Running in Canada, Heading for Home

Generally, I don’t miss the traffic-dodging adrenaline or the lung-scrubbing atmospheric particulates that are involved in getting out for a run in my eastern hometown of Dalian, to say nothing of Beijing. Still, running was sometimes good for me in China. Running is like writing is like prayer, for that matter: frequently, it doesn’t feel like something I want to do until I’m already in the act. (And hey, don’t you assume that, after arrival in today’s Dedicated Writing Niche, I just spent the first 95 minutes hunting Web distractions and brainstorming vision statements for non-existent basketball clubs! Sheesh. You people get so personal sometimes.) So here I am, talking about what I think about when I think about running, especially back home in a Canadian summer.

There’s lots to ponder about running, and about what happens between the ears when we do. I think about all kinds of things when I run. (I also play stale pop tunes in the jukebox of my brain.) I think about the differences between China and Canada. (I rehearse what I should have said in decades-old conversations.) I think. (I think I think.)

I think: I never went for runs like these in China.

Continue Reading >>

07/01/2013: The Longest Canada Day

I’m almost back to normal, though my body remains confused about why I

Missed the big party in the capital, but that was alright with me.

insist on lying down in the dark between 1 and 5 am, which it regards as Afternoon Drive Time. It would be if I was still in China, but I’m sitting in a sunny, leafy backyard behind a loving occasional home that features books, the resumption of sweet old conversations, gustatory temptations that haven’t crooned to me from such close range for nearly a year, and beds in the basement for son and bride and me. We’re back in Canada, almost completely. We flew on Canada Day, which for a long while seemed it would never come; when it did, it went on and on.

It started the way most days have recently, at least for this displaced Canadian trying to figure out Where is HERE? Though worn to a frazzle by an exhausting wrap-up of my working year in Dalian, China, my bladder and the barking of sunrise called me from my bed at about 4:30 a.m. Happy Canada Day! I tried to get back to sleep, but my mind-emptying mechanism was on the fritz. (I couldn’t stop writing parts of this thing, for instance, but I was also mentally packing, packing.)

Continue Reading >>

Stalking the Editors

The pilgrimage to Toronto — holy of holies for lit-wits Canadian — continued today, with much to love and great good luck. Martin Levin, Books editor at The Globe and Mail, had agreed to meet the Writer Who Came in From the Cold (of Ottawa), and to the surprise of both of us, I walked out with Teacher Man by Frank McCourt and a review deadline for next week. Yippeeee!! Right up my street. The Walrus magazine wasn’t far away, and its editor hadn’t gotten my emails, but I still got an hour in a coffee shop with Ken Alexander, another former teacher and avid basketball coach (it just took him less than 20 years to escape). Hi, Ken! What he’s doing is a nervy thing, and I admire it. Good mag, too. I want to be on its list of writers, a good list and getting better.

Love is All Around. No Need to Waste It.

Sitting in a little Chinese restaurant on Dundas, it occurred to me that I actually like Toronto. This small-town boy, in his mid-20s, escaped a year living in TO with loathing and resentment. I hated the place. I got a knot in my gut for years afterward just approaching the skyline via 403 or the QEW. I’d worked in retail (ugh!) at the heart of the garish Yonge Street strip (vulgar, garish, soulless, unkind, uname it…).

And now every time I come here I’m tingling. I want to come again. (New York City shocked me in ’02 by being loveable, Rucker Park right through to the Staten Island ferry, Manhattan to Yankee Stadium.) Queen West, Spadina, Nathan Phillips square. Arty shops, that incredible subway system that gets you all over the map quickly, shows at Hugh’s Room, and all kinds of people. I wasn’t ready for the people back then. My circle was small. My town was small. My town was white. (Six Nations Reserve was next door but it was another country.) I must’ve felt pretty substantial there, and I felt invisible in the big city. I must have hated the anonymity in Toronto – nobody knew my name, either, Mr. Baldwin, not that I’m comparing my comfortable little existential adjustments to your experience – but also the noise and the indomitability of it. It scared me. Maybe that was it.

But today, I wanted to do the Mary-Richards-in-Minneapolis thing, spin on my heels and toss my fluffy hat in the air. Just one fluffy hat short. If I can make it here. And all that. Hey, anybody want to read some stuff? English not good? No English? That’s okay! Here, take a look at what I wrote, you’re gonna love it…