Living alone, I can often go for days without actually having a conversation with anyone. Telling my cat to move somewhere else, or yelling at the computer for not co-operating, does not count as a real conversation. Working alone, for the most part just adds to my daily quietude. While delivering the newspapers, it is just me and the radio; while giving a massage treatment, I rarely converse with the client while they are on the table.
When I am with people, I don't get this sudden need to talk and talk and talk.... though I am sometimes seeing this happening when I am at the checkout counter (much to my middle aged dismay!). I am one of those people who is quite comfortable with silence. For a certain amount of time. And that time can easily exceed 30 seconds.
This is not the case with one family friend who usually spends the holidays with us. Like me, she also lives alone and spends a good portion of her workday alone in a lab. But when she gets with people, her verbal acuity never falters. At Christmas, I realized with slight exhaustion as I gave her a lift home, she never once stopped talking. She monopolized the conversation competently for the entire eight hours. She always had a insight or opinion on everything that was said by anyone else. My family, who also tend to be on the quiet side, just sort of lets it happen and goes with it. Don't get me wrong, she is also entertaining and knowledgeable (especially in obscure facts about anything to do with movies and television and computers) and she will also listen to you when you have something to contribute and converse instead of just talking over you. But, she never sits silently and listens and observes.
I was at a client's house late one afternoon and they invited me to stay for dinner. This sounded like a fine idea as we had to interrupt our vacation horror stories to actually get the massage treatment completed. During a brief lull in a conversation I was having with Cath while she attended to something in the kitchen, I realized that there were seven people at the table and if you didn't include the cockatoo who was screeching "hello" and "look at me, I'm a bird" (I know!!) but did include the dog who was hovering, there were easily four separate conversations happening at the same time. It was all genial and freeflowing and ... oh so overwhelming. My family dinners would seem formally stilted in comparison. We generally have one topic on the go at a time and while there will be the odd side talk between two people, it is brief and generally still on the same topic. The conversation ebbs and flows and has the usual diversions, but it always seems to include everybody at the table.
I often find my quietness to be a bit of an hindrance - though I know, somebody has to be the listener. I can miss out on having my say from taking too long to process exactly what I want to say before I open my mouth. And if I don't have a follow up immediately in my mind, there can be that awkward silence... And I have always wanted to be the kind of person who can walk into a room and just start a conversation. But somehow, I find it all so exhausting. And a bit annoying.
Pity poor Santa. Time was, when he came to visit, he was put up in a splendid grotto. Maybe a castle or a gingerbread house. It would be festooned with decorations. (don't you love that word "festooned"? you rarely get a chance to use it nowadays), there would often be a white picket fence beside the path you had to walk along to get inside his grotto. There would be elves to help you and to hand out candy canes. Long after I stopped believing in Santa Claus, we would make the rounds of the malls to visit his grottos (and maybe embarrass an elf or two into giving us candy canes just to go away...). There was a friendly competition among the various malls into providing the most fanciful, most original grotto for this most honoured guest. It was a spectacle you looked forward to seeing. Now, he doesn't even seem to have a dwelling at all. His massive chair has been reduced to a bench with a bit of green behind him. Nothing special, or magical, or even noteworthy. After getting your picture taken with Santa, the rest is photo shopped in. Like 'magic 'you can have your image in front of a small ramshackled house with a crooked wooden sign saying "North Pole", or out in a snow covered wood, or in front of the massive tree in the mall. That is hardly memorable years later when you look on the old tattered photo. Santa's lair simply cannot compete with a Swarovski laden 35' tree.
Especially when they dim the lights and it begins to snow! Inside the mall! Every night at 7pm, a crowd gathers around the tree, the snow fairy appears and the lights dim. "Let it Snow" softly starts wafting through the speakers, and from the high ceiling of the Eaton Centre, bubbly snow falls and drifts... it is magical.
I have just come inside after a nice long walk in the bright sunshine and crisp, cold air. There is some snow on the ground and a lot of ice, but it is not unmanageable. It is actually quite pleasant. Especially if you are dressed in appropriate layers.
Yet, all around us there is chaos. The wrath and fury of winter and lake effect snows has taken hold and gripped areas of Southwestern Ontario. Highways are closed, hundreds of people are stranded, dozens of vehicles abandoned. People are still digging themselves out of their homes. Yesterday's drive home show on CBC featured listeners calling in to report the conditions wherever they were - some incredulous at the blue sky and crawling traffic for no apparent reason (tales of 45 minutes to drive 8 blocks) and other spots that were virtually problem free while a few miles away there were snow squalls and whiteouts.
I used to live in what is known as the "snow belt" - an area of Ontario that gets a lot of snow, predictably, without fail, every year, though there are bands where the snow can be more or less - it is dramatic and instant as you cross over from one area to the next. You learn very quickly to be prepared. I admit that I have become a bit lax about my emergency supplies, but I used to make sure I never travelled without at least a blanket, a cache of food, a flashlight, an extra sweatshirt and pair of socks, an icescraper, snowbrush and shovel, and a big bag of kitty litter (non clumping!) along with the usual jumper cables, extra wiper fluid and a first aid kit. And a full tank of gas. Driving in a snow squall is probably the scariest thing I have ever done. My route to work took me through some picturesque winding country roads into the ski hills. I once followed the taillights of a vehicle ahead of me into his driveway because I had lost all sense of direction of where exactly I was on the highway. It was a good thing he was able to tell me exactly where we were so I could try to get some bearings once back out on the road. But I did not feel safe. The stress near about did me in. I needed a massage when I finally got home!
