Sunday, July 31, 2005

Scotland, Jr.

And a hearty Cape Breton greeting to all. Blogging tonight from Sydney, Nova Scotia, having covered ... well, a significant distance since my last post.

On Wednesday, we drove from Montreal to Fredericton -- 8 1/2 hours that constituted about four hours of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen and 4 1/2 hours of soul-crushingly boring highway. Not in that order, mind -- from Montreal to the New Brunswick border I was getting ready to claw out my own eyes simply for a break in the monotony, but once past Edmunston (in NB just inside the border) we were treated to brand-new four lane highway (which after the Quebec highway philosophy -- which I think is make the cars bump and shake over bad asphalt so the drivers stay awake -- was glorious in and of itself) with no one on it and some spectacular landscapes to refresh the soul and remind one that this is in fact a pretty cool country.

But as an aside: there is more road work happening between here and Kingston than I thought was actually feasible. Whoever has the pylon concession in Eastern Canada is growing very, very wealthy.

And then from Fredericton on to Halifax (mere 4 1/2 hours -- which would have been 4 if it weren't for the fact that Kristen and I seem chronically incapable of following directions, but more on that at a later time), where we stayed on Thursday night with my friends Doug and Julie-Ann, erstwhile Western students. For those who don't know them, Julie-Ann did her MA several years ago at UWO and then worked sessionally as a writing instructor, but last November was hired to essentiall run St. Mary's University's writing program (yay!). Doug followed her out in May and is himself working on completing his doctoral thesis (should I put that last bit in quotes? kidding).

Anyway, it was my first time in Halifax, which is a very cool city. I'm reaching the conclusion that any city on the water has a radical advantage over landlocked ones ... it does something to you to be able to look out and see the ocean or, failing that, a large lake. Plus, the Celtic strain so strong here out east appeals to something very primal in me. I've heard more bagpipes in the last two days than in my entire life up till now, I think. And believe it or not -- to quote Martha -- it's a good thing! Gotta love a country that contains Ireland Jr. (Newfoundland) and Scotland Jr. (Nova Scotia, but especially Cape Breton).

Plus, the seafood ... oh, the seafood. I've thus far had salmon, crab cakes, clam chowder, seafood chowder ... I will soon grow gills. Mmmm .... gills.

We spent yesterday wandering Halifax and being tourists (the Citadel, the Maritime Museum, etc etc) and today drove to Sydney. From the Canso Causeway -- which takes you into Cape Breton -- to just outside Sydney is one of the most spectacular drives you're likely to experience short of braving the single-lane tracks in the Scottish Highlands. We followed the road up along the lake (inland sea, really) of Bras D'Or (pronounced "braddor"). I will post pictures when I'm at a computer I can download them to ... words won't do it justice.

And now we're in Sydney, staying with Kristen's friend Vicky, who has been kind enough to let me use her computer. Actually, now might be a good time to thank all those whose hospitality we've imposed on -- Mike and Amanda in Montreal, Doug and Julie-Ann in Halifax, Vicky here in Sydney, as well as Lisa and Peter for that lovely lunch in Kingston. It has been a fabulous trip, not least because we've seen so many wonderful friends en route. Cheers.

So we come down to it -- the day after tomorrow, the ferry to Argentia, Newfoundland. Tomorrow we're going to do some of the Cabot Trail, and then get to bed very early so as to be at the ferry docks at 5am. Ack. I probably won't be blogging again till my internet in St. John's is up and running, so I hope this suffices for a few days. Slainte.

PS -- a quick shout-out to Sylvia, my most prolific commentator on this blog. How's SAO going there, girl?


Departed Montreal: 8:10 am
Finally Found Correct Highway Out of Town: 8:50 am
Song on the iPod: "A Man and a Woman" by U2
Arrived Frederiction: 5:30 pm [local time 6:30]
Distance: 867km

Things Sighted: Crazy left-hand-turn-signal-lady. She entertained us for about two hours between Montreal and Quebec City -- she would flick on the signal to pull out into the left lane, but then leave it on for 5-10 minutes. Shortly after she noticed and turned it off, she inevitably pulled back into the right lane, only to repeat the performance a few minutes later. What was truly alarming about this entire thing however was that other people started doing this too -- most worrying perhaps, a few eighteen-wheelers.


Departed Fredericton: 8:15 am
Song on the iPod: "Smile Like You Mean It" by The Killers
Arrived Halifax: 12:15 pm
Found Doug & Julie-Ann's Place After Circumnavigating the City: 12:45pm
Distance: 446km

Cool Fact: The ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth is technically part of their public transit system and costs $2 (less that the TTC and London Transit); you can therefore use a transfer obtained on a city bus to cross the bay.


Departed Halifax: 11:00 am
Really Departed Halifax After Getting on the Wrong Highway: 11:20 am
Listening Material: Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Cafe; Alistair MacLeod, Island (short story: "The Boat")
Arrived Sydney: 4:50 pm
Distance: 390 km

New Goal to Add to the List: To one day own a cottage on the banks of Bras D'Or Lake.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Greetings from Montreal

Just a quick entry before bed -- drove today from TO to Montreal, with a nice little stop in Kingston to have lunch with Lisa Zeitz and Peter Thoms from UWO's English Department, who are fortunate enough to summer in a condo on the lakefront.

We made good time today -- not counting our 3-hr stop in Kingston, we were on the road for 5 1/2 hours and put 560 km behind us. Best $160 I've ever spent? My new iPod adapter for the car! I made an eleven hour playlist that made the drive much less painful. Mind you, we blew through half of it just today -- we'll have to start in with some of the books on CD for the 8-10 hour haul we have tomorrow to Fredericton. Ack.

