The Stranger's journey has now come full circle.
Join me in the bright sunshine at When Words Go Free...

There are still stories to be told.
Read them at The Stranger Looks Back.


It was in her eyes, and it was unmistakable. As much as I tried to turn away, I could not. They drew me in, and it scared me. Because at that moment, I knew. I kept looking over at the others, wondering if they had noticed, hoping, so that they could put a stop to it. They hadn't. There was no stopping it. Not then. Not now.

But I had to try.

"Sorry," I said, "you're too late."

"Or too soon," she replied.

Into the looking glass

Alice wondered at the strange looking glass. She had seen it before, but had never paid it much attention. Busy with her classes, she had little time for recess. Then one day, tired of her studies, she decided to take a closer look. She leaned towards the looking glass, wanting only to catch a glimpse of the strange goings-on, when suddenly she found herself drawn right in.

She picked herself up off the floor to find herself in the type of place her parents had always told her to stay out of. A lady floated by, muttering about some cleaning she had to do. Alice blinked, and some people were considering things Alice thought quite impolite for social discourse. She blinked again, and they were gone. She drifted off...

When she awoke, she saw that she was not alone. She looked at the time, and told the stranger, "I think you should leave now." The stranger thought not, and some discussion ensued. As soon as Alice conceded, the stranger left and Alice fell back into her slumber. She awoke again some time later to find that the stranger had returned, and had brought some others. Alice quite enjoyed their company and when they left, she followed them out.

She found herself in somewhat of a maze, and feeling a bit lost, she began to wander. As she did so, she thought to herself, "I might just like this place." She had no idea.

This Old House

We moved here in the spring of '99. It was to be a new start, as though leaving the city would leave the city behind. We looked at more than two dozen house and bought the first one we saw. We hated it, but it was near there. As though that would somehow make it better. It didn't.

We did what we could to pretend to like it. Got rid of that old carpeting. Most of it, anyway. Helped the remaining vintage 70's faux-bricks join their already-fallen comrades. Replaced them with tiles that came from Italy, because the ones made here just wouldn't do. So said the tilestore lady. Finished the basement built for men with big trucks. Never understood why the moron who had renovated the place didn't add a few inches when he had the chance. After all, he drove a Civic.

Then there was the balcony. I had used that contractor before, there, and he had done good work at a fair price. We didn't want to take the time to shop around. Big mistake. Too long, too much, not quite right. We got so used to coming in through the garage we never stopped doing it. I lost the only key to the front door years before I noticed.

We did what we could to pretend to like it. After all, we would only be here for a few years, five at the most, before we would be there. Right.

Maybe it was the ghosts. The tall man with the little basement breathed his last that first summer, as though there was no escape from here in this life. The man before him spent his last heartbeat making a snow angel, shovel by his side.  Maybe there were others. Yeah, it must have been the ghosts. It couldn't be us. After all, we left all that behind, in the city.

We like to believe that we can change our lives by changing our circumstances, our surroundings, our activities. Because those things are easy. Changing our selves is not. Before we can change something, we have to accept it. Aye, there's the rub.

We came here to get there. It really was the only thing about this old house that we really did like. Had we gotten there, would it have made a difference? I think so. Not because simply being there would have somehow changed us. Because to get there we would have had to change our selves first. We didn't. Blame it on the ghosts, but which ones?

The Italian tiles are holding up as well as the lady said they would. The floating floor too. The basement is still too short, but it doesn't matter. Nobody stands up down there. And the balcony is the balcony. I tell the kids to go up and wait for me to open the door while I enter through the garage. I don't know why. Maybe it's the symbol of the failure of this place, of my failure, and I don't want to share that with anybody.

She left this old house, taking her self with her, looking for that change that will change her. She's starting to find it, now that she's looking in the right place. She doesn't blame me anymore for everything that went wrong. I wish she did. I'd rather be responsible for her failed dreams than mine.

I'm still here. I avoid going there like the plague. I do it only when I really have no choice, and even then sometimes not. It reminds me too much of what could have been, what isn't, and what will probably never be. When I do go, I look at that picture, the one of those ghosts, the good ones, the ones that gave me all the possibilities I've squandered, and I say "I'm sorry." Sorry I let their there fall apart the way it has. Sorrier for the failures that represents. Sorrier to myself.

I'm still here. Three words. Three words that represent my failure. I look at them again, read them again, and wonder if they might have some other meaning. Then I see.

I'm still here.

Stranger In a Strange Town

There is a strange town, just over yonder. It is at once both modern and ancient, bustling and deadly silent, common and quite unique, planned and completely random . It has no permanent residents, but what town really does? We are all travellers, our destination the same, the journey itself all that matters. We live as we dream.

Like most towns, this one is made up of a collection of neighbourhoods. The invisible overlords of this town planned these neighbourhoods when they built their first scale model of the town, envisioning that each would serve the population in a different way. There is an educational district, with schools ranging from kindergarten right up to grad school, where people learn how to do things. There is an industrial sector, full of repair shops where you can bring what's broken.

There is a legal district, where you can go when you have a problem getting what's rightfully yours. There is a construction zone, where you can get everything you need to build your house the way you want it. There is also a town hall, where you can scream into the wind about what upsets you, what pleases you, how you think things should be.

Then there is the café district, where people go just to hang out. This is where our journey begins. Almost.