Usually when Henry and I road trip for a concert, it’s a whirlwind of checking into some crap hotel, struggling to find somewhere to eat, going to the show, waking up early & coming home. Never anytime time to explore, sightsee, or immerse ourselves in a new place.
Originally we were going to leave Saturday morning and get to Toronto in the evening, but Chris talked us into leaving a day earlier so that we could have time to explore and see the city. I am so glad we did this. Thank you for the push, Chris!
We woke up early on Saturday because I was REARIN’ to go. Henry had made the unilateral decision to use public transportation and at first I was on board with this, but then when it came time to step on the streetcar on Queen St, I FUCKING PANICKED.
“I don’t think I can do it!” I cried around the fist I was biting.
It doesn’t matter whose fist.
Stop asking about the fist.
Henry was all GODDAMMIT but then remembered that this was my Special Weekend so he swallowed some Prozac and read another chapter from the Tucking Thee Penis Betwixt Thee Legs manual. He declared that it was fine, this was all just fine, not a problem, he understands how anxious public transportation makes me. We walked another block and caught a different street car.
Of course, it was one of the old dingy ones and not the pretty ones we kept seeing rumbling gently down the street. Ugh.
A VIEW FROM THE WINDOW.
We were only on the street car for a few blocks when Henry chirped, “OK, let’s go” and lead me off the street car right into a subway station, ughhhhh!! Henry didn’t disclose that there was a second leg of this pub-transporting odyssey.
We barely had to wait at all for a train to come. I was still pretty leery of this whole procedure (hi, my name is Erin R. Kelly and I’m scared of the mundane) but I blindly followed Henry through the whooshing doors and proceeded to stand alone and scowl at him from across the train because what’s life if it’s not dramatic.
But you know what? It turns out that Toronto’s subway system is pretty fucking amazing, fast, convenient, and it helped us get to Koreatown, so I can’t hate it. I just can’t.
Altogether, it took us about 17 minutes to get to Koreatown from Leslieville using the street car and subway (this doesn’t include the walk from the airbnb to where we caught the street car, but you get the point. This blog post is boring because Henry is feeding me dry information). I would highly recommend it! It ended up being kind of fun and made me feel like I was on vacation and not just killing time by driving around in a strange city before a show which is what typically happens.
We took the subway to Christie Street. When we emerged from the subway station and rounded the corner, I was nearly felled by all the glorious hangul everywhere!
I kept making Henry stop so I could read signs. It was an excelsior learning experience! I know it seems trivial, but this was so exciting to me. I dream every night and every day of going to South Korea, and this was like a tiny little consolation.
However, it was only 9:30am and nothing was open yet. So we just strolled around and drooled over all of the menus posted outside of the restaurants. There were so many to choose from! So different from Pittsburgh.
Henry and I had a small spat because we were both hungry and I didn’t really think this part of the day through. So it was all, “YOU’RE THE ONE WHO HAD TO COME HERE SO GODDAMN EARLY!” and “WELL I DIDN’T SEE YOU SENDING AN ITINERARY TO THE PRINTING PRESS MOTHERFUCKER!” but then we walked to get ice cream and took the street car back to Koreatown for lunch, and everything was amazing after that because Ice Cream Saves.
But first—Kpop shopping!
There was an adorable card shop called Just You – Sarah & Tom that Henry was trying to keep me from seeing. He was rummaging in his cargo shorts for a BB gun to shoot my eyes out when my hands found the door handle and I was whisked away to Kpop Heaven.
A chorus of “Hello! Annyeong!” greeted us before the door had a close behind us. The most adorable Korean women were running the shop, demonstrating some of the knickknacks for us, fawning over my tattoos, talking to us about Kpop—-it was heavenly! Even Henry’s frown was no match for the joy brewing up in that bitch—it got its hooks into the corners of his mouth and tugged them right the fuck up.
ADMIT IT HENRY, YOU LOVED IT.
Especially when “TT” by Twice came on the store stereo and an impromptu dance party broke out.
I wanted to buy every Kpop album they had available but Henry was like DO YOU NOT WANT G-DRAGON MERCH THEN so I settled on two sticker packets for me and Chooch to share: BIGBANG and Twice.
