Pancakes and Booze Art Show in Toronto

"So, do you think they're going to have REAL maple syrup or just that fake crap?" I asked Mike, a little whine entering my tone thinking of dry pancakes or even worse, someone putting fake syrup on FOR me. I shudder at the thought, giving Aunt Jemima maybe too much power over my evening. 

"I don't know. Probably not the good stuff," he answers, agreeing with my theatrical emphasis, also confused why real maple syrup isn't served when it's made right in this very province. 

"Let's bring some of our own," I say conspiratorially, and he agrees eagerly. 

I pack us a small bottle of maple syrup, and we thrown on our coats. Saying goodbye to the pup, we're off on the long streetcar ride toward the opposite end of town, Queen East and the Opera House, where the Pancakes and Booze Art Show has set up camp. 

We get off at our designated, google-instructed stop. 

"It's meant to be just up here on our right," I assure, twisting and maximizing the map on my phone to clarify the position. 

"Yea ... ," I trail off and look up. "Or we could just follow these people," I realize, seeing about a dozen people walking toward a black painted facade, a queue forming in a narrow roped off area paralleled with the side of the building. We walk over and get in line. I smile as the bouncer inspects my ID, hoping to look more like the picture on my license. He hands it back, unimpressed, and stamps my hand with the smiley face he couldn't muster himself. 

I feel rushed in by the people surging behind me in. Three security guards stop each person, doing thorough pat-downs. My mind goes immediately to the syrup I have hidden in my shirt under my coat. I did not plan well for a thorough search.

"Open your coat please," she spits, clearly more bitter than her young appearance suggests. Or maybe it was a poor attempt at sounding tough.

Clearly not seeing a way out of this, I turn my back to her and say, "Just a second." I pull the syrup out of my bosom and spot a trash near the door. I chuck it and thankfully it's nothing but net. Now would be a terrible time to prove I can count on 2 hands the number of times I've succeeded with that throw in my life. I turn around, coat open. 
"What'd you throw away?" She asks, blatantly curious. 

"Syrup," I state sadly. "I just wanted real syrup for the pancakes." She is comically surprised but guards her facial expressions well. She pats down my sides but noncommittally, as I barely feel her hands touching my torso.

"Ok," she affirms, finalizing our interaction and barely steps to the side to let me pass. I exit the foyer and jam my way into the queue for the ticket area. Can a line this messy really be called a queue? Finally through the bottleneck that was the most narrow doorway I've seen, I join Mike again at the last moment, claiming to be the plus 1 he just paid for. I sigh, relieved, as our entrance exam is finally over. 

"I threw away the syrup," I mourned, still thinking of the sad little bottle I had to reject. 

"It's ok," he comforts. "I was wondering how that went for you." Appreciating the sympathy, I nod, clearly bummed but ready to move into the crowd again. 

"Where are we going?" I call ahead to him as I follow him into the main event, the floor of the house where the art show is setup.

"The bar," he responds in a deadpan voice over his shoulder, as the crowd is already hardening him into a machine that analyzes trajectories, and squeezes through the smallest gaps, eyes only for the destination at hand. 

Semi-cold beers purchased, we cautiously approach the belly of the beast, ironically finding some of the paintings on the standing dividers are indeed beasts. The crowd is thick, the DJ setting the pulse of the roving mob, through and between the dividers holding all the paintings. I glance up when possible, but focus on moving through the crowd.

The spectrum of artwork portrayed and displayed is expansive. The horror of something that resembled human organs stuffed into jars next to painted screaming visages adorn a table and wall, while the artist, standing lurch-like behind the table, had dead-looking eyes herself. Opposite in both direction and style, clown faces that appear to be finger-painted by a small child are claimed by a chubby man in a beanie, proud of the unconventional style he's chosen, explaining to admirers that he "doesn't have to draw the face like it really is." Abstract paintings with complex textures and mellow, soft blues hang on an end, and I stop myself from reaching out to touch, feeling the hills and valleys shaping the landscape of the canvas. A woman, clearly mid-orgasm, reaches her ecstasy thanks to the neighboring artist and her lover hidden behind her. The connecting divider holds blobs of contrasting colors of paint that were dripped in patterns in circles, one on top of another, on a piece of glass.

We follow others to the upper mezzanine of the opera house. Finding a small window of air unclaimed, we gaze down on the artwork and crowd. The paintings are almost better from this vantage, unencumbered from above. We spy a vacated table and move to occupy it, now having a place to rest our beers and our elbows as we discuss the art, the venue and the security pat-down. From the mezzanine we also watched the people, and observed that they were almost as varied as the artwork, the promise of intoxication from both booze and that enlightenment we all seek bringing us together. Or maybe it was just the pancakes.