this is the story of my move from copenhagen to toronto, canada, via germany, belgium, the netherlands, france and england. it was quite a journey and there's over a month of ramblings and photos below. the travelling only took three weeks, but it was a further two until we'd sorted out our apartment, got the internet, etc. so below is also me discovering and exploring toronto. and again, sorry for the length.
05.08.06 - Ferry out of here
it's too early for this. i'm still feeling rubbish from the strange nights sleep. we slept in a windowless box dirtied by air conditioning and the gush of other peoples toilet flushes. air conditioning messes with your sinuses but it's better than stale air i suppose. so despite the bed being super comfy and me getting to sleep shotgun (top bunk), also the gentle rhythmical hum that vibrates through the whole boat - my favourite thing about ferries, i still didn't sleep well.
scene setting - we're currently on the tram/train from oslo to eiksmarka, which means i don't have enough time to write what i want, especially if i'm writing crap like this.
more scene setting - i'm typing up what i wrote two days ago in the corner of a rather comfy living room while julie makes phone calls, doing occasional impressions of what she considers annoying norwegian accents. i'm not sure how that works. this monitor faces out into the room and you know how that makes me feel uncomfortable. my writing may get horrible nested from here on. i'll make an effort to avoid it.
but anyway, i consider this to be the start of an almost epic journey (well, it's three fused together and ending with me living in another country). we caught our ferry from copenhagen at about 3:30pm on the 4th (to avoid ambiguity). the boat was a nicer option than the hellish night bus and cheaper than flying. it's more exciting too, it's been a while since i've sailed. so as soon as we set off we bought drinks from the duty free shop (some beers and three bacardi breezers for me - a drinking experiment which didn't go well, especially since i drank them through strawberry laces). other people seemed happy to pay the bar prices, which is not a little insane. although you do then get to sit in an outdoor heated jacuzzi while drinking your over priced drink. if you were so inclined.
for the first part of the journey you can see denmark on one side of the boat and sweden on the other, all that ugly industry sailing by. but then it started to rain so we explored the onboard 'pirate island', just a big shop with a pathetically undecorated play room at the end. i insisted we play with the lego, julie built a house with a door and i built eschers waterfall (although it wasn't a patch on this one i just found).
by this time i'd also dropped my bookcrossing book. it took all of twenty minutes for it to disappear. i was tempted to wait for it, spying on the person who discovered it, taking photographic evidence. but this may have ruined the magic, if there be magic.
the restuarants on our ferry were all a bit posh, or at least charging like they were, and there wasn't a single vegetarian option between them. we have a basic dietary 'complication' and are uncaterable for. the best we found was a greek salad with chicken, of all things, which they kindly excluded for us. then for dessert we attempted to infiltrate the actually posh restuarant at the front of the boat. the polite woman consulted her multi-coloured seating plan and you could see her sigh, we had to come back later. this was fortunate though because it was just enough time for us to catch the glorious sunset, which we shared with no one.
dessert was compromised of a white chocolate creme brulee with a raspberry sauce and a ginger marinated pear with chocolate swirls and pineapple wafers. our table looked down from the balcony to the cheap (not at all cheap) buffet below, not to take the class metaphor too literally. but then since when were the poor the ones wasting all the food? and why do people dress themselves up to wander around the ferry? it made me want to run around in my underwear, smeared in something that looks like excrement but tasting much better.
instead we had an early night. the wake up call was at 7am but no a problem. the ferry route takes you through the oslo fjord and i wanted to be up early enough to see it. i spent most of the time trying to imagine it without water or looking for jellyfish. a kid next to me screamed at his parents while furiously pointing at the water to a couple of big fat ones. beside them i swear i saw a jellyfish way over a meter wide, but you all know that probably isn't true. it was probably just a bunch of plastic bags. or the light, something much less interesting.
by now it's 4pm (and half one) and it's tediously hot, oslo lacks the wind that copenhagen enjoys/suffers from. julie is running around attending to the garden and i'm trying to do nothing. earlier we met up with kristin, one of julie's longtime friends who's recently been in italy, and took ourselves swimming in the river under the railway bridge. there's a dam downstream so the river becomes more of a lake. a knotted rope dangles from the thick branches of a tree that's clinging to the tall and steep river bank, it's roots like fat vericose veins wrapping themselves around the rocks and soil. you can swing right out into the middle of the water, kicking and spinning in the air before crashing into the deep waters. it looks amazing but it's more fun to do than photograph. also, steep muddy slopes and rock climbing above deep water don't bode well for a one armed photographer. i took a few anyway, but didn't get the photo i wanted.
then running around the garden with the hose. like kids. naked and soaking wet.
07.08.06 - Birthday, Forests and Lakes
there comes and goes another birthday, and again i manage to completely play it down and have a thoroughly nice time without being a complete dick. one of these years i'm going to over-compensate and have the biggest fucking party you've ever seen, but not yet. i'm happily lost in the woods, knee deep in the sea, underwater or whatever. likely upside down and curled up fetal, somewhere distant and womb-like.
but this morning my arms ache from too much swimming and my head feels water logged. my new years resolution is to stop trying to eat my beard and leave it alone. that and shave.
the awesome lasagne of two nights ago is now nothing but a wine faded memory and a bad smell lingering. we chose to spend the night at home instead of the pirate party on the other side of town, which would have been cool, but why go out when you want to stay in and defend your food from wasps (actual wasps, like bees) and listen to ace of bass. it was a fun time.
yesterday morning was august 6th, my birthday again. we started it by cooking a big vege breakfast which we ate outside on the veranda, me using my new mug but not for my new whiskey. then shortly after we went for a swim back down at the river/lake. infact that place is so great i'd be down there right now if my arms weren't quite so tired. other interesting things included riding jens's recumbent bike around a parking lot and not falling off, and hacking up the rhubarb a little late in the year and cooking some kick ass rhubarb & ginger crumbles. we took a crumble up into the forest for my birthday picnic along with custard, champagne and ida, another of julie's long time friends, this one just returning from portugal.
up there in the forest is the most beautiful lake. up there surrounded by pine and fir trees. nature. a clear sky and calm waters. it would be perfect if it wasn't for the distant sound of gun shots. but where else would you rather be than floating here? with the shiny white and yellow beach ball, bobbing backwards and forwards. i figure swimming like this has become something of a birthday tradition. something about stretches of water bringing immense awe. some other contemplative crap.
the time in the forest was lovely. we walked up through it, picking blueberries on the way, and then back down the other side of the hill. we passed by the ski jump and had to scale it. this rickety construction of bleached wood and rusting nails. the stairways dip and shake as you climb them, and i'm thinking one person at a time might still be one too many. the view from the top is worth it though and so are the splinters (i have one i keep forgetting to remove, i must do that now). clambering down the ramp was also some dangerous fun (is it called a ramp when it only goes down?).
the way home led though a surreal suburb for people with too much money. one of these nights i'm going to go down there and paint all the houses in edward scissorhands pastel. we can throw crude oil over the bright yellow hummer that sits proudly in the middle of someones front lawn. i think that would be suitably ironic (or is the word i'm looking for 'stupid'?).
incase you were interested, i'm currently reading two books. the first (off the map, the narrator of which reminds me so much of jess that i've subconciously given her red dreads) started on august 4th, while in my second book (douglas couplands 'polaroids from the dead') the charcter called speck is also 25 today. somewhere this all gets muddled up in a messy tangle of coincidences. later in his book it is august 4th again.
and to shatter all illusions, while i'm writing this i'm also listening to matt cutts babble on about things that may be interesting about seo (not sitting on the beach or deep in the jungle). i find it amusing that someone has tagged his videos as "gay porn" and "stupid poster". now that's just mean, this guy is trying to be helpful. haha.
enough of the 'haha', we never do that around here.
09.08.06 - Autumn cometh with avengence
every day is cut from the same mold as the one before it. we make little changes, like drinking a different wine. or going swimming further up the river, or we jump in from just a little higher. swimming is something you just can't get bored of here, although i imagine you can get bored reading about it. so i'll try and spare you the details.
but maybe we go into town and meet the peeps for dinner, exploring the hospital for the secret basement mausoleum and playing with the strange implements that look like torture devices. then walk into the city and visit the national gallery, which is good no matter how bored of it julie is. i particularly liked the bjørn ransve (treansikt II). the temporary gallery held host to a series of works inspired by don quixote by various contempory spanish artists, also pretty cool.
or maybe we cycle back up into the mountains, borrowing tiny bikes with tiny wheels that take enormous effort to get up the hills. all that man versus the mountain crap (but not as crap as joe versus the volcano, that really was bad). the dirt road curls up around lakes and soon you can't even hear the gunfire, it's replaced by the ping of loose stones popping out from under the tiny tyres. when the road stopped we turned around and looked for an ant-free picnic spot, lake side where it's so quiet you can hear the ripples on the surface.
we set off back to the first lake, with its eager swimming spot, and the sky began to rumble. at first i thought it was the guns again, but it grew nearer and louder. passing around a corner and you could catch a glimpse of the valley between the trees, the only thing visible being a grey mist heading our way. so much for swimming. we sped down the dirt track (ping ping ping), our tiny wheels careening between the potholes, and what worse time to get a flat tyre? i caught a brick sticking out of the dirt a little too hard with my back wheel and five second later it started to lose its grip, slidding slightly to the right. sounds like a disaster right? but as if by magic, and just as we approached the lake, the sun reared its beautiful head to bless us with perfect swimming conditions. that's how auspicious we are.
so standing at the edge, just about to jump into the deep waters, some guy completely ruins it by sprinting down and off the end of the jetty. i see his point, next time i'm taking no prisoners either. the lake also had decent sized fish, grey ones with red fins. that was quite exciting. but no jellyfish.
after our swim we found a good spot to stop and pick blue berries. the trick is to not pick them one at a time. that would just be dumb right? we'd taken a nice load just before the rain came. if you'd been astute you would have seen this coming, we'd fretted away the nice weather (and rightly so) when we could have been making good head way home. we took it in turns between riding the good bike and running with the disabled one.
but this isn't normal rain. this is an army of fat and angry droplets. a full scale attack. it might have sucked if my hair wasn't already wet, but it didn't take long for my clothes to soak through as well. running through the rain trying to keep warm, my heart pounding, you may have thought it a sad scene until you saw the grin on my face. it may be cliched but life's at its best when taken by surprise, when its rough and unpredictable. when you're not nice and comfortable, sitting in your lounge infront of your tv watching your favourite programme slowly kill you minute by minute.
