One of the best parts of living in Campbell River is being paid enough to leave it for a vacation. So last week I went east for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and other assorted ventures.
The baseball game on Thursday night was fun but weird. I had not been to baseball in a dome for so long I felt like an old man grousing about how it didn’t feel like real baseball. I was at a CFL game in Vancouver’s dome a couple of years ago and that didn’t bother me. Basically because football doesn’t seem real anyway.
I got a ticket in the 100 level outfield in centre-right. There was a guy in our section who was having a birthday. He was also a big Colby Rasmus fan. I always have a weird issue with liking Colby Rasmus because it makes me feel like a racist. The Jays have a tonne of awesome talented players, why do I like the redneck underachiever? Anyway, this guy and his party had no such qualms, which made for an entertaining game. Especially since in his first at-bat Rasmus hit a homerun. Then in the top of the next inning made a great running catch for an out. Pretty sweet.
I also wandered around Toronto a bit and totally enjoyed TCAF. I bought a lot of books and got a lot of them signed and/or sketched in. I never really know what to say to creators when I meet them, but whatever. Having the librarian title to hide behind usually is pretty good, as most people have nice things to say about librarians.
Also I finally went to Snakes & Lattes (with Jamie and one of his cousins), and the ROM to see dinosaur fossils, and got to see a Danny Michel show where he had a band, not just him his guitar and a loop pedal. I enjoyed it, as I always enjoy Danny Michel.
Then I came home. Back to work. I have a lot of good stuff to read now.
I’ve been in Campbell River a year. More than a year. Last year I put up a picture of me, one month in. Here’s what I look like today.
[caption id=”attachment_3005” align=”alignnone” width=”580”] Hatless(!) Me 2013[/caption]
A year was the amount of time I planned to give it before deciding what role this place was going to play in my life. For me, that meant I didn’t want to come here and immediately start thinking about leaving. Giving it a year to see what happened seemed legitimate. Maybe I would really like living in a small town. Maybe I would make some friends that would make me not want to leave.
Well, that hasn’t really happened.
To be clear, my job is fine. If I was doing this job in a place where I had friends to have a beer with after work and to play games with on the weekend it would be pretty great. But I do not have that. I have work and books and the internet which is not terrible, but also not terribly inspiring or fun. Could be worse.
I took a drive down the highway to Courtenay yesterday. The excuse was because like most movies I want to see, Pacific Rim was not playing in Campbell River on its opening weekend. It’s one of the stupid little ways I participate in a capitalist system that equates entertainment choices with freedom and all that shitty stuff, but if I want to see more movies of the kind I like, they need to make enough money to have similar projects made in the future. I like giant robots fighting kaiju, and even though it wasn’t the most profound movie in the world I want a world where big monster movies can be made.
My co-librarian says I’ve been brainwashed into playing too many games with numbers, but I kind of counter with the fact that way more of my money goes into kickstarters for independent artists I admire than to Hollywood movies. I wish I was less of a consumer, but this is where I’m at these days, so I might as well make it count.
But the thing about going to Courtenay is that I realized how much nicer a small town can be than here. I mean there’s an agglomeration of shops in one place that isn’t a Target, Walmart, Canadian Tire, London Drugs stripmall thing. Their library is a nice newish building with windows. They have a shop that sells good boardgames.
The main thing was that it didn’t feel like the town equivalent of a fish using all its might to get its gills to work while it flops around on shore. If I’m going to stay out here on the island for any length of time (and I do realize that having a full-time job in this economy so I can support artists and their kickstarters isn’t something to toss away lightly) maybe I’d rather be in a place less depressing than here.
Which isn’t to say I hate it here exactly. I’ve been trying not to be down on Campbell River too much because a lot of it is just about it being a small town. But it’s good to know that, based on a non-exhaustive few-hour excursion, there are small towns where I could possibly both work and feel a bit more like I fit.
This weekend has had a lot of music out in downtown, which I get to hear a lot of when my balcony door is open, which it has been. A band was playing Louie Louie last night and it didn’t descend into a C’thulhu ftagn-spouting bacchanalia that ripped a hole in the fabric of reality itself, so in that one respect (along with so many others) fiction trumps reality.
This morning I biked out to the shore where the sculptures from this year’s chainsaw carving competition stood. There was one that was very angular and looked like it’d been made out of metal then painted with a wood veneer. My favourite was of a spiky-mouthed sea monster emerging from the earth.
