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To Kingston and back again; a New Year's journey or,

Young Geoffrey VS the ravages of age!

Our son, the driver!
Our son, the driver (I'm so proud)! Carl the Second takes the wheel.

Raven had a brutal couple of months at work and insisted that a post-holiday holiday was in order.

Kingston (Ontario) being reasonably close by, and boasting one of our favourite eateries, the humbly- and confusingly-named Pat's Restaurant, which serves up some delicious fare that, I'm told, is about as authentically Cambodian as one is likely to find in a small Ontario city, I rented a car and packed up the family for a whirlwind getaway last Thursday morning. (Yes, more than a week ago now; I've been busy.)

Raven had also got us tickets to see something called Lumina Borealis, an interactive sound-and-light show held in and around "historic Fort Henry". I had feared we'd be standing around watching a display similar to that which shows up on Parliament Hill every summer, a technically impressive, but edifyingly bourgeois entertainment, which we would passively consume while standing in the damp and frigid Kingston night as it was projected upon the Fort's walls.

Image of one part of the Lumina Borealis light-show in Kingston, Ontario.
A wall near the end of the Lumina Borealis show. Pictured here are people hurling orange snowballs at the display; a hit results in sound and a reaction from the imagine.

Happily, it was a good deal more interesting — and fun. It was cold (a damp cold! And for those of you who live in warmer climes, a dry cold is a lot easier to handle), but the show — a variety of sights and sounds, including physical objects, light-images and microphones into which we could speak or sing and affect the visual goings-on upon the walls around us — more than made up for it. We probably did the circuit in 45 minutes, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I had thought I would.

If you have kids, they'll love it.

But I digress. Aside from the Pat's (Cambodian) Restaurant, the other memory I had from our last visit, was of the best biscotii had ever tasted.

Come morning, we left Carl the Second in charge of our motel room and set out in search of coffee — and biscoti.

Carl the Second guards our room at the Super 8
Carl in Charge! Our son was proud to be responsible for protecting our room from strangers and nose motel employees.

I didn't remember the name of the place, but had a pretty good idea of its location, and it didn't take too long for me to find it. Coffee & Company at 53 Princess Street. We entered and took our place in line. When it was my turn, I ordered a Large coffee (sensibly, they do Small, Medium and Large; that's it, that's all) and not one, but two, biscotis. The second I asked for in a bag, as I wanted to take it home with me.

Dream on, Young Geoffrey!

Two biscotis became one, then almost none, in very short order. (After snapping the photo below, "almost none" become "none".) And when it was time to go, I found myself lurking near the counter and smiling and nodding at the young woman in charge with all the deranged charm of a temporarily sober drunk at a family gathering..

The remains on the tray. A small piece of a once mighty biscoti.
The remains on the tray. Yes, your Honour, it was delicious. I regret nothing!

"I need another biscoti," I said, brandishing the empty bag into which she had earlier placed my second. "To go."

She smiled and nodded in return, as if I weren't on the edge of drooling. As she reached the glass jar in which the biscotis were on handsome display, I blurted out, "Make it two. No! One. No! Two! TWO!"

"Are you sure?" she smiled, a kindly Pity dripping from her eyes like sweet honey.

"Yes," I whispered, and stared as she set about her labours.

She grinned and tonged one, then, two, then three biscotis into the little white paper bag. As the third dropped from sight, she winked at me and mouthed, Don't say anything!

What could I do but grin and nod, then shake my head emphatically in reply?

When Raven and I left the cafe, I asked her, "Do you think she gave me the third biscoti because she thought I'm a hot stud or a cute old man?"

"Oh please!" quoth Raven. "A cute old man."

The sun sets on Young Geoffrey's Youth or,

A young woman struggles mightily to extricate foot from mouth

Our son, the model!
Carl II somehow travels backwards in time, to when all was a panda's paradise: black and white!

Back in Ottawa, I worked a late shift on Saturday that saw me home after 03:00 Sunday morning and in bed close to 05:00. And up again far too soon, for a soccer game at 13:00 hours.

