I got back on Tuesday from my trip to Toronto. It was marked, as all my trips to Canada’s largest city are, by highs and lows.
Highlight #1: Meeting Meg Cabot. She was amazing. Funny and quite glamorous. If you’ve read the Princess Diaries (or the Mediator series or her adult novels) you won’t be surprised to discover this. She and her publicist, whose name I’m afraid to spell for fear of getting it wrong (Josette?), kept us all in semi-hysterics through dinner. When Meg walked into the ballroom on Sunday morning, wearing her tiara, everyone burst into applause. How many writers can make that kind of an entrance?
(Thanks to Ben McNally and Nicholas Hoare Bookstore for putting on the Books and Brunch event. It was most excellent.)
Lowlight #1: Going all the way to Terroni near St. Clair for one of their world famous Polentona pizzas (a major undertaking, I might add) and getting harsh attitude from the counter boy. It went something like this:
Woman with book clutched in hand goes to busy restaurant to have dinner alone. After being ignored for several minutes she approaches counter.
“Excuse me, is this a seat yourself restaurant?”
Very rude counter boy: “No. Go stand over there.”
Chastened woman with book scurries back to stand in entryway where she is jostled repeatedly by other people, all of whom are seated promptly.
Just as she is on the verge of giving up, hostess finally approaches.
“I’m sorry. You’ll have to sit at the bar.”
This was not an option, because there is no place to read at the bar. Single female diners with books don’t sit at pizza counter bars. They lurk at small tables in out of the way locations. It’s a well-known rule.
“Oh, I’ll just get takeout then,” I say, cursing my luck that Terroni’s doesn’t deliver.
I order my pizza and the other, nicer counter boy says, “Good choice.”
Thrilled at this evidence of human warmth, I try to make small talk. “I’m from Vancouver and I like to have this pizza every time I come to Toronto.”
But unfortunately good counter boy has gone, leaving evil counter boy to hear my lame effort. He responds: “Yeah, well, we all have our problems.”
I’m serious. That’s what he said. Then he added, “Go stand over there.”
So I waited on the street for the pizza.
The things I’ll put up with for a few pine nuts on a thin crust.
Highlights #2 and #3: Meeting the kids and teachers at Delta Alternative school. The students were very cool and asked good, smart questions, lots of them. Just looking at them gave me hope for the future of humankind.
Being introduced to the lovely new bookstore, The Flying Dragon. The very gracious proprietors, Cathy and Nina, gave me a copy of The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., which kept me engrossed on the flight back to Victoria. Now I am on a hunt for the next two books in the trilogy.
Lowlight #2: The service at the Shanghai Cowgirl on Queen Street. We walked in and the cook barked at me, “You can’t bring that outside coffee in here.”
Okay, so maybe that was a bit thoughtless of me. But it’s not like it was done with some kind of grand plan to undermine the restaurant. I’m from the West Coast. Everyone always has a coffee in hand here.
But the cook guy was a ray of sunshine compared to the baleful ray of deathlight that was our server. She had clearly gone to the same alternative universe school of customer service as the counter boy from Terroni. Her hostility was not even thinly disguised. The woman hated us and the horses we rode in on.
Lunch was good. The company was excellent. Liza from Indigo was hilarious, and both she and Linda from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were obviously passionate about books. But our server was actually a bit frightening. At one point she burnt me with the coffeepot and didn’t say sorry. That’s hardcore.
But I think I figured out what her problem was. She didn’t get to serve the table behind us.
This leads me to Highlight #4: Eating in the same restaurant as the cast of the Trailer Park Boys.
On the sidewalk outside the Shanghai I saw a guy signing autographs. He looked familiar. He was familiar! He was John Paul Tremblay, who plays Julian, Patron Saint of Rum and Coke drinkers. Heather, the publicist, informed me that there were other cast members inside the restaurant. They had been sitting at the table behind ours. I was too embarrassed to go back in and look. I really wanted to get an autograph, not least because I could have sold one to my dad for good coin. But I was too cowardly in the face of celebrity.
Meg would have no problem getting any autograph she wanted. In fact, Meg would have been giving the autographs. That’s why I’m getting me a tiara and I’m going to pay extra close attention while reading Meg’s book, Princess Lessons.
Now I’m taking my cold, fever and cough back to bed.