we returned home later that night, we searched online to see if there was somewhere we could view it again. Fortunately we found a small portion of it online. Click here to view (and I highly suggest you do!)

After watching much of this film, we joined the small line up to head into the second art installation inside the Design Exchange. Although we were close to the front of the line for the elevator, we were told that it may be a long wait since the room could only hold 30 at a time. We spent about... mmmmm... 10 seconds deciding on whether we should wait and we decided to come back later. When we exited the Design Exchange building, there was a MASSIVE and growing line up just to get into the building! It became clear to us that we may have missed out on that second art installation and there would be no going back at the end. It also became clear to us that the threat of rain was not scaring away the crowds! 

As we wandered up the (now pedestrian only) Bay Street in the Financial District, we encountered many different installations. There were some inside the buildings and some out on the street. We stopped only momentarily at each one knowing there were a few must sees that we wanted to get to before we lost steam.

(*Note* Click on any photo to enlarge. Most words that are orange in colour contain information links.)


We took a small detour down Temperance Street to Cloud Gardens and Robert Montgomery's: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

We then headed for the Eaton Centre to feast our eyes on Literature vs. Traffic by Luzinterrupts and Hand-Held by David Rokeby in the Church of the Holy Trinity. By the time we had arrived, they had relocated Literature vs. Traffic to somewhere that we never found. And the line up to get into the Church looked like this (no thanks).  --->

Oblivion

Oblivion

Nathan Phillips Square was next and this was the absolute highlight of the night for me. We didn’t experience enough of the art that night, but at least we were able to take in all that was ‘Oblivion’.

Oblivion was broken into 3 parts. The first we came upon was Pneuma by Floria Sigismondi. You might know Floria from her video direction career (Christina Aguilera, The White Stripes, Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Katy Perry) or her feature films (she wrote the screenplay and directed The Runaways starring Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart). I was so excited when I realized she was the artist behind Pneuma because I had met Floria in 1993 at the Ontario College of Art (OCAD)! My grade 13 class had taken a field trip to different Colleges and Universities in the city to explore our school options. Floria was one of the students sharing her Photography experiences at OCAD and I was there. The then yet to be famous Floria was incredibly appealing to me and I immediately had felt inspired by her. She was of Italian decent like I was, she was into Photography like I wanted to be, she had an artistic darkness about her that I felt drawn to. I think you could say that I had a lady crush. Getting to the point - Pneuma at Nuit Blanche was amazing. I posted a photo on Instagram telling Nuit Blanchers not to miss it. I wasn’t just saying this as a bias fan. Dark and spellbinding video was projected into the fountain of water in the reflecting pool at Nathan Philips Square. It was set to beautiful and haunting music that only added to the experience. If you missed it, there are many videos on ---> YouTube.

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

You couldn’t ignore what was right beside this fanciful fountain. Your peripheral vision guided you to a big white globe that read, #TheSunWillComeOutTO. We didn’t realize at the time that this meant we would be observing an artistic death of the sun. Death of the Sun was the name of this installation. It was created by Torontonian, Director X (who you may know as the director of Drake’s ever so popular music video, ‘Hotline Bling’.) 

 

Director X: Death of the Sun

Director X: Death of the Sun

See our (quick) time lapse video of the Death of the Sun below:

The third part of Oblivion was inside City Hall and it was a kinetic sculpture called Ocean by Philip Beesley. One look at the line up that wrapped around the building and we knew we would have to come back another day to experience the Ocean. Although it was on my list of things I wanted to see at Nuit Blanche, Oblivion was running for more than a week after Nuit Blanche finished. We didn't feel the need to stand in line because of this. PHEW!

Although not as spectacular as photos that were taken the night of Nuit Blanche, here is our photo of Ocean:

Philip Beesley: Ocean

Philip Beesley: Ocean

We were beginning to tire (and feel a little cranky) but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I still wanted to at least try to see what was going on at the AGO. I’ll tell you what was going on… a miracle! NO LINE UP! We realized when we walked inside the AGO that it was open in it’s entirety! This was done so that the public could also take advantage of free admission on this night. (We weren’t too excited about that, since we are fancy pants and have an AGO yearly membership.)

We did however watch the performance art happening in Walker Court. Artist Rebecca Belmore was painting New Project in what looked like clay, on the floor.

Rebecca Belmore: New Project

Rebecca Belmore: New Project


She is known for her political and social activism as well as her art and although to the eye it appeared to only be a quiet woman painting ordinary words on the floor, it felt like so much more. There was a strange sombre feeling in the room and we walked away feeling as though there were more questions to be asked.

Leaving the AGO we couldn’t believe the LINE UP to get in now! No rain AND we had made it in moments before the crowd!! Score! (<-- do people say that still?)

At this point we made a decision and began our journey home.

 

 

This is a guy who believes in safety first while riding your bike. -->

Arturo Duclos: Utopia's Ghosts

Arturo Duclos: Utopia's Ghosts

Heading down McCaul Street we came across another line up to get into OCAD, so we passed. Outside of the building was a mural called The Merging by Nicola Verlato. We only walked by, not stopping for any length of time. Home was our mission now. We stopped to look at Utopia’s Ghosts by Arturo Duclos. This was a collection of images of the world’s fallen flags. I took this photo upside down because I believe my brain was feeling upside down at the time. Or some may say I had "bed on the brain."

