Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels

My collegues were all surprised of my intention to hop onboard a Via Rail train and settle into a seat for 14 hours towards the heart of New Brunswick. To them, the over-night train promised to be a rocking wagon with the windows pointing out to the black depths of the Canadian sky. To me, the thought of this trip danced in my head for too many reasons. Seeing my sister in her element under the late spring air and to polish out the finishing touches of my longest musical project, I Found Your Faces Of Montreal.

I wanted a window seat but learned that they pushed the sales until they were sold out, so I had to take an aisle. My grumbling faded quickly when I stretched out on the seats and with a walk around the cars by going through an Apollo style automatic airlock. My seat mate for this dusk to dawn cycle was a gentle old man buttoned up in red flannel. Packing has always been a rush and following that trend of normalcy, I had only my cellphone with one of the lowest megapixel counts. I cocked my arm up against the seat and attempted to stretch the tiny lens to capture the scenes speeding by. I caught his face in fifteen photos looking over the Quebec countryside warmed by the sun, in the the dying light, covered by a blanket in the late hours, at morning alongside a river and a pine forest and squinting to see through the foggy salt water bay and her towns. In the last five minutes before I was to step off at the station in Miramichi he told me that he had lived in St. Catharines, Ontario, for 40 years, the small city where I spent my high school years, and he never could call it his home. It wasn't until I pulled on the strap to my shoulder bag resting on a luggage cart that I realized those photographs I took of his perspective were actually of mine.

Ro picked me up and we drove down the Miramichi River Route and watched the landscape blend the rolling hills and pines with the small towns hugging the river beds each with their own white church steeples. Machinery and trucks sprawled across the lawns and driveways of homes were jagged contrasts to the countryside that I wanted to visit and urged me to keep Ro on the pedal. After a burningly hot dinner at a Caribbean restaurant, of all places, we walked the river front trail where showboat steamers would break from their nightly push with travelers and class acts to be moored along these shores. The preserved old government house was shielded by windows and the glow of orange candle lights that reflected onto to paint the shivers all of all things haunted. The sun disappeared when we crossed past a hedge which marked the house's property and entered the ancient Native Indian land and an erected monument. A cat ran out of the shadows towards us and I jumped, but passed it off as excitement to my sister.

The next morning brought Ro's Birthday and she put me to work by building two barbecues and a patio table. In the late afternoon we stepped into Jubilee Chinese Buffet which had a strong likeness to a converted hockey arena. Out of mind was the ad-laden paper placements and our focus shifted to the chasoo pork. We drove in the fading light into Saint John to pick up with Amy on our way to Churchill's to have a few beers and spinach dip with pita chips. The constant level of bar chatter and laughter carried me upstairs to the bathroom hallway where I found old browned photographs of train yards. We slept at Leah's place, where Amy was squatting, which in turn made us second level squatters. I curled up on the long couch of the living room which housed a fireplace and joked about ghosts, but half expected them to appear when called for by the creaky floors when I woke up to go to the bathroom.

We picked up Kel & Cath in the morning and toured around uptown Saint John. Duke street corner buildings with a view down the hill to the harbour, a mansion listed at $750000 ready-to-buy, Germainia and to the market for soaps & picnic items. Descending from the Hollywood sign hill to cross the harbour bridge with 50 cents, pushing on the lower shore towards the Maine border and St. Andrews. The tide pulled out to let us walk out on the sea bed with the unseen rocks that rest on the bottom. Kelly nicknamed Catherine after her boots, but she was the only one dry and comfortable. She later acknowledged her strong packing decisions by wearing all the shoes she carried for the trip. We put our feet in the water with the same personalities of our younger selves, touch-tank starfish and sea cucumbers.

Feet running along the river trail towards the lighthouse of safety. Unpacked the supplies & found ourselves staring at a mirror reflecting our parents - I manned the BBQ & Roshini was posted to the kitchen & Kel woke up just in time. Pictures in the garden backyard brought flashes of kelly and I on a patio, with a boy she can't control, running out to see cool uncle Vish. Ro cracked an old 2006 Vintage that she stored in her apartment cellar and we toasted with Auntie Diane's choir practice tape, full of scales. Clocks turned and the garden party evolved from day to midnight, "Stealing Tomorrow" by breezes carrying that long weekend feeling.

At the airport, the four of us stood for photos that would be tucked away into nostalgic boxes, awaiting to be discovered. A Westjet employee attempted to guilt us into thinking we would make the plane late. We squeezed a said goodbye and watched the plane take off on the far side of the field. The road to St. Martins descended to an expansive salt marsh, the turns sharpening, left then right, following the trail past an inlet cove harbour and across a covered bridge towards the rock beach with both awarded-winning chowder and the world's best chowder. We settled on award-winning but surprisingly the fries tasted like they were pinched from KFC. The distant shoreline mountains were touched by fog and I put my feet in the Fundy Bay waters and froze to death while Ro struggled to find the capture button on my cell camera.

The salt ocean retreated from battering the caves, opening a view of the land that used to be tropical sea beds, it's layers giving us a surfaced insight at ten stories high but still hiding thousand more ancient secrets in between it's pages. Newfoundland's 'Black Rock' came crashing down under harsh Atlantic currents. New Brunswick's sandy rocks are carefully pulled away by the gentle hand of the tides. I tasted the brackish water, half-salt half-fresh. Kids on holidays came towards us slowly, zombie-like, spread apart & stumbling on the rock beach. Reversing our turns through the windy road, we found the harbour cove dry, fishing boats rested on stilts on the muddy floor. If you took a day off, the bay would steal your boat or leave it to die.

We drove the Fiddle Head route, around the peninsula to Grand Bay, marsh land coves, connected by the river crossing ferries that the people fought hard to keep. My sister was confident with her hands on the wheel, flowing down, up & around the shorelines, only one season after her crash on the icy main highway. We talked for hours and agreed to knock down some trees in this valley to build her a home on the hilly farm lands kept rich from the river marshes.

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