Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"honey, your shoes need a shine"

That's what the Muslim woman hawking shoe shines and African massage at Vancouver airport yesterday called out to me, whilst shaking her head sadly. And I couldn't argue that point; after several days of almost continuous walking, the footwear was looking even more beat up than usual. "It's okay, these are my travelling shoes," I answered her. And I kept walking.

The travelling shoes are now back in the front hall closet, still scuffed up, and the memories of the final few days in Vancouver are starting to blur. But a few highlights stand out from the general feeling of exhaustion that comes with returning from a satisfying and very full trip.

There was the wander down Commercial Drive, where we stumbled upon Audiopile, the used record store that Matthew had recommended. And what a great recommendation that was; it certainly boasted one of the most extensive collection of stuff I actually wanted to buy that I have ever encountered, and well organized too. I now have a half-filled loyalty card in my wallet, so I have no choice but to make another pilgrimmage there next time, even if the farting dog is still skulking the aisles.

There were the several hours of walking Yaletown in the increasingly persistent rain and wind, which included touring an open house at a townhouse condo on a rather busy downtown street, which could be ours for a mere $725,000.00. You would think that would have prepared us to brace for sticker shock upon opening the menu when we stopped for dinner a few blocks later, but I think we were lulled into a false sense of security by the innocuous name. Bluewater Cafe does sound more like a mom and pop restaurant than an upscale eatery swarming with dozens of staff all clothed in black selling $150.00 Scotch, don't you think? The sports bar, which we settled upon after paying top dollar for a glass of wine and some edemame and making an early escape from the upscale eatery, was a welcome relief, even if there was a mini television imbedded in the mirror, tuned to basketball, in the women's bathroom.

By the time we found our hotel again, after several hours of walking, we were seasoned hoofers, and couldn't believe that couple who advised us to take a cab back to Davie Street when we realized we had been heading in the wrong direction. A cab, we scoffed, it's barely raining anymore, and what's another twelve or thirteen blocks?

With the OFKAR attending classes the next morning, I was free to meet with an old friend, and catch up on the past thirty years. Although it was astounding to me that she lives a mere three blocks from our hotel, I did find myself thinking that this was just another sign that the west end was a place I could easily call home. Of course our visit was far too short to truly cover everything we wanted to discuss, but now that I know we like to hang out in the same hood, we'll be having more of these chat and giggle sessions.

The afternoon brought a return of the monsoon, so the OKFAR, who was skipping class, and I decided this would be a perfect time to visit the aquarium without battling the crowds. Because who pays $22.00 to stand in a deluge from which the otters and dolphins are hiding? Answer: half the population of the lower mainland. But it was okay, because the ubiquitous German tourists and the dads with diaper bags were actually a nice bunch with which to bump elbows whilst gawking at Melo the otter. And the two-toed sloth, the fruit bats, and the tree frogs are always worth the trip. The stern Quadra fish kept us all in line with their baleful glares.

After a final evening spent lounging in our room wolfing down pizza and forcing Todd to eat leftover sushi, the OFKAR treated me to a farewell coffee at a little french bakery along Davie before I dropped her and her goods off at her dorm, and then Lady Garmin, with her bitch please voice and her exasperated "recalculating...", ushered me out to the airport where I offended people with my shoes.

But my scuffed up shoes and I will be back. Just wait.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

tales from paradise: ass workout day

I came fully prepared for five days of rain and so far I have not even carried an umbrella, let alone unfurled one, and it's not like I have not been spending all day every day walking about outdoors.

On Friday night, the OFKAR suggested having dinner at East is East, a wee restaurant that she had been hearing about in Kitsilano which specializes in Tibetan, Indian, Persian, and Mongolian cuisine. We shared a table in a pillow and drapery laden alcove with two other couples and followed their example by ordering the roti roll specials. If you ever go there, try the lamb and spinach roti roll and the dahl soup and make sure to have some of their amazing chai. I recommend the Roiboos.

