Novel / Travel / Writing and Reading

The Elevation

Banff-National-Park-602291

Well here I am somewhere in the mountains of Banff. It’s taken a long time to get here. Literally: (eternity on the TTC: 7 mins bus from my front door to Warden station, 1.5 hrs from Warden subway station to Kipling subway station, 30min bus ride to Terminal 1 at Pearson, approx. 10 min wandering around trying to find the desk for Westjet, 10 min sitting in shuttle to Terminal 3, 4hrs in the air to Calgary sitting in 24 D where it was me, then an empty seat then the aisle then the bathroom door – I think the check-in desk guy had a hate for me? – 2 hrs on the Banff Airporter minibus from Calgary to Banff), but also in the sense of how long it’s taken me to work up the nerve to actually send an application to this mythical place. To me The Banff Centre has always been this place real artists go to create more real art (music, theatre, literature, visual art, etc.), not people like me who can’t even squeeze a grant out of an arts council to save my life unless someone has recommended me (thank you DDOAC Writers’ Reserve!). But back in June 2013, I was feeling a little whimsical, a little “what the hey” and applied to this anyway, and through some administration glitch I was let in. (What was that about Opportunity = luck + preparation? I’d like to amend that to luck + preparation + administrative glitch). So the whole trip over I’m looking around me thinking What am I doing here? (Never mind I’m the only brown face I’ve seen so far up here, but like I said “What the hey!” I’m in a very wth mood these days, just throw it out there and see what sticks.) but so far no one has said anything and sent me back to grimy Toronto (sorry dear) so I’m gonna enjoy the ride!

Speaking of ride, on the way over I’ve already seen a couple of deer, plenty of horses, what looked like cows (not very exotic, I know) and we’ve been alerted that some elk might get in our way, in which case we’re supposed to call a number for people who’ll come and shoo them away for us since the males tend to be aggressive. What’s new. And of course there’s talk of bears, what to do and what not to do. To me that’s like when airplane announcers tell you what to do in case of an emergency landing. Yeah, sure. I’ll just play dead.

Quite a few people had warned me that I might have trouble breathing up here. Not out of breathless excitement, haha. But because of the elevation. Thanks to my Addis lungs I am doing fine so far. I kinda knew that would happen. And who better than Wikipedia to validate one’s guesses: it tells me that Addis Ababa lies at an elevation of 7,546 feet and Banff at 4,800 feet. Em, no comment…

So, needless to say I won’t be getting the humidifiers folks in Toronto had advised me to rent from Community Services. But I might need a tranquilizer or two because I’m too freakin’ excited! Well, I’m sure that will stop once the workshops start and our group starts (gently) tearing apart one another’s first chapters of novels. But for now, I am all over myself with how swank all the facilities here are, and definitely can’t wait to try the famous food (all you can eat all day, well hello where have you been all my life!), use all the hell out of the health and fitness facilities, go on a hike or two and remember to not argue with the wildlife.

Ok, back to where all this trouble started, namely this notion to write a novel, then actually get through two drafts (one semi full, one full) of it, and then transform it into this “real” thing by sending its first chapter into the world. Having read everyone else’s first chapter from our group, I must say I do feel more at ease, since none of our works are masterpieces, we all have work to do not just me yay! That’s the problem with reading only published, award-winning books, you forget that those words on the page were arrived at after years of rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. Last night, I met several of our group of seven yesterday at the orientation and reception, 75% of which I missed because I got in so late (sorry I didn’t know I would be travelling to the end of the world) as well as our workshop leader Pauline Holdstock (who I’m sure I’ve already offended with too many inane questions and by shamelessly sucking up to her saying I read two of her books). Everyone seems nice and happy to be here.  Of course, I really wanted to drink but alas I couldn’t because I’m currently on day 3 of a 7 day regimen to eradicate an uninvited guest by the name of Heliobacter Pylori from my stomach lining, eight little pills a day which have had the unexpected but pleasant side effect of really  cleaning me out (someone recently gave me the very wise writing note that my posts weren’t personal enough, well as you can see I’m working on it). Sources tell me that the HP is probably from growing up in Addis (though my doc is too PC to say that outright). Unlike the lung power, this is one gift from my birth city I have no use for. So, out they go. I need to get nice and fat for the bears.

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