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What's in the Air?

A look at June 25th, 2023, in Montréal...

By Kendall Defoe Published 10 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - June 2023
From a parking lot in Montréal...

Some people say not to worry about the air;

Some people never had experience with...air...

- ''Air'' - Talking Heads

I wonder about what David Byrne and the rest of the band would make of the Sunday that just passed in my adopted hometown/province. Perhaps they would have reminded us that the song was a warning about what can happen when you do not pay attention to what is happening around you:

What is happening to my skin?

Where is that protection that I needed?

Air can hurt you, too.

Air can hurt you, too.

Okay, enough with the lyrics for now. I am very tired after a night spent attempting to sleep and failing miserably at the effort. We were told to keep our windows closed due to the AQI (Air Quality Index) being the worst it has ever been for the city. In fact, it was the worst reading in the world for any city. Sometimes being number one is not a great boast.

But, let me take you through my day, as promised by the title...


I woke up ready for my run (always take one day off to get back on the pavement and trails). I knew that there had been some talk about the air quality and the smoke from the forest fires in our province reaching the city, but I thought that the expected rain would come and clear it all away (Saturday was damp and wet). I thought that it would be perfect for the run.

And then I looked outside.

When the sky above you looks like the remains of a sepia print, you know that the air quality must be low. And the announcement of the city having the worst air quality on the entire planet was interesting to see on my cell. But what really got to me was the Weather Channel. Underneath the temperature at the moment (and the 'Feels Like' portion), there was one word:


In all the years of having that app, or even looking at or hearing the weather announcements, I have never seen a one-word pronouncement like that. Fog, snow, rain, hail...even smog was acceptable to me (not having a car made me feel less guilty about the last forecast). But...smoke? What did that even mean?

And then I stepped outside.

I did not go for the run. Instead, I cleaned up a little, packed up a bag to go out and get the groceries I really wish I did not need, and then exposed myself to that air.

When your eyes begin to hurt, and you can feel and smell the air around you like you are dealing with the remains of several barbecues that have been abandoned, you know that something different has happened. It was not like reading about it online and shaking your head at another set of human errors. I could barely see the sun and I still felt like I needed...goggles (not my Ray-Bans). And there was one other thing:


I took a bus and noted that the wiser citizens of this fair ville had the common sense to keep their N95s and other surgical masks close by. At that point, I was actually worried for my health, more than I had ever been during the Covid panic; more than when I found out several friends who shared the same space now had to take a test for the coronavirus and half came up positive. What was I doing out there?

Like another planet...

I called home to check on the family in another province (Ontario seemed better off). I called some local relatives and they were well (they were smart enough not to go outside). And there was the friend who planned a trip up to Manitoba by the end of this month who wondered if she could still travel here.

All seemed they should be...

So, the air is still very bad and I am still stuck indoors with the windows shut. We are expecting rain, and I cannot wait to get back out there for my run, but I think that we should all be much more concerned that this is now the new norm. Some of the commentary out there now claims that this might be something we will have to deal with every summer.

Great. That song is still playing in my head...

Some people say not to worry about the air;

Some people don't know shit about the...air...

- ''Air'' (uncensored version)

Anyone with any thoughts about this? I am going to be indoors teaching online today and I hopefully when I do get out, things will be a bit less...sepia.

Our new normal?


Thank you for reading!

If you liked this, you can add your Insights, Comment, leave a Heart, Tip, Pledge, or Subscribe. I will appreciate any support you have shown for my work.

You can find more poems, stories, and articles by Kendall Defoe on my Vocal profile. I complain, argue, provoke and create...just like everybody else.

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About the Creator

Kendall Defoe

Teacher, reader, writer, dreamer... I am a college instructor who cannot stop letting his thoughts end up on the page.

And I did this: Buy Me A Coffee... And I did this:


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Comments (24)

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  • Dave Wettlaufer4 months ago

    I complain, argue, provoke, and create...just like everybody else...”me too” … But all kidding aside, the air quality from the fires has been poor this past season.

