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July 16 - Day 70


This written as I go to bed last night, so now I must fill you in after sleep has let me forget some of the details...

Time spent cycling: 4:25:25 hours

Distance traveled: 76.58 km

Total distance: 4446 km

Average Speed: 17.3 kph

Maximum speed: 31.6 kph

Current Location: Mel Walker's house in Ottawa

We left under favorable conditions. It wasn't raining, and the overcast sky would keep us cool for the journey ahead. Sleeping in a field with bails of hay rolled up was a bad idea, because they turned out to be mosquito headquarters!

When we reached Franktown, we stopped at a gas station to fill our water and Wyatt heated some Beefaroni. At this point we turned off onto the #10, a scenic road which would have been perfect if it wasn't for everyone else having the same idea.

At Richmond we stopped for ice cream at a new store that boasted 26 flavors of soft serve. Before leaving we had ham sandwiches and a donut.

We turned off on the #12 which lead up right to the Rideau Canal, we followed it to the Hogsback, where we took the eXTREMELY scenic bike trail into downtown.

Downtown we tried in vain to contact Jessica. Had to give her a shot first, naturally, being my sister and all. Eventually I called Mel and got directions to his place where we crashed for the night. Eventually. We contacted Jessica at last and made plans to meet her tomorrow. I stayed up talking and later interviewing Mel until 2 in the morning. Probably my best interview yet. After that it was straight to bed.

Or as Fred Flintstone so succinctly put it: Beddy-Bye here I come!

July 17 - 29 Day 71 - 83

Mel was gone before we woke up. We washed and dried our gear, then hooked up with Jessica. Walked around town before going to her place which smelled like cat litter. Not because of her, mind you, there are four other apartments on the floor, and you can only smell it in the hallway.

Saw X-Men that evening, which we enjoyed. And Jessica gave me an interesting proposal. She would join with me on the trip if I could wait for a month for her work to end. Needless to say I can't but she said she might be able to find me work here for that month, which changes everything. I'm short on cash anyways, so this could be good for me. We will have to see.

Jessica and Mark had a falling out last night, partly my fault because I found certain websites listed on his browser... eek. But by the wee hours of the morning things were kind of worked out. C'est la vie. C'est l'amour. C'est la guerre.

The next day Wyatt and I went to the Museum of Civilization and hooked up with Jessica there, quite a nice museum, almost unchanged since I last went there several years ago. The job possibility seems 50/50. If it doesn't work out, Wyatt and I will be leaving the day after tomorrow.

That night I went to Mel's place to pick up my gear and talk to him for a while before midnight, and he reminded me of another writing project I have wanted to do for quite some time. A few years ago I experimented with the idea of an improvised email based story, where I would write of my adventures time traveling (yet able to maintain a thin connection to the internet with this computer), and other people would pick up on the thread and include themselves in the story somehow even though they were in the present. It was very interesting, enjoyable, and I think I could make that idea into a full scale novel at some point.

We watched South Park the Movie this morning, then went for a stroll around the Bank Street downtown area. We stopped at a few comic book and roleplaying stores and looked at what was new. It reminded me of one thing, how much I miss creating. Not necessarily creating as in writing stories, but creating worlds, characters, plot ideas... in short all the effort that goes into roleplaying. Later we waited at the community center for Jessica to see if there is any possibility of work for me.

It turns out I'll have to wait another day. A few more hoops to jump through. Hopefully it will be worth it. Jessica, Wyatt and I then went to Jessica's grandparent's cottage for the evening before returning to drop Wyatt off at the bus station. He couldn't take his bike with him, however. The bus driver was a bit of a jerk and the place to pack and ship it separately was closed.

Today I went with Jessica to a baseball game, part of her work with the disabled. I have to think about this... this is an uncomfortable situation for me, and I need to reflect.

