Thursday, May 31, 2012

An Evening with Friends Above the Crowds

Sliders, oysters, meatballs, martinis, bourbon, and so much more.
My birthday was a couple of weeks ago. My very longest-suffering friend, Kemp Watson, was born on May 30. To celebrate the double-birthday month, Michael Wright (the third Musketeer) invited us (along with Sarah) out last week for dinner and drinks at The Roof Lounge on the very top of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Yorkville. Kemp had to back out at the last minute, so we rescheduled for tonight. It was well worth the wait. Michael arrived a few moments ahead of Sarah and me and was able to score a table on the outside deck. It was a bit breezy and cool tonight, but they turned the outside heaters on and had the wind baffles up on the west side, so we were quite cozy all in all.

The view from our table
The Park Hyatt is located on the northwest corner of Avenue Road and Bloor in Toronto and is a very popular hotel for celebrities and professional sporting teams when they come to town. The lounge itself is very cramped, I find, and the rooftop patio is very much the same way, but with far less traffic flow, which makes all the difference. The service is outstanding as well, which makes for a very pleasant experience. This was the view from our table: there is a bit of a reflection in this picture as I had to take it through the glass baffle I mentioned earlier. In the immediate foreground, just beyond the ledge, you can see the very top of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal addition to the Royal Ontario Museum. A little to the right of centre is the newly-renovated Varsity Stadium, the original home to the Toronto Argonauts, host of a record 29 Grey Cups and the facility where I ran track in high school. In the far background is Lake Ontario.

Sarah hiding behind the huge Mac
The Park Hyatt is also the building where Sarah works, in the office space at the front, separate from the hotel proper. I met her at her desk where we dropped off our coats and other accoutrements before heading to the lounge. (Note the enormous Mac monitor fit for a Graphic Design Expert, dwarfing the 17-incher she uses with her PC.) From Sarah's office on the 9th floor we had to go back down to the lobby, walk through the passageway to the hotel and then take the elevator back up to the roof to meet Michael and Kemp.

Kemp (left) and Michael; or perhaps "Porthos and Athos"
Kemp arrived just a moment or two after our first drinks did and our gathering was complete. Michael and I met in Level 2 at UTS in Toronto (Grade 10, more or less) when he moved to our school from A.Y. Jackson. He is one of my oldest and dearest friends in the world and 37 years later we are still as close as ever. That seems like a long time - and it truly is - until you take into account that Kemp and I met in Grade 1. I have been friends with Kemp for 46 years. Over the years I have gone through spells where I don't see these two men nearly as often as I should; however, in the course of our musings tonight the observation was made that we've had some conversations between the three of us even just this year that underscore just how close we really are, even when geographically we may not be. I have had some truly fine friends in my life (and still do); Sarah remarked that this must speak to my character in a very good way and I hope that she is right.

Downtown Toronto from the roof of the Park Hyatt
At the end of the evening, when the sun had set and the air was too chilly even with the heaters on, Michael picked up the cheque for the party as a birthday present for Kemp and me. Kemp, for his part, has promised to take the four of us out again in two weeks to Rodney's Oyster House on King West in Toronto, his treat. My friends are the kindest, most thoughtful people I could ever have hoped to have in my life from one end of it to the other and I love them dearly. This is how it looked from The Roof Lounge as we were leaving this evening. I did not have a tripod with me, so I apologize for the lack of crispness in this shot; I hope the beauty of the vista still comes across for it was really a stunning scene that was laid out in front of us.

It was truly a wonderful evening. Thank you, Michael. And Kemp. For everything.


  1. What a nice post! I remember going to Varsity Stadium to watch the Varsity Blues a couple of times during my Music Faculty days. BUt in all my years of living in Toronto, I never got up to that rooftop patio. I will have to make the effort someday.

    Glad you had a nice evening. Friends like that are priceless!

    1. Your Music Faculty days? I'm so jealous! I wanted to pursue a music degree out of high school but was talked out of it by my parents, my guidance counselor, a couple of teachers, many people who thought they "knew better". I entered U of T in the Applied Maths programme and never finished it, losing interest very early on. Now my daughter has decided that she would rather take a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performance Production from Ryerson starting this fall and not return to Waterloo (she started at McGill) to finish her BSc there...and all of a sudden I was in the same shoes as those people 35 years ago. Only this time, she got my blessing. :)

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