The it was over to the historic Waldorf Hotel to hear the Mud Bay Blues Band in the fabulous Tikki Lounge. The bloggers were out in full compliment - Mel (who deserves kudos for finding this great space and who should really have a star ceiling and fake palm trees in her room), Al and The Boy, with the delightful Todd in tow (blogger meetup #18, yo, and an absolutely delightful person), and the always wonderful Matthew. We gabbed and head bobbed to the blues and admired the thatched wallpaper and ate the cherry chocolate chip cookies that Mel had made. Because nothing says tikki bar blues like homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Saturday's brilliant weather enticed the OKFAR and I to wander down to English Bay, passing several dozen dogs and gangs of pigeons with attitude. There was debate over whether the best sighting was the woman with the ultimate mullet or the old lady in purple yoga pants who was spotted roller blading whilst talking on her phone.

In the afternoon we met up with Al, The Boy, Todd, and Mel and trekked over to Granville Island via water taxi. That's the way to get around this city, as far as I am concerned. Much less stressful than trying to find the right bridge and far more scenic. Granville was packed and very touristy, but a smorgasboard for the senses and something you have to experience at least once whilst in Vancouver. Rugelach, beer tastings, two-story toy stores, one-man bands, earl grey chocolate, Blue Steel, cement trucks, and the biggest grapes I have ever seen.

And because Al,The Boy, and Todd were also staying at our hotel on Saturday night, we had a leisurely wander down Davie, where we ended up at our usual Indian restaurant for dinner, followed by cupcakes and gelato at English Bay and a walk along the ocean to observe Earth Hour. We didn't see a whole lot of lights being turned off, but at least we knew we were doing our part by functioning solely on aloo gobi and cupcake power.

I am chagrined to admit that, despite much blustering, I did not in fact kick ass during the games night that followed. I don't know if it was simply that the butter icing was slowing my reflexes down, or if really is time for me to turn the throne over to a new generation of board game champions, but my response time was decidedly sluggish and I did not even come close to winning the spoils during the Cranium and Trivial Pursuit challenges.

But dag nab it, I can still motor up those hills with the best of those young whipper-snappers.

There's an opera singer staying down the hall. I heard him practicing this morning. I love this hotel.

Friday, March 26, 2010

yellow highway lines

I have been such an abysmal blog friend lately. I have barely been around to visit this week and I am sure that I have missed many fascinating developments over at your place.

So am I here to make it right, to read all the missed posts and leave insightful and pithy comments? Of course not! In fact I am about to get even more negligent.

I am just heading out the door to catch a plane to the wet coast, where I will hole up in my favourite hotel with the OFKAR, hear a blues band in a Tikki lounge with friends, put a new notch in my blogger meetup belt (# 18, if memory serves me correctly), explore Granville Island in search of crepes and rogelach, beat some asses at games night, and of course walk in the rain.

Will you still love me when I finally do come back around?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

blogging out loud

What does everyone always say when they hear their recorded voice? Ewww, do I really sound like that?

I am sure the majority of people cringe when they hear themselves. My weird little voice patterns, my
annoying laugh, my tendancy to keep talking over other people have always made my skin crawl.

Lately I have been transcribing some recorded interviews I did last summer and made a somewhat shocking discovery - I have gotten used to the sound of my own voice. So much so that I think it might be fun to do an audio post sometime.

Do you think the internet could handle this? As tempted as I might be, I promise not to sing. Nobody is ready to hear me warble out the Magnetic Fields or anything else that falls within my limited vocal range.

Of course this would necessitate me figuring out how to transfer the files from my little Barbie Cub Reporter digital recorder onto the computer in some fashion. Therein lies the deal-breaker.

I know some of you have done audio posts in the past. Do you have any tips you would care to share?

