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August 12 - Day 97

What happened?

I checked the Globe and Mail from cover to cover.



I can't believe that after all this time I am once again denied that one little thing I have craved since grade 12 as a writer: validation. Just last night Gillian assured me that my article should appear today. There was no reason not to think so.

But I can already see what happened. Some last minute editorial switch prevented its publication. Maybe an extra large photograph pushed it into oblivion. Or someone important got something in at the last minute. Maybe it just didn't fit in the space they had left. Maybe they changed their mind about printing it altogether. The dark evil side of me that searches for blame thinks Gillian might have failed to follow through properly. Maybe she didn't send in some kind of invoice or letter granting Canadian Rights or something. But that is irrelevant. Even if she did, it's not her fault, I've thrust her into a roll as a manager that she had no experience or knowledge of. If there is blame in this fashion, it falls upon my shoulders.

I haven't been this depressed in a long time.

Will they print it next week? Will it ever be printed? What went wrong? Why now? Now above all, I needed this validation to keep my spirits up.

I am bitter. And I am in Avonlea. And I will take my wrath out upon this Potemkin village!

What a miserable sight this town is! As I mentioned before, the economy of P.E.I. seems to be dependant on Anne of Green Gables. Outside the entrance to their "historical" village (which costs $8.50 to get into), there is a Wal-Mart like greeter in contemporary dress for the tourists who come in here. She is a "schoolteacher" here, basically a character who gives a fifteen minute lesson on the history of the day. She irks me in her pretended civility, talking like a character from the show (and being ignorant of technology to boot, the funny thing is a lot of the tourists don't get it, assuming she really doesn't know what a digital camera is, for example).

In many places I've been to across the county, I've seen nice colloquialisms used to hide the tourist nature of places. For example: gift shops are often called "Trading Posts". Here, they are more blunt, using such terms as "Tourist Mart". It sickens me, but at least it is honest.

This entire town reminds me of exactly why I dislike tourism. If I were in a better frame of mind, I might have let it slide. But when I see every store advertising "Anne Dolls!" and "P.E.I. T-Shirts: 8.99!", it makes me want to run far far away. If I didn't need this rest for my legs, I would.

I wonder how L.M. Montgomery would have felt about all this? I mean, to see her world kept alive in Avonlea might have filled her with joy, but what would she think of the roller coasters? The miniature golf? The bumper cars and water slides? How about the fact that not a single person that talked with the schoolteacher recognized that she was, in fact, playing Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author herself? Most people simply ignored her or smiled and passed by. Nobody recognizes the name. Only Anne.

The line between the giftshop here and the one at Notre Dame gets blurred. There are as many different Anne's as there are Jesus figures. There are tons of books here, nearly as many as in Notre Dame, about Anne, Montgomery, even nature and cooking. Fabric, pictures, figures, jewelry, they are both in equal supply it seems.

What if you were to mix things up a little? Have Anne on a crucifix and have "The Jesus Christ Cookbook"! Buy a bottle of Holy Water, or anoint your forehead with Anne's Sodapop. That makes me smile a bit.

This is a kind of hell, I think. If my stories and characters became this popular, you can guess how I'd feel if it became this twisted, evil, living and breathing cash register. I would burn it to the ground and sow the land with salt! I can see why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle initially killed off Sherlock Holmes!

But these feeling stem largely because of today's disappointment. But even if I had been published, it would only have subdued these feelings of resentment. I feel ashamed at the idea of having to face my present benefactors (whom I told with much excitement about what I expected of today) and explain to them what happened.

For the past five days, I was a true writer. Today I am nothing again.

That, of course, is not true. I've been a writer since Grade 12, and nothing has successfully shaken that belief. But right now, that is how I feel. Like I've been swept aside without any explanation... because I'm not important enough to deserve one.

All this worry could be for nothing, however. Maybe it will be published next week. Maybe it wasn't swept under the carpet. Maybe this is only a delay. I hope so. If for no other reason than I really, really need the money.

So what am I doing here, in Avonlea? I had expected to come here and revel in my first ever publication on the grounds of one of Canada's most well known writers (well, at least most well known characters). I had hoped to have some kind of "moment" here, bright and pure. Instead it is dark and cynical.

Perhaps this is a good thing, perhaps I can make far better use of the darkness than I could have of the light. To see how something so good natured and enchanting as the world of Anne to become... this. A mere facade that satisfies hundreds of tourists a day, dressed in Tommy Hilfiger and Gap clothing (my God, I can see these same people at the Acropolis or the Pyramids of Giza, and it makes my skin crawl), and they all leave thinking their little tourist thoughts, never suspecting the damage they have done to good taste.