  • Abdullah6 months ago

    There is so terrible outside

  • Uboh Daniel7 months ago

    Please, I just wrote my article, kindly rate it for me so that I can do better.

  • Soji7 months ago

    Please I wrote a story about clean revolution, please read like and comment

  • Come on down to Beijing or Shanghai on a bad AQI day. AQI? I never knew what it was until I went. Air Quality Index. I ended up in the hospital because I took a 2-hour run on a bad AQI day. I know air quality.....I can breathe clearly today and I am loving it! You may enjoy the following: Thanks for sharing.

  • This comment has been deleted

  • Hi we are featuring your excellent Top Story in our Community Adventure Thread in The Vocal Social Society on Facebook and would love for you to join us there

  • Excellent article

  • Kendall you did a great job relaying what is happening where you live. I am in Southern California and wild fires are part of our existence. I am used to them by now. I hate them and when fire season hits the air quality goes down considerably. Once again great job!!!

  • Lamar Wiggins10 months ago

    I just played Rick's new wheel game on Vocal+assist and it brought me to your article. I hope things are getting better for everyone up there. I'm down here in Michigan and last week we had a string of hazy days because of it. I can only Imagine what it must be like in the thick of it. Stay safe.

  • Mariann Carroll10 months ago

    It does smell like barbecue. I did take two of my allergy pill instead of one. I keep my air purifier on high. I have been outside .

  • sleepy drafts10 months ago

    The smoke is still nasty here in ON, too 😭 It's so thick. The air smells like burning plastic on a campfire. It feels like the soundtrack to some dystopian, post-apocalyptic video game should be playing. 😔 Thinking of you guys in Montreal. I hope the air clears up soon. ❤️

  • Cathy holmes10 months ago

    Yeah. That smoke is nasty here in Ontario as well. Congrats on the TS

  • Gerald Holmes10 months ago

    I feel you with this one. I live in Toronto and it has been very bad here for a few days now.

  • Dana Stewart10 months ago

    I’m so sorry about the wildfires, the air quality is no joke. I hope you have air conditioning? Some Canadian friends don’t have a/c. Doing a rain dance for you (and us) tonight. Congratulations on Top Story - get some masks!

  • Sid Aaron Hirji10 months ago

    We had an awful time in Alberta a few months ago too. The smoke will cause rain and hopefully clear the air. Hope things get better and grats on top story

  • I'm pretty sure AQI is one of the most searched up terms for the past few weeks. When someone started spouting off numbers to me the other week after the smoke took over New Jersey, I had to politely say, "I am not sure which way to read the numbers." Then the man sheepishly admitted that he didn't know either. Love this line: "When the sky above you looks like the remains of a sepia print, you know that the air quality must be low." Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Donna Renee10 months ago

    It’s so terrible outside! 😷 I hate this.

  • I'm so sorry you're going through this crazy, scary time. I hope you all are safe.

  • Naomi Gold10 months ago

    Congrats, Kendall. 🥂 I do wish you were given a Top Story under better circumstances. I’ve been having health problems due to the air quality, and that’s just from it blowing down here. I know it’s much worse where you are. 😕

  • We're praying for you.

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    OMG! This is horrific!!! Do hope things improve!!!

  • This is so sad and scary. Stay safe!

  • Naomi Gold10 months ago

    I experienced so much craziness my last year in Portland. It never snowed more than a light dusting there that melted within a few hours, but that 2020/21 winter I got snowed inside my apartment. The city didn’t even have snowplows. Then that summer, right before I moved, we had a heat wave with it reaching over 100°F for several days—and nobody had AC, because summers are so mild. The light rail overheated and stopped working. People were dying in their hot homes. But the worst was summer 2020, when the wildfires in California broke a record and reached us. We were forbidden to go outdoors unless we had to. The sky was sepia, and the sun was magenta. So that was 12 months of bullshit. And the funny thing was, the mild Pacific Northwest weather had been my favorite thing about the city prior to that. The air quality was pretty bad here in Minnesota for a while, because of the Canada fires. I didn’t go running or even do my usual walks to work and back. Luckily, we had some intense rainstorms and wind, and things have cleared up. I hope you get that rain.

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