Monday, March 22, 2010

back with scars to show

John K Samson / Kris Demeanor
Rozsa Centre, Mar 21/10

I had no idea that Kris Demeanor would be opening for John K Samson's solo show on Sunday night, and as he admitted to me in the lobby after his set, until a couple of days beforehand, he didn't know that he was going to be opening either. But it really was an inspired pairing - one of the country's finest story-tellers matched up with one of the country's most eloquent poets, in an evening of acoustic wordsmithery.

Two men, two guitars and a whole lot of imagery.

If you don't know Kris Demeanor, then you have never been to Calgary. He's one of those musicians who goes beyond the music, a local arts ambassador who dabbles in music, words, images, film, in his musings upon life in Calgary. Part troubadour, part experimental and spoken word artist, his songs are an always pithy, often scathing, and decidely darkly humourous reflection of ourselves.


One of the reasons that I continue to love live musical performances is for the opportunity to witness the intricate details that go into the making of the songs. From our third row seats, we were able to see clearly the finger picking and the fret changes.

On two of the songs which Kris performed, he first recorded and then looped his playing, adding on layer upon layer of instrumentation. It was mesmerizing to see unfold, incredible to hear. The all-too brief set finished with a reading of Pelican Lake Conversion, with Kris sitting on the edge of the stage with a book, while the layered tracks provided the backdrop to the spoken word piece. Very powerful, yet
intimate.

It was captivating to see John K Samson to perform a solo set, and made for a decidedly more intimate occasion than the usual high-spirited show that you will see at a Weakerthans concert. Maybe it was the comfortable seats, certainly it was John's chatty and relaxed attitude, but it felt more like an impromptu performance in my living room than a ticketed event in a 400-seat concert hall.

The audience was rather quiet, but certainly attentive and appreciative, hanging onto the tales that John wove into his banter. We heard about
cruise night in Winnipeg (Calgary is probably too sophisticated to have something like this ...) and the kid cruising the Dairy Queen parking lot on his ten-speed, carrying a bottle of beer in a paper bag, who inspired John to pen a song about that cultural phenomenon. We discovered that John was missing his team's final curling match to be with us (but it's okay, we had the loosingest season on record ... we won one game ... by default ...), which added another level of poignancy to the performance of Tournament of Hearts that then followed. And we heard about Slap, John's old cat whose loud purring (it's one of the four or five times in his life that he was ever happy ...) introduced Plea From a Cat Named Virtute.

We only heard three new songs, the rest being familiar Weakerthans' selections, but there really was a world of difference between hearing these songs performed by the full band in front of a standing crowd and being offered tiny snapshots to illustrate the intimate poetry of a John K Samson song.

It seemed only fitting that for the final song of his set, John cleared the wobbly little stage table of its water glass, polished off the rest of the bourbon with which he had saluted Gump Worsley, and climbed onto it. As he stood on that table with his guitar but without amplification, he did not merely sing those plaintive words with which Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure. And as he called up to the stars "but I can't remember the sound that you found for me", he was that feral cat, mourning its lost home. It was heartbreaking.

And so we will remember the sound that John K Samson found for us.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

but first I'll walk in circles 'round you

Back in the old country, I used to walk all the time.

The area of London in which we lived was very conducive to walking. It was laid out in a grid pattern, with a mom and pop store on nearly every corner, a playground every few blocks, and if you headed north along Ridout and crossed over the Thames, you could be downtown in 20 minutes. Sure it got hellishly hot and humid in the summer, but the streets were lined with massive trees which provided a glorious shady canopy, so that you felt as though you were in a hospitable jungle lined with pretty brick houses with large and welcoming front porches.

And then we moved here.

The trees are regular size, but the leaves are much smaller. And while this particular neighbourhood is old enough that it is not plagued with those nasty front garages which bump out from the house and take up most of the streetscape, it's a very different universe from the genteel neighbourhoods of southwestern Ontario.

As you know, there are no straight lines here in the suburbs. This place is a maze of crescents and cul de sacs, a rabbit warren of closes and meandering ways. Which is fine if you are just wandering, but which drives you mad if you are actually trying to go somewhere.

