Tuesday, September 26, 2006

FWG’s intoxicatingly-more-excellent all-week adventure - Monday

Day 3: Kingston

I slept in. Boy did I ever. Got away about 1:30PM. Managed to escape the Torontosphere without getting sucked into any traffic jams of significance. The 401 East out of the GTA is rather drab unfortunately. All the usual suspects were present. Trees. Five foot high weeds. Bird-brained motorists having fits - jogging back and forth between the right and centre lanes without ever surpassing those of us just cruising in the left lane like human beings.

Luckily I have a box of CD’s and the town slogan project to keep me entertained. Here’s the official FWG-and-Friends Town Slogan roster - Toronto-Kingston chapter. Most are brand new. Some you may have been previously subjected to.

Welcome to
Ah-choo! Gazundheit!

You are now entering
No cannibals allowed

Welcome to
Come get your bowman fill

Port Hope
Spank it

Welcome to
We live with our parents

Welcome to
The lights are on!

City of
If it doesn’t say ‘Bellevelle’ it isn’t (but it does)


Welcome to
Our cheeks are rosey

Our boys are loaded

No, not ‘Ottawa’. Don’t be stupid.

Why don’t you come to your senses?

We jam for kicks

Made you look!

Shoot it to me, smackdaddy!

I make it to Kingston in good time and find the Queens Inn with no trouble. Kingston is a very pretty town with lots of quaint stone buildings. This one is no exception. Their online registration system was awesome. I was able to choose my own particular room using their web site. I had chose one with a limestone wall and a skylight.

I take the key from the clerk, climb two flights of stairs and open the door. Sure enough the room looks just like the picture from the web site. Oh. Except that in the picture the bed was made. I also note that the cushion on the comfy chair is wildly askew and there are scattered towels on the bathroom floor and a few hairs on the vanity.

...Things that make you say ‘Hmm...’

I return to the front desk.

“Hi. Is the room okay?”

“Yes, yes. The room is fine - um, you have a maid that cleans the rooms between guests - I imagine?”

“Yes. Of course.”

“I don’t think she got finished with this one.”

“Oh my. I’m terribly sorry. Let me get you a different room.”

“I kind of like this one actually. And my bags are already in there. If you could just arrange for some fresh pillow cases and fresh towels I’d be happy. I’m stepping out for a couple hours anyway.”

“Of course sir. We’ll have the room made up properly. Right away. Again - my apologies.”

I hit the streets with book lists in hand. There are three used-book stores within a block of each other and right around the corner from the hotel. I pass one of the rare not-so-pretty Kingston landmarks. It is the Robert Bruce Memorial Parking Garage. It’s very clearly marked as such in big black letters.


I don’t know who Robert Bruce was or what he did to deserve such an honor but please let me make something entirely clear - for the record. Should I ever do something of profound impact on any community (something in the realm of literature preferably!) Something to warrant that an entire community mourn my passing - do not under any circumstance let them name a parking lot after me. Because if that happens - guaranteed I will claw my way out of the grave and wreak a terrible unholy hell upon the living. I’m not kidding. Thank you for spreading the word.

The bookstores surrender a bounty of titles from my wish list. Goldmines. I spend a small fortune and ask the merchants for restaurant advice. I like the sound of Windmills.

I freshen up at the hotel, walk a few short blocks to Windmills and am promptly impressed. The décor suits me perfectly. In fact it almost precisely resembles my description of a ficticious restaurant from a piece I just wrote called Nobody’s Hero which basically came out of my head. I’m confident this is a good omen - that either the book will be a best-seller or that I’m about to have a great meal.

I’d take either. No preference really.

It’s slow here this evening and will remain so. The cute young waitress offers me any table at all so I take the one with a bench seat along the wall and chairs on the other side. It would seat four comfortably. I choose the bench seat which faces the bar and the handsome young bartender.

The calamari is crispy and simply to die for with spicy coating and spicy peanut sauce. Delicious! Oh well. So much for the book deal. Surprisingly - the Jacob’s Creek Shiraz/Cabernet holds up to the appetizer. She’s living dangerously, allowing me to order it by the bottle. The Gorgonzola Chicken Carbonara leaps off the menu page. I need not look any further.

The light is very dim - which I like in a restaurant.. I’m writing by candlelight so she brings me a second candle. The pasta is good though not as full-flavoured as I’d hoped. It gets better though after I pull the broccoli from it.

Dinner complete I move to the bar where no one has sat all evening. There are few diners remaining in the place and Matt, the bartender has been underutilized and looking bored. I order a coffee.

