Sweet Like Yellow

It's almost as if you want to be late to be cute.

 I don't need to be late to be cute, this fucking bus was just parked outside Tim Horton's for 10 minutes. Get my ticket for me, I'll be there in 5ish.  

It was turning into a long five minutes. The girl at the front desk of the gallery, who made eyes with me the first time I went up to buy a ticket, was less intrigued as I approached the desk for the second time.

“Hi, again. I'm just going to need another ticket, please. Same thing as last time, no Special Exhibition” I said with a friendly smile.

She looked taken aback, as if offended that I didn't wait in line again to ask for her number. Her vulnerability lasted briefly, as she regained composure and started typing away quickly at her keyboard, making up for the lost time. I always admired the composure a woman can summon in times of social awkwardness. I pretended to look around at the great glass ceiling in the entrance hall, and shortly after, I heard the girl's voice in a bland tone.

“Alright, that comes to twelve dollars.”

“Twelve dollars? I thought it was ten?” I looked up and checked the prices for today. “Oh, I'm sorry, she's actually a student.” I felt my words pierce through her like a knife through butter, the knife itself being “she.”

“I'm sorry, um, but they need to actually be here with a student card for me to give them the student special.”

“Aw, really? That's too bad. Are you sure you can't make an exception?” I looked her in the eyes and said with a smile. “Don't you trust me?”

I watched her wiggle around in her seat like it was too hot.

“Um, well, I don't know... I'm not supposed t-”

“I know you're not supposed to do it, but come on. Live a little,” I actually winked at her.

What was wrong with me? Looking back to see how many people were angry at me for trying to get $2 off, I saw her. “Ah, here she is now!” I waved her forward once she saw me, and she wove in and out of the line until she got to the front. “She's a student.” I looked at the card she passed the receptionist on the desk. Natalie Medal it read, from the University of Ottawa. I looked at her picture and was reminded about how she thought she looked like Wednesday from The Addams Family, with her expressionless face and dyed-black hair. The receptionist, Catelyn, it read from her name tag, typed in the student special and pushed Natalie's ticket and ID across the desk with pursed lips and loathsome eyes. I grabbed the ticket from Catelyn while Natalie was preoccupied searching her bag for her phone, and turned Natalie by her shoulders away from the front desk.

We made our way down the granite decline towards all the main exhibits, looking out the giant glass windows to the left. Walking down casually, I caught her looking at me from the corner of her eye. I waited a few moments, pretending not to notice her.

“Whatcha looking at, hot stuff?”

But she wasn't looking at me at all, ego check. I looked into her eyes and saw the reflection of a waking sun shining on a beautiful city, coated in an azure blue.

“You're really going to miss this place, huh?” I asked. She looked at me and nodded in silence. Something told me she wasn't seeing the same city I was. I had no idea what to say, so I just embraced the silence with her. A gallery is the perfect place to be quiet. You're almost expected to be noiseless, as if you'll wake up paintings or disturb the sculptures. Everyone assumes you are in deep thought about the piece of art in front of you. We've always belonged in a gallery together.

Once we walked down to the main hall, we decided go to the the aboriginal art section first and work our way up from there. We roamed around the first couple of rooms, glumly studying a piece or two, emulating the darker, hushed environment. As we approached the third room, we followed routine, but stopped at a sculpture near the end.

“Look at this one here,” I said. “This thing has like, six, seven, eight different faces.”

“That's almost as much as some people I know,” she replied with a petite smile. “But yeah, this one is really cool. There's a polar bear in the middle, too. It says here that it was made with whalebone."

“That's unreal. What did they use for the teeth?”

“Hm... real teeth. Hare, walrus, and polar bear. All of these native artists are legit.”

“Yeah.” I replied. “Let's hope we don't see a life-sized human sculpture anytime soon.”

We exited the aboriginal section and found ourselves back at the base of the stairs. Making our way up this time, we walked to the next section of the gallery.