Lately though, I have been attempting to walk a lot more around here, in this place where you can walk forever without getting anywhere. Part of this is an attempt to cut down on vehicular use, part of it is a need to get out of the basement and away from the elliptical, which I think is starting to give me chronic hip pain.

Today I walked to the vet and back, fetching some more palatable kibbles for the increasingly finicky resident house cat. On the way there, I took the (relative) shortcut past the rich people's houses where I witnessed many a million dollar renovation underway. On the way back, I walked the ridge of Fish Creek Park, where I met with joggers and dog walkers, and watched the mountains encroaching from the west.

My feet may be a little sore, but my hip sure feels a lot better, being away from that elliptical bitch slave-master. So I have now rescued the OFKAR's abandoned Walkman out of the junk drawer and am charging it up for some future walks. I think with music, walking around this circular neighbourhood will become something I can embrace.

As long as I don't end up developing an iBoner for personal listening devices.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

it's okay to look outside, the day it will abide

What's the very best vegetable in the world?

Spinach gets my vote. Not only is it delicious and a nutritional powerhouse, but it is totally versatile. You can eat it raw or cooked and you can add it to just about anything, making that anything infinitely better. I'm surprised that some clever purveyor of spirits has not yet thought to add it to pitchers of beer on St Patrick's Day. Far superior to green food colouring. You get your requisite green colour, but instead of some nasty chemicals, you get nutrition.

What food item would you add to everything, given your druthers?

But all thoughts are not on produce around here lately.

I'm still very saddened by Alex Chilton's death last night. I had just started getting familiar with the music of Big Star. In fact, the day before he died, I bought my first Big Star cd.

Prior to Big Star, Alex Chilton was in the Box Tops, who had a number one hit single in the 60's, with The Letter. Do you remember that song? Sure you do ... get me a ticket for an aeroplane, ain't got time to take a fast train... Amazingly, Alex Chilton was 16 at the time.

There have been all together too many untimely deaths in music recently. Since Christmas alone, we lost Vic Chestnutt, Jay Reatard, Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse, and now Alex Chilton. Gordon Lightfoot, thankfully, is still alive.

Here's a little Big Star -


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

presentation is everything

What kind of self-respecting feline does not like canned cat food? Mine, apparently.

After years of being on the slightly girthy side, she now needs to put on a bit of weight, so the vet sent me home with an assortment of cans for her to sample. You'd think I was trying to force-feed her a spoonful of cod liver oil. (Actually she would probably like that.)

I open a new can, making a bit of a fuss of how great it smells and allow her to sniff at it, which she thinks is pretty great. But when I plop a bit into a bowl, she immediately becomes suspicious, skirting widely around the bowl, stretching out her neck to get a closer look, while still allowing for a quick getaway if needed.

Finally she circles in for a little taste, but for a cat who has no problem crunching through a mouse's head with great glee or dispatching an entire bird so that only a couple of feathers are left floating in the air, she sure is retarded when it comes to eating soft cat food. She can't seem to figure out how to eat it. She'll lick at it for a while, and then get bored and walk away from it. I've tried mixing canned with some kibble to make it easier to pick up, but by now she is entirely not sold on this whole canned cat food business.

I also got some samples of a calorically-dense kibble for her to try, so I have been hand-feeding her this large kibble one piece at a time, just like the treats that she normally gets. For a while I thought I was going to be adding "cat feeding" to my skills list on my resume and was already envisioning myself having to turn down social engagements in order to stay home to hand-feed the cat, but fortunately she has now figured out how to eat the kibble from the bowl. A+!

But if you see me buying a couple of budgies and mice at the pet store, just don't ask, okay?

How weird is your pet?

Monday, March 15, 2010

the filthy truth

When you enter the theatre for the production of Filth, the stage setup looks conventional enough, more conventional than most Sage Theatre productions, to be honest. A threadbare office occupies one brick-walled corner of the tiny theatre, risers of seats hem in the disheveled stage on the remaining two sides.

