A LONG WAY FROM MANY PLACES
Our mid-winter escape to
Island did not end well. Packing for home last Friday morning I
picked up a pile of folded t-shirts and turned to place them in my travel bag.
I felt the nightmare twinge in my lower back. Uh-oh. I was almost immobile for
our relay flights back to .
The ache and shooting pains were exquisite. Ann was miserable, fighting a fever
and flu. We were a pair; stop breaking
We returned to a grey city. The sky, the buildings and the ground all matched. It was freezing. I sat shaking in the back of a taxi, incapable of lifting our luggage into the rear. Once home Ann and I unpacked and left our empty bags at the top of the basement stairs. Mungo the tabby cat pissed all over them. In bed that night I was jarred awake by the white hot needle of a cold sore tingle in my lower lip. Swell. I lay there seized and seething. Ann spent Valentine’s Day with an ointment-smeared, infected invalid high on painkillers and beer. Come and laugh about our funny little ways…
Now that I think about it, our
not start well either. The 15-minute flight over the Strait of Juan de Fuca in
the Dash 8-300 really gave us the sensation of flying, heads bobble up,
stomachs drop down. We unsteadily deplaned into teeming mercury rain splashing
like protagonists in a black and white movie. I wished I was wearing a trench
coat and a fedora. I wished I could mutter something existential and profound,
a lit cigarette wiggling for emphasis between my compressed lips, ‘Maybe what
we have doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this great, wet world. But we’ll
always have Victoria .
I remember it well; the Mounties wore red and you wore blue.’ Ottawa
Ann’s brother Jim met us at the little airport. He’s retired now and every day is Saturday and these future days, each one his own, have been well earned. On our first full day in town Jim squired us down to the inner harbour. I was hoping to buy a birthday present for myself in The Turntable, a tiny record shop hidden away in
munchkin Fan Tan Alley. The crowded store smelled like a damp grade school
cloakroom, wet woolen clothing steaming on hot water radiators. collectible 45s in
picture sleeves were prominently displayed alongside Lemmy t-shirts and Eagles
and Jefferson Airplane LPs. The death for sale depressed me. We chuckled when
Ann pointed out Psychotic Reaction by
The Count Five, but the $100 price sticker was less amusing. Bowie
Stymied, we retired to the Irish Times on
I’d been looking forward to the pub’s Dublin Dog, a bratwurst garnished with
Guinness infused strong cheddar and Guinness mustard. Alas the menu had changed
since our last visit. The new ‘Dawg’ was some sort of anonymous local tube steak
smothered with bacon jam. Ick. Ann and I split an indifferent corned beef on
rye while attempting to summon the zen of Warren Zevon: Enjoy every sandwich.
Everything in life comes with a cost. When the bill came Ann went through her handbag feeling for her pocketbook. She went through it a second time. The third frantic attempt came up empty too. The colour left her cheeks. Okay, okay, where have we been? Credit card, bank card, identity card gone. Okay, okay, we’ve still got our passports, right? We’re still able to fly home. I checked the back pocket of my jeans 17 times, kept touching my wallet, losing my wits.
Jim had parked his vehicle on the roof of an eight-storey parkade on
Street, that great street. We hurried back to the
lot because Ann remembered fumbling for her phone to answer a text whilst in
the backseat. While they waited for the elevator I went into the stairwell and
nearly succumbed to the reek of piss. I sprinted up five flights and walked the
rest, my legs shaky aspic, awful congealed Sunday salads bloated with mandarin
orange segments and shredded carrots. I peered through the tinted windows of
Jim’s black SUV and spotted Ann’s pocketbook nestled against a seatbelt buckle.
‘Thank Christ.’ I took a moment to breathe and enjoy the view of more rain
clouds rolling through the slate sky into the harbour.
The misty mountain views along the Malahat were spectacular. Give me leafy arbutus trees, creepy Medusa-haired curly willows, moss and fog and rain. Ann, Jim and I drove to
to visit their brother Chuck who lives alone in a cabin in the woods with four
cats; I don’t think he’s crazy. The four of us convoyed through the drizzle to
Cobble Hill for a pub lunch. We ordered hamburgers at the Cobblestone. Whilst
chewing my barbecue-bacon-double cheese I realized that Jim must be some sort
of hamburger savant, a mystic Wimpy beef seeker, because the one I was eating
rivaled the stupendous burgers we ate together last spring at Mojo’s in Christ
Church, Barbados. Shawnigan Lake