A Wet Ghost Walk Through The Distillery District

We’d been wanting to do a ghost walk of Toronto’s Distillery District for some time so we bought our tickets for the night of July 6th. One figures with a historic place like the Distillery District there’s bound to be some hauntings and a few lost souls lingering about.

The company hosting the walk was The Haunted Walk. They also have offices in Ottawa and Kingston and we have taken their tours while visiting each of these cities. The tours from this company were fun and enjoyable so we thought we’d try out one of the tours a little closer to home.

The Distillery District walk was called Ghosts and Spirits of the Distillery. Our guide was fantastic – very personable and his voice was loud and clear. The stories he wove of the creepy happenings in the Distillery District were fascinating – but – the downside to the walk was the torrential rain pelting down on us just as the tour started. Here’s how it went down (literally):

The rain did finally let up and we were able to finish the tour, albeit feeling quite soggy. Post-tour we took refuge and sustenance at CACAO 70 Eatery – nothing like great chocolate to soothe the soul!

It turned into a nice evening just as we were leaving (of course). Here’s a parting shot:

I’d like to do this tour again sometime to get the full spirit of the thing. Hopefully next time the weather gods will have some mercy on us!

To My Departed Friend, Mari-es

Dear Mari-es:

Although you left us in 2014 my heart still aches when I think of you; your departure was far too soon and far too sudden. If it were only possible to talk to you again, even for a few precious minutes, this is what I’d say:

I must honestly say that the seven or so years we shared at Canada Life were the best I’ve ever had in my life. It was a joy and pleasure to work with you and be your friend. You always had a cheery disposition and wore a smile no matter how busy or hectic things became. I remember the many wonderful chats and hearty laughter we shared in the Workstation Support Burn-in Room down on B1 in the St. Patrick building. Later, when you and John joined us on Leslie’s Workstation Support team, we continued to share a lot of laughter in our daily support interactions, the team meetings and the inevitable team lunches. When I joined Mackenzie a few years later to work with Carmela, John, you, Phil, Dini and Patricia, you patiently worked side-by-side with me, showing me the ropes and mentoring flawlessly. We had a great time at Mackenzie as well and, among many other things, I still have fond memories of the many Friday lunches we enjoyed on Baldwin Street near Chinatown.

You touched so very many lives over the years and I never, ever heard a single negative thing about you from anyone. Your complete calm I always admired – you never lost your cool with even the most difficult user or situation. You always placed yourself last and nothing was ever too much trouble for you. Animals and pets played a big part in your life and you enjoyed a true love of all creatures. I well remember your stories of Jack, your cat that you so adored. Your family, children and grandchildren were the light of your life. By the way, the audio system and Polk Audio speakers we bought from you and Veny years ago continue to fill our home with beautiful music. I am always reminded of you every time I hear an especially moving piece of music coming from this system.

Please keep an eye on John. You two can now resume the wonderful sparring friendship you once shared and there will be many happy times ahead for the both of you I’m sure. The good-natured teasing and antics you two shared at both Canada Life and Mackenzie always made everyone laugh.

Mari-es & John

Mari-es, you were the kindest, gentlest, sweetest, most gracious and beautiful person I’ve ever met. You have touched my life and I will never forget you as long as I live. Never. It has been an honour and a privilege to have been your colleague and friend, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Marvin Job

SARStock / Toronto Rocks

There were two memorable events in Toronto during the summer of 2003: one was the massive power blackout covering most of northeast North America and the other was SARStock.

Crowd shot

Held on July 30, 2003 at Downsview Park (previously a former military air base in the north end of the city), the event was a gigantic, marathon rock concert to benefit Toronto’s economy and help it recover from the SARS epidemic. The concert was organized in about a month upon the suggestion of concert headliners The Rolling Stones. The Stones, by the way, love Toronto – they have played in our city many times and, utilizing small clubs like the Phoenix or the Palais Royale, they frequently practice and perform here prior to setting off on their major tours. Toronto has some not-so-fond memories, though, for Keith Richards; this is where he got busted, tried and sentenced for heroin possession way back in early 1977.

This massive concert in Downsview Park went by many names – Toronto Rocks, Stars 4 SARSMolson Canadian Rocks for Toronto, SARSfest, SARS-a-palooza, the SARS concertThe Rolling Stones SARS Benefit Concert – but I affectionately call it SARSstock as it seems the most apropos. The Rolling Stones donated 50 percent of the proceeds (an estimated $1.3 million) from their merchandise sales to two relief funds set up for the event, and $1 per ticket was also donated towards the funds. The net proceeds of official merchandise was also donated towards the relief funds.

Official crowd estimates put the number at 500,000 people attending the concert, but it felt (and looked) like far, far more than that. The unofficial crowd estimate was over a million people so I don’t know who to believe. Regardless, SARStock made the record books as the largest outdoor ticketed event in Canadian history, and one of the largest in North American history.