[caption width=”870” align=”alignnone”] My bike. I can’t remember the last time I showed a picture of it.[/caption]
I stopped off afterwards at the Big Rock. I think that’s what it’s called. It’s got an orca on it and is covered in graffiti. I sat by the water reading a bit. Because that is what one does.
[caption width=”870” align=”alignnone”] At a middle school I recently read a bunch of students’ retellings of how Raven, Salmon and Orca put this rock here long ago.[/caption]
After biking I rode my longboard down to the Canada Day festivities. Which were whatever. But I got a falafel from a truck and got to ride my board around a bit. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned how much I like cruising around on that thing. I bike because it’s a good way to get places. The actual process of biking doesn’t usually give me pleasure. On a board maybe it’s just the lower speeds, the subtle steering, the lack of extra equipment or the fact that I can hop off and walk at any moment, but it makes me happy.
Last week I was on vacation in San Francisco. I went for baseball. The Jays were playing the Giants, and because of the way interleague play is set up in an unbalanced fashion this is a pretty rare occurrence. My current job pays me well enough to be able to go on vacation and even buy decent tickets for sold-out ballgames in expensive cities. So I went.
But before going to see the two teams I cared about play, I went to Oakland. I hadn’t really thought about the proximity that Oakland and San Francisco share until I arrived and learned it was a quick trip across the bay. I had some mistaken notion that Oakland was further, maybe past small mountains or something, but you can see it from SF.
[caption width=”870” align=”alignnone”] The Bay Bridge. I took the BART under it to get to Oakland, which is on the lower right of the picture.[/caption]
I took the train and bought a cheap centre-field ticket, because really, I don’t care about the A’s beyond their Moneyballishness. I also knew that O.co Coliseum is the kind of place I’d be able to sit in better emptier seats by the 4th inning if I cared to.
[caption width=”870” align=”alignnone”] Coco Crisp playing centre field in the first inning of White Sox @ Athletics, June 2, 2013.[/caption]
But I liked sitting out in centre field. Foul territory is huge, but the mere fact that the ballpark is outside gave this prairie boy with deep-seated memories of the Metrodome a good impression. I did wander the coliseum and watched innings from a few spots, but returned for the 6th and following, which meant I was in a good spot to witness a positioning thing I’d never seen so clearly.
There’s an Oakland runner on first. The pitcher delivers. The runner breaks for second. The shortstop moves left to cover second to catch him stealing. The batter smacks the ball to the spot the shortstop just vacated. The shortstop lunges right but the ball glances off the end of his glove into the outfield. The play ends with a runner on first and third. I loved it because I was looking at the exact right spots for the play to make sense in my unmechanically assisted view. Those perfect little moments are totally why I go to baseball games.
[caption width=”870” align=”alignnone”] Athletics v. White Sox, O.co Coliseum, Oakland, June 2, 2013[/caption]
At the first Jays-Giants game I went to I got to see Tim Lincecum pitch like it was 2009. He was so good. In that game I was sitting on the third base side and had a perfect view of the double play where they called Josh Johnson out and he totally wasn’t. Sergio Romo closed out the game (and caught the ceremonial first pitch by a kid, who totally didn’t bounce it).
[caption width=”870” align=”alignnone”] Tim Lincecum, AT&T Park, San Francisco, June 4, 2013[/caption]
But the highlight of that game was the father and maybe 7-year-old son sitting in front of me and their interactions with the old park attendant in charge of our section. The old guy was a proponent of grassroots cheering. He was the kind of guy who would whistle the traditional “Charge!” songs and yell for people to get loud when the Giants were on offense. Once the section got going the ballpark organist would join in. The kid loved that guy, and then mistakenly tried to start similar cheering when the Jays were batting. The old guy was all “No no no kid, that ain’t how it works. You only cheer when we’ve got 2 strikes on the enemy.” The kid’s dad had that kind of awkward minor embarrassment but thankful mien and tried to teach the kid a bit more cheering etiquette instead of just how the game worked as the innings moved on.
[caption width=”870” align=”alignnone”]R.A. Dickey v. Buster Posey, AT&T Park, San Francisco, June 5, 2013[/caption]
At my third game R.A. Dickey pitched well, and I got to see Zito do some Zitoish pitching. There was a couple stuffing AllStar voting ballots in the row ahead of me through the first few innings (if you wonder why Buster Posey is beating out Yadier Molina to be the NL catcher, the Giants’ fans are organized). I was also sitting in (almost) my favourite spot in the ballpark to watch right-handed hitters from. There were a couple of good foul balls up the left-field line but not that perfect double that hooks and stays just fair. Oh well. You cannot have everything.