From Queens Park To Drag Queens

Thursday was yet more packing. The things that had gone into the boxes had to be taken out and recorded. It doesn’t feel like there is a lot but the boxes certainly took up a good amount of space in our small apartment.

I went to my chiropractor appointment in the middle of the day–my last one. The session was good but what did make said was saying goodbye. I’d been coming once a week soon after we arrived in Toronto so that’s two years of appointments. In some ways I’ve probably seen her more often, and definitely more regular, than some of the friends I’ve made her.

We hugged goodbye and she waved the session’s fee for me as a farewell, and said she hoped I come back, if not permanently, then for a visit. I had a few tears in my eyes as I left her office. 

I went for lunch at Loblaw’s. Because it’s pride, a drag queen was performing in the foyer. People stopped and watched, took photos, clapped. I got choked up again. Not because she was bad (she wasn’t) but because I thought it was so wonderful that this could happen and I felt the contrast with Australia was so stark. There were no jeers, no awkwardness. It was just fun and part of life. I ate my lunch grateful that I’d been able to live in such a place.

Queens Park

As probably my last tourist activity for Toronto, I walked to Queens Park to go on a tour of the parliament building. It had been on my list since we moved here but had always been passed over for something else. Today was the day.

The tour started at 1:30. There was me, four French woman and a German one. Parliament wasn’t sitting so we were able to go into the lower house, down on the level where the MPPs (Member of Provincial Parliament) sit. The guide was excellent and slipped easily between English and French without skipping a beat. I was able to understand a bit of the French too.

I learned that about 100 12-13 year olds spend a few weeks at the parliament each year and act kind of like ball boys for the MPPs. They sit on the third step where the Speaker sits (the only other people who are allowed to do so) and take the MPPs water or pass papers between them. Talk about a political education. I thought their presence was meant to remind the politicians to be civil and not make stupid decisions but I doubt it.

The guide explained a bit about the building, particularly the carvings around the room. There are a bunch of animals, included an owl facing the ruling party (to inspire wisdom) and an eagle facing the opposition (to remind them to be eagle-eyed of the ruling party).

There were also a few faces carved into the walls. Most of them are of the sculptors but one is of Queen Victoria, except you’d never know it. Apparently the original didn’t look happy enough so they carved a wider grin on her and now she looks like a jack-o-lantern.

From the lower house we went upstairs into the west wing of the building. From the outside Queens Park looks like one complete structure but inside it’s a mix. As to be expected, there was a fire in the building in something like 1909. (It’s been a bit of a running joke for Glen and I that wherever we’ve been, particularly in parliament buildings, there’s always been a fire.)

This fire destroyed the west wing of the building. Thousands of books were lost but about 6000 were saved as the librarians flung them out of the windows to safety. Surprisingly no one was killed in this fire (which had started after workers left a flame unattended while they went to lunch). After the fire, the west wing was rebuilt in Italian marble and a mosaic tile floor was installed–which took a year to make. The contrast between this side and the old wooden side is stark, light versus dark.

On the wooden side, we were shown a map of Ontario and discussed a bit of the distribution of the MPPs. Toronto, because of its population, has 20 MPPs, while about a third to a half of the land space of the province only has one (for about 100,000 constituents). Bit like Australia I suppose.

The wooden pillars had metalwork dragons on them which are there to ward off evil spirits. Before the parliament was there, there was a building on the land that housed students from nearby University of Toronto. After that it became a mental asylum, which was knocked down but ignorance, superstition and prejudice remained in the form of these warding dragons. They’re impressive though.

The tour lasted about 45 minutes. We ended up back at the entrance looking at the two maces the government has used. One was the original wooden mace for Upper Canada–that the U.S. stole in the War of 1812 and Roosevelt returned in the 1930s ‘as an act of friendship’. The other was the new metal one with a couple of diamonds in it.

For a free tour it was interesting, covered what I wanted to know, including some things I hadn’t expected, and it was a good way to spend some time. Now I won’t have to regret missing out on seeing Queens Park from the inside.

Farewell Dinner and Starry Night

After the legislature I went to the gym, one of two last workouts at GoodLife, and then went home, changed and walked down to Baldwin St, behind the hospital to go for a farewell dinner for the breast radiology fellows. I was the only partner which was a little bit awkward and, apart from Glen, knew only one other person well enough to slip into a conversation with.

The restaurant was a vegan restaurant but on the whole it was good tasty food and very filling. Meaghan, the supervisor, made a nice speech about the three breast fellows, and then they gave Glen his prize for winning the research award (which embarrassed him no end).

After dinner we went home, changed, and made the decision to venture outside to attend Starry Night at the 519 Green Space. It was a big drag queen evening with lots of performances and Panti Bliss, the Irish drag queen, was one of the main attractions for us going. No queue to get in, which was a relief as last year they’d reached capacity early and no one could go in after 8:30.

Julian came down soon after we arrived. We bought some drinks and bumped into people we knew and chatted to them for a while. We watched a few of the performances on one of the screens in the less crowded area until Panti Bliss came on and we moved forward. She didn’t dance, choosing instead to deliver a passionate speech about rights, about ‘being home’ and about the challenges still ahead. It had already been an emotional day and this got to me. It matters so much to feel safe and to belong. 

Mado, the well known drag queen from Montreal, came on next as the DJ for the rest of the night. She’s always a lot of fun. We stayed until about 10:30 before heading home and watching more Sense8. It had been a great day, but it was also nice to snuggle up on the couch with Glen.


Drag queen in Loblaws
Ontario’s crest
The wooden east wing
here be dragons

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