A year (not just 4 months) in the life: meditations on volcanic activity, whisky, internet dating, etc.


It was the year that everything changed. I ran insane amounts, in sunshine, rain, hail, sleet, snow, and lightning. In the winter, I was the running phantom of Parc Laurier. I ran across Canada, and then I ran no more. I pined after someone who didn’t love me anymore until I didn’t even know who she was anymore, who I was anymore. My personal fashion concept went from nice check sportshirts to spandex shorts and nothing else for days on end, and finally to a weird blend of those worlds, but the tan lines never went away. I even had a “beard tan.” I thought I was going to grad school for literature, but I could never be entirely sure. In the year 2012, I moved three times, or many more, depending how you count.

After six years of living in Montreal, I finally began to make it my home. Ending my self-imposed exile from any even remotely cool Montreal neighborhood, I moved to the Plateau, and then to Mile-End, and then east of the Village. My French improved, and, ultimately, I began to realize that perhaps, at this point in life, I was as much Canadian as anything else. I converted my bike to single-speed and flopped and chopped its bars. I rode my bike like an Italian Futurist, hurtling toward my inevitable death, moustache billowing in the wind, perhaps with goggles, or perhaps without – and when my eyes streamed with tears, I could never say for sure if it was the wind. I started the year feeling that I had no reason to wear a helmet. I changed my mind.

Scotch was big. Blended, single-malt, cheap, expensive; you name it, I drank it. Sipped it and savored its peaty nose, swigged it straight from the bottle, took covert nips from a flask. I drank scotch in an upper duplex by Parc Laurier, in my bedroom or at the kitchen table with various cute European girls like Cecile and Kerstin who nonetheless declined the offered dram. I drank scotch in a tent in the rain on somebody else’s property in northern Ontario. I poured scotch from a flask into my root beer float in a Dairy Queen on the Trans-Canada Highway in Sault Ste-Marie. I briefly drank scotch in Mile-End, and tomorrow I will probably drink scotch with Woody in Brooklyn. Achieving an effective state of mind was – occasionally – an artful dance of stimulants and depressants; aesthetically and practically, Laphroaig and black coffee both had their places.

I swallowed my pride and confronted my loneliness and laughed with Elan and Estelí about being on OKCupid. I went on dates with girls, dozens of girls I had never met before, and for every one of them there was a dozen more who never wrote back. Have I even met them now? Who can say with certainty? You probably don’t even know the people who are closest to you, nevermind the random ones you meet on the internet – but then again, maybe those people know the real you in a way nobody else can. I think there was something really important in that bizarre and alien practice of dating, perhaps something similar to what I went through while I was running across Canada – reconciling myself to the necessity of opening myself up to complete strangers, of walking the line that separates shy obscurity from arrogant self-aggrandizing, of laughing at the ridiculousness of my present situation and just saying “okay, I will allow whatever is about to happen, to happen.”

As some of you may recall, the end of the world was predicted by the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012. I remember sitting with Lizzie at the kitchen table in Chris Zutt’s house in Winterthur in late April 2010, watching news coverage of the volcanic eruptions at Eyjafjallajökull that, experts said, theoretically had the potential to disrupt air travel in or out of Europe for over a year. Chris Zutt believed that 12/21/2012 was, potentially, for real. What if Eyjafjallajökull prevented us from returning to our homes before the End of the World? What could we do in order to live that remaining span of our lives to the fullest?

Fortunately, we didn’t end up having to make those kinds of decisions, but throughout this year I often pondered that question: if I was going to die in a few months, and nothing could be done to stop it, how would I be spending my time? It’s not an easy question to answer. You often think that there might be some flashy answer, that if you were just able to let go of your future-oriented psychological baggage, the right path might reveal itself. It really isn’t that simple. Not everything I did in 2012 was as obviously “carpe diem,” as glamorous, as catchy, or as grammatically compact as “Running Across Canada.” But there isn’t always something obvious to do like that. Talking with a bunch of smart and funny science students about Chaucer; drinking a 21 year-old scotch at l’Ile Noir and then taking a cab home because I just sang my first Messiah; reading a coursepack article that makes the wheels turn just a little bit more, that gives you some piece of ideology to cling to… I think in 2012, every day I must have done at least something that I would have done even if I was going to die imminently. The fact is, there are just too many things that are worth doing.

In 2013, it’s quite likely I’ll do a few more things.



~ by edmundmilly on December 31, 2012.

2 Responses to “A year (not just 4 months) in the life: meditations on volcanic activity, whisky, internet dating, etc.”

  1. Hello Ned

    We have eagerly read every word of your Blog and are very proud to say that we met “the Guy who ran from Montreal to Vancouver” in 2012. Helgard and I wish you are very Happy,Healthy and Peaceful New Year. We will get the Cobden Sun article to you some time this year.

  2. What a fine overview, publishable novelette, and arresting summary report – also summery – so evocative, and pro’lly just the tip of the tome. Thank you for taking us along on this ride, too. Happy Year’s End, and New Year.

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