Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Scattered

30 May - SUn was shining and the sky was a bloo which automatically puts me in a good mood - did about ten trips before 9am which was when I had to have another physio appointment which is spectacular these days, never overwhelming at any point during the day but apart from a few random stages I was movingp pretty much constantly. Dropped a letter in an elevator at one stop - got it out of my bag, held it in my hand with my folder, left the elevator and went to give it to the customer onlyto find is wasn't there. Ran back to the elevator and tried to summon the lift - the one that arrived was to the right of the one i'd dropped it in - but, as I was waiting a friendly delivery guy, who'd found the letter in the lift had taken it upon himself to deliver it - all's well that ends well. THere were also a few scatterbrained moments where I did some mightily bad routing but this was overcome by my lightning speed and a couple of times, notably before lunch and at the end of the day I found myself totally overloaded but my Chrome Bag managed to live up to the challenge. Did have a bit of a run in with a pedestrian after work -
'Watch where you're going!',
'Are you talking to me?'
'I'll knock you out!'
... Or something if the kind, if i'd been on the bike it would have been one thingbut I was on foot this time.
Watched a movie, added some trivia factoids to IMDB, did some 'research' on the internet and made some phone calls - also cleaned up the f**king kitchen which was driiving me nuts, think that one of the main offenders is moving out at the end of the month so there should be a little less stress in that area, I wonder if the landlord will be able to convince a girl to live here ... It would help.

He walks amongst us ...

Whilst doing a bit of internet trawling the other day I was pleasantly surprised to learn that none other than William Gibson, inventor of the Cyberpunk genre and author of one or two of my favourite books (plus a bunch of stuff that's pretty good), happens to reside in Vancouver, Canadia. This also happens to be the place where I reside. Despite being one of the most one of the most noted and accurate forecasters of the future of the technology, especially the Internet (he invented the term 'cyberspace') he's most famous for writing his early work on a manual typewriter and didn't even have an email address until very recently (and even now, he won't release it). One of his books, 'Virtual Light', whilst not his best or even my favourite, was one of the key inspirations for me becoming what I have now become - a bike messenger. His tale set in an earthquake shattered near-future San Francisco where vagabonds live on the Golden Gate bridge and the hero is a messenger who steals the wrong pair of glasses made me decide many years ago that I wanted to be that messenger and I wanted to steal those glasses and I wanted to drink that thimbleful of hot espresso in between trips ... Well, two out of three ain't bad. I've decided I must now track down this author and get him to sign my manifest. Now, how to find him???

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Thatta Johnny Depp! He makea me cry!

29 May - Today was grey, quiet (for the most part) and involved too much intake of caffeine. A few highlights included a feat on par with doing the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs (and on this note, why is it in crappy science fiction they mistake distance terms for time - a parsec is not a unit of time and neither, for that matter, is a light year) - was given a southside SHT from Lawson and had to run it over to a bank on Broadway - the trip had an hour on it but the branch closed at four - a Mercurian effort had me picking it up on Georgia, speeding down Howe, taking a very sharp corner on Nelson onto the Cambie Bridge - then riding up what seemed to be a very steep Cambie Street, right onto Broadway and into the branch a minute after they had locked their doors. My charming smile must have touched the manager's heart because she let me push the envelope through the security doors. All in a day's work for an underpaid courier. Kevin is back at work, which i suppose is a good thingalthough it does mean that i won't be able to get his radio. Still a bit underwhelmed by the amount of work i'm getting but the only real competition seems to be Jason (that scoundrel) and wn chattingwith some of the other new guys i seem to be pretty well indeed (at least in terms of numbers). Another great cause for celebration was the discovery of my Smithsonian Space Pen hidden away in the zip pocket of me Chrome Bag - i was most vexed when i decided it had been left behind somewhere in downtown, and had resigned myself to purchasinga replacement, albeit a non-Smithsonian version, but, it has returned to me (again). And this time, my love, I will never let you out of my sight again. After work I wandered up and down Commercial for a bit and later collapsed on a couch and watched a movie (can you guess what it was? Pop quiz, arsehole!!!) ...

Monday, 29 May 2006

Us Folks Like Folk Music

27 may - on the way down to Fets for saturday pancakes with Jason and Colleen I found that one of the local alley cats has got a couple of kittens followingher around - possibly strays but they seemed pretty well fed - so cute, I don't know if there's anything as adorable as a kitten - well, maybe a piglet, but put me in a good mood for a while anyway. Waitress was disappointed that jason didn’t order four pancakes but there's no pleasing some people. Wandered up and down Commercial for a short while and did some reading and looking (at DVDs). Shadow had invited me to a folk music concert that he originally supposed was in Burnaby at eight. It turned out to be in downtown at six (which was a hell of a lot better location and time for me). The concert was a benefit for kids with Cystic Fibrosis which did kind of make me feel guilty for being granted free entry - the performances were all pretty good (for folk music anyway - which I don't really like at the best of times although I often seem to find myself at places where they play it) and a couple were very good - especially the one where the chorus was:
Singer: Nickelback!
Crowd: Sucks!
Repeated ad nauseum to a nice guitar riff.
Well, the song wasn’t any good but the sentiment sure was. It was kind of strange when the sound guy played them during the intermission though. Drank a bit, danced a bit, got stood up a bit as well - saw some street jammers and chatted with a few homeless kids who Shadow's wife, Ange, works with before headingback to Commercial to try to get a kangaroo burger for Shadow from the dodgy Frenchman Stormin' Norman - unfortunattly he was closed and even Shadow berating him in Francois didn't help - this didn’t reallybother me because I do have an extended boycott on this burger joint because of Pierre's horrible habit of feeling my burger up whenever I go to the salad bar. Subbed with pizza instead and headed back to the house where Shadow regaled me with his absolutely fascinating story of how he escaped from prison many years ago (which i've never heard) and then was bored senseless by his repetitive anti-religion and anti-government speeches (all of which i've heard many, many times before).

Proposition 23 - Brakes Just Add Weight

28 May - Came to the horrible conclusion that i've lost my space pen again - I got a week's use out of it on the road but didn't get to test its capacity for really bad weather, which is kind of devestating. A replacement can be bought at The Pen Shop in Vancouver but it won't be a Smithsonian space pen (if anybody who happens to read this missive ever finds themselves in Washington DC they could do me a solid by buying me a replacement - better make it a couple because i'll likely lose the replacement within a week as well). Saw the Proposition in Tinseltown with Casey, one of the new Novex guys - always nice to see an Australian film that doesn’t suck. Despite the flies that filled every scene just seeing the desert land in the bright, bright sunlight made me feel a little homesick - it's all grey again and even when it is light everything is so GREEN (i love a sunburnt country ... I can't remember the next line). Drank some Starbucks afterwards and went to fetch my bike and rode to Casey's again where I swapped it for his fixie and we rode down to Moderne Burger, one of the finest burger establishments in the lower mainland. The ride was excellent - it is so much more fun ridng a bike with no brakes - my next bike is definitely going to be a fixie. Jason and Colleen eventually showed up and we ate copious amounts of saturated fats before wobbling back to whence we came.

Wired

25 May - Had another early wakeup - 8am starts are a hard thing to get used to after so much time sleeping in. Picked up one trip from my least favourite pickup in the city, Deptment of Justice, where there are always people being walked around in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs. Then went on to the next pickup only to have to wait for half an hour before being given a no-good (with no wait time charged either - which was very irritating). Back to the hospital for more flexibility training - apparently have a few more degrees which can only be a good thing and was also given a new wrist brace, basically because the old one was completely destroyed from overuse. Shadow gave me a very shiny D&D shirt, which was kind of nice, kind of gay, but not a fair trade for my crappy novex one, - however, it may be good currency for swapping in Sydney industry or even the worlds. And if nobody wants to take it i'll have something to wear for Mardi Gras next year. Had a very quiet day overall but still better than most of the newbies - lots of extended breaks which means drinking far too much coffee throughout the day - felt a little bit agitated because of it. Last trip of the day involved heading into gastown - I took a turn onto a footpath, a commuter was coming the other way, I motioned left and hugged the corner to avoid him but he ignored me, slowed down a bit but rolled straight into me - technically it may have been his right of way but when you're on a bike its more important to be aware and considerate of your surroundings than blindly follow your legal right of way - as I rode off he shouted out a thanks for the apology that I didn't give him - 'No need to thank me mate, I didn't give you one!'
Also saw one of the ex-Novex guys, Thomas, who'd come in downtown to buy a new bicycle from Simons, he's now workingfor Red Robins and is enjoying a far better financal return but he's not having as much fun as us, so there.