once we made it to the main road we tried to hitch a ride, but honestly, what car would stop for a couple of kids soaked through to the bone? these snobs, we'd just drip on their plush interiors and get specks of mud on their (probably animal) seats. not that i would have picked us up either. the weather was atrocious. i stood sheltering under the cover of an overpass, the rain making a waterfall from the road into the river.
back home we peeled the clothes from our bodies and revived in the showers warm embrace. the whole episode was rather ridiculous, but all is well now.
now we have to go shopping for curry supplies.
douglas coupland shows again that your 25th birthday is a good time to read his book 'polaroids from the dead':
"I have always seen twenty-four as a charmed year. It was the year I lost my sense of being young - but that's another story. It's reassuring to see people deal with being twenty-four better than the way we dealt with it, which is never too well."
i disagree with him though, i thought 24 was a good age. a bit like 25
but far less round. i never have liked round years, but that's
okay too, there's nothing with being a little abstraction.
last night i dreamt about george bush. the ugly bastard. and this is a true dream. i was at the whitehouse for some heinous reason and george was being very charming, at least until i warned him he should be more careful. "people in the future will talk about you like they talk about hitler now", i told him. he laughed and told me to not be ridiculous, "hitler only has a bad reputation because he lost his war".
as well as recovering from yesterday, today we took a trip up the other hill, as i'll call it until julie tells me what it's really called. you can take the tram, curling up the side of the hill, past the houses with grass lawn rooves, past the stop for the skijump that you'll see illuminated in the sky at night, and to the top, where you can walk through the forest eating blueberries to one seriously ugly tower. unfortunately it was closed for us, but the view was good enough without the extra meters. up there there's also a couple of ski lifts, but since it's summer they're stationary, flopping gently but eerily in the wind.
and now it's time for our last dinner in oslo, before leaving for copenhagen.
11.08.2006 - Sweden in six hours
speeding through sweden, how i'm doomed to experience this country. by it's service stations and roadside shops. those pockets of cultureless space that tell you nothing about anything.
it's not the air conditioning that gives me chills as i walk into the gas station shop, it's that for a second i forgot i wasn't in england. the same logos and the same layout. until you notice the mars bars are called "japps" there's nothing to distinguish this multicoloured and brightly logo plastered sterility with its brothers back home.
it doesn't help that the road signs all says "mcdonalds" instead of "service station". it doesn't paint a pretty picture of sweden and it's all my fault. so let's not forget the first place we stopped that had "veg hamburger" on the menu (why ham we'll never know), or the jelly sweets that are gelatine free, of the licorice icecream called "nogger black" - complete with hip hop graffiti font.
and now i'm sittin in the front seat and can stop emil from playing 'boaten anna' at full volume with the windows down. again. but at least it's paying the swedish back. it's so good to eat chewy sweets again. but y'know, being actually on the road just increases my hate of cars. i've seen far too many hummers during the last few days, and one car (my 'favourite') completely dwarved the pathetically looking car next to it, across its bloated ass was scrawled "survival of the fittest". if that's your measure of fitness then our outlook is bleak. i hope your children can see it in their hearts to forgive you. actually, as if i do. i wanted to scratch "cunt extension" across its bonnnet. big accusatory letters. but that word is neither hard nor clever, and especially since the pun requires the gender connection, i'd just be a cunt myself if i did.
did you know the toll on the bridge between sweden and denmark is 235kr?
15.08.2006 - Copenhagen's last stand
we're on the road again after a wild time in denmark. but not to ruin story continuity, because it continues like this..
when we arrived in copenhagen we were greated by frans and anneke, family friends from the netherlands who cooked us an awesome dinner - home mixed indonesian spices all the way from harlem and a fat and fruity apple pie. after dinner, sitting around chatting, three whiskey bottles decorating the table. all smiles.
saturday morning was when it began to get complicated, with guests arriving in a steady stream starting before i'd even got out of bed. and sitting here, cruising the german autobahn, hamburg nicely avoided and disappearing off behind the horizon, i can't remember the first half of saturday at all. i was too tired then and i'm too tired now (and to complicate things further, i'm tired again after running around toronto all day in a house search frenzy). but not to worry, it wasn't the important part of the day.
my parents arrived around 5pm, after i'd spent twenty minutes standing in the road playing guitar and ruthlessly defending the best parking spot. the next two hours were insane hours of preparation, our apartment had never been so busy. and i've completely failed to explain what's actually happening. this is all the build up to jens and anna's joint birthday extravaganza, summoning all friends and family.
almost fifty people, four tables, four courses and lots of dancing. funny speaches (so i'm told) and seemingly free alcohol ("can i have a beer?", "of course, here you go"). it was a proper event, no expenses spared. and if you were there you'd have wished you'd gone for the vegetarian option, the main course alone featuring a baked potato, a mozzarella and tomatro tower and a pasta salad.
as the night goes on the memories blur, dissolve, obscure and fade. the one event that's stayed clear in my memory is me going the toilet, unzipping and whipping it out only to see an earwig land in the urinal. i'm sure it was just a flashback. or something. no need for concern.
oh, and stealing all of the chocolates at the end of the night. i remember that very well too.
but now we've left denmark and me and julie officially have no home to call our own. like nomads, but with a very specific final destination. we're wanderers but for two weeks only.
what we've seen of germany is primarily autobahn, but that's okay. every bridge along here is plastered in graffiti. the kids clearly have cars, and no talent. it's about as much as we saw of denmark between copenhagen and the ferry. these flat and bland landscapes, made beautiful more by the elegant wind farms than anything else, with their huge slowly rotating blades, empathising with your seemingly endless travel. i'd can't think of an eyesore i'd rather have.
the ferry crossing to puttgarden was a bit grim. we had danish kroner to dispose of and it went on greasy chips and sickly cakes. other assorted crap including chewy sweets without gelatine and mentos. the sea was rough enough to be amusing, but not so much to make any ill. no more than the food at least.
16.08.2006 - Germany in three and two half paragraphs
we stopped last night in lübeck, a supposed picturesque town which loves marzipan. the town centre is defined by the rivers that flow around it, turning into some kind of island that looks great on the map. but apart from its generous collection of quaintly historic buildings and fancy facades it's just another town centre. like the ones you spend all your time running away from. it's not a bad place by any means, but it's far from filled with wonder.
did you know a douglas fir can have up to 65 million needles? this is what julie's book tells us.
we'd been up early in copenhagen for breakfast and to see the family off, so bed time came around with little warning, and escaping the rapidly degenerating town was more complicated than hoped. german bus timetables have not been created in the realm of logic. but rather than this becoming an interesting story we simply dealt with it. no problem, sorry.
what has been bothering me is the toilets. arriving back at the campsite late last night they were busy being cleaned and then this morning the toilet roll had run out. my next visit started well until i sat down and the seat was disturbingly warm against my cheeks. my rectum recoiled in horror and refused to do its business. then at the autobahn stop it wasn't the metal seat that bothered me, but the flush going off automatically halfway through. germany will be remembered for its bad toilets.
and now we're in the netherlands.
17.08.2006 - An offense on family camping
this is belgium and that wasn't much of the netherlands, rather an experience of holiday camp sites that say more about the kind of people who visit them than it does about the dutch. it was good for a change but i couldn't stand it for more than on night.
after a quick but frantic dip in the outdoor pool (a rather nice one, but nothing compared with the lakes of norway), where small kids kept pushing each other in and making them cry, we cooked dinner and autumn returned. so with real beer available, and little else, we did the only reasonable thing and got drunk, filling the time with dice and card games. except playing cards in the van is a little difficult so we decided to move to bar - the best and worst mistake of the night. this is the low point of 'outdoor activites'. the cultural drudge. we arrived just in time to catch the beginning of the night's entertainment, and if their first number had been a-ga-doo it would have made it much easier for me to describe this horrifying scene. picture an ageing embarresing-uncle type dude and a frumpy dame, cheap disco lights and a cheaper keyboard. i don't think this was supposed to be kareoke but a drunk guy with the worst voice i've ever heard takes the mic and wails away anyway. it may be classic dutch pop but it's also a freak show. i hate to be rude, but not really.
we have no choice but to sit outside, groaning along with classic hit after hit. the couple next to us cradle their precious pooch and do nothing but stare at my mum's cards. people dance in and out of the bar to the nightmarish soundtrack and everytime i go to the toilet there's the oddest noises coming from the first stall.
18.08.2006 - Deeper into Belgium
the first place we stopped in belgium was a service station that charges you to piss. it's a tax on the people who wont piss in the woods or up their ugly building, on which is graffiti'd a weak and orange anarchy sign. inside was a nasty restuarant that served beer. beer on the motorway?
the second place was the technopolis, one of those funky science parks you loved as a kid. the kind of place you get to play around with dangerous voltages, ride pedal cars with square wheels, ride a bicycle along a tightrope, watch employees showing off on a segway, make other kids dizzy with optical illusions, spray water everywhere in the name of science and generally have fun with physics. all those kinds of things.
the third place was the village of beersel, were we're camping for two nights. the campsite's not bad, the urinals leak and there's no control on the shower - it stays on for seven minutes when you put your jetton in and the showerhead pokes down through the ceiling, reminding me of the dick shower in lexx (not the best cultural reference ever). you can see the telltale blue grey flicker of television in every caravan window and the seedy bar that doubles up as the campsite office is playing host to a pidgeon race. that many birds in cages produce a lot of bird shit.
the village itself is flat out weird. every house has slide down metal shutters on the outside of the windows. flat white ones that block out all light and make the town look like a prison. perhaps they have a lot of riots here? the actual architecture is located somewhere between interesting and unsightly. it's one dark town. it does have a nice castle and some good graffiti though - exploding dog heads stolen as a tag.
