Fully lit stage floor.
Fully lit stage floor.
It took me a week to get comfortable with the idea, but last night I think I told some Torontonians I'd actually move to Toronto for work.
Unfortunately, as of 2:24am, July 27, I am no longer particularly interested.
Walking Landsdowne Ave. just minutes ago, I was pointlessly hit in the face by two passing male rollerbladers. My mouth tastes like blood and sulfur. My upper lip isn't quite split. My right eye is swelling; tomorrow will tell if I'll be able to see out of it. I hadn't said or done anything, but these two fellows, one after another, saw fit to hold their arms out, possibly aiming with their fists specifically, and hit me in the face, and then call me "faggot," regardless, and ignorant of, any sexual history they might have known about. I had no idea who they were. I hadn't said a word to them, and had actually moved out of the way. They were out of sight soon after questioning my heterosexuality.
I crossed Landsdowne to ask a man who had seen it all if he had seen it all, and if there were any obviously split or bleeding spots. I felt a pain in my left temple, my upper lip was definitely swelling already, and my eye, well, it felt salty and sore. But the man was talking on his phone. Did you see those two guys on rollerblades? I asked. Yes. Do you see my lip split anywhere? No. Did you see them hit me?
"No, I'm not talking to you. There's a guy talking to me." This man was so uninterested, he had to explain to his friend on the phone at 2:24am that it didn't really matter what he was hearing from someone who had been pointlessly punched in the face by two strangers. Thanks, pal. He didn't even stop talking, despite the fact that my bloody hands were cupped around my nose to stop my blood from going on my shirt.
There's nobody to call the police on; it's just two assholes on rollerblades, and, as nice as it would be for someone to recognize that description, it probably won't get them any more hurt than I was, by a long shot.
So, thanks, folks, for making me think I might enjoy it here. It doesn't take much to cancel that thought. A split lip, bruised head, and swollen eye almost do it for me, but I've got two days left. Do your best.
I walk up the the trailer office, and it's pretty much the same as the rest of the trailers--except there's some movement. A weird, not-fat '70s Canadian Rock-looking man comes out, and tells me a much better story.
He used to have a whole bunch of record stores in Toronto, and he made enough money to get by and save some more, and so on. It was a fine business, but stressful. When the ass fell out of the music business around 2000, he packed it all in, had a talk with his aging father-in-law, who owned a gravel pit and some greenhouses just outside of Leamington. He planted some trees, laid some sod, and put a few fish in the spring-fed pits left by years of gravel-digging, and started charging people to camp there. Old people. Quiet people. Retired people.
Some of the ponds had the fish he put in there. Others had had fish dropped there by birds--he'd never put them in there. You could fish if you wanted, but it was all catch and release.
As we stood there, talking and looking around, I realized that he had the best job in the entire world. There were no public toilets to clean--everyone had their own, and there were no noisy teens to police--nobody in the park was under 55, except me, the squatter. He got to sit around and read books with his wife next to a pond full of fish, and walk behind a lawnmower once in a while. He didn't even have to do that all the time, he said, because one of the old guys had his own lawnmower, and in his post-retirement boredom, he'd just push it all over the park along the roads, and further in, if people wanted him to, for free, and fairly often.
While we watched the massive bass and sunfish swim up to the shore expecting a handout, he said he really didn't mind that I'd shown up when I did, or that I'd parked in the grassy spot that he didn't really use for anything anyway. He said I could use the shower if I wanted, and that he'd only charge me $15 because I didn't use power or water. I fished my last 13 American dollars out of my pockets, and he shook his head when I offered to get the other two in town.
So I cleaned up, packed up, waved to my motionless friend in his tent across the road from me, and drove into town. I looked around for a while, and once I'd seen what I needed to see in Leamington (I actually wrote one of the earlier posts in the Leamington Public Library), I headed down to Point Peelee Provinicial Park. I stopped at Paula's Fish Place, across from the shore, had a fishburger, and enjoyed the progressively less subtle advances of the near-cougarly waitress. At one point, she said "I can't wait to get home and get drunk. Sure wish someone was there with me."
But, as Jack White sang, "I'm lonely, but I ain't that lonely yet."
Which wasn't exactly true, but I had other fish to fry, as they say. And I chickened out, of course.
Before I left the restaurant I made two calls to the Peelee Island Duck Counting Facility, to see if my friend's wife's sister had brought any ducks back to the office to count. There was no answer, so I left an inane message saying she'd missed her chance, as though it were her fault I hadn't bothered finding her number earlier and calling her sooner.
With that done, though, I drove down to Peelee Point Provincial Park.
The woman at the gate said it would be $6.80 to come in and take a look, so I parked half a block outside the park gates, crossed the road to a public beach access path, and walked onto the shores of Lake Erie. I walked into the park on the beach.
