The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Toronto Oratorio

          When I think of Easter, I think of Toronto, Ontario. It's not because of the o's that are kind of like eggs or the t's that are similar to crosses.  It's not because Ontario is almost like oratorio and when I think of oratorios I think of Handel's Messiah which is frequently performed at Easter.  It's just my weird personal connection.

         Foremost I think of Jesus Christ and what He did for us.  That is what Easter is all about.  But today I am not talking about the meaning of the day, I'm talking about some of the memories Easter evokes for me.  Of course I think of the traditional popular images of bunnies, colored eggs, candies, fancy clothes, and ham dinners--those are images many of us grew up with.  Then, as we grow older, other memories begin to take the place of the childhood memories.  These are memories of times and places and the experiences that went with them.

         So what's with Toronto.  During most of the 1980s I managed a touring show and for some reason our schedule used to always find us in Ontario during the Easter break.  I'm not sure about the reasoning behind this.  It may have had something to do with the fact that the week prior to Easter may have not been a good time for booking our show, but the weeks prior to Easter break week and afterwards were good times.  This was one of my theories.  Also since the Canadian dollar was not very strong against the U.S. dollar maybe the off week worked better in Canada so they could pay the performers and the expenses in Canadian funds to avoid having to exchange too  much currency into U.S. and lose money.  All theories and really it didn't matter that much.  I liked being in Ontario.

             For the off week,  Toronto seemed the logical place to go.  There was a lot to do to there to keep us all entertained.  Toronto's a great city -- one of my favorite places.  Eventually I started arranging accommodations at one of the Marriotts or Holiday Day Inns on the north side of the city right close to the 401 expressway which runs across lower Ontario.  That way we would have easy access to the freeway on the days we were traveling out of town to work.  Also, truck parking was easier and we got better hotel rates.  One day I'd like to talk more about our times in Ontario and Toronto, but today's post focuses on Easter since this coming Sunday is Easter.

          On Easter day, it seemed like almost everything was closed in Toronto.  There were no stores that we could ever find open on that day and even open restaurants were scarce.  It was a day to sleep late.  I recall attending church--a mass at a catholic church--one time in all of those years.  Living on the road is a peculiar life.  When you're not driving or working, you feel essentially homeless, but able to stay in nice hotels and eat in restaurants.  In our time off we might stay in the hotel room for a while, but especially when you have children like we did,  you have to get out some.  In Toronto around Easter this often meant going to shopping malls.  Some years it was warm enough to go to parks and other outdoor environments, but not usually. So on Easter Day we might take the kids and walk around shopping malls, which were open, to look at the stores, which were closed.  Then we'd look for an open restaurant at the mall or drive to someplace where we would find a restaurant open.  There was never a home to go to, just a room. 

          In 1986, the night before Easter, we had tickets to go see Canadian singer-songwriter Murray Maclaughlin in concert.   We were always on the lookout for concerts during the days we were off.  This particular year I noted in some Toronto entertainment publication that Murray would be playing Easter Eve at a college near to where we were staying.  Murray Maclaughlin was an acquired taste--I didn't care for his country style music at first, but then it really grew on me and I began buying all of the cassettes I could find by him.   I was anxious to see him in concert.

           That Saturday evening, when we arrived at the venue, we discovered that the concert was being held in some sort of large classroom or lecture hall.  There were probably about 300 seats with those little flip up desk tops between them.  This was the first odd thing that struck me.  The second odd thing was that there was only a grand piano and a guitar on the stage.  There were no drums, banks of amplifiers, other instruments, or any kind of stage lighting.  It was a simple stage area where a professor would stand behind a podium and occasionally go over to a blackboard and perhaps write something to illustrate what he was talking about.  I realized why the tickets had been so inexpensive.  I was disappointed.

         The concert started precisely on schedule.  Maclaughlin came out onto the stage with no fanfare and picked up his guitar.  For the next two hours we were treated to one of the finer evenings of entertainment that I've ever experienced.  He played most of his most popular songs, switching between guitar and piano accompaniment, and told wonderful stories.  The audience was totally engaged by this talented and affable fellow.  One of the most unexpected surprises of his performance was an extraordinarily beautiful rendition of "On the Strreet Where You Live"  from the musical MY FAIR LADY.  It was a song I would have never expected to hear by an artist like that.

          I don't why I think of Toronto at Easter, but I suppose it is like any other set routine or tradition to which you become adapted.  Even though I watched the 90s pass and I established certain traditions for my children to make their Easters special and then later got married to my present wife and we have made the tradition of attending our church not just on Easter, but every Sunday; the memory of Toronto stays with me.  There is noone there that I know, I have nothing there that is mine, and yet that city strangely draws me and to me it's really just a place, a time, a memory.

The Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

I want to thank everybody who has joined up so far.  This was such a last minute thing with no real planning involved.   Please make sure the link to your blogsite is listed in my sidebar if you are a participant or a supporter.  I've been trying to carefully keep up with this, but I may have missed someone and I certainly don't want to do that.

Also, if there are other things you can think of to make this a better experience for all of us, please let me know.  I am not real computer savvy so there may be some tricks that I am missing.  For example someone mentioned a Mclinky thing-- seen 'em but don't know much about 'em.   So if you have a suggestion for poor ol' computer challenged me let me hear it and if I don't know what your talking about please forgive me.

