63 - The Maple Leaf

With service from New York City (Penn Station) to Toronto, stopping in between at Yonkers, Croton-Harmon, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff-Kingston, Hudson, Albany, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Rome, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, St. Catherines, Grimsby, Aldershot, Oakville. A few things worthy of note; they still call 'all aboard' at Penn station, and Via rail still uses steel-wheeled pull carts to transfer luggage. There's a big whistle that still blows hot air out its nozzle to give warning that something big is coming along fast and there's not much chance it'll stop if you're in the way. And the conductors still banter on wittily with passengers who are eager to make small talk. The train is still a classic mode of transportation, and offers an affordable luxury to those who are not opposed to spending a day travelling.

The Maple Leaf runs an old route out of Manhattan under the George Washington Bridge, along the Hudson river Valley, up through the Finger Lakes Gorges and right near past the Great Falls of Niagara, parrallel with the Niagara escarpement and into the golden Horseshoe, coming to settle at Union station. Its predeccesor was the laudable Empire State Express, which was inaugurated in 1891. The Maple Leaf provides its passengers with twelve hours of roomy bliss, provided that you enjoy finding something productive to do with yourself while sitting in a recliner for half a whole day (examples of productive activity might include reading, listening to music, imaginatively opening and exploring small sacks of ponderables etc), soft scenery, moderately priced pre-packaged foods and beverages, and the rickety-roo toilet game. It comes even more highly recommended if you're willing to take the risk of getting stuck sitting next to some blind old goat who has nothing better to do than bother you with their absolutely assinine running commentary of whatever stream of thought comes dripping off their tongue when they open their gummy mouth.

If you don't mind having to answer questions like "You said you're from Toronto? I'm thinking of maybe going to Toronto, Maybe moving there for a bit. Yeah, it's nice. It's been a while since I been there. I'm just headed back to Rochester. Ooh, yep, my sons gonna be home when I get in, and he's gonna bug me you know, about dinner, first thing when I come in the door. He moved back in recently, back home, after school. He's doing some courses and he's gonna take his public service exam pretty soon now. I don't think he knows exactly what he wants to do. But he thinks he's smarter than me, now that he's finished school. He's always telling me to focus. I tell him, that's not why we paid for his education. When I want to know something, I'll ask it, hehe. But you say, you said a good place to live in Toronto is Dale..." at this point you could repeat the same thing you'd said before a few times - "Parkdale." And he'd chime in "that's where you live." And you'd say "Yep" even if it wasn't where you live, because getting him to remember the name of the neighborhood where you live is a whole nother dog and pony show. And he'd continue "And then you said, on the West, no, East side...." and then you'd state, methodically, the name "Riverdale". "Right Riverdale" He'd say. "Or LeslieVille" you'd add, cause you're trying to anticipate his next question, cause he's already asked it about three times now. "Right, LeslieVille..." and so on. and if you don't mind showing this blind old gruff back to his seat everytime he gets up to take a piss or get a little stretch going, then you're going to have a blast.

And then on the way back, if you don't mind seeing a gaggle of old broads get on your car in Albany, and hearing one distinct voice that's louder and more obnoxious than the rest, already complaining about something - the temperature or the seating arrangement or the location of the stairs and the little differences between this train and the last one they were one or whatever; if you don't mind somehow by the luck of your self-absorbed bookish behaviour getting picked by this old galloot to be seat buddies, and having to deal with the retelling of every scrap of detail that a weekend at the VFW (Veteran's Fund for Women) state legislative assembly entails - for example, the pain and agony of an uncomfortable hotel bed and what walking a mile has done to the woman's back, and the mental anguish suffered unjustly but dutifuly by the woman due to the selfish and anal behaviour of each of her fellow legislators at various points throughout the event. And if you don't mind having your reading interupted at steady intervals by reminiscent diatribes lasting anywhere from two to thirty some-odd minutes, then boy oh boy are you in for a ride.

I didn't mind dealing with the old folks (they've got big hearts, its just that their brains have gone rusty), and and the constant stopping due to freighter priority (you see the rails on which many Amtrak trains ride are owned by another company; in the case of the Maple Leaf the tracks are owned by Conrail, and as a result any of their Conrail trains - freighters for the most part - get to head on uninterrupted while the Maple Leaf has to stop and wait), and the long wait at the border, and I had myself one hell of a ride.

The following set of four photogrpahs I took are pushed and grainy, and they are meant to act as antiqued compliments to the softer photos you've seen so far, that might look old, but not quite so old. The majority of these photographs were taken during the first leg of the trip back to Toronto on an impressively foggy Tuesday morning.


Album Cover Art: Deathstorm

A new album cover for the next of a series of Fathme records releases that Niall and I will be doing over the course of a year or two or more. They all come out on vinyl, so this art won't get squished and discredited by being placed behind a jewel case and printed on a glossy leaflet. Also, below is the first album cover we did for Fathme, about 10 months ago? I'm not sure - time is only important in that it moves forward, from our point of reference. I think the easiest way to live in the now is having a bad memory. Then it's inevitable that you forget the past, and you can concentrate on making really sweet looking Kraken tentacles and zombie faces.