Despite a two week lay-off for seasonal gorging, the game was a good one, hard-fought and close, ending in a 5-5 tie. And, more importantly from my personal stand-point, I played better than I feared I might, running hard and placing some nice balls, if I do say so myself. I even assisted on at least one goal.

Anyway, at one point early in the second half I and a young team-mate called Maddison, with whom I've shared a team a few times before, found ourselves on the sidelines, chatting.

"You're doing really well today," she said. I demured as one does, but she insisted, "You've really mastered the one-touch exit. And you really move! You run just as hard, and pretty fast for, uh ...

There was an expression bordering on social panic in her clenched jaw as she realized her near faux-pas.

Jesus, the things people take offense at! Or might take offense at.

I smiled widely and said, "It's okay, I know I'm a little older than most of you guys. I'm not under any delusions about that."

She nodded, sheepishly, then added, "I don't know if I qualify as young any more myself."

"Oh please! You're under 30, aren't you?"

"I'm 26."

I laughed. "I'll be 52 in February. You're still pretty young from where I stand!"

And I thought, before I took the field again, how strange it is that merely verbally acknowleding an obvious truth — such as, that a man twice her age is "older" — can be frought with such anxieties.

And yet, I felt an echo of Maddison's nerves myself, when she answered my guess that she was under 30, with the information she is 26. Might she, I briefly wondered, have been hurt that I didn't suggest she was under 25?

But there you have it. Like almost every older person I know or have known, I don't feel like I am the chronological age that I am. But (and unlike many, I am blessed with my bike-riding, soccer-playing good health (and nevermind the arthritis and possible tendonitis)) I can't help but become increasingly self-conscious of the fact that Young Geoffrey is, in truth, well into his middle years.

Post-scriptum, for Nellie

"Powderfinger" is one of my favourite Neil Young songs. Bad history, but (I think) beautiful poetry, in metal.

He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun.

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The Pedestrians' diaries, parts 10 and 11

Days 9 and 10: Sugar beaches and the General's gun

Image: Photo of cars parked outside a hamburger stand in Varadero.

Excuses: the day job, other writing, selecting photos, an internet outage, real life ...

All true, all inadequate. But here we are at last, come to the end of our Cuban adventures.

Click here for Day 9: Varadero Sands, our last full day in Cuba.

And here for Day 10: Adios to Cuba, in which I encounter a General and his gun.

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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 9

Day 8: Last night in Havana

Image: Photo of the liquor shelf at the 'grocery store' across from our casa particular in Varadero.

Our last morning in Havana was our first evening in Varadero.

We learned that Cuba pumps oil on the sea shore, that good food isn't restricted to Santa Clara and Havana, and that we both looked forward to, and dreaded, the impending end of our journey.

Click here for Day 8: A hovel in the lap of luxury.

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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 8

Day 7: Last night in Havana

Image: Photo of Young Geoffrey with painting of Fidel Castro in Old Havana.

Our third full day in Havana was also our last; in the morning, we ship out to the beaches of Varadero.

But today? Today we returned to Habana vieja, riding instead of walking, visiting old forts, old streets and old cars.

Click here for Day 7: Cocotaxi, Habana Vieja & a '56 Ford Fairlane, and don't forget to play the video!

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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 7

Day 6: Havana by day, Havana by night

Image: Photo of yellow car, stripped or under repair near Calle Neptuno, Havana.

My Cuban diary continues, with our second full day in Havana.

As with the first, we walked, and we walked and we walked. No soldiers this time, but a shuttered Capitolio, the Old City, really scary street-food and Chinatown (yes, Chinatown!).

Click here for Day 6: Stormy weather on the Malecón.

Cuba: Day 5

Jan. 7th, 2016 07:04 pm
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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 6

Day 5: Soldiers on duty!

Image: Photo of El monumento Jose Miguel Gomez from the south, in Havana, Cuba.

My Cuban diary continues, with a report from our first full day in Havana.

