Thursday, 22 September 2011
mainly sunny, temps 20
Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario. Kitchener was called Berlin, until the first world war, when they decided to change the name. But what they couldn't change, thank God, was the make-up of the population. Huge German population. Can't tell you how this has enriched the area. With their culture and food and festivals. And the sense of community. Oktoberfest is massive here.
Kitchener had been very industrial - until the last few years when everything collapsed. But they seem to have quite remarkable leadership - on so many levels....and quickly turned and are now a centre of intellectual excellence, with schools, think-tanks. This is the home of Research in Motion (RIM) - the creators of the Blackberry. (thank God I use a blackberry - and LOVE it). It's astonishing. And a massive thrust, of course, to education and re-education....so that people who had worked in the auto industry are now working high tech jobs. Schools are opening, new libraries are opening. but at the same time there's a vigorous rural and farm community. Family farms. A amazing farmer markets where you can see men and women on their Blackberries standing beside a Mennonite horse and buggy.
It is an astonishing community.
I'm absolutely loving this tour. Learning SO much about these places I get to visit. And mostly learning there's so much more to them than I could have dreamed. For instance, did you know that it is almost illegal to put ketchup on your hotdog in Chicago?
Am here in Kitchener-Waterloo because their library system has chosen BURY YOUR DEAD as their One Book, One Community Read. They've packed the days with TV and Radio interviews - with talks to school students and then in the evening to hundreds and hundreds of people.
Had a great event two nights ago with the Chief of Police for the area - Matt Torigian. Two easy chairs were placed on the stage, in front of 200 plus people, and we had a conversation. He was magnificent. I was leery because I didn't want to be placed in the position of the Chief telling me where I'd gone wrong, and how investigations are actually conducted. But he was lovely - and talked about his own fears as a leader, and choices, and the demands of murder investigations on them personally and their families. And that police work is about forensics, but at the end of the day it's about the team. And their relationship with each other. The deep, deep caring.
He was generous and open. I was impressed and relieved. And felt we'd just met a real life Gamache.
It was all most of women in the room could do not to follow him home. If I wasn't so in love with Michael....
Then yesterday I spoke at the Waterloo-Oxford Secondary school. I love speaking with high school students. But it was also packed with members of the community who'd come to listen. Then last night another on-stage conversation, this time with Rob Reid of the local newspaper, The Record. They're hugely supportive of the One Book, One Community campaign. About 300 people there - can't tell you how fun that is!
Today I'm doing a more intimate workshop sort of thing with a high school writing group, then in the evening the closing event at the University of Waterloo school of Architecture. Not sure why that's the venue. they might have heard about our renovations at home...
Michael is back there, overseeing. We're about 3 weeks into it, and about 3 weeks behind already. It's a sort of miracle of physics. We've crossed the speed of light, backward. Seems they discovered the entire roof needs to be re-shingled. In money, apparently.
To be fair - we knew it needed to be done and are very, very glad they're doing it while fixing the falling-down kitchen. I'd harboured a fantasy of returning home from book tour and moving into the new 'old' home. That clearly won't be happening. But the work will be well done and properly done - and Michael is doing a great job. so many decisions. He called the other night to say that he'd told them to put the bathroom vanity in the wrong place.
I tried to be supportive, while having visions of it in the middle of the kitchen. or on the roof. How far wrong can you go with a vanity? But it turned out to be a very small thing, and Michael, dear one, fixed it. Shocking number of decisions and details.
Sooo - I'll be at the school of architecture tonight - but not, thankfully, talking about design or renovations, but Bury Your Dead.
then tomorrow I fly to British columbia to start the western swing. Quite short. Event Saturday night in Victoria, BC, at Bolen's books - 7pm - then Sunday at Chapters in Vancouver and Tuesday at McNally-Robinson in Winnipeg.
Taking the long way home - and enjoying every step. thanks for walking it with me.