Kilometrix

26 May - Despite being grey and miserable weather I only wore shorts and short sleeves - thinking that the weather might clear up a bit. It didn't but moving alleviated the cold weather until I stopped moving. Number of trips were still down from the old days but the money was okay although I certainly worked for it today. The most kilometres i've ridden since I started recording them (85.5) - doing the long distances doesn't feel so bad because when there are long stretches you can usually get some speed up and it makes it a bit easier - when you're just hitting hills a and short stretches the constant acceleration can be far more exhausting ... At least that's how I take it. A few of us headed down to the Cambie afterwards where we were joined by a slightly ranting, drunken Kevin, one of the new Novex guys who's been fired or quit from about half a dozen companies in a year - he wasn't sure but its possible that he may have been let go from Novex which is a shame because he's pretty good when he's good, when he's bad ... he's ... well, not as good as when he's good. Well, if he has been let go maybe i'll be able to claim his radio. Shortly after kevin left a big burly guy with a beard all dressed in black came up to our table and demanded to know if we were the Novex crowd - we admitted we were and he introducd himself as Scott, our dispatcher. Always interesting putting a face to the scratchy voice that comes off the shoulder (not my shoulder because i'm still waiting for my radio clip) - he talks a lot of motorbikes and big cars and considers himself a man of eclectic tastes - pretty nice guy, although a little scary. He's certainly a good dispatcher who knows how to work with bikers, a far more difficult job than dealing with cars because of the high volume and short times. He also agreed with us that there were too many bikers working for novex but he gave us the standard Novex line that they were looking to expand - the onlyway they're going to get the extra work is by cuttingtheir rates again, which will mean less money for bikers, which will mean they'll quit, which will mean we're understafffed again, which will mean that we'll lose the contracts. It's the circle of life. The attire I was wearing was okay for the day but once the sun started to go down and the rain started to come down, sitting outside in shorts started to creep up on me so a pretty miserable ride home. Headed over to Kristl's for beer and peanut butter before going to a nouveau crappe bar in kistilano which was not the nicest place i've ever been to, but company was pretty good so I won't complain.

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Return To Form?

24 May - Earliest wakeup i've had in a long time but I had to get downtown by eight in order not to get scooped by the new tigers who've found themselves at Novex. A little bit miserable with scattered showers but not cold enough to make it uncomfortable. It's still pretty quiet but I was movingfor most of the day and had a pleasant trip out to the side (narrowly avoided havingto pick up a box from my most hated run - Eminence Organics on Cook St to Nefertiti on Hornby (nobody is ever home there and it's always a big package that has to be carried around for the rest of the day). Scott the dispatcher annoyed me a couple of times with some miscommunications over the radio and also when he tried to tell me the route I should take when I had a cluster of jobs - maybe his route would have been better in a car but when it comes to bikes the routing should be left to bikers. The water bottle I thought I d lost the previous day was brought in by Rad, which was a jolly good score as i'd only had it for a day and when we all got together at the end of the day to commiserate on the lack of work it turns out that my trips had outnumbered everyone else even if they were less than what I was doing before the surgery so maybe things will work out alright. Got drenched on the way home when one of the scattered showers decided to focus its power on me but it cleared up a bit and I rode down to Kristl's - one of the smoovest rides i've ever done - about five or six kilometres through off and on traffic and I didn't stop once - every time there was a light it was either green or couldabingreen (the red colour that means cars have to stop but bikes are allowed to go through), every time there was a stop sign there were no cars, if there was a car I went around it - just smoove b. Had a nice chocolate milkshake and rode home. Didn't do much else. Blah.

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

The Messenger In Literature

The Messenger In Literature
From The Information by Martin Amis ...
... He stood outside waiting for the biker sent to collect his review. Who was prompt. Here he came, complacently speeding through the torment of his brutish raspberry, his black body cocked with the biker's sperious urgency, as if he what he was doing was so clearly more important than what you were doing. Was it his crash helmet that went on fizzing and squawking at him, like an fat old earphone? Biker and book reviewer bawled 'Cheers' at each other and did the thing with the clipboard and the ball point, these two eyesore deviants, the biker in his city scuba gear, the book reviewer with bar legs beneath the cold skirt of his raincoat. Book reviewer would be around for a while, but bikers would soon be gone, or would all switch to pizzas and baked potatoes - casualties of the fax.

313 Returns

23 May - I turned to my housemate Mat to assist with getting me out of bed before 7 (well, maybe just a little after) and got decked out in Novex blue before making my way downtown. Had a little coffee before goingto St Pauls for a physio sesh and paraffin wax heat treatment before the final okay for my return to 'light duties' (i'm not sure there's really a way to do light duties in my current job but that's what I should be doingregardless). My blackberry and substandard radio were ready when I rocked up at 885 to do my first trip in 2 months - certainly not a busy day compared to what I was doingwhen I took leave - scott, my new dispatcher is not nearly as chatty as Lee and Chris had been but he did at least keep me occupied through the day but the sheer number of other couriers we now have means the work is being shared around quite thinly which meant very few SHTs and a couple of rather unprofitable trips to the side. Found that a couple of offices moved to different floors or buildings but its generally the same people there and a few of them seemed genuinely pleased to see me again especially when I told them that now that I was back things were going to get done right again. There was a little bit of rain throughout the day but it was warm so was reasonably comfortable throughout - do need to build my confidence with traffic weaving and pobably need a little more exercise before i've got my old endurance back - the end of the week should give a better picture of what things ar going to be like. Little bit of a beer in the park while the sun was still shining and went home to watch Squid and the Whale (really good) and a couple of Seinfeld episodes - back at work, hurray.

The Real IHOP Run

21 May - Slept in, not because I was hung over, just because that's what I seem to do these days - not long before half six alarm bells again so I should enjoy it while it lasts - some vague attempts to get someone to do the run with me failed so I got onmy bike and rode the 18.5k out to Richmond to finally try the Canadian IHOP - a bit of a wait which is always a good thing and some not bad pancakes were had. They didn’t do the heated syrup like they do in the states nor did the waitress call me 'hon' (i love it when they do that!) but there were also less hyperobese Americans squeezing into the booths (only a couple of moderately overweight Canadians - they're pretty fit down here in Vancouver) so a successful run nonetheless. Came back to Vancouver via Krystl's place and we made the dubious choice of going to see the Da Vinci code in East Van - a pretty average movie but the original material was pretty average to begin with and with a pretty average director at the helm there was pretty much nothing unexpected. In all honesty, to me, it was probably more entertaining than the book which introduced millions of people to the magic of reading (... absolute trash). Was pretty much soaked with sweat from the earlier ride and two and a half hours of sitting in a movie theatre didn’t help so trotted off home to shower before heading back to the south side where I enjoyed a few beer with Kristl and her housemate Julie - very enjoyable evening as it always is with the right company although the rains, who have been absent for the past month because they realised that I wasn't working decided to return to cherish me with their dampness and I was absolutely saturated. ALso, on the way back from Kristl's I tried to find some type of sustenance but, despite beinga saturday night, there was nothing open except for the most horrific of pizza places - I did know there was a wendy's at broadway and cambie that i'd be passing, the restaurant (restaurant? yeah right, more like feed bin) was closed but the drive through was open. I rode down to the microphone and after waiting for three cars to pass through I was told that they wouldn't serve me because it is their policy not to serve bikes at the drive thru. I suppose it wasn’t the server's fault but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to subject her to a short torrent of verbal abuse before I sped off into the night.