Walking, walking, walking, we encountered smog and soldiers and monuments galore. And also, found ourselves back that the Viazul station, almost by accident.

Click here for Day 5: Schlepping in Havana (less politics, more pictures!).

Cuba: Day 4

Jan. 6th, 2016 02:11 pm
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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 5

Day 4: Adios! Santa Clara (Havana ho!)

Image: Photo of rear of statue of Che Guevara atop his Mausoleum in Santa Clara, Cuba.

January 6, 2016, OTTAWA — Life and work have got in the way of things. But here at last is the fifth entry (for the fourth day) of my Cuba diary.

The travellers come to Havana at last (and buy a pair of shorts)!

Click here for Day 4: Shopping in Havana.

Cuba: Day 3

Jan. 1st, 2016 01:26 pm
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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 3: Che sera, sera

The Note that wasn't

Image: Photo of Parc Vidal in Santa Clara, Cuba

My diary for Day 3 is a bit of a cheat. I over-wrote the original and was forced to reconstruct it from memory and visual aids (ie, photos).

But I remember the day pretty well. We had our first introductions to the realities of Cuban bureaucracies and the limitations on freedom that Cubans have to deal with. We also spent time at the Che Guevara mausoleum and rode home in a horse-drawn taxi — no calèche, but a humble cart.

Click here for Day 3: Che sera, sera.

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 2: The chickens cats streets of Santa Clara

p>December 15, SANTA CLARA, Cuba — Our first full day in Santa Clara included a fuck-ton of walking, the worst spaghetti in the world, Che's cat, a yellow T-Rex, urban chickens and the most laid-back cops I've ever seen. Also horses and really dirty air.

And if all that isn't enough, I'll leave you with a gratuitous shot of Che's Cat, a mere sample of the pic-spam you'll also be missing if you don't click through!

The Streets of Santa Clara!

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 1: A jet plane, a Lada and food! Glorious food!

p>December 15, SANTA CLARA, Cuba — The flight lasted only three and a half hours, delivering two Canadians from an un-naturally warm late autumn to sub-tropical heat. It seems also to have landed us in a world that Time has almost forgotten.

A blurry cellphone photo of the Aeropuerto Abel Santamaria, just after we de-planed.
The Aeropurto Abel Santamaria on the outskirts of Santa Clara, Cuba, taken just after we de-planed.

Our first day (or rather, evening) in Cuba began with lost luggage and a terrifying ride in a Lada (a Soviet-made knock-off of an Italian car) at least 40 years old. It ended with a lizard on the wall and fantastic meal in our bellies. The full report is here. Comment here or there, as you like (if you feel like commenting at all, that is).

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

A Canadian abroad: Memories of Cuba

December 27, OTTAWA — I imagine the word Cuba brings to mind all manner of things. To the historically-minded, it could be the Bay of Pigs, or the Cuban Missile Crisis. To the romantic, bearded Che and Fidel emerging from the jungles to over-throw the gangster dictator Batista. To automobile-aficionados, it is vast fleets of ancient Detroit steel and chrome still rolling. Even agronomists and ecologists have an interest, since Cuba is the first country to successfully transition from a "modern" industrial agricultural system to a more-or-less organic system.


A cop in Santa Clara talks with a woman. His relaxed body-language was pretty typical of those we saw in uniform during our visit.

Geopolitics was what first came to mind when I thought of that Caribbean island, but now that I have actually visited, the reality of people and places has pushed the abstract to the back of the bus. And what a reality!

Nine days don't make me an expert, but I think the experience was worth writing about — and worth reading.

A brief introduction to The Pedestrian's Diaries is here. If you hate introductions, the first full entry, Security theatre of the absurd is here.

Comments welcome here or there, as always.

Whoa!

Dec. 25th, 2015 02:38 am
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Was in Cuba for nigh on a fortnight, now back some 28 hours, including sleep and "Christmas" dinner at the pater's.

Much to say, but not now. So will leave you with a photo and promise of a travelogue to come. It'll be worth it.