“Oh, this is much nicer,” she said. “It was starting to feel kind of morbid down there.” She was right. We entered upstairs in higher hopes for the art to come. The first hall was high and narrow compared to the basement, with brown rafters stretched across the ceiling in an almost artsy way itself. Light bounced around the hall from a long window, but in an orchestrated way it seemed, so as not to disturb the lighting in the paintings. The walls in the hall featured paintings mostly from the late 17th century. No big names we could recognize, but still, we were enraptured by their excellence.

The next couple of halls had various themes to them. One hall was full of some of the first photographs, with such poor quality they actually looked more like drawings. The next hall had a collection of paintings that were either of portraits or water. The next hall we entered was full of abstract art.

“Ah. I was waiting until we'd come across something like this,” I said as we approached a painting. “Why is it that something like this always makes it into galleries?”

“I'm not too sure. To keep the hipsters happy?”

“It must be. There's always those one or two people that genuinely appreciate a piece like this. But let's be honest, there's seriously nothing else to it besides the two colours.”

“It must be something super deep. Like the red could represent anger or lust or blood. And maybe the yellow represents all the happiness after the angry red feelings,” she said. “That's just what I think, who knows.”

“It's called Paranoid. I don't see how this can represent paranoia at all. This just reminds me of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Yellow. Just add some blue in this, and there's the whole set.”

She smiled and said: “That's totally what they must have been going for. Well, there must be something to it. This is the National Gallery, after all.”

“There's nothing to it, this is garbage. Can you think of all those artists out there spending months, years even on painting and sculptures, and this Tousignant guy just has to paint two rectangles on top of each other, and he gets a spot in the Gallery. They need to sell this thing at a garage sale,” I said, pacing around her.

She laughed and grabbed my hands. “This stuff really does get you riled up, doesn't it?”

I gazed into her full hazel eyes, and up and down her body.

“Not as much as you do.” I grabbed her by the hips and pulled her into mine passionately, gently burying my teeth into her shoulder and kissing my way up behind her ear like I always did.

She pushed a little and said, “Stop you goofball, there's a security guard right there.”

“So what? Don't be so Paranoid. This is probably the most liveliness he's ever had on the job.”

We embraced together, filling the quiet hall with the sound of wet lips. It took the guard five minutes and almost falling against the painting to summon the courage to approach us and ask us to move along now, please and thank you.

By then I had wanted to stop anyways; you can only play tonsil hockey for so long. We made our way to the next section holding hands, the next with our arms wrapped, and the last with her head on my shoulder. We knew this would be the last of us. Walking down the stairs that had led us to the main halls, she suggested we wait outside. I knew what she wanted; I saw her searching her purse without looking. Walking up what was now the granite incline, we made our way outside.


“What was with that girl at the desk?” she said as soon as the doors closed behind us. “She gave me death eyes.”

“I don't know, maybe she's been having a rough day,” I replied, looking back. You asshole. “So, this is it, huh. When's your dad coming to pick you up?”

“He should be here any minute,” she said, quickly puffing down her cigarette.

Anything we said after is now a blur to me. We spoke for about five minutes, but it might as well have been five seconds. Her father had pulled up onto the side of the road. I hugged her and held her tight. Part of me will never let go. We held both hands and she gave me a teary-eyed last look like a soldier being drafted would have given his beloved; the last look forever. I was at a loss for words. I felt her left hand leave my right, and her right hand leave my left, finger by finger, as she backed away. The shutting of her dad's car door echoed in my memory for some time. When the car made off down Sussex Drive towards the airport, my arm was still extended. Her cigarette let out a final wisp of smoke that disappeared into the summer air.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons | Andrew Magill

Adam Brown

Adam is a writer, skateboarder, and happiness enthusiast born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. His spare time is ideally spent outdoors skateboarding or exploring nature.

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CFB Rockcliffe

At a glance, you wouldn't expect there to be over 320 acres of unoccupied land between the Montfort Hospital and the National Research Council on Montreal Road, but boy, is there ever. You might be asking yourself, what's the significance? Well, if you'd like to pay the plot of land a visit and see how eerie a neighbourhood without homes or people looks like, you might be in for a good time, though not for long.