The Messenger In Literature

From The Information by Martin Amis ...
... He stood outside waiting for the biker sent to collect his review. Who was prompt. Here he came, complacently speeding through the torment of his brutish raspberry, his black body cocked with the biker's sperious urgency, as if he what he was doing was so clearly more important than what you were doing. Was it his crash helmet that went on fizzing and squawking at him, like an fat old earphone? Biker and book reviewer bawled 'Cheers' at each other and did the thing with the clipboard and the ball point, these two eyesore deviants, the biker in his city scuba gear, the book reviewer with bar legs beneath the cold skirt of his raincoat. Book reviewer would be around for a while, but bikers would soon be gone, or would all switch to pizzas and baked potatoes - casualties of the fax.

Last Chance To See

22 May - Had discussed going to one of the local beaches with another courier today but the Vancouver weather kind of made it a moot point so started off the day with a few of the earliest episodes of Seinfeld, includinga couple that had managed to miss my radar (and were f**king hilarious to boot) before headingdowntown to get my bike serviced at Simons (who seems to getting nicer and nicer towards me over the past few months - I still think he's an arsehole but at least he's a nice arsehole). Caught up with Jason and Colleen for coffee at Starbucks while the work was being done - all the while hoping that the rain would stop (it didn't) before moseying back home to do a few other local errands. Watched the english version of 'Water' which was quite good although in hindsight I should have hired the original one in Hindi because that way I could have read the subtitles (the sound on our TV is pretty awful and the trucks and harley davidson's decided to roar past at all of the crucial moments). Interesting idea to film two language versions of the same film at the same time - pretty pointless if you ask me, but interestingidea nonetheless.

Bike News

Stolen from the Age ...
China's bike fades to black By Tianjin
May 23 2006
ONE of the most iconic symbols of old China — the sturdy, gearless black bicycle ridden by the masses — is running out of customers in Lycra-clad, mountain-biking modern China. Sales at Flying Pigeon, the state bicycle company set up after the Communist revolution in 1949, have plummeted so far that the company is considering outsourcing to South-East Asia and Africa to cut costs. Tens of thousands of Flying Pigeon and the other two former state brands, Forever and Phoenix, still travel the cycle lanes of China's cities. But cars are now king and the cycle lanes are being rebranded highways. Bicycles have been banned in parts of Shanghai to ease congestion and cycling in Beijing has become a daily suicide mission with 1500 new cars a day swerving onto the capital's roads. In a cut-throat market, the only bicycles selling well are racers and mountain bikes. Most up-and-coming Chinese would not be seen dead on Flying Pigeon's sturdy 20-kilogram bone-shaker with its reinforced crossbar to carry pigs. Sales have plunged since the 1980s when 4 million cycles were sold each year. Last year 1.5 million were made, 30 per cent of which were exported. Yet the company does not believe in advertising. "We have no need to advertise. Everybody in China knows Flying Pigeon," the company's export director, Wang Dajian, said. Asked if he was willing to enter a joint venture to help to modernise the company, Mr Wang was horrified. "Never! No! Too much history, too much culture. We can never have joint venture here. Flying Pigeon is too Chinese, too traditional." Traditional perhaps, but many of the young employees who make up the 500-strong workforce arrive at work on stylish mountain bikes.

Monday, 22 May 2006

Smoove B

19 May - As we are now on the cusp of summer and I’m also on the cusp of going back to work i made myself an appointment to get some hair torn violently away from my body. Melody, the girl from the salon was very nice but she seemed terrified of hurting me so it took forever (apparently her boss was getting angry with her for takingso long). I ended up feeling kind of guilty because of that but then I realised that I was just a customer and 's not my fault if somebody wants to be gentle with me. She needn't have bothered because i've got a pretty high tolerance for that kind of pain and in any event it's always going to hurt some so the quicker the whole thing is over and done with the better. Still, she was very thorough and seemed to have done a good job. A fair whack of the couriers seem to depilate to some level or another, most by veet or shaving but i'd suspect that there are a couple of closet waxers - now that it's summer the tights are off and there are bare legs and well turned ankles wherever you go - interesting thing is that more of the gus have smooth legs than the girls - I won't name names but the hairiest legs i've seen in my life have been on female Vancouver couriers.
A pretty big congregation at cambie was organised by one of the new Novex couriers, Rad (i, like most others, initially presumed his name was brad but it turns out that it's just Rad - and yes, he's called that because he's just a pretty sweeettt guy) - finally met Mary, Mary, aka The Glamourpuss, one of the indie couriers who works out of 777 Dunsmuir, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that she was not the surley chimp hater that I originally suspected. One thing about the Vancouver couriers, I don't like all of them but I do love all of them and i'm really not lookingforward to leaving them behind when I finally do make the journey back home. Afterwards had birthday drinks for the ex-housemate Chad and a bunch of his professor type friends, all very friendly although he passed out not too long after I arrived. More battlestar galactica upon my return home, almost finished the series now - which is good because i'll be heading back to work before I know it.

Punk rock! Puuuuunnnnnkk rock!

20 May - Started the day off with the final episode of Series 1 of Battlestar Galactica - a fine a science fiction series i've ever seen - awful dialogue, pretty lame actingbut a plot that can't be beat and sensational 20th century look and feel which is more than appropriate consideringthe original's drab 70s inspired garb. Went out to get myself a coffee before being summoned by Jason for a little bit of a ride with him and his stepbrother Pete. Rode out to Horseshoe Bay (near the ferry for the island), a place I know mainly for the fact that it's where the Museum of Anthropology isn’t . It's a pretty hilly but very scenic ride alongthe coast but didn’t find it too challenging. However, on the ride back we got to Stanley Park and after a little bit of umming and erring decided to go for a once around Stanley Park which just wasted all of us - I found myself leaningacross the front of the handlebars and trying to catch a nap at one point (not really the best thing to do in motion).
Had barely eaten before the ride and bumped into one of the new Novex guys as I headed back into East Van and we went to 4 Brothers and inhaled a few slices of pizza (food of champions) before I got home to shower for a little night on the town with Danni, Rachel and J, a small troop of Canadians who I met on another night on the town. I wasn’t very sore from the ride but a little bit exhausted but was enlivened by the extremely energetic performance of the (International) Noise Conspiracy, a left wing punk/indie band from Sweden who i'm sure everyone has heard of although they were new for me. Have never seen anyone do so many acrobatic things with a microphone - apparently all of their songs were very political but when you shout them out as loud as he did its kind of hard to mke out the meaning - for all I know they could have been Wagnerian fascist war chants but I was assured they were very left and proper (i prefer manic street preachers, every invective is as clear as a bell). Afterwards went to an overpriced nightclub at the library and y fatigue caught up to me - but a pretty good night nonetheless. Hurrah.

Missed Opportunity

17 May - Was woken from what seemed to be a very fascinating dream at the time although i've got no idea what it is now by a phone call from Mark. I think that previous sentence needs moer commas. Tentative plans to go to rock climbing country had fallen through but we decided to meet regardless at his new place in Kitsilano - while waiting for his new desk to be delivered we had a little bit of marijuana and reminisced about all the good junk food franchises and all of the bad ones. I had a fair sampling of all that I knew and lots that I didn’t during my recent trip but the one place that I searched for all over the place was the one that had received a good recommendation in Fast Food Nation, the all out attack on the industry, I tried to find out what it was called before I left (obviously not very hard because I could have googled it in a few seconds) and never found it. When I mentioned this to Mark he exploded - In and Out burger man! The best hamburgers in the universe, they're phenomenonal! Apparently they're only in California, Nevada and Arizona and I don't know when i'll be in that part of the world again and i'm devestated. We considered the logistics of flying to LA that afternoon but passed in favour of a local pub for patio pints. Felt really awful about tipping our extremely slow and lethargic waitress but Mark's canadian so didn't have much choice. Probably watched a few more DVDs later on the day - that seems to be how I spend a lot of my time these days ...

Oh, The Mundanity!