Merry Christmas! (That's a statue of Che G on the pedestal below the rainbow, stage left; and that's a live Young G just right of centre near the bottom. No rainbow and don't take geography for politics.)

 

 

Young Geoffrey

P.S. I have no idea what I intended the now-deleted sentence above to mean. The rainbow was, in fact, very real and it hung around for quite a while, as if begging us to take multiple pictures of it blessing Che's statue. Which of course we did.

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Miracle by the Bay

(In which Young Geoffrey walks all over paradise and finds it Good)

Image: El Capitan Hotel, Mission District, San Francisco. Barred front door.
Portal to paradise? Not quite, the Mission District is not nearly as scary as it looks.

San Francisco is a magnificent folly of a city, a surrealist's vision or child's dream, but always humane and always on a human scale.

Fresh from a stay in LA, where it can seem as if you need to hop in your car just to brush your teeth, in San Francisco, we walked, Raven and I. We walked and we walked and we walked. From the barred gates of our hotel, exiting upon the dirty but not-quite slum-like Mission District, down to the old port and the glittering, tourist-infested Fisherman's Wharf. Up hills and down, through Chinatown and along Columbus. And always, I found myself gaping in delighted surprise, laughing and shouting for joy, boring poor Raven with variations on the phrases, I love this city! and This is so beautiful.

My pleasure was as a child's at Christmas, as a teenager's when the object of their desire says yes.

How could I not call out that I was in love with with this extraordinary assembly of construct and landscape?

Look on my landscapes, ye builders, and despair!

Image: Map of San Francisco via SFGate.com
A map of San Francisco, screenshot from SFGate.com. The horizontal line near the bottom of the square white box gives the scale: 1 mile/1.61 km.

If you've never been, there are two key features of geography that define — that bind and constrain, and so, liberate — San Francisco.

First, it is a small peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. Like the Montreal, or any island city, there are practical limits to its physical size. Although the city proper only boasts a population of around 800,000 people, it is the second densest city in the United States; further significant growth would require paving over its parks or building a lot more high-rise condos than it has now.

Second, that small geographical area is extremely three-dimensional. More than fifty sudden and steep hills dot the peninsula, like a perverse god's challenge to human ingenuity. Look on my landscapes, ye builders, and despair!

Seriously, the city's geography is crazed, a madwoman's sketch of a potential city-scape or a stoned teenager's impossible dungeon, designed to test his buddies to destruction. No rational planner would look at that landscape and muse that — why yes! — here is an ideal place to build a city! Never, no matter how fabulous a natural harbour lay upon its shore.

And yet, there the city is, in all its audacious and rugged glory ...

Geography rules . . .

When I say we walked, I mean we hiked. No few of those streets have grades of more than 25 percent! Some are well over 30. If you haven't walked such roads, that means steep! Driving, you can't see beyond your car's hood when you crest a hill, or start to nose down one.

And then there's fucking Lombard Street.

If you didn't really look at the photo above, stop reading and look again. Really look at it. Those are cars making their way down among the bushes and flowers (except for the grey Volvo, midway down on the left. That's just parked. Presumably in front of its owner's house). And it's every bit as steep as it looks. So take a minute to have another look.

Done? Okay, onwards ...

When I first saw that stretch of so-called road above, I scoffed. Truth is, when Raven insisted we walk it, I did so reluctantly, complaining that we were just walking into the ultimate tourist trap, like every other gawking yokel in that never-ending crowd around us.

And maybe we were.

Image: The author trudges up a stretch of Lombard Street.
The author trudges up a stretch of Lombard Street.

But if this stretch, which a convenient historical plaque says is "known as the 'Crookedest Street' in the world" (strangely, hedging its bet), is a tourist trap, then at least it is a tourist trap in which people live (and park!).

And, as Raven managed finally to show me, despite my loutish refusals to see the beauty right before me, lest some local take me for a rube (and kudos to her for putting down my snobbish pre-conceptions), if it is a tourist trap, so what?

