Days 11-12: Toronto and home

Safely home now.

Wednesday, my last full day in Toronto, was actually a pretty nice day weather-wise, and I spent most of it on foot.

I probably walked (conservative estimate) 12-13 km, covering Queen Street East from the beaches to downtown, big chunks of Dundas Street West and Bloor Street West, and Broadview. I took lots of pictures, looked at books, and ate a lot (surprise). I could really spend days just walking the streets of Toronto. I love it.

Other Wednesday highlights:

  • Preposterously large breakfast at the Tulip.
  • No lunch required due to preposterously large breakfast at the Tulip.
  • Dinner in Greek Town. I ate at Messini, which I’ve really liked in the past but didn’t much care for this time around. I think they were out of lettuce but didn’t want to admit it, which made for a very unusual gyro/salad combo.

On Thursday morning, I packed up the car and headed back toward home. After some stops in St. Catherine’s and Niagara Falls, I didn’t dawdle much more, only stopping for lunch and dinner, gas, and bathroom breaks. I did the full 1200 km in one day, landing here at 1:30 in the morning.

Thursday highlights:

  • Listening the Rob Ford train wreck unfold on the way home.
  • CBC Radio 3 making West Virginia tolerable…again.
  • Smiley cookie with dinner.

More details, photos, follow-up, etc. to come.

Toronto photos

Plus Pittsburgh and other assorted road tip destinations:

Post mortem

Statistics and superlatives:

  • Total distance traveled: 3505 km
  • States/provinces included: 6 (North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Ontario
  • Days: 12
  • Nights: 11
  • Most surprising lodging: Motel 6 in Burlington. It was actually quite nice, clean, and quiet. And everything worked. It’s not your average Motel 6.
  • Best shawarma: Falafel Queen in Toronto.
  • Cheapest sit-down breakfast: Skyway Diner in Burlington.
  • Cheapest gas (US): $2.979/gallon in Wytheville, Virginia.
  • Cheapest gas (Canada): $1.151/litre in Guelph, Ontario.
  • Most colossally bad idea I’m glad I didn’t act on: Driving to Thunder Bay to visit Canada’s easternmost Safeway store before it becomes a Sobeys.
  • Best mood elevator when I needed it most: The toll collector on the West Virginia Turnpike who was dressed up for Hallowe’en.
  • Second best: The random teenager who stepped away from his posse in Kensington Market to tell me he liked my jacket.
  • Honorable mention: The cashier at Loblaws who shared my giddy glee about Coffin Crisp, the Hallowe’en version of Coffee Crisp.
  • Biggest regret: being in the GTA on a weekend when they were doing several shows and still not seeing Sloan.



Ten years after


At this precise moment ten years ago today, I had my last cigarette ever.

I started smoking in junior high, which was not unusual in the late 1970s. I kept up with the filthy, vile, and disgusting habit for twenty-five years, doing Great Pumpkin knows what kind of damage to my body and inflicting discomfort and repulsive smells on the friends who got within twenty feet of me.

In the end, I pretty much quit cold turkey. I used a little nicotine gum and I’d tapered off for six months before by not smoking inside the house. But it was just time. And I’ve never looked back. I now find the notion that intentionally inhaling any kind of smoke into your body would be a good thing is utterly fucking ridiculous. Being around smokers is as unpleasant for me as it must be for someone who never smoked. Maybe even more so.

I fully understand how hard it is to quit, though.

But it’s not impossible…

Videolog: Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day (1981)

A fake video to observe the day, since there’s not a real video for this song.

And just for good measure, another fake video of a more recent song that I’ve always thought landed just shy of plagiarising “Remembrance Day”:

The Faint
Southern Bells in London Sing (2004)

My own war on Christmas

For the biggest chunk of my adult life, I’ve been pretty ambivalent about the holidays. Since I’m an atheist, there’s no particular religious significance associated with the season. The biggest deal for me now is that–funerals excepted–it’s pretty much the only time my whole extended family gets together. And in all honest, even that is only so much of a pull…

When I lived in San Francisco, I almost never went home for Christmas week. My parents were pretty understanding about this; it’s really the most miserable time of the year to travel. I usually made the trek in January, when things calmed down. Sometimes I had a small gathering in SF with friends but I usually never made a very big deal out of the day.

Things changed a bit when Mark and I coupled. He was really into Christmas and liked to decorate and go all out with the presents, a trend which escalated when we moved back east. I was surprisingly good at mustering enthusiasm; it seemed to get him really excited and I have to admit I enjoyed waking up and sitting in the basement by the fire opening presents after years of being alone on Christmas morning. It brought back a little of the childhood excitement. But it was still more his holiday than mine, really. Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have made as much of a fuss.

