We’d driven up north to Tobermory, a town at the tip of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, for an extended weekend getaway. It’s four hours away from Toronto, which led me to realize that I am a big fan of trains and planes, but not automobiles. Not for long distance travel, anyway.
I like to distract myself when I travel – a good book, maybe a couple episodes of a good show, a nap. Not this time around. As designated navigator (navigatrix?) for this particular road trip, staying awake and focused for the whole trip was an occupational hazard.
Things can go south pretty quickly when you’re in the middle of Ontario farmland and there are pockets of dead space. No phone signal? Quelle horreur! Not too horreur, of course. I smugly congratulated myself for growing up analog and having the foresight to download a map of the area before starting out. Who needs step-by-step directions in real-time? Over-dependence on tech makes people pansies.
I was beginning to despair. I thought the whole weekend would be a literal wash, because it rained the whole of Thursday and it looked like the sun had dropped the mic and walked out on the whole program altogether. But a little redhead once said the sun would come out tomorrow, and it did, bless that little orphan’s heart. I’m glad it did; we wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the beauty of the Georgian Bay peninsula as much if it hadn’t.
So the second biggest reason A and I went north was to check out Flowerpot Island and the shipwrecks of Tobermory. I had plans to tour the island, but didn’t plan things properly on purpose – the weather was unpredictable and I didn’t know if it would rain. By the time we went to get tickets the island walk-on tours were all booked up and we settled for the non-walk-on tour instead. It wasn’t too bad. I did have a giggle, because their carved statue of a fisherman reminded me of penis.
I guess when I said “gifs,” I meant “a gif.” Because I don’t want to overwhelm. Or overshare. Or both. Or who cares, it’s driving onto a boat and off of it after an hour and a half or so, and here I am gushing about it because I’m an ignoramus. Anyway, it’s just a really cool way to do it. Of course it’s squeaky clean, has a lounge, a gift shop (a Boatique, awww) and a surprisingly respectable cafeteria. I say respectable because it comes with its own popcorn machine, a nacho bar and a pretzel carousel. That’s on top of the full-service kitchen promising an all-day breakfast, fish and chips and even chicken curry on a bed of steaming basmati. (A: “I really like this boat.”)
The biggest reason A and I went north last weekend was the M.S. Chi-Cheemaun. Ojibwa for Big Canoe, the ship is the only way to get from Tobermory, which is a town at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, to the island of Manitoulin. We didn’t know anything much about it other than its prow being heavily decorated with colourful Native American art, and an advertised relaxing view. (Most of this research was done via quick, cursory glances at ads on the subway; pretty boat, Adirondack chairs, white people in shorts holding beer? Advertising works!)
Fairy tales are stories we tell children for the sake of their self preservation. Hansel and Gretel is a cautionary tale – adults can be awful, always leave a trail for your parents to follow and respect people’s homes. Jack and the Beanstalk is another – the family cow is important, ensure you get the proper return for your investment, stealing is lucrative and so is upper body strength. Rapunzel is about freeing yourself and the power of true love, Puss in Boots is about dressing for success and harnessing the power of hubris. They’re not always lessons on how to be a good person, but they are almost always about survival, because life will always have monsters. Evil witches in houses made of candy drops and gingerbread still exist, only these days they’re seemingly harmless gentlemen in windowless white vans, handing out candies to children.
Quite a few of them live online, like the Nigerian Prince, a vampire who uses e-mail to promise a substantial cut of his money in exchange for helping him move it out of the country. It will of course involve a very small fee, and anyone who falls for it eventually keeps paying all these small fees, waiting for the big pay-off, getting drained of their life savings in the process. Imposters love e-mail. A number of them use it to claim your Apple/Paypal/Netflix account is inactive, leading you down a path that eventually ends in forking over sensitive information like your birthdate, the high school you went to and your mother’s maiden name, before you realize you don’t even have an Apple account. These fishermen – phishers, because we’re stylish – lay your life wide open for identity theft and before you know it someone is spending vast amounts of money in your name and your credit rating is shot to hell along with your dreams of owning a car and a decent home.
Ultimately, it is a window into what Schierano calls “a life within a life”, a buzzing, fraternal underground zone that was part created as a response to living in one of the loneliest cities in the world.
It’s the paradox of big city living: the more people surround you, the lonelier it can get.
The best tennis combines the brutality of boxing with the finesse of a chess match. Just you and another dude, slugging away at a tiny yellow ball, trying to out-maneuver each other and stay one step ahead. It takes a lot of mental and physical stamina. Only the strongest will survive. Vamos, Rafael Nadal!