rough notes

I must be moving on

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The past couple of weeks in John Silver House has seen talk about the possibilities of relocation. We like our flat well enough, but we’re not too sure anymore about the city.

It likely all started a couple months ago when the better half and myself took a road trip into the interior, and found ourselves stopping over for a night in the town of my birth. (As Jim said, “Tomorrow we enter the town of my birth. I want to be ready.” No celebration of lizards though. I think we only had L.A. Woman with us in the car.) We traveled in the fall, just as the seasons were beginning to change. Tree had not yet dropped their leaves, but were definitely giving us their fireworks display of colours. The three-day drive into the sunset bathed us in a filtered light fit for errant knights and intrepid voyageurs. The crisp air was filled with the smells of our still-unspent childhoods. It was all very poignant, very Romantic.

This state of grace that held fast to our car during our journey entered in to all the towns which we made stops as well. Halifax-Edmunston-Rivieres-du-Loup-Drummonville- (well, not Drummondville. Its dirty L’Urban du Sprawl and not much more.) -Kingston-Ottawa-Scarborough-T-dot-St.Catharines-Drummondville-Riviere-du-loup-Edmunston-Halifax. Edmunston, a dirty pulp-and-paper-milltown, became a quaint town nestled in gentle slopes and remnants of the Appalachians. Riviere-du-Loup was not a fork in the road or where the highway ends, but a gentle rest stop bound by wonderful farmland and the deep blues of the St. Lawrence. The exposed rock, big skies, and wide expanses of water reminded me of the Canadian Shield. (Drummondville, like I said, was shit. A quick bite to eat and nothing more.) For once in my life, Kingston was not the old city it is, trying desperately to regain its lost glory and be a little more than its current state as a stop on the 401 for truckers, soldiers and students Instead, it felt like life, settlement, education, advancement, all just beyond the trees.. Ottawa, despite its many warts, felt like a homecoming. We drove in with HHH forecasts on the radio, and ended up seeing the textbook definition of Urban Sprawl. Somehow though, we were able to look beyond hot, hazy and humid, and see past the six-lane roads built for 1-passenger-in-the-car-commuters going to and from work and their suburban homes, to find the urban core – an oasis of politics, culture and education. Scarborough – Scarborough! Driving in with Achtung! in the deck, the borough was our very own Zoo Station. Toronto was an instant replay of my youth. And St. Catharines was so very on the fly that the night I had at home was so short I walked away still loving my family.

There wasn’t much talk about moving on that trip. We mentioned briefly how cool it would be to live in Ottawa and drive its roads with our Swankmobile. And the expected nostalgic feelings for Toronto did give me pause to wonder how I might convince the better half to move here with me. But all in all, the trip was a vacation: we left our home to visit other people’s homes. Indeed, driving back into The Fax when it was all over was the first time I realized I had a definite attachment to the city. I was going home, to my adopted hometown, Halifax, and it was a good thing.

Since that trip, however, the idea of living elsewhere seems to have crept into our daily lives. Especially living in Ottawa. We spent the most amount of time on our road trip in Ottawa, and our close friends there managed to show us its flavours (and its warts.) We have friends in town how come from the area, and can pepper our lives with the wonders of living in the national capital. And we have friends in the region, prepared to move out there themselves, to help pull at our heartstrings or to just leave a candy trail for us to follow. There are so many catalysts in our lives right now to speak about the merits of the town.

So, we do. We consider the dry colds found in the dead winter of Ottawa, compare it to what we have lived in and what we are experiencing now, and wonder how we would fare. We speak openly to one another about improving our French so we could move there, and use the resources of the region to improve it even further. We consider the state of capital infrastructure in the city we live in now to that of a major city in a have-province. Living elsewhere truly is on the mind.

