Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Into The Blue, Part II: Home Between Homes

The drive from Edmonton to Winnipeg is a long one, 13 to 15 hours, and it's a drive I've made several times. So many times in fact, there is a greasy spoon restaurant at the halfway point, somewhere between Saskatoon and Regina, which I try to stop at every time I make the drive. There's an older woman who works there, and I swear she must live there, because she's been on every time I've dropped by. She's come to recognize me, and we always shoot the shit when I stop by. This time I told her it'd likely be the last time we had our little talks. I was moving to Halifax.

I'd originally planned on driving the whole way to Halifax from Edmonton. Over half the country. 5000+ km in a week. That's a significant portion of PLANET EARTH. Thank God for my Mom, she talked me out of it. In the end I organized to have my stuff moved from Edmonton to Halifax, then I'd drive to Winnipeg and spend a week there, and ship my car from there. A week in my hometown was exactly what I needed before my trek into the great unknown.

I sang my heart out in the car, as I left one life behind and headed towards a new one. Blown Wide Open by Big Wreck will now forever be linked in my mind to that drive. I'm not as young as I once was. I used to do the drive in one go during a blizzard without any problems (other than the aforementioned blizzard), this time I nearly fell asleep at the wheel several times. I even drifted off the road a bit at one point, not proud of that. Fortunately it's the last time I'll be making that drive. When I finally arrived at my Mom's house in Winnipeg, I immediately fell asleep.

The next day I woke up to my brother giving me breakfast. My brother and I have a funny relationship. I love him to death and am so proud of him, but when I'm away we don't talk much. I talk to my parents at least once every few weeks, but my brother and I can go months without talking. But whenever I'm back in Winnipeg it's like I was never gone, and we pick up right where we left off.

I went to Home Depot to say hi to Kristina at work and hung out with her a bit. Always great to see her. She invited me over to her place where I had a really cool chat with her parents about ambition. Kristina and I briefly dated when we were younger, and at the time I was a punk kid, so it was kind of cool to show them I wasn't the loser I'd been when they first met me. I actually related quite a bit with her dad about goals in life and how to achieve them. Afterwards Kristina and I went to BDI for ice cream, a Winnipeg tradition!

I'd made plans with several Winnipeg friends to at least have coffee and catch up, but I knew there was a good chance they'd fall through. That's just how it is. I've been gone 2 years. Their lives have continued on, and they have their own things going on. I had plans to meet up with Brett & Tim to catch up over coffee, but they have their own things going on. Brett is still doing army stuff, and Tim is in school taking psychology. Nikki and I were going to get together for dinner with Jeff and Scott. But she is now engaged and pregnant! I'd hoped to meet up with Andi for one of our late-night chats, but she works at a bar now and is in a partying stage in her life. So none of those things ended up forming. It was a weird feeling realizing, in many ways, Winnipeg was no longer home.

It's largely on me though, I failed to maintain most of my Winnipeg friendships. I was out in Edmonton discovering who I was as an independent person and needed some space from the bulk of my Winnipeg life, and now I'm just not the same person I was when I lived there. I don't plan on letting that happen with my Edmonton friends.

Winnipeg will always be home in a different way though. I love my family, and it's always great to see them. I stayed at my Mom's place with my brother and uncle. The first 2 nights we had some good ol-fashioned family nights. Watched TV and/or a movie while eating takeout or BBQ. Simba was Simba. I wonder if he even remembers me.

I couldn't sleep that night. Ever since I'd arrived in Winnipeg I had a very unsettling feeling I couldn't quite put my finger on. So I decided to drive around the city. One thing I love about Winnipeg is the streets are EMPTY at night. I always loved driving the city at night. I drove by all the houses I'd lived in growing up. I drove by the Rogers Video I worked at before moving to Edmonton. Last time I visited Winnipeg I found out it was being closed down, and sure enough it was gutted with a For Lease sign up. It was a weird feeling. For what it was, it had been a great job and I'd made some great friends there. I then realized every place I'd ever worked in Winnipeg was now closed. Pita Pazzaz, Badass Jack's, the Salisbury House Chad and I worked at when we met, and now Rogers Video. It was actually really weird visiting Winnipeg without Chad being there. As I drove back to my Mom's to try again for sleep I realized what the unsettling feeling had been. I was currently homeless. And more than just a technicality. Edmonton was now behind me. I knew I wouldn't be seeing it again for some time. I was a visitor in Winnipeg, studying the relics of a life I once had. And Halifax was a mystery ahead, I really had no idea what to expect. It left me feeling very vulnerable and lost.

I slept downstairs on a couch. When I was a teenager I had lived in this basement. I walked around looking at the evidence. Tape and pin-holes on the wall from where I'd hung my posters, marks from where my computer desk had been, etc. It was impossible to believe I had once been that kid. Content working minimum wage at an unfulfilling job because "the less you have, the less you need". I see now it was a lifestyle that revolved around one hidden, but paramount cop-out. If you don't try, you can't fail.

The next day Kristina and I drove down to Gimli for the day. The last time I'd been there was before my road-trip 3-4 years ago when I used to make the drive for highway driving practice. Ironically it feels like a mini Halifax, on a big lake. It was a fun day, though quite windy. Afterwards we drove back and caught Scott Pilgrim at St. Vital mall.

The day after that I had brunch with Ashley, one of the few plans that did come to fruition. It's become a tradition for us to have brunch whenever I'm in town, and we always end up taking the exact same picture of each other, every time.

I spent the rest of the week out at the lake with my Dad, Andrea and my brother. I missed the lake. Going out to the lake doesn't seem like it's a common thing in Alberta, but I grew up going dozens of times over the summer. It was like old times, when Derek and I were kids and we'd spend weeks at the lake (or going lake to lake with a canoe). We stayed up until almost 4:00 AM making hotdogs on the fire and talking about science, philosophy and life, much to Andrea's dismay. It was so weird to go from the life I'd created in Edmonton, to the life I grew up in in Winnipeg, before leaving to Halifax for a 3rd, brand new life.

And like that, it was over. My car was picked up for shipment, so my Mom drove me to the airport. I hugged her before walking to customs. A part of me hated it. By my own nature, I'm a person who likes to set down roots. And I'm a family guy. I missed living in the same city as my family. I missed living in a city where I had decades of history. But now it feels like it's forbidden. I've grown to equate returning to Winnipeg with failure. Nothing against the city or the people there, but it wasn't until I moved away from my hometown that I discovered true independence and ambition, and to return would somehow feel like regression. It doesn't matter though, there's no studios in Winnipeg anyway. It makes me angry sometimes that to get what I want out of life, I have to leave behind what I want out of life, either way.

On the plane I was seated next to a 10 year old girl who clearly had a crush on me. It was cute, and we chatted for a while. She freaked out when I told her what I do for a living; she thought it was so cool! It's things like that that remind me how lucky I am do be doing something I love for a living.

There was a transfer in Toronto, and after a short wait in the airport I was on the second flight. This one there was no one to talk to and I had a bit of time to reflect on it all. The moment this plane touched down, I'd have a new home...

Location:Sackville St,Halifax,Canada


Nathan said...

Thanks for keeping us posted, Dale. Just like you implied, none of us want the friendship to founder while you're gone either. So here's to keeping in touch! =)

akilla said...

Interesting story ...but please be careful with your driving. Concerned that you nearly fell asleep at the wheel a few times - this is potentialy deadly. For your interest check out our educational website on drowsy driving at
Have a happy and safe trip.