It is good to hear the warm hearted stories of people coming to rescue those who were stranded. But as often happens, a day or so on and the complaints start.... why weren't we warned? (weather patterns is not an exact science, how often have we had dire predictions that never materialized), why were the roads not closed? (some were and still people drove onto them... and got stuck) why weren't we rescued sooner? (the police and army had to endured the same conditions as you), and my personal favourite: a guy travelling from Michigan who was angry that he was even allowed to cross the border when there was a storm!! I don't know how much detailed weather and traffic updates these border guards have access to, but I'm sure he should not be blamed for not knowing there would be a blinding snow squall that suddenly come out of nowhere.
A few weeks ago I went to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. It was a fun filled, elaborate production (and that bus is freaking amazing, with thousands of LED lights somehow embedded in it to transform it to pink and provide a backdrop to the travels through the desert). Last week, I finally went to see a bloggy friend act in Shakespeare in Hollywood at a community theatre in Rochester. It was small and intimate and full of laughs and had a not so elaborate donkey's head. I love going to the theatre. I love to see the energy from the actors. The magic that can be created from an imaginative set design. And the instant reaction from the audience. But I had never seen anyone I knew personally acting in a play, so I was excited about that. It can be just as enjoyable to see a lavish multi-million dollar production as it is for a much smaller, but no less energetic production from a local company that obviously enjoys being together. The drag queen in the one was expected, the antics of the drag queen in the other was a pleasant and comical surprise.
And far be it from me to make a trip to anywhere without multi tasking (I can't even go across town without planning on getting at least two chores done), so when I looked into this trip I also planned a visit to the George Eastman House (he of Kodak fame) I thought it might be nice to see it all decked out in Christmas cheer. And I was in time for the Gingerbread House display. This year there were the most ever gingerbread houses - 70 - displayed throughout the house and museum (one other reason I didn't go last week, besides the dentist). I got there in time for the docent's tour (docents are always so knowledgeable and make any tour more informative) and just in time to see a bus load of small children leaving. Whew!
I was actually enjoying the tour so much that I forgot about taking photos. Imagine.
After the play, I headed back home. It is only a bit over 2 hours, and I thought I would take advantage of the night and stop off at Niagara Falls to see the Festival of Lights. So, after the border crossing, I bought myself a coffee and drove slowly along Falls Dr and admired the lights. I wondered where I could park, but mostly I just kept driving and enjoyed the view. We have our own Festival of Lights in my town, but these are way better - if mostly because they were so spread out that you could admire each moving illumination individually. It is virtually impossible to get an individual photo of the ones in our park as they are packed in so closely in a small space. Still, I didn't take any photos. I drove along past the illuminated falls, wondering at the wattage of the huge spotlights that reached so far. I drove past the spray that turned to a thin sheet of ice as it hit the car, on to the end of the five km tour of lights display. I got out to walk for a bit, drinking my coffee, then I thought, maybe I should get a shot of the falls all lit up to share with you. Coming back I would be on the side of the road closest to the falls. Since there was no traffic, I figured I could just stop on the road, so I drove along past the spray that added more ice to my windshield and found a spot that wasn't too far from the railing so I could get a better look.
It truly is a majestic sight, these Falls. No matter the season, or time of day. It is even better when there is absolutely no one else around. I reached into my pocket and held up my camera towards the first view and started to play with the settings.
Blink. Suddenly all went dark. It was the stroke of midnight. I had done my oohing and ahhing in the wrong order, it seems. Day was done.
(click on the links for photos and reviews and info)
(I did take some photos, one of which is on my photoblog)
The original plan was to be in Rochester for an event yesterday. I chose instead to visit the dentist. Thank goodness.
Police closed Interstate 90 Thursday after a truck jackknifed and vehicles became backed up and buried in blowing snow, State Trooper Daniel Golinski said. Drivers also were stranded on a 3-mile stretch of Interstate 190.
Though parts of I-90, better known as the New York Thruway, were reopened by midday, an 11-mile stretch remained closed as darkness fell. Traffic, mostly big rigs, was backed up for about two miles in the eastbound lanes and a mile headed west after sunset. Authorities expected it would take several more hours to clear the mess
Oddly this band of lake effect snow (that Buffalo gets every year) was barely 3 miles wide.
But, if I can put off something, for a day, a month, a year or two, I will. So I put off going to this event in Rochester for another week because I really could not put off the dentist any longer. In fact, I was almost looking forward to going, if only for the release of the nagging, intense, sharp needle pain in my tooth. Surely, the freezing needle could not be worse.
Turns out, those needles are not nearly as bad as my memory tells me they are. I specifically chose this dentist because he was available when I had an abcess and because he used nitrous oxide - the great laughing gas. Then one time, he decided that since what needed done was such a small job he would just freeze it, and somehow the gas was forgotten. He puts some sort of tropical topical gel on that this time tasted suspiciously like banana pudding. This was way better than the usual tastes of bubblegum or mint. I haven't liked bubblegum since I was eight and I have never liked mint. Which makes buying toothpaste a rather long, unpleasant exercise. Not far off having to taste the toothpaste. And the unfreezing experience isn't at all as I remembered it, either. In fact, there was nothing to it. I dribbled a bit when drinking, but nothing out of the ordinary, really.
All in all, far better than freezing in a cold car on a thruway for 21 hours.