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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Sunday, July 24, 2005

another stroll in New West

High summer. Up at 6:40 or so, made coffee, keyed notes: Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian, and The Ruling Class of Judaea. A certain mechanicalness now to my research, a certain doggedness: mustn't give up this. That would be losing my grip on the whole thing.

Robin had a date at the Show and Shine (car show) in New West with Trevor and her father, so Kimmie and I went out to New West ourselves--back to the IHOP for breakfast. It was already busy when we got there at 10:25, so we took a seat. I whipped out my prose sketchbook:

SUN 24 JUL 2005 10:25 am IHOP NEW WEST

Sunny summer: I'm here on the narrow blue upholstered bench, waiting for a table. K has just come in with a Province. The old sphere-headed Asian next to me is buried in his copy: ash-colored coarse hair, short-sleeved check shirt, black loafers with white socks. Fleshy compressed features: lips, nose.

"No, I live in that building across the street now," he says to the woman next to him, "next to the gas station.... No it was a townhouse. This is thirteen hundred square-foot. We were at the Fraserview.... We didn’t live in half of it."

Babble of voices; refreshing morning breeze comes through when the door opens, people coming and going. Red tile floor with gray rubber-backed entry rug. Vinyl wainscoting with wallpaper above: greenish-gray, pattern like cracks forming in dried mud.

Chinese family has sat next to me: 2 women and a child; talking Chinese.

The restaurant is in a high peaked roof, great beams angled up like a church.

Old woman walks slowly by with a cane, her right foot badly twisted inward. Heavily she moves forward in her turquoise pants, lurching.

Tall beanpole of a young guy stands nearby. Now he's sat: long white T-shirt, long long drapery down to his black shorts.

We both had omelettes. Then we strolled through Queen's Park, the sun bearing down but the shade dense and cool. Tall graceful trees swished in the breeze; cirrus clouds were combed by wind high in the blue sky. We felt great appreciation for each other's company.

We crossed the gritty highway of Royal Avenue and walked down the steeper slope toward downtown New West and the river. The Fraser was a great flat snake of milky green stretching away in both directions. Massive bridges: the Patullo, the SkyTrain bridge, and off to the west in the distance, the Arthur Laing. The old crumbling streets of New West plunge down the hill to the water, some of them showing their original red-brick pavement through the worn patches of asphalt. Well-dressed people, families, ambled to their cars from a beautiful but run-down little church commanding a view of the river from above the SkyTrain tracks. The rubble of St. Mary's Hospital was piled in sun-blasted ridges behind chainlink fence. Three old houses, boarded up, sat in the compound. Evidently they are being offered for $1 each on the condition that the buyer moves them to another site and renovates them.

We walked back up the slope and drove back to North Van. Stopped at a nursery to buy flowers (marguerites, snapdragons, a couple of others), and do some grocery shopping.

Everything is wonderful. But my project is stalled.

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