I could live in Gananoque.
It must have something to do with my sometimes extreme domesticity and attachment to my physical space, but my litmus test when I travel is: could I live here? I’ve noticed that other people don’t do this. They look around them, sample the local food, enjoy a museum or two, and then move on. Not me. To really, truly, enjoy myself, I have to feel like I could be a citizen of whatever place I’m visiting. When I feel like that, I settle in, even when I’m only in a place for a day or two. If I don’t feel like that, I tend to produce a steady commentary of low-level, and sometimes high-level, discontent and criticism of my surroundings.
Let me be clear: I’m not justifying this approach to travel and certainly not recommending it to anyone else. It’s not a comfortable way to be, but it is mine. As I’ve aged and become more accepting of my personal flaws and weirdnesses and less prone to take shit for not being other than the way that I am, I have begun to acknowledge that I am not, in fact, fond of travel, or not as fond of it as you might assume, given everything. For one thing, airports have become a new kind of hell. Since the early 2000s, overcrowding, increased security levels, overcrowding, the decline in customer service, overcrowding, and the deterioration of airports themselves has made that stage of any journey always uncomfortable and often maddening. I’ve solved the problem of transportation woes in my daily life by buying slightly more expensive business class train tickets for my weeky journeys in and out of Toronto, but I just can’t bring myself to fork over the amounts required to upgrade my seating on a plane and I don’t fly enough to look into any services that would make my life easier vis-a-vis screening and boarding. So, I suffer. And I complain.
Once I’m actually in the place we’re visiting, my ability to relax and enjoy myself is uncertain. The bed and sheets might have an odor or be scratchy and uncomfortable: high-quality bed linens are a required small luxury in my house. There might be noise or too much light at night. There might be a bad smell in the streets. People might be rude. The architecture might let me down or the public transport be inadequate. There could be rain. Anything can happen to ruin a trip, and it frequently does.
Not to mention that I pine for home. I know. I know. It’s ridiculous. But that same kid who couldn’t go to sleepovers because, just at bedtime, she’d think “I wonder what they’re doing at home?” is now a middle-aged baby who can’t picture her beloved living room sofa and her dogs without a stab of longing. I have more control over the manifestation of my emotions now that I’m no longer 8-years-old, or most days anyway, but I still experience homesickness of the most intense kind.
Anyway, Gananoque. There’s something about the way its main street curves down to the water and the quiet, unforced quirky coolness of its downtown that draws me in. Any town that has a restaurant called “The Socialist Pig” has to have something going for it. We stop at this restaurant every time we travel eastward.
So, okay. I’d already kinda, sorta had lunch in Kingston. Well, brunch, anyway. But it’s imperative that we eat at the Socialist Pig, so I had another lunch. In my defense, it was a salad, the Just be Thai salad with gorgeous nutty, brisk dressing and lots of cabbagey greens. I don’t get the name either; don’t worry. Greg ordered their Barefoot Option veggie burger. It’s one of those places where the food offers no big surprises, but it’s consistently fresh, carefully made, and flavourful. Friendly servers too! I hope she managed to get her car back from the shop in time to make her trip to Toronto.
Although I am, for probably the first time in my life, happy where I am living and with the house I’m living in (although damn – that old house mildewy basement smell is proving hard to eradicate), I could live in Gananoque. I’d probably eat at the Socialist Pig once a week, too.