19.08.2006 - Brussels
my first impression of brussels was skimmed from its surface while we drove through its centre (in search of a camping store mistaken by our futuristic gps for a camp site). its straight roads and shining hise rise buildings make me think of american cities. the network of streets and traffic lights, all with a thin layer of grime, which when mixed with some older buildings or a touch of communism summons memories of eastern europe. there's continental europe here too, in the shape of cafes and plazas, and of course the standard no culture of the tourist city. in that sense it's not so unlike london, but somehow its much more decorated.
not early friday morning (not morning at all) we caught the tram into the city. the walls hold their fair share of political graffiti, while the underground seems to be the haven for the racist slur - "la front nationale" and "stop immigration vote pfn". luckily in the city the graffiti is much better, especially around the gay quarter.
but our first destination is the tourist-obvious grande place, weaving through the mass of people and tempting chocolatiers. saying the grande place is not impressive would be lying, the three main buildings and the many thin ones compromising the inner facade of the square sweat ornate decorations. statues, gold and flags trickle down from the towering spires all the way down to the cobbled streets. this is despite what lies at eye level, rows of cars here for a wedding, a monsterous stage for the music festival (excused), numerous stalls selling crap to the teeming tourists, some terrible i don't even know what, and everywhere a camera trying to see through it all to the rich beauty beneath. rich in terms of expensive. it's not going to happen.
the little mermaid of brussels is the pissing boy (or manneken pis). the souvenirs you can buy of this are bigger than the real thing, which isn't the real thing at all. that was stolen years ago. i laugh at the thought of it sitting in some student living room across the other side of the city.
from here we followed the graffiti trail down obtuse side streets, generally trying to get lost in the city and enjoy it for what it is, rather than focusing on the must-see tourist attractions. the city leads us to the oldest tea shop in the city (since 1879), the nicest tea shop man and what was apparently the second best comic shop (according to the girl in the chocolatier later). i accidentally went sick and spent nearly 80euros. i was almost reduced to tears, the number of gorgeous books but in languages i couldn't understand.
when you think of brussels what's the one image you get? it's the big stupid shining silver balled thing right? the atomium, a european tribute to ray gun gothic.
you can gawk at it, but it's clearly built for tourists and seems a bit hollow. it is hollow. there's very little inside it and the view isn't exactly breathtaking either. but still, i suppose you have to see it if you in brussels. if i were you (or me in the past) i wouldn't waste your time queueing for tickets, the lift and the food (not that that's food). and do piss in the bushes, it'll stop the angry belgium woman from shouting at you in french while you persistently tell her she's not getting any money from you, despite how insistently she points at the sign hidden on the other side of the door.
after this it must have taken us hours to find a restuarant. we took the metro back into the centre and wandered around until 6pm when they finally started to open. we dine in a thai resturant, where i must have gone the toilet about five times.
it was time to go our seperate ways. the larger your group is the harder it is to actually do anything. solution to all problems? just do what you want. so me and julie went off to find chocolate and accidentally walked into a chocolatier being run by a friendly american sounding girl. we were the only customers, while the chain chocolatiers opposite and next door pounded to the beat of the tourist traffic. perhaps they don't like listening to beck while perusing chocolates. perhaps they're just suckers. the girl serving us is paid to tell us this is the only place where the chocolates are handmade. she tells us this while almost forcing us to try them, "you must try the champagne truffle". by the time we're done she's almost given us half of our chocolates for free. employee disloyalty and customer friendliness can go a long way. i say lets see how far. actually, any more chocolates and we would have been sick.
so we enjoyed the bustling afternoon streets, pitched somewhere between any european tourist city, and caught the tube up to see the EU headquarters as it catches the very last of the fiery sunset. doesn't it look so bright when you look ahead? a good sunset does wonders to even the ugliest of vistas.
a little further east is the parc du cinquanenaire, which has a motorway running underneath it. we sat and ate chocolates as the sunset died over the city. the sky shot through pink and grey, the darkness slowly rolling down between the buildings.
the last place i wanted to see was the gigantic cathedral at simons. the small park between it and its nearest metro stop is full of hundreds of parrots. possibly paraqeets, however you spell that. they were the least thing i was expecting, a flock of tropical birds in a european city center. in belguim? it was too late to enter the church but we skirted around it as it was lit up. we sat on the steps eating chocolates.
the day was done and all we needed to do was get home - to our little tent somewhere north or south of brussels in beersel. finding the correct line was easy (the 52), but working out which direction was not, as we had no idea what the name of the town was where we had to get our bus connection. no one had heard of beersel, and worse still when we said it they thought we meant brussels, pointing down to the ground saying "that's here". great. so we took the first train that arrived it and rode it north for four stops before freaking out and jumping off, right into a rather dodgy looking area. after consulting the map we thought we should go south so caught the next bus that proceded to take us in a completely different route to the one we'd just travelled in, taking us deeper into the dark and uncertain city. this might be one of those stories that spirals wildly out of control. that ends in a mugging or a cold and damp police cell. one of those good stories. but no, i recognised a street and we left the bus and went straight back into the train station.
trundling past the familiar graffiti i still felt a little uneasy, but all was fine. forty five minutes later we arrived in [i can't read my own handwriting] to find the last bus was two hours ago. the walk wasn't far though, and it was an excellent dumpster diving opportunity (except we had no lights).
20.08.2006 - Cheese with extra cheese and a side of cheese
the wind turbines of germany and belgium turn into the electricity pylons of northern france. a wall of dark cloud sits on the horizon, blocking our path to the summer
it's not long since we left brugge, a picturesque belgium town kept alive but made ugly by the throbbing tourists. this isn't a big city that can take the pressure, but a large village. i imagine every local there makes their living from the tourist trade, leeching of the leeches.
the best thing about stopping at brugge was we had a proper lunch, at a proper good pseudo-vegetarian restuarant, instead of accidentally starving ourselves until dinner. the menu was impressive and i had the four cheese quiche (which is an important detail that you will need to remember for later.
tonight we've been booked into a wonderfully french (whatever i would know about that) bed and breakfast. this is a special treat courtesy of my parents, and its a welcomed change to the tent. even if we haven't been pumping up our air matress ourselves (we've been disturbing the other campers with the noisey whir of our electric air pump). real beds. our quaint room, decorated in mostly yellow and floral greens, sits above a garden courtyard. you can tell the owners take a lot of pride in their garden. the south wall is a series of large glass arches, which look like mirrors before you realise they're windows. at the centre of the lawn is a large fish pond, clearly converted from an swimming pool now way past its expiry date. and there's so much green.
we had an hour before being picked up for dinner and spent out time enjoying the peaceful garden, ones the owner's son had stopped practicing with his band (not a million miles from milkill's messy beginnings). sitting on the side of the pool and teasing the teeming fish, the big ones making snapping noises with their mouths as they broke the surface of the water, grabbing the crumbs of stale bread that we'd thrown them. there were also a number of black and yellow turtles, just too cute.
dinnner was eaten at a lake side restaurant with a terrible name that was strange even by french standards. our table was over the water and i felt i should be diving in. the dusk sky was a complicated jumble, and reflected in the glassy lake it was massive. the live music wasn't quite as bad as what we'd heard in the netherlands, but it was comparable. the strangeness resided mostly in the menu, of which the "welsh" section provided most of the vegetarianable options. i went for the welsh rarebit and was expecting some kind of cheese on toast, but what i was presented with was more like cheese soup, without the 'soup'. a large bowl of melted glistening orange cheese hiding a single slice of bread and a few pieces of chopped tomatos. there was also an egg on top, for decoration. but a pound of cheese? and the rest. for dessert we rushed down crepes laden with cream and chocolate sauce. we had a time limit as my parents had to be back at their lowly campsite before curfew.
back in our room, after one or two beers, i practically passed out as my digestive system tried to handle overload, and rapidly approached meltdown. i sleep soundly until around 3am when i woke suddenly and with an uncomfortable sinking feeling coming from deep within my belly. i ignored it until the second time i was sitting on the toilet, filling it with my insides, and realising that all i'd eaten all day was cheese. mother fucking cheese.
the pain came in steady waves every thirty seconds. cheese pulsing through my tubes, congealing and clogging my internal machinery. i wanted it all out, to clense and purify. to rid myself of dairy. and when i finally ejected it violently from my stomach, it was waves of red leicester. burning globs of fatty cheese.
over breakfast i was nervous. it was hold in a large living room with other guests and was beautifully continental, including homemade yoghurt, homemade jam from homegrown fruits (apricot, prunes, rhubarb and strawberry), homemade brioche and fresh baquette. and cheese. we sat with two other couples, both french, and tried to explain our journey. then asked the hostess if we could have more toilet roll, me hoping she couldn't remember how many had been stored in our room.
from here it was only a short drive to the eurotunnel and our injection back into england. as we check ourselves in a pompous fuck of an english man tries to interfere and instantly angers me. no wonder we have such a bad reputation with guys like this wandering around talking down to people like they were shit, arrogantly accusing them of lying like someone would even bother spinning petty lies to such a worthless asshole.
him: "you have to take the ticket"
mum: "it's still printing"
him: "no one else is having trouble"
mum: "it says to wait, do you want to come round and have a look"
(it finishes printing and the ticket is released)
him: "sure it did", in the most patronising voice you could imagine (or worse)
at which point an imaginary brick is aggresively forced into his face, first breaking through his top lip and smashing his front teeth, then his nose. the third blow puts a hole in his cheek and the fourth pops an eyeball. bateman would be proud.
the tunnel journey is quick and soon becomes uninteresting. it should be full of wonder but really it's nothing more than a long dark tube. une croissant.
and then as if it were nothing (which it probably is) we're in england and it's horrible. i instantly feel like a foreigner in my own country. an unwilling tourist. this is so not where i belong.
just as we enter rugby we come across an accident just seconds after it happened. a guy, now very bewildered but trying to convince us he was fine (and asking if we thought he could drive home), had spun his car around and into the ditch, taking several small trees along with it. the back axel had been ripped in two and his back right wheel sat on top of the left. his lovely jaguar had gone to hell. if he's lucky he's learnt a beautiful lesson and only at the price of an expensive car. his breakfast tommorrow will taste better than it ever has in his life. unless it contains cheese, that just shatters my vision and misquote in one foul blow.
