Not Niagara Falls
May 28 – Niagara Falls, Ontario
The meeting starts at 8:00 a.m. and I arrive at 7:00 to make sure the internet connection works, put out the name plates for the attendees, distribute expense claims, test the conference phone. With everything ready to go, I stroll outside. At 7:30 on Sunday morning the town is quiet. I saunter along the path following the lip of the Niagara River gorge to find fog and mist obscuring both the river and the Canadian falls.
The meeting room overlooks the American side of the falls. I watch the falls fall all day while I listen and take minutes. I watch the flow of blue-raincoated tourists trickle down the path to enjoy river atomized in their faces. Soon the trickle becomes a stream and then a bursting spring run-off river of people barely contained by the railings. The falls smash into the rocks below, the river self-flagellates through the gorge and water spews upwards seemingly discharging hundreds of squalling gulls their bodies swirling in air currents like shredded tissues.
At the end of the day, I dismantle my portable meeting accouterments, tuck them into my backpack and wait outside to catch a shuttle bus to the Toronto airport. The air smells of diesel from the tour bus traffic that burps dyspeptically from casino to casino. Children war with parents to go up Clifton Hill to Ripley’s Museum. Across the street in the garden that skirts the falls river path, a bride picks her way over grass in stilettos that puncture holes in the manicured lawn, her train draped over one arm, a bouquet clutched in her hand while her groom hangs on to the other following a pace behind. Groomsmen and bridesmaids and family trundle behind further, a slow human river.
The shuttle bus driver talks talks talks for the hour and thirty minute drive to Toronto which, when added to the six and a half hours of 15 people talk talk talking in the meeting, makes me want to leap out the window into the Welland Canal and hitch a ride on one of the lakers heading to Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean.
June 4 – Halifax, Nova Scotia
A basement meeting room, a missing dongle, a long-distance chairperson, a broken mp3 recorder, and a funny shuttle bus driver. He said as we crossed the Bedford Basin at 6:30 a.m. “Do you see that big yellow flying saucer up in the sky? It comes every once in a while and then disappears. Do you know what it is?” I looked. Yes. I looked. I laughed.
June 19-20 – Victoria, British Columbia
More tattoos per capita than a biker convention in Vegas.
More lycra in public than at the Tour de France.
Rules: Every wait-person must have a nose ring. Restaurants employ foragers – mushrooms, dulse, god-knows what else.
Slugs the size of jalapenos.
Rain the colour of forests. Or forests the colour of rain.
Handsome bucks with big racks in back yards. Really. That’s not a metaphor.
Rose gardens thrive beside parking lots. Snapdragons grow in cracks in the cement in the breakwater. Yellow poppies poke out of pilings on the wharf.
At Fish Hook’s on Fort Street, the best seafood chowder anywhere. Ever. Made with coconut milk, it came in three sizes – 8 oz, 16 oz, and 32 oz., the latter suitable for a facial. If you can’t actually finish eating it, just drop your head in the bowl and let the magic of the South Asian ingredients infuse your face with joy.
Craft beer heaven. My husband, who has embarked on a 150 Canadian beer project to mark Canada’s 150th birthday, knocked off 19 in Victoria.
The hotel: The Empress.
The meeting room: “The Library” overlooking Victoria’s inner harbour.
The service: Tea in china cups. Honey from the apiary in the garden. Herbs from the rooftop garden. Fresh apples in the gym. Happy attendees. No glitches.
Ottawa – June 21
Home to my shabby little townhouse where the children forgot to water the petunias and the dog peed in nearly every room in my absence. The fridge: Empty.
Food: homemade. “Delicious,” the children said. It’s nice to be appreciated.