Saturday, 30 August 2008

Mad Dogs and Ottawans

Anyone who's watched Inside the Actor's Studio knows that James Lipton concludes his interview with a list of questions based on the "Proust Questionnaire" as adapted by Bernard Pivot. Actually, I find the thing to be remarkably unrevelatory (and a wee bit precious), with the possible exception of Anthony Quinn who, when reaching heaven, hoped God would say, "I understand."

Anyway, one question is "What sound do you hate?" No contest for me. I loathe the sound of cicadas (cicadae?). It's a high pitched buzz which intensifies with heat. When I first heard it, on my first full day in Ottawa on September 1st, 2000, I thought it was the whine of the electrical wires as we climbed the long hill up Springfield Road to register elder daughter in Grade Three. Today is my first full day back in Hades after six weeks in Victoria, and as I climbed that same hill en route to the library, the crickets rattled in the bushes, and the cicadas buzzed, buzzed, buzzed in the trees until I thought I would scream. The temperature isn't even that high, but the air is heavy with moisture. Last night, I stepped out on the back deck and felt the wet sock of the atmosphere. It was eighteen flippin' degrees Celsius; in Victoria, I'd be slipping on a fleecy jacket and gulping the cool sea air.

Oh well, at least I managed a few finds at the library. I was looking for audio books, and found a "Shakespeare mystery" by Leonard Tourney entitled Time's Fool, and a series of lectures on Western music (that's classic, not C&W) by a professor at Columbia University. Also a DVD of Shut Up and Sing which should be especially interesting in the light of the upcoming American elections and the possibility of a gun-totin' former beauty queen vice-president.

As I descended the kilometre-long hill, I overtook an older lady walking a small fluffy dog who inexplicably apologised to me. (The lady, not the dog, and why? For being on the sidewalk?) Seconds later, I heard the unearthly liquid snarls of a much larger dog and turned in time to see a black lab lunge from behind a high wooden fence. The lady snatched up mop-dog just in time, and her cloth bag flew into the street spilling her keys and a box of pooper-scooper bags (mercifully empty). The black lab turned out to be on a leash and the owner, a mortified younger woman, apologised profusely in English while the older woman told her curtly in French to control her dog. The other woman said their dogs had met before with no problem, and she couldn't understand her lab's reaction. I quietly collected the strewn things back into the bag. The older lady, still clutching her pet, was groping for the English words to describe the unfriendliness of the lab, and glanced distractedly at me as I handed the bag to her. I left them to it, while the cicadas buzzed unrelentingly.

You know all those brave words I had about living in the moment? Screw it. I want to live in the past for a bit. There. That's Victoria. A summer's evening. The sun is setting through a plant I can't identify in the garden of our house-sit. I have a cool drink, and a good book. The air is scrubbed clean by the sea. Pardon me while I go live there for a bit. I may need to go back there a few times in the next month until the autumn, the one redeeming element about Ottawa, colours the trees and cools the breezes. And sends the bloody cicadas into hibernation...

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