 

We started to hit thicker and thicker crowds as we walked through Queen Street and King Street’s Entertainment district. Both Jon and I began to feel impatient with the crowds. We unfortunately only glanced at most of the art on John Street because of this. We turned on to King Street with all intentions of walking in the underground PATH to avoid the crowds, but decided to take our last few photos outside, especially since the mild temperatures were continuing to work with us. 

Although we had only experienced a small portion of the art and installations that we were hoping to see, we had to admit that we finally hit our wall. 10:30pm felt like our bed was bellowing to us to come lay in it. We had really wanted to go to Kensington Market and the Bata Shoe Museum and the Waterfront and experience more of what we were now seeing on social media. There seem to be so many exceptional installations and works that we didn’t even know about when we first began this journey. We knew we had missed out on additional spectacular art. We kept wondering if maybe we should have planned better and chose a different date to write our exam. That hindsight... always 20-20.

To sum up our night: 

Our city had so much wonder in store for those of us who were out and about. There was a feeling of community. Smiling and laughing crowds enjoying their night. Dazzling art for your eyes and ears. And line ups, so many line ups.

For those of you who have never experienced Nuit Blanche, we highly recommend you do it. As one of the taglines said, you can sleep Sunday! It will wow you in so many ways. Some installations were more thought provoking than others and some were more visually stunning. One of the things that had surprised me the most was the attendance. In general, I have so much excitement realizing the support and love that our great city receives and Nuit Blanche highlighted that for me. Young, old, families, couples, every race, religion you name it… people were wandering the streets sharing this experience of (artistic) inclusion. Other than the graffiti on our beloved Toronto sign, there were seemingly no major issues. I love that so many people constantly come out to experience all that our city has to offer. 

(Side note: days later we saw a young Toronto worker scrubbing the graffiti off of our Toronto sign. I had said to Jon, “that is such a thankless job, but I’m so thankful he exists. I hope people tell him.” We were quite far from the worker and without a thought, Jon walked over to the young man and thanked him for helping to keep our city clean. The young man thanked us for thanking him, as you do.)

I wish we had better photos of all of these wonderful artistic installations to share. On one hand I’m glad we experienced it and weren’t focused on taking photos. On the other hand, I wish we had better photos to show all of our wondrous readers how incredible the night really was.

After the wonderful night that was Nuit Blanche, we returned to Oblivion at Nathan Phillip’s Square three more times. Oblivion was showing for 10 days in total. In my opinion, it was magical and deserved multiple visits. Below are a few of the photos that we took in those days following. 


This gentleman above knew there were people taking photos of the fountain and the art that was a part of the fountain. 
He was being inconspicuously conspicuous and allowing us all to photograph him and his bicycle as well. 

DEATH

OF THE

SUN

Thank you for joining us on our journey!
For more information on Toronto's Nuit Blanche 2016, the art & the artists and the breakdown of sponsorship & curating, click HERE.

P.S. We aced our exam!

 

 

 

Toronto: Then and Now

It has been said that a city is much like a person. They all have a few skeletons in their closet, they go through growing pains, and the events they experience can define them, for better or for worse.

Toronto has a rich and colorful history that can be explored in many ways. For the more active and adventurous, Heritage Toronto has an exploration map and plaques throughout the city for you to discover. 

 

 

The Toronto Archives holds a treasure trove of images for any Toronto history enthusiast. The 1.2 million photographs are housed in a climate controlled facility that reminds me of the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

For the cyber-explorer, the online archives  have almost 97,000 photos available to browse at your leisure. The oldest is a map of Toronto Harbour that dates back to 1792. You can also find a panorama shot stitched together from the oldest known photos of Toronto from 1856 of our very own neighborhood. I guess that’s why it’s called old town.

 

We decided to explore some of Toronto’s history online, on foot, and via Google Street View and give it the Photoshop treatment for this week’s blog, Toronto: Then and Now.

 

With special thanks and photo credits to Toronto Archives.

This before photo by Arthur Goss from 1913 was commissioned by the Toronto Health Department. It was to be included in a report regarding the poor state of Toronto's housing. The property was located in The Ward, a notorious slum in the heart of the city. This property, demolished soon after, was located where the Nathan Philips Square ice rink is today. You can see Old City Hall in the background.

Then and Now Toronto: The Ward, 1913

 

 

Did you know that our "new" city hall is actually the city's fourth? 500 designs from 42 countries were submitted in an international competition that was very much ahead of it's time. It's hard to imagine our Nathan Phillips Square without this "futuristic" and iconic building completed in 1965. It has been an integral part of numerous films and even appeared in Star Trek comics as early as 1969 and an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the The Devon Corporation headquarters in the popular Pokémon franchise as well.

 

 

This inside shot was captured by John Boyd, photographer for the Globe and Mail. It was taken on Bay Street on May 7, 1945, the day Germany unconditionally surrendered to the allies.

 

 

Commissioned by the City Engineer and taken by F.W. Micklethwaite in 1899, this old photograph shows a drinking fountain just south of the Spadina Circle. These drinking fountains were commonplace in Toronto in the late nineteenth century, with a trough for horses, a common cup for people and even a basin for dogs! The Health department later deemed them a public health hazard and replaced them. One remains on King Street East near St. James Cathedral.

 

 

Commissioned by the City Engineer's Department, this photograph illustrates the near completion of the construction of the subway, or underpass, at Queen and Dufferin Streets in 1897. Visible in the background is the 1897 Gladstone Hotel.