It is still gorgeous, it is still real, the view is awesome and it takes a lot of work to walk to the top of it.

With all with its deliberate switchbacks and its ostentatious flower-beds, Lombard Street might be extreme, it might even be the joke I first thought it was but, if so, it is a humane joke, because it only demonstrates by exaggeration the extreme landscape on which this city was built.

. . . If we're willing

Despite the roller-coaster terrain, San Francisco is laid out on a pretty standard urban grid. (More precisely, it is built upon several discrete grid systems, cut through with a few, seemingly random, diagonal roads to make things even more confusing.) Cross-streets are everywhere, even on the steepest hills.

Lombard Street notwithstanding, most of those streets — whether North/South or East West — mostly ignore the hills and just carry on. When you're driving and you can't see what's beyond the hood of your car, you go slow, that's all.

Image: View from a car: A street in San Francisco
View from a car: A street in San Francisco.

A planned city — a rational city — would have shaved the hilltops flat and filled the valleys with the rubble.

But San Francisco's houses and apartments, its shops and restaurants, they all rise and fall like the jagged risers of an escalator, up and down, up and down. (As Raven pointed out, this is a hard city for the disabled or the elderly.)

Or, a rational city would have reserved the hilltops for the rich, and maybe a park or two; for being admired, instead of to be lived upon and with. San Francisco chose instead to (not so) simply, build its streets and buildings up (and down) those steep slopes.

And in that acceptance of place lies the foundation of San Francisco's beauty, an seemingly Zen-like willingness to take the world as it is, to work within its limits, rather than the hubris that insists on altering the bones of the earth to suit our own short-term interests.

San Francisco is bat-shit crazy, but that is what makes it such a jewel, such a human environment, no matter that it is built of concrete and stone, of brick and of steel. After all, we are a building animal.

What a joy to witness — and to encounter, for whoever short a time — such a living example of the power of the human imagination when its focus is on living, not domination.

When I wasn't laughing during all that walking, I was sometimes fighting back tears. Love has a way of doing that to a man, too. And I fell hard for the city by the bay.

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LA-LA-LA, LA-LA, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye

(In which Young Geoffrey looks down upon his betters and wonders just how many insensitive terms he can squeeze into his opening paragraph)

Dateline: Citadell Outlet Mall, somewhere in the Greater Los Angeles area, August 1, 2014 — Never let it be said that (however wonderful she is) Raven is perfect. Within that beautiful oriental figure lurks the heart of a savage hunter-gatherer, an attavistic appetite she must feed every few months. It took me a while to realize that it is the process, the hunt if you will, that fulfills her. As often as not she comes home from an afternoon at the mall empty-handed yet fully-sated.

As for me, well, though once upon a time I loved to haunt book and comic stores — as much for the process as the purchaces — that time is long gone. Shopping leaves me emotionally empty and malls make me a little crazy.

But here I am, as how could I not be? Raven wants to visit an outlet mall before we head back to a real city and so I sit at a shaded table, an out-sized (60 ounce!) lemonade from ("100% Employee Owned"?1?) Hot Dog on a Stick at my side, and a few minutes to ponder Los Angeles.

In some ways, there's not much to ponder and nothing to say that hasn't been said, for decades, by many others.

The "city" is an ecological obscenity and a cultural wasteland, its arterail roadways seemingly more important than the city they ostensibly serve. As I mentioned in my previous entry I have for years thought it was "only" a hypertrophied version of Sudbury, Ontario — an ugy, sprawl with no literal or metaphorical heart — and I was absolutely right. The analogy is spot-on. Or would be but for the vast difference in scale. Sudbury is a "city" of about 160,000 people, LA a "city" of 20 or so million.

But still ... in both places you will most likely need a car to buy a litre (or pint) of milk from whatever your starting-point; in neither place is a genuine city-like neighbourhood obvious. And in oth places, one's energy-footprint must, of necessity be huge.

