Spring Break Dispatch: North of the Border Edition
Written by Bwog Staff
Over the holiday bwog freelancer Kate Linthicum headed north with four friends and a loose agenda: rollick through Buffalo, Toronto and Montreal, make some art, and do it all for cheap.
On Monday we packed ourselves into a borrowed van and fled the city.
Goodbye thesis, goodbye job, goodbye anxieties about post-graduation life.
In Poughkeepsie we stopped at a friend’s house and jumped on his trampoline just to prove to ourselves that we were being spontaneous. Then we rambled west under the bright white sun.
Eight hours later, we arrived at our destination. We were greeted with a feast of corned beef, cabbage and shamrock-shaped sugar cookies.
Mine eyes, I am now happy to report, have seen the glory of St. Patrick’s Day in Buffalo.
We gobbled up the food, swathed ourselves in green, and headed to a famous Irish bar for a taste of the revelry. Several pitchers of beer and too many drinking songs later, we retired to a quieter spot: a place called Nietzsche’s.
I was furtively fashioning some “street art” on a brick wall outside when I accidentally sprayed my entire hand with black paint, a mark of shame that I would have to hide the next day when I handed over my passport at the border of Canada.
We crossed at Niagara. The Falls, unfurling themselves in a Listerine-green fury, should have been humbling, but they weren’t. Bounded on both sides by cheerless high-rise hotels, casinos, and strip clubs, the Falls looked dismal and domesticated.
Later, as we drove at dusk through the gridlocked outskirts of Toronto, I wondered whether Canada wasn’t a bit dismal, too.
But the next day was different. We stopped at The Big Apple, an unapologetically silly roadside attraction on the highway from Toronto to Montreal, which touts the “World’s Largest Apple,” as well as a pie factory. We bought a hot one and ate it in a cafeteria lined with pictures of other “World’s Largest” monuments.
When we got back on the road, we decided to take a detour was due. We drove for miles through fields of sparkling snow before we saw it: The ice-blue waves of Lake Ontario stretching endlessly toward the horizon. We piled out of the car and onto the snowy banks. A storm was moving in, and we watched it skulk towards us across the lake. It filled us with reverence, it made us feel small. It was what Niagara wasn’t.
That night we rolled into Montreal and were pleasantly surprised. The students who had agreed to host us for free on www.couchsurfing.com were wonderful. They cooked us tasty vegan meals and humored our drowsy, late-night philosophizing (Ex: “Does a peach have consciousness?”). Plus, their house was in the middle of Montreal’s lovely Mile End neighborhood, which meant we were blocks from great record stores and cozy bars.
We hung out in Montreal for a few blissful days. Eventually, though, the realization that we’d have to return home sunk in. It came flooding back in frightening, fragmentary memories of unwritten papers, unreturned library books and unanswered e-mails.
On the last day of vacation, as our impending responsibilities loomed larger, I launched one final rebellion: I wandered aimlessly through the snow-covered streets.
I lingered near a playground of screaming students on recess. I let a homeless man babble nonsense at me in French. I ducked into a café and wrote lazily between sips of a perfect café au lait. I put my world was on hold for a few moments longer, and watched this one unfold at my feet.