 

 

Then and Now Toronto: Jolly Miller Hotel, 1936

Invoking memories of North York's rural past, Yonge Street appears as a mere country lane in 1936 rather than the main arterial route north out of the city that it is today. The railway track parallel to the road, is in fact, a streetcar line that took weekending Torontonians all the way to Lake Simcoe. The Jolly Miller Hotel is still there, a heritage building and popular restaurant now called The Miller Tavern.

 

 

Taken by city photographer Arthur Goss in 1917, this photograph of the Bloor Street Viaduct under construction was used as the cover image for the City of Toronto Archives' book Toronto's Visual Legacy, celebrating the city's 175th anniversary. The viaduct gained fame internationally through Michael Ondaatje's novel, In the Skin of a Lion.

 

 

Looking north up Yonge Street today you can still see some of the buildings from the turn of the century. It is amazing how many structures that are 100 years old remain here in Toronto. It is becoming a hot topic of debate - which buildings will survive the upward sprawl of today's condo boom? It is at least a consolation that many of the facades of some of our historic buildings are being preserved.

 

 

The area around Yonge and Dundas has gone through massive changes from the construction of the Eaton Centre in 1977 to the re-launch of Yonge Dundas Square in 2002. While the Hard Rock cafe building remains structurally the same from when it first opened its doors in 1978, the facade and the fashions have changed.

 

 

Finally, looking north from Yonge Dundas square today, the new Ryerson University building dominates the landscape that was once reserved for the sparkling neon lights of Sam The Record Man. Sadly, one of the only recognizable buildings remaining in this stretch of downtown Toronto is the decrepit and sad looking Zanzibar strip joint, and something tells me it's days may be numbered.

 

If you'd like to check out a few more "Then and Now" photos from New York and Berlin, click here.

 

I hope you enjoyed browsing these images of this amazing city we live in. Every day Cheryl and I discover something new by taking a side street less travelled, or simply googling "old Toronto photos". Googling "old Toronto photos" was what started me on the path that is this little blog project. Remember not to take for granted that we live in one of the best cities in the world. Go out and (re)discover it.

 

 

 

 

Fan Expo 2016

 

2 years ago, Jon and I were headed to the Arcade Fire concert at the Molson Amphitheatre. As we walked past the Metro Toronto Convention Centre we noticed that there were an awful lot of people dressed up as though it was Hallowe’en. What in the world is going on here? We really had no idea.

Fan Expo 2014

fanexpo-2nd-photo-insert

 

The next day we walked past again on our way to the Toronto Blue Jays game. And still, costumes everywhere. (I managed to photo bomb a storm trooper that day.)

By now the curiosity was killing me. Did Toronto have a Comic-Con or something like a Comic-Con? How was I (self proclaimed Toronto expert) so out of the Toronto loop that I didn’t even know we had a Comic-Con? I asked the oracle (Google) and sure enough, we had an event running that very weekend at the Convention Centre. It wasn’t Comic-Con, but it was a Comic Convention and it was called Fan Expo.

Apparently Fan Expo had been happening since 1995! I have no idea how I had completely missed this for almost 10 years! 2014, the year we had walked by twice in one weekend, it had record attendance at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Fan Expo encapsulated both the entire north and south buildings and 127,000 people walked thru those doors on that Labour Day weekend.

Although Fan Expo had beginnings in Comics, Science Fiction and Fantasy, it has expanded greatly. Comics, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Animation, Anime, Manga, Videogames, collectibles, toys, TV, Movies. Everything… well… pop culture. 

This is our first summer back in Toronto full time and I knew I wanted to experience this “Fan Expo” thing and find out what it was all about. It took a long time for me to decide which day to go with 4 different days to choose from. We couldn’t afford to buy tickets for multiple days, so choosing just.one.day was difficult. I had no idea what the differences were between days or what to expect at all. In the end I judged it based on the most exciting draw for me - celebrities who would be there. Were they there in the flesh? Could you see them? Did you meet them? I didn’t know, but I was going to find out. And I chose Saturday.

At this point I really wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this. I’m not a 'Trekkie' (or 'Trekker' I hear is the correct term), I am not a Star Wars fan (although Jon is a HUGE fan) and I’m generally not into video games or collectibles or toys. My knowledge of comics is limited to: Stan Lee is super cool and I do prefer Marvel over DC blockbuster movies. But I do love celebrity, I LOVE people watching and I knew there would be a lot of dress up going on. (Since then I’ve learned it’s called Cosplay… And it’s serious business.)

Let me take you through our day, in photos:

 

fanexpo-1

As we get off the escalators, we begin to think maybe we should have dressed up too.

The first of many Spidermen of the day was Canadian Spiderman. Oh Canada!

He was very sweet to pose with one of the smallest Strom Troopers in the squadron (is it a squadron? I’m still learning lingo)

fanexpo-2

fanexpo-3

We were going to have to get used to asking a lot of permission for photos with people, so we practiced on these two non-human statues. We asked, they didn’t mind, so we posed.

 

We immediately stumbled upon the 'Celebrity Autograph' area. I would like to point out that this photo is of the crowds already forming for autographs, time stamped at 10:12am. Fan Expo opened at 10am.

fanexpo-5

Oh yeah, longest line up of the day. And the most expensive autograph - Mark Hamill. (He's LUKE SKYWALKER, even I fangirled a little!) Side note: Each celebrity charges for their autograph. Those charges were anywhere from $40 - $100. Stan Lee was $100, as was William Shatner. Mark Hamill though, his autograph cost $200. TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS! Luke Skywalker, shame on you! But the people still waited the longest and still paid the most.

