Friday, June 2, 2006

A Rose is a Rose ...

Yesterday, seeing as I wasn't rafting, I had a day at leisure in Ottawa, before meeting my friend at about 6:30 at the hotel lobby.

So, I checked out, left my bags with the desk, and headed out for walk.  Rideau Canal is a canal that runs right through the City (in winter, it becomes the world's largest skating rink, and commuters just skate down the thing to get to work).  There are paths nearby, so I just took a stroll down the side of the canal.  Pretty.  Peaceful.  The stray jogger came by, and one of those damn school groups (on bikes).  But it was largely deserted. 

The woman at the hotel desk had recommended I visit Byward Market -- an open air market.  She said I could spend a whole day there.  So I was walking down the canal in that general direction.  I ended up overshooting it because the canal got interesting.  There was a serious of locks (eight of them) which lowered the level of the canal until it opened up on the Ottawa River.  The locks themselves are still hand operated, and you can just walk across the tops of them to cross the canal.  (There was also an old stone building -- now a museum -- which used to be the commissary where they sold supplies for the guys building the canal.)  So I walked down past the locks to sit by the river.  Again, very peaceful.  I had some nice solitary contemplative time on a bench by the river. 

Then I trudged back uphill (there seemed to be a lot more steps going UP the hill where the locks were) and made for the Byward Market.

Total waste of time.  Lots of open air stalls selling crap.  Beaded necklaces, "your name on a grain of rice," that sort of thing.  The school groups were loving it.  There were fruit stands cheerfully selling small dishes of strawberries for $3 each.  And signs saying "Product of the USA."  Hey, I can get 8 American strawberries for less than $3 back in, y'know, America.

There was dude doing those temporary henna tattoos for $5.  Having nothing else to show for my day in the market, I bought one.  Dude drew a little rose on my ankle in black henna paste.  Then he gave me "After Care Instructions."  It dries in a half hour (no problem).  Two hours later, I need to wash off the paste in running water.  (Problem.  I've checked out of the hotel and won't be in another until after 7.  Where am I going to find running water?)  And then I can "preserve" the tattoo (for 7 to 10 days) by putting Vaseline on it when I shower.  (Also problem.  First, I have no Vaseline.  Second, I think I'll want to actually SHAVE MY LEGS sometime during the next week.)  But, hey, he's already drawn the damn thing.  Take my advice -- ask about follow-up care before you get the temporary tattoo.

So I stop for lunch (while it dries) and then wander the market some more 'cause it's about 3 so I still have three hours to kill.  I'm waiting to cross the street and I feel something wet on my arm.  "Don't be bird poop.  Please don't be bird poop."  It's not bird poop.  It's water.  I assume it came from some air conditioning unit above.  It happens again, when I'm further down the block.  Then a third time.  "Oh!  I get it!  Rain!"  I have visions of the black henna rose running down my leg and giving me a black henna coated sock.  I remember seeing an indoor mall the next street over and I head for it.

I have now found all the people in Ottawa.  I'd just THOUGHT they were all nice, healthy active people who quietly jogged near the canal listening to their ipods.  Instead, they're just as noisy, fat and lazy as Americans, and they're all in the mall at 3:30 in the afternoon.  Seriously.  Do these people have jobs?  This mall is more crowded than the Galleria on a Saturday afternoon.

I poke around a little bit but realize the henna rose on my leg will also prevent me from trying on any clothes, as I haven't rinsed this paste off yet.  I start to think that what I really need is a movie theatre in this mall.  Something showing, say, X-Men 3.  At around 3:45?  I find a mall directory and there's "Empire Theaters" right there on the fourth floor.  I go up to the theater and see they've got X-Men 3.  At 4:00.  Close enough! 

I buy my ticket and see X-Men with about a half dozen Canadians.  (Tip:  Stay through the closing credits.)  By the time I get out, it's time to head over to the hotel and meet Mary.

She arrives, we drive to our new hotel, and the first thing I do is stick my ankle in the bathtub to wash off the henna paste.  As the paste has been baking there for five hours, it's on there pretty good and "just letting it sit under running water" isn't sufficient.  I have to keep my leg under the bathtub faucet for ten or fifteen minutes before the water stops being black, and finally the paste is gone and I've got a temporary black tattoo of a rose on my ankle.

This morning I woke up and it has already started to blur and fade. 

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