Christmas In Toronto (Jan 7th – 17th)

I want to start off by saying that this is my most anticipated visit to Toronto yet. While July was filled with adventure and October full of Halloween-horror and delight, January Christmas is my favorite so far. I had been looking forward to seeing Marissa since my rocky departure in October, and this time I would be getting not only some awesome lovings but GIFTS! Since I don’t really celebrate Christmas I was really excited!

The Day before the Flight

January 6th:

Tuesday was an especially stressful day, and something of an anomaly. I closed at work with the new GM and the District Manager, something that had never happened since I started working there. Things went slow and smooth and somehow served to set the ‘finality’ of my time in Memphis. What a note to leave on, right? I got home and didn’t sleep a bit – too much was running through my mind. I wanted the flights to go smoothly and there to be no delays or problems. Not only that I was absolutely bursting to finally wrap my arms around my lovely Marissa, I wanted to give her the ring I had been paying off for the past few months.

January 7th:

Let it be said that I am the worlds most punctual man. I was packed and ready to go at 2am and outside waiting for my cab to get there by 4:30. It was cold and very silent in the parking lot of the apartments, something about it really just made me want to get to the airport as soon as possible. When I finally got there I didn’t have any real trouble finding my gate, and caught a wonderful sunrise on film. I hung out in the gate lobby and read on my phone. When it came time to board I was the first in line.

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Both my landing and departure from Chicago went easy – I even had time to eat one of those overpriced airport mystery hot dogs. What a treat that was; pretty sure I never had farts that rancid before or after.

NOW we get to the interesting part!

“John, what happened when you went through customs in Toronto-Pearson?” WELL I AM GLAD YOU ASKED THAT QUESTION! I expected to just go through the gates and get out onto the platform, but it was not to be. I was stopped by Border Patrol and questioned about my relationship with Marissa, my personal savings, and had to go through all the loops and hurdles to prove I wasn’t some dirty border-hopping illegal. After a long, frustrating struggle with shitty airport WiFi, I managed to get a frantic message out to Marissa. “HONEY I AM BEING DETAINED MESSAGE YOUR MOTHER” Thankfully she didn’t have too big of a panic attack and everything was sorted out in the end. Didn’t even get butt probed. (I have to say the big WELCOME TO CANADA signs in the area where people are being detained seems in poor taste.)

Details get hazy after I got into the van, all I remember was how happy I felt when I saw Marissa again… I really needed the hug and kiss that I got from her. Once we got back to the house it was like I had never left in October. We picked right back up from where we left off. However, while I got to play on my new laptop, I was FORCED to ogle all the gifts under the Christmas tree for the next 24 hours. But that time went by quick.

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January 8th:

That morning I remember us sleeping in very late and getting warm cuddles from Marissa, something that made all of my problems back home melt away. Being able to go there and relax helped rejuvenate me. The day went by mostly in a flash of playing on the computer and doing stuff till it was time to open up the presents. Now that was what I had been waiting for. All of my gifts were amazing – clothes and a huge bundle of socks (kind of a running joke but still amazing since you can never have enough socks, especially walking as much as I do). Then there was the gaming headset and the awesome iPod nano. My woman knows the things that I really need. Aside from that we both got a scrapbook sorta deal from her parents which chronicled our first meeting and every meeting after that. I have mine stored on my shelf next to a picture of her and I.

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Once all of the gifts were opened, there remained one last thing. Marissa must have known something big was happening because she was sat down on the sofa while her parents started filming. I remember how nervous I felt in my stomach that I was about to do this. I had been planning it with her mom on the phone for a long time, and now the moment was finally here. I resisted making any kind of joke during such a serious life event. With gift box in hand, I walked up to her and started to open it. After much nervous fumbling I got down on one knee and presented it to her, asking her to officially be my wife. The response I got? “WELL OBVIOUSLY!” (can I include she had a smug grin?)

SO THAT WAS MY GRAND PROPOSAL!

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January 9th: A NIGHT ON THE TOWN

Besides my proposal and gift openings, this was my favorite day of the visit. Marissa, her friends, cousin (a nice lady, I really liked her personality) and me all went out to meet up with my best buddy Brent for a night of adventure in downtown Toronto. I remember having a strange anxiousness in my chest before meeting up with Brent, Veronika and her boyfriend – all I wanted was for everyone to go well. I especially wanted Marissa to like and approve of everything. Brent was just as cool as all those years of online friendship suggested he’d be. The first thing we did was shop around the mall, but once we were done with that we moved onto the museum. THIS PLACE WAS AWESOME. I had no idea that ancient Chinese artwork placed such emphasis on erect nipples. It was like you could judge the importance and significance of a statue or carving by how delicately the nipples were shaped. There were lots of bronze age weapons and knives, which I found really interesting. A shame that there weren’t any examples of what the blades would have looked like a thousand years ago. Once upon a time those tools were commonplace and a part of everyday life. I guess museums in a thousand years will display forks, spoons, cars and iphones the same way we display bronze age tools.

