3 min

Calling from the other side

In amongst the angst, late night worrying and mid-morning silent freak-outs behind my desk, which is only mine for another 14 days, there are things I look forward to when it comes to the Parkdale-to-Prenzlauer Berg Tour 2009. They may not seem like much, but to me they are the shining light in the dark tunnel of preparation.

I am a smoker. Most days I am unapologetic like Fran Lebowitz, passionate like Bridgette Bardot and committed like George Burns. But as the snow begins to fall a rift inevitably develops in my relationship with nicotine. We spend less time together. And what we do together is fraught with curse words and discomfort. I have been looking forward to my renewed love affair with tobacco and, after researching smoking laws in Europe, things seem to be looking up.

In Barcelona, where we will spend the last few weeks of January, indoor smoking in bars, restaurants and cafes will help the state of my relationship. I won’t be able to smoke in hospitals and elevators but, since that was the law here since before I took my first drag, Barcelona will be a breath of fresh air.

In Tuscany things are slightly different. According to recent visitors the regions smoking laws are adhered to as much as road signs and stop lights, so I should be able to light up, inhale and relax pretty much anywhere. The temperature in February is on average 12C, which is downright balmy compared to the -5C weather in Hogtown so even if I need to step outside it should be more pleasure than pain.

And the final stop? Berlin. At the beginning of this year smoking was banned in all public enclosed spaces. In a city that has brothels, clubs where people have sex and bars that never close it seems extreme. If there is a place for nonsmoking people to hang out then you can smoke, similar to what it was like here before the hammer came down. There is also a mobile smoking “van” that will pick you up outside a club in the winter. They’ll drive you around so you can smoke and provide you with a DJ to entertain you while you romance your oral fixation.

A few years ago I went to a party called Cornstock in Fenelon Falls, Ontario. I should have known that things might get messy when we pulled up to the farmhouse and the lawn was dotted with tents and portalets. The morning after the party I vowed off booze for an entire year. Since the self-imposed ban has been lifted I have learned an important lesson: how to ride out the liquor shame after too many bottles of good wine or one or 14 vodka sodas.

The plan is to drink often. Start early. Make it good. Since there are no school days, there is no reason to cram sport drinking in on the weekends or late nights. Have a glass of Chianti with lunch. Or a pint of Bock with dinner. And enjoy it.

The last time I read a book was more than six months ago and I am ashamed. I am imagining lying in the Teirgarten on a lazy Wednesday afternoon reading the latest Chuck Palaniuk book, purchased from one of the English language bookstores in Berlin. Due to weight restrictions on flights I won’t be bringing any books from here with me. And for the first couple months, I’ll have to live with magazines and newspapers. But once March hits and we’re settled in Berlin, watch out.

I am a parasomniac. For the past 24 years I have not slept a whole night through without the help of a sleep aid. Needless to say I am looking forward to the end of sleep deprivation. According to Statistics Canada adults in this country sleep an average of eight hours a night. I probably average five. Exacerbated by stress, some nights I’m lucky if I get four. Then it’s “time to make the doughnuts” and I’m out the door. I would like to become very good friends with the siesta and the sleep-in. Coffee in bed in the morning and a newspaper to read cover to cover are a luxury that right now I cannot afford and soon hope to not be able to live without. 

This past summer my bicycle was stolen. It wasn’t anything special — a cheap $75 used junker that I bought eight years ago in rural Nova Scotia. But it did the job. It took me from Parkdale to St Lawrence Market to work and back for most of the year. And was my main mode of transportation for a better part of the summer. After I lost the dear I invested in a fold-up bicycle. I could take it inside and protect from mean thieves. And I could also bring it away for the year quite easily. My wife now also has a folder and so we are ready to go anywhere. Ride the ramparts in Lucca? Check. Ride to the Spree for a little R’n’R on the “beach”? Check. Travel along the Sienne with the rest of the city on Sundays? Check. Dash around the corner for another bottle of wine with only seconds to spare before the store closes? Check, check and check!

These are the things that I remind myself of every time I find myself explaining to people how stressful it is or how I have sooo much to do to prepare. When I put it all down on paper I wonder what has taken us so long.

30 days and counting!