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Travel Diary Day One: May 15th, Montreal

I have just returned from a trip to Montreal for Dee & Freida's ish-wedding, (they eloped last year), and Madison for Karen & Pär 's ish-wedding, (they eloped 20 years ago), and WisCon, a feminist sci-fi writer's convention. I tried to keep a journal of the trip, an attempt to work towards fixing my awful stillness, sadness, and silence.

I feel like I should be taking more pictures, the signs are all French, there are blue and white flags flapping from storefronts, but it has been a very long day, stretched longer by my restless, nearly sleepless night and the dilation effect of crossing two time-zones. The plane ride was choppy, but comfortable all the same. Not enough passengers to fill every seat, so there was room to stretch, room enough to feel like we weren't crammed in a can. How flat this country is, how bleak, I thought, looking over the plains, but then the lakes began to appear. The lakes that freckle the country are still frozen stiff, even in May, small, tidy sheets of white that gleamed like I used to imagine diamonds are supposed to, blazing with the sunshine even as our shadow touched them.

My friends walk arm in arm, a married couple, beautifully affectionate, sweet and pretty. I adore them both, they make me ache to know the language better, so that I could be as quick and fluent with them as they are with each other. I remember their wedding, the sharp joy they gave out, like flares from lighthouses. They live together now by the Olympic Stadium in an apartment I had never been to before, shared with four cats, each with a distinctive personality, a greenhouse worth of plants, and books deeply piled on every flat surface. We are coming back from dinner, I’m to sleep in the front room, on a currant coloured velvet couch surrounded by novels, paintings, plants, and more art. It’s glorious. The building is old in a way that no buildings in the west are old, with painted over wallpaper raised in a repeating pattern of griffons and urns and dark wooden doors inset with stained glass. They are on the top floor, the stairs narrow, circular, and set with stone. It makes me think of castles and timeworn foreign movies. Someone shoots a gun, there are footsteps, someone running, but all you see is a hand on the rail. I love everything about it. I love everything about them. And underneath it all, a constant, the welcoming perfumed scent of sweet-smelling incense.

someone’s proud to say that they’re your son

“There are times, however, and this is one of them, when
even being right feels wrong. What do you say, for instance,
about a generation that has been taught that rain is
poison and sex is death? If making love might be fatal
and if a cool spring breeze on any summer afternoon can
turn a crystal blue lake into a puddle of black poison
right in front of your eyes, there is not much left
except TV and relentless masturbation. It's a strange world.
Some people get rich and others eat shit and die.”

– H. S. T., Gonzo Papers, Vol. 2: Generation of Swine

We drove west from Chinatown, towards the ocean, towards conversations we never had, along the road that curves around the edge of downtown and leads from the city into the thick wet woods of Stanley Park. Under eaves of trees older than any of the buildings we’ve stepped into since New York City, I kept the car slow, the road stretching like a way out to a better place, curling in arcs against the lip of the water, these hands on the wheel both gifted to me by my mother, this calm desire to keep driving from my mother across the hall. Spontaneously, we decided to twist off the road to the Lion’s Gate bridge, a green span across the river, marble white cats guarding the passage North. Once upon a time, I thought, people did this with broken wagons and small boats they had to build from the forest themselves.

Cruising through Deep Cove, more roads that didn’t seem to lead anywhere in particular, the blind gates and driveways of the unrestricted rich. Houses for sale like the neighborhood’s burning, flicking through photos of their interiors on a realty app, the cheapest starting at 1.4 million. We were a paragraph of a Douglas Coupland novel left behind on the cutting room floor, plagiarized and duplicated in flesh, inhabiting the same city he always seems to, gray skies, big houses, ranting about god while ankle deep in freezing streams, going door to door examining imaginary commodities, judging their terrible furniture, their boring kitchens, the diffusion of their reality too thin to feel, surely people don’t actually inhabit these places? That fireplace is a travesty, at least there’s plenty of windows, shame about the rusty tanker drifting by outside. Cryptic throwaways, the coastal combination of struggle, money, and our sharp talons.

We walk his dog through the park, idly debating the merits of these places with basketball courts and built in boathouses. How much is it worth to put down roots so deep? We would rather travel, take that investment and run, live in a thousand places. The doughnut shop sells deep fried muffins, the fountain looks like a gate to some underworld of a story that everyone’s forgotten.