So absolutely nothing has happened since my trip to Toronto in the fall of 2012.Absolutely nothing…

That’s a lie. An epic amount of chaos and change has happened. 

The story is messy and largely boring, but the important details are this – after eighteen months in a city that never quite fit, I was able to take a job I loved to Denver, a city that’s about the closest place to home that I’m qualified to work.  I arrived in Denver on Black Friday 2013 after driving from San Francisco south through Arizona and New Mexico (current state visit tally: 26 of 50). After driving through the Sierra Nevadas at sunset, I have a whole new appreciation for the phrase “purple mountain’s majesty.”  I stayed with friends for the first six weeks, and now I have my own two bedroom apartment (for 2/3rds the rent of my tiny one bedroom in SF). And, I’ve been able to go home TWICE within two months – that’s the first time I’ve been able to do that since I moved for Grad School. 

I’m already loving it here. It’s not Indy, but it has the same easy feel. We’ll see if I fall as hard for the Mile High City as I did for Naptown.

 Now that I’m settled, it’s time to begin embarking on my Colorado adventures. I’ve been pinning ideas since I learned I was moving. You can see them here: http://www.pinterest.com/kfedwards88/denver/ 

I’m always open to more ideas and suggestions, so send them my way. Since there are adventures to be had, that means there are tales to be told and blogs to be written. 

Stay tuned! 

 

 

 

 

 

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Since coming to California, I’ve have many “Alice -through-the-looking-glass” moments, but none have been quite the same as visiting Toronto.  The city looked and felt like any metropolis you would find in the U.S., but then something would catch your eye and illustrate the difference.

Case in point:

The Canadian Post goes in a red box, not a blue one.

The urban  fauna is different. See the squirrels?

Queens Park was lousy with these little black squirrels. They were not tame by any means. This hyperactive little fella refused to sit still for the camera. He made it look like US squirrels are on Ritalin.

I should’ve expected differences in the regional cuisine.

My highly-anticipated chicken fingers were baked, not fried. They don’t use nearly the amount of grease in their food that Americans do. Also, beware of sauces when you travel north of the border. The barbecue sauce in the picture? It was more of a bizarre tomato-based chutney.  The “salsa” they served with breakfast at the hotel was straight tomato sauce. My time to try Canadian cuisine was limited. We had intended to go to a “New Canadian” style restaurant after our training, but the reservation list was hours long. I also dodged poutine – the traditional dish of gravy and cheese curds on fries.  I just couldn’t do it.

Perhaps my favorite through the looking glass moment was when I came upon this row of classy jewelry stores. Lovely rings and necklaces were on display in the windows, often surrounded by antiques or tasteful decorations.

 

Classy, no? It was a pawn shop!

For the first time in five years, I dusted off my passport. My organization had been asked to go to Toronto, ON and put on a giant training seminar, and so many people were expected that we needed all hands on deck. Cue my first business trip! And   my first trip to Canada!

After the dust settled from the workshop, I carved out Friday to see the city. I had no Canadian cash, just plastic money, and no general plan. I just left my bags at the hotel and started walking. After the fact, Google helped me map the route:

11.5 Kilometers — or 7.2 miles. I’d say it was a pretty decent self-tour of downtown Toronto. Our swanky hotel was downtown, adjacent to the hustle and bustle.  Just around the corner was St. Micheal’s Cathedral,  which is apparently more gorgeous inside than it is outside. The steeple was under repair, so I don’t have a picture of that.

A few blocks further on was Eaton Centre, which is basically a mini Times Square in Toronto. It has floors and floors of shopping and a big outdoor plaza with seating and space for concerts. At 10 in the morning , it is pretty quiet, with the flashing jumbotrons being the biggest distraction. Later that afternoon, I stopped back by for a cup of coffee, and the street performers had begun to take over – a drummer, a one-man band of sorts, some guys doing football (soccer) tricks and break dancing, and the Chalk Chick. It becomes a really happenin’ spot really quickly.