Our favorites. <3
After such an amazing experience, we were ready to eat. We chose Korea House, and it was motherfucking magic. I love the ambiance!
Being able to read the menu and know what most everything is was so rewarding. Learning Korean is a struggle for me, but I haven’t give up. And when I’m able to use it in situations like this, it just motivates me even more.
I ordered the bibim naengmyeon. Henry has made me versions of it at home and the first time I tried it, I was like, “OH FUCK NO.” Even though I knew it was a cold noodle dish, it was still very alarming and jolting the first time it was placed in front of me. But then something just clicked and it became one of my favorite things that Henry makes me.
When I ordered, I said the actual name of the dish. I didn’t point and I didn’t rely on the number. And the ajummah knew what I ordered! She didn’t make me feel dumb like the time I was at a Mexican restaurant and tried to order rojo sauce on my enchilada and the waitress kept asking “What?” in escalating volumes until I finally just whispered, “Red sauce” with my head hung in defeat.
While we were waiting for our food, the younger guy working there turned on the TV. I figured he was going to put on the news or some sport thing, but instead, he turned on a Jay Park YouTube playlist!
“This is just like being at home,” I giddily squealed to Henry, who was just like, “OH BOY.”
But he loved it. Korean food and kpop videos are life, you guys. Such life.
The only problem is that I am in a constant war with noodles. It doesn’t matter what the cuisine is. Have you seen me eat spaghetti? By the end, I look like I just went down on a can of slutty tomato sauce. Fork, spoon, chopsticks, my motherfucking phalanges — I AM A MESS WITH NOODLES.
When Henry makes me noodles at home, he cuts them for me (because I’m 5), and in the YouTube videos I watch of people eating food in S.Korea (my life is so full), I often see them using kitchen shears, which is a relief to know that the noodle experts need some help sometimes too.
But the waiter didn’t bring me any noodle scissors. I tried to use my chopsticks to cut them, but then I gave up for a while and just focused on eating the banchan—American restaurants really need to get on the ball with offering complimentary sides for the table. Holy shit, it was a veritable rainbow of pickled delights.
By the time I started working on the noodles, two Korean guys were seated next to us and my noodle-eating stage fright set in. Right before they walked in, I had felt a surge of bravery and started to shovel a huge mound of noodles into my waiting maw via chopsticks, and then immediately realized I hadn’t thought this through. I was frozen, a mile of noodle-drapes hanging out of my mouth, cheeks blown out like a chipmunk, sweat springing up along my hairline—I was seconds away from choking. I kept trying to inhale and suck back the strands of cold strangulation to no avail.
I was only making it worse.
Noodles were flipping and flapping around, splashing my eyeballs and Henry with gochujang,
“Oh my god, what are you doing!?” he hissed. I was in tears, noodles hanging in shame from my mouth like their mom had just caught them watching deep throat porn. I couldn’t breathe because every slight inhale was causing more noodle to slide down my gullet. I just wanted to enjoy my lunch without danger of asphyxiation.”Do you want me to ask for shears?” Henry asked.
I shook my head violently, and in a moment of panic, I reached up with my hands and began tugging the noodles out of my mouth with my fingers, LIKE A BARBARIAN.
“Oh for Christ’s sake,” Henry said, and walked over to the counter to ask the waiter to put me out of my misery.
He returned with shears, cut my fucking noodles like a good dad, and then life went on.
Meanwhile, one of the guys at the table next to us also ordered a noodle dish, and he was given shears with his meal without asking!
Speaking of asking, I heard him ask for more bap and I knew that he was asking for a side of rice!
I LOVE KNOWING THINGS.
After lunch, I celebrated not choking to death by buying some G-Dragon pins across the street at Mr. Pen. We also went to a large market but their candy aisle was kind of a letdown, surprisingly. Sorry, co-workers. I mean, I still bought candy, but not as much as I intended.
After a sufficient Korea immersion, we took the subway back to Leslieville because I promised Henry we could “rest” for awhile, but all that really meant was that I wanted to change clothes, send Chooch some messages since I had wifi at the airbnb, and get coffee before heading back out for dinner.
I’m not one of those people who take vacations to relax, clearly. MORE LATER! TORONTO IS SPLOOGING CONTENT ALL UP ON THIS HO.