Oh, Canada

A year ago I had never been outside of the country and now I have used my passport twice. I just got back from Toronto, ON Canada. It is so close to the US so the culture is really just like the US except for little subtle differences. The easiest to point out are the different laws in Canada. They don’t have a pointless, outdated embargo with Cuba so cigars and rum from there are available just like anything else. You do have to buy spirits from an LCBO since that is regulated by the government. Their candy variety is different with items like Coffee Crisp, Wunderbar, and Aero.

Canada’s paper money looks way cooler than ours. It is multi-colored, plasticy, partially transparent, and sprinkled¬†with holograms. They also no longer use pennies and all of their $1 and $2 money is in coin form. On our trip the exchange rate was about $1.29 CAN to $1 USD so things looked more expensive than they actually were. Toronto was not a cheap town for sure but it was not terrible at all. As a backward American, my credit card required a signature instead of a pin so they could always tell I was not from there.

Wanting to take every advantage I could while outside the US, Katie and I went to a market across from our AirBnB and I bought some unpasteurized milk to try. It tasted the same, if maybe just a little on the sour side but not enough to affect the taste much.

Toronto did not feel like it has much of its own identity but rather gets its charm by virtue of it having so many cultural neighborhoods within it. We went to one of their Chinatowns (yes, they apparently have like three of them) where there were also some great Mexican places serving things like fresh made churros, chicken avocado salad, and lots of other things I don’t see at the typical tex-mex joints around here.

In an attempt to salvage a modicum of credibility, we decided to go to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Is is a good size to see in an afternoon and still feel like you covered most of it. In a short time you can see classic art, contemporary art, sculpture, and even boat models on the lower level. There was a bride and photographer roaming around for a wedding that I can only imagine was astronomically expensive and being held after closing time. The gallery had a section on nuclear bombs and tragedies. The green chandler in the photo above is glowing under black-light from actual depleted uranium. Neat!

Overall, we had a great time and the trip was well worth the time. The people were nice, the city was clean, and it was not too busy that you can’t get around. I am sure I will be back at some point, but I can think of a dozen places I have never been that would be worth a go around before I return to Toronto. I can’t wait to see where I go next!

Wizard World Chicago

My first Comic Con! I had to work in Chicago last weekend and my girlfriend was able to tag along with me! The whole weekend was wonderful and Saturday was our day for con activities. There were literally 1000s of people there. Once we finally got the the con, we were taken aback by how much stuff there was there. The majority of the con is vendors selling stuff but they also have programming you can attend. The programming was pretty obscure and I didn’t find much I was interested in. I see all of these videos from San Diego Comic Con and I can see it is on a whole other level from this affair in Chicago.

There is another con in Chicago called C2E2 and from what I can see on the Internet, it is a better option. While I was in Chicago in April this year it was going on and I went to one of the after parties at a bar and had a pretty great time. I will look into that next year.

There was a freeplay arcade setup there and I got to play Altered Beast. I used to play that as a kid at a local watering hole and then on our family SEGA Genesis. That was really cool to relive.

This con had an official after party that we went to and danced our asses off among Jedi’s, starship captains, robots, and superheros. We stayed out late dancing with the nerds brave enough to show up to a dance party and it was well worth the effort.