Category: Psychogeography

This Blog Fell Asleep in Toronto and Woke Up in Windsor

So. After a slightly chaotic and blog-free summer, I thought I’d update with two things.  First, we moved to Windsor for some teaching work.  Second, I’ve added a page to keep track of forthcoming stuff.  I feel this may be a little optimistic, considering I only have a couple of short stories coming out.  That’s not actually a lot to keep track of.

I want to write about Windsor.  Or, to be more accurate, I want to write about staring across the river at the Detroit Skyline, which leads to a lot of contemplation, especially regarding those disaster-pornish photographs of decaying public buildings that flood instagram and facebook. In pop culture Detroit seems to exist exclusively as a dreadful-but-fascinating warning, a place for post-Fordist disaster tourism, rather than an actual community.  Creepy.  It’s shockingly beautiful from across the water, especially at sunset.

 As for the stories—I seem to have officially crossed some genre-line into the land of awesome known as contemporary Speculative Fiction, which was something I should have done a while ago, since Angela Carter, and Ursula K. LeGuin, and John Wyndham have always been important to me.  One of the stories is about an AI suffering from debilitating nostalgia, and the other is about a cyborg.  Fun!

“Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness”

D moved to Kingston, On the same month I moved to London, On.  The second apartment he had there was right downtown on Princess Street, the tallest building in Kingston, a stack of early-70s brutalist boxes that steadfastly resists gentrification or modernization. It’s called Princess Towers. On the ground floor you can get poutine from a place named Bubba’s, and there are a half-dozen bars are on that block and the next.

Elrond College, before it was Princess Towers. No Elf-Lords in sight.

Inside, the apartments have been remodeled with the cheapest, ugliest fixtures available at Home Depot, made of that special particle board with white veneer, the kind that warps slowly and inevitably every time water drips from the faucet or the pipes. D’s front door had a two inch gap under it, through which he heard at night the flip-flopped pacing of Queen’s students who carried their fast-food packaging through the  fire door to the garbage slot.  The slamming doors—one out, one back usually after midnight—meant he knew their garbage-disposal habits, as he knew their pre-drinking habits and what time they got home on Sunday mornings. When we talked on the phone I could hear the metallic echo of slamming fire-doors all the way across the province.

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Report from a Battlefield: In Which I Unintentionally Offend a Stranger at Queenston Heights

Second Brock Memorial. First Centenary. 1912.

Last May D and I drove south to the Niagara frontier to see the Corpse Flower in bloom at the Niagara Floral Showcase and to visit Queenston Heights, because I’m working on a chapter about the battlefield.  The Corpse Flower gets its own post, though, as a kind of footnote.

Queenston Heights is a park that was once a battlefield.  You know it was a battlefield because there’s a very large monument to Sir Isaac Brock, the English General who led British and Canadian troops against the Americans in October 1812, and who died early in the battle.  The memorial tower rises aggressively on the Canadian side of the frontier, with Brock at the very top, pointing toward the American side of the river, as though the tower isn’t only to remind us of the general’s death, but to tell us where and how to look toward his American enemies.

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Camp X and Northrop Frye: Why This Blog is Called “Where is Here?”

Camp X from the air. 1943.

Last spring D and I made the trip out to Whitby, Ontario, for an early Doors Open Toronto event at Intrepid Park.  It was May, one of those days that aren’t cold really or warm, but blustery and dull, with a flat, pale sky, and quite a bit of mud.

There are no doors to open at Intrepid Park, because there’s nothing there but a concrete memorial, a few shell holes, and a grassy mound. It’s a nice park, with viewpoints from which you can look along the coast of Lake Ontario toward the downtown skyline, which looks delicate and almost translucent at that distance. Continue reading

You are Here.

I like to know where I am.  I grew up in a valley, on an island off the south coast of British Columbia.  I learned to find my way on what were once logging roads, pinched between Satellite Channel and Saanich Inlet to the northeast, and the hills and mountains of the Vancouver Island Ranges on the west, north and south.  Wherever you are in the Cowichan Valley you can find your way by looking up at mountains whose names you know:  Tzhouhalem or Provost, the Malahat, Mount Baker and the Olympics on the American mainland, Mount Newton on Saltspring Island, across the channel.  Vancouver was the same, with “mountains” always meaning “north” in my neighbourhood.

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Goin’ Down the Road

Goin’ Down the Road is a 1970 film about two knuckleheads—that’s director Donald Shebib’s word—from Cape Breton who head to Toronto for something better than they had at home: work, opportunity, money, sex. The movie is iconic, and I’ve known about it all my life, but I really started thinking about it when we planned our move to Toronto.  Our situation isn’t much like Pete and Joey’s, but our combination of joblessness and expectation made me feel close to them. Continue reading

Welcome to Toronto

My first visit to Toronto was a ninety-minute layover between Vancouver and Montreal.  I got in to Pearson before 6am, so it was still the-middle-of-the-night (PST), and all the coffee shops were closed.  I had tried to sleep, but the night was very short and brightly lit, and somewhere over the Great Lakes I had seen the sunrise. When I looked out the window of the lounge I saw a landscape of tarmac, with the distances hazed over.  There was an enormous pile of refuse from some construction project.  Then I boarded a plane to Montreal.

My second visit to Toronto was a layover, too. We spent the time between trains at Union Station, eating hotdogs from one of the carts on Front Street.

In the first four years I lived in Ontario I spent less than a week in this city, including more layovers at Pearson or Union station.  Last winter we moved here, and I suddenly found myself living in Canada, the one I’d seen in TV, or read about. I was surprised to see the CN Tower looming at the end of a street, to look up and see MuchMusic’s corner of Queen West, or De Grassi Street on a sign.  This was CBC Canada, and Globe-and-Mail Canada, where people say “aboot” and have cabins on Georgian Bay and along the line of smokey hills the crimson forest stands.  It was strange to see that the postcard version of Canada was a real place.

I’ve wanted to start a blog for years, and my arrival in this version of Canada seems like a good place to start.  Welcome to Toronto!