As I walked further down Dundas  St. (I think), one of the crossroads opened to give me a glimpse of this giant brown building in the distance. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be the Canadian Legislature.  This picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s truly a gorgeous building surrounded by statues and monuments. At least three school tours were picnicking on the lawn.

The most striking thing about the building was the details. Every corner or window had some relief or floral leaf pattern.  The side doors had this intricate stone work overhead.

I didn’t try to sneak past the guards and go inside. I had lunch waiting for me in Kensington Market, but I couldn’t help but wander about the grounds.  Those grounds happen to also be Queens Park.

The trees had started to turn the most gorgeous colors. Apparently hordes of Japanese tourists flock to Toronto in October just for the foliage.  My other discovery in Queens Park was these tiny black squirrels that moved like they were hopped up on expresso:

Adjacent to the park was the University of Toronto campus.  Talk about beautiful buildings. For a few minutes, I was wondering if somehow I had stepped into a strange quasi-Oxford.  I successfully resisted the booksale Trinity College was having…

I believe this was the Catholic Campus Centre, but I was just fascinated by the dome.

This building was on Spadina Circle, but I’m not sure what it was. It gave off an administrative feel, but that could’ve been the cloud cover. I still loved it.

From there, I walked down into Chinatown. All my pictures are at a funny angle, so I will omit those. The interesting thing about Toronto’s Chinatown was how spread out it was and how clean everything was. In SF, Chinatown is tiny, with shops and people packed on top of one another. Not so in Toronto.

Just off of Chinatown was a neighborhood called Kensington Market, my lunch destination. I had found a gluten-free restaurant that served chicken fingers! They weren’t that good – Canandians don’t believe in deep frying things like they should – but the proprietor came out and kept me company for a while. He was very proud of his neighborhood. Kensington Market is a mini-hippie  village within the city – very self-sufficient, independent and wacky.

Tibetan stores, vegan ice cream, tie-dye, you name it, Kensington Market has it.

From there, it was back to the pavement, past the Ontario Art Center and through the Grange Park. Grange Park wasn’t as nifty as Queens Park, but just as I was about to leave, I stumbled over an artist sketching something. It was this tower that just appeared out of nowhere.

Don’t ask me what it was. Your Google search is as good as mine.

Two blocks later, I was in the Entertainment District, right next to the Financial District. We went from cute and quaint to shiny and bold within a half a mile.

 

One of the many attractions in the Entertainment District happened to be the CBC! After my recent addiction to Canadian TV, it was like stumbling across the mothership.

 

I kept walking south, determined to see the waterfront of Lake Ontario before the day was over. It seemed like I would never get there. I even stopped in the information centre, where I was assured that I couldn’t miss it if I just took a right at the next corner.

I did as I was told, and I came up close and personal with the CN Tower. At the training, several native Ontarians tried to convince me that I needed to go to the top and do the “Skywalk,” where someone straps you into a harness and you walk around the cusp of the tower’s top. When I asked them if they had done it, the answer was a resounding “No!”

 It wasn’t much further until I found the Waterfront. The fog over the lake made it a bit anti-climactic. They still had some great trees and this St. Louis-esque boat by the dock.

 

Fortunately I did catch a clear glimpse of the Lake and the Islands in the distance on the way to the airport. I did so much in just a few hours of free time, but I can’t wait to  go back.  It was clean, easy, and safe, with so much opportunity.  I would move there in a heartbeat.

*Note: As I wandered through Toronto, it would seem like I was somewhere in the US, but things were just a bit off.  I  found all of my pictures about  those little quirky differences. They deserve their own blog post. Stay tuned!*

If they have a regulation hurling pitch here, there must be hurlers! The morning after Roller Derby, I made my way our to Treasure Island, where  facebook told me the San Francisco Rovers would be battling it out against Na Finna.

