The journey starts when i walk out the door
but yet again, i daydream over my coffee and time flakes up and flies away, and i dash out the door with my small black wheely case heavy as fuck (full of what? nothing!), and my daypack stuffed with books and snacks. bump bump bump bump bump down the stairs.
and thus i am out the door, and thus it begins, spat like a seed from home into mystery.
stoked to take the new skytrain – new skytrain! – to the tsawwassen ferry. but the #20 bus driver is surly and she tells me that to get to the ferry i should go the other direction. it is much much faster, she says. so i waffle and wonder…well she is the busdriver, she should know. the other bus approaches from the opposite direction, and i let it slide – intuition says stick with the plan. bus driver shakes her head in vague disgust and tells me again to go south to broadway, not north through downtown. but intuition has spoken and i stick with the plan. i ask her if i’ll make the 3pm ferry this way and she says, no, no way.
ten minutes later the bus stops in front of woodwards in the downtowneastside (and you know what’s coming when you hear that geographic phrase – trouble). an angry man gets on. he insults the grumpy bus driver and walks to the back of the bus and sits down defiantly. bus driver turns on the P.A.: “PLEASE GET OFF THE BUS NOW. SIR.” The guy glares. “PLEASE GET OFF THE BUS NOW OR I WILL CALL THE POLICE. I AM NOT MOVING THIS BUS UNTIL YOU GET OFF.” Bus groans collectively. Angry man calls to the front, “well then call the cops!”. More groans: “c’mon man, people got places to go”… … he sits tight. Clock ticks faster, air gets thinner. Bus driver calls 911. No one moves. I lean my head against the cool bus window, exhale and close my eyes. guess i won’t be on that ferry. no that ferry is not meant for me.
i decide to abandon time at that point, since it is doing me no good and appears to be entirely beyond my control.
another trolley pulls up behind the stalemated bus. there is a shuffling of overhead poles and wires, we all get off the bus, we all get on the other bus. the angry guy gets down off the first bus and stomps away. there is a collective sigh and shaking of heads. trolley rolls on and the journey continues.
to the skytrain! – my virgin run on this new marvel, this glowing new Canada Line – a curved gothic halfpipe like the Toronto subway, shiny with new tiles and pale wood beams framing glass atria all full up with sky. i sit in the back pilot seat. new views, veritable vistas, stunning panoramas. a trippy new metal bridge unrolls over the fraser, scrolling out behind the train – white and zen lacy, suspended on just one beam, with pedestrian walks canted out beneath the track. A brave new world indeed. Gliding into Bridgeport station (aha! the bridge, the port!) – and there in a puff of destiny is the #620 ferry terminal bus, pulling into the bay. The bus skims through the Delta farmland, past cranberry fields and the sodden weight of burns bog, past stables and boarded up vegetable stands. The Ladner Exchange stands sentry as ever, opposite the lacrosse box on the edge of the world.
At the Ladner exchange i succumb to temptation, sneak out my cel phone to check the clock: 2:06. ferry doesn’t go til 3. somewhere on the skytrain time has paused, and strangely, i arrive at the ferry dock with plenty to spare.
The ferry is new too, another massive chunk of Olympic-inspired infrastructure. Not simply a Queen but a Spirit. It is a honkin big ferry with lots of things to do and buy. but i settle into a softly upholstered seat and gaze at the mist, passing through storms’ eyes, jolts of sunshine, glancing realities. eyes, unfocused on water and sky.
At Swartz Bay i am surprised, by a pickup from Mahatma Slim in his bitchin’ ’81 toyota celica. taken aback, i admire his car. i admire this car. it is low and red with a white stripe over the back of the roof at a quietly rakish angle, the sort of car your parents would have bought if they liked starsky and hutch. worn black leather seats and bright pink leather-covered steering wheel. weirdly cool and very Mahatma. i climb over the steering wheel into the passenger seat and a whole new city unfolds over the dashboard – victoria – exotica! it has just that sort of smell.
for two nights in victoria i dance and hang, with mahatma and romina. time hangs too, evaporates. i am all up on the sweetness of friends and the mystery of the moment. i walk around oak bay, smelling its mild victorian tang, finding flowers for my hat on its bordered lawns.
early on easter monday morning, mahatma takes me to the train station in the bitchin’ red celica. i like the cold metal stairs, how smooth and heavy they fold down to the platform. and the old wooden carts for luggage with their giant steel wheels. i climb up and the train guy hefts my black wheely case up to me, jammed heavy with whatthefuck. trestles and tracks, clatters and clangs. the call of the whistle, metal songs. the train crawls up the malahat, spins over chasms hundreds of feet above rapid gorges, inching over, suspended in air. weaving toward courtenay, the end of the line.
at courtenay station there are people in cars picking people up, but none in the parking lot who look like possible rides to campbell river. so i head down the road, through the quiet streets, downhill toward the ocean and the old island highway, with my black wheely case rumbling behind. i cross the highway and station myself near a turnout, and stick out my thumb. my sad little hook of a thumb in its purple glove, it looks so small; the highway, so wide. the sky is bright, bands of cloud blowing by. no one is stopping. put the hat on, take the hat off. smile a bit, try to look friendly but not crazy, self-sufficient and only slightly needy. no one stopping. occasionally a driver shrugs apologetically in my direction and i think sarcastically, oh yeah buddy, i’m sure YOU would have been the one that stopped if you didn’t have that van full of junk to transport. sure bud. but i still feel slightly and embarrasingly grateful for the shrug; for the non-averted eye.
it gets cold. clouds over and starts to rain. i put on my scarf and put up my umbrella, then take it down, too much. allow myself just a twinge of self-pity, and turn up the pathetic dial just a notch.
finally (though really it has been less than half an hour) a car pulls past me and at first i don’t even notice that it has pulled over and stopped, so focused i am on the approaching cars. then i turn my head and i see it, like a glad hallucination. i jog toward the car along the road shoulder, flipping the stupid fucking wheely thing over into a puddle. yank it up and trot alongside the car, which contains two smiling native guys, on their way to campbell river – “on a mercy mission to see my daughter” says the older guy behind the wheel, a kind-faced man named jack who knows cortes island, says he goes there yearly for an intertribal AA gathering on the res. i tell him about dorje ling and write the info in his notebook, in case anyone ever needs a place to stay. he writes his info in my notebook and tells me if i am ever stuck in courtenay and need help, i should call.
jack drops me off at the ferry terminal in campbell river, with 15 min. to spare before the ferry. i buy my ferry ticket and beeline it to the cortes-bound car lane. i spot a woman in a red car and i know she is the one. she moves a flat of pansies off the front seat to the back, i climb in, the ferry loads and we are off across the choppy sea. the woman, dana, could have dropped me right at moonhill, since she is going through to smelt bay – but i want to see ray at owl cottage in whaletown, so she drops me at his place. i almost cry when i see ray and diane, her hands covered in white clay dust from making a new pot, ray proud of his fine new toolshed and a little awkward in his gladness to see me.
i was thinking i’d stay the night with ray and diane but ray is up for a drive, so he takes me to romina’s, and i settle in on her bed with her cats, knowing she is cozy back in my apartment in east van. i sleep for twelve hours, all the time needed for dreams.
Journey, part one. here i be.