Tag Archives: conversation

wearing blue like a jerk

Nationalistic sportball is playing on the computer. Not this computer, another one, the one I have for watching and listening and playing with things like a good consumer.

Although that good consumeriness plays out a bit weirdly here. I’ve long kept up with sports so I had things to talk about with strangers, so I’m not some elitist only interested in my esoteric nerdy occupations.

Here though it’s all backfiring. We’re off some other end of the scales of what makes a person interesting. The interest in the world cup (even though it’s “Sport! The universal language!”) here is peripheral as all get out so my watching of CBC’s helpfully streamed matches is as useful for making small talk as knowing what’s up with the political hierarchies of bees or the logistics of interstellar economics (or baseball).

It’s Canada Day out though, and sunny, so I guess fuck futbol being played in some other hemisphere. I have walked the town’s celebrations, which are kind of epitomized by the amount of totally non-ironic Bryan Adams being played. Woo patriotism.

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the secret russians

Is it strange for the cashier at the liquor store to ask you questions about what you’re going to use your purchases for? I mean, if I’m just going to go home and drink a bottle of vodka chased with a bottle of kahlua, maybe I don’t want to tell her. I understood the part where she was interested in the beer she hadn’t tried yet, but found the question about the colour of my Russians a bit invasive.

My neighbour here is an inventor/handyman and it’s kind of interesting. He’s very secretive about his invention which has the potential to “take down an industry” but not a big one like automotives. He borrowed my camera to take some pictures yesterday but didn’t want any help getting good ones and even bought his own SD card to put them on. Which makes me curious. He’s got a patent lawyer doing some searches for him. I don’t know at what stage it gets to pass out of the veil of secrecy. As soon as it does I will let you know.

I was terribly disappointed that Cloud Atlas didn’t make it to Campbell River. I hope that doesn’t bode ill for Django Unchained. Because they’re very similar movies, I understand. (I am not at all worried about the new Bond movie getting here.)

Oh hey, do you want to see what I look like without a beard? And without a hat? Boom.I was trying to figure out the last time I was that clean-shaven and I think it would have been spring of 2004. Of course, this was for a Halloween costume, which I don’t have any pictures of. I think they took a couple of me in costume doing storytime on Wednesday but I didn’t get a copy.

And thus concludes my blogging about whatever random things I thought of before making dinner.

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a moth is not a butterfly

Someone I know sometimes posts pictures (on Facebook, so I can’t really link you to them) of her walks through the graveyard near her home, which makes me feel a little jealous that she has a graveyard. I still don’t know where the graveyards in this city are. But I have an ocean, so I shouldn’t complain too much.
beach and ships and sky
There is something excellent about being able to walk to the beach and look at the giant ships (and the kayaks and sailboats and standing paddle-surfers) from your home. And while I’m sure the graveyard has fewer people, that just means there’d be so many fewer people out having interesting conversations like there were by the seawall tonight. Talking about the weirdest day they’d just had, or complaining loudly about their teeth or talking slow and braying about Luongo or Toronto.
constantly surprised
These tulips placed in the bronze (or whatever) handbag of a statue aren’t always there. Over in the laughing people sculptures I saw more flowers placed in their hands. I kind of like that flower arrangements as a form of graffiti. I also like the benches in Stanley Park that have little memorial plaques to make me feel less jealous.

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march is not a terrible month

It was my birthday last week though I didn’t do anything special for it. Earlier in the week I went to see Fred Penner perform at UBC. I went with library school classmates and afterwards Jamie and Nicholle got him to sign their ukeleles. I didn’t join in the picture taking because I’ve seen Fred Penner in enough situations over the years where he’s just another guy (high school, Quinzmas, church) that treating him like a celebrity seemed weird.

Getting close to being done my homework for the term. My best assignment is undoubtedly my book trailer (see above) but I’ve had a few other things to finish as well. I saw a sentence on my Twitterfeed the other day saying “If you aren’t doing something you love, you’re wasting your time” In no way did I feel I was wasting my time making that video. The rest of my homework is not quite so inspiring.

I’ve applied for a job in New York to be a librarian at DC Comics, which would be crazy neat. It’d be a special library where I’d help research the first appearance of minor characters and do interlibrary loans with the studios in Burbank. It’d be a bit different from being a teen librarian but it’d be all sorts of cool. Probably won’t get it, but would have kicked myself for ages if I hadn’t applied.

And it gave me a reason to talk to people at the comic publisher booths when Jamie and I head down to Emerald City Comic Con in a couple of weeks. I wonder what kind of library a place like Oni or Dark Horse has, and how they get used. I’m the kind of person who can’t just go up to people and start talking, but having a real question I’d like to answer will be a way to kick myself into it.

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two bits without a segue

I did not get the job at the Art, Architecture and Planning library at UBC. Selah. I did get a very nice phone call from the librarian who interviewed me (along with two other staffmembers) saying that I did a fine job in the interview and he was sure my experience would be great for somewhere in the future, but they were going with a candidate who had a lot of experience with local art. Which isn’t something I could have made myself be, so yeah. It’s the kind of situation where their priorities were just things I couldn’t fill. I hear that happens sometimes.