 

I think they were both B teams, but it’s hard to tell. They don’t even have scoreboards out at Pairc na nGael, so you have to be playing to be in the know. It was a fantastic game, won with points, but the boys were a bit rougher than I’m used to. Case in point:

The sliotar was passed from the half forward line into the middle and two mid-fielders were  battling it out over the ball.  A whistle was blown on the play, but I didn’t see any chops or fouls with the ball. A quick scan of the wider field showed one of the players in the half line on the ground and two other shoving each other around. The Magic Water was brought out and all was well momentarily.

Things like that make a girl glad that they don’t play co-ed out here.

The next day, I heard back from my contact at the G.A.A. The Camogie team out here hadn’t formed up yet, but some of the girls would be having a puck around after football practice on Wednesday. So why not give the big ball a chance?

This is what happened:

Last Sunday, I ended back out on Treasure Island playing my first real game of Gaelic Football with the Fog City Harps. Holy God, there is a lot of running in football! We played 13 a side, and since there weren’t any subs for the  first half (really, that’s the story of my life – no one I ever play for has subs – is it something I said?),  it was trial by fire in the half forward line.   It wasn’t too bad. I won the ball a few times and successfully passed it to one of my teammates who could actually do something with it.

Fog City won with something like  5 goals and a point to the other team’s 1-3 (or something – like I said, no scoreboards). It’s not camogie, but it will do. I miss my helmet, but this football thing may stick! The girls practice twice a week for about an hour, which is surprisingly more doable than two hours once a week, although they break for conditioning in the middle of practice. Their conditioning coach makes me miss Susan’s intervals in Broad Ripple!

Next Monday should be the beginning of camogie in the city. Let’s see how that goes. I’ll either be in great shape by Labor  Day or I’ll be  completely crippled from four days a week of training and games. Wish me luck!

 

That’s Bay Area Derby Girls. Get your mind out of the gutter.

A week ago Saturday, some coworkers and I checked out the Bay Area All Stars bout versus the Kansas City Roller Warriors.  It was held at the gorgeous Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA, over in the East Bay, literally on the water.

The line stretched into the parking lot just before the doors opened.  Derby is a hit no matter where you are.

The crowd was actually a little smaller than the typical crowd for a Naptown bout, although the place filled fast. I really liked the bumper between the skaters and the suicide seating, although it could be argued that it takes the fun out of it.

Kansas City and the Allstars were pretty evenly matched for the first fifteen minutes of the bout. For every point the KC jammer scored, the Allstars responded with one of their own. After the fifteen minute mark, it was like the KC team ran out of steam. I think their jammer, Casey Masterpiece, got injured, and the Bay Allstars took the lead with a 25 point jam.  They held and expanded that lead to win the bout 181-94

It was a great time. Most of the people I was there with had never been to derby before, so I got to pass on the knowledge I gained during my time doing security for Naptown.  We  came up with our roller derby names (Maria is killer when it comes to turning a phrase).  I’d be the Hurling Dervish. Maria would be X-Blocks 36Z, and Roxanne would be Triple Tex Rated (she’s originally from the Lone Star State).

The fog rolled in and blanketed the pavilion, making for a really neat atmosphere, but an eerie drive home. So many things are different here, but derby is deliciously the same.

Who knew that finding an apartment in San Francisco would be the easy part of moving? It took me five days to get from Indianapolis to the San Francisco Bay Area, but it took my possessions about three weeks to make the same journey.

I shipped my stuff using U-Box, U-haul’s entry into the you-pack-it-we-ship-it market. Their boxes are about each 1/3rd the size of your usual shipping container, hence the difference in price. My U-Boxes were about $1,000 cheaper than the next best thing.

The boxes were dropped off in front of my apartment, and when they were filled, they brought a truck and a wee forklift and they loaded them up and carried them away. According to my paperwork, I was to allow 10 days for delivery. Two weeks later when my boxes weren’t in San Francisco, I rechecked the paperwork— 10 business days.

I had planned on just having the boxes  delivered to my building. But San Francisco is not flat and parking is at a premium at my  building. The nearest place they could have set them would have been at the base of the steep hill that leads to my parking garage.

