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Saturday, August 06, 2005

There's something about summer evenings that bothers me. Summer nights are lovely and so are summer mornings. And winter evenings are kind of bittersweet. But the long late afternoons of summer, particularly this far north, just seem mournful. I don't know why.

We drove out into the Eastern Townships on a whim today. I'd got through pretty much all the notes I had to work on, so we drove out even though it was already 2:30. The townships felt deserted. Where was everyone? Weren't they supposed to be in the country? If they were, they were all hiding in their country houses.

I am not much of a country person. I thought I was, because I so enjoy spending time in my parents' country house in East Hampton. But East Hampton is not real country, of course. It is as far from real country as you can get. It has real potato farms, yes, but at this point they are there mostly to give summer houses a view. When you spend the weekend in the Hamptons, there are good odds of at least two and maybe three dinner parties, with a couple cocktail parties if you really have to. And lunches. You don't go to the Hamptons to get away from it all. You go to the Hamptons to get into the thick of it.

Here in Montreal people seem to have country houses to actually get away from it all. Which is kind of funny for a New Yorker like me. Montreal is the least stressed out city I would ever consider living in. Try getting someone in showbiz on the phone after five here. You better know their cell phone, they won't be at the office.

It turns out there is not that much to do in the country if you are only visiting. My neighbor seems to have solved that problem by buying a farm. This is much better than buying the farm, but it is also much more work. He works on his country house to fix it up, which any home owner knows is an endless project, something like the way the moment they finish painting the Golden Gate Bridge, they start all over again from the other end. He has cleverly arranged to let one neighbor graze on his hayfields and another to pick his apples, thus lightening the burden at the risk of operating a personal charity.

But if you do not own a farm, you can taste Quebec's not very good wines, or its excellent ciders, or go antiquing. After you have tasted the ciders and filled your house up with antiques, you are left with the long sad summer evening, and the feeling that somewhere magic is happening, but they forgot to send you the memo. I've always had a yearning to go where the magic was, and I've done a lot of chasing after it. I have followed various spiritual paths, from Quaker meeting to Wicca, but spirituality does not come naturally to me. I did theater in high school, chasing that intense feeling of family. Now, I have a real family, but a small one, and families are about ordinary magic, the kind of ordinary miracle that fresh bread is. So I try to create the magic in the writing, and hope someone will put it onscreen so I can receive it back, transmuted into something living, and not just my own fading dream of it.

Summer nights are easier. All nights are easier. You can roll up the sidewalks of your world, and draw the blinds on your own island of warmth. And every night, that is enough, and I am fulfilled.


I think that you have missed the road, though if you are looking for people in the Townships then drive through Venise-au-Quebec on a summer afternoon in late July. The backroads are for viewing a world going by the window, to stop at a scenic view or a municipal park and enjoy some local food. To discover the diner where poutine was born because of a wrong turn that worked out just right or to find a roadside vegetable stand where the green beans are still wet and fresh from the field. It is out where the Swiss immigrants are making fine cheeses on farms that they have renewed with their diligence and good cheer for a quarter what it would have cost them in Europe. A trip into the countryside is not about the right road or the perfect place, it is about the sudden stops and the serendipitty moments that create memories.

By Blogger Hawise, at 9:32 AM  

Ah - then you should move to London. We're in the middle of our "summer" right now and let me tell you, it's not much to write home about. A handful of over 80 days and then the rest either overcast or sunny but feeling like early September. If you want the feeling of perpetual Autumn, the UK's the place for you.

By Blogger The Gambino Crime Family, at 11:15 AM  

Ah - then you should move to London. We're in the middle of our "summer" right now and let me tell you, it's not much to write home about. A handful of over 80 days and then the rest either overcast or sunny but feeling like early September. If you want the feeling of perpetual Autumn, the UK's the place for you.place for you.

By Blogger The Gambino Crime Family, at 11:23 AM  

I live in NYC and am American and was always disappointed in myself that I had never traveled to Canada. So a couple of years ago, I hooked myself up with one of those last minute hotel fares from some wizard site like Priceline. Combined with the favorable exchange rate (for us), it was like $25 a night to stay in a good Comfort Inn outside Montreal.

So I committed to the whole month of September and took the Amtrak from Penn Station. I was pleasantly surprised that I could get from Manhattan to downtown Montreal for only $60.

I had a grand time, and I agree that Montreal is pretty low-key. What a great little city. It's the sort of place I'd like to live one day.

I started but never finished a screenplay while I was there. It was comforting to me that I didn't know a single other person in the whole country. It was just one of those Septembers, and Montreal performed as advertised. Every time I read your Montreal-related posts, I can't help but get a little envious. Envious, too, that you get out 10-20 pages a day.

By Blogger Andrew, at 3:41 PM  

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