I encourage all participants to jump over to each other's blogs and get to know one another and become followers.  And definitely leave some comments.  The comments make the blogging experience more fun, satisfying, and even educational-- but I'm sure I don't have to tell you that.

I'll continue to add new participants until Monday April 5.   If it looks like we're just having more fun than you can stand and you want to jump in a little late, well, I think that would be okay.  So tell your friends, family, or whoever you think might like what we're doing (and who in their right mind wouldn't?) so they can join us as we go Blogging From A to Z in April.



  1. Having never been to Canada this was a most interesting and entertaining blog. I do hope your Easter is a good and Holy one and the weather appropriate, the weather has gone back to winter here, ....even snow.
    Looking forward to the start of the Challenge, I'm sure it will be a great success,

    Take care.

  2. What an interesting life you have led, Lee. I think it is wonderful how some "places" (even people) can draw us to them years later.

  3. Isn't it strange what memories our hearts choose to keep and which ones go forgotten? May Ontario always have a special place in your heart. Happy, blessed Easter to you and your family!

  4. Arlee...go here to get a mcklinky...I tried email this morning but there is a bug it seems....hope this helps for your a-z challenge! Can't wait til tomorrow!

  5. Good luck with the A-Z challenge.

    It is amazing how we can be pleasantly surprised by simplicity.

  6. What wonderful memories of Toronto. I can imagine that your concert was wonderful, those smaller, more intimate venues usually make for spectacular evenings!

    You have inspired me to do an 'Easter memories' post...of course now I will have to figure out where it fits in from A to Z!

    Looking forward to the challenge Lee.

    Blessings to you and yours!

  7. i have Toronto and would love to live there! have family members living in Mississauga.(spelling?)

    ...can also relate to your concert. i went to a concert once being held at a church to hear one of my favorite singers. (John Michael Talbot) he walked onto the stage dressed in his Franciscan robe carrying a guitar. sat down on a hard wooden chair and began to play/sing. the accoustics were perfect and the performance was almost heavenly. thanks for stirring up the memories

  8. I loved reading about your memories of Toronto..Delightfully remembered..
    May this Easter bring beloved memories for you and may you be blessed~!!
    Good luck on the Challenge, and I am givin' it the "ol' college try"~!!....

  9. What a small world. My mom grew up in Toronto. And while I've never been there during Easter, you almost made me feel like I have been.

  10. I would love to visit Toronto. Your words make it seem like such a wonderful place.

    I think it's interesting how our brains will associate certain places with days, songs, people, etc. It's fascinating to me!

    Great post, and I can't wait for the A to Z challenge to start tomorrow! Have no idea what the "A" post will be - we'll find out together!

  11. Isn't it interesting that we can associate a holiday with a location based on past experiences?

  12. Looking forward to the challenge - I have tomorrow's post ready!

  13. Decided to join the challenge after reading about it over at Shannon's place. Hope I can finish what I start :0)

  14. Toronto is a great city :)

    Several places I visited today in bloggy-world mentioned your challenge. It's going to be a fun month!

  15. Hokey-Smoke, rLEE-b!
    I'm rather impressed by the number of bloggers you have signed up for your "A 2 Z April Challenge". I don't know if it's your charisma, your leadership qualities, or your good manners, but whatever it is, you got "it". You da man, man!

    (Psst... Know any four-letter words that start with X or Z? I might have to alter the concept I was planning to go with.)

    Until A'morrow.
    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

  16. Yvonne -- loved the poems promoting the Blog challenge. You are quite amazing!

    Shannon - will try to look at the Mclinky thing, but whew! I've been overwhelmed with emails!

    Trudy -- I really enjoy writing and reading memoir posts. I'll look forward to yours.

    Bud -- I used to be a big fan of the band "Mason Proffitt". I surprised to discover John Michael Talbott years later.

    Stephen -- It is amazing isn't it, but I give most of the credit to all of these bloggers who are up for a challenge and have a willingness to hone their crafts and share them with the rest of us.

    And to all of the other commenters thank you for your visits, comments, kind words, and encouragement. I am so thrilled to have all of you joining us here today.

  17. I love Toronto as well and I enjoyed your memories of a beautiful city......:-) Hugs

  18. ok, saw this now... i'm joining the bandwagon! :)
    my blog is called Symphony, and it can be found Here

  19. Just saw this amazing challenge now it a try here :

  20. Hi, I saw the challenge on Dreamweaver's blog. I'm excited. I'll be reciting my alphabets on my site

    Thanks for a goal.

  21. Leo, Dreamy, & Voice -- you are all on the blogroll.

  22. I am in... Lets see how I do,
    Juan from

  23. I live just north of Toronto, go there often! I'm afraid I've been away for quite a while, didn't know about the A-Z challenge. We live in a rural spot with no high speed internet. That makes blogging and checking blogs a challenge. Hopefully next time this challenge comes around I'll be ready!

  24. Hi Ron--
    Your town of Orillia is a nice place. I'd like to go there in the summer one day as it has always been quite cold when I've been there. Dial-up would make things pretty tough. I don't know how I ever got by without high speed.


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