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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Going to Toronto for Thanksgiving

This year we'll be going to Toronto for Thanksgiving, although it is not Canadian Thanksgiving at that time. We just have things to do. And we will be going to the Museum of Art, which means we'll be parking by the Sharp Center. The Sharp Center was one of the funniest and astounding moments of my life: when I came out of the parking garage and saw it in front of me, I was speechless and literally could not believe my eyes.
I submit a retro version of the Sharp Center in Toronto:

Sharp Centre Cross Section

In December, 2009, we were in Toronto, and other than going to Daiter's Delicatessen to get the cream cheese, and to Levy's Bakery next door to get the lightest, sweetest Challa bread in the world, and to West Bloor Village to get fresh pierogi and strudel and doughnuts and chocolates, we were spending a dab of time hanging around the Art Gallery of Ontario for laughs.
The King Tut exhibit was there at the time, but we didn't attend that. Tickets had been bought decades ahead; grandparents bought them for their descendants about the time of MacKenzie King, and the descendants were finally cashing them in. It was packed.
We went to see something else really cool, but I forget what it was... is how cool it was!
Anyway, traffic was a bear: schools were, schools were in. Definitely IN. If schools were out, all those little people in uniform would have been home playing video games. But they weren't. They were at the Art Gallery of Ontario in long lines, wearing checks and tartans, and playing tag around Henry Moore nudes. So schools were definitely in session, and they were having a trip to the Art Gallery that day.
Parking was difficult. I happened to chance upon a World of Zelda type of parking lot, which seemed to stretch the entire length of McCaul Street; it was dark, narrow and had signs and meta-signs: a meta-sign is a sign which adds the information "exit - left " immediately in the vicinity of the basic primary sign which conveyed the information "exit - right". It wasn't a contradiction, it was a higher level commentary, all of which I came to appreciate after about 20 minutes of driving back and forth through the same parking lanes.

Exasperating ordeal. Park. Slam door. Lock doors. Curse. Curse all foreigners! For some reason, I had assumed the lot was owned by foreigners for whom English was a second or third - maybe even further back - language. And this all based on a contrarian approach to the word "Exit".
I felt ashamed. I did a stutter walk of sorts: Damn foreigners!! - skip - oops, shouldn't say that...damn foreigners and their damn parking garages!!! - stumble - oops, that's a bit harsh...damn Pakistanis!! - skip, turn, dance around - say, there's a lot of people from Pakistan I admire... Mr. Jinnah was very admirable...
And so - interminably - on did I do this bi-polar two-step all the way to the exit on McCaul Street.
The exit door was well hidden behind a corner and bushes and shadows, so I studied it thoroughly having exited. I walked backwards to the street, looking all around, making sure I could find this devilish door in the wall of the unenchanted garden again, marking down street numbers, making sure I didn't stumble into people - damn foreigners probably!!!
And I exhaled, turned around, and for the first time in my life, I saw the Sharp Centre for Design almost directly across the street from me!! I stood totally still in McCaul Street and was shocked!

I did a real triple-take, and slowly looked up from street level to the top of the building.
I was just about exactly at the spot the illustration was taken. I first thought of an alien invasion...sort of New Orleans Mardi Gras alien invasion...sort of alien invasion of the House of Extravanganza voguing down the run-way on caran d'ache legs with intent to kill.

I had never heard of the Sharp Centre before, nor had I ever seen a picture of it... I was quite frankly not entirely sure that I was seeing it then!
I spent at least another 20 minutes approaching it from various angles, wondering if I had indeed gone through some Lewis Carroll looking glass. I mean, a monstrous Kleenex Box on Pencils was a bit over the top.
It was one of the coolest surprises I ever had.


Baysage said...

That is truly an awesome building! I can understand your astonishment. (and the little house under it is cool too)

I can sympathize with your uneasiness in a foreign country. If you ain't been there, you ain't going to know the simplest things, and traffic is always nerve-racking if you don't know exactly where you are and how to get where you're going.

This is why GPS is a direct gift from the heavens. Ours was so helpful in Europe. It's really hard to overstate the case. Worked in pedestrian situations as well.

Montag said...

I am surprised I had never heard of it. I was so astonished to switch from a state of pissed-off-memorize-entryway-make-mental-notes-of-surroundings.......

to a state of what-the-hell!

I mean, my eyes were at normal street level and I saw those incredible spindly pencil-shaped supports and it was like the invasion of the praying mantis!

Baysage said...

You've about convinced me I have to go to Toronto. My daughter was up there this past summer and says it was a great city.

Montag said...

It is positively dense!
You could spend years investigating the city. Sometimes I drive through old residential communities (preferably on a hilly terrain, which are plentiful in certain areas) and just look at all the architecture.