Sort Of

I had coffee this week with an emissary from Toronto, someone considering a move to the Island now that COVID times have rendered the big city lifeless and crowded, with none of the old upsides.

She brought word of a new CBC show, Sort Of, a show well-summarized by John Doyle in The Globe and Mail (paywall):

So far, while the series has been on CBC Gem, there’s been glowing attention to the fact that CBC has a series with a queer, brown, gender-fluid star at its core. But that’s not the sum and total of it. What makes it truly special is the energy, vitality and the fact that the tone is beautifully judged. The series is a very urban contemporary comedy, a wry portrait of the power plays in romantic relationships – of all types – and amounts to a humane, messy tale of sexual and artistic self-discovery.

You’ll come for the gender-fluidity, but you’ll stay for the performances, the writing, and the Toronto energy that, lifeless and crowded or no, remains alluring to those of us on the fragile edge.

The show is streaming on CBC Gem in Canada, and has been picked internationally. I encourage you to seek it out.

Midnight Pumpkin

We opened the door at 100 Prince Street this morning to find a lovely pumpkin sitting in the vestibule:

Photo of a pumpkin in our vestibule.

Where might this pumpkin have come from, I asked myself. We are lucky to be the recipients of all manner of interesting things left by friends in the vestibule: books, mustard pickles, bicycle seats, Christmas ornaments, sponge toffee. But a late-season pumpkin was a new one.

Then I remembered that our doorbell is all-seeing and all-knowing, and would have record of the pumpkin delivery. And it did:

So it was late nite hooligans!

But kindly hooligans: those of an earlier time, with a meaner bent, would have smashed the pumpkin on the stoop, but these midnight pumpkineers simply left it, intact, for us to turn into pie.

Other People

Olivia was on fortnightly respite last night, and so I took advantage of the evening free of parental responsibility to take myself out to supper. 

I stopped in at Craft Beer Corner on the way for a glass of Red Island Cider and then adjourned across the street to Punjabi Bites for a meal.

Spooning up my aloo gobi with my naan, I was suddenly overcome with loneliness: Indian food is best eaten in ensemble, and sitting there alone, on a cold and rainy night, in an almost-empty restaurant, my world suddenly felt very very empty.

Truth be told, the powerful feeling at play was not loneliness itself, but a sense of embarrassment about feeling lonely at all: I’m a self-confident, independent person, and the idea of needing other people in my life feels like some kind of unhealthy codependency.

Thinking Pete knows this isn’t true, knows connections are important, knows the shame is irrational. And yet, there I was, feeling it.

The problem with writing about loneliness is that well-meaning friends and familiars start to worry about you, and, being well-meaning, feel they should help solve the problem by stanching the loneliness with invitations to coffee, lunch, and plowing matches. Which are all wonderful in their own way, and appreciated. But have no effect on the deep down loneliness.

It’s not really about wanting someone across the table to talk to, order a palak paneer, perhaps make an obscure reference to J.D. Salinger, and suggest we go for a walk after–all of which would be nice, who’s kidding who–it’s about something far more existential, something related to my sense of self, my place in the world, my ability to make connections to other people.

In the engine rebuild that is grief, each of those is under repair, and the effect is discombobulating.

Darn Tough Socks

I had a hard morning, and resolve to piggyback my way to happiness on the back of buying some new socks.

My go-to sock dealer is Proude’s Shoes, and so that’s where I headed, thinking I might pick up a few pairs of the Wigwam socks they’ve been carrying for awhile (I own three pairs, and my day is always 10% better when they come up in the sock rotation).

When I arrived, I found Wigwam socks in short supply, and learned from personable manager Kevin Proude that it’s a line they’re phasing out, in favour of Darn Tough socks from Vemont.

Kevin then proceeded to give me a thorough overview of the Darn Tough selection, in a way that only Kevin can (the difference between shopping at Proude’s and shopping at a shoestore chain is like the difference between having a personal chef and eating in a cafeteria).

I walked away with two pairs of Darn Tough, a couple of pairs of Wigwam for old time’s sake, and a warm feeling about the fact that stores like Proude’s continue to thrive.

The socks, by the way, are guaranteed for life:

Our socks are guaranteed to be the most comfortable, durable, and best fitting socks you can buy. In a nutshell, if you wear a hole in them, we will replace them free of charge, for life. Things that generally are not covered—disappeared in the dryer, the dog ate them, too close to a campfire, theft by friend or foe, etc., etc. However, all claims made in good faith will be considered.

I would buy the socks based on those two sentences alone.

If your feet are cold or wet, or, like me, if you just need a piggyback ride to happiness, drop by and have Kevin give you the down-low.

Losing Our Neighbourhood Weeping Birches

Longtime readers will recall my yearly habit of snapping a photo of Olivia walking up Prince Street on the first and last days of school.

Here’s the first day of grade one:

Olivia walking up Prince Street on the first day of grade one

And here’s the last day of grade six:

Olivia walking up Prince Street on the last day of grade six

In every one of those photos, just off to the left you can see the weeping birch tree in front of our neighbours’ house, tree number 482 in the city’s tree inventory.

That tree came down today, along with three of its mates up Prince Street toward Grafton, a deliberate cutting due disease.

Here’s this morning just after 8:30 a.m. from our front vestibule:

Birch Tree before cutting down

And here’s the same view an hour later:

Birch tree after cutting down.

It was a beautiful tree we lost today, a part of our neighbourhood for as long as we’ve lived here and many years before. Here are a few photos I took earlier this fall when the announcement came that the end was near:

The weeping birch in its glory

Closeup of the birch bark.

The Channel Tunnel — Life on the Inside

If you like behind-the-scenes infrastructure videos, you might find the BBC’s The Channel Tunnel — Life on the Inside interesting.

Olivia and I travelled from Paris to London through the Chunnel in 2009; it was the final leg of a rail journey from eastern Slovakia right across Europe. My lasting memory of the Eurostar trip is not infrastructure-related, it’s Olivia’s considerable consternation about Parisian kiosks not selling English-language kids magazines. By the time she’d calmed down we were in London for a rendezvous with our friend Jonas and a pop-in at Platform 9¾.

The Stubborn Commuter”

Josh MacFadyen published an article in NiCHE earlier this month, The Stubborn Commuter, that dwells in the heart of a whole big bunch of things I’m passionate about: cycling, active transportation, land use, urban planning, maps, GIS.

This is what keeps me stubbornly commuting to work. Between my PhD in early 2010 and today, I’ve been fortunate to find work at UPEI, Western, Saskatchewan, Arizona State, and now UPEI, again. I have bought exactly zero semesters of parking passes from any of those universities. My wife and I have fought the urge to get a second vehicle, or to “put another one on the road” as they say in PEI. It’s a challenge with a busy and relatively large family. It means we run a house with exactly 0.16 cars per person. Our bike fleet fluctuates, but it is usually closer to 1.5 bikes per family member.