24.08.2006 - Brighton Calling
on tuesday we slid down to brighton - a national rail nightmare i wont expand upon, because you've heard it all before. arriving was very familiar, walking from the station, the sea, around under the bridge and the walk down to the lanes. except this time it felt different, this time it wasn't like coming home. i was a visitor catching up with my friends and the city, but not a part a part of it. not here to share myself with it. i was a tourist.
so we did the usual rounds. dave's comics, vegetarian shoes, terre a terre (except the fuckers were closed so we ate at the infinity foods cafe). we sat on the beach, watching the seagulls ride the air currents and the odd idiot brave the waters. then in the end of the lanes cafe, with it's best cappucino in brighton (fact) and uber hot chocolate. we had a date with steph at closing time, and it was great to catch up on our hyper-dense multi-direction conversations. brighton isn't the trendy shops and the stony beach, it's the awesome people who inhabit it. after steph i met a select few friends disguised as spannerworks employees. and this is what i miss, not the vege restaurants and the wanky music scene, but the hanging out. just bring on the guiness, but remember i'm not used to pints.
on the way back to chris and rifa's we also popped briefly into the cowley club, in a hope to catch any miscellaneous old friends hanging out there. all i can remember is a drunken rant at iain and having a go at some girl who said i had to wait my turn to talk to him. anyway, chris and rifa were the perfect hosts, providing us with the comfiest sofa i've ever had the pleasure to sleep on, and also late night ramblings.
the next morning we scaled southover to visit abi and her's and nil's baby, summer. i even got to feed her, i think my nearest previous experience to which is feeding a spider monkey on my eight birthday (or whichever number it was). we took out obligatory vege breakfast (not the dumbwaiter, too much choice, but the classic akdeniz) and then visited the radically different spannerworks - shaken not stirred? needless to say i was impressed and barely recognised half the people there. they're doing something right, that's for sure. looks like i left at the perfect time, just before it became a really really hard decision.
then dave's comics again, waikikamookow (or however they spell it) and a quick hanging out with bip in one of the new art galleries before a rush to the station and a fast train to london. so that was brighton, £200 in 36 hours and a long series of prematurely terminated conversations. there's just not enough time, and i'm left not believing how i could leave so many good people behind. but hey, it was for a girl so i guess it's okay.
london was (and always will be) a weird one. the usual circuit was followed, comics and shoes (i'm jealous of julie's new vege shoes, they're much nicer than mine). then with nothing much better to do we sat in a nasty cafe for nearly two hours, watching the londoners dash backwards and forwards in the pouring rain. then corey appeared and we made our way over to the dutch pancake house to meet johanna and her posse. it turns out that a dutch pancake is more like a large pizza, especially in its dimensions, but that's all good.
it was awesome, but just another rushed and too brief encounter that left me thinking, no matter how fun these catch ups are, they're all i'm really experiencing of my friends (and it's easier to say that now, typing it up sitting on my own in a city thousands of miles from anyone i know). but for a couple of days i got to make myself the center of attention, and pull all these different people together. it was all exceptionally fun, and sitting on the train back to rugby i couldn't help but smile a rather sad nostalgic smile. but a smile none the less.
25.08.2006 - Last minute checklist
everything is ready. everything. my return ticket is finally sorted. yeah yeah, it's last minute i know, but this time it was complicated. we ended up phoning mumbai or bombay or wherever it was, upgrading internet booked tickets truly is a nightmare. if only i'd known i needed a return ticket to begin with.
our hostel is booked and i have the address printed out incase it's needed. i proof of funds (a printout of my last bank statement that would have taken my under a minute to doctor) and i have my vaccination record, including my faked yellow fever vaccination from when i went to tanzania. i even have travel and health insurance, something i would never normally get if it could be risked (measure up needing serious medical attention in a foreign country with being refused entry and placed back on the plane home - how embarrassing). my favourite thing about my insurance is i get £50 a day hijack cover. i bet you wish you had hijack cover. now if i get to use it i have the wickedest story.
all bags are packed and all potentially troublesome articles have been removed. i've become fond of having 'reciepes for disaster - an anarchist cookbook' on my shelf but i don't want the difficultly of explaining it at customs ("sir, would you care to explain this book that describes how to overcome police and build bombs from common household materials?").
what more could a country want? my queen owns the country anyway, her face is on all their money.
now all we've got to do is party. but first a nap.
one thing i've realised is i've set myself up to experience my friends in small intensive bursts. it's not ideal, but when we all get together it is awesome. so on friday night a few select people came over to indulge my ego and in plenty of alcohol. it was the usual crazy affair, catching up, thrasing instruments, playing buzz. like i said, the usual. this time ben wasn't horrifically sick and has anyone told corey what you fuckers did to him? (photos will not be sent out on request, you vultures).
if you wondering, no one was actually invited, these things just happen naturally. there's lots of people who should have been there but weren't, so sorry if you were one of them.
the next day, after a huge breakfast, we dragged ourselves (a polite way of saying i was dragged) around birmingham's botanical garden, which is actually nicer than i thought it could have been. my image of the city does not lend itself well to lush greens and exciting plants. not that meaning of lush, anyway. halfway around it began to rain and we sought shelter in a shed at the back of the organic garden. i took the time out to catch on much needed sleep, which was lovely. after this we drove over to ladypool (me nailing the directions, i might add) for a balti at the punjab paradise, our 'regular'. it had been a long time since i'd enjoyed a proper birmingham balti (and typing this up now i'm fucking starving, i'd kill for one).
back in rugby i dashed immediately out to meet ben, mim and tom down the merchant. corey had left town already (i don't blame him) and we presumed martin had as well, until he walks in with jen. it just goes to show it's the only decent pub in rugby, lucky that else we would have missed him and then felt really bad. jackie was there too and bought me a pint, so cheers for that. it was a slow evening, everyone still tired, and all we seemed to talk about was debt and sex. which is okay. aslong as we weren't talking about customs, anti-terrorism precautionary measures or deportation i was happy. drinking beer was difficult because i was still so full, so i resorted to their rather awesome range of import beers.
a last night couldn't have been spent much better.
27.08.2006 - Inflight ramblings and inflight meals
the smell of curry wafts down the aisle and behind the chatter and the roar of the engines warming up you can hear delicate indian music. we've only just started to move away from the birmingham terminal and again i'm like a foreigner, but this time for a different reason. indian airlines isn't exclusively for indians, but the english seem to think so.
the air conditioning switches on and the smell is sucked away, leaving me anticipating the best inflight meal ever (actually matar panner). now the woman who just handed me an orange juice is walking backwards along the aisle repeating "fasten your seatbelts" with a stern look on her face. a face that looks like the guys from little britian. and when we ask for beer she gives us two each.
so as we trundle along the runway i'm trying to forget about the crash in kentucky earlier today. how 49 of the 50 "souls" didn't make it. how they'll all be identified by their dental records. this is an exorcism and i wish i hadn't drank that coffee. as if the airport isn't anxious enough. i dropped the receipt for our water so we couldn't take it on the plane. water. if people start making bombs from gases we're seriously fucked.
but anyway, i started my kilimanjaro journal saying something like "this is the most stupid thing i've ever done". of course it wasn't and neither is this, so why do i feel so nervous? getting into this position was easy. so easy i can't even remember how or where the path to here even started. it was over a year ago and it still feels that distant, even though it's being lived right here in the now. i'm not a day away from my future and i still can't visualise it one bit.
then the acceleration. the blurred blue lights of the runway. julie's hand clasping my left. the cabin shakes and the world is reduced to miniture, disappearing in the fog. happy music pushing through the engine roar, tinny like it's from someone's headphones. somewhere between clouds the distant sky emerges as a lake of nestled blue, the place where the rain comes from. then hours later the tip of greenland emerges, with it's irregular coastline and jagged beauty. and when the sun begins to set it's beneath the clouds, pink and orange rays pushing up through the desert of white.
so for the millionth time, again we're chasing the sun. somewhere behind its red glow is our final destination.
28.08.2006 - Welcome to Canada, we hope you enjoy your stay
going through that awkward phase of waking in a distant country, lost on at least one level, i glanced over through our open balcony sliding door and just caught sight of a black squirrel running quickly across the handrail. i don't know, maybe i imagined it. but he looked just like a small black cat with a rather bushy tail.
this is home for the next week, college hostel on augusta. we arrived at 1am, or 6am depending on how you look at it. and we got up at 7am or 2pm, depending on how you look at that. open suit cases surround the bed and a large fan is barely managing to keep itself upright. there's japanese on the tv (although it's probably chinese) and the tv is seriously in need of colour balancing - in magenta and cyan nothing is appealing.
so what we need:
- soap that doesn't smell of licorice
- a phone card to call home
- a home to call our own
customs and immigration wasn't hard either. we were split up twice and a few tricky questions were asked, but nothing i wasn't expecting. i had to explain to one official how my bags were actually my girlfriend's luggage, and she had mine, so i couldn't really identify all the strange objects. for instance, the mercedes badge. luckily he was near the end of his shift and couldn't be bothered to start opening and dissecting the two 32kg beasts. yes, they were that heavy. trying to drag them from the baggage reclaim conveyor belt without hitting any children or starting a fight was almost impossible. and from a bag next time to mine wafted the distinct smell of a broken whiskey bottle. it could happen to any of us.
john, the husband of a friend of julie's parents, picked us up, managing to identify us amongst the mega-sized indian families come to meet their arriving relatives. i guess we weren't that hard to spot. his help was priceless, shuttling us from the busy airport to our hostel. managing that at a body-clock time of 6am on our own would have ended in tears.
outside the canadian sky is dark purple and the monorail curves across it in a wide arch between the terminal and car park, then off into the distance. spotlights burn blinding white silver, the buildings and factories glow from this bright futuristic lighting, from here all along the freeway to the city. at this time, these two times, nothing looks real. it's super real or dream like, which doesn't make any sense. so nevermind.
by this morning i've got over being intimidated by the hostel. i'm down with it, right? or maybe it's that all the kids from the club next door have disappeared (the club that played dub all night). so we wander down augusta into kensington, a brighton-esque area but with more maturity, rich in poetic graffiti and flowered up houses (and car). perhaps it's the fresh morning, but i instantly love it. sitting in an open corner cafe (louis's coffee house) eating a croissant accompanied with a quality latte while watching the black squirrels (turns out they do exist - they may be vermin but they're my new favourite animal) run around the fruit and veg shop opposite and dodging the infrequent traffic. a cop drives by twice or thrice and the local beatniks provide me with quality eavesdropping. it's a place you could sit all day. and i would if we didn't have so much to do.
the majority of the day has been spent inserting dollars into various phone boxes on various street corners. harbord and huron. college and major. hoskin and st george. everywhere "hi, i'm calling about the room/apartment you have for rent". most of these conversations fall into the category that ends with "sorry, it's already taken". the next biggest slice of the pie chart goes to chinese people i couldn't understand. we saw one place and it was a dive. then we walked thirteen blocks west to meet an indian woman only to be told her son just phoned to say he's coming home, so the room is no longer available. this kind of constant defeat is terrible for morale. but wait! there's another black squirrel!
fucking, ninja squirrels. awesome.
by this time we were exhausted. although not so much so we couldn't get excited about the range of vegan ice creams in the convenience store. here is a place that understand the concept of vegetarian. we've already walked past three vege/vegan restaurants, all within five minutes of our hostel. and the weather has been amazing, too hot if anything. who would have thought? so it's been hard to get down about anything.
but okay, it's 9pm or 2am and i can't stay up any longer.
