I have one or two further Saturday Snapshots I’d like to work up and post, but the photos for them need some care and attention, or there will be lots of words to go with them, and I’ve decided to give myself a pass on that for this week. Usually I have my posts written and scheduled at least a day ahead, but now and again I find that’s not the case – like right now.
The time is 13.22 – usually I schedule my blog posts for 13.30, so really I’m almost at the time when I should be clicking ‘publish’. And the longer I write, the closer it will be to that ‘deadline’. There have been times where that would have made me feel stressed, as ridiculous as that may sound to some, and times where I would have been frantically trying to make reluctant words come and arrange themselves in the right order. I find that the more pressure I have heaped on myself, the more reluctant the words are. A bad combo.
Today I only have one photo to share, and I’m gong to take some time to tell you about it properly. It’s one of my favourite photos from our holiday, even though it’s not compositionally perfect, well lit or exactly in focus. It reminds me of a great evening the G man and I had in Toronto, when we had really settled into the groove of being on holiday and were as carefree and happy as two people on a three week break from work can be. If you don’t already know, that is extremely carefree and happy.
We had spent the afternoon wandering around The Annexe, a cool part of the city, having afternoon cocktails and visiting Honest Ed’s (that, my friends, is an experience in itself) and pottering in and out of interesting looking shops. We had decided to check out a nightclub, and when it came to about the time that the doors were opening, we headed along. It turned out that there was a gig on, and we couldn’t get in. Not no way, not no how. Huh.
What did we do instead of a night of rocking out and drinking hard liquor?
We went book shopping, then got ice cream.
It was one of the best things we did in the whole time we were away.
There is a book shop in the Annexe that’s open from 12 – 12 every day, selling second hand books on any subject you might care to mention. It’s one of those proper book shops, where you can lose sight of the person you’re with among the shelves, and there isn’t exactly enough room so you edge your way around carefully and quietly and find stacks of books on the floor that you hadn’t noticed, and crouch down to read the spines, and maybe find something that is precisely what you wanted even though you didn’t know that was what you wanted until you saw it. It is hushed, and smells like books, papery and a little foosty (which is a perfect Scottish word that you would apply to a place that needed aired out, for example, or an item of clothing that had been in mothballs for the winter). We spent longer than you would imagine browsing the shelves, occasionally meeting up again with increasingly tall stacks of books in our arms. We bought three or four books each, and had to leave because something in the magic of the room meant we kept finding more and more and more that we wanted to buy, and it was going to be highly impractical to bring them all back in our suitcases.
I took a little internet break there to find the place – it’s called Seekers Books. Great name for a book shop. It’s in a basement on Bloor Street, and it has a big hand-stencilled sign that says ‘Open 12 – 12’. Check it.
We left, swinging our plastic bags of books and feeling like we had gotten the good end of some cosmic deal or other. As we walked along towards the nearest subway, soothed by our book shop time, we came across people salsa dancing in the street. A food vendor was playing what would, in the nineties, have been described as a boom box, and next to his cart eight or ten couples were dancing and spinning and laughing in a raggedy crowd. They weren’t all doing the same dance, or keeping time with each other; some were more skilled than others, and some looked perfectly at home while other couples looked a bit self conscious about the whole thing. Regardless, they were all giving it their best, dancing to the tinny music from the radio. We passed them slowly, swivelling our heads to watch them as we went by and dragging our feet a little, wanting to watch for a bit longer but not quite ready to stop. I have no idea if they were a regular ‘dance salsa in the street’ group, or if one couple had started it and more had joined in – I hope it was the second one. It was beautiful to see. It made my heart glad.
A little further on, there was an ice cream shop. Not particularly surprising in itself, but it was about 10.30pm and there were people sitting outside, enjoying cones and cups, and there was a little queue inside the shop. We joined that queue. It felt like the right thing to do. We got ourselves a couple of cones – my flavour of choice was roasted marshmallow. I can’t remember what the G man had. I almost can’t remember any other flavours of ice cream at all – certainly in that moment there was no need to remember that any other ice cream existed. It was so good – the flavour was exactly right, sweet with a caramelised edge, and the texture was soft and creamy without running all the way down the side of the cone, onto my wrist and up my sleeve. It was just the right way to round off the day – an unplanned dessert on the way home. If that doesn’t say ‘I’m on holiday’, I don’t know what does.
An internet break tells me that it was Greg’s Ice Cream we visited, and it makes a lot of other people happy, too. Check it, too.
After all these words, you’re probably tired. You may even be wondering why I didn’t take photos of these places, if I liked them so much. Sometimes, I forget that enjoying a thing can mean just exactly that – enjoying it, and experiencing it. I always want to take a photo, try to get the light right, postpone dinner until I’ve shot the plate from every angle, document every new place. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing – I love being able to look back at photos, or share them with others, and remember happy times and delicious meals, though sometimes I know it can be frustrating for the people waiting to wat dinner… It’s kind of what we do, in this part of the world and in this day and age. We’re all photo journalists. Pics or it didn’t happen, you know?
With that said, I like to think that this post speaks to the power of the single photograph. One look at this picture and I remember everything about that glorious evening in Toronto, strolling along in the warm night and finding little treasures everywhere. Eating our ice cream cones and walking past subway stations until they were done, instead of finishing them off quickly so we could jump on the tube and get home. Buying books at nighttime and looking forward to opening them and surrounding ourselves with the unread words and unmet characters. Everything about it was perfect. Here’s to experiencing, and not documenting.