I'm writing this from my friends Mike and Amanda's place in Montreal. Unfortunately, we won't be staying another day, as had been originally planned -- which is too bad, because (to my shame) I've never properly experience Montreal. I had a taste tonight, heading downtown for dinner at this amazing thai restaurant and then going to harass Amanda at Chapters (where she works). Only this city could make a Chapters store a funky place.

But alas, the full Montreal experience will have to wait until November, when Kristen and I will be back to see U2 (oh, are you reading this, Selma? that was a deliberate eat-your-heart-out dig. heehee).

So now, to bed! In preparation for an extra-long day on the road. Ack redux.


Departed Toronto: 7:20 am
Song on the iPod: "Peace, Love, and Understanding" by Elvis Costello
Arrived Kingston: 10:30 am
Distance: 265km

Departed Kingston: 1:45 pm
Arrived Montreal: 5:30 pm
Total Distance: 560 km

Things I've Learned:
(1) People responsible for warning you about construction up ahead are much more conscientious in Kingston. I swear, there were LED signs every half kilometer counting down our distance to the road work, which didn't actually prove to be that extensive.
(2) People's fashion sense in Montreal is vaguely disconcerting.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The New Arrival Part II

Here's the proud papa -- my little brother Matt.

This evening, Morgan was more awake, which is to say slightly. Her eyes occasionally opened into tiny little sleepy slits, glowering over a wee pout as if to say "Leave me alone, fool! Are you trying to blind me with that bloody camera flash? Let me sleep, you great papparazzian oaf!"

Or at least that's what I imagined her saying. Too much Family Guy, I guess.

It's the everyday miracles that leave us speechless. We regularly fly miles above the earth's surface without giving it a second thought, make instantaneous contact around the world electronically, perform daily any number of things that would have been unthinkable a mere century ago, but I imagine we share with our primordial ancestors the same wordless awe in the face of this new life that we ourselves create, the tremor of wonder as we hold this fragile, whimpering little being, so helpless and tiny in this vast new world that we feel ourselves turning into single-minded protectors. My niece isn't yet twelve hours old and I already feel capable of any act of violence that would protect her from anyone wishing her harm.

And here's the proud uncle, terrified as he holds this tiny human. (I wish I'd thought to remove the sunglasses before taking this picture). I can't believe I won't be seeing her again for a month and a half -- and then not after that till Christmas. Matt has promised to send many many pictures, which anyone accessing this blog will have to suffer through (don't worry -- they'll be a welcome break from all the pictures of my cat you'll also be seeing if you tune in regularly).

Such a bewildering moment -- I found my ability to form proper sentences. I can't even begin to imagine what kind of a shambles Matt and Michelle's minds must be.

I leave the wonder of the moment to a better fool than I:
"The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report."

You said it, Bottom.

The New Arrival

I'm an uncle!

This morning at 9:06 my niece Morgan Emily Jean Lockett came into the world, weighing in at eight pounds one ounce. I just got back from visiting at the hospital, where my brother Matt is looking proud, dazed and terrified, and my sister-in-law Michelle is still rather groggy from the general anesthetic administered for her C-section.

Isn't she simply beautiful??? I saw her and promptly started leaking through the eyes ... the first baby of the next generation in the Lockett clan. I'm getting misty again just looking at her picture ....

And totally my brother's baby -- never mind that the C-section was necessary because she was determined to come into the world arse-first, but she managed to keep kicking off the heart-rate monitor while she was still minutes out of the womb, which meant my poor brother kept seeing the machine flatline. When I saw her she was fast asleep as you see here ... I'm going back up this evening, when she'll hopefully be awake a little. So tune in again for new pictures soon!

So yes, for those wondering, the road trip out to the Rock was put off a day in order to meet my brand-new niece -- a delay that was infinitely worth it (I mean, just look at the perfect little face). Otherwise, I'd likely not see her till Xmas ...

In other news, the blog is starting to get a little more sophisticated. I spent this anxious morning waiting for news of the birth fiddling with all the settings -- though the other blogs I've linked to put this one to shame.

OK, I'm going to go have a beer and freak out over the fact that I'm an uncle for a while. More later.

Friday, July 22, 2005

OK, so one post before I leave ...

I'm just sitting here in my UWO office in preparation of packing up my last few things, i.e. my computer. In a few minutes I'm going to go fetch my car, disassemble the computer and cram it into the trunk, where it will sit for the next week as we drive out to the Rock. The finality of it is a bit sad -- after I do that I have to walk around campus returning my keys, my parking disc, essentially uprooting myself from this campus home for good. After eight years it feels very odd.

The good news is, I get a deposit back on all those things I'm going to return, so I'll at least have some $$$ in my pocket this afternoon at the Grad Club. Ah, the simplicity of the things that make me happy ...

A lot of people have already said the're going to be there, and a number of others have sent apologies for having to miss it .... which is a bit funny, considering the suggestion was offhand at best. But it will be nice to see some people just before I leave.

For those I won't be able to see, thank you -- thank you for an extraordinary eight years. To paraphrase Yeats, if you want the measure of a person, look at who his friends are. A thought that makes me feel special indeed.

Ah, screw it -- here's the quote (why stop being pretentious now?):

"Think where man's glory first begins and ends;
And say my glory was I has such friends."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Nothing Yet!

Nope ... nothing to report yet. Still in London. Check back some time after August 4, when I will hopefully have gotten my internet up and running.