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Fiction, The Writer's Life, Writings

Oh Canada! A Report from Your Writing Flaneur

Three weeks here in beautiful Victoria, BC, on my self-designed[1] writer’s retreat, and some observations begin to congeal. As the new guy, the outsider, I have become the flaneur, an observer, undistracted by the usual everyday concerns and noticing a thousand details each time I wander through the city. Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed in my temporary home.

Victoria’s Government Building, just a couple of blocks away.

  • People are generally nicer here than in the states. I have yet to see a shouting match or a fistfight, even at the bars I’ve been to.[2] In general, they’re far quieter than Americans, and definitely more polite. A couple of young men knocked on my condo door yesterday, thinking it was someone else’s place. When I opened the door they had a case and a six-pack of beer, ready for a party. But when they realized their mistake, all they could do was fall over themselves with apologies. In the states, the reaction would have been more like it was my fault for not having a party where they expected. I should have invited them in.
  • They really do say “eh” sometimes. And “aboot” instead of “about.”
  • Victoria is the only place I’ve ever been where people dine alone and bring books to keep them company. I had dinner in the restaurant downstairs Thursday night, and there were three of us reading.
  • They put bacon on almost everything. I kid you not. Burgers, salads, soups, pasta, donuts, breakfast cereal. You don’t even have to ask for it. No wonder everyone is so nice.
  • They also tend to put citrus fruits in many of the meals. That’s not as good a thing as it might sound. Linguine and tangerine with pesto sauce? If it wasn’t for the bacon…
  • Victoria is Canada’s retirement capital because it has the best weather in the country. During my time here, the temperature has averaged below 60…in June. I brought some short sleeve shirts with me, but they’ve stayed in the closet.
  • I miss my wife, and my crazy coffee-drinkin’ dog. And my writer friends. As nice as it is here, I’m starting to be ready to head home.


This week’s pimp:

My friend Stephanie Barbé Hammer has one of the most creative minds I’ve encountered. Her flash fiction, some of which can be found at her blog, Magically Real, never fails to amaze and entertain. Her new chapbook is titled Sex with Buildings, from dancing girl press, and is as creative and thoughtful as her previous work.

[1] At this point I’m tempted to say self-imposed.

[2] A good writer goes to bars. You should know that.


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


10 thoughts on “Oh Canada! A Report from Your Writing Flaneur

  1. It is nice to share your journey and yes, Canadians are nicer than us folks back here, gentler and generally speaking, more erudite. They’ve also embraced their diversity in a sort of enlightened consciousness. You see people of all backgrounds, including Native Americans, in prominent positions in society.
    Your note about people eating and reading a book reminds me of my younger days in Cairo when I would go to the Nile Hilton for lunch, with the latest Newsweek for company.

    Posted by nadiaibrashi | June 23, 2012, 5:50 PM
    • What was encouraging about the reading session (at least regarding Canadians) was that it took place in a restaurant frequented by mostly young adults. The other two people reading looked like they were in their 20s. I don’t see that much where I live.

      Posted by jpon | June 24, 2012, 12:28 PM
  2. Joe, it’s good to know that a writer can supplement his/her income in beautiful Victoria by peddling desserts from a pushcart, while writing simultaneously. How popular is flan in Canada, and does a sprinkling of Bacon Bits on top increase its sales? Say hello to the wife and that crazy coffee drinking dog for me.

    Posted by socalsoxman | June 23, 2012, 8:09 PM
    • Ah, you punster. Perhaps it would be better for me to sell dictionaries… with bacon on top of course.

      Posted by jpon | June 24, 2012, 12:30 PM
  3. Joe, we were in Victoria for a week for our 25th anniversary last year and I couldn’t agree more with your observations. We even were invited to tag along with a local high school tour of the Parliament and got to join them as the Parliament was discussing health care. We were even introduced to the member of Parliament who was their representative and were fortunate enough to have a brief conversation on how the parliamentary system differs from our system in the States. We can’t wait to return for another visit.

    Posted by Tom Poe | June 25, 2012, 2:28 PM
    • Hi Tom. Good to hear from you after these many years. Yes, Victoria’s a very livable city. I’ve been here for 3 weeks and haven’t needed a car, just walking around when the writing permits and enjoying the scenery. I remember my first trip here about 8 years ago–Victoria has come a long way in making itself a prime tourist destination. Hope you’re doing well.

      Posted by jpon | June 25, 2012, 3:19 PM
  4. Having just eaten my first mashed-potato-and-bacon pizza, I’m all about the bacon.

    Last week while I was hard at the writing, I went to the same bistro 4 nights in a row. (okay, “night” might be stretch since it was 5 pm, on the dot, each time) I’m nothing if not routine. On the 3rd night, the waiter brought the wine glass before I was even settled at the table, saying, “Pinot Grigio, right?”

    Just like home. It’s a good thing I don’t live there.

    Posted by Teri | June 25, 2012, 5:40 PM
    • I know what you mean. After 3 weeks here, they know me pretty well in several eateries around town, especially the one downstairs in this building. I try to order different things, just to keep them on their toes.

      Posted by jpon | June 25, 2012, 7:31 PM
      • It sounds like you’ve made some great progress there, Joe. I wonder if bacon might be a key ingredient. Who needs clean arteries if you’ve got a book to publish. Priorities.

        Posted by Teri | June 25, 2012, 9:24 PM
      • Fortunately there’s a killer weight room in the building too. I try to maintain a balance between bacon and bench press.

        Posted by jpon | June 25, 2012, 10:25 PM

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