To be certain having finished 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea has had an impact on me, since I feel a bit like Captain Nemo with his contempt for "civilized" countries, and wishing to go where no man had yet trodden.

Doing an interview with a Parks Services person (I figure since tourism is the life blood here, I should interview those related to it). Turns out that I took THE hardest road to get here by, and was shown the best route out of P.E.I. for tomorrow. At least this stay isn't a total write-off.

Boy, do I feel foolish.

I mean, really, REALLY foolish.

The kind of foolish where after searching for an hour for your spectacle you yell at everyone that there is a conspiracy to hide your glasses from you, only to be calmly corrected that they have been on your forehead all this time.

I haven't signed a contract yet.

Gillian didn't hear about this until last night, after I called her. I, having never been published before, forgot that this was part of the game. Now I look at my ranting above, and my depression (so quickly evaporated now) and feel like I should have bitten my tongue until I had first called Gillian.

But then, if I had, I wouldn't have written such an amusing trashing of the House than Anne Built...

Everything happens for a reason, I guess.

And once again, I am a writer.

I have spent the past couple hours at Anne's House, partly because I promised Gillian and Grandma that I would get them a little something from here besides photographs. I haven't spoken a word really since arriving (other than to inquire about what this area used to be like a couple decades ago). I've remained mute and strangely dumb where all sounds are blocked out and I end up staring for over an hour at piles and piles of merchandise. When eventually it hit me just what was happening, it made me feel very strange. Trying to find "the right gift" had suckered me and swallowed me whole into the gaping maw of the living cash register. Still, I had to get something (for I said I would, and now regret it), so I got a copy of the book that started it all (an edition exclusive to this site) for grandma, and some salt water taffy and fudge for Gillian (in an cloth Anne themed bag).

That done, I toured the site (with a discarded ID patch I found, since I wouldn't want to pay for this as well) and felt like I was in a Disney version of Black Creek Pioneer Village. This is understandable, since it's a recreation of Anne's world, a fictional world. Mrs. Montgomery would probably have been thrilled to see Green Gables brought to life, But I wonder how Montgomery would feel about her precious Lover's Lane being surrounded by an 18 hole golf course? Not too thrilled, I would think.

With my obligations done (but a feeling of being tainted never quite leaving my skin), I pressed on with the day.

Finally. FINALLY I got through on the internet. So, at long last, you've seen my trip from Ottawa, good times and bad, encouraging and embarrassing moments alike. Now I just have to wait for that blasted contract to get through...

Anyways, expect me when you see me.

August 13 - Day 98

Last evening I went to the lakeshore and walked along it until sunset, it was too late to get as far as the island Mel Walker wanted me to find, so I went back and listened to an audio book of Rising Sun by Michael Chriton. It is such a different perspective on the Japanese culture, mostly business culture, and is so bold in details that I can see how some people took offence to it. The movie didn't really do it justice, in my opinion, but how could it? The most interesting parts involve what boils down to the "so tell me, Professor..." syndrome that usually kills both books and movies. But Chriton pulls it off, and for once his ending wasn't terribly weak. I look forward to reading Timescape (also Chriton) when it comes out on paperback!

Anyways, the next day brought me no closer to my contract. I took a long walk down the same beach to take the before mentioned picture. However, at the far end of the long narrow peninsula, it is currently off limits, being protected for Plovers that nest there. I actually did cross the line for a few hundred feet in order to climb the highest point I could find and take a picture from there, but the Plover is an endangered species, and I would feel quite guilty if I did anything that might disrupt their nesting. So the picture I got probably isn't going to be good enough, but it's the best that I could get.

After finding out it was okay to stay a THIRD night (I hate the idea of that), I went into Cavendish proper and checked on the status of the fax. As of 11:15 there was nothing. If it comes through before 2pm, I'll go back and pack up, and make what distance I can today. If not, I'll bring a box of Timbits back for the family as a thank you... actually I'll do that anyways as well. Only 2 bucks, after all.

Figured if I'm here, I should try some steamed mussels. Hope I don't get sick. At least August doesn't end in "r" (oh wait that's clams or oysters...)

Hmmmm... not bad. Of course, I wasn't expecting them all to still be in their shells! It was a little squeamish for about half a second, cracking their shells wide open, the scooping out the innards. Like scooping out brains from a skull. But you get over that quickly, and they were tasty, but I think I would prefer them fried or baked. The garlic butter to dip it in definitely helped.

I spoke with a waitress there who has been all over Canada at one point or another, and has lived in P.E.I. for the past 4 years. However, she says herself she'll never be an islander, she'll always be a CFA (come from away) to the people here. But not in the same racist sense as "Gaijin" in Japan, or at least not to the same extent.