Time for Plan B.

Fortunately, my boxes were being stored at a U-Haul facility just off Highway 101, so I could visit them —with restrictions. You’re supposed to call 24-hours in advance to schedule an appointment, and no appointments are scheduled when they’re shipping out the boxes. Just after I got here, Stanford students were heading home for the summer, so U-Box wouldn’t let me in for another week.

I was soooo tired of the air mattress by the time it was all said and done.

Finally on June 30, I had access to my stuff.  I had rented a truck for July 1, and my cousin, Scott, and his fiance, Skye, had agreed to help me with the furniture.  But when you’ve got a Saturday free, what do you do? Rent a dolly, and pack a Toyota full of boxes.

I like to call this “One Girl and Her Dolly:”

Two loads in Bella. That’s all this took.

The next day, we spent about three hours getting all of my furniture from U-haul into my apartment. It was chaos for a while, but now there are only two boxes of odds and ends left to sink in.  Pictures of the final project will be coming soon!

So I’n waaay behind on the blogging.  Trying to figure out how to catch up all at once put me further behind, so without further ado, here’s the first a series of mini stories.

I got out of what little routine I had established here in California for a very good reason: Celebrating Sam and Gen’s wedding in Colorado. This ceremony was a long time in the making. All throughout grad school, Gen was planning and crafting in preparation for this day. I just unpacked one of the prototype pinwheels!

Many members of the Indy crew were there to celebrate, including Sara, Andrew, Robby, Angela, Luke, and Teddy – not to mention the bride and groom. It was a bit of home on the front range of the mountains.  It also didn’t hurt that I got to spend my first day there hanging out and playing mini-golf with my big sister, Kathay!

I can officially say that I have been to Casa Bonita.

Casa Bonita

I had heard stories about this place for years. The food is terrible, but the atmosphere is nothing short of ridiculous. It seats close to 1,000 people, in every style from classic Mexican terraces to underground caves with stalactites dripping from the ceiling.  Add to the setting gun fights, divers, and a man in a giant gorilla suit and you’ve got a recipe for success. Really what they need to do is let you buy a pitcher of sangria and unlimited chips and dip, and they’d be golden.

In and around wedding-related events, we also visited the Denver Museum of  Nature and Science, Estes Park, 16th St. Mall, and various bits of the city.

In place of a rehearsal dinner, all of the out of town (and many of the in-town guests) were invited to a “Welcome Dinner” held in an historic schoolhouse literally across the street from Sam and Gen’s apartment. Tons of good food (Qdoba!) and drink (Magners!), as you would expect. Out in the school yard,  the cornhole boards were set up, and — the hit of the evening — a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream cart.

The wedding was absolutely perfect, even though Colorado in the summer is wondrously hot. As dog-wrangler extraordinaire, I am happy to report that Miss Charlie performed her role of ring-bearer admirably, although I tied the rings to the ring-bone a bit too tight.  I was a bit worried she’d get overheated, but she took it like a champ, drinking ice water from a cup.

Sam and Gen were blessed with a gorgeous Colorado sunset for a backdrop. Of course, we snagged them for a photo op!

Everything about the wedding was so perfect for the happy couple, down to the Yay! Flags (which we waved instead of throwing rice – they came in handy at the the reception as well) and the table o’ treats – chocolate covered strawberries, mousse, whoppers, gummy bears, cake, and classic bottled pop.

Oh, how the sugar ran freely at this wedding.

I made be the only person who can get schnockered at a dry wedding without bringing a flask. I had four (maybe five) bottles of cream soda and orange pop (and there were gummy bears), and apparently that’s the magic number to get the on the dance floor. I’ve been told there are incriminating photos of me doing the Rhymenocerous.

I also remember something about Superman and watching me roll…that will come back to haunt me. But it was totally fun while it happened. And sugar doesn’t give you a hangover.

Unfortunately, my plane left early the next morning for the west coast, so it was back to the surreal world that’s now my reality.