Turning off Montreal Road onto Burma Road and continuing straight until Drayton Private will bring you to the place where Burma Road used to continue onto Burma Private, one of the main abandoned roads in the plat. Instead of a continuous road, there is now a fence with the typical NO TRESPASSING sign people like myself prefer to ignore, and a four-foot-wide opening in the fence next to it. Upon entering with a friend who had brought me there, I had no idea what to expect, other than a ten-second description that apparently had been good enough to convince me.

Burma Private stretches on for just under a kilometre of old road, with sub streets and cul-de-sacs branching off every so often; each with old driveways and house space along them. After continuing straight past an old tennis court, you can find the roundabouts of Arcturus and Rigel Private, each with a large green space of trees and long grass in the middle. It's here that my friend and I began to realize just how strange the whole place was.

Other than the 40 odd driveways along the streets, there are traces of previous life scattered throughout the land. Fire hydrants were among the most popular, followed up by old garbage, wooden benches, computer printers from the 90s, old swing sets, and the backboard for a basketball net in the middle of the now forested Rigel Private, the larger roundabout of the two. These objects would have sent hairs on end, had the day not been so warm and sunny.

While the mystery would have helped my curiosity, I did some research and found out that the area was previously a military base from 1918 known as CFB Rockcliffe. The base was decommissioned in 2004 and used as interim housing and other military purposes until being fully decommissioned in 2011, though residents had already started leaving. The allotted land now has approved plans to be used for an estimated 5,300 residential homes over the next 15-20 years. 

Photo Credit: Adam Brown

Adam Brown

Adam is a writer, skateboarder, and happiness enthusiast born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. His spare time is ideally spent outdoors skateboarding or exploring nature.

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The Carbide Mill

 Although not inside Ottawa, the abandoned mill near Meech Lake, QC is a gorgeous must-see spot. It's the kind of place you wish you and your friends would stumble upon while trekking through forest. All you have to do is drive 20 minutes outside Ottawa to O'Brien Beach, pay for parking (or don't), take the right-hand path and walk about 10-15 minutes to make your wish come true.

At first glance, the place appears magical; a steady-flowing current on a rocky river going through what looks like a small, old castle.  As much as I would like to believe that, a friend of mine told me moments after we got there that it's an abandoned processing mill. The man who owned it, Thomas Wilson, was a Canadian inventor who had the mill built in 1911 after discovering how to create calcium carbide, an ingredient needed to make acetylene gas. Wilson apparently withdrew all his assets from his other ventures to make this mill, only to have them absorbed by his investor J.B. Duke (owner of the American Tobacco Company monopoly) when Wilson couldn't meet the deadline for production. At least, that's how the story goes.

After my initial awe had passed, I began to poke around. To my left was a large, short tunnel that leads down into the main part of the abandoned building. As much as I wanted to slide down into the building, the tunnel was partially fenced off and dirty. Instead I continued straight across a small bridge to the spot where I can only guess the actual mill used to be. From here, you get a great view of the path, the building, and the small body of water the current flows through behind the building.

If this not-so-hidden gem of a spot had a downside, it would be its popularity. You may feel you are alone while there, but there are usually people coming and going regularly, though usually no more than two or three groups are there at a time. The mill is also reputable for its naturalists, so be prepared to see some skin if you choose to go.

Photo Credit: Adam Brown

Adam brown

Adam is a writer, skateboarder, and happiness enthusiast born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. His spare time is ideally spent outdoors skateboarding or exploring nature.

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The Blackburn Quarry

Another Blackburn Hamlet spot; the greatest of them all in my opinion. The quarry on Bearbrook Road came to be from Lafarge, a France-based mining company, blasting large segments of rock with dynamite for concrete extraction. After years of doing so, it has resulted in a breathtakingly huge quarry, with a small (in comparison) but growing blue body of water at the bottom.