The shitty thing is that was probably the last formal GAA position I could possibly have gotten at UBC. I don’t think they do those just for the summer months, and come September I won’t be a student any longer. So that means I won’t have any academic library experience on my resume when I’m off looking for work. I’ve been trying to diversify through this degree, not focus, but we’ll see how much that helps, or if I’ll just be every employer’s second choice when the real jobhunting comes around.

When I was coming home from school yesterday (on the bus because I don’t feel like biking through slush and snow with my fenderless bike) the second bus I got onto wafted with the aroma of weed. It was incredibly strong for a place where no one was smoking. I sat down and another guy got on and as he walked towards the back he just started grinning. “Now this is a Vancouver bus!” he said to no one in particular. A conversation began between a bunch of the people in the back about the guy who had just gotten off the bus, who had been the source of the smells. It was all very friendly and good-natured, about the blessings of being in Canada. Eventually the guy who’d been grinning and who’d started the talking wound it up with “All right. Enough of that. Everyone can go back to their iPhones now.”

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like talking in my sleep

So apartment hunting in Vancouver from Sydney was something I was kind of dreading. But since Holly decided she’s staying in Harrisonburg after Xmas, at least I only needed a place for one person. Last weekend I spent a big pile of time going through Vancouver listings using PadMapper and the UBC apartment listings. This is how I met Emma, who has a room in her Coal Harbour apartment (a character building with hardwood floors no less). We exchanged emails and she called one of my references, Marlis.

Now, Marlis is a chatter. An excellent one. Last February when someone stopped in to pick up a wine rack she was selling they talked in the living room for 45 minutes, prompting confusion in the kitchen as to whether this was someone she knew or a stranger. It was a stranger. This served me well, because when Emma called Marlis, they talked for 45 minutes, and Marlis told Emma everything she needed to know about me, so there was practically nothing for us to talk about on Skype the next day. Which, as you may be aware is good, because it’s a lot of work for me to be chatty.

I completely credit Marlis’ talking with getting me this place, because really, I’m some strange guy who’s going to be sharing space with Emma for months. She needs to have some idea that I’m not creepy or disgusting (which I’m not, but it’s much more useful to have third parties confirm that). Thank you Marlis. (If you’re in the market for a photographer, check out Imaging By Marlis, as she’s pretty great at taking pictures as well as talking to people.)

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i salute you, guy i heard so much about

I went to get my film developed from when Holly was here and because I’m being all fancy-pants and shooting black & white I can’t get it developed at a normal place. Off to a fancy-pants lab for me tomorrow. Also tomorrow, off to school.

On the bus to the place I couldn’t get my film developed, two women were talking about how a guy they knew was fired. The management sounded pretty terrible, suspending him until he’d sign a self-incriminating letter full of lies, and then firing him for not signing it because he wasn’t “negotiating with the company in good faith.” I was only on the bus for two stops but I heard enough to get really mad on behalf of this guy. Signing self-incriminating letters is bullshit, random guy I’ve never met! Way to get fired (and talk to a lawyer) instead.

Brenda & Marlis are gone on a ski-trip so I have the house to myself. Woo. Not that it makes much of a difference one way or another. I just don’t have to feel terrible about leaving the dishes in the sink overnight. I have issues with dishwashers, not wanting to use them kinds of issues.

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charlie bronson

On the walk to the bus this morning it started raining. I never know when I catch the 8:30 bus exactly when it’s going to get there, and last week I missed a bus to work, so I didn’t want to stop and pull out my jacket on the walk. I waited till I got to the bus shack.

In the bus shack was a native guy in maybe his late forties, sitting on the bench. He was wearing a black suit with beat-up loafers and a black t-shirt that appeared to have a starfield on it. A wooden disc with a bear on it hanging around his neck. I opened up my bag and pulled out my jacket, and this guy was watching me, waiting to start a conversation.

“Yeah, it’s a good thing you’ve got a jacket,” he said. “You can get sick in the rain.”

“Yep you can,” I replied, putting my music on pause.

“Pneumonia. You don’t want that.”

“No I don’t. That’s why I brought my jacket.”

“Yep. Good thing. More than that too. All sorts of diseases from the rain. You know, cause of how much pollution there is in it now. You walk out in that and you get sick.”

I kind of nodded, noncommittal, and checked if I could see my bus.

“Yeah,” he continued, “you don’t want to mess around with the rain. I know.” He sounded self-consciously “wise” saying this. Like this was one of those things he knew he could tell a skinny little white boy. “I know a few things. I’m 57, you know. Don’t smoke.”

I had to nod again. “You look good.” He did. I would not have pegged him as being older than my mom.

“Yeah. How old are you?”


“That old? My son’s thirty one. He lives in Vancouver. He’s a fisherman. And builds houses. What’s your name?”

