Read Part I first.Chapter 5: The Ending
I had considered going to the overnight portion of the marathon, but resolved that if I couldn’t sleep, I’d make my way over. It turned out I slept well enough, and checked out of the hotel just in time to make the discussion with the scholars. On the first day, the moderator didn’t ask my question, but I knew I have another chance. At this morning’s discussion, where the seats were placed in the shape of a whale, I was one of the first to ask a question/make a comment. I actually chose to point out how funny Moby-Dick is, as evidenced by the laughter from the audience. That comment was well-received! One of the scholars sat next to me, and during the discussion, she mentioned the Melville’s Marginalia Online website (which was part of my question) so I took that to mean I wouldn’t ask the audience but would save it for her. So I did, and it emerged why there wasn’t a particular book listed on that website. it was because he didn’t actually own a copy (he lists two books as one book in his “Extracts” section, another she told me that I didn’t know). I asked her the meat of the question, and she seemed to think it’s a good enough question to write a short article about, and she encouraged me to do just that. She said she wanted me to keep in touch about it, even. Yet another project to add to the list!
What was the question? Well, you’ll have to read my forthcoming article to find out!
I had some time in the morning to wander around New Bedford, and after that, I ended up walking by the coffee shop next to the hotel, and had a nice brunch there. I’m sure the European café-style diner with a 25-minute wait is great, but I’ll do that next trip.
I returned to the museum just in time to read along with the ending of the book. Spoiler alert: It’s [the three chapters where the crew of The Pequod, including Captain Ahab, meet their doom]https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm#link2HCH0133), and he says his famous line “from hell's heart I stab at thee!” (which I probably heard first from The Simpsons). The reader of those chapters, Henry Sullivan, acted out Ahab’s voice, and it was incredibly stirring as one would expect such a scene to be.Chapter 6: Back to Boston
Without much left to do in New Bedford, I got my bag. I have social anxiety in most situations, but the desire to know something often overcomes that. If you stay through the night and read along, for all 25 hours, you get a prize package. It sounded like this was verified with a stamp partway through, because it can’t be on the honour system. I saw a couple of people with the prize pack at the hotel, but they disapeared around the cornee before I could talk to them. As luck would have it, as I was fretting about how to get back to Boston, I saw them again, and caught their eye, and asked “Got any pro tips for staying the whole time?” They had lots! Like to expect to close your eyes and open them up later and find yourself 5 pages behind. Micro-naps, one of them called it. And nobody will blame you if you need fresh air. And don’t expect to be ina conduction to drive the next day. (They’re staying overnight tonight.) One benefit, they said, was that a sleep-deprived mind will make connections you won’t normally make between one part of the book and another. Such great tips! I got the sense that they wanted to keep talking, and I wanted to keep talking to them, too, but I had to focus on how to get out of town and back to Boston.
The first Uber driver asked me to cancel and try someone else. I wasn’t about to force anybody to do such a long fare, so I agreed. That cost me $5, though. I sort of feel in a bind about that. I’m not going to lose sleep over that, and I wonder if the driver felt better off rejecting it? Anyway, I had a problem to solve, so for the next driver, I sent a message saying I’d tip generously for the hour-plus-long drive. He agreed, and it was an uneventful, and hopefully the 20% tip is generous. I’m thinking of sending more, which I still have the chance to do. I made it to my hotel for tonight, so I got what I needed.
Traveling between Boston and New Bedford was the part I was most worried about for the trip, and it actually went worse than I thought it would. I’ll need to plan this better for next time. Maybe I could help organize a ride-share if the bus situation is the same next year.
Lots to think about, lots to process about this short trip. This was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had for a trip, and despite the mishaps, I’ve been really happy with it.
Talk to me long enough, and I'll bring up the subject of whales. I'm awed by the fact that the largest animal that has ever existed (the blue whale) exists today; that they live in the sea but breathe air; that the can hold their breath for 40 minutes, sometimes longer; that they swim for great lengths to feed and rest; and other facts that don't seem possible. It would surprise people a little that I hadn't read Moby-Dick, the epic American novel by Herman Melville.
Wondering how long the pandemic restrictions were going to last, at the end of 2020, I signed up for a course from the University of Toronto's Continuing Studies department as a way to motivate me to read it, and it would take place during the early months of 2021. I couldn't keep up with the assigned readings, and to this day I don't know what kind of credit I got for the course, but I finished the book. The edition I read, the Norton Critical Edition, was love at first sight. The footnotes (not endnotes!) were descriptive without being overly lengthy, pointing out biblical references I may not have caught (having not grown up in a religious family) and Shakespearean references that I had a chance of catching (whatever I would have read in high school), some quotations and facts that were flat out made up by Melville, and other words and terms that may have fallen out of fashion. It's a dense book, which some have called encyclopaedic, and that, not the length of the book is why it took me most of that year to finish.