Mark was also more inclined than I’d been to visit his parents at Christmas, so every other year I found myself making that cross-country holiday flight I’d managed to avoid for so long. And yeah, that produced a certain dread every year; I’d have preferred to make that trip pretty much any other time of year.

We spent Christmas of 2010 in California as well. This one was different, though, because Mark wasn’t going to be coming back to North Carolina with me. We weren’t officially splitting up at this point, but it was obvious the end was near. So basically I spent Christmas watching my marriage disintegrate. That kind of sucked. Later, I’d also recognize that this would have been my last chance to spend a normal Christmas with my parents. That kind of sucked, too.

Christmas of 2011 continued this cheery trend. It was my first “single” Christmas in a decade. And just a couple of weeks before, we’d put my mom into Alzheimer’s care. So she was a mess, my dad was a mess, and I was a mess. I’d never really cared less about the holidays than I did this year. It was a nightmare and I was incredibly relieved when it ended.

Last Christmas, I decided I just didn’t care anymore. I determined that I would do the bare minimum necessary to get through the required festivities. This was the year that Christmas officially became an obstacle to overcome and an annoyance to ignore as much as possible. I bought no presents. I avoided the music and the decorations. I skipped every damned bit of it that I could. Yes, part of this was a function of the pretty major depression I was dealing with, but I think it was also a recognition of the fact that Christmas hadn’t mattered very much to me for years and was really not worth the effort anymore.

And I’m pretty much still there this year. Since last Christmas, I’ve lost my dad and my mom has deteriorated quite a bit. If I didn’t feel compelled to make an appearance with her at the family gathering, I’d leave town for the week and probably have a much better time skipping the whole damned thing. It’s not the depression speaking anymore. In fact, part of me is really excited at the prospect of eventually being able to look forward to the last week in December as a vacation rather than dreading the chore it has become in the guise of a holiday I don’t celebrate. Does that make me sound awful? If it does, I don’t really care.

Bet you figured that out already…

Like it’s 1998

The funny thing about this article is the way it suggests that the wholesale gentrification of San Francisco is a new trend. I could have written essentially the same piece in 1998 just substituting “lofts” for a couple of the “high rise” references. San Francisco has been a lost cause for much longer than the past couple of years.

More random stuff for a Monday night:

  • Me. Camper Van Beethoven. 10 January in Chapel Hill. I’m not counting on being reunited with my crush.
  • New York the following week for a workshop followed by a weekend in the city seeing some old friends and soaking up the urban. And the cold. Which is probably why the hotel rooms are all so cheap.
  • The first ice of the year is a possibility tomorrow morning. My enthusiasm is minimal.

Happy things, 2013

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, which seems as good a time as any to reflect on the things for which I’m not necessarily thankful (that sort of adds a religious element I don’t much care for) but about which I am quite happy just the same:

  1. I’m very happy that I’m not in that really dark spot I was in a year or so back. It wasn’t pleasant, trust me. Taking the required steps to fix that was a smart move.
  2. I’m happy that I’m really into new music again.
  3. I’m happy that there’s so much less of me (by weight and by volume) now.
  4. Even though I miss my house and my neighborhood in Winston-Salem, I’m happy I live in Greensboro now. It’s much better for me in a number of ways.
  5. I’m happy that I’ve entered into an open relationship with an adorable orange cat named “Puppy.”
  6. I’m happy that I’ve reconnected with a lot of old friends this year.
  7. I’m happy to have rediscovered NYC and DC.

Rest in peace, my little orange friend


Unfortunately, my time with Puppy (f/k/a Rebel Rebel) was destined to be short. He died on my deck just before 6:00 tonight. We’d been playing and I went inside to get his dinner. I was inside for a couple of minutes and when I came out, I saw that he was lying on his side. As I got closer, I heard him making a horrible moaning sound. I bent down to rub his head and try to figure out what was wrong. He coughed a few times and after that, he didn’t move or respond anymore. After a few minutes I realized he wasn’t breathing.

Maybe he knew the end was coming and he just wanted someone to be nice to him for his last few months. I’m glad I got to be that person. I’m also glad I got be with him at the end. Maybe it was a little less scary for him.

I’ll miss the little orange furball and I think I’m probably going to feel pretty rotten over the next few days. But I’m glad the end came quickly and relatively painlessly (for him) and I’m glad we got lots of extra play time over the past few days.

I’ve never been a cat person and I probably won’t become one now, but Puppy was a special case.