Which is a rather long way of saying we've spent one fuck of a lot of time stuck in traffic.

I'm glad I've experiened LA, if only for the experience, but I have zero desire to come back (Wendy, if we are to see one another again, it will almost certainly have to be north of the border, not south of it). At the risk of sounding like the small-town bumpkin I suddenly feel like I am, the air stinks, the drivers are crazy and the food isn't even very good — though, as as been reported, the portions do tend towards enormous.

As has been noted by many others, it is a shocking series of contrasts between rich and poor, all set on a temporary desert soundstage, almost certain to create 20 million refugees when the last of the accessible fresh water has been flushed into the Pacific Ocean.

And yet, I have enjoyed myself. Partly just because of the strangenss of the place, and partly for things like yesterday's trip to the beach north of the City in Malibu, where I had the pleasure of learning something of the ocean's power first-hand.

Yes, I swam in and againt the pounding surf, got tossed around and had salt water flood my nose. It was the first time I've really enjoyed the process of swimming, of playing in the water, since I was a teenager at least.

We got there via a scenic route and so had a taste of the local mountains and desert via [Routh 10?], before the sprinklers at the local private university, Peperdine, blandly ignoring the signs warning of major drought reminded us that, in California as perhaps nowhere else in North America, money speaks louder than any thing or any one else. (It was fun to drive around the very vertical campus, although it put a strain on our little Chevy Trio.)

Anyway, it seems fitting that my last taste of LA should be in an equally unsustainable private outlet mall, which doesn't really seem all that different from, say, the Eaton Centre but for the fact that it is all on one level and they haven't bothered to put a roof over the whole thing. You're still at late-capitalism's Church of the Almighty Brand, with nary a bookstore or one-of-a kind retailer in sight.

Glad I came, but even happier that I'm leaving. Goodbye Los Angeles.

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I'm not sure I've ever visited a place whose advance publicity was so accurate. For many years I've dismissed suggestions of visiting Los Angeles with variations on the retort, "Why would I want to visit a hyperthyroid version of Sudbury?" I like urban urban spaces: high density cities, with crowded sidewalks and a core easily explored on foot.

Turns out I was pretty much on the money. Like Sudbury, LA is a sprawling mess of a suburban city, with multiple "cores" connected by crowded freeways like so many ganglions linked by over-extended synapses. The air is visibly filthy and tastes foul and there isn't a pub within walking distance of our hotel at Melrose and Wilton.

All that said, there have been some surprises.

  1. There roads here are narrow! Or rather, the lanes are. We've rented a super-small car and I still feel crowded in my own lanes when not on a freeway. Who'd have thought this auto-centric city would have tighter driving spaces than Ottawa or Montreal?

  2. The Hollywood Hills are really fucking high, and Mulhulland Drive is well-worth making a tour of;

  3. The Hollywood Bowl looks really small and old from up there;

  4. Teeth. I've never seen so many faces with so few teeth. The Brits might be notorious for "bad" teeth, but US television hasn't told me that so many (poor and poorish) Americans have no teeth;

  5. Motorcyclists habitually ride between lanes of traffic on the freeways, scooting along like bike-couriers in Toronto;

  6. In general, the drivers here are really aggressive and make those in Montreal look like effete English dandies (yes, like effete dandies!). I was nearly side-swiped at least three times yesterday alone, with a couple of other close calls;

  7. Walking about makes me feel significantly thinner than I do back home; but

  8. Muscle Beach makes me feel significantly weaker;

  9. For god's sake, pay attention the curbs when you park here, not just the signs. Not noticing that you've parked to a curb painted red can cost you — sigh — $93.00; and

  10. The Oaxacan Mexican restaurant across from our hotel serves food unlike anything I've had before. Tex-Mex it ain't!

Now, off to bring Raven a coffee and start the day.

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By my own, idiosyncratic, calendar . . .