18 May - Had a relatively uneventful day that was broken up in the afternoon by more physio. They're very much into measuring success by the numbers - measured the number of degrees I can bend my left wrist forward and backward then measured my right and the target is to get my right hand about halfway between its current level and what my left can do. In any event, I was told work will have to wait until Tuesday which should give Novex a few more days to find my blackberry and radio which I can almost guarantee won't be ready by the tie I start.
Found myself at the Cambie again to meet Danni, a window dresser cum dancerwith a fairly impressive collection of tattoos and was soon joined by a plethora of others including an icelandic games designer who used to work for Electronic Arts (i gave him a big what for about the quality of said arts of an electronic nature and he sadly agreed). Was also joined by my ex co worker Rick (of the tearing of the $2million cheque fame) and we were all amused by his antics (he starts to lose coherency after his third pitcher). Stayed out far longer than I intended and this resulted in the purchasing of McDonalds afterwards (which made me feel even worse) but I returned home to find that Ashu had rented Season 1 of six feet under and we watched the first episode together - one of the few shows that i've watched from start to end - great to see where it all began again (i was a bit rusty), especially seeing how screwed up everyone is from the very beginning but also great to see the start of the David-Keith thing - truly one of the great TV love stories - one of the's a closeted control freak and the other's a macho cop challenging anyone who thinks he shouldn't be out and proud - despite beingoff and on for the next five years they truly were the loves of each other's lives and I think that's beautiful.
More physio
Was told not to go back to work until tuesday
Met up with danni for a few beers - turned into a lot of beers
Was joined by rick, $2m guy - most of the time he's not very coherent but always entertaining
was told about smitties
Drank too much, had hangover
Watched episode 1 of six feet under - great intro, cool to see early stages of relationships - especially david and keith, just a casual relationship between two guys, one closested, one fiercely proud - so different but the absolute love of his life

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Circle Of Life

15 May - Took a while to get going but picked up my x-rays (the ones that show the pin) and went to my physio appointment. Don't really like my physiotherapist too much but am makingsome steady gains on my mobility, she seems to think that I shouldn't go back to work this week is which is disappointing. Looked at a couple of downtown tattoo parlours to see if I could be inspired before enjoying the sun out the front of the art gallery. Went for one beer with Crystal and her housemate Julie which soon turned into 'a few beer' when Darryl from Corporate joined us and a few randoms from throughout Canadia. Well, it was Monday Madness at the Cambie.
Upon returning home I watched the final episode of Six Feet Under, which should free me from the couch for a while. Very emotional end to one of the few shows that has managed to stay good all the way to the end - it may not have been the best series of the show and the end may not have been the best episode of the show but the perfect tieing up of all that mattered while still keeping unimportant things loose made it a completely satisfying end to it all. And there's nothing better than a beautiful death montage set to a cool soundtrack. I think that the secret to a show being great is limiting the episodes - all shows get tired when they stretch on too long - five seasons might have even pushed the boundaries for this show but it's pretty short as series go these days ... and ... my opinion of why television shows should not go on for too long will be left to another posting.
Did see the circle of life in action today when I saw one of the pretty little chirping sparrows who live in the pine tree in the backyard scratchingaround in th dust for food for his little babies ... it was a very charming scene until one of the alley cats who lives in our 'garage' rushed in and ripped him to pieces. Overlapping ecologies are never pretty.

Grinding

16 May - Woke up reasonably early (for me) and headed downtown on the bike to pick up Season 1 of Battlestar Gallactica, a show I watched a part of the pilot of many moons ago but never actually got around to watchingafterwards. Explained to all that I met that i 'm still not working yet - i've really got to stop hanging around 885 when i'm downtown (at least not when i'm dressed like a courier). Apparently Novex has hired another biker ... Everyone i've spoken to from Novex is complaining how quiet it is whenever I speak to them and yet the company is still hiring. I really wonder what goes on back at 3331 Viking Way, i'm no industry expert but unless they know they've got a lot of big contracts coming in (which they don't) half the staff they've hired is going to quit because of the lack of work ... I don't know, I just don't know.
In the afternoon I got the skytrain-seabus-realbus out to Grouse Mountain where I tried my feet at the newly reopened 'Grouse Grind' - a mostly vertical hike to the top of the Mt Grouse. It's not a very long hike but it's incredibly steep and a little bit treacherous - especially near the top where the snowmelt turns the last quarter into a small river. Got up in 49 minutes which I think is a good time but will need to go to google to find out - wandered around the top for a while including traipsing through the very muddy road to the actual peak where I got a nice view of what I presume was either Vancouver or North Van or West Van or whatever - I don't really know this city very well once I get out of the core or the side. Had a look at the 'bear habitat' - obviously some sort of animatronic theme park where the mythical bear is displayed (didnt even have the animatronic ones on display here) then walked back down the mountain. A lot faster going down but not much easier - once I got to the bottom I sat down and my legs wouldn't stop shaking for about 5 minutes. Took the long trek back to Van - did a few errands downtown, then went back and watched Battlestar Gallactica until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. Bliss.
Did grouse grind
Picked up battlestar galactica
Great walk up
Legs like jelly on the way down
Met kevin who was off to an aa meeting

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

The IHOP Run?

14 May - Greeted by a pretty shocking hangover in the morning which was followed up by a way too cheery invitation to breakfast at the infamous Bons off Broadway (or on Broadway, I can never remember which one), which I had to refuse as the 15 minute walk was beyond my ability at the time. After a little extra restitution got on the bike with the intention of seeking out one of the BC IHOP restaurants but bumped into a fellow courier who was out looking for Chinese goldfish who informed me of the presence of De Dutch pancake house not a few kilometres away. Very disappointing pancakes, not really pancakes at all but more of a crepe consistency but i'll know better next time. Came back to Disc 4 of 6 feet under where I was entertained with a couple of plot bombshells - Mat watched a few episodes with me and I found myself trying to explain what was going on in the show which was little more than a running commentary on the labyrinthine sexual adventures of pretty much every character on the show (maybe that's the main reason why I like it). Watched more futurama and then went and got some pizza then watched more futurama (only a few more discs to go so I should be free sometime soon although mat has promised that he'll bringthe boxed set of clone high back to the house duringthe week - will I ever be free of the cursed cathode ray tube???).

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Pleasant and eager 28yo male

12 May - Apparently that's what I am according to my physiotherapy permanent file. Despite risking all on a losing game of basketball the previous day my wrist seems to have gained a few extra degrees of movement on either side - still twinges a bit but certainly on the road to recovery and biking doesn't seem to cause any extreme aggravation. Physiotherapy is never as much funas I hope its going to be - I always imagine going in and just getting a massage for the session but it always ends up involving me doing all the work (lift this, bend that - do it 10 more times) - they should be paying me for doing this (well, I suppose they are in a way). Went to the Levi Store gunning myself for a showdown with management - one of the screws in my belt that I purchased a few months ago had fallen out (well, I lost it somewhere in New Mexico - probably taken by the aliens) but was disappointed when they exchanged it with no questions asked. After my errands downtown I found myself over outside the art gallery with all the other couriers again (it's very easy to get distracted when downtown) and headed out for a meal at Nagez and a beer somewhere else with Crystal, who has rejoined the courier world with Progressive (a company that's got as bad a reputation as Novex) then went home and watched more six feet under and more futurama - it grows on you.