I had known about the New Bedford Whaling Museum from a 2016 trip to Boston, and therefore knew about its yearly Moby-Dick Reading Marathon. I recorded a virtual reading marathon in the late months of 2021, reading chapter 92, titled "Ambergris" (the pronunciation of which I had to look up, and was disappointed to learn it wasn't the way French-speakers would have pronounced it). I did at least 6 takes, stopping each time I faltered, ultimately going with a take that had a minor slip in the end.
Emboldened by the removal of all pandemic restrictions and travel (minus the required vaccination, which I had covered), I signed up to be a reader at the in-person marathon in January 2023. At the very last minute, after looking up hotel rates and flight prices, I decided to accept. The only thing I was nervous about was the transportation between Boston and New Bedford, which had uncertainties due to the fact that I couldn't buy a ticket for a specific time and date. That would ultimately cause the chaos I feared.Chapter 2: The Bus Schedule
I didn't look carefully at the special holiday-related cancellations before deciding which bus to take. The plan was to fly in on Thursday, work from the Boston HQ of the company I work for in Friday, and take a bus later that evening, settle into the hotel, then wake up refreshed for the proceedings at the museum. Working in the office was an absolute blast. We had a few more crises than I thought we would, and while I worried that we would take too much of the advantage for a social occasion, we were almost all business throughout (very pleasantly and productively so). I don't know if more gets done in person, but we learn more about each other that way, and it seemed a bit easier to figure things out together that way. I still think we do quite well with a spread out team, but one of the reasons I moved to Toronto is that I could do work trips like this, and I was brimming with joy the whole evening, despite how it played out as far as trip-planning was concerned.
What I hadn't internalized was that there was no 7 PM trip to New Bedford from Boston on that particular Friday due to the holiday schedule. There was, evidently, a 5:30 PM one, but I was blissfully eating nachos in the middle of South Station at the time. Not getting to New Bedford meant I couldn't make it for the first night of my hotel stay there. My hurried decision was to book another night at the Boston hotel I was staying at and, once I got back there, plead my case to cancel my New Bedford hotel room. After calling the hotel customer service line, and only explaining what happened, the people on the end of the line connected the dots themselves and looked to see if I could cancel despite the expired cancellation deadline. It took about over an hour of talking to at least 3 representatives, my having to call a second line (not to mention be subjected to a sales pitch on a resort getaway), to ultimately be granted, as a "one-time courtesy" (a line I know in my own field), a cancellation and rebooking. Having gotten that, and believing that I could catch a 7 AM bus the next morning, I went to bed early. I woke up at 5 AM the next morning, a Saturday, and made it with a lot of time before my 7 AM bus time only to find out that…Chapter 3: The Uber Ride
…I had been looking at the weekday schedule. There were no scheduled bus trips on Saturdays not to mention no return bus trips on the coming Sunday. (Normally there were, but again, holiday schedule.) Just as I was contemplating cancelling the New Bedford portion of my trip did it turn out that another guy, a 72-year-old man from Japan, was also planning on going to Fairhaven (the last stop of the route) on that same trip. He suggested taking a taxi, and at first I dismissed it, but then thought "OK, how much would it cost?" So I looked it up, and it would be $77 USD. I thought: "You know what? That would be worth it." The Japanese fellow asked if he could come with me, and I couldn't think of a reason why not.
His English was pretty good, maybe a little halting, but we always got to understanding each other. Almost right away he asked to add him on Facebook. I couldn't think of a reason why not. We were about to share an hour-long ride together. The Uber driver asked if he could gas before going, and I had no problem with that. The Japanese fellow and I each got snacks, though we probably should have thought that through a little, since he wasn't too pleased about the crumbs we left. He won't see the tip he got, or the five-star rating I gave him (Uber only sends drivers averages), but he seemed pretty OK with it. The Japanese fellow offered to pay his share, and I took whatever he offered (it was more than half; I don't know if he knew I was just happy to get to New Bedford on time). He was on a day trip to Fairhaven, so I don't know how he got back. He seemed pretty resourceful to me, with his iPad mini always on and taking phone calls during the trip and looking up stuff as we went. I'm not too worried about him.Chapter 4: The Reading
I couldn't check into he hotel until 1 PM, but left my suitcase there until I could. I actually made it to the museum at the time I had planned to arrive. I spent the morning listening to Stump the Scholars, half hoping my question would come up, half hoping it wouldn't. It didn't. The morning and afternoon went by pretty fast, with a quick meal at the Quahog Republic Tavern (a giant fish sandwich), and watched a bit of the main event, where dignitaries read from the first few chapters in front of an audience in the large room with the whaling ship. It was quite the scene for me, almost everybody looking down at their own copy of Moby-Dick, me included. Along with a couple of other things, my passport and my well-read copy of the book were the only two things I couldn't by. (It wouldn't be the same if I had to get a new copy of my own while in New Bedford.) There are a few photographs of me somewhere, with my trees-and-a-mountain-on-a-whale pin that someone, the only person who knows the reasons why I love whales that I don't talk about, bought me, reading Moby-Dick along with dozens of others. What a feeling!