As I was taking photos of all of the celebrity’s names, I hear someone yell, “CHERYL!” It was my oldest friend, Chris Hynes who I'd known since I was 3 (and hadn’t seen or spoken to in 5 years!) We met while we were young and attended junior and senior kindergarten together. We ran into him 3 different times that day (I have no idea how – 2 buildings, 6 floors, 100,000+ people.) We learned that he had indeed paid for the Mark Hamill autograph. He told us he had planned this great thing to say to him and when he was finally in front of Mr. Hamill all he could muster was, “Luke Skywalker.” Childhood excitement hits you in the gut when you least expect it (and takes away your ability to speak too).

 

 

 

This is what I was looking forward to the most!
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All day I continued to take random photos of the crowd. Once in awhile I would learn, after I took the photo, that someone was seeming to stare into my camera lens. (See one example here --->)

 

 

More fan line ups for cast members of The Walking Dead.

Jon’s inner fan boy came out with every Star Wars costumed person we saw. I could have made an album called, "Jon and his Star Wars heroes."

There is a story to go with Lando Calrissian (photo below). We were chatting with this young man and he told us that he is normally a very shy guy but when he gets dressed up for these events, everything changes. Dressing up helps him to come out of his shell and be able to speak easily to people. Jon and I had discussed this earlier in the day and after speaking to “Lando” we continued to feel proud of/happy for these young fans who felt empowered from and getting so much out of this experience.

There was a zombie corner where you could get yourself Zombified. And there was even the guy who won the Rick Grimes look-a-like contest who was hanging out posing for photos. (For those of you who don’t know, Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) is one of the main characters in TV’s The Walking Dead.)

Many many many kiosks of stores selling every collectible, trinket, toy, game, clothing items, costumes that you can imagine. This would be the perfect place to get all of your Christmas and birthday shopping done for any superfan of... almost anything. If they are a superfan of taxidermy rats and mice, they have that covered too. Or for the fan of lawn gnomes. Or prosthetic masks. (Can you tell we are still in the Horror area?)

Jesus yelled at me. He only let people take photos of him for donations. Which I was quickly learning wasn’t the norm and only a small percentage of cosplayers were asking for donations. I had asked him (Jesus) what the money was going toward? He opened his mouth to show me two missing molars in the very back of his mouth and he said, I need new teeth! (I didn’t give him any money, and I live with this blurry photo and the memory of our conversation.)

Snow White was there. Although I will say Elsa from Frozen seemed to be the most popular Disney costume. I missed out and I wish I had taken a photo of my two favourites of the day. One of my favourites was a grown woman dressed as Ursula (from The Little Mermaid). She had full purple body makeup and all! Another was Fiona (from Shrek) and she also had the full green body makeup. My eyes were overwhelmed with so many dazzling costumes walking by in every moment of the day.

Oh that’s Denis O’Hare (photo below). He’s in all of the American Horror Story seasons. And Dallas Buyer’s Club, Milk, The Proposal, Law & Order, True Blood… just to name a few. I’m a fan. We were allowed to take photos of the celebrities as they signed autographs, but we had to stand behind a certain line if that was what we wanted to do. My zoom didn’t allow for better photos than this. Damn you zoom lens!

One of my favourite photos of the day was Abraham from The Walking Dead (Michael Cudlitz) taking a selfie for a group of fans. He was the only celebrity that was walking around on the other side of the autograph table speaking to his fans. I heart Abraham. I hope in The Walking Dead season premiere in October, he isn’t the one to meet his end by way of Lucille. (Maybe I know more about Fan Expo, fan girling and nerd fest than I thought.)

For any vampires who need to be able to walk in the sunlight, Damon Salvatore’s ring was on sale here (The Vampire Diaries). Oh wait, just a replica. Won’t really work guys!

Do you see it? DO YOU? I had a small tear in my eye. It's DOC BROWN FROM BACK TO THE FUTURE! (The amazing Christopher Lloyd). At this point I’m starting to realize I’m in full on fan girl mode now.

 

Kate Mulgrew, but more on her later.

 

 

This man was a Star Wars fan, I could tell.

 

 

Kylo Ren getting himself put together.

 

 

Did anyone else know that the Ontario Ghostbusters existed?

Spock. This guy. This photo just happned to capture Spock while I was taking crowd photos above my head. Later on I was looking at him with my camera pointed in his direction. He wagged his finger at me and shook his head. I said, “No?” He said, 'You must first donate'. Okay cool, Jon was reaching into his pocket to find money to donate to Spock's cause. Up until this point, only a few of the organized groups with costumed characters had a donation "bucket".  All had said donate what you can but not one had said you can’t take a photo without giving (except 'Jesus'). Spock began lecturing us about exactly that. I was so taken aback by the lecture while we were already getting money to give to him that we changed our mind and walked away. When I was home later I realized I had accidentally taken a photo of him already. HA! Joke’s on you Spock! 

 

 

 

 

So much controversy around Coplay for this event. Whether it be donations made or groping of the many scantily clad females that walked around. This sign was in place to remind us all that COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT.