It seems that all sense of sophisticated humor has to go out the window. Hiding someone's knapsack is seen as an uproarious event. It seems the assistants have to try extra hard to be in high spirits. One will do a little dance before pouring juice into a nearly incapacitated man's gaping mouth like a mother bird to chicks. It's like summer camp for children in a way, and I'm sure a lot of the councillors forced themselves to have fun. To bring them down to the level of those under their care.

It seems so odd to me. In some ways these people can't truly relate to one another. I've seen two of our wards interact, but it's clear that they are in different worlds at the same time.

There is one who asks everyone if they are married, and other than that is largely indecipherable. One who seems to behave like a child. Ones who are blind. Ones who are deaf. Almost all of them are slow. Some can barely feed themselves.

These people have no names in my mind. Only faces. They are individuals, yet the passing crowd of kids on a summer camp day trip seem more real to me. As loath as I am to say it, more human as well.

Now for a contrast. One of the people who works here, a St. John's Ambulance worker, doesn't really have his heart in it. From where I sit, he seems like this is just a job, and underestimates what those under his care are capable of thinking (for example, he couldn't tell that the blind guy I was helping play Crazy 8s had a system for keeping track of what cards and suits he had in his hand, and would stop him from straightening the deck, assuming he was just messing with it). He is all business, and even when he is friendly to people, it shows.

The others who work here seem to honestly care about the people, Jessica most of all. But if I was to be cruel in my assessment at this point, I'd say all of them except from Jessica are searching for ways to keep themselves amused primarily, with the byproduct of amusing those in their care. Jessica is different. Part of me thinks she is on a mission. Part of me wonders if she looks into a fractured mirror when she works with them.

These are my feelings today. If I get this job, it will be interesting to see how long they last. Looking over the words I have just written, I don't think I should get the job. But then again, maybe that's exactly why I should.

Onto another subject. Kids at a baseball game are funny. Especially when you know that their taunts and insults to the pitcher or batter can be clearly heard by them. The game itself feels smaller than the major league games I've been to, and there is even a rapport between players and fans. A Lynx player even talked to one of the people in our care from the dugout, with good humor. He wasn't distant at all, though it probably strained his patience under the circumstances. The kids seem to love the mascot, Lenny the Lynx, in particular.

Towards the end of the day I felt a bit different about the disabled here. They are slow, yes, but you can almost see the synapses firing behind their eyes sometimes. Some have distinct personalities that stick in your mind. Barney, for example, is the epitome off the "old curmudgeon", who insults everybody constantly while he reminisces about the past. He must have been childhood friends with Don Rickles. J.J. is smarter than he appears. Rob is probably the sharpest of the bunch, he only seems to be deaf and paralyzed waist down.

People call me crazy for going on this trip, yet when I look through Jessica's copy of the Guinness Book of World Records, I realize just how tame and ordinary such a trip is. It's just that most people are LAZY! I don't mean it quite so harshly, but I know it because I am one of those people. I am lazy. The only reason I went on this trip was because I had the time, I had the money, and I had an end goal, a purpose behind the trip. But if just one thing hadn't worked out in the beginning before I left, I would never have started. We look for excuses not to do the next "big" thing unless we are absolutely certain of it, of our own safety, of a hundred other "what ifs"...

The people in Guinness are either insane, or they've learned something I haven't. Maybe there is something more to pushing yourself than just the push itself.

By Sunday I had not found any work, but monday will be the real test. I spent the afternoon and evening with Jessica as she tended the desk at the community center. Things are looking bad. The return trip could be very expensive, even though it is in September. Apparently cheap rates are only west of Ottawa... this could be bad...

I applied for a courier job today, and I think the odds of getting it are 50/50. Haven't heard back from Jessica's work, but when I visited I got a chance to see a bunch of Gabe's pet snakes. From a few tiny ones to a huge boa constrictor, python and others. I even held the boa around my neck for ten or fifteen minutes.

Things are not looking good. Jessica's boyfriend Mark lost his job, and I didn't get the community center job. There is a chance the courier job might work out, but if not I'll be on my own on the road again in a matter of days. Swell...

The problem with the fantastic...

