THUNDER BAY – ENTERTAINMENT – A large city–especially the closer one gets near to it–will seemingly covet, yet, promote its attractions to non-metropolitan or urban dwellers any day of the week. Its relentless advertising splays out across the land via satellite TV, radio, magazines and flyers. And of course this is not new. Conrad Ahrensberg wrote one of the most brilliant books about the lives of rural people in his own book The Countryman published in 1938. Back then a flourishing centre of commerce and trade was called the Town. Ahrensberg would guide you this way. “In many ways the town was an alien world to countrymen. Yet a major English town has attractions for the ruralists (farmers and ploughmen) no less strong than anywhere on the Continent.
Although it weans his sons and daughters. Many who never return to their pastoral routes.
Meanwhile in when he goes there; it brings him the breath of an another world.” Ahrensberg goes back to the age of Dr. Samuel Johnson the first collector and recorder of English dialect, and words, in the form of Johnson’s dictionary.
Yet in surveying minds as he travelled Dr. Johnson quickly became accustomed to the fact that, within the British Isles, legions of a blooming populace were being enticed. Simply with visions of what was just down the road heading away from their farmlands. “Their greatest prospect, even in Scotland, was the road to London Town,” wrote Dr. Johnson. That appraisal came from his word-recording themes as far away as the Outer Hebrides. He was canvassing wherever his feet might step with his biographer James Boswell. Dr. Johnson’s long lasting works eventually published in 1786.
Well following up on how a city may magnetize today, and, in a summer of mostly being away from major cities. It turned out my wife, Margaret, and I needed to drive to city where an UPS courier service was located. Our goal being to mail two canvas paintings to the Pacific where my wife would arrive later in autumn. These pieces of Art were too awkward to attempt an airport carry on at an International Airports. Besides the month of August became our own Wedding month in 1971. Why not pack up all things. Head to the city. Have an Anniversary meal. Stay there for the night. And go on from there? That became our game plan. Though the major centre with an UPS was virtually five hours away.
So we packed our luggage. And, the Artwork. Fuelled up our vehicle. Got on our away by mid day. The weather was clear. In the beginning the traffic was quite moderate as we left our heartland’s northern single lane highways. Though him no time began merging with heavier thoroughfares in the USA.
Soon signs everywhere were realistic indicators of how the allure of an American city literally beams out its round the clock invitations to dock in as soon as you can. Just as the red nectar at our home’s humming bird feeder acts as a resourceful beacon for ruby throats. Where the birds gleefully perform their helicopter arrivals. As long as “the attentional economy,” as Matthew Crawford would say, persists. Where it entices them into a motivated assignment: to carry on.
With fresh energy.
While after 4 ½ intense hours of first motoring away, we were searching for the nearest approach to the UPS outlet. Trying to negotiate the best route. But time was entering into our successful bid. But the greatest tie up was going to be the immense funnelling of traffic. The city was literally becoming a magnet. It seemed the gathering pull of cars on our freeway was more than a fast paced stream of movement. It was obvious the massive current of it all was something to be driven with diligence and patience. So as entrance signs into the heartbeat of the city kept coming and going; so was our watch on the clock. At one point Margaret confided, “is there really going to be enough time to make it?” Attempting to be objective I said with hope, “yes, I think so…if we just keep going.” There were merely 23 minutes, now, until closing time.
In a straight pipe journey that seemed like a lot of ticks left on our watch. Then, as we engaged in some of the final climbs up unknown ways the littering of traffic intersections would oblige us in a cluster of red lights. It appeared these necessary safety devices in a civilized world were sapping the seconds out of our intended pace.
Though we climbed, and climbed, more and more pavement; what we were seeking still contained a distance. An unknown where abouts. Possibly too far? Our noble efforts were being stretched outright. “Look for a Pizza sign,” said Margaret. “I googled it. It’s near a pizza place.”
Silence. Our eyes glancing left and right. Anticipating…a sign. Then, with 8 minutes to the hour, I caught sight, “it’s there up ahead. It’s a Dominoes Pizza.” Encouraging our mini Grand Prix to pick up the rhythm we’d need.
But Margaret responded, “no…it’s by a Pizza Hut shop.” Onwards. At that moment both of us forgot about our watches. Silence once more. Eyes eager to see where it would be. Could we literally be pulling a rabbit out of a hat? Locate this needle-in-a-haystack? Was there a magical ending awaiting us? Yet, another red light put dead halt to our quest. Though this pause brought what we had travelled over three hundred miles to see. There it was the Pizza Hut signage. Plus, restoring our confidence, it was on our side of four lanes of traffic.
The light changed. We saw green. Motored on. The pizza shop was adjacent to UPS.
We pulled into the Courier’s parking lot. I lifted from my seat, stepped briskly to their glass doors. Their hours were posted. Open each day til 6pm. Except on Saturday. This was a Saturday. Closing time: 5 pm. It was 3 minutes to that hour. I motioned to Margaret to follow. A door swung open it was the manager stepping in at the same time I was. “Yes,” he said, “we are still open. Come in.” He was going in to check on the day’s till with his worker.
I held the door for Margaret. To put it like a professor of mine loved to say, “You’re in, like Flynn!” We both shook our heads. A mini miracle inside our successful narrative.
It only required seven minutes to bring on the Artworks. Give details of addresses, pay the fare.
Thank Ups for their hospitality and eagerness to stay open to serve.
So it became 3 minutes to remember. I immediately thought of boxing matches being imed at 3 minute rounds. Probably related to how we had mutually been mentally duking this out. Without collapsing with the Art pieces rendered on stretched canvas.
Later that night we sat for a wonderful supper in a superbly catered restaurant. Up on the 14th Floor. And, it did feel as if we were relaxing in a touch of heaven on earth. However, a most fascinating moment in a proposal, in time, would occur at the table next to ours.
A young man stood and motioned his girlfriend stand as well. He’d set the stage. He bent to a knee while holding an engagement ring up to her. She blushed. He was beaming. She listened to his offering. Nodded, yes. He rose up. They hugged. Kissed. Such an unexpected slice of Romeo and Juliet live, and, in colour. She was from New Mexico. He was from California. The attraction of their work in a city in this region had united them. They were both so blissful.
And so, as Margaret and I were finishing up she said she wanted to say something to them. In leaving we congratulated them. Margaret smiled looking at the two together. She said, “We’d like you to know that I was proposed to in this city as well,” she paused. “That was exactly forty-four years this weekend,” she continued. “God bless you both.”
It was also a weekend where the extraordinary world-class neurologist Oliver Sacks would pass away. He was 82. His obit was in all the papers. He was truly remarkable. A genuine pioneer in comprehending what makes humans tick. Sacks once said, “all I know is we see our world in two ways. Through our eyes. And, in our imagination.” Well this little odyssey and what we had driven to was one to not only catch snippets of our what we saw. But, like Sacks own perception, a time to safe keep in our imaginations forever.