Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vacation in Muskoka

I've been at Wayne's cottage for three days now and am going home today.  He's a former teacher of mine who I met again at a dinner party given by a friend of my father's and he invited me up to his beautiful family cottage north of Huntsville near Burke's Falls, Ontario.  I was looking forward to going for a couple of reasons, one being that I recently discovered that my teacher's from high school were all living breathing human beings with lives and hopes and dreams of their own.  I think in my youth I largely ignored that fact, as one ignores the fact that their parents are people and just sees them as a parent.  The other thing is I had some extra vacation time and a week away, particularly while I was trying to quit smoking, sounded appealing.

On Sunday I went to the AIDS walk with my mom and step-dad and it was a great experience, I am fortunate that so many wonderful people pledged me.  I really appreciate that.  Afterward we went over to the Word on the Street, Canada's largest book fair.  An author named Brian Francis was reading from his new book "Natural Order", a story of an elderly Ontario woman.  The author began with the idea of shame around deaths from AIDS in the early part of the disease, and wondered how these people felt now that there was more acceptance.  How did they feel about the cover ups and lies and decisions they made at the time, and that is largely what the book is about.  I was anxious to go as the author lives in Toronto and as I have aged I have also developed more appreciation for local talent. I remember a time where I mostly read John Grisham or Stephen King or very commercial authors like that and now I am interested in local people and the art of others similar to me with similar experiences. I find it very satisfying to go and see a play with an actor I have met, or see music from a local band, or read the writing of another gay Ontario man.  The reading was fantastic and meeting the author was great, although I still didn't have my voice back fully from my recent flu, however it has now come back more or less 100%. I mentioned to the author the book club I am involved with and he said he would be interested in going to one of our meeting to discuss his book which sounds amazing.  I am looking forward to that and plan to contact the local paper and produce flyers to publicize the event, it would be great to get a huge turnout both for the author Brian Francis and for the club.
Over the course of the next three days I quickly devoured the book. It was great, near the end I started to read more slowly as I felt that at the end my heart was going to break, and it did, although not as badly as I had feared.

From the word on the street I spent the night at my mom's in Minden and then went to meet Wayne my former teacher and off to his cottage.
On the way we stopped in Huntsville and went to a lookout, notice the little island in the middle right:
I thought this little island looked like a cool place.
This is the town of Huntsville:
I thought this house looked cool:
This is a nearby dam:

Wayne's cottage is a beautiful property right on the lake with boats and a huge porch.  My memory of growing up is that when I was 10 or so we moved from Toronto to a small town and I remember not wanting to go.  This coloured my opinion of small rural living for about the next 20 years and it's only recently that I stopped coming up here with a feeling of dread, as if my entire world were being ripped away from me.  I still can't say I really enjoy it, but it is less painful and I am more apt now to look around and enjoy my surroundings.
When we got here Wayne quickly decided we should go out in a boat and asked whether I wanted the paddle foot boat or the canoe.  I opted for the paddle boat and we went out into the bay and it was quite enjoyable, although still quite hot.  I think Wayne had some trouble steering so we quickly gave that up and soon went on a hike in the bush.  The bush is not my best friend, and although I'm glad I went on the hike, I spent most of it staring at my feet, trying not to step on poison ivy, or a snake, or run into anything like a bear, which he said frequented the woods. By the time we got back I was quite glad the forecast for the next couple days called for rain as it might put an end to the parade of activities that had yet to allow me to sit down.
We did go to the home of a nearby artist who makes sculptures from cement:

This is Wayne:

This is the guy's house. His chimney is a dragon and smoke comes out his mouth when the fire is lit.  A bit over the top perhaps. I just kept thinking about the resale value.

Supper every night has been wonderful but there's a lot of preparation involved when you have to source all the ingredients yourself from the land, pick and wash everything and clean the meat.  Wayne's sister Pam and her boyfriend live here full time and are quite into the land, having spent the day I arrived picked cranberries from the bog and shooting partridge. This also must be tiring as everyone here was in bed by 8:45 pm.