But when the theatre then plunges into darkness and you are greeted with the sound of retching, you are reminded that you are, in fact, about to be plunged back into the grimy streets of Irvine Welsh's Edinburgh.

It's unsettlingly familiar territory for Sage Theatre patrons, the same streets that were visited in the production of Welsh's Trainspotting four years earlier. I realized from my first exposure to Sage Theatre, to see Trainspotting, that this was a theatre company utterly unafraid to present controversial works. In the intervening years rarely have I been disappointed in the production choices and in the treatment of often inflammatory subject matter.

And it's hard to find a more inflammatory protagonist than Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson of the Edinburgh Police Department. A corrupt, racist, misogynistic, often sadistic man, Robertson tells us that he was drawn to law enforcement because as a youth he had personally witnessed the power of the law and the brutality with which it was carried out, and he "wanted a part of it". He can have a certain charm to his swagger, an artfulness that comes with the confidence of knowing how to play the system. This charm wears thin as we come to realize the depth of Robertson's depravity, how very nihilistic he really is.

Frank Zotter plays Detective Robertson with a disturbing corporeality. He swaggers, he farts, he spews sausage roll crumbs. And he overshares as he complains of a testicular rash and anal itch, continuously scratching and tugging at the offending parts.

Filth is a very physical play, and since it is a one-person production, with Zotter tackling all 28 characters, it is highly demanding territory for an actor. Zotter very capably transforms from Robertson into the other characters with a change of voice, a shift in mannerism and facial expression, sometimes a simple adjustment of wardrobe. Throughout the two act play, Zotter is a force of nature, throwing himself into his characters, with an intensity that holds you in its thrall. Even Robertson's tape worm, which increasingly asserts itself as both a physical ailment and an internalization of moral corruption, is given a voice and an embodiment.

It's the tape worm who ultimately peels back Robertson's severely damaged scruples, revealing shocking truths about this unrepentant sociopath. And when the darkness ultimately falls upon stunned silence, we may not like Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, but we do pity his soul.

Friday, March 12, 2010

drive-by blogging

The Spousal Unit is safely returned from Brazil, bearing tales of Brazilian barbeques where evidently the aim is to see how much meat one can consume in a single afternoon. Needless to say, the SU was suitably impressed, considers this Nirvana, and drools a little as he talks about it.

So naturally, I am leaving him to chisel away at his jet lag this evening while I take in Sage Theatre's production of Filth. Based on my previous experiences with Irvine Welsh plays at Sage Theatre, I am chomping at the bit to see how they handle this one man play about a corrupt cop and his tapeworm.

I leave you with this week's random playlist, which didn't seem to know which way to turn, but that's okay, it's almost spring.

Have a great weekend, my pretties!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

night of the living circumpolar dead

Is there some new cultural phenomenon going on that I should know about? I ask because I have had an inordinate number of hits on my blog over the last couple of days from all over the world - about one quarter of the United States of America, Britain, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Scotland - all looking for the same thing.

Swedish ice zombies.

And one person who was looking for "she's just an old hag gettin eatin by zombies", but I suspect they are not related.

At first I thought that perhaps the Norwegian zombie Nazi film, Dead Snow, was enjoying a meteoric surge in popularity. The OFKAR suggested that maybe that film was benefitting from some sort of reference during the Academy Awards, but unless it was part of the bizarre interpretive dance presentation, then I missed it. And besides, you do not want to make the mistake of calling a Norwegian Swedish, trust me, even if we are talking about zombies.

I have also had quite a few hits recently which were looking for "sex in the ice cubes" and I am sure that many of the seekers were disappointed when they landed on my review of Terry O'Reilly reading from his book, The Age of Persuasion. But again, there is nothing to suggest that the Swedish zombies are actually fornicating in the ice, nor that the in flagrante delicto depictions in said ice cubes, in the latter case, involve the brain-activity-challenged in any way.