29.08.2006 - The Toronto star rising
whenever i wake up i don't know where i am. inbetween somewhere. that's where it feels. no longer lost, i always suspect i know where i am. and not what gibson said either, my soul stuck behind in some place i left it. but wherever i am, right now i feel a success. another new city, another new life, another new definition of awesome. i hate to be an asshole, but i feel successful.
and even after opening the beer bottle (bought from the designated government beer store) with a deodorant stick, only to find it's a screw top, everything is going well. the sun drenched balcony helps. as does today's story, which begins at the start of the next paragraph.
so we should have been up at the crack of dawn to collect the toronto star (as suggested by a nice woman yesterday who stopped to ask us where we were looking for and if she could help, "unless you have an apartment to rent..") fresh off the press, to beat those other rabid house hunters to the chase, but instead we took it easy. we bought fresh bread from the fresh bread shop and cheese from the cheese shop. some tomatos and two nectarines. then after breakfast i began the chore of calling potential apartments. it doesn't take long to cross them off the list and after ten minutes i'd arranged a couple of viewings that began almost immediately. so it's a mad dash down college st to spadina, up to dupont and then along to davenport, with several viewings along the way. the first was expensive and tiny, although gave us the third, and the second had been taken in the hour between my call and us getting there. it might have bothered me if i wasn't so busy being impressed by the skyline.
the third and fourth we saw in quick succession and annoyingly both good. way to go introduce a conflict into my already complicated schedule. one was a large basement flat on a quiet street and the other was a 22nd floor condo with north facing balcony, both central. this was our agonising but wonderful choice. in the end the choice was pretty much made for us, the highrise was clearly run by fascists while the basement's lanlord grew up in uganda and was cool with our shortcomings. you try and get two months rent out of a foreign cash machine.
that last sentence is the vital clue to the breaking news. yes, on our second day we've found ourselves an apartment. startlingly quick and for an impressive price, that's the last time i listen to people saying this kind of thing is difficult. piece of cake and we're the proof. i'm just glad i don't have to do it again for a very long time. and sorry if you wanted me to have a blacony view of the city.
so if you're wondering where the photos are, well i've not been taking pictures. this can wait, and i think it's important that i get to know the city through my own eyes first, not the lens. which sounds more prentious than the sentence that i wanted to write but couldn't conjure up, so it'll have to do. hate me for it if you want, i don't care, i'm living in toronto.
we celebrated by eating at the vegetarian restaurant on baldwin street (a funky restuarant hotspot). their six-plus page menu is split up by type of meat subsitute - tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc. and for such a large menu the food quality is incredible. cheap too, infact i've decided to finance by converting dollars straight into pounds. and the service is so good it's confusing. tofu cookie icecream.
i want you to visit, i want to show you how cool this place. how actually cool it is.
outside, down on augusta, it's exciting and vibrant. and that's without proper street lighting. people sit on the curb, at cafe tables, hanging out. there's a band practicing in a nearby apartment and some wicked music coming from one of the aformentioned cafes. there's something happening, and it feels just perfect.
this is the place to finish my journal, but until i can update properly the show must go on.
30.08.2006 - Expanding on our possessions and the necessary items list
i'm starting to like our hostel. maybe it's stockholm syndrome, it's hard to tell. but i'm happy sitting here in the 'lobby', trying to use the internet but failing. the morning blowing through the wide open doors. the smell from the kitchen almost reaching me but not quite, and they still havn't cleaned any of the bathrooms or toilets. the advert on the front door for a cleaner doesn't bode well.
when you arrive in a new city with nothing (except four 32kg bags of luggage) and move into an unfurnished apartment your shopping list is uncomprehendable. even if you write everything down, when you read down the list you've already forgotten the things at the top. this is what marriage is for, the wedding list that provides your new home with everything it needs. tradition is there for a reason. but since it's not for us there is always honest ed's.
on the corner of korea town and the annex is mirvish village, home to and named after honest ed, owner of the largest bargain discount store in the world (probably), and definately the only one that could even remotely class as an attraction. it's so big it doesn't even fit in one block. our ed is so honest he's become somewhat of a local hero, and his smiling happy honest face beams from every wall - "his prices are centsless". he hasn't created a brand, he's created mythology. there's one hell of a business man. of course, honest ed's sells a lot of cheap rubbish, but that's exactly what we need. and considering it only cost $70 for a frying pan, saucepan, bottle opener, tea strainer, two mugs, two sets of cutlery, a chopping board, wooden spoon and spatular.. well, consider that.
even better is that just around the corner on markham street is beguiling comics. one of those places i could go to die. here is a real comic book shop. i was almost in a panic it was so good. there was just too much. items that amazed me include several books from looseteeth (asofterworld, lockpick pornography, etc), dieselsweeties merchandise ("actually we're good friends with him", sure), and gorgeous hardback editions of project superior and blankets (in black and purple, a killer $180). i also met my first proper comic book guy. that deserves a cheesy high five for sure. some other guy (possibly the owner?) told me they were the best alternative comic book store in north america. i'm tempted to believe him, and anyway, the other two in town are rubbish.
the laundret across from our hostel is one tall, long and wide corridor, the walls must meet the ceiling about six meters up. and it's hard to tell whether the man who runs it is a friendly fellow or not, as he talks like he has his fist in his mouth. or has no tongue, either similie will do. are all laundrets like this?
"have you got a quater", the words coming out my mouth make me crack up. i've not been bought up to say these words, it's not in my programming, and i still can't say it without laughing.
image of the day: walking down spadina avenue, the teeming chinese quarter, and the cn tower rises abruptly over the surrounding buildings. it pierces the bright midday blue sky, a sharp needle and not at all phallic symbol. it's an hour hand and at 2 o'clock hangs a faint but perfectly formed half moon.
02.09.2006 - Slave to the IKEA nesting instinct
the last few days could be summed up with most of words beginning with "ex" that i can think of. exorcist and excuse being two exceptions. three. i'm truly knackered, but rocking.
early thursday, after a breakfast containing too many raisins, we walked into town to return some towels which julie's parents had accidentaly taken when they stayed here two years ago. honest ed would be so proud. we then discovered a news agents that had last months adbusters. every newsagent here sells it, some even have it in their window. there's a revelation, it proves we moved to the right city. unfortunately the woman couldn't retrieve the magazine herself, we had to come back later when she had some help. but now it's sitting happy in my possession.
after this we took our first trip to ikea, after failing to find cheap furniture anywhere else, a bed being the most urgent. it's sad but we were desperate. this was also our first expedition on the subway, with all its quirks. the three descending tones warning you the train's doors are about to close are the same first three notes from sesame street - "sun-ny day".
and then sitting by the freeway, out in the middle of nowhere ontario, 300 cars passing by us a minute. a non-stop heavy flow of traffic pumping dirt up into the environment. trucks the size of houses. watching them rise from and fall into the evening heat haze, waiting for the next one to be the bus. you can almost hear the vultures circling.
and when many people enter hell they'll find the feeling strangely familiar. instead of being welcomed by the corny fire and pitchforks they'll be greeted by blue and yellow. by an emotionless space full of everybody's and nobody's cookie cutter furniture. by a flatpacked nightmare. exactly like being alive. needless to say ikea isn't my kind of place. after travelling 4000km around the world the last thing i need is to decorate my new apartment with the same furniture i had in my previous one. wherever we are in the world we can all live with the same cheap and styleless stylistic decor. we all do. walking down the street today i saw the familiar flatpacks being carried from a truck into a nearby house. it's a non-stop delivery, ikea being injected into our collective homes around the clock. we are being homogenised. i'm terrified.
but really, ikea could have saved all of our problems. instead it antagonised our concerns, our last best option crumbled before our eyes. our dreams of finding a cheap comfy bed obliterated by rows of untouchable mattresses and not a quality futon in sight. we picked a $30 bookcase (that barely stands up on its own) and a $40 table (which is okay, potentially super if julie lets me doodle all over it). we almost bought stools ($6 each) before deciding that proper chairs (in red) might be a much better idea. which it was. other necessary shit that we bought is a metal frame set of draws (hideous but cheap), several rugs, bedding and a clothes hanger on wheels, which is also hideous but equally humurous. when we finally got to our apartment we discovered that there were already two of them hiding in our storage room. hence why we visited ikea again the next day, after me swearing i'd never go there ever again. we figured we could exchange it for another two chairs (totalling a sociable four) and also buy some further kitchen essentials. while we took it in turns queuing (lining up) for the returns counter we expored the "as is" section, which is full of assembled and damaged goods. amongst this soiled garden of delights were a scratched bed base, the same again but with a crap "futon" (not at all a futon) and a rather nicer sofa bed a woman had her eyes on for her daugher. i spent a while talking to her, convincing her it was decent before realising that actually we might want it. in the end her daughter threw a mild tantrum and refused it, our cue to wheel it out and claim it as our own. a victory for our karma as much as our sleeping.
our first escape was via taxi, a cheaper option than delivery and it saved us the subway prices. we drove south along the freeway as the sun set, throwing the sky into pinky purple disarray. jagged clouds dominated the sky to the north west in sharp oranges and yellows and the buildings divided by the freeway stood proud in dark pale greens. the headlights from the oncoming traffic cut through everything in glaring white. it was almost enough to warrant a request to the taxi driver to pull over so we could revel in it. during the drive he told us that toronto people are in the extremes like the toronto weather, they're either real nice or bastards. we're being constantly warned about the imminent cold, but right now it's more like a heatwave. likewise, all the people we've met have been friendly and more than willing to help, but on the streets there's more than enough nutters.
someone else told us that a lot of movies are filmed in toronto, and sure enough it was only a few days until we ran into a film crew. this was up spadina outside one of the colleges, a row of pristine vintage american cars and some serious hair-dos. it looks like a remake of hairspray, at least that's what it said on the back of the director chairs.
but anyway, last night we were in possession of two all-day travel passes so it made sense to start hauling our luggage across town and into our apartment. what was going to be two nightmare journeys ended up being one and a half, terminated prematurely by a six pack of beers. pushing yourselves like that just isn't worth it. instead we took the remaining bags over this morning, early so we wouldn't miss the delivery men who were coming between 9am and 6pm. brilliant, but at least we'd have a bed. and now we do.
in the evening we'd been invited over to john and margaret's house in "mid-town". they picked us up from eglington and drove us to their place, giving us a quick tour along the wet and rainy streets of what might have been called yonge village, but possibly not. this isn't autumn we were escaping from, it's the last part of the storm coming up from florida, but it squashes the summer all the same. they treated us to paela and thrust unwanted plates, pots, lamps and other useful stuff into our hands. it felt good to sit around a table and eat proper food after all the rushed meals we'd been eating. and it was an ikea table. they also have a friendly psycho cat. i had to be told i better stop stroking him. i have the bite marks to prove it.
and by the way, it took me five days to finish off the 325g bag of peanut butter and chocolate oreos. that's not so bad.
