Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Scrape Snap Crack Dink 

Playing Hockey, 1912

Scrape, snap, crack… dink. That’s the reverie of the outdoor rink on a -15°C night. Each sound chased by an echo, which in turn throws its shadow against the neighbouring houses. That’s something I’ve missed from my winter runs; the crisp sounds of the streets which seem to travel faster and louder in cold air (does sound travel faster in cold air? Nope, but maybe further.) This was the second of my subzero runs of the season. The first was terrible. I was both over-dressed and under-dressed. Too many of the wrong layers left me sweating and freezing as a knife-edge wind cut through the fabric like sharp shears. This run was much better. The correct items of clothing placed in the correct order let me wick away the wet and block out the breeze just like the advertising promises. Gore-tex is at its best in cold weather when you layer properly underneath and are working up a horsey sweat that beads on your coat.

I also gave my lungs the time to acclimatize a little before sucking down the frigid air. Previously I stepped from the warm house and started running, immediately putting the chill in my chest which was enough to trigger some asthmatic wheezing. That didn’t happen this time which allowed me to go further for a little longer, loping in a bit of a lazy stride acquired from being utterly unfit due to my current station – meaning: being entirely stationary.

Winter in the city is neither kind nor pretty but exudes a dull cruelness that is hard to avoid. Sometimes it can be hidden beneath a dusting of snow but at the moment the dirt and grime are frozen to the pavement and bare trees look windswept and dead. I noticed how the Don River looked violently frozen as though it had been fighting to the end, its serpentine current full of heaving cracks and crusted ice. It’s odd how in the summer, running at night, the sulphurous security lights found throughout laneways cast an amber, nostalgic hue but in the winter the same light feels harsh and ugly. I guess that’s my imagination. Heading out for a winter run is also like running in the rain in the summer, in that you really do not want to step into it but once you’re going it feels better than fine. There’s that two sided nature of how your skin can be so cold against the air and so hot against your blood. There’s nothing quite like a hot shower after a cold run. Afterwards you feel like you do after a swim or a massage or maybe like a sauna. It’s almost like your limbs have been annealed by heat, hammer strikes and dunks in water the way Japanese swords are made.

What really makes running in the winter possible is the dryness. Here in Toronto we had a wet dump of snow quickly freeze but then followed by a couple of days of rain that ate away the snow. Then the wind came up, blowing the streets dry and the temperature dropped making the sidewalks bare and clear for the most part. The ice that is left is diamond hard and would easily take off your bumper if your car hit it. Unfortunately, another round of snow, rain and slush is happening right now, so my brief flirtation with running outside may be again delayed leaving me no choice but to languish on the treadmill indoors looking out.

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Friday, January 06, 2017


Where has all the cake and chocolate gone? Why is there no ice in my glass? Or ginger ale, or whisky? Where are the hunks of ham? The pies? Where are the pies? Where am I? Where are my wooly socks? All is lost. So many unanswered questions.

I was in a fuzzy, warm dream where within arm's reach were only brownies, and chocolate, and clementines, and biscuits and beverages of sweet and strong liquors. I laid on pillows under comforters. My belly grew large but I cared not. My head spun from drink and I cared not. That was Christmas and Christmas always ends.

I went from that heavenly bemused state of half-sleep to the purgatory of an airplane seat and then awoke at my desk. On the screen in front of me were confusing images and boxes and arrows all of my own creation but I knew not what they were. This is how Christmas always ends.

I had forgotten passwords, agreements, arrangements, protocols and meeting times. I had forgotten what I came for, what I stood for, what I cared for. I had forgotten why I was anywhere and where anywhere was. I was speaking to strangers about half-remembered promises but I forgot their language. I forgot the numbers to be tapped. I forgot the way and order to tap them. I grew distracted and bored and tired. This is how Christmas always ends.

In an useless endeavour, as if my desk labours were not torture enough, I stumbled and sighed into a gymnasium and hove weights of iron above my head. I tread like Sisyphus on an endless mill, rolling through numbers until I could take no more. This is how Christmas always ends.

And now we are here. Old Christmas Day. The beginning of Epiphany, the Feast of the Three Kings, when the son of God was revealed. The day my father died. From now on, this is how Christmas will always end.


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Seen in… November & December 

Amy Adams as a linguist to the stars in Arrival… image via The Movie DB

Fun Fact: in the last ninety days of 2016 I spent over 60 hours flying above the Earth’s crusty surface. That meant I ate terrible food, slept (or didn’t) sitting upright in my clothes, and watched a lot of movies on teeny-tiny, crappy little screens. You know you’ve traveled too much when you’ve seen everything in the movie catalogue on the flights you’ve been on.
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Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Message 

2016 has been a most unholy of years. What term did Queen Elizabeth use that time? Annus horribilis? Well, I don't know what kind of stuff she's into but it seems particularly apt this year. So fill your glass past half full with your favourite indulgence and make the most of this mess of a year - a Cheery Messmas, if you will.

I was planning on being in St. John's a day earlier this year but Winter had other plans and about 90 minutes into my flight I looked out from my window seat to see a stunningly beautiful sunset above the clouds. The only problem was, the sunset should've been behind me and I wondered why were turning the wrong way. That was quickly answered by the captain telling us high crosswinds and low visibility meant landing in St. John's impossible. Back to Toronto it was and thus the return of a fine and (not so) cherished Christmas: delayed travel due to poor weather.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Canadian Roadtrip Sextodecimo Playlist for Americans 

Image via Lonely Planet

You told all your friends, “If Trump wins, I’m moving to Canada!” Now that day has come. You can’t believe it. Thanksgiving has come and gone and now you have less than a month before the President-Elect becomes the President. So? Do you really want to go through with it or do you just hope no one remembers what you said? Perhaps this playlist will help you with your feelings as you test drive for the border. Read more »

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