House of Burlesque

13 May - Met with Jason and his stepbrother, Pete, to go for a little bit of a ride today. Jason was christening his new Marinoni touring bike, which was very nice, he almost got car doored five minutes in which would not have been very nice but the wisdom I imparted to him during his training has obviously had a good effect and all collisions were avoided. A beautiful sunny but still cool day were perfect riding conditions although did find ourselves in a headwind at several points which can get really tiresome on a longride. We didn’t ride terribly hard because Pete's havingissues with his knee and my wrist is still a little tender but it didn't cause any problems on the day. I was more worried about sore legs, neck and back because of my lack of ridingof late but even that was fine - all in all, about 80k from start to finish and the only physical reaction was an adrenaline buzz.
More six feet under was to be had before meeting up with Crystal in downtown and on to the Marine Club for a burlesque show with one of my extremely positive housemates, Mat. This was the same place where i'd gone the week before to see a rockabilly band that never showed up (which isn’t necessarilya bad thing because i'm not rockabilly's biggest fan) but the show did go on this time. My first burlesque show - apparently it's a growing entertainment biz over in North America (hell, for all I know it's big in oz at the moment) - the best way I could describe it would be halfway between a strip show and a drag show - all the girls were 'SuicideGirl' types they stripped down to the propellors to cheesy 20s inspired muzak - lots of fun but I drank way too much. After that bar closed endingup crawling around town with a couple of others chasingthe closing times of a few other places, played some cards in a seedy main street bar and somehow ended up in a house populattd with stoners all passed out on the couch. A cab was found and I was homeward bound, eagerly awaiting the next day's hangover.

Saturday, 13 May 2006

Looking Skills Are Important

11 May - After extricating myself from the house at far too late an hour I went to buy a coffee down at JJ Beans (the sullen waitstaff are getting more tolerable it seems). Sat myself outside and was engaged by a longhaired homeless guy who told me that life was all about the journey but told me he was settling here in Vancouver - he was nice enough but he was a bit of a droner and in the absence of any profound insights into the universe I soon escaped his clutches. Tried to watch a DVD called 'Dark Days', all about the homeless who live in the tunnels of new york (the mole people!) and recommended by the strange dude from Black Dogs video store. Video store clerks are amongst the worst of all those in the selling/service industry - always arrogant as hell, it's a mark of honour to have the most obscure movie tastes imaginable (some even claim to love Luc Besson films) and more bureaucratic than the Canadian government when it comes to late fees. In any event, Dark Days was surprising in that it made a film about mole people uninteresting - something I would have thought was an impossibility - didn't even manage to finish it and trotted down to Chinatown to watch American Dreamz, another smug 'intelligent' riff on politics in the world today. Left the cinema to find it pouring down with hammering rain so tried to sit it out with a chocolate from starbucks (the onlycafe in range that didn't involve getting soaked) and was engaged by a crazy man who claimed to be an adventurer but was probably just an escaped mental patient. In the 15m that we chatted he claimed to have just returned from the north pole (well, 80 miles from the north pole), was about to do a round the world trip in hot air balloon, offered to pay for a train ticket across canada for me, gave his place of birth as Ontario, Ireland and Boston, claimed to have been travelling for both 17 and 28 years and said I had really beautiful eyes (justifying this with ...'and man, that's comingfrom a guy!!!') - maybe the travel mode hasn’t worn off and i'm just still attractingcrazy people. Got home and watched a bit of futurama, well, actually a lot of futurama - about 12 episodes in total - I have to say that i'm not really upset about this show having been cancelled, five seasons is enough for an yshow - and this way when it goes out it'll be remebered as something brilliant and not somethingthat just went on and on and on and on ... In any event, the excesive screen watching has been improving my looking skills - already highly tuned by stararing at lots of mountains, deserts, forests, tall buildings, public objects d'art, cows, absence of bears, and about 15,000 kilometres of road, television watching involves different skills but give it just a few more weeks and I should be as good as any fat ass american. Also went out for a little while and played basketball with robert and a few of his workmates - all of them far too good and with me not in the best shape of my life - all a little bit breathless but lots of fun - probably not the best thing to be doinga few days out of a cast but no damage done.

Friday, 12 May 2006

Free At Last

8 May - Wandered downtown in order to give Canadian Customs a good what for about charging me a tax on the PDA but was run around and spit out by the bureaucratic machine - have to try again tomorrow but I don’t like my chances. Also caught up with a few of the couriers downtown all of whom seemed at least moderately pleased to see me back. Did have to give Jason a bit of a talking to because he's not wearing his helmet again (he stopped wearing it last time I took some time off ... Kids these days, you've got to keep an eye on them or they'll run wild) - Novex has seemed to put itself on a bit of hiring binge again and there's simply not enough work to go around - i'm hoping there are not going to be any issues for when I return. There's a new dispatcher (Lee got fired in my absence) and i'm going to have to prove myself again if i'm going to get the exalted position that Jason has no doubt secured.
After my reunions I headed over the Cambie Bridge to False Creek Surgical and was then sent to X-Ray 505 where the bitch at the reception tried to make me pay upfront for the x-rays I needed but managed to get that sorted out. Got blasted by radiation a few times (no super powers yet) and then headed back to see Dr D who pronounced me healed then proceded to hack my friend Charlie to pieces. The smell wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be but my hand looked pale and there was masses of skin that started to slough off, especiallyafter I washed my hand and as it dried off it was like snow. But, finally, i'm free to shower properly, walk in the rain, ride my bike (i still need a bit of physio as it's really stiff and a little bit numb and painful as well) and switchback. Also, as I carry on through the road of recovery I should be able start to shake hands again - I won't be as cool as i've been for the past few months with my clenched fist knuckle tap but i'll start to become a polite member of society again.

The Road To Recovery

10 May - Rode into downtown again, this time for my first session of physio at St Pauls, one of my least favourite places in Vancouver. A little heavy on the bureaucracy but a very good therapist - lots of prodding and poking and measurements and tests (can you tell the difference between hot and cold, is this dull or sharp) - apparently my range of motion and my pain threshold is a not nearly as bad as it can be for some people who've just come out of a cast - so here's hoping for a speedy recovery. Also, after the session we went down to the artificial brace device thingy room and the guy repaired my wrist brace on the spot (the iron supporting bars had been completely warped from overuse and the pockets needed resewing). Down to the art gallery afterwards where I reunited with a few more members of the subculture - met a couple of the new Novex guys (up to 11 bikers with me now) and was informed that Nova Scotia Stu, Novex's longest serving and possibly strangest biker, hit a car yesterday and was ambulanced to the hospital. Not sure of the full extent of the damage but the signs are that he'll be out for a short while. Hearing about other serious injuries always gives me a little chill - but, you can kill yourself crossingthe road or falling over in the bathroom - just got to be careful I guess.
Had dinner at Stephos on Davey with Marcus and Larnie, pretty decent greek restaurant that always has a queue goingaround the corner whenever i've passed it - about 30m wait for us, 90m wait by the time we left. Very nice - too much bread to start with though. M&L are reachingthe end of their visas and will be off somewhere else pretty soon - apparently sponsorship plans proved too complicated and cumbersome to bother with and overstaying the visa is not a preferable option (Ozzie Andy was pulled over by a traffic cop the other day for not wearinghis helmet (i think) and he was caught out for working on a holiday visa (that had already expired anyway)). Got a couple of DVDs - 5th season of 6 Feet Under, the only tv show i've been pining for on the holiday, watched that, went out to see some Jazz but couldn't find it so watched the awful local standup comedy instead and then came home and watched the pilot of 'Dead Like Me', one of the most mundane and pointless quirky fantasy comedramas i've seen in quite some time (although it was filmed in Vancouver so picking out places I know provided a few brief moments of entertainment).

Back On The Bike

9 May - Nothing clever about today's headline - first time back on the bike since the operation. My hand is still really stiff and a bit sore from being locked in the cast for the past six weeks but riding wasn’t too much of a problem. My physiotherapy starts tomorrow and i'm hoping that this will give me a full range of motion by the time I go back to work which could be as early as the end of next week. I didn’t expect there to be any issues going back to Novex but they've gone on another one of their hiring binges again and the work is just trickling in - it's not so bad considering they've implemented a fairly decent minimum day and the rates have gone up but even Jason has been very sluggish for the past few weeks. I've also been informed that there's a new dispatcher after Lee was fired for being crap so I need to let him know that I'm the one who's supposed to get all the good trips ... That's the way we do things around here. A rather expensive day as I treated myself to a hair trim and a new helmet (probably not the most appropriate thing to buy after a haircut) and a new bag and I celebrated with a little celebration with Leighton (corporate courier) at CafĂ© Amsterdam. Unfortunately there has had to be another addition to the numerous commercial operators in Vancouver who are on my boycott list - in the morning I realised that I needed cleats for the new bike shoes I got the other day so I rode down to Bikes On The Drive to grab some - it was 945 and the shop didn't open until 19 but there were plenty of people inside so I waited and looked longingly inside the shop. The owner came out and asked me what I wanted - can I just grab a set of cleats - sure you can, in 20 minutes! - Boycott!!!
Got a couple DVDs out in remembrance of tight-arse Tuesday - Breakfast On Pluto, which was a bit too Irish for my liking and Hostel, which reminded me of my own wanderings in Slovakia.