This kid was THE BEST. He literally pushed past us to reach his friends who were in line for an autograph. He had just reached the front of the line for Mark Hamill. He was SO excited and was screeching to his friends that he had just met Luke Skywalker, guys! It was the most real moment I experienced all day and my heart grew two sizes bigger hearing his innocent excitement about meeting his movie hero.

 

I’m pretty sure this ghetto blaster-ed person was there for John Cusack.

 

 

 

I don’t know what to say about this photo. That kid looks terrified. Or maybe we should be terrified of that kid.

Crossing over into the South Building we saw this. We later learned that every floor of both the north and south building looked like this.

 

 

Beauty and the Beast 2: Belle and the Bunny Rabbit

 

Does anyone else see Pokemon and Pikachu going at it in the corner (I don’t know… is that Pokemon and Pikachu?)

I found myself wondering all day long if this was practice for Hallowe’en. People didn’t do half-assed dressing up, it was full on give it all, best costumes ever. All day long.

 

 

 

 

There was Sci-Fi speed dating.

This was the line up for what ended up being my favourite parts of the day – the celebrity Q&As. This particular line up was for John and Joan Cusack (see video below for sound bites.) This particular Q&A was hosted by Donnie from Orphan Black (Kristian Bruun), this was a double score for me. There was also a lady in this line who we had spoken to. She had John Cusack sign a new hairdryer. We asked, why? Her response: It was a Conair hairdryer and he was in the movie... Con Air.

No explanation needed. Except possibly to say, they were awesome! Joan was a bit quieter than expected and I had no idea John was a screenwriter (High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank are his!) I was thoroughly entertained and they were incredibly gracious to their fans.

The lineup that we went to immediately following the Cusacks was for Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Fall, Hannibal etc...)

She was so much funnier than expected. I loved her already. This made me love her more. Many of her questions from the audience were from young ladies who spoke of how her characters have taught them and empowered them as females. At the end of her Q&A, she auctioned her T-shirt for charity and started it at $200. Two young ladies bid it up to $2200! In the end Gillian didn’t want to allow them to spend all their money (knowing they were both so young) and had them both come backstage to meet her. Awesome.

 

 

We had a break after that and I think it managed to get even busier in the buildings. We had time to kill before going to Kate Mulgrew’s Q&A (Red from Orange is the New Black or Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager). She was so incredibly kind, gracious, intelligent. I didn’t take photos of her, but we do have video below.

Oh did I forget to mention that Batman and Robin were there? Burt Ward and Adam West (yes, the same Adam West from Family Guy). And Ben Mackenzie and Morena Baccarin from Gotham. I don’t watch Gotham so I like to think of it as Ben Mackenzie from The OC and Morena Baccarin from Homeland and Deadpool. And yes, Morena is very pretty in person!

Oh who might that be below? Yes, yes. It’s Luke Skywalker! Although we were told we COULD take photos all day, they began telling us no photos at this time. No big deal, I’m a rebel - I got the shot.

 

Michelle Nichols from the original Star Trek (Uhura). 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, people! This called for Michelle Nichols, William Shatner, George Takei, Kate Mulgrew and Brett Spiner.

Below are Jon’s iPhone photos of Game of Throne’s Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and William Shatner. And there’s also Sasha from Walking Dead! She was SOOO pretty in person. A smile that lit up her face and probably a room. Maybe not this room, it was rather gigantic.
If money had been no object we may have stood in line for autographs, but this time around we watched how it worked and drank the experience in.

If celebrity isn’t your thing, or shopping for weird and wonderful things - they also had areas for Lego, Hasbro, Ubisoft, Sony, Playstation, Nintendo, Space channel and even more. They also had an "Artist Alley" where there were so many cartoon and comic artists, street/graffiti artists, painters, sculptors, you name it, they had it. Oh and a room with a live game of Clash of the Clans happening. Anything and everything to make anyone happy.

I think this was a costume competition. Groot only said Groot. Lego Batman couldn’t speak. Little Rae from Star Wars, well her dad made the costume (see as she points to her dad in the below photo).

So much going on in the below photo. Awesome costume of purple lady in the middle. Then you have little kid who looks to be stand sleeping on the left. And John Lennon picking his nose on the right.

 

 

He collects pins. An impressive amount of pins.

I know many think this type of event is for 'nerds'. It is for nerds, but what I learned on this day is: we are all at least a little bit of nerd!

I felt overwhelmed by the excitement that surrounded us all day, I loved watching the people and getting so many good ideas for Hallowe'en, I fan-girled out with tears during my celebrity Q&A experience. Side note - when I am at concerts, I sometimes cry. I cry because I’m excited, but also because I always think how unreal/overwhelming/surreal it must be for those artist up on the stage, looking down at tens of thousands of fans singing their songs back to them. I was teary at the Q&A’s, listening to the fans, so many of them young fans, get emotional and telling their favourite celebrity how they and their characters have changed that person’s life. --It also reiterated that celebrities have a difficult job in being this type of role model to so many unknown, young, impressionable fans. That’s probably something to be saved for a more serious blog post.

We missed seeing Jay and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes) as well as Stan Lee in his last Fan Expo appearance. These both made me sad. But we were able to see so much and had such a great day, it was only a tiny bit of sad. We now know exactly what we are going to be for Halloween (HINT: it won’t be Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo again) and we know that we may be going to Fan Expo again next year.

Oh and a tip if you attend in the future: you are allowed re-entry. Go outside to the hot dog carts in front of the Convention Centre for lunch. $8 slice of pizza inside or $2.50 jumbo dog outside. You do the math.