It was an all-Canadian event: vendors sold Alberta beef in support of the Canadian beef industry, which had recently suffered because of a case of mad cow disease. In gentle, polite, mannerly, well-behaved Canadian style, there were no major security incidents that day, which was amazing given the crowd size.

Co-hosted by Canada’s own Dan Ackroyd and Mike Bullard the band lineup was a mish-mash of Canadian (English & French), American and English talent, mostly retro acts but good retro acts if you know what I mean. The day’s lineup was:

The Have Love Will Travel Revue
Sam Roberts
Kathleen EdwardsPlaybill
La Chicane
The Tea Party
Blue Rodeo
Sass Jordan
The Flaming Lips
The Isley Brothers
Justin Timberlake
The Guess Who
Rush
AC/DC
The Rolling Stones

And all of this for only $21.50.

Each band (full concert setlist below) performed for about 15 to 20 minutes but stage/equipment teardown and setup for each act seemed to take forever. There was a lot of people scenery between acts, however, to keep anyone occupied. The Stones and AC/DC sets each took over 90 minutes, so you could certainly tell who the headliners of this gig were.

This was one of the best and most fun days of my life. My memories of that day are:

THE CROWD

In my entire life, I’ve never been in a crowd this large – that in itself was an experience. You can imagine the chaos of over a half-million people sprawled pell-mell on the grass with no organization whatsoever. If you had to leave your group for whatever reason, the only point of reference for your return were the numbered speaker stacks in the audience. If you failed to notice the number on your speaker stack there was little chance you’d ever find your group again. I remember it taking me over an hour just to get to the water and toilets – I missed Justin Timberlake’s set entirely (oh noooooo!) while I was gone, so I failed to witness firsthand the legendary water bottle-throwing incident (more on that, below).

Crowd shot

THE WEATHER

It was one of those rare summer days in Toronto where, instead of haze and humidity, the sky was absolutely clear and deep blue, not a cloud in sight, and it was HOT, very hot!

THE VIBE

Party. Absolute, sheer party. Period.

MY FRIENDS

I spent this day with my good friends Janice, Richard and his son Pete. What a great time we had. I’ll never forget Janice smuggling in her bottle of vodka. The security line we were in at the entrance gates was conducting frisk-searches, so Janice hopped over one line and – as luck would have it – they bypassed her for a frisk search. Happy days.

Here we are as we stepped out of Downsview subway station to make our way to the concert grounds:

our gang arriving at sarstock - july 30, 2003
Some of the Molson crew were taking Polaroid pictures of people arriving from the subway and we happened to get our mugs shot as we made our way to the concert grounds.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE

Justin Timberlake was booed by the crowd, who were anticipating the harder-rocking second half of the concert. Throughout his performance he had to dodge water bottles, toilet paper, muffins, and other items thrown by the audience. This was definitely a hard rock/classic rock crowd and Timberlake was the odd man out with his lightweight pop styling. He later returned to duet with Mick Jagger on Miss You; at that time the crowd was scolded by a visibly pissed off Keith Richards for their earlier treatment of Timberlake.

THE GUESS WHO

Guess Who
Randy Bachman, Garry Peterson, Burton Cummings

So awesome to see the original lineup back, if even for a precious few numbers. To me, the Guess Who is synonymous with growing up in the early 70s on the Canadian prairies – their music was everywhere and was entrenched in our culture. My older brother was a big influence in my memories and impressions of the Guess Who; he had a few of their earlier records and played them often around the house (strains of Albert Flasher, No Time and New Mother Nature drift through my mind when I think of those days).

THE FLAMING LIPS

The Flaming Lips invited artists from backstage to dance on stage with them dressed in fuzzy animal costumes. I, for one, was never a Flaming Lips fan… I just don’t get them…

AC/DC

I am not an AC/DC fan by any stretch of the imagination (OK, OK, I owned a copy of Back In Black as a teenager… who didn’t?), but they put on a show like the city has never seen; they absolutely stole the entire concert. AC/DC played a balls-to-the-wall (as they used to say in the ’70s) 70-minute set. Most of the crowd were there expressly to see ACDC & crowdAC/DC and didn’t really care so much about the previous acts. AC/DC were onstage just before the headlining Rolling Stones, but the AC/DC set absolutely blew away the crowd, driving them into a frenzy. I’ll never forget Angus Young dropping his pants and mooning the audience with an enormous Canadian maple leaf emblazoned on his shiny boxer shorts.

When the Stones finally did take the stage it was anticlimactic, almost bordering on disappointing, compared to the live bolts of lightning that was AC/DC. It was truly an odd thing: a huge amount of people began to leave during the Stones set (sorry, I can never get this thing of leaving in the middle of a performance to beat the traffic home – such an annoying Toronto thing).

Here’s a YouTube that shows the intensity of AC/DC as they played for the massive audience that day:

CLOSING OF CONCERT & THE JOURNEY HOME

As you can imagine, it takes quite a while for a crowd of half a million or more people to disperse. People were slowly drifting away halfway through the Stones’ performance but Richard and I stayed until the very bitter end to see the last cannon fired, so to speak. I believe it was somewhere around 1:00AM when we made our way out in the departing wave of humanity (Janice and Pete had left earlier in the evening, long before this mass exodus). It was absolutely impossible to get back on the subway at nearby Downsview station, so we walked all the way across Sheppard Avenue West from Downsview Park to Yonge Street where we somehow were able to get on the Yonge line with tens of thousands of other people heading home.

I’ll never forget that walk Richard and I took across Sheppard Avenue with so many of the other concertgoers who also decided to walk to Yonge Street. It was a crowd tens of thousands strong, and there was such a crazy party vibe in the air – absolute jubilation, with everyone still on a high from the heat and music of the day. When we did finally reach Sheppard station on the Yonge line it was jammed beyond comprehension, so we waited in queue for about another hour until we could stuff ourselves on one of the trains (the TTC had arranged to run all night that night in order to get everybody home). We finally got out of the packed subway at Yonge and Bloor and made our way home across Bloor Street East. All told, it was about 3:00AM when I stumbled through my front door. Luckily Richard and I both had the next day off work, which was a Friday.

SARS-Relief

CONCERT SETLIST

Here then, for posterity’s sake, is the setlist for the entire day. I’ve tried to be as complete as possible but there may be one or two songs missing here and there. I compiled the setlist from my own DVD copy of the concert and several miscellaneous Internet sources, so there could be some inconsistency. For the most part, though, the day’s music ran as follows:

The Have Love Will Travel Revue (Dan Ackroyd, Jim Belushi & supporting band)
Intro With Skybox Ballroom Pump

Sam Roberts
Don’t Walk Away Eileen
Brother Down
Where Have All The Good People Gone?

Kathleen Edwards
One More Song The Radio Won’t Like
Mercury
6 O’clock News

La Chicane
Viens Donc M’voir
Le Yâb De St. Nitouche
Le Fil

The Tea Party
Temptation
Sister Awake
Heaven Coming Down

Blue Rodeo
Trust Yourself
Hasn’t Hit Me Yet
Lost Together

Sass Jordan
High Road Easy
You Don’t Have To Remind Me
Brand New Day
Make You A Believer (with Jeff Healy)

The Flaming Lips
Race For The Prize
Do You Realize?

The Have Love Will Travel Revue
I’m Gonna Dig Myself a Hole

The Isley Brothers
Fight the Power
I Want to Take You Higher
It’s Your Thing
Put Yourself In My Place
Who’s That Lady
Summer Breeze
Shout

Justin Timberlake
Señorita
Cry Me a River

The Have Love Will Travel Revue
Time Won’t Let Me

The Guess Who
Hand Me Down World
No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Takin’ Care of Business (BTO cover)
American Woman
No Time

Rush
Tom Sawyer
Limelight
Dreamline
YYZ
Freewill
Closer to the Heart
Paint It Black
The Spirit Of Radio

AC/DC
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Thunderstruck
If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
Hells Bells
The Jack
T.N.T.
You Shook Me All Night Long
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Encore: Highway to Hell

Rolling Stones
Start Me Up
Brown Sugar
You Got Me Rocking
Tumbling Dice
Don’t Stop
Ruby Tuesday
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
Miss You (with Justin Timberlake)
The Nearness of You (Keith Richards, lead vocals)
Happy (Keith Richards, lead vocals)
Sympathy for the Devil
Rock Me Baby (with Malcolm & Angus Young from AC/DC)
Honky Tonk Women
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Encore: Jumpin’ Jack Flash

A DVD of the day’s concert was released later in 2003, although it has omitted quite a few of the original tracks. I assume this is to fit the concert on a 2-disc DVD release. That’s a pity, as I’d like to relive the concert as a whole, regardless of how many physical discs are required. The DVD is probably no longer produced and marketed, so it remains a keepsake item for me.

Toronto Rocks DVD cover
SARSTock Concert DVD

There has never been a crowd and concert like this in Toronto, before or since. It was truly a unique experience and I’m so very glad I was a part of it. I’ll never forget that hot, cloudless, wonderful day in Downsview Park.

Rick’s 65th Birthday

The Sunshine Boy Turns 65!!

Yes, it was Rick’s big day, and a number of people got together to throw him a party for the occasion. We had a lot of fun with the “photo booth”, in which people were photographed holding signs of some of Rick’s famous (and infamous) sayings. It was a great party! 🙂

June 9, 2018