My time to read, 3:30 PM, was going to be later than planned, because I had correctly sensed that the marathon was a bit behind time-wise. So I grabbed a coffee, which wasn't the smoothest move, because I forgot it can sometimes make my face break out. I powered through those feelings and kept along with the other readers until it was my time. I had practiced beforehand, not knowing exactly which section I'd read from, but knowing I had exactly 5 minutes. I had correctly guessed that I would read from the section introducing Captain Bildad, though, thankfully, it wasn't the hardest parts of that section that had the initial dialogue, where dost and thou were thrown around with wild, reckless, Quaker abandon. (Melville, though Ishmael, even makes fun of Quakers for doing that.) I had stage fright all day, and worried about pretty much all aspects, including being tall and having to adjust the microphone. I saw some people before me do it, so I knew it was possible. Just like the practice session, the 5 minutes went by like a flash. After hating every minute of the lead-up, I loved every second of reading it. It helped to know that hardly anybody would be looking at me, and the laughter would be at the content, and not the delivery.
I have a grin on my face from ear to ear. I already know that I want to do it again, and knowing what I know about the bus schedule, I'll make either fewer mistakes or different mistakes next time. I'll even practice a bit more seriously, this time conceding that this was going to be my first time and that no matter what, I'd want to improve from my previous performance. When it comes around again, I'll sign up for the lottery and if invited to read, I wouldn't hesitate to say Yes.
Read Part 2 now.
Some things have changed since I wrote about listening to albums in 2018, and some things have stayed the same. The two biggest changes are 1) having a much better listening experience thanks to new speakers and headphones and 2) listening to entire discographies (or, sometimes, "essentials" playlists) when a new album comes out.
One of my best purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic, spending so much time working from home, has been a pair of Sonos speakers. They're compatible with AirPlay, so I can play them with any of my Apple devices and they're a huge improvement over wired headphones and laptop speakers of my previous experiences. In April of this year, as a late present to myself after a promotion at work, I bought Sony's WH-1000XM4 headphones. I did a bit of research beforehand, and went to Toronto's Bay Bloor Radio. I was one of two or three customers in the store. The WH-1000XM4 headphones were on my list of headphones to try, and the salesman gave me them to try (unprompted) and another brand. The other brand didn't fit, and the WH-1000XM4 were "on sale" for $100 off (I didn't really care), and I liked everything about them. Having good headphones has led to me listening to quite a lot more music than usual, to the point where I believe 2022 is the year I've listened to the most music. As far Last.fm knows, that's definitely true:
Another change has been to listen to an artist's entire discography when a well-received new album of theirs come out. How can I tell if an album has been well-received? It gets a favourable review in Pitchfork, that's how. That's something that has remained the same over the years. How do I listen to an artist's entire discography? One album at a time, that's how. It can be difficult to track the albums down sometimes, as Apple Music doesn't always have all of an artist's albums, though they sometimes appear on Bandcamp, and, rarely, only on Spotify. Some artists are part of a collective, such as the Wu-Tang Clan, a longtime favourite whose concert I recently attended (minus Method Man, but also plus Nas and Ol' Dirty Bastard's son). They have, collectively, a lot of albums, so I listened to all of their albums from the 1990s (including the year 2000, which belongs to the 90s) and had to take a break. I'm still on that break.
I don't wear out albums like I did in my CD-listening days. Novelty, along with catching up on classic albums (the impetus for that being Pitchfork's Sunday Review series, are my two guiding principles to listening to music. I don't imagine listening to more music in 2023 than I did in 2022, but here's to trying anyway.
Time passes, and since the year flipped over, Last.fm calculated my yearly top artists, albums and tracks:
The top artist I listened to was J Dilla, and the top album I listened to was Donuts. No surprise there, considering that I listened to his music while reading Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm by Dan Charnas.
You’ll never guess why Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “1st of tha Month” was the top track I listened to in 2022.
A fog wave rolled through Toronto recently, and it made for muted streetscapes and haunting photographs.
That last one is mine. Every time I pause to look at the CN Tower, the thought "I can't believe I live in Toronto" occurs to me. So I take a photo of it, post the sentiment to the now-defunct social media site Twitter, and copy some over to an album on Flickr.