All in all, what a great day! Thanks, Fan Expo. Thanks, Toronto!

What I ate at the CNE

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) has held many memories for me over the years. For some it marks the beginning of the end of the summer. Back to school sales are starting and the days shortening just enough to be noticed by the earlier sunsets. The rides have always been a big draw for the kids, as have the midway games with young suitors trying to win hearts and stuffed animals at the occasionally rigged game booths.

My first experience at the CNE, otherwise known as "The Ex", was when I would spend summers in Toronto from 1985-87 to visit my Dad. He arranged a summer job for us kids with a catering company that catered all of the concerts at the old CNE grandstand. I was working backstage stocking the trailers and hospitality tents with food and drink during the few glorious weeks of shows before, during and after the Ex. As an 11 to 13 year old kid, I thought I had the coolest job in the world. Doing mountains of dishes and feeding the roadies and rock stars seems a bit surreal to me now. My claim to fame during these years was that I personally removed all of the brown M&M’s for Van Halen (it was in the rider, 5 lbs of M&M’s, no brown ones). I experienced and saw more things than I should have for a kid that age but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. I wish I could go back in time to fully appreciate all the bands - David Bowie, New Order, Bruce Springsteen, The Cult, Pink Floyd and COREY HART, just to name a few.

One of the biggest draws of the Ex now is the food. Back in the day, I don’t remember it being the spectacle it is now in the food building. It seems like every year the vendors are trying to out do each other with the “frankenfood” creations. This year, sweet and savoury combinations seem to be the rule of thumb, with the old faithful, deep-fried (insert food here) being ever present. Let’s hope that we don’t have a repeat of 2013’s cronut-burger fiasco. I hope Epic Burger and Waffles learned their lesson; refrigerate the condiments! I am sure this year many of you have already read numerous top 10 must try food lists at the CNE. I am going to try to sample some of the best (and worst) and give you a heads up on this years offerings in my first ever blog called WHAT I ATE AT THE CNE.

My girlfriend Cheryl and I did a full circuit of the sweatier than usual Food Building to get our bearings and decide what to eat first. It was packed with all shapes and sizes of people of every persuasion. The Ex is always a people watcher’s paradise. After careful consideration, we zeroed in on our first stop on our culinary adventure.

 

 

1:30pm - Churro Burger ($14 / 1200 calories) - Epic Burgers & Waffles, Food Building

This CNE food building stalwart is only open during the CNE and has a loyal following. The new offering this year was the Churro Burger. I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before (large popcorn with extra butter, we went to see Suicide Squad, average at best) so I had quite the appetite. The line up was a bit long but the wait was worth it and the churros were fresh out of the fryer. The burger patty was juicy and the cheese melted perfectly. They asked if I wanted lettuce and tomato and I figured some healthy additions would be a good idea. The crispy and cool lettuce and tomato was a nice contrast to the burn the roof of your mouth-ness of the churro. The sweet, salty, greasy, sugary, savoury mix was a hit. Next year I will go for the donut burger, which looked amazing.

 

 

 

2:00pm - Deep Fried Cookie Dough ($3 / 250 calories) & Deep Fried Reese Peanut Butter Cup ($4 / 350 calories) with Caramel topping – Cookie Dough Me, Food Building

We spotted these balls of deliciousness and were initially going to have them for dessert a bit later in the day. However, we decided that dessert should come early. We let them cool as we walked over to our next destination. SO DANG GOOD. They were heavy though. I think it would have been too much to have any more than one, plus I needed to save some room for stop 3, 4 and 5 and 6. I could eat one of these doughy balls every day for the rest of my life and be a happy man (insert balls joke here).

 

 

 

2:15pm - Philly Steakclair ($14 / 1200 calories) – Philthy Phillies, Food Building

I wonder if every year, the vendors sit around and discuss, “I wonder what we can substitute for a regular bun in a sandwich that these idiots will line up and pay twice the price for? Donuts as buns? What about grilled cheese as buns? Jamaican meat patties as buns? You say it’s all been done before? Ah yes! Chocolate éclairs! Ureka!” And so this is how I ended up eating shaved philly cheese steak in a chocolate éclair with crème and all. The steak was top-notch, the éclair was OK not great. This messy experience was not really worth the $14. The straight-up philly cheese steak sandwiches looked and smelled amazing. The lineup was big, I was the only one to order the novelty sandwich. Lesson learned.

 

 

 

3:00pm – Big Pickle Dog ($9 / 1000 calories) – Pickle Pete’s, Midway

This pickled up version of the carnie classic looks really good on paper. A corn dog where the dog is stuffed into a giant pickle and then battered and fried. This curiosity was at the top of my list this day on my quest for carnival food. Unfortunately, it was kind of flavourless and a bit watery. The pickle was not tart enough, the dough was not salty enough and the wiener was lost in the mix. The big pickle dog contained 100% of my daily allowance of vitamin G (grease) however, so there is that going for it. The deep fried pickles at Hooter’s are 10 times better, which doesn’t say much.

 

 

 

At this point I am sweaty, bloated and on my way to some old good fashioned diabetes. Fortunately we have tickets to the Argos/Eskimos game at BMO Field so I have a chance to digest and have a couple cold beers to wash down my lunch. Sitting down for 3 hours is just what the doctor ordered. On second thought, no doctor in their right mind would condone any of my not so healthy choices today.

