My dad was, in most ways, a creature of habit. In his later years he took some chances and let himself explore outside of his comfort zone a little more, taking up swing dancing, travelling more, making new friends, and trying new foods. It was only later in life that he'd let me start taking him for lunch, settling on an amazing little Indian restaurant in Laval as our go-to lunch place. Growing up, on the rare occasions we'd head out to restaurants, I always knew what the choices were: Bill Wong's [RIP], Harvey's or, on a really special occasion, Le Biftèque. On Sundays, after church, we'd all head over to the Montreal Pool Room on St-Laurent - comfortably nestled between a shady army surplus shop with blacked-out windows and a busy all-day strip club [sans blacked-out windows] - and impatiently wait in the car while my dad went inside to purchase hot dogs, fries and soda. He'd return with a big carton of the stuff, and my sisters, parents and I would sit in the Chevy Impala / Buick Century / Buick Century / Buick Century, parked right there on St-Laurent in the sweltering Sunday afternoon sun, eating greasy fries and steamed hotdogs, doing our best not to squirt ketchup or drop onion chunks onto the brown / burgundy / grey velour seats. After stuffing our faces with unredeemingly unhealthy junk food, we'd head up to St-Viateur Bagel to get a dozen (or two) freshly-baked bagels. Today, fresh Montreal bagels are at the top of my favourite foods list, but back in those days, the combination of the aforementioned greasy fast food and the raging sea-sickness induced by the yacht-like ride in my dad's car left me with a distaste for those fresh, warm, delicious bagels. Of course, the next morning, I would beg for them for breakfast.
"Hey, Chris, isn't that your dog?" asked the scruffy-looking guy to his even scruffier-looking friend.
His friends' gaze turned away from his grilling chicken breasts and towards me and Ryu. "No, wait... well, one second now... hey hold up man, where'd you get that dog? Is that my dog?"
"Nah man," I replied, gripping Ryu's leash tighter as I sensed him sensing my apprehension, "this ain't your dog."
"Chris, I think that's your dog, man." The less-scruffy dude started to approach us.
"Listen, guys, I can assure you that this is not your dog," I replied, my tone growing deeper. "He will be more than happy to convince you himself if you get any closer." That, of course, was an outright lie. Ryu would sooner roll over onto his back and offer up his tummy for rubs than defend me from brigands.
"Nah nah, that's not my dog, let'em go Bryce." He turned to me as I continued to walk away; "Sorry man, it's just that I've got a dog just like that."
Of course you do. Two mean looking brothers dressed in parkas and running shoes, grilling their dinner at 8pm in the parking lot of the Extended Stay Hotel here in Fort Wayne, Indiana, have a dog that looks exactly like mine. I was tired after a good 10 hours of winter driving from Steven's Point, Wisconsin - 8 hours of meandering around the Great Lakes, through Chicago Traffic, and getting hoplessly lost in Fort Wayne in that Hemi Dodge Charger with nothing but quick pit-stops. I was exhausted, impatient, and my tolerance for bullshit was near its all-time low - and I was certainly not going to get jumped, scammed or mugged.
I like trains. Well, not the trains themselves, maybe - but the idea of trains. Things on rails don't really ever get lost. And it's not that I'm worried about getting lost; some of my best memories are from places I'd never thought I'd find myself in. Rather, I'm fascinated by the idea of the tracks themselves - they are unidimensional. They have a start and an end, and everything in between is unyielding. Someone long ago decided that "this is where the first station will be, and the last will be over there." Entire nations have been built on this concept, trading posts and villages sprouting up like daisies along where the tracks briefly slide into a train station, only to disappear again into the distance. The rails are a work of art, like a sculpture designed long ago by some artist who would never have guessed that thousands upon thousands of people would one day be sliding back and forth in air-conditioned, web-enabled little cars. In my case, I was sliding towards the Hudson valley, across northern New York State, in this, the first part of a multi-leg trip across the United States.
As per my usual modus operandi, I'm writing about Medellin after I've been back in Montreal for a few days. The various memories 6 or so weeks I spent in The City Of Eternal Spring have had enough time to soak amongst the various synapses that connect them to each other. I'm going to write about some random, disjointed events I happen to remember from my trip, and then some overall impressions on the city and the country. I will limit my thoughts to those lucid enough to make sense when written down. This generally - but not always - excludes those wherein I'd already consumed a certain amount of Club Colombia or, more unfortunately, aguardiente.
I already wrote about my
initial second impressions of Budapest, and not much has changed about that, though I did finally meet Hugues Lantuit, President of the Permafrost Young Researchers Network, in person, and we hung out for lots of the conference. Like most of the people at WAYS, he's a total overachiever with a sharp wit and a wicked sense of humor. He also curses like a sailor, as I would soon find out. During the conference, I didn't have very much time to explore the city, but the WSF receptions on Thursday and Friday were pretty great.
Thursday morning, during the incredible breakfast at the hotel – the Hungarians know how to fry a sausage, let me tell you – I met up with Hugues and we walked up Vaci Utca (a beautiful, beautiful pedestrian walking street along the Danube lined with trendy shops) to the Hungarian Academy of Science, just before the Parliament. Security was rather tight with the presidents of four countries there, but we got in without incident, checked our coats, and met up with some other WAYS members in the main hall. With the 'Heads of State' sessions starting, Daniel Mietchen (Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences), his girlfriend Ji Hyun, Mande Holford, Michael Fischer (founder of the World Lecture Project, and of course Gaell Mainguy, President of WAYS, joined us. The heads of state panel was, well, everything I had hoped for, and let's leave it at that. The president of the Hellenic Republic, though, gave a passionate and relevant speech about serious need for change in our attitudes on the environment.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, Montreal, Tuesday November 6th 13:30
Are plane seats getting smaller and smaller, or am I get bigger? I mean, I'm not a big person, but the width of my shoulders spills out past both edges of my seat. Sitting on a Delta Airlines flight from Montreal to New York - the first half of a trip to Budapest for the World Science Forum, thanks to of UNESCO and the World Academy of Young Scientists - I'm in a aisle seat (utterly necessary, as I get up as often as prescribed by my claustrophobia and small bladder), near the middle of the plane. Oddly, I'm in a very good mood, though I'm uncertain as to why exactly. I found a great power suit foraging through my Dad's old closet that turned out to be a perfect fit, the weather was beautiful, I'm looking rather dapper if I don't say so myself, and the very cute, latin-looking flight attendant keeps smiling at me. Preparing for takeoff, she approaches the people sitting a couple rows in front of me...