Once upon a time science fiction was enjoyed because it was a view of what was yet to come. Horror or supernatural tales gave us of an alternate view of what might be.

In the past fifty years, this has changed.

The X-Files is the best example. Fiction, right? But many people will tell you it's a fictional telling of something very real.

High level government conspiracies. Aliens. Ghosts. Shadow governments. A combination of all of the above. To many this is real life, the world that his hidden from our eyes. And this isn't just conspiracy buffs I'm talking about. Most people believe in the supernatural on some level. Most people believe in UFOs on some level, as well as government conspiracies.

And why not? Think about it, how many shows have you seen this month that touches on one of the themes I've just mentioned? Even if your answer is zero, think about how many commercials you've seen for those kind of TV shows or movies? What about the "factual" programs like In Search Of? Remember that show, hosted by Leonard Nimoy? On specialty channels like TLC and Discovery you'll find there are a dozen others like it. We're bombarded with this kind of mythology every single day.

There is a thing called The Big Lie. If you make an outrageous claim loud enough and often enough, people will begin to believe it. It's a hell of a lot easier when you're raised from birth on it. Our next generation might take aliens and ghosts as a given instead of a possibility. Perhaps this generation already does.

Roswell was in the early 1950's. Fifty years later most people assume that something happened there and the government doesn't want you to know about it. For me and my generation, finding the facts in a casual manner is exceedingly difficult. It is a very, very, scary thing to do, trying to find out what happened there. There is SO much disinformation out there, it's like sinking in quicksand. But it would take too long to go into that.

I came to this train of thought when I saw an ad for a new TV show about, surprise!, the paranormal!

What filled me with sadness was watching a clip where a steamed up mirror had the words "Miss You" by an unseen hand to a woman's astonishment. And all I thought was "so what".

Parents and activists complain about being oversaturaed and desensitized by violence, but I would like to make a different yet similar point. Perhaps this oversaturization of the paranormal is desensitizing us to it, and as a result we may be losing something very special: our sense of wonder.

As a writer, I can't help but wonder where the bar is set right now. What will I have to write in order to get that same sense of awe from my readers that I got as a child? And how much higher will that bar be set fifty years from now?

I woke up at three in the morning, heart racing and short of breath. I don't know if I was dreaming, all I remember is I was terrified for a moment at the prospect of continuing this journey alone. And I mean Terrified.

I didn't get the courier job today. However, I'm not finished yet. I will talk to Wyatt and see how much he wants to continue. If he wants me to wait, I'll take some Manpower type jobs to pay my way. I've got enough now to finish the trip, I think. Hopefully nothing else will go wrong...

Dammit! I've been given the boot. Jessica and Mark are having a rough time right now and are very short of cash, and quite frankly I've been getting in the way. I really wished I could have gone with someone, but Fate would like me to be alone and miserable I guess. Oh well. C'est la guerre de vie.

I bitch and moan a lot, I know. As much as I've wanted to believe that I'm okay with traveling alone, even on my first day I see that I while I can handle it, I certainly didn't like it. I still don't like it. Once again, I say, NEVER AGAIN! This is my last solo adventure.

Yeah, right.

When nobody else can travel with me, what choice do I have? It's either go it alone, or don't go at all. Which to me is like a choice between life and limbo. I have to be thankful for what I have, what I've done, and where I will go. I have to believe in the book. I have to believe in the trip. I have to believe that things will work out in the end.

Well, Mossfoot, it looks like it's just you and me again.

Another thought...

I saw a commercial for American Express in which a man coins a "new" saying, "touch plastic", to replace "knock on wood" (alternatively called "touch wood" as well in the past).

This got me thinking... the history of "knock on wood" comes from European mythology. Many believed that nature was filled with spirits, and trees supposedly housed wood nymphs. Even if a tree was cut down and turned into furniture the spirits may still live in them. Why people touched or knocked on the wood is debatable. Some say it was to wake the spirits and hope they help you out, some that it was to drive them out so they didn't screw up your plans.