 

 

 

7:15pm – Ramen Burger ($12 / 900 calories) – Yatai by Liberty Noodle, Food Building

I love Ramen Noodles. I love Burgers. I only liked this burger. I noticed it last year and had food envy when I saw someone enjoying it. Am I glad I tried it? Yes. Will I order it again? No. The ramen bun was not as big or as grilled as it was the photo. The burger patty was very good, cooked to perfection and seasoned just right. The Durty Fries and J-Pop chicken that everyone else was ordering from this place gave me food envy all over again.

 

 

7:45pm – Tacos Grillos with chili lime crickets ($8 / 600 calories) – Bug Bistro, Food Building

One of the big food items on the lists this year is the hot dog with crickets. I was debating on whether or not to try it and then this taco jumped out at me from the menu Anyone that knows me knows I love tacos. Anyone that doesn’t like tacos has something wrong with them. I’d be willing to bet even Donald Trump likes tacos. After all, they do come from Mexico and his Trump brand suits are made there! So this taco has Tabasco chili lime crickets and sirloin, tomato, onion, cilantro and spicy crema on a corn tortilla. The crickets dusted the top of a really good taco. You could see the legs, wings and bodies sticking out. They were very light and crispy, and they had a kick. The corn tortilla was the only thing that wasn’t great. It wasn’t very fresh and fell apart a little bit. I find it funny that this cricket taco was probably the healthiest thing I had put in my body all day. Up until this point Cheryl had at least a bite of everything I tried. She passed on this one.

 

 

 

 

 

So at this point in the evening it was almost time to go watch the Tragically Hip concert with the rest of the country. This event will be one of the “where were you when” moments for a lot of us Canadians. I will always remember it as the day that I ate cricket tacos. It was nice to sit down again and have one last cold beer on a hot summer evening with an extremely full belly. The concert was being shown at the CNE Bandshell, and with the exception of the technical difficulties (the first 5 songs sounded like they were in an echo chamber) it was a powerful, poignant moment to share with my girl Cheryl and a big crowd of our fellow Canadians.

 

 

 

11:30pm – Bacon and Pulled Pork Cinnamon Rolls ($10 / 1600 calories) – Howie’s Cinnamon Rolls, Midway

 

What better way to finish off the night than with a nice light 1600 calorie dessert. I was looking to try the pulled pork roll on its own but they ran out of regular cinnamon rolls. They offered me the one with pulled pork AND bacon for the same price! SOLD! It was gooey, salty, sweet and soft, all in a good way. The melty icing topping mixed and mingled with the crispy bacon and pork like they were meant to be together, kind of like peanut butter and chocolate.

That was the cherry on top of my incredibly unhealthy day. In NO WAY do I condone this sort of bad choice behaviour, kids!

 

When all was said and done this was another great day out at the Exhibition. For those of you thinking of heading down, see if you can combine in your CNE visit with a concert at the Molson Amphitheatre, a TFC game or an Argos game as your admission to the CNE is free when you are going to one of these events.

 

For those of you not keeping track of cash and calories, here is a quick recap:

 

 

 

Churro Burger $14 / 1200 calories

2 Deep Fried Desserts $7 / 600 calories

Philly Steakclair $14 / 1200 calories

Pickle dog $9 / 1000 calories

Ramen Burger $12 / 900 calories

Tacos Grillo $8 / 600 calories

Pork & Bacon Cinnamon Roll $10 / 1600 calories

 

2 Tall Boy Cans, 1 28oz draft beer: $41

 

Calorie intake with beers: 7600

Cost: $105

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I enjoyed eating the food. See you next year Exhibition!

Hi, I’m Cheryl

It began as far back as I have memories.

I was born in Toronto and until the age of 7, I lived in Toronto. I don’t remember a lot about those days in the city. When I was 7, that’s when my family and I moved to this “small” suburb called Mississauga. I didn’t know the difference between Toronto and Mississauga, just that a new home and a new school were in my future and having to make new friends was going to be involved. We did go to visit the grandparents practically every weekend in Toronto, so I knew we didn’t live far from where we once had lived.

The age of seven. This was about the time when my memories of Toronto began to flourish.

The ride into the city, and for those of you old enough to remember, the Gardiner “bump”. The excitement I would feel knowing I was close to Toronto. The Palace Pier condos were the sign that you were almost there. And then you would see her - that beautiful tall structure named the CN Tower. And if we were lucky enough to be heading east into the city in the evening or night, to see her lit up so lonely in the sky was spectacular for this kid.

I didn’t know much about the tower. My mom always told me that I had only ever been up the tower once, when I was just out of mommy’s belly. And I didn’t really have any desire to go up her now. I was so happy as I admired her from a far. It was not so much what she was, but for what she stood for. That beautiful city of Toronto where I was born.

As I neared the teen years, I would get more and more excited about coming into the city. Being able to see the CN Tower from the highway always meant we were almost there. These years I was coming into the city with my friends who could drive and we would go to the famous Yonge Street to shop. We’d stop at all the head shops and looks for old concert t-shirts and posters. I would personally spend my allowance, and my pay cheques at the record stores. You know them – Sam the Record Man, A&A Records and my favourite, Starsound Records. I would buy as many LPs and EPs as I could afford. I don’t know why, but I thought buying records at Starsound in Toronto was way better than just picking the same ones up at Sam the Record Man at the local mall.

