“You look… fantastic” – a comment by a passing stranger. It automatically triggers curiosity about what this gent classes as “fantastic.” Clarification is immediately forthcoming. “… so relaxed.”
I’m sitting on a bench enjoying the pinkening sky over the harbour at the end of the first stormless day of summer. “Ah, well,” I’m able to respond. “I’ve been to the Island.” Obviously, it does the trick.
A few hours of searching for wild strawberries and a flop in the long grass by the poplar-fluffed lagoon wiped away the hour and a half spent waiting at the docks for someone who never showed up.
Every couple of years, I make plans that involve another individual. I invariably end up “planted” – as it’s called in Mexico where not showing up was invented– and continue on sola.
On the big ferry boat to the Island, a fantastically dressed trio of passengers transfixed my attention. This woman and her two daughters clearly come from some fantasyland I’d like to visit. They all had those arresting blue eyes that I associate with husky dogs.
The teenaged girl was a modern symphony of day-?lily yellow, an appliquéd hoodie zipped over a plaid shirt, with yellow pants of a cloth that deserves a comeback – seersucker. A hot-?pink scarf to keep her neck warm gave a crucial accent.
Her little sister’s theme was a daring combo of red and pink. There were so many layers, and I didn’t want to stare too hard. Below-the-knee white cutoffs were printed with big red ladybugs. There were stripes on her arms, shocking pink socks and red sandals.
Fantastic and sensible are not mutually exclusive. This feminine family was brilliantly kitted out as well as prepared for the cool lake breezes, in contrast to most Canadians, who have the knack of wearing something that not only looks bad but is also insufficient to meet the weather.
Over at Harbourfront, standing stock still on one leg, facing not the water but the hot dog stand, is someone who, surprisingly, shows up there every year. A night heron.
As these birds’ name implies, they’re not big on daytime, and they’re usually not much for people either. Or downtown. They prefer to let out a few squawks in the dark and go nightfishing aided by the lights at the Centre Island docks.
Harbourfront is a place where the rich/poor split of Toronto plays out with the most obvious bias. A fellow who, somewhat redundantly, informs me that he is a drunkard likes everything about me. I’m rolling my last scrap of tobacco for him, but I say it really needs the contents of a butt to make a whole cigarette.
As I’m looking on the ground, he decides to bum or even buy a smoke from a guy flashing a camera in the heron’s face. The birdman has cigarettes, but he “needs” them. A passer-by berates the would-?be smoker for begging cigarettes. “We all have our vices,” the begger philosophizes.
The condos here are advertised in real estate pitches as “exclusive communities.” Exclusion is very important. Considering this drinker, whatever his problems might be, a member of the community is not on the agenda.
Still, he courteously offers me a drag off the tailor-made he has scored. Inured to the snubs of the sober world, he slaps me on the back. “I’m going home to bed. In the park. Ha!” A tour bus pulls up, black exhaust billowing. Somehow, the night heron ignores it all.
That bird and I both know the real secret is to be relaxed and alert at the same time.