For a fleeting moment I thought that perhaps the occasion of the Arctic Winter Games currently being held in Grand Prairie, Alberta was the trigger. But I have been following those games on our local CBC radio show and although there is much coverage of the intriguing sports of knuckle hop, kneel jump, finger pull, and snow snake, there is no mention of undead slaying being added to the list of competitive sports this year.

So I am stumped. Intrigued, but at a loss as to what people could possibly be looking for.

What are some of the more imaginative or perplexing keyword searches that have brought people to your doorstep?

I know you must have some doozies.

Monday, March 08, 2010

in my stupid hat and gloves

The dining room table has been transformed into a war room. Admittedly, it wasn't used much for dining anyway, but now you really want a bomb disposal expert with you if you are going to try to navigate those precisely lined up yet precarious stacks of papers.

I'm sorting tax papers.

I realize I am a good six weeks ahead of schedule this year, but my oh so lucrative state of self-employment forces me to keep track of my business expenses. Only I am about 8 months behind on that. And there are some medical claims to submit too, as soon as I find the receipts.

I dread the scene where the cat wakes up from her nap and wanders in here. I have about another square foot of table space in which to start piles, two square feet if I move the laptop.

But I sort of want the laptop nearby, because mytunes has developed a lovely quirk which I am really enjoying. It's been randomly selecting the beautiful little Replacements song, Skyway, more than the laws of probability would predict.

Here's the Replacements' Paul Westerberg doing a session version for you to enjoy. Perhaps it will inspire you to sort out your filing as well. Because Paul is such a paper shuffling sort of guy, you know.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

the chickens have come home to roost

Guess what I found on my front porch this morning? A very well-travelled box containing, you guessed it, seven swans a-swimming. It was battered and had been opened and the address label was no longer in place, doing a great deal to confirm my suspicions that the originator of these mysterious parcels for the last seven years has indeed been someone local.

And of course I was gratified to know that my philosophy of "when in doubt, do nothing, it will eventually work itself out" still holds true.

What words do you live by?

Friday, March 05, 2010

loose your dogs upon me

The windows have been ripped wide open the last few days. The front yard glaciers are slowly receding. The sidewalks are clear for the first time in months, except for the occasional tiny lake, but I can leap over those.

And for the first time in a long time, I walked down the back lanes again on the way to the store, which of course inspired me to write bad haiku:

last year's berries hang
from plum trees in the back yard
pretending it's spring

Nothing abysmal about the playlist that showed up for the Friday Random Ten though. This one that had me using the shower head as a mic:

1. Dead letter and the infinite yes | Wintersleep
2. Green eyes | Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
3. Head honcho | DeVotchKa
4. Things that scare me | Neko Case
5. Ship song | Heather Nova (Nick Cave cover) *
6. Beyond the sea | Bobby Darin
7. Videotape | Radiohead
8. Enjoy your rabbit | Osso and Sufjan Stevens
9. Kettering | the Antlers
10. Do you believe in rapture | Sonic Youth

* were it not for the fact that I can only sing it in the shower, this would be one of my signature party pieces. Just thought you should be aware you've got competition, Heather Nova.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

night of the big voices

Basia Bulat / Katie Stelmanis
Central United Church
March 2/10

Holding a concert in a church is a bit of a double-edged sword, particularly on a Tuesday night. On the one hand, the acoustics are near perfect and the setting allows for an intimate immersing in the music. On the other hand, the stained glass Jesus staring down from on high does tend to tone the crowd down somewhat. And then of course there is the matter of it being a Tuesday.

Although the crowd may have been among the more subdued I have seen during the concert itself, the appreciation of Basia Bulat's jubilant set was evident in the two standing ovations delivered. This was Basia's first time headlining in Calgary, and she more than amply demonstrated that she has the voice, the spirit and the chops to carry a show.

