Saturday, March 22, 2008

The L Word

No, it's not Laval, though it occurs there and in towns and cities larger and smaller.

I hadn't really noticed it until lately. There was no mention of it in local newspapers or on television.

I'm pretty familiar with it, actually. I remember it sweeping though New York City in the late winter/early spring of 1986. It happened in Honolulu in 1983 as well.

There had been local outbreaks of it in Los Angeles over the past two years, and I'm thinking its the secret reason why I ventured out to a new city where I knew no one. It couldn't be worse, I thought, and it might even be better.

I realize I haven't written a lot of travelogue stuff for any publication lately. In fact, the latest travel story I wrote was on San Diego—a trip I took in December. I'll write about the Amtrak Adirondack when I return to LA--a normal travel article with facts and figures. (The home magazine is "reorganizing," and I think we are starting a new one when I return.)

This blog, then, lies in some strange netherworld between journal and travelogue. There is little soul searching here, that's not my style. Its far easier for me to chart other people's thinking or look for patterns in the everyday that become material for columns.

This trip has been a lot different from previous trips here. I've traveled here twice with groups, and once alone. I faced the first trip alone last year with a mixture of trepidation and delight. Summer was waning, fall was stirring. I knew no one, I knew nowhere. I actually met people. New people. Everything was bright and shiny.

Fast forward five months. I'm back in Montreal. It's a LOT colder this time, but that's OK. The places I came to know and visit seem like old friends, but something is different.

I still haven't played the Metro. Tried twice, was too late. My guitar sits, restless, in a corner. Without the pressure of deadline writing, afternoons stretch on and on and on. (Check that. This is deadline week for my LA newspaper. I'll be busy this week.)

I joined a movie group at the local cinema. But all they want to talk about is movies. At home, movies stack up, unwatched. I pass crowded bars, too shy to go in. I think about things to write about--how skinny the sidewalks get when it snows, about how locals seem unable to negotiate the art of Pedestrianism, about the Great Obsession with the Habs, about why you have to dial the area code with local numbers, why a comma instead of a period, and when exactly is trash day? When is recycling day?.....grand thoughts like those.

So I go out and sit in an Internet cafe on Mount Royal, like some slacker college dweeb. Encased in my iPod, there's the feel and vibe of a crowded place without a crowd in my head. A journalism teacher once told me, "Be able to write anywhere." And I can. And I do.

I can scratch out inch-deep musings for a world of strangers, even though I know my favorite audience is me.

So, this then is what passes for soul searching on a Saturday evening, as our hero visits his second-favorite city.

The first two weeks of April will pass in a blur. And then I will be on a train. And an airplane. And it will be 68 degrees American when I get step off the plane, 81 the next day.

And I will return in late September, eager and new again, with full knowledge of what I'll face.

That L Word. Lonesome.

Sunday, March 16, 2008