03.09.2006 - The day after the first night in our new apartment
two days of moving luggage, assembling furniture, peeling stickers off things and cleaning, and my hands are dry and raw. i am what ikea made me. and i have a rather nasty burn on a finger of my right hand where i became stuck to the freshly cleaned and switched on freezer. thank you ice cube tray. and it's not only me that's suffered, two screw drivers that i bought from the pound shop (er, one dollar store) were both worn down to points. like, what do you expect when you buy tools for 50p? but apart from that the dollar store has been kind to us, supplying us with a grater, bulldog clips, a wrench, coathangers, lighters, a spatula and an alarm clock (it was urgently needed). probably amongst other things. the goodwill store has also been good, with it's excellent selection of second hand tea pots, jars and national geographic. other items purchased from honest ed's include a vacuum cleaner, kettle, laundry basket, drainer, cleaning products, kitchen bin and a bag of bagels because i was hungry. but not to turn this into the generation game.
we've also stocked up on food and condiments, including a wonderful array of spices from some shop deep in kensignton market that are now sitting in a colourful row above our fridge, and some organic peanut butter and tahini. we haven't found anywhere that sells free range eggs or organic milk, so we're currently drinking soya milk. it's not so bad.
so right now our apartment is looking lovely. notice how i call it an apartment and not a "basement apartment". calling it that gives the wrong impression, we have high walls and large windows. we are sexy. our location is also good, south of bloor and east of yonge, actually just off jarvis st. being downtown in the city centre it's busy all around us, but the road we're on was recently made no-through to cars so it's an exceptionally quiet street for the inner city. you can barely hear the traffic, and the only noise that's at all bothering me are the jets that fly over at irregular intervals (which they've been doing all over the city since friday morning), what are they doing?
we've also ordered the internet, although it can't be installed until the 15th. so what's the point of that? i guess it must be a busy time for them, what with all those students moving into new apartments. luckily enough there's an internet cafe at the end of our road, and failing that i can always walk into rogers (who we've getting our internet through, i'm afraid) and use the terminal there, like the guy infront of us in the queue did. he sent a couple of emails and then walked out.
last interesting fact of the day, before i finish munching my french toast "cereal" and waltz off to bed - we bought tea lights from both ikea and honest ed's and lit one of each at the same time (actually it was several). it turns out the ikea candles last much longer. so much for honest ed's honesty.
now i'm feeling pretty much complete.
05.09.2006 - Freshers week begins
i've spent most of today trying to avoid the over enthusiastic chants and cheers from the hoardes of freshers rampaging around the campus. they're split into groups of between twenty and fifty students and they're pure american. the engineers all parade around wearing protective helmets and with parts of their body dyed an eerie purple. many of them had jumped in the dye completely and were purple from head to toe. one group were seeing how many of them could fit into a bus shelter, from behind you could see their backs squashed up tight against the glass, while another group were kneeling across a road, their heads touching the tarmac and the angry drivers blaring their horns. another group were doing the breast stroke down spadina avenue, chanting as loud as they could. unfortunately julie wasn't put through such humilations, and instead had a nice barbecue to which i was invited (once i'd found out where it was).
so our apartment is five minutes walk south of bloor, the street that defines where 'downtown' ends and greater toronto begins, and is wedged between jarvis and sherbourne, two streets about which i have no particularly interesting details to tell. a quick walk one block south west from our house and you're in the toronto gay quarter (real name "church village"), so there goes my theory that the chinese and gay quarters always overlap. if you walk another block west you reach yonge, the longest street in the world, however that works. one more block across and you reach the university of toronto campus, one of the greener areas of the city whose borders are bloor street, bay street, college street and spadina avenue (which isn't technically an 'avenue'). the latter of which is the becomes china town, between college and queens.
so picture me walking down spadina, a spring in my step and a bubble tea in my hand. and incase you're wondering, it's a very sweet milky tea with a mass of black jelly balls floating at the bottom. they occasionally zip up the straw to surprise you, especially so if you get several in one go, not a little grim. this is the kind of drink that i love and you hate. why do i do it to myself? but anyway, that picture is the memory of today that's stuck with me the strongest.
another memory is sitting in queens park and feeling the subway trains pass underneath me.
oh, and i've worked out i don't need a watch, i can read the time from the parking meters on the streets.
and we've finally sorted out our pillow situation. the trick is to not buy pillows from ikea, they're probably the worst pillows i've ever tried to use. we picked up another pair from a proper store and now we're sleeping pretty, despite the strange centipede creepy crawly thing we have in our bathroom.
06.09.2006 - Hot and violent
and the summer rages on in downtown toronto, despite heavy pressure from the autumn lobby group. it looks like it's going to sizzling for at least a few days yet.
the dreams i had last night were violent and unforgiving. in a large supermarket some guy, enraged at something way beyond my control (hey, it was him who kissed my girlfriend, as i was stalking behind the magazine aisle), tried to kill me with a spoon. it all started when he let out a roar and punched the computer screen he was sitting infront of. an alarm went off and the security guards immediately escorted him from the building, except when he caught sight of me by the door his face turned a deep red and everything became a little complicated. i could feel the heat coming off his skin that was damp from sweat, and veins buldged in his forehead like they wish they could in the movies. someone, perhaps me, shouted at the guards to not let him go as he was clearly going to kill me. he barred his teeth and spat in my direction. actually, i think it was me who was brandishing the spoon, it was the only thing i could find to defend myself with. but i never did find out how this story ended.
somewhere else, after an ordeal i can no longer remember, i swung myself down a small flight of stairs planting my booted feet square into the side of a girl's head just as she was opening the toilet door. she was wearing a red skirt and a white and red tartan top and she had long curly brown hair, anyone you know? the full weight of my body knocked her sideways down the corridor and away from the door. i guess i must have really needed the toilet. there wasn't a lock on the door, but i immediately began pissing anyway, and on noticing the toilet opened out onto the master bedroom i sprayed as much in that direction as possible. nothing went into the bowl at all. then the crazy bitch came crashing into the room and lunged at me. i took a pair of scissors to her throat, but as per usual in these fucked up dreams it did very little. i opened the scissors out to reveal far too many blades and frantically went to work on the rest of her body, making mincemeat out of her torso. she was quite animated but in the end she gave up and crumbled into the the bath tub.
i was such a pleasent child.
07.09.2006 - Left to his own devices
walking through the parks and my music player serves me up only depressing music. and walking across campus, all the new students hanging out with their new friends, and julie 200km north in the forest with her new course mates, i'm left feeling a little lonely and without purpose. you stare off down the streets and they go straight for as far as you can see, disappearing into perspective's previously only imagined vanishing point, and it makes you wonder what direction you're supposed to be heading in. or worse, if you're heading in any direction at all. because as you walk past coffee chain after coffee chain you start to wonder if maybe you're trapped in a cheap cartoon.
it's around this time that some chick will jump you and ask if you're heard about the film festival. and you'll say that actually you were going to ask for a programme. then she gives you a free ticket to the film starting in thirty minutes and your day is set. is the toronto film festival a big deal? i don't know, it's happening at the moment but this isn't it. this is the rebelfest international film festival that's being held on campus. well that's my weekend set as well then. the film i saw today was 'future by design', a documentary about the eccentric (clearly) futurist jacque fresco. it was interesting if not a little scary, i'm left wondering what this guy is missing. he must be missing something. on the whole his ideas seem very sensible, but i worry his plans will backfire, and the grossly artificial habitat and society he wishes to create will fail on a very fundamental level. i think biggest clue is when he lets slip a sentence about rearing children, before quickly changing the word to 'raising'.
today i also braved my first internet cafe, because julie's stupid login doesn't work on the library computers, despite me trying a billion times. so if you didn't get an email from me on this date it means you're probably not that high up on my friends list. actually that's not at all true, i was mostly attending to business and spending too much money on kalle lasn's new book (i'm such a sucker). the people who did get emails from me were the people who emailed me, and if you didn't.. well what kind of a friend are you anyway?
i've also randomly come across every futon shop in town and i can't believe we missed them before. and the amount of money i've spent on books while i've been here (building up my bookshelf, which is just as important) i could have bought one. this is to be discussed when julie returns in an agonising eight days. and if you think i'm being cute in missing her or pathetically too self reliant, it's agonising because we're not getting the internet installed until then. but now i'm just an asshole.
incase you were wondering, old issues of adbusters are impossible to find in second hand book and magazine shops. even here. instead all you'll find is a copy of blackbook's 'the revolution will be accessorized' and a rather nice mcsweeney's edition.
and since big cities are more fun when shared, not when you're alone, perhaps it's time i showed it to my camera.
08.09.2006 - Putting pictures to words
this morning the radio woke me with an absolutely phenominal lecture by robert fisk, about the bias in the media through the language it chooses, is encouraged and is forced to use. part of his discussion included the best concise description of the israel/palestine problem i've ever heard (going back to 1937 with a terrifying quote from winston churchill9 and the more recent attacks on lebanon, including video proof that the israeli forces had surveillance equipment in the air above the un bunker they attacked (despite them repeatedly denying it and the subsequent coverup to hide the tape). i've never heard someone talk so lucidily on the radio, especially at 9am on a friday morning. and you thought canadian media was all owned by murdoch, pah. it's good to know it's not just chomsky out there.
but anyway, i felt the beckon of the sea - i haven't seen an expanse of water for days. so today i went on my first walk for the sake of taking a walk, and it's been the hottest day yet. with canada's reputation for being fucking cold you forget we're actually on the same latitude as southern france. but it was also the first time i took my camera out, which is a shame because it was so hazy all day. and all i have is pictures of cars and huge trucks.
and people keep thinking i'm australian. well, excluding the ikea employee who told me my accent rocked (i think what he meant is that i have a nice voice). the english and australian accents are quite close, at least this is what the bum who hangs out on spadina and college told me while i fished around for a few quarters. i told him not to spend my money in burgerking and he had me down for a vegetarian straight away. next time i'm going to offer to buy him dinner in exchange for his story, he seems nice enough. but anyway, it's the last time i let some canadian get offended when i tell them i can't tell the difference between them and an america (ignoring the obvious weight and intelligence give-aways, but now i'm just being rude). and talking about intelligence, i bought a cheese danish (cheese as in cheese cake, but still bizarre) from a chatty guy at lawrence market and, reffering to the confusing money problem (that it looks like english money but has different values), he told me i was an intelligent guy and i'd soon get used to it. what is it with these people and their ridiculously inappropriate compliments? i guess they just want to be liked, don't we all?