The evening began with another singer of large voice, Toronto's Katie Stelmanis, accompanying herself on piano and laptop. Her music falls into the unusual category, along the lines of chamber pop but with strong overtones of Kate Bush in her vocals, shades of Owen Pallett in her sampling. She has a huge voice, and while her music may be somewhat of an acquired taste, I think that a lot of people will be doing some acquiring over the next few years. Katie Stelmanis is someone to watch out for on the Canadian music scene.

Basia Bulat is well able to headline a show, both with her band - brother Bobby on drums, Alison Stewart on viola and backing vocals - or all alone onstage, without a mic, without instruments. With two solid albums under her belt (and with her debut album having been nominated for a Polaris Prize), Basia Bulat is becoming a mainstay in Canadian music. Her joy in performing is contagious, her stage presence so vibrant. As Basia becomes a more seasoned performer, it is heartening to note that she has not lost any of the exuberance that first drew me to her music.

Basia possesses one of the most remarkable voices in music, powerful and open with a slightly husky timbre, and on Tuesday night she filled every corner of Central United, right up to the vaulted ceiling, with her incredible voice and with her lively spirit. Whether she was swaying while strumming the guitar, hugging the autoharp, or delighting in the acoustics of the church piano, her joy was evident and abundant.

But perhaps the most powerful moment of the concert occurred during the final song of the encore, when Basia Bulat stood alone on stage, without an instrument, and asked our permission to play without using a mic, "the old-fashioned way". And then, accompanying herself with some foot stomps and hand claps, she filled the church and our hearts with a soulful gospel number.

And she sure didn't need any mic.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

take me out tonight

I'm pretty good with my own company. Sometimes I actually relish the chance to set out on my own, to live inside my head for an extended time.

I remember embarking on a three-day road trip after graduation, moving to Ontario in my old Chevy Nova, back seat full of books. All I had for company was a radio which, for many hours through the emptiness spanning the crest of Lake Superior, picked up nothing but static. No ipods or CD players in those days of course, but there was something serene in being alone with my thoughts, as I passed the rare ramshackle motel nestled in the woods or the
occasional truck stop rumbling with diesel, reminding me that there were enclaves of humanity amongst the rocks and the dense wilderness of northwestern Ontario.

I feel blessed that I was alone to really absorb the splendor of that perfect moment which arrived on the last day of my trip. I want my last memory in this life to be that clear September morning when I crested the hill in the undulating road to see the entire world had been tranformed into a vista of red, my first sight of the glory of Ontario in autumn, a hillside of brilliant maples illuminated by the morning sun, straight out of those old religious paintings.

I don't know if I would fully have absorbed that moment had I not been alone.

I'm alone for the next week and a half, while the Spousal Unit cavorts on the beaches in Brazil. Okay, he's in meetings, but it's still Brazil. I'm viewing this solitary time as a chance to break from my usual schedule. Workout at 5:00pm, supper at 7:00 hunched over the newspaper, those have been my quiet rebellions from the norm so far. And not to sound too hausfrauish, but I am really keen to throw open all the windows while the weather is fine, strip this place down to the bones, and scrub away the winter filth. Then I shall swan about the house as though I live in a decorating magazine, relishing the crisp lines and the straight edges, knowing that it will stay that way for a few more days.

Tonight I am going to a concert by myself. This will be a new experience for me and, to be honest, I'm rather looking forward to it. It helps that the concert is at a church, so sitting alone in a pew does not have the same discomfort as sitting alone at a bar. I wonder how being alone will shape my appreciation of the music. I'll keep you posted.

I will be taking the train downtown and am debating whether to pack a book for the commute. I am a bit of an anomaly in this era of ubiquitous cell phones and ipods where 90% of passengers on any given train are plugged into something electronic. I don't carry one and I like to use my solitary time to ponder, to write in my head, to make up back stories for my fellow passengers. I am quite sure that would change if I had to take the train every day, though. I too would be plugged into personal electronic body armour, I am sure.

What do you do when you are alone in a crowd?