It made some sense to come here in 2015, but since then, it has progressively made less and less sense to stay here. Aging (and dying) parents back home in British Columbia, family get-togethers that I can attend briefly on video, the closing of the office I moved across the country for make it increasingly difficult to remain. Remembering how much it rains in B.C., plus the prospect of packing everything I acquired in Toronto, which constitutes almost 100% of my possessions, keeps that feeling at bay. In the past month, I've signed on for another year as Secretary of the Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto, and accepted the nomination for Secretary of the Garment District Neighbourhood Association, asked if there were any other nominations, and, hearing none, was elected to the position by acclamation. So I have stronger connections to Toronto than I did a year ago.
Still, everything, including going to the corner store, seems harder after the pandemic started. That must have something to do with coming down with COVID-19 in the summer and "fully recovering" and, since then, starting again to do more or less everything I did pre-pandemic. Hopefully that means more to catalogue here in the coming months.
Another pandemic year, another Towel Day. I finally read Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion by Neil Gaiman earlier this year, and it was everything and more that I hoped it would be. It has a hard-to-fathom amount of detail about the life of Douglas Adams and the production of the series. I brought the towel I got as part of Vancouver Public Library's One Book One Vancouver out of storage again, along with Archie the Humpback Whale (whom I would nave named Noel after Douglas's middle name). I'll walk around with towel and hopefully I'll see some other hoopy froods who know where their towel is. I brought them to the co-working space, so I know where mine is.
Douglas Adams is tied with Zadie Smith as my favourite writer of all time. He, along with Steve Martin, are the heroes that aren't my dad, because they all taught me it was OK to strive to be intelligent and have a silly streak. (Monty Python, which I'm a fan of as well, taught me that but I could never fully get into them. The comedy troupe figure prominently in Neil Gaiman's book and Douglas Adams's life, as one would expect.) The heart aches when considering all of the deadlines that would have gone whooshing by had DNA lived longer.
I'm nominally a Blue Jays fan, enjoying watching baseball and them being Canada's only major league team. In the late 2010s, however, I realized (for the second time1) being a fan of a single team wasn't as enjoyable as being a fan of the sport. I also didn't watch much sports during 2020 and 2021, because the dread around the pandemic overshadowed the product on the field, and the quiet of the stadium coupled with the fake crowd noise only served as a reminder of the lengths we were going to in order to ignore the despair. I watched the playoffs when fans were allowed back, however, and it was fun watching the last day of 2021 where 4 games had implications for the playoffs.
When the Blue Jays announced the Leadoff ticket package, I was initially not interested. The more I thought of it, though, the more I liked the premise: It was a ticket to each home game, randomly assigned, in the truly cheap seats. There was almost zero chance of a foul ball or home run reaching that area.2 That took the decision of where to sit out of the equation, and got me in the stadium, where I could walk around wherever I wanted and watch at the standing-room areas anywhere in the stadium. So I bought the package, and went to most of the games, making it worth the price. Plus, I live a 15-minute walk away from the stadium.
The downsides were that every seat had an obstructed view. Opening night, I couldn't see most right field, and every other night, the corners were not visible. I was there for Bo Bichette's first grand slam of his major league career, but I couldn't see it go over the fence. I also have very few physical mementos of the games. There was a booth outside the stadium on Opening Day selling programs, so I bought one, but for other games, I couldn't find them at all on the 500 level. While one can bring their own food into Rogers Centre, it's a rarity, since I don't think people know that you're allowed to. One day I'll bring in a bánh mì sandwich and maybe someone will ask me which booth I got it at.
I ultimately waited too long to get the ticket package for May. I attended one of the April games with a friend, not part of the ticket package, but still in the cheap seats, and this time with unobstructed views of the field. So I think I'll try to sit in that same section when I do go to a game by myself.
Some other thoughts:
- I was struck about how there was basically zero messaging about the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing on the JumboTron, nothing in the PA announcements, and almost no signs of a new respiratory disease other than the employees all wearing masks (along with a certain percentage of attendees).
- The Blue Jays put on a good show. I did catch myself wondering if there was ever, or ever will be, a Quiet Night at the Ballpark. That is, turning down the volume on the PA announcements, and no music between pitches, and no exhortations to "GET LOUD!!!" When attending with a friend, it was hard sometimes to hear him, and we can both be soft-spoken, and I'd rather try to speak over other people than walk-up songs and whatnot.
The games I did not watch: Sunday games, and the Thursday afternoon game during a weekday. It was a bit exhausting, especially after I had memorized the answers to the between-innings quizzes which didn't differentiate much, so I don't know how people who attend all 81 games can do it. I plan on going to one or two games a month from here on out.
Two events, one in Canada, one in Eastern Europe took the spotlight off of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has entered its third year.
I went on a couple of trips, attended events, and otherwise spent another three months not sheltering in place.
Since July of this year, I've been to Hamilton twice, went to an Ontario cottage for the first time while living in Toronto, and have gone to a co-working space every couple of weeks or so. While I've mostly been working from home, I haven't exactly been sheltering in place like I did for the previous 16 months.