Excerpt: Boxmaker's Book

Here's a pair of pages (the only finished pages really) of a little childrens book I started a while ago and am planning to complete in the future, when I feel it's time to sit down and write some gushingly adorable little titbits about the silly characters I've named 'boxmakers' - it's a literal sort of name, as not only do they look like boxes (which, unfortunately, is perhaps a little too similar to old Spongebob), but they also make boxes and work in a box factory. Now, this physical resemlance to lifestyle and trade is nothing new; we see it all the time: blacksmiths are brawny and sooted, post officers are either thin as a letter or fat as a sac, and milkmen are reknowned for their virility. When you look in the mirror, do you resemble your profession? If not, you should either consider a change of office or consider the ramifications of never being typecast.


Trans Fat

A greater number of food products in Ontario are starting to advertise, in larger and larger letters, that they contain zero Trans fat. The reason for this new trend (in Ontario) is a result of legislation brought to voice by Jack Layton that was passed about two years ago requiring all food labels to list the amount of trans fat on their packaging, and allowing products with less than 0.2 grams of trans fat (per serving) to be labelled free of trans fat. As a result of all this hoodelaley I'd guess it means that this type of fat isn't a good thing, as advertising the absence of something generally confirms that the something missing is something you in fact will not miss. So, we know that Trans fatty acids aren't good for us. There is a difference between something being 'not good for you', and something being 'very bad for you'; Trans fat falls under the latter category - it is very bad for you. It has absolutely no nutritive qualities. It is the tool the devil would weild were he able to fashion something frightening out of it (unfortunately for him/her it melts pretty quick, though not as quick as natural fat). Let's do the list of things consuming even a smidge of Trans fat can cause: Coronary Heart Disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, liver dysfunction, and infertility. A 2% increase in Trans Fat intake vs Carbohydrate intake (aka eating a burger on occasion vs. some pasta) will double your risk of heart disease. It takes a 15% increase in Saturated Fat vs. carbohydrate intake to cause the same damage, and replacing your carbs with unsaturated fats will decrease your risk. Retro-actively, if you replace 2% of your Trans fat intake with unsaturated fats, you halve your risk of heart disease. For all intents and purposes, Trans fat (which does occur naturally in cow and sheep milk at a level of 2-5% of total milk fat, but is found no where else on God's unmodified earth) is a very effective poison. It helps kill hundreds of thousands of people a year (30,000 Americans alone die every year exclusively from the abuse of Trans fat). This is a bad thing.

Now trans fat is found in its greatest concentration and quantity among the juicy burgers and fries that constitute our ramblin' Betty of a fast food industry. That is because it can be chemically produced, it's cheap, and it effectively reduces rancidity (much the same as does wrapping something in plastic, although we generally unwrap things wrapped in plastic before eating them). Eric Shlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation", gave us this comparison in a lecture given at Princeton University this past fall, "if it was a foreign government responsible for 30,000 deaths a year, and 200,000 heart attacks and casualties, we would bomb the hell out of them". For companies to tell us they are removing the Trans fats from their products and receiving praise for doing so is like a crook getting a pat on the back for refraining from stabbing his victim more than once or twice. Please don't clap your hands for the Golden Arches, ever.

This isn't to say, however, that McDonalds needs to change its ways. There's nothing wrong with selling dangerous food, so long as people know they're buying food that's not meant to be eaten. I don't think fast food needs to change one iota. I'm all for choice, and I think everyone, including those of us that find it really hard to satisfy our cravings, I think we might want to consider the consequences, and, should health overule taste and impulse, choose to keep from eating the stuff. People will sell you anything, and it's easy to buy whatever's cheap and available, and if you're able to refrain from complaining about absolutely every little tittle of vice and sin that occurs all across this land of the free, and how it's all a rip-off, then by all means - shut up and eat your burger. Otherwise, talk a little jive and have yourself a bowl of rice.


Foerster Cabin

North of Montreal, on the cusp of "la campagne familier",

Ryan Foerster. He has been living up at the cabin for two weeks now. His beard is thick, as are his layers of long johns. It is thirty below zero tonight, which makes it the coldest night of the season thus far. Even the wind stayed in on this crystaline eve. Ryan has made his way here to this Central Quebec 'tindage' to take advantage of his natural rights and freedoms; primarily his right to live like a real Canadian (this includes daily bouts of ice skating, lumberjacking, admiring the wild, Stompin Tom), and his freedom to refrain from communicating in the modern way and to refrain from paying rent. He is also here to take pictures of nature and youth interacting with nature.

Ryan has also seen: his neighbour (also the owner of the cabin); some chipmunks; a tadpole; the mail truck; some birds; and a Norwegian Ice rat. Him and Julie bought poison to kill the Ice rat, and since then he hasn't seen the beast.

I am the first to arrive at the cabin; there is a car with Julie and four other friends on their way. Ryan uses a Black plastic sled to transport items from the car to the cabin, and this adds a good teaspoon or more of 'over the river and through the woods' to the whole experience. The rest of the cabin-goers arrive shortly. Their names are Scott, Marianne, Iris and Juan, and they are all very good people, and I'm sorry that I spelled some of their names wrong.