the diary thing 
THE TRAIN TO OTTAWA -- left early, before sunrise, found lineups in the station, mostly students returning to school after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Across from my line, students wait for their train back to Montreal. In my lineup, they're heading back to school at Queen's or Carleton. Economically, there's not much difference between them -- university education is becoming an elite choice again, since the demise of student grants and the rise in tuition. Still, the students -- especially the girls -- heading to Montreal seem more worldly, more sophisticated, a bit sexier.

They dress with a bit more style, less like they can go from their bed in residence to class and back in the same clothes. This tragic casualness seems underscored by the track pants worn by one girl returning to classes in Ottawa -- shapeless blue athletic trousers with the name of her future alma mater printed across the seat: 'CARL' curving across one buttock, 'ETON" completing the arc across the other.

"Out of monuments, names, words, proverbs, traditions, private records and evidences, fragments of stories, passages of books, and the like, we do save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time."
- Francis Bacon
Advancement of Learning

Ottawa - day one - train ride.

I HAD HOPED that this train would run on the same route that my father took when he returned to base at Rockcliffe after leave, but a glance at the stops tells me I'd hoped in vain.

My father would have left from (long-closed) Leaside station, probably on CN tracks, and headed northeast through the Ontario countryside, past Peterborough, Havelock and Perth, arriving at the old train station in downtown Ottawa, just across from the Chateau Laurier, a short walk from the Parliament buildings. He'd have caught a bus or ride up along Rockcliffe Parkway by the Ottawa river to his base.

My train heads along the lakeshore from Union Station on the usual route to Montreal and Quebec City, heading north to Ottawa from Belleville. The Ottawa train station is in a suburb these days, a big, plain, glass-walled shed out in the open. The old train station is a conference centre now, and the tracks leading to it have been replaced by a canal-side road.

So much has changed in the fifty or so years since the time in my father's life I'm heading to Ottawa to research. It seems such a vast gulf, now, barely visible through squints at maps and buildings and documents.

MORE SIGNS OF CHANGE: Outside Gananoque, between Kingston and Brockville, a llama standing in a famer's field, surveying the scrubby pasture and autumn colours, long-lashed eyes and drooping lips at the end of a long neck. 

A long way from the Andes.

writing ©2000
Rick McGinnis
...the past
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