The sand was soft, and the weather was a hazy and calm and warm. Healthy trees and bushes skirted the upper side of the shore. There were a few tampon applicators and dead fish and seagulls on the shore, but not too many. Keep in mind that in Halifax, dead and dying gunk washes up all over the place, since the city has NO sewage treatment at all. In the distance, two teenagers were looking at the bottom of one of their jet skis, which they'd dragged onto shore. With the wind and the waves crashing, and with me getting progressively more deaf, I couldn't hear what they were saying at all. Finally, when I got close enough, I heard.
"Have you got a knife?"
They were in wetsuits, and really didn't look threatening, but I don't usually get asked what I'm packing.
He motioned me to look at the bottom of his jetski. Somehow, he'd gotten one of the ropes he had tied to his handlebars tangled around the driveshaft of his machine. It wasn't really affecting how the machine ran, but it was wedged into the seal that kept water out of the works. He wanted to cut it out. I told him I didn't have knife on me, but that I had a jackknife and a machete in the truck. He looked at me funny when I mentioned the machete, but wanted the knife.
"Do you want a ride back to the truck?" He motioned at his still-functioning jetski.
"Um, sure." It wasn't all that far to the truck. I'd never been on a jetski before, either, and though I knew I'd like it, I was leery. He didn't have a lifejacket for me, and I don't do well in water since I almost drowned a few summers ago at a beach in Nova Scotia. And by almost, I mean, I panicked.
But I thought, "I have to stop being such a fucking baby!"
So I threw all my water-damageable crap into the sealed compartment. Then he'd get onto the jetski, I'd try to get onto it and tip him into the water, and then he'd tell me to get on first, and I'd tip it over, and then I'd get on, and balance it the wrong way so that he'd slip off while trying to climb on, and fall on his ass back into the water. But the water was warm, and I kind of wanted to go swimming anyway, so I really didn't mind. Maybe he did, but I didn't care.
Finally, we got on and went about 100 feet to where I'd hopped onto the beach. I fell off the back, revelling in the warmth of the water, and collected the knife from the truck. I got back on, fell off, got on again, let him accelerate, got thrown off by the force of the acceleration, and finally, we made it back to his friend and the other jetski. While two of us held it up, he hacked at the rope, dulling my knife on the driveshaft of the propeller. I'm certain it didn't do too much damage, but it's a nice knife. Who cares.
Finally, they got it all cut, but one piece was still jammed into the seal. So, teenager two started it up, and just roared around in the water until the piece fell out. We realized afterwards that he probably could have just pulled it out by turning the driveshaft a little bit by running the starter a little while pulling the rope, but since it all worked out in the end, it really didn't matter.
So, as Teenager One sailed me back to the truck, apologising for dunking me, I looked out over the water. It was blue and went on forever, and I couldn't see Peelee Island. I wondered what it looked like. The roar of the little motor in the jetski was surprisingly relaxing, considering how loud it was.
As I was about to hop off, I told the kid that this was the first time I'd been on a jetski. I couldn't tell him why that was--I really didn't know--so he offered to take me out for "a rip" or something like that.
I thought about it briefly. I didn't have a lifejacket on, and I didn't want to drown. I thought I might enjoy it if I were driving (maybe it's a control thing, or maybe it was the fact that I kept falling off when he was driving), but I declined. Something was pushing me onward, compelling me to move eastward. I didn't feel like spending any more time with these guys, for some reason, and I wanted to escape. I would have liked to stay longer at the beach, but it was a little lonely, so I changed my damp clothes in the bush, tied them to the metal loops inside the box of the truck to dry, and drove up highway three a little more, watching the sun go down as Lake Erie followed along.
The light turns green, and I squeal the tires getting around that corner. My heart skips another beat when I get back towards what looks like a downramp, except it isn't going down towards the highway. More scary-looking people pop up, or walk around, going about their business, not really paying any attention to the insane man pulling the vacation-train through their ghetto neighbourhood. Finally, a block down, the ground slopes down a ramp back onto the highway. I stop sweating.
I make another wrong turn. Not majorly bad, but I've already had enough.
Finally, I'm approaching the brigde. That's the point I'm at now--it's not really me controlling the truck any more, it's the truck, with me cradled safely within, rescuing me from this horrible city where it was born, or at least, assembled. We reach the booth of the toll bridge, and the woman says "that'll be $6.75."
"Whatever you want. Want more? Just get me out of here."
She looks at me blankly, chewing her gum, her round, early-20s face sort of contemptuously indifferent, until I throw $6.75 worth of quarters and bills at her and roar away.
On the downslope of the bridge, I breathe much easier. I can feel maple leaves and poutine and friendly passive-aggressive Canadian vibrations soothe my soul, and sedate my nerves. I talk to a dirty-looking kid and a limo driver in an empty McDonalds parking lot, completely without fear. They tell me that, no, they won't let you in to go to the bathroom, because it's too late. I can order food, though.
"Can I order an empty cup? I'm not really hungry. I need the bathroom."
They get the joke. They smile. I'm back in Canada.