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The sad fact is that Canton, New York, is on the opposite side of the continent, in a foreign country, and I have not two pennies to rub together at the moment. Also, when the idea occurs to the ladies it is Monday. The events are Saturday. At this point airfare would be about $1200. so you can see those reasons, the reasons that it is not possible for me to take this trip.
Ah, but the Americans...
Once I make my reasoning clear it immediately becomes irrelevant. So I don't have any money! So what! Ara asks for a grand total. I laugh and say that my father used to work for the airlines so he MIGHT on a good day be able to get me a standby ticket for $60. With meals, buses, phonecalls, and whatever I figure $200-300 Canadian. Ara does some quick math that includes the equation 10 pilgrims times twenty bucks apiece equals Evil Elf!
This is getting out of hand. It must be stopped. So, to prove how very, very impossible this is, I go to Mapquest and type in Canton New York. Figure I can show her how remote it is and that should take care of this arguement once and for all. I hit ENTER. I stare in amazement: Canton is right across the river from my aunt's house in Prescott. In all likelihood, my aunt can see Canton from her house.
Foolishly, I send Ara a quick "gee, wouldn't it be nice if" email. Bad move.
So that's how I found myself wandering the seedy part of Granville Street well after dark, looking for the Western Union office. Oh yes, while I am there picking up the money Ara wired me I also pick up fifty dollars from a friend of mine, who wants me to buy one of Viggo's poetry books and get it signed for her. I won't be able to afford my own, but the way this trip is going I expect to just walk up and say, "Hi Viggo, I'm Evil and I'm really poor: can I have some free books?" Hey, you just never know.
My father misunderstood my "Hey dad, do you think you could look into a cheap fare from Vancouver to Ottawa" and has gone ahead and made an uncancellable reservation. I myself have many reservations, but it does begin to look like I'm going. And I have an email from my sister: that weekend is my Gramma's 88th birthday. So I will be in town for the party.
Have I mentioned how weird this all is? Well it is.
So here I am at the airport. I'm an hour later than I should be because of the stupid bus. What is it with them? Can they tell it's me waiting and duck down side streets to avoid me? What did I ever do to them? I always thank the drivers for letting me out the front doors and I never consume food or beverages aboard bus.
There is quite a sizeable throng of silent, wizened old Chinese people gathered around by the time the bus pulls up. As soon as the doors open it's like a party started; all the faces light up, people start chatting and holding elbows, large gestures are made, and a Native fellow tips his cowboy hat to me. We all conga aboard and are off to Richmond and the airport.
Wow, you know, three hours of sleep just isn't quite enough. Things begin to go strange on me.
There is a certain phase of sleep deprivation that is positively hallucinogenic, and that's just where I am now. This trip has put me in touch with some wonderful people from all over, but the last phonecall I take from them every night is around 4am, and then the calls start up again around 8. This has gone on all week and I would at this point happily dig up Alexander Graham Bell and ream him out if I had the energy, which I do not. But things look very pretty as I sit and watch the ceiling move up and down, which it is not doing. My watch isn't crawling either, but that, also, is fun to watch.
On the plane, somehow. Window seat, Yay! We taxi, rumble down the runway, take off and wheel around, giving me the tourist's dream panorama of Vancouver and the North Shore mountains, then the Georgia Straight and the Gulf Islands. The sunset on the water is golden, no, yellow and dull, like old brass. The water itself is pewter and cold-looking. From up here it looks like ice, thick and clouded, with the islands frozen like pebbles in a winter puddle. I see Active Pass, through which enormous ferries make their way; how tiny it seems. We wing away.
Baker, my Mount Fuji. It appears under the wing of the plane, sudden and unmistakable. Its foothills, true mountains really, cluster close, flanks wrapped in puffy cloud eiderdowns, while above floats Mount Baker, mystic volcano beloved of skiers. When you see Baker you realize that God made the other mountains as a warmup. I think I can make out a face on the crest, and old, sad Native face.
I think I need a nap.
It's sunset and between the dull brass glow of the sunlight, the crimson bands of cloud, bright turquoise sky and rows of long, low islands, the whole world in its glorious bands of colour looks like nothing IN the world so much as a seventies T-shirt. Only, like, with the glory of God on it and all.
I could really use some sleep.
Hey, I just noticed some buttons on the armrest. Stereo channel buttons, volume buttons, light buttons, and one with a little stick figure of a man on it. One with the same figure, only with the red line through it. Maybe the first button is for when you get a little...lonely...and you press it and a man comes over. And when you're finished with him you press the other one and he goes away. That would be a full-service airline. Wonder if Virgin has thought of that...no, obviously not.
I think I need to sleep.
Lorraine Murphy, Vancouver BC
2003 North Country Public Radio, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York 13617-1475