Dawn’s Early Light

  The aircraft is chased west by daybreak, while below us a city by a river or a mountain range awakes, over and over again, lives breaking free from the sleepy clouds on which they lay their heads. There’s another big river, its conversation with the land changing the course of each. Like a shark we keep moving, gobbling up the miles but not the hours, which always catch up, reigning over every food chain, humbling any speed you can muster. Another dawn catches us headed to where the oilsands weep oil in the boreal forest. The day comes on like a Rothko painting, suffused with the deep ... [Read More]

Holes You Can Drive a Truck Through

The first cultural signal from a trip to Alberta’s energy region is the approximately 16-to-1 ratio of men to women on the 50-seat flight to Edmonton from Denver. The veined and snowy landscape stretches away in whites and browns and blacks, the cultured marble countertop of North America … or perhaps its vanity. At the Edmonton airport, signs alert arriving workers where to stand to wait for their shuttles to the Kearl and CRNL projects. The geography and even time itself are measured by these projects: Housing developments in Ft. McMurray, where modest dwellings go for $700,000-plus, are referred to as “early Suncor” or “middle Albian.” ... [Read More]

WiFi More Important Than Basic Needs

That's what a survey of travelers by American Airlines and HP found in summer 2009. Forty-seven percent said airport wifi was more important than such basic amenities as, say, food. I'd go one step further: Free wifi is even more important. Some community/airport/business coalitions have figured this out ... such as Toronto's Pearson International, whence I'm posting this message, courtesy of Canadian corporate behemoth Rogers, whose name also adorns the former Skydome where the Blue jays lost to the Rays last night. I know it sounds cheapskate. But to me such a simple amenity sends a message to the international businesspeople flowing through any major airport ... ... [Read More]

In Toronto, it’s nice weather for a water summit

Before heading to Toronto for this week’s Ontario water leadership summit, I noted that my hotel was on Blue Jays Way, and joked to my wife that maybe I’d be staying in that hotel where some rooms overlook the Skydome baseball field (called Rogers Centre since 2005). Sure enough, I am: The Renaissance is a great hotel, with solicitous staff, a freshly printed Globe and Mail at your door every morning and Aveda products in the bath. The Blue Jays are on a road trip right now, so there’s some major artificial turf replacement going on … I can report that this process is exactly ... [Read More]

Sparkling Quebec City

Quebecers, like Texans, never flinch from calling themselves a nation. That pride is nowhere more evident than in Quebec City, where you can climb the hill to parliament, see the statues gleaming in their niches, and observe how the Quebec flag atop the edifice is outshone only by the moon. Everywhere there is stone or block, it is restored. Yet even the plaques bolted to the boulders grow ancient. When footlighted, the walls and ramparts of the city turn from fort to sculpture, especially when you see small human beings strolling in relief alongside them. It is fall, and 42 sailboats on a Saturday are harboring every hour ... [Read More]