4.33 Interlude


In the afternoon on the second day, I had a total meltdown on a lonely long stretch of two-lane blacktop. Crossing the halfway point in my three-day trip, the You Suck voice came on strong and threatening: You're not going to make it. You never finish anything. You're weak and this was a stupid idea. Give up. The day before, I set off on a 120 km walk from Toronto to the Niagara Falls region. I had good reason, it wasn't like I went out for a walk and decided, hell, let's keep going for another 100 km's. This was an experiment in immersive writing. A few years ago, I wrote a book called The Walking Man about a guy who walks from Toronto to New York. It got some interest from publishers and agents, but that interest petered out pretty quickly. Wayson Choy took me under his wing and said, Until you realize that the guy in the book is you, it'll never come alive. I'm sure he didn't mean for me to take this literally.

Although I can already be my own worst critic, after much thought, I came to realize something was missing from the book. For a variety of reasons, getting dumped had much to do with all this because I started writing in a different way. Heartbreak is good fodder for fiction. The old drafts of the book didn't match up with where I found myself. Plus, I have other stories to tell but felt I couldn't get to them until I gave The Walking Man one more damn shot.

So, I figured there was only one way to end all this and decided to do my own walk in order to just get an idea of what it physically took to do something like this. At first, ambition got the best of me and I planned on walking all the way to New York. And then you meet certain people at the right time and someone put the question to me of why I was wanting to go to New York? All I could answer was that it was in the story. But the old drafts of the book were not really my story anymore. I picked a different destination and plus, it was much more manageable. Cause, come on, I'm dedicated to my art, but I have certain limitations as a human being. And I ain't as young as I used to be.

I set off in the early morning, a route around the lake. From maps, there basically is a path that goes from Toronto to Niagara Falls. I brought with me minimal supplies: change of clothes, light jacket, toiletries, energy bars, knife, compass, compact sleeping bag and poncho. The one thing I didn't take into consideration was to invest in a good pair of walking shoes. My downfall.

The sun was already hot and it wasn't even mid-morning. As soon as I got out of the city, there really was nothing around. For much of the first day, the lake wasn't even accessible as wealthy people bought up most of the land and the building of big waterfront houses seemed to be the trend. There were no people anywhere and I was mostly walking along on my own. Halfway through the day, a man dressed all in black appeared behind me. I hesitate to say he was following me, but he seemed to be keeping up in the same speed as me. About an hour later, I looked back and he was gone.

The blisters started in the late afternoon. What I failed to take into account was the fact that when walking for eight hours, your feet swell and your shoes tighten. You start compensating, limping, causing pains in other parts of your body.

My other ambition was to just sleep when I got tired. Anywhere, out in the woods or in a park. But by the time I reached my goal for the first day, I desperately needed food that wasn't an energy bar, needed to get these shoes off my feet and had such a strong desire for a hot shower that I found a crappy motel and happily checked in. The balls of my feet ached but I won't get into details of the horrendous blisters. When I limped outside to get something to eat, the man in black was checking into the motel. Or at least I thought it was the same guy. My mind could've been playing tricks on me at that point.

Started back early the next day but my shoes were killing me. Stopped, took out my knife, a knife that a friend of mine gave me as a present after a trip to Mexico. I bought these shoes specifically for this trip, didn't care about them and so tried to cut a hole on the side where they rubbed against the main blisters. I say tried because the knife bent right away. I also brought it for protection, but obviously it wouldn't have caused any damage except comic relief. After much strain, I finally poked a hole and ripped enough room so I could keep going.

The path sometimes veered up to a road running along the highway. The sun was goddamn blistering and this was where I had a meltdown. Stopped, sat in the long grass beside the road. Wondered what the hell I was doing with my life and all that stuff. Got it out of the way and kept going. I carried the jacket tucked into the strap of my backpack. My wallet - and all identification and money - in the pocket. The entire time I was paranoid of losing the jacket and the wallet. Nearing my last stop, I transferred the wallet into my back pocket. Not until I was safe in my second crappy motel did I notice the jacket gone. There is something comfortably lonely about motels, especially crappy ones. The retro - in a bad way - design of the carpets, the ability to make a mess and have someone else clean it up, the tiny shampoos, cracks in the bathroom tiles. For some odd reason, I feel at home.

As I arrived at my destination, I had a secret of what I just achieved. A good kind of secret. Sure, I wasn't on the road for a long period, but the time I did spend alone allowed me to unlock certain things about what I was writing and why I was writing it. The physical exertion became a moving meditation and I was able to remove myself from everything and get some goddamn clarity. The rest of the details are saved for the book, but one more: later in the evening as I was limping to get something to eat, a family checked into the motel. A young boy wore the same jacket as the one I lost. Walking by them, and on closer inspection, it was unmistakenly mine. I let him have it, looked good on him.

The book is now merging with what I've been writing on this blog the past few months. I think it's good, which is a big thing for me to say. I arrived home with an ending, and a strong idea on how to wrap it up. So, I'm going to have to slow down on this blog for a little bit as I concentrate on the book. I've become so obsessed and working so hard on the book that I'm finding it difficult to keep going on the blog. Not that anyone will miss it. Plus, people are probably getting tired of hearing about me getting dumped. Just think of it as an interlude. In the middle of the Leos Carax film Holy Motors, he does the same thing. All I need is an accordion: