The Toronto Antiquarian Book Fair is, IMHO, the premier event of its kind in Canada. To make things even better, it takes place in the glittering and bustling Art Gallery of Ontario! I’ve been attending on and off for years, the last four without exception. The fair and the city and the locals are becoming familiar, and it’s still exciting and fun: an ideal equilibrium!
Walk the kids to school, a little last-minute packing, and (despite the middle seat) sleep through a mid-day Air Canada flight to Toronto… and a train into downtown… then another train into the country… and a bit of a drive… today’s destination being a close friend’s lodge-like home in the Ontario countryside, where I’ll spend a tranquil 14 hours. Hand-picked apples from a nearby farm, ponds on her property. A quiet evening in her living room with wine and the kind of easy conversation that comes out of a 20-year friendship: a necessary infusion of serenity before a busy weekend!
Up earrrrrrly to join the commuter frenzy, on the train by 7:30. Hit the city too early for a meeting so a decadent breakfast just outside Union Station, at the cozy and perfectly apt Library Bar. An Uber over to the esteemed Contact Editions (#careergoals) for the ABAC board meeting… hard to pretend not to be distracted by the books for HOURS … but all in all the meeting was painless. Pleasant, even! A lovely, warm, sensible group of booksellers rolling through the bullet points. A wonderful catered lunch and some chat. And a free hour! So, after about 40 seconds in my Airbnb, I’m off to the Fisher Library, to absorb De Monstris: the stunning and fun exhibition of rare monster books! And to the store to grab some monster merch for the kiddos, of course. Ok, one for me too. Time for a solo dinner and my first choice was Mother’s Dumplings because mmmmmmmmm. Then the novelty of a streetcar (free, accidentally I swear) to Rare Photo Gallery where my friend Neil was hosting a ragtag crew for a few or more cocktails and lively conversations.
First priority: coffee. Dark Horse was close and the coffee and croissant did the job, but mannnnn were they surly. Shake it off and scoot over to the Art Gallery of Ontario to unpack and set up the booth! This walk used to have me apoplectic with nerves, but I guess I’m getting a bit seasoned because it was just a pleasant buzz this time around. Boxes in and unpacked and the requisite bookseller chat and neck-craning, a quick lunch across the street, which quickly grew to a table of six as it does at these things, then back to the pad to shellac a veneer before … Opening Night! Booksellers in prettier clothes, wine glasses everywhere, everyone pretending to be all breezy but surreptitiously scanning the room for their favoured collectors and institutions, hoping to make ends meet. Some sales, some smiles, some promises of return. And, closing time. Cheery reports of brisk sales all around. Packs of tired and relieved booksellers filing out through the darkened halls of the gallery and to the adjacent pub for a quick and dirty dinner. Boisterous chat, some somber moments, a few beers.
Another begrudgingly served coffee to fuel a long day at the fair (where the coffee is dishwater). The light streams in the towering window at the fair, the CN Tower prominent in the Simpsons sky. A steady stream of clients old and new. A late lunch of a delish crepe at Art Café. A little time to saunter about and pretend to be casual about the perusal of my colleagues’ wares. Another cat-herding dinner-planning experience which came out golden as we found a table for ten nearby, made it there in time for a cocktail and the kind of nourishing chat that makes the food secondary. A few of us made it on to the next spot, Socialite, a happening club on Augusta where the music and dancing were equally amazing. And a somewhat responsible bedtime to boot.
Got up a little earlier to seek out a happier coffee experience and found it in spades at Jimmy’s! Killer espresso and good food and cheerful faces. Phew. And back to the Gallery for the ABAC AGM: a display of debate and diplomacy. Up to the hall a few minutes before opening, bought a few books and made lots of sales. The pack-up went swimmingly thanks to my trusty colleagues, so I had a little time to stroll and rest before the next dinner. This one a return visit to slick Miku, a more intimate group after many friends had gone home. Warm sake, silky soba, yuzu pavlova, warm farewells.
A few hours until the flight home. A customer back in the shop had recommended Fahrenheit coffee so that was destination one. Espresso to chug and a latte to go, and a leisurely stroll down Graffiti Alley (wow!) then up to Kensington. Some abbreviated thrifting and a mountain of cashmere at Courage My Love before a reluctant check-out.
See you next year Toronto! xo