Joke du Jour

Two retired English officers were sitting in their armchairs in a London club reading their respective papers. "By Jove," said one, looking over the top of The Times, "do you remember old Simmonds during the War? I thought he'd died, but it turns out they've found him after 40 years living up in a tree with a gorilla!" "I say! Male or female gorilla?" "Female of course. Nothing queer about old Simmonds." **

Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Lifting of Sanctions

7 May - Decided to temporarily lift the boycott on Fets in order to meet with Jason and Coleen for brunch and was also joined by Crystal. The waitresses seem to be much nicer when i've got company. A pancake bonanza was had by all and Jason shocked the waitress and the chef by eating four of the rather gigantic cakes. The chef even came out to congratulate him for his efforts. I could have eaten four but ... I just didn’t want to. Competitive eating is not something i've ever been that interested in but a pancake challenge may be in order sometime in the next few months - i'm not sure how i'd fare against Jason though, he was telling me that he was bored the other day and gave himself the gallon challenge (drink 1 gallon of milk in less than one hour) and did it but failed to keep it down for the required 1 hour. Later in the afternoon I met Crystal down at Stanley Park for a little bit of a run - the first really good run i've done in ages - I tried to do one in Austin but my bum was just too pinched to stretch out but managed to push through by running down to the park and then me and Crystal went right around. Crystal doesn’t run that much and she's very little with pretty short legs but she managed to keep up with me for the entire way. Just a few short walking breaks were all that we took - Crystal has been a courier for three years and any kind of endurance fitness is going to transfer to other disciplines if required. Hoping to have found a running partner because i've been lacking in that field for quite some time. Faffed around for a while before heading out to see united 93, a pretty harrowing account of 11 September, done as well as it could have been I think - well worth seeing in any regard.

Monday, 8 May 2006

Jellystone

3 May - Managed to get to Yellowstone at a pretty early hour, which put me in a good mood. It's an absolutely increidble park - once I went through the gates and got past the steep inclined road that leads into the Wyoming part of the parkits like being in a different world. There is so much geothermal activity in the area that it's really quite terrifying - especiallyafter reading Bill Bryson's overrated history of the world, it's hard to imagine that entering Yellowstone is entering the mouth of a gigantic volcano - there were thermal springs all over the place and also several hills that were continuously outgassing steam and it looks like the mountain is on the verge of exploding. There was loads of wildlife all throughout the park - bison (including some herds with calves and a lone gigantic bull who blocked the road for about 5m), elk, deer and wolves. Apparently Yellowstone is also home to a great mythical sometimes seen in films and mockumentaries called the 'grizzly bear'. Everyone i've spoken to is convinced that it exists but I won't have a bar of it - i've been looking out for them every time I go into the mountains in BC and over here but am yet to catch a glimpse. I don't know, maybe they're all out stealing pickernick baskes. Still, there's something about seeing animals out in he wild that just puts a big stupid smile on my face that I can't get rid of of. The Not-So-Grand-Canyon of Yellowstone was also very impressive as was the faithful old geezer which is the main attraction of the park (had to wait 45m for him to blow his top but it was certainly worth it). There was no way in hell that I was going to spend a third night in the car so drove as far as I could and made it as far as missoula on the montana/idaho border. Got pulled over for speeding again on the way (never try to overtake a state highway policeman in montana) but he was very cheerful about it (once again, only going at traffic speed but wasn't going to argue especially with such a jovial chap).

Back To Grind

6 May - Returned to the car to downtown Vancouver - my last traffic jam for a while I hope. Despite knowing the streets of the core like the back of me 'and it's very different doing it in a car compard to the bicycle - I know where all of the one way streets are but there are heaps of 'No Right Turns' and 'No Left Turns' which i've never really noticed until today. Eventually managed to get Rocicante back home and bid him a fond adieau. Afew other errands in downtown such as picking up a copy of my CT scan from the hospital and purchasing a new pair of bike shoes from Simons. I was quite touched when Simon seemed genuinely pleased to see me and he was very keen to hear about my adventures around America (maybe he was just happy that I was buying something from his hop but who knows). Also picked up my replacement PDA from one of the mail depots - had to pay $30 to Canadian customs to get it off their hands, which will have to be rectified because there's no way i'm paying tax on something i've owned for 5 years
Also reunited with now ex-housemate Mark and headed downtown to see Mission Impossible 3 - the most irrelevant and forgettable action movie ever - an absolute waste of time and money in every possible way - it was cliched, overly complex, full of plot holes and just not very exciting. If anyone ever decies to see this film ensure you keep the receipt and present it to St Peter at the pearly gates when you die so you can get 2 hours of your life refunded. Did see the extended preview for Superman Returns though which would have to be the most exciting preview i've seen for a long time - unfortunately the quality of a movie is usually inversely proportional to how good the preview is but lets hope. After that went to dinner and a rockabilly concert with Crystal, one of the ex-Novex messengers who might be coming back, and some of her companions but the band never showed up so drank American beer instead.

The Weblog of Saxifrage Fogg

Well, it may not have been around the world in 80 days and I may have missed my target date of 30 days but circumnavigating most of the country in 3* dys was a bit of a feat. I didn’t break any speed records and I didn’t discover any new lands but a great adventure was had nonetheless. This country beat a pair of trainers, an aged pair of hiking boots and one rental car but it didn’t beat me. One thing i've learned from this trip is that i'll never have the same opinion of this country and its people ever again. The generalisations i've always had are that the population is insular and uncaring about the outside world but its simply not true. That description may apply to some of them (including a fair few i've met on this trip) but it also applies to a great deal of the English, canadians and Australians i've met - but a helluva lot of the natives i've met over here are intelligent, educattd, aware of the outside world and as unhappy with the direction their country is going as I am. A total of 14,380 kilometres was driven and I will be quite happy not to sit behind the wheel of an automobile for a long long time to come.

All Good Things

Cinqo de Mayo - Tried to sleep in in order to stave off slight hangover but was awake and out of bed and eatingfairly impressive provided breakfast at hostel. Made some tentative plans with A fairly camp but pretty Japanese San Franciscan who I met at breakfast to go see some glass blowing in downtown. They kind of fell through which is not terrible because it may have been a rather excruciatingly dull thing to go and see (or hell, it could have been the most exciting thing on te trip but i'll never know now). Wandered the town for a while before headingto the Seattle Centre where I looked up at the Space Needle (i am so tired of visiting the 'tallest building in the city' buildings in random parts of the world) and was thinking about visiting the Music Experience museum but was distracted by its sister - the Science Fiction Museum - a fairly well rounded dedicaton to the greatest literary genre ever conceived by modern man. The museum was actully only okay though - far too much devotion to movies and not the great ones at that (Star Trek, star Wars and Matrix get top representation - which is to be expected as these appeal to the lowest common denominator) - there are homages and smaller dedications to a few of the reallygreat science fiction movies and authors but shocking absences of any detail on Robert Heinlein's contributions and not a single reference to Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy are enough to make one blackball the place until ty get their act together. There were other tourist things I could have done but I was feelingtired and I was getting over it so I headed back to the hostel, grabbed my bad and the car and flat footed it back to the border. Passed my beloved IHOP on the way and had what will be my last pancakes from them for a ongtime and put my last US penny in the gastank so I could exploit the cheap American gas prices (although to listen to them you'd think were selling their organs on ebay to cover the rising costs) and then I skipped over into Canadia. A little bit of an interrogation at the border and I was home free. Took a while to get bac home and when I arrived i'd found that there was one less housematt (i kenew he was going),three new ones, and nobody had cleaned a dish since I left vancouver 31 days ago. Met all the housemates briefly- - went to dinner with the german kid who seems pretty cool but he's said he'll be moving at the end of the month because he can't stand the noise. Still got a lot of crap to sort out now that i'm back at home but all that can wait - i'm going to watch wolf creek first.

