Thursday, October 15, 2009


From October 4:

It’s the weekend and my morning starts couldn’t be more different. On Saturday, I drove into the city to tour some neighborhoods I’d been told were hip and affordable. Turned out to be an urban myth, of course. The first area had four businesses on a single block and that was it. Not even a convenience store to pick up the morning paper or a café to get the heart pumping. I’m learning that the word like can be cruelly deceiving. The Glebe is a vibrant part of Ottawa. Other neighborhoods like the Glebe don’t measure up. As much as I’ve taken myself out of the mix by living full-time in a rural setting, I know that I can’t settle for a quasi happening area in the city if I should decide to return to civilization.

I had a couple of other neighborhoods to check out, but when I got back in the car I ended up back in the Glebe. And happy. I picked up a bagel at Kettleman’s to fortify myself and wandered Bank Street, browsing at the storefronts before stopping in a magazine shop and going bonkers on picking out a stack of specialty magazines along with the newspaper. (Urban deprivation takes its toll on the credit card.)

A bagel, plenty of reading material…next stop coffee. My favorite café was so packed, there wasn’t a seat to be found. I heard two mug toting patrons who were searching for a place to settle say, “It’s so loud, I can’t even think.” She said it like it was a bad thing. I soaked in some hip immersion just walking through and moved on to the next possibility only half a block away. Choices! Yes, Dorothy, we’re not in The Sticks anymore. It wasn’t ideal as the only table was beside two screaming preschoolers and their parents who desperately took in the adult hustle and bustle while ignoring the muffin tossing that accompanied their two adorable toddlers, both up and coming Ultimate Fighters. I took my chances, thinking the public spectacle would send the young family on its way in ten minutes or less. (I bet right! Wish I had more luck on the lottery. I’d gladly trade in another half hour of kiddie mayhem for a cool mil. Alas. I’ll take my winnings where I can find them.)

Forty-five minutes later and I was off to Westboro, another happening zone in Ottawa, one that requires a bit more walking than the Glebe. After parking the car, I had to walk down two blocks of seedy folks frequenting a bowling alley and a thrift store and spilling out onto the street for cigs and a lover’s quarrel, with the dueling couple keeping a half block between them as they shouted unpleasantries. Yikes. Not the kind of urban action I wanted to stumble across.

Fortunately, the walk improved as I strolled by chic boutiques for the young mom crowd, bistros, coffeehouses and a magnificent Jewish deli that reminded me of an old hangout, Mort’s in Pacific Palisades, California.

At one time, city life stressed me out—battles for parking, traffic lights (always red, no?!) on every corner and lines in every store. I’ll never idealize the traffic issues, but the rest of the urban busyness on this day calmed and excited me at the same time.

Now it’s Sunday morning and I’m writing this while in a small town Laundromat fifteen minutes away from the family cottage. It’s a happening spot on this particular day, but the Laundromat is one place I don’t want to find a crowd. Sorry, but I have a bit of a hangup folding my underwear in public. I don’t have Kermit the Frog on my boxers or, worse, a flaming red thong, but still, we’re talkin’ undies. And small town. Those scenes of encountering some dreamy dude at the adjacent dryer and having him hand you a renegade sock you dropped don’t happen here. It’s all dowdily dressed moms who keep darting out for another cig break. Nothing like a fresh scent of second hand smoke seeping into my stack of clean clothes. The husbands that come along remain in their pickup trucks listening to Classic Rock, waiting for the women to finish their work. (The one man who ventured in, bragged about how good his three-year-old daughter was a sweeping the kitchen. Nothing like a proud father.)

Saturday, an urban rush; Sunday, pickups in the sticks. There is no comparison.

My rural days may be numbered.

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