Niagara by Day, Frosh Parade and Battle of the Birds by Night

We were standing at the edge of Niagara Falls.  It was before 9 am and from the Ontario side you can stand beside the river before it dumps over the edge, the spray misting up and covering you like rain.  It was pleasant, iconic, forgettable.  By lunch time we reached the city of Toronto–bright, lively, man-made billboards and signs for bookstores and banks and boutiques.  But sometimes those anthropogenic edifices do more for the spirit than the natural.  Or maybe I hadn’t had my coffee yet.

The sound of police whistles.  Car horns honking.  Loud stereos blaring fast tempo-ed American pop and the energetic screams of young people.  And as we round the corner on foot we realize this isn’t the normal sound of the city, but instead the marching, parading, partying stream of thousands of college freshmen from the University of Toronto, donning their individual campus’ colors and chanting and waving flags and following floats (pickup trucks carrying upperclassmen leading chants).

“The Frosh parade,” one participant says.  And then, noticing we don’t know what he means, “Freshmen, from all the colleges, big party.” And the parade moves on.  Traffic was blocked as the students, estimated over 6,000, made a square around the U of T St. George Campus.  Motorcycle officers kept the students off the sidewalk and in two lanes.  As traffic attempted to move the opposite direction, city workers, bus drivers, taxis honked for their favorite campus.

The march concluded at the St. George Campus, but the Friday afternoon festivties of Frosh week were only beginning.  The Toronto Film Festival was in town.  As we passed the red carpet in our van we saw Brad Pitt on the projector screen.  But we were on our way to see the Blue Jays play the Orioles. Only ten bucks for a ticket to your personal nose bleed section.  We moved to another section to be closer to people.  Up top its mostly groups of college students all from the same Nursing or Speech department.  We moved again, this time from the top to the bottom level, behind the home dugout to be exact and it was as easy as stumbling upon a mob of undergrads.

Unfortunately, the Jays don’t seem to bring Toronto the revenue a city might expect from a professional sports team.  Just to keep the lights on at the field they charge more for a 12 ounce beer than they do for a ticket to the game.  But that didn’t stop us from having a great time.  And when it was over we walked the city streets looking for Natalie Portman.

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