A LONG WAY FROM MANY PLACES
“Oh, my boy,” as Elvis might’ve mumbled from the stage; I’ve been keeping this blog current for almost a decade now. I have written satire and wretched verse. I have covered politics, business, history, sports and music. I’ve tried to promote my attempts at contemporary fiction. I have dwelled upon the fleeting absurdity of existence and continue to do so. And the weather. As Shelley actually wrote, “Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
I envisioned Dispatches from the Crooked 9 as a genuine magazine. A compendium of what captured my scattered attention that particular day or week, which would in turn, I hoped, engage some of my readers some of the time. Nobody cares about everything and, anyway, I tend to flit about. A particular joy for me has been chronicling Ann’s and my travels. There’s always another world unfolding beyond the civic boundaries of the Crooked 9 and our neighbours’ eyes, and a reflective green highway city limits sign. I don’t take many photographs when we’re away, but I always pack a child’s Hilroy exercise book and a few pens; I prefer to scribble my impressions.
We have booked our first trip since covid walloped the world. A short flight to a comfortable place. I’m so excited that a trip yet to be taken counts as travel writing. Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia, has always struck me as a very clichéd, veddy British place. At one time it was an important Royal Navy station, a check to the ambitions of Imperial Spain and the American ideology of Manifest Destiny. The Butchart Gardens suggest Kew, while the grand old Empress Hotel still serves high tea to Royal Doulton dowagers.
Victoria is home to Ann’s big brother Jim and his wife Shannon. The four of us are good friends, so much so that Ann and I have become friends with their friends. Jim is a retired accountant who loves to cook. On a visit our way he insisted on making macaroni and cheese, another dish to serve at a large, outdoor family gathering. I was almost pained watching him measure the ingredients so precisely. He didn’t count out the elbows per cup individually, but, you know, an internal struggle to refrain from doing so was evident. Shannon, a self-described “hot mess,” neither hurries nor rushes, no, Shannon “snaps a garter.”
The small grace of returning to a different place multiple times is familiarity. Ann and I enjoy ferreting through Victoria’s bookshops, one of which, Munro’s, is legendary among Canadian bookworms. There’s a record store in Fan Tan Alley that’s an absolute musty must for me. I’ve kept in touch with a high school and college chum who now resides in Victoria’s hippest neighbourhood, proximate to mile 0 of the Trans-Canada; we used to spend hours together earnestly dissecting the meaning of Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel songs, time well wasted. In Jim’s and Shannon’s company I cannot help but think of the Beatles and Lou Reed because we four go day tripping, doing the things that we want to. And oddly, shockingly, shock and odd, there are a few preferred pubs we make a point of frequenting.
The West Coast League (WCL), a baseball loop, has recently and somewhat absurdly expanded to Edmonton. I’m now aware of its existence. While Ann and I pondered visiting dates convenient for all and flight availability, I tracked our plans against the scheduled home games of the Victoria HarbourCats (not a typo, don’t get me started). Ann always enjoys a couple of hours at the ballpark on a sunny afternoon or warm evening. I always get a little extra kick watching baseball in an unfamiliar venue. Royal Athletic Park is a few blocks off Government Street, so not too too far from the water. We noted the club would welcome the Coquitlam Angels on Father’s Day.
Good hosts always ask visitors if there’s anything in particular or special they’d like to do. Good guests normally demure. While chatting with Jim and Shannon over the speaker phone I said, “Well, there’s a ballgame on the Sunday afternoon.” Worst case scenario was that I’d make my own way and meet up with the others afterward. That prospect didn’t bother me, better than examining pottery or local crafts, signed and numbered prints of frolicking orcas. We ended the call. They phoned back an hour later. They’d bought a dozen tickets; everybody in their Victorian circle was game.
I began to conceptualize this blog when Ann and I were in Parksville on Vancouver Island. We kept extending our overnight, one-off off season stay. I’d go to the desk each morning to book just another night. Jim and Shannon had recommended a casual resort to us, cabins and seclusion; a beach like boots – made for walking. I was reading Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men at the time, a borrowed, second-hand copy. I wondered where the book had been, it was a long way from home and many other places. Where might it go next?
My Victoria is a city strangely out of time. I’ve written about it in the past. Today I’m writing about it in the future. Come June I suspect I will write about it in the present. I’m covering a lot of the familiar, the same old ground, but how I wish, how I wish, Ann and I were there now. Then again, the HarbourCats won’t be playing yet.
meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of travel writing since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.