On the plane from Toronto to Vancouver
Mesmerised by modulating maps (damn Nabokov, your dazzling dust lay safely inert in the print of the tenth-hand copy of Transparent Things I picked up at a yard sale in Toronto, until I opened it and smelt that wonderful musty tenth-hand smell. Until I chased the dancing, sparkling words. Now I'm possessed, my tongue is bewitched by alliteration, I'm full of sounds that spark and shoot and sing). Mesmerised by the modulating map in the little display on the back of the seat ahead of me. North America at five different scales. The map zooms in, five great gulps, on the cartoon jet that slides like an angular bead along the thin green wire of our journey (one harlequin pixel wide, not quite smooth, the digital staircasing of nature's curves that has become the new nature of our information age). The names of the towns grow steadily more unfamiliar as we close in—from Denver and Calgary to Regina and Thunder Bay to Camrose and Esterhazy to Assiniboia and Pilot Butte. A sense of stepping into an unknown continent, a Spaniard's map of the untamed Americas. Most disorienting, most thrilling of all the compass view, nothing but the orientation of the plane and the distance and direction of the two nearest towns—SW 29km to Weyburn, SE 79km to Estevan—against a blandly posterized blend of blue and white.