Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Post Road Trip Blues

We just recently came back from two glorious weeks on a road trip through Canada's Maritime Provinces: up the center of New Brunswick onto Quebec's Gaspe Peninsula and then back through Acadia, then over to Prince Edward Island and then back into New Brunswick. Two glorious weeks of stunning landscape, great food, and some of the warmest, most friendly people you can imagine.

Then back to Boston. We literally went from this...


 ...to this...



...in 24 hours. The picture of the deer and the images of Boston's Friday afternoon rush hour were taken almost exactly 24 hours apart. One day we were in a small, quiet woodlot by the side of a road in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, watching three deer forage (and they watched us, too) and the next day we were negotiating smelly, hot, noisy Boston.

I have a love/hate relationship with Boston. It's been my home for 35 years now. There are things I absolutely love about it. I appreciate that I live in a place and experience the architecture and history that people travel thousands of miles to visit. I love the nearby ocean and its smell. I love hiking the Blue Hills on a weekday, and being so close to Cape Cod, the White Mountains, and New York City. And while I may not actually love the the city's subway system, locally known as the T, I do like it a lot. But, my nickname for Boston is AngryTown. People here are always seem so angry with one another and the effect is not pleasant. In Canada I realized I was always leery about approaching a stranger, and every time I found the person to be friendly and helpful, willing to share and be open without a hint of malice. I've traveled the world, so I think I'm qualified to say that Boston is not a very friendly city. I will even go as far as to say I've found New York and New Yorkers to be friendlier.  And Boston drivers are abysmally aggressive and sometimes even dangerously so, but the kicker is they actually take pride in that. In Canada, while it only happened about three, maybe four times, but when someone learned we were from Boston, their response was, "Oh, I'm sorry", said humorously, but that's the way polite Canadians get their point across.

So, coming off a trip that was so relaxing because we constantly found ourselves in contact with not only some of the most stupendous natural vistas, but people and a society who right from the get-go shared the same values about the environment, socialism vs. capitalism, and the role of religion made me very nervous about crossing back over the border. Granted, we were mostly traveling in predominantly rural sections. But I honestly can't remember one store or restaurant where there was a television screen, which is so prevalent in the United States, even in rural areas. People, for the most part, eat in restaurants, like they do in Europe, sans phones and television. Occasionally you'd see a young man, withdrawn in his hoodie, hunched over a phone in a Tim Horton's, but that's really about it. And once I do remember in the town of Gaspe--this is the big city in that region, mind you--having breakfast at a delightful combination of store/cafe and a woman, probably coming up on her thirtieth year, upon the waitress placing her breakfast in front of her, pulling out her cell phone and taking a picture of her food as naturally as putting the napkin in her lap. But understand that these examples were definitely not the norm, which made them stand out.

So, I repeat, I can't say I was looking forward to being back in Boston and to a greater extent the United States after decompressing from American society where porcupines were as common as squirrels in the park.  There's the current election. "Three hundred and nineteen million people and those two are the best you could come up with?"asked a former Montreal police officer and a liberal who struck up a conversation with me while I waited to pay for gas. There's the violence, and the threat of violence that I feel everyday. There are the racial and gender issues that are so prominent in the news and my Facebook feed that I think are important but still generate so much fighting and accusation without seeming to resolve anything.

I wondered if what I was feeling upon re-entering the United States was akin to what a person feels upon leaving detox, now clean, but again out on the streets without any real defense against threat or temptation. 

The pace of life jangles my nerves in Boston. It's too fast, too loud, too argumentative. People don't discuss things. They wait for you to stop talking so they can poke holes in what you've said, a legacy of all the colleges and their Aristotelian culture, I think. I do everything I can to defuse it's effects, starting with traveling like we just did, taking road trips on backroads and camping along the way. Sometimes you just have to get away from it all.

In Canada I thought of all of things I do to slow time or create peace in my life. I realized the things I do to connect with my dead parents. The list sounds like a recipe for a commune or a Luddite or even a Buddhist. I don't own a cell phone, nor do I want one. I haven't owned a television for over 10 years; we get all of our information and entertainment through a laptop. I wear an analog watch, long before it was hip and fashionable to do so now. We drive late-model vehicles that are paid for, and I'm certainly not the most fashionably dressed person in the room with old Levis and cowboy boots being my "style", as one of our daughters put it. Sue buys most of her clothes in consignment shops. I run to relieve stress and to think. I bake our own bread, cook our meals from scratch, and air-dry our laundry, just like my mother used to do. I take the train into Boston to especially buy locally grown organic meat and vegetables at Boston Public Market. I shave with a double-edge razor, which reminds me of my father. Every day I offer incense to the Buddha, the minute or so it takes me to do that reminds me there's a spiritual life for me to consider.

Right before we left for Canada I realized I was spending a total of upwards of two hours a day on Facebook. More if you included other social media sites like Twitter and news sites. Two hours a day is 14 hours a week, which is almost two full work days. Imagine, I thought, of what I could have written if I had used that time more prudently. I could have finished a play, started a new one, or worked on short stories. I could have improved my music ability or written more songs.

It always happens after traveling. You try to hang on to what life was like when you were free, thinking this is the way life really should be. And we rarely do that. For now, I'm going to leave this post with that thought. Let's see what happens.

Thank you for listening. And please share your ideas for a more peaceful life, and for combating the day-to-day stresses in your own life.


2 comments:

Lynna said...

I live in Maine, overlooking the ocean, surrounded by woods and deer and rabbits and fishers and raccoons and jays and nuthatches and chickadees and...that's how I cope...

John Greiner-Ferris said...

Sue has a few more years to work before she can receive her pension. We're in Boston for a few more years. But we both love Nova Scotia, and I'm very partial to Quebec. The pace of life in Boston really isn't conducive to creativity, at least for me.

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