Of my many repressed desires, wanderlust must be the strongest. In dreams, I am often on a train. Rivers, shores and oceans regularly recur. Trying to get somewhere, I usually miss the boat.
Still, the exhilaration of these mystery tours and near-voyages sees me through unromantic waking hours. Coping with the mundane business of everyday survival in a place where I know every crack in the sidewalk takes considerable imagination.
I have two main techniques. The first and perhaps more challenging is to pretend that I'm strictly passing through. I'm always getting ready to go, working on getups for New York in early fall, Berlin in January, Newfoundland in November, and on the practice packing of bags.
In spite of being a third-generation Torontonian, I've always had the recurring wake-walking sensation here of being a lonely tourist wandering unpromising territory. The slight difference is that sometimes I run into people I know.
There's a little museum at Simcoe and King that's suited to the domestic tourist. Whenever you see the life-size full-dress-kilted man on the steps of Saint Andrew's Church (Wednesdays and Thursdays 10 am to 3 pm), you can go downstairs and visit the displays dedicated to Toronto's own 48th Highlanders Regiment, founded in 1891.
I stopped in recently while recovering from the shock of learning the gobsmacking price of Scottish agate jewellery sold at the antiques place over the road, where they must have mistaken me for an eccentric with pockets stuffed with euros rather than sneeze-soaked hankies.
You can't be lonesome at the 48th Highlanders Museum. I was eyeballing the old white boiled wool jacket on an encased soldier when a volunteer veteran offered, "Know how they'd clean a jacket like that? Chalk. But you'd better not dance with a lady in a black dress."
The carved-ebony-handled daggers were modelled on the kirpans worn in India. Glengarry hats are now made here, as "made in Scotland" is so expensive. "Probably be getting them from China soon," noted my other guide.
The second method of no-cost, no-environmental-impact travel is to make believe I'm already somewhere else. Voces Latinas (1610-AM) has gone to 24-hour programming. When Moses Zoomer Znaimer bought AM-740 and cheesed it to pieces, English pretty well dropped off my playlist. I'm in French/Spanish/Italian/Greek/Serbian/Hindi/Bulgarian immersion.
When I go out, I'm in Portugal. There's a spot with a canary and domino players where the Portuguese version of Sanford And Son plays on the screen.
But to really do distance-free travel in style, I'd recommend a jaunt to 25 Toronto Street. Unbelievable enough to star in a dream, the ironically named Open Air Books & Maps specializes in nature, travel and outdoor books.
Stacks push their way through the ceiling tiles. Books surge across the floor and strain to get out of boxes. And I'd like to take just about every one with me, starting with The Field Guide To Stains.
Elusive birds, and the stories of those intent on seeing them, hide behind an overgrown garden of plant and flower titles, all selected by Jeff Axler, who's spent 22 of his 32 years of bookselling squeezed into this tiny wonderland.
I actually help a customer find the exit door, which I have to use myself to make room for someone else. Now I'm wondering if they still print maps on cloth like the ones I saw in the soldiers' museum; I could sneeze in another country without ever getting out of my own bed.