down on the 'sea front', it turns out it's nothing like a sea front at all. the surrounding islands make the lake actually look like a lake, which it shouldn't because it's so damn huge. so over on the east side it's not so great. the gardiner freeway doesn't help, the monstrosity that it is, and neither do all the factories. although the tate and lyle one makes it smell of syrup, which is mildly amusing. they painted whales and dolphins up the side of it to make it look less offensive. the further west you go the nicer it becomes, and there's a couple of almost serene parks on the water front. what i want to know is, is there actually beaches at beaches?
then i embarressed myself in the beer store by not asking for six bottles of bud. i swear she only asked for my ID because i said 'budweiser' like the weiner that i am. yeah, i'm 25. just pray you're as cool as me when you're that old. also that you have a decent job, or even better no job at all.
in my dreams julie drives off to haliburton in a big orange school bus, full of children wearing green sweaters and brown slacks. in real life i don't even know what slacks are.
so this morning was the zen buddhist rummage sale, sounds awesome right? it was. i picked up a solid tripod for eight bucks, trivial pursuit (plus an expansion pack, just because julie insisted they didn't exist) for five bucks and a couple of wine glasses (very buddhist). plus another spice jar and a peeler. it was wicked but i'm never doing it on my own again, it's just too much effort defending all your stuff as you drag it around.
and the problem with the vegetarian food fair festival is that it's being held on queens quay street. me being an idiot (also tired and dehydrated) had presumed it was just on queens street, when actually it was going on just around the corner from the poster where i saw it advertised. duh, i walked right past it. now my only chance is to get down there early tomorrow. maybe they'll be giving away extra free food because it's the last day.
you also missed the festival of praise, featuring the 'jesus in the city' parade. boy oh boy. unfortunatly there's only so many free bibles i can stand being offered. but at least it wasn't dianetics incidentally, the scientology building is on yonge street just south of bloor. a sad looking fellow handed me a violet coloured leaflet asking "are you curious about yourself?", i laughed and took it, telling him i'd enjoy reading it. he started telling me i could fill it out and bring it back but i cut him off with "er no thanks, i'd really rather not".
09.09.2006 - Late night ramblings
i'm walking quickly across town because tonight there's a bite in the air. 'open up' coming through my headphones and the city is my disco. the lights bouncing down from above, every street light and stop sign in every angle of every slick car and store front window. projection screens and adverts, spotlights tracing paths across the buildings and the sky. i'm like tyres or wheels or whatever his name was, dancing along with the beep of the pedestrian crossing.
then mayonnaise is transformed into a revolution. live without dead time. all the time that can't be given back. reclaim.
a little boy lost in a big city. loving it.
i wont stop to see which famous person the pathetic crowds around the intercontinental hotel are trying to see (although i will put on my glasses). there's a second and similar rabble at the base of the four seasons, mingled amongst cars that cost more than your house. i never did believe in celebrity. they were born like you and they'll die like you. they're definately no better than you. don't treat them otherwise. i haven't been in the city two weeks and i'm bored of potentially seeing someone famous. not that there was a trace of excitement to begin with. all those glamourous movie shoots and film premiers. suck my balls.
outside the four seasons some thin sliver of a woman in an outfit that probably cost more than i live on a year (and that's not including her sunglasses) comes jaunting across the road, and this girl i'm passing (who's old enough to know better) asks her friend who it is before quickly asking the woman if she can take her photograph, waving her mobile in the air. that's the moment i lost my faith in these people.
man i'd love to punch tom cruise. or john travolta.
i ate a whole back of reese candy. as well as peanut butter they also taste of burnt hair. maybe more so.
man, there's something huge crawling across the carpet. i don't want to know what it is. i just want to know how the fuck it got in. and for it's size, how come it's not as scary as a spider?
so i caught two films tonight, as part of rebelfest and again both free tickets from the friendliest people. the first was called 'punk love' but wasn't so punk. it's a depressing film about true love that ends in predictable tradegy. not the film you want to watch when you can't go home to your girlfriend and cuddle. it's not bad like romeo and juliet but perhaps bad because of it. the ending was obvious two scenes into the film and the journey was painful. that isn't to say it wasn't worth watching. the soundtrack was spectacular. actually. and i enjoyed chad lindberg's performance. his exasperation (a slightly better word than frustration) was somehow refreshing. i wish i could go that mental while still holding the moral highground.
the second film was supposed to be the world premiere of 'after', apparently about "urban explorers ... a growing breed of thrill-seekers who thrive on infiltrating the planet's most dangerous man-made structures". sounds like a riot right? but it got lost in the traffic (more likely customs) so it was replaced with 'johnny was', with its ridiculous plot of irish men vs jamaicans in brixton. starring vinnie jones and samantha mumbda? well i was suspicious too but turns out adrian sherwood knocked up the soundtrack, or supervised it at least, as announced during the first scene as the camera pulls of a pair of decks spinning a couple of on-u-sound records. that shit you can't argue with. my only problem with the film was it's playful use of terrorism. i just don't think it's cool to use terrorism in a film simnply as a plot device, rather than having something important to say about it. but then it's far from a serious film and it's got that geezer from ER in it as well. i couldn't picture a worse cast being okay, unless you showed me the preview for southland tales (first graphic novel out now, btw). actually, none of the main characters are even actors, there's a footballer, a singer, a doctor (um) and a boxer (lennox lewis)
anyway, i'll shut up now.
10.09.2006 - Celebrity exploits, or maybe not
it's late, but i think i can afford to write a little while i finish the beer that i decided i deserved. i've been out of the house for eleven hours today, who would have thought i could be so busy?
so if you're feeling rushed and overwhelmed with too many words then the basic structure for this goes like - movie, vegetarian fesitival, movie, award ceremony. so you can skip the rest if you're not interested in me trying to justify my lonely existence and make myself sound cool. this is me trying to be helpful.
quite simply 'more than 1000 words' is the best documentary i've seen in a long time. but then obviously i'm rather biased, having a keen interest in both photojournalism (straight out of my CV, natch) and the conflict between israel and palestine. it's a fascinating and inspirational exploration into the world of ziv koren, an israeli photojournalist, and i fully recommend it to anyone who's interested in photography. it's fucking hardcore. and i want a bigger camera.
obviously i had to go to the vegetarian food fair, with all it's waterfront wonders and hard sell stalls. the weirdest one i came across was selling a book titled something like "born in the mountains". it smelt of scientology like streaky strips smell of bacon. they were offering out a questionaire 'quiz', which tell you how 'free' you and your spirit are. i couldn't help but cringe when i scanned down the list of embarresing questions, half of it obvious crap and the other half obvious spiritual crap. i asked the woman if you lose points simply by feeling the need to answer them, but she didn't understand me at all. she didn't realise i was being rude in the slightest. seriously, it was fucking pathetic.
the free tea, coffee and fancy range of preserves, dressings, sauces and tapanades were awesome though, and quite the treat. but the real treat was the food court, where i spent an agonising five minutes trying to decide which stall to choose. with three different vegetarian indian stalls, two far eastern stalls and various others, it really was impossible. but not literally impossible, in the end i got a rather large plate of mixed indian dishes. it was mamba, i wish i could have shared it with you.
but then all of a sudden the stalls were packing up and i had to rush around hassling people to sell me the various prodcuts i'd decided to buy and getting annoyed because there was actually three times the amount to see than i'd thought. you couldn't have guessed it was that big, so i barely got to talk to the activist people and the 'vegetarians in their twenties' (VITT for short, not quite so quirky). maybe next year?
a long walk up to innis centre and i was all set for the final screening of rebelfest, which i'd been practically bullied into attending. they could have told me i should have dressed up for the occation. i was in a shirt and i still felt like a bum. one of the main sponsors of (or rather, charities involved with) the festival was dignitas ("harnessing the power of community to fight aids"), and in keeping with this the final presentation was 'white shadows', a profile of dalee henderson that i have little to say about for no good reason.
and then the award ceremony that i'm tempted to big up to make my life sound more interesting, but which was really nothing like the picture you may have conjured up of it. i just hope the people from 'johnny was' don't feel too embarressed they won the audience award for best picture, knowing full well it was only because it was the only film shown twice. i'm not sure what idiot worked out the logistics of the voting process, but they certainly don't deserve an award themselves.
also being presented an award was tom sizemore, for his outstanding contribution to the art of film (i've never really understood these 'lifetime achievement' things). i didn't even know who tom sizemore was until he walked into the room and, just for a second, had me absolutely terrified. i'll be honest, i find scagnetti (natural born killers) one of the scariest characters in film. someone i'd really really never like to meet, and then he walks through the door large as life. i decided it was best not to tell him this so i tactfully avoided him all night.
on my walk home i thought it fitting to take a detour past the aids memorial. i felt obliged somehow, and since it's located in the block next to ours it's not much of a detour, just one through a dark park you might not want to travel through at quater past eleven at night. but no worries it's peaceful and the cute little water fountains will put you right at ease.
and now i only have five nights left alone.
11.09.2006 - Happy Nine-Eleven
the smile on my face is the bastard child of my new stereo, a logitech amp with subwoover and two treble speakers currently streaming 'hunted by a freak' from my mp3 player. the absent father was the $10+tax that it cost me at the goodwill community store. it's not as good as the free one we took from the bins behind netto in copenhagen a few months ago, but at that price it's practically free. that along with the tea and trivial pursuit and i am a truly awesome boyfriend.
although i still haven't got the doorhandle or shower light fixed. nor do i have our mailbox key, i've been calling nina from phones all across town only to reach her answer machine every time - at the cost of a quarter a pop it's mighty frustrating. i bought mcsweeneys 18 to console myself.
while looking for a phone i discovered yorkville village, with it's 'hip' restuarants and series of thinly sliced designer gardens. then i chatted to a couple outside my building about weed, stealing from shops and where the rough area of toronto is (liverpool apparently) before finding out they don't actually live here and they were just hanging out to smoke a spliff. her name really is sunshine, but her friends call her sunny, and she makes her money stealing electrical goods from shops for people, "you want anything just give me a shopping list". even the dodgy people around here are nice.
the beggars too, apart from the guy who was hassling me for money while i was trying to phone my nan. "just give me a minute man", i told him. so he stood right there and waited, i couldn't believe it. i fished all the dollars and quarters from my change and gave him the rest just to get rid of him. to be honest, if he hadn't have had that cigarette hanging from his lips he would have got the quarters too. not to be a cunt, but if you're desperate enough to beg for money then you should be desperate enough to quite smoking. unless it keeps you off crack, of course, in which case it's justified. but what the fuck would i know.
you know what the funniest thing about the attack on the world trade center was? (that's a joke in itself btw, feel free to laugh). two days before was the biggest event in any professional photographers calender, some award ceremony brown-nosing get-together in europe. so on september 11th the majority of the worlds photojournalists were grounded in another country, unable to get to new york and cover the action. well i thought that was funny. ironic maybe?