I told him and we shook hands.

“I’m Charlie Bronson.”

I stopped. Not that I thought he was Charles Bronson, but the resemblance was why I felt like I’d recognized him. Because of this I completely missed his real name. “Charlie’s just what they call me,” he laughed.

And then the bus came and I left, saying “Nice to meet you.” It was still raining and he remained sitting inside, waiting for the next person to come along.

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24 a dollar short

St. Patrick’s Day felt much more like my birthday than the 16th did. Probably because I spent it mostly alone wandering around. I bought myself a DQ Blizzard in lieu of a cake and tromped about fairly happily. There’s a sports store that is always playing Eminem out on the sidewalk when I walk by. Not sports like equipment but an Adidas and Nike and LiNing (all carefully separated) clothing place. I also dove down into Fashion Lady mall, that neon underworld all the little underground shopping centres are aspiring to be. Then up into a SuNing to play with an EeePC a bit. One of the things holding me back from buying one is that these seem to be loaded with XP instead of the Eee Linux distro. But now I’ve held one and I think I could make such a thing work for me. Someday someday. Finished The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love in the morning and started a Margaret Atwood book in the afternoon.

Also in the afternoon I sat in a park off Guangzhou Lu listening to all the birds being walked. Maybe I’ve mentioned it before but that’s possibly my favourite idiosyncratic thing about China. Taking your bird in its cage to the park so it can sing with the others. Mostly old men are accompanying them and then they gather around holding court. Though there are also lone guys smoking cigarettes while the bird has its own fun. The bicycles or scooters with draped cages on the back, draped so the bird doesn’t get disorented on the drive, make me smile in a way that someone walking a dog just doesn’t. Alison will be glad to know I miss having a cat around, even one as annoying as Steven B. Froese.

In the evening we ended up at the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant where we happily sopped up Mutter Paneer and Dum Aloo Kashmiri with Naan and later forks before slurping our Lassis. That felt like a birthday meal. Eating Indian food, we quickly got into the questions that concern a couple of young people like ourselves. What to do with a life? Going to school or starting a business, looking for challenge or getting credentials. Back in Shanghai Holly talked about this too, about how she’s not sure what the future may bring. She’s heading back to Harrisonburg for the beginning of October to help Myrrl out with the semester’s visiting scholars and she’ll stay at least until February. Her mom wants her to stay longer but also doesn’t want to talk about Zhao Xing so if it were me I might not take her that seriously. I mean, really, it’s not like Holly is some flighty stupid girl taking up with some random guy. This is Zhao Xing, a smart interesting guy. Who happens to be a Buddhist. Holly and my mom can find support in each other in the face of their respective mothers on these issues.

One of Holly’s options is going to school back in the States. She’s been talking about Fuller Theological Seminary in California somewhere. They’ve got an associated psychology school (or something) which might be useful. That would lead to a focus on China related issues and would be good for doing work with people and organizations like Zhi Mian. But the question is if she wants schooling. On one hand it would open up some higher up doors which might be useful in her being heard and listened to by people (in China) who care about such things. She’s worried it might cut her off from the people she really wants to work with though. That they’d see those letters after her name and wouldn’t be able to deal with her as an equal. She doesn’t want to be above any farmer she might meet in the course of her work. Part of this dream involves interviewing people and writing a book about it. Her book would be much better than what you’re reading here because she is more interested in people than I am. That’s probably my biggest weakness as a writer, but neither here nor there so I’ll drop it.

Another big option is to start up some sort of organic farm/guesthouse in western Sichuan with Zhao Xing. Maybe work with the Leonards and their China tourism business. This is something she doesn’t need school for and is part of her more direct goals of not separating work from life and all that. This is also a scarier option. Before starting the business, buying land and all that, she’d want to spend some real time studying Chinese, maybe teaching to pay for the studying. That’s a much more satisfying prospect than teaching because your organization isn’t with it enough to get you a visa for your work with Zhi Mian.

That last one is my favourite option for a number of reasons. 1) It maintains teaching English as a viable and not utterly stupid way of makign a living. 2) It puts Holly in China with Zhao Xing. I’m a bit of a sucker for a good couple I guess. 3) Western Sichuan. Guesthouse. That’s prime visitiability right there. Especially if I end up in Japan for a while.

The option I wish she wouldn’t take is just heading back to Harrisonburg and a nice simple life. I’m sort of doing the equivalent in Winnipeg and really, it sucks. It should be better, more noble or something, but there’s nothing quite like being lonely in a far off land. I have a spaceman on a shirt looking wistfully at the Earth for exactly that reason.

Whatever. These are Holly’s options these days and what we talked about at the Indian place with the waitress who couldn’t put on a decent fake smile. We drank our lassis while three Russians entered, ordered, talked on speakerphone, ate, drank and left. There was what may have been a first date going on behind Holly. It was between a gray haired (but adventurous seeming) woman and a long-haired guy I initially mistook for a woman. Until I heard him ask what kind of music she listened to.

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