Dealing with the Hydra Headed

(posted by asta)

A part, a large part, of traveling is an engagement of the ego v. the world…. The world is hydra headed, as old as the rocks and as changing as the sea, enmeshed inextricably in its ways. The ego wants to arrive at places safely and on time.”
Sybille Bedford

I never felt that way about traveling until this weekend.

Almost a year ago, I was adopted into the tight social circle of a group of much older women who have known each other for decades. I still don’t know why, since I have next to nothing in common with them. Maybe I’m the fresh blood, or an amusing novelty. I don’t see them that regularly, but I’ve enjoyed the dinners, parties and outings. It was at one of these events, deep in the evening after the number of empty Merlot bottles far exceeded the number of drinkers present that the leader of the group turned to me and said, ” You must come with us to Toronto in October to see ‘The Lion King”.

Right. Count me in. It’s that SARS deal, right? ( Don’t bother with the link if you already know what I’m referring to)

I promptly forgot about it until I started getting the phone calls about the logistics – paying for and getting all the tickets, selecting a hotel (The Royal York), selecting from the list of restaurants( given over to me to arrange since I’m the designated foodie) and getting there.

Ah yes. Well. I love to travel — have since I was three years old and my mother took me to New York and Washington where I danced at the Capitol and later met a famous wife. But that’s another story. Thing is, I’ve never traveled with a large group before, but have traveled enough to know that just because someone makes a wonderful dinner companion doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy schlepping bags and sharing a bathroom with them. Traveling with nine virtual unknowns seemed like a recipe for disaster. But I promised. So I gave myself an out, by informing the group I’d meet them at the hotel on Saturday- I’d be driving up alone on Friday to Oakville to visit with my god-daughters and their parents. If the weekend turned out to be a horrible mistake, at least I wouldn’t have to endure five hours of strained stilted conversations on the return journey.

Soooo here’s what happened.

– forgot that Oakville is west that’s WEST of Toronto, so got stuck in rush hour traffic on the 401 highway Friday evening making me late for dinner, which wouldn’t be so awful except parents had neglected to inform me that wife is barely able to rise from bed having been recently struck with a mysterious possible fatal kidney disease and that newly purchased monster house in undergoing major renovations set to begin at 8am Saturday ( how they got contractors to work on a weekend I’ll never know). They didn’t tell me because they were afraid I’d feel I was imposing and cancel. You think?

– I’m out the door as the builders arrive and headed for the train station. My brilliant plan to avoid the traffic and expense of downtown Toronto is to leave my car at the station, take the train into the city, pick up the car Sunday and speed off into the sunset. But now I’m going to arrive several hours before check-in and I don’t relish lugging the luggage about. Nevermind. It will all work out.

– see? This is going to be fine. They take pity on such a wisp of a thing having to carry such a heavy overnight bag. And good grief what does she have in there, bricks? Early check-in it is.

– I’ve got hours to kill, since the rest of the party doesn’t arrive until mid-afternoon. I’ve never had much desire to visit Toronto ( I’m sorry if you’re offended but I refer you to that mention of New York at age 3. That was followed by London, most of France, Switzerland and Italy at 13. Toronto? sorry) but I had heard some buzz about the recently opened Distillery District and I’ve wanted to visit the St. Lawrence Market for years. In fact I even make a habit of visiting grocery stores in every new place I visit to get a feel for the place. No really. I spend the next several hours having a marvelous time wandering the galleries at the Distillery. The market is heaven. Since I know there are plans for drinks in one of the rooms at 3 with the ladies I have a grand ol’ time picking up cheeses, sampling and selecting pates ( I’d put in the accent but I don’t know how) and chatting with the vendors.

– you see the problem developing? no? bear with me.

– I’m not so interested in the Lion King even though I have a long history with musicals (maybe I’ll explain sometime this week). For me, the highlight will be getting to the show at the ROM. I’ve promised to wait and go with one of the nine. No problem. Plenty of time before leaving Sunday.

– drinks at 3 goes well. They’ve just arrived. They’re excited – away from spouses and children and work. Who wouldn’t be feeling a tad euphoric? Some of the party is still missing, my roommate among them. Dinner reservation is for 5:30 so we can make the 8pm curtain. At 4:30 I excuse myself to shower and change. ” We’re ready”.

– 5:30 waiting in the lobby. Roommate has arrived but getting these women in the same place at the same time is a chore. Not my job, but I make a stab. “I’ll just head over to the restaurant to save our reservation, shall I?” “P will be here in just a sec. Let’s wait and go together” And this is where it starts. I hate being late for anything. I am going to spend the rest of the weekend being late or rushing so I won’t.

– lovely dinner, gobbled down mostly because “some” people can’t decide from a table d’hote that only has three entree choices to begin with.

– make it into theatre seat two minutes before show begins. Never got the Playbill so I can’t tell you who’s in the cast now, but the only one worth watching or listening to was Rafiki, the baboon witch doctor, who I think is still Phinda Mtya– can’t be sure since all my internet searching hasn’t turned up a current cast list. I’m not going to say much more about the show other than it is visually spectacular- the pieces by Lebo M and Mark Mancini far outstrip anything else Misters John and Rice contributed- in fact they should have not answered the phone when that call was made. But then we’re talking Disney.

– retired to hotel where a nightcap was definitely in order. Just for the h*ll of it I ordered a Dorothy Parker. Raspberry vodka, lime and soda. Entire group asks me “Who is Dorothy Parker?” They’re older than I am, for the love of *#@ on a bike. So I feel like a pretentious bit of fluff explaining and end with “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think”. Blank stares. I give up. All give up. We all retire. But it has been decided we will all meet for breakfast at 10. It was? Where was I? Well that’s the end of the ROM.

– due to time change I’m up at 7:30 and ravenous. I find a couple of places to breakfast for the group. I suspect they have no plan. I’m right. Locate yet another Starbucks, and spend about an hour exploring and window shopping. Nothing, aside from a few restaurants, is open before noon. World class mhfff.

– By the time everyone is up and fed, it’s time to check out. Noon. So I won’t get to the ROM, but I’ll get home at a decent hour.

– a tanker truck of hydrogen gas or some other nasty soup jack-knifes on the 401 Sunday morning, prompting a day-long highway closure east, just the way I’m headed. None of the radio stations mentions this. I know, since I started banging away on the scan button as soon as several thousand cars made an instant parking lot. This particularly detestable mass of pavement’s claim to fame is hosting more traffic than the Santa Monica Freeway. Do I need to mention I got home late. very late. ABOUT SIX $#@# HOURS LATE, if you really want to know. So that’s why I’m late posting today. It’s taken me this long to recover and I won’t begin to burden you with what I went through to get this much posted.

– Did you spot it? Okay here it is. I had the most fun all by myself. This comes as a bit of a shock since I’m usually quite social. Moral for me. Don’t travel with a group. Which is going to be a problem because they want me to guide them around New York next year.

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