13.09.2006 - Stars, Deaths and Disasters, 1962-1964
in the city, the clouds glide between the buildings. like blimps, above the slick and heavy streets. this is what i'm thinking (contemplating) as i'm walking past the centre for street kids and something hits me hard on the top of my head. i'm being mugged, or murdered, or worse, right here on this damp and busy road. i swing around, only there's no one there. just a bunch of birds fighting of some scraps beside the trash can. birds. i got attacked by a fucking pigeon. you ever heard of that? i was about to shout "9-11 was yesterday you asshole vermin", but then i realised actually it wasn't and "9-11 was the day before yesterday" wasn't quite so snappy.
but later in the evening and these clouds, they turn to light pink, and then slowly fade into the fog. a little performance just for themselves, as no one else is watching. all these people with their eyes on the ground or the traffic, which is the easiest place for them to be when you're asked for a spare quarter every half block, although very politely.
and the word on street is "muggy".
i was out to experience and revel in some art. the art gallery of ontario (AGO to its friends) is currenly host to a small but perfectly formed andy warhol exhibition titled 'stars, deaths and disasters' which is curated by david cronenburg (and at $18 it would have to be). all of sudden andy warhol makes sense. elvis's flaming star (a film in which everyone dies, great), marilyn monroe, jackie o. photos of mashed up car accidents, electric chairs and killer tuna fish. my personal favourite being "1947 - white", the photo of a woman who'd impacted with the roof of a limo after falling however many floors from the top of some skyrise building, i forget its name. chilling.
the rest of the gallery is free to see but only after 6pm, which they're very strict about. the galleries are limited as they're in the middle of serious renovation, but they're still good. upstairs (upramp) is a large sculpture 'garden' which makes it instantly obvious where dave mckean got his 'faces' from - flat with pinhole eyes. downstairs i was sitting and reading outside a room containing a piece called silent/listen, when what i'd thought was a couple of people talking suddenly rose into a cresendo of voices, disturbingly loud. it instantly had my attention. the piece is basically a series of speakers, each looping a statement relating to aids (courtesy of activists, organisers, researchers, artists and people living with hiv/aids) that slowly increases and decreases in volume. it's simple but very effective. my favourite gallery room contains hundreds of portraits drawn on postcards by the public. they range from scrappy kids crayon drawings to fine art paintings. the range of quality and styles was inspiring, and most people simply walked straight through, barely looking at any of them. anyway, the outcome was that it left me feeling seriously inferior. i used to love drawing. sometimes i wasn't even that bad, but now nothing. and here were hundreds of talented people almost plucked at random, exploring their own and others faces.
the rest of my time has been spent trying to get the key to my mailbox from my landlord, and failing. it's totally unacceptable, especially since i'm willing to trek all the way over to their office if i have to. there's always an excuse or it's someone else's responsibility. i swear they're only doing it to piss me off because i'm showing no progress or interst in obtaining a phone. when i was asked how i communicated with people i merely laughed. perhaps i misheard, it was a particularly bad public phone i was using at the time. or perhaps i'm just going mad from the solitude. perhaps they can just fuck off and find me my key. unfortuantely rent isn't due for sixteen days so i have no bargaining power.
our door handle still hasn't been fixed either and nor has the light in the shower. now there's talk of shaving part of the front door down so it automatically closes. which nearly had me screaming in desperation, "you fucking idiots, if you do that then the door wont fit in the frame properly and it'll be doubley useless as a fire door and we'll get a right nippy draft". it's the hinge that has the problem, and that's because the door frame is damaged from trying to support such a heavy door. it annoys me because the whole thing is ridiculous, it's all about regulations. the door has to shut else it's a fire hazard (or rather lack of protection incase of fire). except this is our front door, we aren't going to accidentally be leaving it open. it just makes no sense.
13.09.2006 - I, Vigilante
it's not late, it's maybe just gone ten, but i'm in bed already because i'm beat. i'm lying there, just getting comfy with the first paragraph of 'helen and desire', the big pink duvet pulled tight around my sides, when from outside comes this shuffling noise and a very loud clang. it reverberates through the bricks, but i pretend it's just some shit from the street. a large squirrel, weird shit happens. but there's another clang, maybe this time even a muffled grunt as well. immediately i switch the light off and peek though the blinds, just catching a white shirt quickly moving away from the window. no fucking squirrel. i live in the basement remember, but we got nearly three feet of window above the ground.
my beating heart plays with mixed emotions. i wish i wasn't alone, but then it's at times like these, half awake, when julie would scream and seriously freak me out. yeah, nevermind the guy trying to break into my fucking apartment.
i'm out of bed like a shot, getting dressed commando style, and selecting the sharpest knife from the kitchen draw. it's interesting to watch yourself, see how you react to situations like this, what you do when you run on instinct. is a knife really the best idea? if we had a phone would i have called the police? would i have accidentally dialled 999?
i peer through the blinds from my darkened living room, my castle, but i see nothing. so, holding the knive backwards and tucked inside my shirt cuff, blunt side against my wrist, and with a junkie-sized dose of adrenaline working its way through my body, me ready to fucking kill, i leave the apartment and dart up the stairs. but from the illuminated corridor and through the double front doors i still see nothing, just myself looking rather exposed. i run up to the next flight of stairs, contemplate knocking on someone's door but decide against it.
it's odd, because in my wired state i suddenly notice the balcony above the building's entrance, and that the doors barely even shut. so now i'm outside, on the first floor, squashed against the side of the wall in a half crouch, my breath making patterns in the air. and i'm and peering down into the garden, watching this guy in a white shirt trying to jam one of the windows open with a metal grill. at first i hope it's our lanlord, which wouldn't make sense but would at least explain something. but then i realise that it's not. someone walks past on the street and he stops until they're gone, then walks away with the grill and comes back with a white table, which he places over my bedroom window, and i suddenly realise he's trying to get into apartment four - not mine.
at the house across the street a couple arrive home, loaded with bags of shopping, he stands and stares at them while they struggle to get into their house. and i'm thinking about what to do. i could get my camera, it seems the 'me' thing to do. but then i could also jump down there ninja-style and take this mother fucker out. instead i run back downstairs to my room and tie my hair back, because i want to look presentable, place the knife on top of the fridge, because (repeat after me) knives. are. stupid. then walk back up to the groundfloor and out the front door before i have second thoughts, and i ask him if he needs a hand. that's the smart thing to do right? because no idiot would try breaking into an apartment at 10pm in full view of everyone. not unless they lived there right?
and it turns out he does. i wasn't sure because i could have sworn the guy in no.5 told me that apartment was empty. but this guy now, he asks "do you live here?". i tell him that i do and how long for. he apologises if he woke me, then he asks me again, slightly out of breath, "you really live here?". like i was the one trying to break in through the window. we get the polite questions out of the way and then he asks if i need to see his ID. like, woah, no. don't go making me paranoid after we've already got the situation under control. he asks me that twice as well. and it makes me want to tell him i nearly stabbed him. tell him i was inches away from slitting his achilles tendon through the bars on my window. to tell him i used to live with smack heads and nazis and if he pulled shit like that where i come from he'd be missing a face by now.
i figure this isn't the best way to meet your neighbours - them breaking into the building and you wielding a knife.
he runs off as two guys arrive, these with keys, and they let me back into the building (i did have my keys with me), and they explain that yes he does live here, and apparently he always looks like that. like what? a burgular? anyway, this exciting story is over.
a programme on the radio this morning made an interesting point, that america has suffered so much already from the war in iraq (on numerous fronts), and they're spread so thinly there as it is, that a war on iran just wouldn't be feasible. given their social and economic situation, they can barely even consider it. the man on the radio, he said that even george bush isn't that stupid. sigh.
anyway, back on home soil, thursday is the new comic book day (actually thursday was the old comic book day as well, but that doesn't matter). out today you'll find DMZ and the second issue of phonogram, which is shaping up nicely. it's like a DVD full of extras. i wish all writers put so much into their books (excuses from brian wood accepted, he's clearly way too busy). best of all though is the 4th doom patrol trade, in all its flex mentallo glory.
the thing is, julie gets back tomorrow and i seriously think i should hide some of my books. my book shelf has doubled in the last nine days, it's a little worrying.
i still don't have the mailbox key. i actually sat outside their office today until one of them came along. they were a little surprised to see that i've resorted to gorilla tactics to get my way. at least i didn't graffiti "i'm paying rent for an apartment that i don't have all the keys for yet - what would jesus do?" up their building. i was fobbed off (which reminds me, i still need a key fob) with a bulb for the shower, finally, and told he'd be over later in the day. which he was, i heard him, but he didn't knock my door, inspect the door, see which bulb it is that needs replacing in the living room or give me my fucking key.
you may have noticed i've started loving the radio. this is thanks to community radio, 89.5fm (which you can listen to at www.ciut.fm). the best show is alternative radio, this morning interviewing howard zinn about 'air brushing history', and comparing vietnam to iraq and the need for withdrawal. the radio is supposed to get me out of bed in the morning, not keep me there. my other favourite show has the terrible name 'ebm' (as in, i presume, electronic beat music), and last night talked to the guy organising the toronto digital hardcore gig at neutral next friday, which will feature hansel, phallus uber alles, shizoid and unitus (if you will have stupid band names you will have them spelt incorrectly). only five dollars. apparently there's also an atari teenage riot tribute album coming out, which to be honest i think is a terrible idea (and i imagine alec would too) - why reproduce someone elses song when you could fuck up your own shit. but it excites me none the less.
damn it i love the radio.
in other more pressing news i noticed the mail that has been locked (no, imprisoned) in our mailbox had disappeared. this flew me out of the house in a rage to call heath and ask him what the fuck was going on. you may notice, in these situations, i'm always very diplomatic until that proves futile. he knows nothing about the mail, but said he would be round today, he has the key now and is going to make a copy. i mean, i've heard it before, but i'm still willing to believe him. back at home i find the letters that were in the mailbox propped above the door bell, turns out the postman has a key. why didn't i think of that before? of course the postman has a key, you think he fits those letters through that tiny tiny slit? does this also mean there's a magic key that opens every letter box? exciting and worrying.
anyway, if all goes to plan this is the last entry in my rather overly long journal of moving to canada. the internet installation date is today, and i'm to expect them sometime around now. so, i've you've actually read all of the above i hope you felt your time wasn't completely wasted. i hope you don't hate me for writing so much crap. and i hope you'll somehow be inspired to come and visit me. you know you want to.
anyway, i'll see you on the superhighway..