Four Lefts Make A Circle

4 May - Didn’t waste too much time heading out and out there towards Seattle. Pushed hard through the remains of Montana before I finally took a st stop near th edge of Washington State. This time I called up the hostel beforehand and ensured all my eggs were in the right baskets before I subjected myself to driivng in that city again, As soon as I arrived in town I went straight to the Hilton to exchange Rocicante II for what was supposed be Rocicante III, who had to be Canadian in order for me to return a car to Canada. There weren't any Canadian licensed cars there so I was told to press on with my trusty silver steed, which I was perfectly happy to do.
While I was at the hilton my phone rang and it was Jeanine, my case worker asking me what was going on - I was - I told her I was hoping to get the cast off next week but didn't elaborate on my recent adventures (i was hoping she couldn't tell I was in America because of the background noise - American accents can be so distinctive). Checked into the Green Tortoise agin to find that it hadn't changed - a pretty good crowd of fellow travellers - met a nice young black guy from Ohio who was very well versed in agreeing with everything I had to say about the world (which was rather falttering), a new england girl who was moving over here, a japanese man just starting on the same route as I did although by bus, two drunken englishman, one of whom had just been casted up due to a fractured right scaphoid, and a 21 year old lifetime traveller with more bands around his wrists than there were hairs on his chest.was two Englishman, one of which After doing a fair patrol of the downtown area which included being force fed a dozen different savoury jams and ordering a coffee from starbucks (in pike market, a place that bars all franchises of any kind - the reason why this one is allowed is that it was starbucks no 1 and was there for 20 years before they embarked on their plans of global domination). Headed out for some music and drinks with the australian and the two drunken english. Both of them were pretty course but one was insanely drunk - danced like an alcoholic clown and did his best to make offensive jokes to the locals - one young gay kid took massive offence and completely overreacted in response - me and B (the other aus) were blamed because we were Australian and the englishman was waringa wallabies hersey. Another reason not to like rugby.

Friday, 5 May 2006

Lost in Joisey ...

28 April - Would have loved to spend more time in New York but my schedule prevented it so after an awful breakfast I somehow managed to find my way to Newark and paid the exhorbitant parking fee before trying to fnd my way to thInterstate 80. Followed all of the myriad directions I was given but ended up on the parkway southbound instead of north and by the time I realised I'd lost a few hours before eventuallygetting on the right track. Whilst on the way I found myself in a couple of traffic jams and while consulting my map in one of the numerous stop times my foot slipped and I ended up tapping the car ahead of me. No real damage at all (a slight dent to my front licence plate) but as me and the woman were examing the damage a state traffic cop pulled up beside us and told us to pull over. What could have been a very bad situation was resolved when the woman explained that she was in too much of a rush to do anythingso we were sent on our way. From New Jersey I followed the road through to Pennsylvania and was very disappointed when I found myself passing Punxsatawney around half 8. Would have liked to havedropped in to see Phil but he's probably sleeping after seeing his shadow a couple of months ago (in stark contrast to his Canadian counterpart, Wiarton Willie who claimed that there was to be no extension of the winter season). Most of the day's entertainment came from the national public radio with Science friday. What could have an absolutely fascinating story on a Nobel Laureate's new methonal fuel cell that could solve the world's energy crisis as well as help with global warming by sucking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere turned out to be an incredibly dull rambling as the scientist talked about the history of energy despite the host's best efforts to keep him on message. Ended up crashing at a rest stop somewhere near the edge of ohio - unfortunattely now that I’m back north again in car temperatures have fallen again. I don’t know what 37 degrees fahrenheit is, I don’t want to know what 37 degrees fahrenheit is.

Top of the world ... again ...

27 April - Managed to extircate myself from the hostel at a farly decent hour and after a very crappy diner breakfast (i've been spoiled by the southern cooking where they make the best breakfasts that although the butter content does completely twist up my stomach the minute I stand up after finishing) I go on the subway and headed down to the south tip of Manhattan and had a little look at the Statue of Liberty but didn’t go out there because the wait was too long. Had a bit of a wander through the Financial District and saw the site of the WTC which is still just a big hole in the ground although the new building is supposed to be up and running in a few years. It certainly seems destined to become one of the holiest sites in the city - all of the New Yorkers i've spoken to about it seem to still be very affected by it - it seems that all of them feel that they were personallyattacked when the buildings went down and in a sense they were. Did a bt more wanderingthrough town including visiting a bike shop that one of my messenger friends from Vancouver used to frequent and tried t oswap out my Novex jersey to no avail. FOund myself a phone card an dcalled home for the first time in a while which was very nice although did receive some terrible news about the condition of my good friend Algren who it seemed could just not bear for me to be away from him. Knowing I had to do at least one serioutourist attraction whilst I was here I decided on heading up to the observatory deck of the empire stat tbuilding where I got a brilliant view of the city - i've been to the top of a lot of tall buildings in my life and generally they don’t impress me too much but this city certaily does have the best skyline of all of them so it was definitely worth the overpriced admission. Just as I was heading into the down elevator two cops sprang out of the elevator and sprinted up to the deck and when I reached the exit I found that the building hahad been shut down and the entire street was closed off. Within minutes there were dozens of police cars, fire engines ad amulances and thousands of gawkers (including me). Not completely sure what was going on but the general consensus was that a someone had decided to jump off the edge - a couple of people upon hearing this shouted out 'Jump' at the top of their lungs - man, this city is cold. I did fel a little bit guilty about the situation though - as I went up into the empire state, I felt myself secretly wishing that something exciting would happen - I kind of wish that every time i 'm in a major landmark or tall building - in any event, it was a little bit exciting but all's well that ends well so I shouldn’t feel too guilty. Made some tentative plans to hook up with a friend of one of my austin friends - but somehow also managed to get extricatetd into a plan to head out with a bunch of australians and the swedish girls from th eprevious night and they would not get heir asses into gear and it wasn’t until past midnight when we actually arrived at where we were supposed to arrive so my other meeting never happened. I was not very happy with the way the night panned out because chad sounded like somebody who would be really worth meeting and those swedish girls are the human equivalent of capsicin (in other words, a powerful irritant).

Rushin' Through Rushmore

2 May - Woke up in very strange circumstances - the obvious crick in the neck and knees from sleeping on Rocicante's expansive bacj seat but not helped by the a strange dream that i'd decided to return to Australia early - I was kicking myself that I still wanted to see other things in Asia before I returned home - the fact that soccerball sized hailstones were crashing into the front yard should have made me suspect that I wasn't living in a real reality. After I got going I dropped in to see the Corn Palace in one of the SD towns - a cornucopia museum devoted to all things corn - it turned out to be closed (i was too early) which was probably just as well as NPR's verbal assault on the USA's primary crop has left me with a less than great opinion of the man made cereal. One thing i've learned about South Dakota is that it's very, very big. It took me most of a day to get from one side to the other - despite havinga landscape that’s as dull as anything you might see in the middle of a country (nothing but crops - all of them recently reaped) the Interstate is absolutely packed with billboards advertising the varying stores, amusement parks and sights that are spread thinly across the southern side of the statt. However, there aren't actually that many sights to see - just loads and loads of billboards. Some of them started advertising about 200 miles from the actual place - with mt rushmore and Crazy horse that's understandable - but for a drugstore? Admittedly, the thousands of posters for 'Wall Drugs' must have worked on me because I stopped in for the advertised 5c coffee (it was worth every penny). The sidewind whilst driving was particularly horrendous - really had to work hard to keep the car from beingblown off the road - especially when passing trucks, not too much fun at all. Felt obliged to drop in to see crazy Horse and mt Rushmore, not as inspiring as I hoped they might be. The Crazy horse monument certainly will be spectacular when it's finished but it's been almost 50 years and they've only just carved out the head - methinks the original artist's family who are supposedly carrying on his work should get off their fat american asses and get to it. After seeing the faces that launched a 1000 RVs I continued west into wyoming, hoping to get to yellowstone by dark - I was warned that when the rocky mountains come up it happens very suddenly - for miles and miles and miles there's nothing but flatness and all of sudden these gigantic mountains ar just looming ahead - it's pretty stunning scenery on the drive, but when I arrived in cody, 50m out from the east entrance to yellowstone I found out that the entrance was closed for the winter (it is opening this friday) and I had to make a 4 hour detour to get to the north entrance from montana. It was already pretty lat tby this stage so I tried to make it to the next town in order to make a shorter drive the next day - night time driving is never pleasant, especially when on the highways rather than the interstate, and when I arrived at the next town I found that the one motel was full. Started to make the 1 hr drive to the next town but saw a rest stop so had another pleasant night with Rocicante and charley for company (one night is never pleasant, but two in a row is torture).