(Happy New Year, again)

January 18, 2013, OTTAWA — What a year it's been. Okay, 17 days, but it's almost *felt* like a year since, and more, since I last rode my bicycle, leaving it at the airport on the Friday before Christmas. The snow started coming down, joined by freezing rain, just as I started to head for home, so I circled back, parked the beast and took a bus.

* * *

The morning of December 22, 2012, was an old fashioned Canadian winter's day, snowing hard and blowing. And, old-fashioned Canadian at the wheel, new-comer riding shotgun, we were off (yes, through that first snowstorm of the year) to Quebec City and then Laval, for what turned out to be a wonderful (if too brief) holiday.

And then, shortly after our return to our Nation's Capital, Raven came down with a cold. She was out for (get this!) 12 whole hours before returning to the pink of health. I, on the other hand, took sick and am only now (finally!) coming back to life. (12 hours vs nearly *20 days*. It's a wonder I still love her!)

All of which is to say, I've been remiss.

I haven't mentioned that I reviewed Christopher Hitchens' last book, and that said review was published in the winter issue of Humanist Perspectives. They misspelled my name, but at least they got my website's address right. I'll be posting it their sooner than later.

I haven't mentioned the surprise sale of a photograph to one of Canada's major museums — in large part because I have not yet seen the cheque. (Memo to self: follow-up on that invoice!)

Nor have I finished my reviews of Elisabeth Sladen's memoir, Neil Young's genuine stream-of-conscious volume, Waging Heavy Peace, nor, most importantly, have I done nearly as much as I had intended to on the biggest project I have on the go.

It's not one that I've mentioned here much, if at all. Partly because I'm lousy at self-promotion, partly because it's far from ready for prime time and partly because there's a second party involved. But said second party has given me the go-ahead to mention it, and so ...

I am co-writing the memoir of a remarkable woman, one who endured the twin traumas of the sort of personal disaster you would think could only happen in fiction (or maybe on one of those daytime television freak shows), as well as abuse from a not just one public institution that should have been protecting her, but at least *three* of them.

It's a powerful story of a woman's desperate battle to protect her family and to find at least a semblance of justice from a system that seemed bound and determined to give her anything else.

Anyway, I am very happy to report that I have had two good night's sleep in a row (the first such series of the year, or so it feels) and that, yesterday, my personal "January 1st", I added about 1,600 words to that book and am damned if I don't make a daily habit of similar numbers for the next few months.

More to come, sooner than later. I promise!

Reprinted, with modifications, from a bloody Facebook posting, of all things, and posted first at Edifice Rex Online.

 

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I really don't like playing at being a corporate shill, but sweet Jesus there's a lot to be said for good ergonomic design!

Raven and I are in Quebec City, having braved a winter storm to get here (a five hour drive became one that lasted easily 7 and a half). We're in a rental car, a Toyota Yaris. Subcompact, pretty basic econobox.

But. Lots of room (right after I picked up the car, I drove out to the airport, where I'd left my bike the night before, not wanting to brave freezing rain after my return from Montreal) — no serious problem sliding it in once I popped off the front wheel) and, even more important — good, supportive seats.

Most times we've rented a vehicle — Ford Focus, Mazda 3, and I forget what-else — I end up in agony. For some reason most car seats are brutal on my thighs. But on this 7-hour drive through horrid conditions (so, stressful to boot), I felt only the inevitable stiffness that comes with being in one postion for too long.

Anyway, Raven't about ready to head out, so I'll leave you with a photo from last night. No promises, but I'll see about some pic-spam of the city itself anon.

 

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We came, we saw, we ate.

Perhaps not the most impressive epitaph, but there it is and that's mostly what we did.

Who knew that Kingston is a minor Mecca for Cambodian food in Canada? I didn't, but fortunately Raven did, and so set our itinerary for my first return to Canada's one-time capital city in about a quarter of a century.

(Is it come time for Young Geoffrey to give up his ever-more hoary moniker?

(Hell no! quoth YG!)

How I Spent My September Holiday: Cut for excessive personal trivia, photos to spare your reading page, and maudlin expressions of love. )

Exeunt

ed_rex: (Default)

"I understand my mother now," said my mother, "when she used to say, 'O! to be 75 again!"