Regardless, generally these nymphs are seen to be young beautiful creatures, either mischievous or helpful. They come from whole, solid, natural wood. It is raised in a forest with other trees, a part of a community, with a history and social structure.

What would a plastic nymph be like?

Plastic is a mixture of chemicals, melted together and molded into a desired form. It has no natural state to speak of.

I can only imagine a plastic nymph to be a hideous monstrosity, twisted and deformed as if it had been poured out of a smelter. To call it a nymph is inaccurate, it is better described as a gremlin. It is young, born at the time the plastic was formed. It has no sense of right or wrong, as it was not reared by anyone, but excreted into this world. It is a powerful gremlin engineered by man to do his bidding, yet it has no idea of the power it wields. It is capable of making a person rich, or destroying their lives utterly.

Pretty fitting for a credit card, isn't it?

The plastic gremlins are real, my friends, beware!

Today is Rachel Day. I haven't seen Rachel Lea Heide since my last year at Carleton. We had a history class together and struck up a friendship. She was a bit eccentric (but that's a good thing). She wore Victorianeque dresses that (if I'm not mistaken) she made herself, with a cameo broach on it. She is also a writer, though our genres differ greatly. She is more for recent historical (past hundred years) stories, often with a religious message. We had a few long talks about writing, both the practice and nature of it. So today is the day I see her again. I wonder if she's changed.

On the way, I stopped off at Canadian Tire to get some tire sealant for my bike. There will be enough left over for Wyatt or Jessica's as well.

Once at Carleton I spent a couple hours touring the place, seeing how it has changed, and how it has more often than not stayed the same.

I visited the tunnels that connect every building on campus. For three years I volunteered for the Foot Patrol, to keep an eye on the campus at night and escort people to their vehicles who didn't feel safe. The halls haven't changed much, only some of the murals in it.

At the library I got onto the internet and visited the webpage I wrote on my trip to Halifax. It was strange to see that again at this time. I'm still wondering if it made me feel better about what is yet to come, or worse.

I decided to visit my old Fiction Workshop teachers, but Tom Hennigan retired this year, and Rick has taken over the workshop full time. Neither of them were here, but I didn't really expect it. I left Rick a message in his mailbox, and got Tom's email address so I could write to him tonight.

Rachel hasn't changed a bit, exactly as I remember her. We talked for nearly three hours walking through the nearby park, and I did the survey with her. Politics and religion came into the discussion, which made things a little awkward (it's amazing how we see eye to eye on some things and yet are diametrically opposite on others). But the subject soon returned to writing related matters. It was great to see her again, too bad it was only one day.

We met Leslie (Jessica's cousin) at the cottage in the Gatineau I mentioned before. I haven't seen her in nearly a year, or her dog Chopper for that matter. We had dinner and returned home. Mark's computer has been on the fritz for two days, and he had to completely format his hard drive and reinstall everything. Unfortunately it won't work, it never finishes installing. For a while I thought I had it figured out, but in the end nothing.

Well, the bike is tuned. It's in great shape, and I'm all packed and ready to go. Whether or not I stay another day or not is for the most part irrelevant, nothing new is likely to happen. Unless it does, consider this my last email until I reach the east coast.

Expect me when you see me.

The creepiest thing happened to me just now. A news broadcast had just finished the weather, mostly rain, and the female newscaster replied to it thusly: "What a lovely forecast..." then looked right at me, "if you're Noah."

Sure, I know she meant biblically, but that was just a little too weird for me!

July 30 - Day 84

As I suspected, nothing much happened. I found out about an anti-commercialism book I want to read: "No Logo". Sounds very interesting.

Heard from two news sources that there may be thunderstorms every day until Thursday! YUCK!

Sent Wyatt's bike back today. Cost 20 bucks. In a strange way this was the point of no return. Now I know Wyatt isn't coming with me. I'm on my own. Despite the threat of more rain, I'm fairly certain tomorrow is the day.

That doesn't stop me from hoping for a downpour, however.

Onto Day 85...