Because Lafarge still owns the quarry, access is considered trespassing. This doesn't stop teenagers from finding a way in for a swim in the summer, and it didn't stop my friends and I from hopping a six-foot-high spiked fence to get onto Lafarge property, and begin our short walk to the edge of the quarry. After hopping the fence, we found a semi-clear path straight ahead that leads to the quarry, forest to our left, and backyards to our right. This can make going to the quarry an awkward experience; you may be reported to the police for trespassing, or you might just receive a friendly greeting. Thankfully, we got an awkward hello. After a bit of bushwacking, we found the path opens up wide to about the width of a car, and what looks like tire tracks are visible up until the quarry. When you finally reach the edge, you get a full view of the quarry and all its glory.

Trekking down to the bottom takes awhile, as all the feasible paths spiral from top to bottom. My friends and I took a shortcut by cautiously sliding down half of the way on a dangerously steep, rocky decline. One small slip, and we would have had a harsh tumble of about 100 feet until we hit flat ground. After reaching the path unscathed and walking along the spiral for about 10 more minutes, we had reached the bottom. All around us were cliffs, rocky edges, and giant mounds of gravel. We fooled around for some time before we heard a voice in the distance, and decided that we had better leave before we get into trouble. We jogged up along the path, and climbed the steep rocky slope that we had descended from. We reached the top and gave the quarry a tired but satisfied last look.

The quarry's vastness is captivating in both a beautiful and sad way. On one hand, the immensity is humbling. Being around something so large makes you feel small, in that good way that some things in nature do. But on the other hand, sometimes I look down from the top and see a pit that represents humankind's spoiling of the Earth through mining, deforestation, and pollution. I often wonder what would be in the quarry's place had it never existed.

Photo Credit: Adam Brown

Adam Brown

Adam is a writer, skateboarder, and happiness enthusiast born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. His spare time is ideally spent outdoors skateboarding or exploring nature. 

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The Stones

Growing up in Blackburn Hamlet, one of the staple activities of my childhood was exploring; in particular, the forests of Blackburn. There was the treehouse (now reduced to a standing, rotting landmark), the rope swing (still there, but irreversibly stuck, it seems, on a high branch), and various forts, tipis, and shelters that have come and gone—and will continue to do so, as long as kids continue to be themselves. But one path leading off of Green's Creek leads to a feature that people have gone to visit basically since Blackburn came into existence: the Stones.

The trail cuts off at the edge of a small hill,  blocked off by some wide, stone foundation. Side trails lead down to the valley in which the Stones reside. Fourteen stones, sixteen if you count the ones hidden by bush, each about 7 feet high, are set along two lines parallel to the stone foundation. Looking straight from the foundation, the stones lead to another foundation set across the Green's Creek stream.

As a child, you would see these Stones for the first time and dash down the side trails, slipping along the mud and wet grass with excitement to see these huge stones you didn't know what to make of. The Stones are delicate from what could be a hundred years or more of weather abuse, and have been covered in different types of graffiti ever since I've visited them. Climbing them as you feel obliged to do proved difficult; you had nothing to grip on to except eroded sections that would crumble when touched.

Every time I go to the Stones, I always wonder what purpose they served. An obvious conclusion given their structure and alignment would be a base for train tracks, or a simple bridge. After researching Blackburn's history, I'm left with no definite conclusion, but certainly a few possibilities. 

A sawmill fabricated by Robert Green (from which Green's Creek derives it's name) in the early 1800s would have needed to have a bridge built to send the lumber across the stream to another parts of Ottawa. This is the most likely possibility in my opinion, as the Stones are so close by to Green's Creak. Another possibility is that they were used for the Canadian Pacific Railway Line that was expanded through the Hamlet in 1898. 

While I still don't know for sure what the Stones were used for years ago, I have grown to appreciate their mystery more so through my research, and feel pleasured to share a home with them.

Photo Credit: Adam Brown

Adam brown

Adam Brown is a writer, skateboarder, and happiness enthusiast born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. His spare time is ideally spent outdoors either skateboarding or exploring  nature.

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