She shared my view about Western Canada (BC to Ontario) being all somewhat homogeneous, so I feel a bit more justified about the article I wrote about Quebec recently ("Viva La Difference!", if it doesn't get published, I'll email it to everyone later).

So basically today is another do nothing day. I had hoped to be well underway, but if I want to be published this Saturday, then I must stay. But tomorrow I'm gone. I'll pack up and wait here as long as 1pm before leaving. How could he not send the fax on a Monday, after all?

This has given me time to reflect, however, and I even thought of a new story, the one I'll probably use in Saskatchua... Saskectche... five provinces ago.

I got a letter from Tom Hennigan yesterday. He said that he was glad to hear I got accepted by the G&M, and pointed out that many writers got their start there. It is comforting to think that I'm in good company. I can see the biography now: "Noah Chinn got his start writing travel articles for the Globe and Mail... then came the fame, the drugs, the arrests, and the self destructive downward spiral..." but I get ahead of myself (heh heh).

He also thinks that my book idea is good, and will suggest some publishers for me when the time comes. All I can say is, wow. I just hope the book is worthy enough of publication.

One cute thing I forgot to mention until now was that they have wooden sidewalks here. They cover the entire town, and add bit of charm to something that more and more is resembling Las Vegas than Green Gables.

I wonder why it is I am still in Cavendish. I have to wait for the contract, yes, but lately it seem as if everywhere I end up, I end up there for a reason. I am not an Anne Fan, I've never read any of Ms. Montgomery's works, though I admire what I know of her. I am sitting here at the beach, looking over dunes and rocks and the waves rolling against the shore, and I wonder what she would say if she were alive today. To see this area overrun with tourists?

I run some rusty colored sand through my fingers, and listen to kids scream and play. I see what may have once had a couple of locals relaxing by the shore for the day now have dozens of CFAs. In other areas, such as the campground, things are worse. Because tourists come to these places and expect them to be exactly like home, and if it's not, they make it that way. I don't think anyone tries to become an Islander for a day, I think even in their own minds they are just an Ontarian (or Albertan or Japanese) visiting the Island. Always a visitor. Maybe it can't be any other way.

So how am I any different? In only one way, I suppose. I don't ask for anything to change on my account. I accept the places I travel through for what they are. There is a certain boldness I see in your standard tourist, which for some strange reason makes me think of a Viking raiding party when a group of them arrive. A boldness I like to think I lack.

I don't see myself as a tourist, I see myself as an adventurer. Granted, I'm not braving the wild jungles of New Guinea. Granted, I'm not crossing the country on foot or on back roads or trying to blaze new trails. I am crossing the country the same way thousands of cars do every year, on the local roads and highways. But I feel there must be something that sets me aside from the family of four in a campervan, even something that sets me apart from those that bike tour in a pack of thirty with a vehicle to carry their gear and pick them up if they break down...

I am doing this on my own, not bringing help with me, but accepting help if I need it and if I can find it. I do not concern myself with luxury. I do not wear trendy clothing. I do not stay in motels, I do not pay for camp sites. I rely on the Rules of Hospitality that Odysseus understood in the Odyssey. And why not? If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. Odysseus did not go out of his way to encounter the Sirens or Charybdis, he did these things out of necessity. He took the most logical route that was available to him.

Most of all, I am not a tourist, because I am not "touring" the country. I am exploring it. Just because people have been here before me makes me no less an explorer, because it is all new to me. And as I may have mentioned before, driving in a car is like being on a plane ride with a really boring in-flight movie. You do not feel like you're a part of anything you pass by, it's just moving pictures.

I may not be a true explorer or a true adventurer, but I feel more entitled to these names than that of "tourist", a title I learn more and more to hate.

You should have seen what the beach looked like today, covered with hundreds of people all packed close together, taking up more of the view than the beach itself...

I hope there is room for one more on the Nautilus, Captain Nemo. I want out!

Side note: The PST here is 10%! I thought that was high, but apparently in Newfoundland it's 13%!!!

Side side note: those mussels may have tasted good, but my digestive system refused to have anything to do with them...

Side side side note: I noticed that if I am not talking, I eventually get depressed. I feel cut off from human contact and after a couple hours being surrounded by people you don't speak to, you feel disconnected. Interesting.

What lousy luck. I get back to the campground at 8 (still no contract) with the box of Timbits, only to find they had ALL fallen out of the box on the way to the camp! It might have been funny, except that I really wanted to do something special for these people who put up with me for three nights. Dammit.

Onto Day 99...