The next exhibit was my favorite – DINOSAURS! It took me back to when I was a kid exploring the Pink Palace here in Memphis… what a time in my life. Once we snapped our pictures and did a little more exploring, and then everyone gathered in the gift shop and we went out to eat. The ramen shop (Kenzo?) was just as good as the last time I went there, but my portion was much larger than I expected and I couldn’t finish everything. When all the food was done, Veronika and her boyfriend left and our group was joined by one of Brent’s female friends. From there it was time to explore the game shops and then go grab a drink. A shame that it got dark too fast and we didn’t get to share that drink (somehow nobody ever thought that a Saturday night downtown would be packed). At the end of the night we all sat at a table in the lounge area of a small mall and swapped stories. The trip back home was uneventful, other than me enjoying just being with Marissa and recalling how well the night had gone. I’d love to do that again sometime.

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January 11th:

When Marissa first told me that it was family tradition to go to a Chinese All You Can Eat Buffet I didn’t know quite what to think. Sounded kinda funny actually. From my experiences in Memphis, Chinese restaurants are skeezy at their best and staffed by people that have hilariously bad engrish accents. As soon as we pulled up to the Mandarin and I got my first look at it, it was like that scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Grant first sees the dinosaurs.

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This place put all other Chinese Restaurants to shame. So along with Marissa, her sister and her friend Zed we went in and did what we always do; take tons of selfies. Just by looking at the healthy pond and marine habitats (both extremely difficult to maintain) I could tell this place had a lot of class and pride. The food was absolutely fantastic and the price wasn’t too terrible. It was here that I also remembered that I couldn’t handle spicy foods. The table talk was 90% Zed and I discussing our lives and pasts – I really liked that guy. At the end of the night we literally skipped back to the van. That is, to date, one of my very best eating experiences. I loved it. I’m so glad Marissa and her family took me there.

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January 12th:

Star Wars isn’t exactly special to me – I’ve loosely kept up with the movies and media around it because it’s cool – but something really made me want to see The Force Awakens. While the prequel movies were good (in my opinion) they couldn’t hold a candle to this movie. The action scenes were incredible and it was awesome to see Harrison Ford reprise his role as Han Solo. The downsides to the movie were small but plentiful – first of the offenses was the main protagonists – a cloned Storm trooper and a scavenger – who somehow manage to take on the elite forces of the First Order despite having no real combat experience at all. They were literally guided by the Hand-of-God and you never feel as though they survived their ordeals with anything but sheer dumb luck. Then the Scavenger girl with a blank history and vague motivations is NOW A GODDAMN JEDI SERIOUSLY F YOU JJ ABRAMS. Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren felt more like a whiny goth with sociopathic tendencies and I never got a real… dangerous feel from him. The last offense was the situation humor that is littered in just about every Marvel movie these days. It didn’t fit.

Now that my rant about star wars is done, I want to say that Marissa was a real trooper and stayed awake the entire time with me, even though she admitted that some of the acting made her cringe. I love that girl. And at the end of the day, I’d still give that Star Wars movie a 10/10.

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January 14th:

Marissa and I had gone over our budget for my visit so I was hesitant to go to dinner with her friends, but at the end I finally agreed. Moxie’s, the place were we went to eat, looked more like a dance club than a diner. In fact a dance floor would have fit perfectly with the places choice of color theme (dimmed lights, dark colors and lots of neon purple). My first meeting with her friend Lynn was a bit awkward…I wasn’t sure I was supposed to shake her hand first or if I needed to wait… so we stood there and stared at each other for a second. Then we shook hands and everything was well. I could swear I could feel the awkward bursting from Marissa. At least things went better when her friend Melissa arrived. So once we had all greeted each other we went to our booth and ordered our food. A lot of the table talk was about the wedding and what all would be going down – mixed in with a bit about my life and me. Come to think of it I didn’t find out anything about either of her friends. Neither of them talked about themselves much, which I guess is good since the point of this dinner was to introduce me.

At the end of the night I think Melissa agreed to sing at our wedding… not sure how that one happened. Oh, and Marissa and I definitely overspent on food. -_-

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January 15th:

License to Marry

This was a big day for me – in that it cemented in my mind that I was actually going to get married. The whole proposal and wedding and life together were sort of surreal to me; how could I be getting married after spending so many years all alone? Everything went smoother than smooth (something I’m not used to). I had all of the proper paperwork and the money. Once we paid and were out the door, Marissa and I talked about our time together and our future, as well as sharing some laughs about children in our future. We stopped at EB Games and grabbed some cords for our systems and delicious Five Guys burgers. The rest of the day went by in a blur as I tried to put out my inevitable flight home on Sunday.

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THE LAST FULL DAY

Ugh. I tried my best to make the best of the day. I focused on spending time with Marissa and packing as much bonding and quality time into one evening as possible. We played games and watched movies, and then fell asleep in each others arms that night.

SUNDAY – FREEZING HELL DAY

We spent our last few hours together playing games and talking and trying not to be depressed (i.e; do the impossible). Once I was packed up and going through U.S Customs I knew my time here was at its end. Going back was the hardest thing I had to do. I hated every second of it. The first flight went by in a sleepy blur. The second flight was a nightmare however. Never EVER fly with United Airlines. They are a disorganized mess. Not only did my flight change gates THREE TIMES but once we actually boarded the plane we were delayed for nearly two extra hours because they forgot to refuel. The flight itself was nerve wracking since the plane kept having electrical malfunctions (with lights flickering and such). Never wanted to kiss the ground so much as when I got off of that damn plane. MARISSA, PLEASE, NO MORE UNITED AIRLINES. And so concludes another awesome and love-filled trip to my true home of Ontario.

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