Back in February, I attended a City of Toronto event celebrating its 175th anniversary. It was a nice little exhibition at Nathan Philips Square, with live performances outside and a photography exhibit in the main foyer of City Hall. The photography exhibit was mounted by the Toronto Archives and featured a lot of great shots of Toronto from the 1800s until present-day. It also tied into a recently-published book entitled Toronto’s Visual Legacy, a great visual history of how Toronto became the city it is today. The authors were on hand signing books and I thought it would make a great birthday present for my brother. However, due to laziness, I didn’t buy the book that day.
Fast forward and it’s May 6th, exactly one month after my brother’s birthday. I’m still looking to buy him that book but am having trouble. It seems to be sold only at the Toronto Archives themselves, which happens to be mere blocks from where I live. And they’re only open when I’m at work. Great.
Sitting in my office, I decide to call a local, independent book store to see if they carry the title. The girl on the other end of the phone is very helpful, and when she asks the author’s names, I have to Google them quickly. Turns out the store doesn’t stock that particular book. I hang up and go to close the webpage I found with the author’s names, when something catches my eye.
A blurb on the webpage mentions the authors signing copies of the book, and I think to myself: “Oh, I wonder if they’re writing about the event I attended?” I read on.
The next little bit mentions Toronto’s Mayor, David Miller, also on-hand to sign books, and I think to myself: “Hmm, I don’t remember Miller being there…” I read on.
Then I notice the date, time and location of the signing the blurb is referring to: Wednesday, May 6th at Indigo Books, and I think to myself: “What day is it today?” Sure enough, it’s May 6th. (If you didn’t see that coming, you may as well just stop reading right now. Seriously.)
After work, I make my way over to Indigo and find about 75 people sitting and standing, watching Mayor Miller and the book’s authors going over a slideshow of photographs and explaining the history behind them. After buying a copy of the book, I stand and wait for them to finish, then proceed to line up to get a few signatures.
As I’m standing in line, I notice a cute girl standing off to one side. Really, the only cute girl there. I guess the Mayor doesn’t bring out the groupies like he used to. Of course, if I were Mayor, it’d be like Beatlemania all over again, except wetter panties. Trust me, there’s been extensive research done on the subject. But I digress. This girl was obviously a reporter as she was holding a CityTV mic and had a cameraman in tow. We’ll come back to her in a moment.
If you’ve never been to a book signing, here’s what usually goes down: Once you’re near the beginning of the line, someone will ask to what name you want the author making out his signature. They write it down on a post-it note and stick it in the book, to expedite the whole process.
I give the guy my brother’s name and he does his thing. As the gentleman in front of me finishes getting his book signed, I move forward when our intrepid CityTV reporter bounds over and asks Mayor Miller if he wouldn’t mind answering a few quick questions in between signings. He turns to me, asks if I don’t mind (which I didn’t expect but was a nice touch) and I tell him to go ahead and do what he needs to do. That’s when CityTV decides they’d rather shoot and interview him as he’s signing my book.
The next thing I know, I have Mayor Miller on one side of me answering questions from cute CityTV reporter on the other side of me, and signing a book for my brother while the cameraman gets it all on tape. He’s asked two or three softball questions and the reporter thanks us and leaves.
The Mayor then finishes his signing and passes the book off to the first of its three authors. As she flips the page to sign her name, Mayor Miller notices a picture of the CN Tower and says to us quietly: “Now that the media is gone, I’ll tell you a story.” He’s interrupted by the author who asks me to confirm my brother’s name. I tell her and Mayor Miller softly exclaims: “Fuck, I think I wrote the wrong name!” Now mind you, he may have said: “Shit”, but I’d like to think he said “Fuck” because it makes the story sound better.
As a sidenote, I don’t understand why people seem to be so surprised that the Mayor swore. He’s human, just like the rest of us assholes and motherfuckers. Back to the story.
Mayor Miller flips back a page and sure enough, he’s written a lower-case “E” where he should have written a lower-case “O”. I blame the penmanship of the Indigo employee who took down the name. I also blame society. “How do I fix this,” he asks me. “Should I change it to an ‘O’?” I tell him not to worry, that his “E” looks enough like an “O” that it doesn’t need to be changed and besides, it makes for a funnier story. He says OK and passes the book back to the authors who proceed to sign their names as well.
As they sign their names, Mayor Miller goes back to his initial thought and proceeds to tell us a quick story. I won’t go into the details here (but feel free to ask me), but it involved a young David Miller, a girl named Suzie, a romantic walk along the Casa Loma grounds, a beautiful Toronto night, a dazzling view of the CN Tower and Miller inadvertently making a not-so-great first impression.
As he finished his story, I shook everyone’s hand and thanked them for signing the book and for an entertaining few minutes. My brother received a book on the history of Toronto personally signed by Mayor Miller, wishing him a happy birthday, and I received about one second of airtime on CityTV later that evening.
While I had debated asking Mayor Miller why he was wasting the city’s time and resources studying the prohibition of right turns on red lights (lousy Montreal), further ruining the already-awful infrastructure of the city, I must admit he charmed the pants off me. Literally. But that’s an even quieter story for another time when there’s no media around.