Sunset at a Highway 401 rest stop
Unlike a lot Canadians, particularly those living in Ontario, I love that highway. The thought of going for a drive upon it fills me with excitement.
Highway “four-oh-one”, as its most commonly referred to – or to use its official name, the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway – spans about 818 km across southern Ontario from the Quebec border in the east to Windsor in the west, and in parts is one of busiest highways in the world.
At its widest where it crosses the populous city of Toronto and its suburban hinterlands, the highway’s girth stretches to an imposing 16 lanes, which, according to Wikipedia, makes it one of the widest highways in the world.
They are, in a nutshell, exorbitant, inappropriate, and not at all for the reasons the airlines would have us believe.
Let me back up a step.
Last week, to celebrate Easter as well as to use some of my overtime for a well-deserved break, I took a trip to Ontario.
I often wonder if I would have enjoyed living in medieval England as much as I do writing about it.
Obviously the answer to this question depends upon a few considerations. For example, does medieval me look the same as modern me? There’s no reason to expect she wouldn’t, in which case, I’ll defer to comedian and social critic Louis C.K. for a response:
How the hell did “write what you know become” the most opt-repeated piece of writing advice anyway?
Maybe it’s because it’s the first advice many of us ever received. Certainly it seems like it should be beginner advice.
I can see it perfectly: a student of sixteen or seventeen hunched over his/her desk at school, pencil in hand poised above a sheet of three-hole-punched, lined loose leaf.
(Am I totally dating myself with this memory in longhand? Do high school students even write by hand in school anymore? The pencil in this vision isn’t even mechanical).
What responsibility, if any, does a writer have to society?
This was the question I posted to the message board of the writer’s group I run to be the discussion topic for our next meeting.
I knew at the time of writing it that it was a provocative question – one that different people might interpret in different ways. Regardless, I was sure it would result in a lively, interesting discussion as my writer’s group meetings always are.
What I didn’t expect, however, was the overwrought response on the message board from an out-of-nowhere, aggrieved and impassioned troll.
Most people, I think, agree that moving is the pits.
This even includes moves that one has planned well in advance and will ultimately result, like the Jeffersons pictured above, in a move on up.
Imagine then, the perspective of one forced to move against his/her will. This is the very situation I now find myself in. Not because I threw too many parties or trashed my apartment or was otherwise a horrible tenant.
Rather, they call it “renoviction” – a practice that occurs often enough in Vancouver, British Columbia to warrant its own regionally-specific Wiktionary entry:
Well, I found a stock photo of it so it can’t be that unusual.
As a writer, I trade upon odd and unusual characteristics.
Conventional writing wisdom says that a story’s protagonist, no matter how much of an everyday, person-in-your-neighbourhood s/he’s meant to represent, should possess some special quality – something that not only makes him/her memorable but also plays a role in motivating and ultimately resolving the story’s plot.
I mine a lot of my own life in my creation of characters – both my own characteristics and those of people I observe. I then proceed to spend months and years with these fictional people, to the point that they become like real people to me: fully-realized, self-determining, and with certain traits in common with me.
This, I suppose, has the effect of inuring me to my own oddities.