The day before my husband arrived in Toronto for our weekend together, Danny, Michael and I had Personal Survival Techniques training (Alonso is too cool for us 😎 Just kidding… he’s done a contract with DCL before and already has this certification). We got on a bus at 5:50 am along with others in our entertainment cohort and drove to a college campus where we did the course. The portion of the class we did in the pool ended up being a fun team bonding activity, especially when it came to righting an upside-down life raft. We got video footage of each person successfully flipping the raft while the rest of the class would cheer. Then we did a lifeboat simulation and a written exam. We all passed, and had a great (albeit long) day.
Our PST class with our instructor (far left)
Finally, the day came for my husband to visit. I took the train to the airport so I could meet him there. I was so happy to see his face in front of me and not on a screen! We only had a short time together, but we managed to make the most of it. Of course, I had to take him to Lee so he could try the amazing food for himself. The next day, we went to a Blue Jays game and went up CN tower to see all of Toronto from a bird’s eye view. Being from LA (Go Dodgers), my husband was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get to the stadium on foot. In between being tourists, we watched the first two Spider-Man movies, which I had never seen. The original trilogy has been on our watch list since we saw Spider Man: No Way Home. I loved them, although I was glad Steven had seen them already so he could warn me when a particularly horror movie-esque moment was approaching. One of things I was most looking forward to during his stay was going out for meals with my musician friends. Those of you who have ever had a long-distance partner know that experiencing new things and building new friendships can feel melancholy and incomplete without them. Talking on the phone about it is nothing compared to how wonderful it feels to share it with them in person.
Of course the weekend had to come to an end, so I said goodbye to Steven at the train station and delved into the next week. I was proud of myself this week because I finally addressed the health concerns that had been causing me anxiety since I arrived in Toronto. Dealing with new medical clinics and new insurance in a new place can be difficult, and health anxiety mixed with grief due to the sudden loss of a loved one is no joke. After some scheduling snafus and grumbling about insurance being unnecessarily complicated, I was able to get a prescription at a walk-in clinic that helped me quickly. It was relieving to have some answers, and empowering to know I did it on my own.
Back at the studio, the band continued to chip away at our cover sets, working in some new genres. We also got to watch run-throughs of most of the other shows, which is always exciting! I enjoy watching all of the other incredible performers shine.
Then Friday arrived - my birthday. I woke up feeling a confusing mix of emotions. It was my first time ever waking up on my birthday completely alone. Everything that happened in the year since my last birthday was weighing on my mind, and I wanted to stay curled up inside. That soon changed once I got myself dressed and went to the studio. I brought cookies I had baked and a small chocolate cake from my parents, and then several dozen cupcakes (which I later found out were sent by my aunt) were waiting for me when I arrived. This made for quite the conversation starter when I spread everything out in the green room! My three band mates left birthday cards and Timbits (oh sweet Timbits, I miss you so) on the keyboard for me when I went into our rehearsal space. The mood I was in that morning morphed into happiness and gratitude. Coincidentally, the cast organized a trip to see Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios that evening, so I got to experience my first circus performance. It was an astounding performance. The energy in the room was electric as it was opening weekend for the cast after years of Covid closures!
We took advantage of our last free weekend in Toronto by taking a train and then a bus to Niagara Falls. Bucket list item, check ✅ We admired the falls from the top and had lunch with an incredible view before going down to the base to take in all their majesty. Despite the sea of tourists in yellow ponchos, it was lovely - and quite loud! The most interesting part to me was the dichotomy between this natural wonder of the world and all of the attractions just down the street from it. After seeing the falls, we walked toward Clifton Hill, which is a long, sloping street somewhat reminiscent of Hollywood Boulevard. It is loud, colorful, and a bit dirty, with every cheap attraction you could imagine. The three of us bought fun passes for the day and had a BLAST doing everything that was included: ferris wheel, dinosaur mini golf, arcade games, “rides” (two of them 3D movie screens, one a low-budget cross between Haunted Mansion and Astro Blasters), and a horrendously amazing wax museum. We finished out the day perfectly with beers at Niagara Brewing.
Our final week in Toronto was filled with final runs and departure meetings, but my two favorite highlights had nothing to do with work. First, I got to go out to dinner with my friend Mel, who I met online during the Animal Crossing Obsession of 2020. Despite playing the game much less frequently now that all of us are back to work, we’ve stayed in touch. It was so nice to see her! She took me to a cute little Italian restaurant with delicious pasta, and we had a great time catching up. Then, my musician friends and I got to see the most insane concert I’ve been to in quite some time. Saxophonist Joshua Redman reunited the band he put together for his debut album MoodSwing in 1994 (Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and Brian Blade) to do a new album that was released in 2020, and I happened to see online that they would be in Toronto while we were there. I immediately jumped to buy tickets. Brad Mehldau sadly did not end up performing that evening due to illness, but Gerald Clayton subbed in for him. It was an incredible evening of music that sparked my love for this art form in a way I haven’t felt in quite a bit. My favorite aspect of the set was how different each member’s compositions were, and yet how beautifully they complimented one another.
One of my favorite things about Toronto is the juxtaposition of old and new architecture. This was perfectly exemplified inside the Royal Conservatory of Music building where the concert was held.
Me being me, I left all of my packing for the last day, but still managed to get it done. I did some shopping (including a new suitcase because I realized I had the allowance for an extra checked bag), collected all my leftover non-perishable groceries to bring to the studio for the next cast, and got all of my belongings organized. Our bus came to pick us up from my apartment building the following afternoon, and then it was time for our journey to the Netherlands!