“Actually - throw some Amaretto and Baileys in there please.” They have Strongbow cider and Guinness stout so as tradition demands, I have a Black Velvet. And then another for good luck. And here’s where I become a very very bad boy.

“Um - is that a bottle of Dalwhinnie up there?” I ask innocently.

“It sure is,” says Matt. We’ve been chatting about his career, his own creative writing and his music. He’s a bass player.

“I think I’ll have some. Make it a double please.” And thus begins FWG’s tragic undoing. I’ve never been able to migrate from wine to scotch without ultimately getting wrecked. This night will be no exception. The remaining details are hazy. I’m not sure how many double Dalwhinnies I had at Windmills nor how many double Obans I had at the next bar - Coppers - in the lobby of the hotel, where the bartender was also named Matt and was even friendlier.

“You’re the guest with the yellow truck I’ll bet.”

“Guilty as charged. How’d you know?”

“You just look like a yellow-truck kind of guy.”


Nor do I remember how many double Balvenies I had at the next bar where I stumbled in the back door while trying to find some late-night Pizzeria called Buddy’s that Matt #2 offered directions to as he was closing up Coppers for the night. The sound of live music had drawn me into this long dark dive of a bar where they will continue to serve me just after two despite the state I’m in. The band sucks but I enjoy it anyway. I try to write in the blackness. The bartender puts on a small pot light in an out-of-the-way corner at the end of the bar table. I go there, grateful.

“What is this place?” I ask.

“Toucans,” says he.

“Oh! Like Toucan Sam!” I say. He nods, smiles. “Like - follow yer nose!”

“Exactly.” He’s very kind. Not a looker, mind you, but kind.

“Except I didn’t follow my nose to get here! I followed my ears!” What a clever S.O.B. I am when smashed eh? Gawd help me.

Twice I receive a clap on the back and turn to see a familiar face. Both Matts and their friends and girlfriends have shown up. I stop writing and good thing ‘cause it’s none too legible. The girlfriends are very nice and we three engage in conversation while we buy each other shooters - cause - you know - twenty eight drinks is just not enough to loosen me up when I’m chatting up a couple young girls and trying to act like I’m not hitting on them - or their boyfriends either for that matter.

I play Mr. Wise Man and insist on knowing all their problems and aspirations so as to form my sage advice to them.

Eventually the lights go on. Hugs all around and the drunken troll stumbles outside and lands in a cab.

“Food,” I utter, conscious only of the fact that I have a vat of alcohol in my belly which must be soaked up if I am to live another day. He takes me to Burger King so I presume I must not have annunciated ‘food’ correctly. Not surprising given my state.

I stare at the menu board in plain disbelief. Counter Boy seems amused with me. He’s smiley and six foot ten and built like a phone booth. He reveals later that it’s his very first night shift.

“I must be seeing double!” I say. “There can’t possibly be that many patties on a hamburger!”

“Nope. It’s true. We have quadruple burgers.”

“Yeah but that one has eight!” Dear gawd. Someone please lock me up for my own protection.

Another drunk comes up alongside me. He looks like Jerome Iginla but shorter. We’d interacted briefly at Toucans. Tequila was his poison of choice. He can’t even see the menu and demands the walking phone booth choose a meal for him and then demands to see the manager.

She arrives to find two drunks insisting that the boy is underpaid and surely deserves a shift bonus for having to deal with us drunks.

“Yeah,” I say. “And danger pay too!” She humors us, gives us ‘food’ and shoos us away. I have the triple burger as far as I can tell and fries and onion rings. The burger is disgusting. Perfectly slimy.

I tumble head-first into another cab and return to the inn where I engage in discussion with a crotchety old night clerk and his very strange friend with a deep tan and permanent squint. He never speaks and never stops smiling. He just nods and laughs at everything we say - none of it being humorous as far as I recall. Oh well. Interesting fellow.

It’s five in the morning. I make the arduous climb to the third floor, bouncing off each wall en route and I go to bed - having first said my prayers of course - at the porcelain altar.

And I assure you ardently - the burger tasted no worse on the way up than it did on the way down. Not one iota. Way to go, Burger King. Don’t know how you do it.


1 comment:

Dave said...

I've had nights like that back when I was in school. It only got worse once I started high school.
There seems to be no end to the zanyness (zaniness, zanieness, zaykneeness?) when you go out. But really, I think an intervention might be in order. Saturday night? Say, 6-ish?