And, sort of, I think I can understand it, too. My mother isn't that far past 80 — she'll be 79 in December — but she has visibly aged in the past couple of years. Her skin hangs loose where it used to be firm, her eyes seem to be permanently shrouded, almost bruised, by pouches of dark skin, lighter when she's rested, much darker when she's tired.

And I, Young Geoffrey only by vain (in both senses of the word) self-designation, am old enough to join in that conversation of complaint, what with my arthritis, my psoriasis and (maybe) my sciatica. "Yeah," I said, laughing. "Whoever it was that said that aging is beautiful can go fuck themselves!"

My long weekend — Canada Dominion Day nearly forgotten — was a good one.

It began when I picked up the rental car on Friday morning and, I guess, ended when I dropped it off this morning.

We had the car only thanks to Raven's foresight and perspicacity. Three or four weeks before, she insisted that I book the car now and, when I did, all but two of the company's locations were already out of vehicles for the long weekend. Duh, Young Geoffrey! Duh!.

Anyway, it was a good trip, and one bolstered by a phone call coming just outside of Ottawa: barring some monstrous unforeseen glitch, our apartment-hunt is over!

I don't think i've said anything about this particular place due to my atavistic fear of jinxing things, but *crosses fingers* I think it's safe to speak up now. The place is right downtown, maybe six or seven blocks from Parliament Hill. It's a (very) small two-bedroom apartment on the top floor (of two) of an old, non-descript (very) low-rise building. What the real estate agents would probably describe as cozy.

But it seems to be well-maintained, the landlord is okay with us brining in a small washer (a must for Raven) and, well, location, location, location. Raven will have about a 200-pace commute to work and while I will have another four or so kilometres added on to my bike-ride, I don't mind at all.

We are supposed to sign the lease on Saturday and move in on the 4th. Don't congratulate me yet, but feel free to cross your fingers in solidarity with mine own digits.

But yes, that call started us off on our voyage in good spirits, which we mostly maintained for the duration fo the trip. About which, really, there's not a great deal to say. I spent some time installing a new operating system, Linux Mint 13 (Mate), since Ubuntu stopped working with their (and my) printer and later versions have "upgraded" the user-interface to emulate the hideous Mac interface.

So of necessity, we didn't get much beyond my mother's apartment (apologies once more Souguy — once again, we'll have to put things off 'till "next time") where, I believe, the proverbial good time was had by all.

Our return-trip was uneventful, but for an unexpectedly delicious stop for lunch in North Bay at Habaneros Southwest Grill whose Tex-Mex food was, frankly, awesome.

Once home, cooking was out of the question, so it was out for Chinese we went, justifying it with the argument that we were still, technically, on holiday.

Vhut result? Only the fortune cookie knows for sure! )

ed_rex: (1980)

 

Travels, autumnal

Hidden agenda

'Oh my God — it's full of stars!'

I had a hidden agenda.

Raven's was to see finally see the wonder of the autumnal display in all its Canadian glory, the nearly miraculous transition of greens into scarlets and golds. She wanted to see the Canadian fall colours up close.

Raven is a city-girl born and bred, raised in the very urban East, just of the coast of Southern China, where vast, Canadian-style wilderness is nearly impossible to imagine.

She wanted autumn leaves; I wanted something more.

But as we drove the winding highway towards Ontario's massive Algonquin provincial park, my goal was one she had no reason to suspect, even as I had little cause for hope it would be fulfilled.

Far from a brilliant autumn weekend, the sky was heavy with clouds when we left Ottawa. It stayed that way for most of the drive. Only when we were within an hour or so of our destination did Old Sol make an appearance, tearing through the lowering clouds at last, baring hints of blue sky in the gaps.

Perhaps, I thought as I pulled off of Highway 60 and eased towards the check-in, perhaps Raven would get more than she had bargained for after all! Click here for the full story!

 

July 2017

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