Last Sunday (to digress for a moment), my friend NavyJohn stopped by before shipping out to the west coast. NavyJohn is an officer in our under-funded Forces, and has recently accepted a promotion and transfer to HMCS Victoria (one of the subs currently being retro-fitted in the Halifax harbour), which will be based in Esquimault. Over drinks here and eventually dinner out-and-about, the three of us discussed the merits of living in Halifax and elsewhere. It was all very surface-level, but the discussion was prolonged nonetheless, about various issues such as cost of living, taxes, ownership and land value, etc etc. NavyJohn’s possessions were shipped out on Wednesday, and he flew out on Thursday. He is right now living in a swank hotel in Victoria, waiting for his possessions to arrive by train.

At any rate, since our night with NavyJohn, what has now become Life Elsewhere™ has been on the brain, non-stop. I’m thinking about it constantly, to the point where I am working out the logistics of such a move. Such a move, in fact, would seriously be years away, and I have not a problem in the world with that. Regardless, plans need to be made. To the point (and this is the point of my story) that upon waking this morning, the first thoughts in my head, and the first real words I made into a sentence, were about moving. I told the better half that we would definitely need a truck to move, and perhaps we should make our first vehicle one. She rebutted lightheartedly that it might be better just to rent one for the move. I countered that such a rental will likely be a U-Haul diesel-engine 14’ truck, complete with Mom’s Attic, and I asked her how comfortable she would be driving that through Montreal, because I sure as hell didn’t want to. I then proceeded to go on about my plans to find an alternate path to Ottawa, as I don’t want to drive the nightmare that is the Hwy20/134/720 ever again, and likened the drive itself to the entrance to Dante’s Inferno. The better half rightly concluded that there is not likely a way to avoid Montreal, given that is/was/is a major centre of the nation, and is on an island as well. I threw my arms up in disgust, defeated that there is at least one more drive on that godforsaken stretch of overpasses and byways and exits and bridges and detours. (n.b. I’m a good driver. Didn’t have a problem driving it in the past. But that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want to ever drive 20/134/720 ever again.)

Well, defeated once, but not really down and out. After the better half left for work, I poured myself another coffee, and pulled out the road maps. I was thinking about the Highway on the north side of the St. Lawrence, that heads up to Quebec, as I have driven that before. I also thought about the highway in Gatineau I almost drove onto accidentally, that was clearly marked “A’ Montreal.” There are connections! Somewhere! Looking at the maps, there seem to be two alternatives to Dreaded 20/134/720. The first is to cross the St. Lawrence at Levis/Quebec, and take Hwy.40 into Montreal. I have done this. It’s a long road, nothing serious, not too boring. And getting on to the island is pretty much a breeze. But it leaves you on the east end if the Ile de Montreal, and you have to drive through town on the Metropolitaine, which I understand is slow and tedious, even on good days. But then again, what highway is not slow and tedious on the island? And besides, Hwy 40 is what we eventually want to be on when we leave the island, as it will eventually move towards Ontario and meet Hwy 417, which takes you in to Ottawa. Or, we can keep on Hwy 20 down the St. Lawrence Valley, and enter the island by the tunnel on Hwy 25, which meets 40 some ways closer to the west-end anyhow. This is the more desirable option as the detour through Levis/QC and down 40 (which is not nearly as straight a road as 20) would be time-consuming.

As you can see, I’ve given quite a bit of thought towards crossing Montreal. I see it now not only as a milepoint, but as the perilous point of a journey that typically marks the point of no return. Like the continental divide, or crossing the Alps. Once you’ve got through that part, the rest of the journey to your new home is a cakewalk, and there’s no way in hell you’re going to cross back again.

Travel routes aside, though, the prospect of moving onwards to elsewhere is promising. Perhaps we can let the three-summer countdown begin, if not to Ottawa (as ideas, plans, tastes and towns inevitably change), but towards the great mural, Life Elsewhere ™, painted in the post-impressionist style, where at one point nothing comes on you at all but blurs, colours, strokes and textures, but the next moment is as clear as the real world before your very eyes.


Written by mitchellirons

January 30, 2004 at 11:30 pm

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