I’m running rather late on this, but I’ll try for an answer just the same. Dan asked on Friday:
In all your life’s travels, what are your five favorite spots that you’d most like to visit again to be able to share the spot with friends/family? Was it the place itself or the experiences you had there?
To be honest, I still feel relatively poorly traveled compared to a lot of people I know. So it’s going to be a little difficult to answer this question. But I’ll try my best:
- Rue Ste.-Laurent, Montreal. I think I’m remembering the name of the street correctly. I spent hours and hours of my life there, wolfing down Lebanese food and sipping coffee as I worked my way through tons of required and non-required readings for classes. Got my heart broken there once, got sick more than once, and some of my most important friendships from my grad school days were cemented there. I would take people up the street to have some Lebanese (even though it’s better downtown), get some ice cream at the little shop which is still running way up St. Laurent, maybe have a beer at that horrid little dive Copacabana, which despite all the negativity I remember from the place still has a sentimental aura to me; and of course some coffee at Second Cup. And if we were lucky, we could take in some show at the altermative-music venue just down the road, the name of which I forget. I think in terms of why, well, Montreal is just the first new place I lived for a long time alone, and so for me there’s a familiarity to it, an importance to me that just imbues it with something that others might not enjoy. Lime and I sometimes joke about the General Tao Chicken we used to (separately) eat near Concordia University. Little memories like that mean a lot. And I think Lime ought to see me in a used bookshop like The Word, in Montreal, just to see the look on my face, the change in my demeanour when I am around hordes of used books of the highest quality.
- I would love to spend a winter living near McLeod Ganj, in Northern India, with Lime. The mountains, the quiet, the simple life of getting up, getting warm, eating something, writing or reading or photographing or whatever, walking into town to get some food, hanging out in cafes and talking with foreigners… the first time I was there, I thought a lot of the charm was being alone, really alone, for the first time in a long time. But later, I realized it was also the quiet, the lack of obligations and expectations, the freedom to just work (on my writing) and think, and play music if I felt like it, whatever music I wanted, where and when and how I wanted. It was the joy of being untethered to anything except what I chose to connect with. But it was also the place; the quiet and calm and the mix of cultures and even just the ruggedness of the place. And I’d like to share that with Lime, who I think would appreciate it. While of course a visit to Ritu and John would be absolutely in order, and Delhi’s interesting, it’s a bit hard on the body to breathe that much smog in; and much of the charm of Delhi and Gurgaon for me was the company I had in being there.
- Wonkwang Boonshik. This is just a little restaurant in Iksan that makes absolutely amazing food. It was almost akin to grad student life: cheap, amazing food, good conversation (usually I went with John Wendel), and somewhat, well, simple surroundings. I wish everyone I know could come there for a nice dinner sometime, but it’s impossible. Ah well.
- Saskatchewan. There’s a poem I’ve written about wanting to show people the place where I’m from, called Spiritwood. Of course, when I wrote it I thought mostly about the Southern part of the province, the rolling fields of wheat or snow, the flatness of the land and one’s ability to see for miles and miles, the way the sunrise and sunset paint the whole of the enormous sky vivid hues and so on… but some small part of me longs for the north, too: the great stones perching up out of the earth, the deep clusters of pines and birches, the darkness and quiet of being out there in the woods. The next time I’m in Saskatchewan for more than a few weeks, I want to make a day trip, go north to Lac La Ronge or somewhere like that, if it’s possible; I also don’t want to miss out on the experience of lying on my back on the ground, far outside of town, and looking up into the belly of the Milky Way, all the starclouds stretching out to forever before my own miniscule form.
- It might be cheating, but I’d like to see Malawi. I can’t say I’d like to see it again, for I was only born there… I have no memories of the place, we left too early in my life for any of that, and my earliest memories are all in Nova Scotia, Canada. But knowing I’d been born somewhere else, somewhere so ambiguous and murky in my childhood imagination as Africa (and made darker and murkier and more mystical by all the stories my father told me or exposed me to in film and book choices), I have always been curious to see what it’s like in Malawi. I want to see the place for myself. But I think I’d better get some kind of driver’s license before I go there. And besides, if I did go there, I could stop by in Maputo, Mozambique, and see my friend Jessie.
To see other Friday Fivers’ answers, find the Friday Fiver drop-down list to the right.