Until last week, I believed that my transformation into a true-blue Toronto gal was marked by the accumulation of $7.40 worth of fines on my three-month old library card. Officially a fine-paying resident! Yusss! Then last Wednesday, as I dashed downtown after a 10-hour work day to catch a show solo, I realized: this is it.
It was beautiful—-the action, that is. The action of being independent. The action of being free. The action of being bold. And another thought occurred to me then: this feeling of being surrounded by beauty is the same feeling, the same delight, I get when I travel solo. The excitement; the uncertainty; the adventure… I was solo backpacking in my own city.
If you’ve never been to the Dakota Tavern, you should go. It’s a small, intimate bar with a wicked atmosphere grown from it’s natural charm and its patron’s enthusiasm and energy. I visited the Dakota Tavern for the first time last year, and the intention of going back has never left my mind. Now that I live in the city instead of the 905 suburbs, that intention was much closer to reality than a wish. When I began looking into going again last month, I noticed that they feature country, folk and bluegrass music (you’d think the country feel of the place should have tipped me off!). I was seeing someone at the time who enjoys folk music, and I thought it would be wonderful to go back to the Dakota Tavern with him to see a show together. So I skimmed the events page and I couldn’t recognize any of the upcoming bands–except for The Strumbellas which at least rang a faint bell. I decided to stream their music to check them out first. When the first song, Sailing, played on this soundcloud playlist, I couldn’t help it; was in love! As soon as I found at least one source calling them folk (although there seems to be a handful of labels they fall under), I messaged my date to go out for The Strumbellas’ first of four Wednesday shows in Toronto. This was three weeks in advance, but you don’t put off a good thing! I spent the next few weeks singing to The Strumbellas while I cooked, dancing while wrapped in a towel after a shower, and once I got their first album from the library, I was jamming in traffic jams along the 401! Then…
…two things happened:
1. The tickets were sold out. That itself was not entirely devastating since I decided I could go to the show the night-of and try and get two tickets at the door. Plus, it was kind of my fault for waiting until 3 days prior to their opening show.
2. Plans with my “date” fell through, primarily because he had to work last minute, but also because we were now going to be “just friends”.
I did not want to miss out on seeing The Strumbellas after falling in love with them, so I made plans to see the show with a friend who was able to come with me for their last show in Toronto. And then…
…two more things happened:
1. The tickets for the final show were SOLD OUT – and this time, I DID try to get tickets over a week in advance!
2. My friend had a lot of work to do, and although she would be willing to come if we had tickets, it didn’t make sense for her to stand outside a sold out show only to be turned away, when she has so many other priorities.
The idea of sitting at home and giving up seemed to go contray to a rule I have been trying to live by: do something everyday that scares you. Was I really going to go out by myself, into the city to stand outside a bar in this frigid February weather ticketless? Hell yes! Armed with a book and mittens, I made my way to the Dakota Tavern. I knew things were grim: Kijiji had 5 postings besides mine looking to buy tickets for this show. But I as a drove down Dundas and watch the city grow closer, I couldn’t help but feel excited. No matter what the outcome would be.
I explained my situation to security outside the Dakota (although I asked twice, I can’t remember his name – was it Brad?), and he was honest about my (slim) chances of getting in, but he suggested I go wait in the Lakeview until 9 when people with extra tickets usually start coming by. I sat there for 40 mins sipping green tea and reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma – it felt kind of awkward at first, but was it any different than sitting down in a common area at hostel? You’re on your own, but the potential for meeting people is there. Or is it that different than ordering a small snack from a restaurant while you’re travelling just because you need a place to sit down? Suddenly, I knew I could do this. Why did I not realize that if I could traipse across Europe by myself, I could do the same in Toronto? At 9:00pm sharp, I raced back to Ossington where *Brad*waved me in. She’s selling a ticket, he said, pointing to my now-saviour, Megan.
When The Strumbellas started playing, I knew for certain that happiness doesn’t rely on where in the world you are or who you are with, so much as your state of mind. I let myself relax and enjoy the show the best way possible: dancing. I also have never stared so hard at a bunch of strangers before in my life; but I was so happy I couldn’t help but ogle at the band members who were an arms length away from me, and absolutely enchanting for the whole night!! The banter with the audience was just right, but their music… this is why I listen to music. To reflect and let go all at once. How can you listen to The Strumbellas and not want to simultaneously dance laps around the room and consider who you are, what has been, and what will be?
I drove home playing their newest album that I purchased after they finished their encore. I know I will not wait until I go on the next road trip, book the next flight or take my next vacation to travel. Nor do I need to wait for someone to travel with me. Now that I have discovered travelling solo in my own backyard, I can’t wait for my next adventure.