Tomorrow morning, my friend Neal and I get on the train in London and head to Toronto.  He’s from B.C. and will likely be going back there in June.  I thought it would be cool to show him the big city before he goes.  I never expected just how cool our visit could be – daytime wind chill tomorrow is supposed to be around -25 degrees Celsius.  Oh my!

These four days will be my treat for Neal.  He deserves my kindness.  He deserves to have his Toronto whims satisfied.  Let’s start with a window seat on the train so he can see Ontario unfold.  Maybe a coffee cart will come rolling by to keep us warm.  Neal will be able to see the secret worlds of backyards and back fields.  He’ll be able to gaze and doze and perhaps dream.

Two hours away is downtown Toronto.  We’re staying at an historic hotel across from the train station – The Royal York.  A grand lobby.  A cozy lounge walled with the darkest wood.  A room with a view.  Even a thick white bathrobe, I hear.

In the evenings, we’re taking the subway to Hugh’s Room, the granddaddy of Canadian folk music clubs.  On Thursday, we’ll listen to Lillebjorn Nilsen, a gentleman who’s apparently a musical icon in his native Denmark.  On Friday, lots of singers and players will favour us with the music of Paul Simon.  And the best may be last.  Saturday night, we get to hear Joanna Chapman-Smith, a Toronto singer-songwriter who fell ill a few years ago and completely lost her voice.  The doctors worried that it would be permanent … but it wasn’t.  Happily for the world, Joanna is singing again.

As for the days, who knows?  We have ideas … the Ontario Science Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium, Allan Gardens (acres of greenhouses) and the Art Gallery of Ontario.  Or maybe sit in the lobby and read a book.  Neal’s call.

Friday is my birthday.  66 seems like a nice round number.  My first birthday without Jodiette.  Except that’s not right.  Jody will be with me every step of the way.  The “I am here, Bruce” is now very calm, as is my smiling nod in response.  There are still lots of tears falling from my eyes but Jodiette is here to share it all.  Even with the absence of her body, I am blessed.

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