The next day everyone got up around 5 or so except me, and the big controversy in the morning was that someone had raided the pudding in the night.  Pam had made a fruit pie covered with biscuits and fruit she had picked and apparently someone had eaten some of it in the night.  I finally fessed up and wasn't run out of town on a rail although I'm not sure they appreciated it and may still be lying in wait to give me my come-uppance.  It was sitting on the counter and was the only thing readily accessible and I always eat in the night. Oh, well.  Shortly after rising I was asked about fifteen times or so if I wanted breakfast and after the 15th "NO!" they gave me fruit and yogurt.  "I just finished a huge pudding hours before!" I wanted to say, but didn't want to get them started on that again, so I quietly ate my meal.  We got up and Wayne decided we should now try the canoe. I have only been in a canoe once before, when I was 19 or so my partner at the time and I and another couple camped somewhere only accessible by canoe. I remember it involved a portage and the canoe ride seemed never ending, we were in the thing for hours, and I really didn't want to try it ever again.  It didn't seem to be a question however and before you know it I was in the canoe.  The thing was so tippy every muscle in my body was tensed. If I relaxed one muscle at the back of my elbow the thing would heave violently to one side and threaten to tip so I tried not to breathe for the entire ride.  Wayne would talk about the scenery and I'd move my head for half a second, say "YES!" and then move back into position to prevent a tip over. Eventually we made it back and Wayne said something like "That wasn't so bad" and I said "It was a spin through Hell for me". It may shock you but I can sometimes be a little blunt or direct, and I'm not sure how that's gone over with Wayne. He's so quiet and reserved. I gave him a book on the life of Phil Andros when I arrived and he said he would need a shower after reading 50 pages of it. I offered to take it back but he said "No, I didn't say I didn't like it" and who knows what that means. I feel sometimes as if I may be offending his delicate sensibilities, but then he'll tell a bawdy joke and appear to get right in there. He's a riddle inside an enigma.

Yesterday Wayne had a meeting to go to for most of the day. I got up and took some great photos of the sun rise, it was coming up behind me, but you get the idea. Then went back to my room and watched some tv, napped and read for most of the day. It was quite nice and gave me the relaxation I needed. 

This is the sun set that night from another vantage point.

Today it's 8:47 and I'm taking the bus back to Toronto at 2:30. I have a play tonight at 8 in the city.  I'm kind of hesitant to get out of bed as these people watch the news incessantly and I don't like TV and can't read while it's on. Also I know the second I step outside I will be hounded to eat something so I may hide hear a little longer.


We had some time to kill today before the bus from Gravenhurst so Wayne and I stopped off at a local nursery to see their "giant straw maze". Turns out the maze was only giant if you were 3 feet tall but it was still fun and they had lots of cool tableaux set up with pumpkins.

This one is my favourite, the magician cutting the woman in half:

There was a long train and this at the start of the tracks, also so cool! They just needed a pumpkin Snidely Whiplash.

From there on to a park with a waterfall as we still had more time before the bus came. I love the beach in the distance, I wonder if there's a time you could sit on it on a nice day when it wasn't full of children?

Wayne looking serious.  I said "SMILE!"

and then the bus.
I noticed the bus had WiFi and took my laptop so I got to surf the net for a while before the battery died just outside of Barrie. I noticed a plug on the bus and got off to get my cord out of my bag but the driver decided to let 300 people on before he let me at my bag. After about person 250 I realized the seat beside me would now be full and I had left my bag on the aisle seat - the outlet was on the window seat!  I raced back on the bus as the driver was calling "Once all these people are on you can access your bag!" and found some damn woman sitting in the window seat. As I didn't think she'd let me drape my computer cord across her lap, that was the end of that idea and I sat back, resigned.
I have been getting progressively more grumpy about this smoking thing and with nothing to do, this woman decides this is a good time to brush out her hair for an hour. The whole trip this woman is brushing and flicking her long hair all over me and it's all I can do not to grab it all pull it out by the roots. Once we hit Yorkville, I made a dash for the exit and took the subway downtown. The bus passed me as I was waiting for a streetcar so I made the right decision.
This no smoking thing, it gets easier, right????

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