Leaving the city I always waved at my friend, the CN Tower. Wishing I would be back again soon to see her and the wonderful city she so proudly guarded.

Many of our teenage weekends were spent driving up Yonge Street on a Saturday night while stuck in traffic. Kids stopping their cars on the main road to show off their sound systems and their pretty girlfriends. Sitting in the car inching our way up the Yonge Street traffic, I began to memorize all of the Yonge Street cross streets. I would practice them with my mom when I would be home, proud of my memory and how I was ‘getting to know’ Toronto, without knowing Toronto.

Staring at the CN Tower from a car driving around the streets of Toronto, I would always wonder what those streets looked like from high up in the sky.

Fast forward to when I was 18 years old and I was applying for University. I had no dreams of moving far away from home, living on a campus residence, living the college dream. I applied to 3 Universities, but I knew I only wanted to go to the one that would let me be the closest to Toronto. And I got in! Accepted to Ryerson Polytechnic University. Ryerson’s first year as a University and I WAS GOING TO MOVE TO TORONTO! My memorizing of streets would finally pay off! I would be able to see my friend, the CN Tower daily. I couldn’t contain myself as excitement exploded out of me for the few months prior to having to make the move.

I moved into an off-campus residence beside ‘Hooker’s Harvey’s’. For those who know Toronto, you know exactly where I am talking about at the corner of Gerrard & Jarvis Street. I just happened to be living on the 18th floor of my building, high in the sky, with a bay window facing south towards… you guessed it, the CN Tower! I hope I never forget that view. The non-obstructed view from Gerrard Street, of the CN Tower. She became my obsession. At night, I would sit on my bay window seat and relax to the lights of the city. The CN Tower mesmerized me. It held so much meaning for me and I was so drawn to what it was. During thunderstorms I would stare out the window afraid to blink, in case I missed a lightning striking the top of the tower. In white out snowstorms I would try to figure out where the CN Tower was in the skyline that was blurred by the white snow. I would walk down to the tower and stand at the bottom and stare up. I loved my city so much, and the CN Tower was representing everything my city was.

Going to Blue Jays games when there was an open dome at the Skydome (it was still really called that back then) but making sure you were on the right side of the Dome to look up and see the tower. Playing mini golf for double the price because you were at the base of the tower. Feeling proud that we had the tallest standing structure IN THE WORLD. IN MY CITY. (*Note* We held on to that title of tallest free standing building for 35 years!) While in University everyone talks about their school, their campus, making new friends. I would tell everyone that what I was getting as my playground wasn’t a school campus. My school campus was the streets of downtown Toronto.

During my first year of University I met a boy. Who then became my boyfriend. Who had worked the previous year at the 360 restaurant. (This was the fancy schmancy restaurant in the top of the CN Tower and it still is in operation today.) I was enamored with the stories he would tell, taking the fastest elevators to the restaurant. When summer arrived that year, he asked if I wanted to work with him for the summer at the CN Tower. AT THE CN TOWER! Okay, this story could end here. All of my dreams just came true.

I worked as a cocktail waitress in the base of the tower, serving cocktails to tourists, locals, and really tall basketball players in town for the FIBA World Basketball Championships that Toronto was hosting. I worked as a hostess in the observation level lounge and was lucky enough to look at those beautiful views of Toronto regularly and get this, for free! The lucky summer didn’t stop there – I was also able to meet famous people like Henry Thomas during the newly named Toronto International Film Festival, Shaquille O’Neill during the World Basketball Championships and Dave Stewart during his nights off. (To recap, Henry Thomas was Elliott in the movie E.T., Shaq is a famous NBA Player and Dave Stewart was an awesome baseball pitcher (my opinion) for the MLB’s Oakland A’s and then the Toronto Blue Jays.) I met amazing friends working at the CN Tower who I’m still in touch with today. My favourite part of the job though was riding the super fast elevator after my shift at night, until I reached the Sky Pod. Sitting on the floor of the empty Sky Pod room and looking down at the Toronto streets. It was breathtaking. I would trace my fingers along the lights finding of all those streets I had memorized, but from high up in the sky. This was 1994.

Fast forward to 2016. 22 years later and I’m still obsessed. With Toronto, my city, and of course the CN Tower. I have never pictured myself anywhere but in the heart of my favourite city. In fact, my heart beats with Toronto. I’ve travelled the world with my boyfriend Jon while working on cruise ships. One of the best parts of that experience was being able to come home on vacations with him to live in and explore our own city, Toronto. Getting off a plane, jumping in a cab and heading down the Gardiner brought the same excitement as it did when I was just a kid. Now my lover, the CN Tower, is flanked by condos and business buildings galore, but she still stands out, showing her colours, literally. I never tire of looking at her; I never tire of taking photos (some might say I go as far as to stalk her), of walking around exploring my favourite city and finding where she peeks out. Decades of wandering this city’s streets and I still feel like I’m always finding something new around every corner. Toronto still lives up to all of my highest expectations. Toronto surprises me and entices my eyes, ears and taste buds, around every corner.

I live with Jon in the heart of the city and whenever we were home from the ships we would wander the city… trying to… I guess something similar to me memorizing the street names when I was young. Discover the city, inside and out. We always want to learn about each neighbourhood, see what new stores and restaurants and parks are new. Without always realizing it we have constantly compared our Toronto explorations to cities we had been lucky enough to explore while on the ships. And we have come to a whole hearted conclusion. There is no place like home.