Mayday! Mayday! The immigrants are boycotting!

1 May - Today is the day that we're going to see how much the USA depends on migrant labour. - luckily i'm passing through such insular lands such as Wisconsin, Minneapolis and South Dakota (if I make it there by nightfall) so i'll only have to endure the incessant radio coverage of the event. Whilst I do agree that there is definitely a problem with having so many people in the country illegally everyone from the illegal workers to the politicians to the right wing 'just get them out of my goddamn country' can't seem to vocalise a proper way to work the situation out. I picked up, Santos, a naturalised Mexican immigrant near the edge of Minnesota -his rear tyre had blown out near the rest stop, and I asked him his opinion - he reallydidnt seem to car one way or the other, 'eets just politics' - enough said. One thing you can say about the great plains is that they go on forever - lots of cornfields and not much else. Rain made the driving a little hard going at times but it did mean that ear the end of the day as the sun began to set the light shone through the clouds and it felt like I was driving into the hands of God (i've not had any spiritual conversion from my time in the evangelical states - I recall from somewhere that the phenomenon of light shining through clouds is called fingers of god - it reallyis very pretty). Crashed at a rest stop in south dakota - now that i'm back up north the night time temperature drops pretty low but luckily I wasn’t up too high so it wasn’t too bad.

The Windy City

30 April - Had a reasonably fitful sleep, probably helped by the fact that I was the only person sleeping in my 18 bunk dorm. Based on suggestions from the guys from the previous night's card school I made my way downtown and checked out the reasonably impressive Lincoln park zoo - a free public zoo with an excellent menagerie of great cats (none of whom wanted to brave the Vancouver like weather but who were visible in the glassed over indoor enclosures), primates (gorillas, evil chimpanzees and a smattering of monkey breeds), birds and polar bears (the only animals who didn’t seem bothered with the weather). The rest of the African animals were nowt to be found but I always like zoos so it was fun. Also went to the ultra modern Millenium Park and the Champs Elysee inspired Magnificent Mile and the very tacky Navy Pier. For some reason could not find the Sears Tower anywhere but did ascend the John Hancock Tower - a sneaky suggestion by the Irishman was to just visit the bar on the 96th floor rather than pay for the observatory tourist trip. An excellent view of the city was afforded from the windows but the awful weather meant that it was as good as it normally could be. Took the L out to Wicker Park but despite following directions to the letter I found myself in a rather dodgy neighbourhood (it tyurns out there are three stations with the same name on the same coloured line - usually trains are pretty easy to work out in a foreign city) soheaded back downtown and popped out of the subway to find myself right in front of Sears. It may just be a very big building but it would be more accurate to describe it as a f**kingbig building - seeing it made me think of how impressive the WTC would have been had I visited NYC over 5 years ago. The weather was very irritating after the pretty excellent conditioins i've had through most of this trip - I know the city is known as 'the windy city' but I was hoping it may have referred to the politicians rather than the actual weather - wind is something I can never get used to - it mucks up my hair, screws with my contact lenses and just puts me in a bad mood. Also, the intermittent rain revealed that the soles of the skate shoes I purchased in london at sk8ter boi Bob's insistence had finally given up the fight - did manage to find a very good value pair of skechers to replace them though - it was very satisfying to buy them, put them on and dump the old pair in the bin all in the space of 5m.
Well, you can’t go to Chicago and not see a bunch of old black guys playin' the blues - tried to initiate some interest from some of the other hostel guests to head out but they weren't too keen - gave up waiting and killed some time in my room and was shortly joined by my roommate, a Californian guy named Joe, also not too keen on heading out but after about an hour of discussing the last legs of my American odyssey he decided that some blues would definitely be in order. Headed out to Kingston Mines where we propped ourselves up and watched Linsey Alexander and the LABB crank out some pretty amazing tunes. He was a real virtuoso and a complete showoff too - thanks to the wonders radio microphones he came right into the audience and wandered from table to table sleazing on every woman in the joint - I find it quite interesting to note that for someone playingthe blues he sure seemed to be having a great time. He also dragged up a guy named Eddie Clearwater onto stage who played a very nice set - I’m not sure if Mr Clearwater is a renowned blues musician because I don’t really know much about the blues but he was very good (not that I can tell the difference between really good and great) and everyone seemed to be very happy to see him on stage. Was thwarted by the L when we tried to head out to see another band - got stranded ten stations uptown so gave up and headed back home.

Battle Of The Wedge

29 April - Another night in the car, another crick in the nec. Was upo pretty early in the morning - mainly because I couldn’t handle another minute cramped up in Rocicante's confined sleeping quarters so I was on my way out of Pennsylvania and on to another f**kng Turnpike, this time it was Ohio's - ate pretty awful junkfood while I meandered west through the betraying swing statt and on to Indiana - nothing to see but corn and wheat fields as far as the eye could see - NPR had an interesting interview with a hard core cornographer who explained how the entire western diet comes from corn and explained why it was not really a good thing. Unfortunately, driving through multiple states and multiple timezones means that it's very difficult to actually listen through an entire radio segment without getting blankouts, repeats and skipping of shows but very entertaining nonetheless. Eventually made it to Chicago and had another extraordinarly stressful and tearful entrance in to the city - couldn’t find a welcome centre and not even a phone that was working. Found myself downtown and eventually got a phone and it turned out that I was only 5m away from the hostel where I planned to stay. After 30m of driving around a maze of one way streets that were lined with cars I managed to check in and miraculously even managed to find a park on the street - on the very edge of the tow zone so i'm hoping everything will be cool by the time I leave. After completing a few necessary functions at the hostel I went out for a little bit of a wander - for once, the changing time zones are on my side - being in central time means getting an extra hour to enjoy the city in daylight. Wandered downtown - I don’t understand why all these americans believe anything past a few blocks can’t be walking distance - well, actually I can understand very easily, because they're the most obese nation on Earth (that's one generalisation about this country that certainly has proved to be true). Not really knowing how to start the chicago tour I thought a deep pan pizza would be a good way to immerse myself in the city's culture. Upon arriving at giordano's I was told it would be a 45m wait (which included pre-ordering) and by the time I got seated wait times were up to 2 hours. Anything that reqires that much of a wait has got to be good, I surmised. I am a big fan of pizza and while it certainly lived up to the expectation i'm of the opinion that it still doesn't stack up to Arthur's of Paddington (although according to a reliable source Arthur's has changed its recipes and has suffered the consequences). All in all, the food in this country has been pretty amazing when its good and pretty awful when its bad - grits, pancakes and barbecue have surpassed anything i've eaten in the homeland but the two staples to any carb junkies diet, pizza and sammiches are unequalled by that which is only available in God's country.
More sketchy plans did not come to fruition - a couple of Hawaiians from the hostel asked me to come to an comedy improv show that they were doing but I couldn’t remember where it was playing so ended up playing cards with a few guys from the hostel - a Japanese guy who spoke the most baffling English i've ever heard, an Irishman, Mancunian and a young Hawaiian guy who suggested I read a non fiction book all about the American green berets (i'm always very wary of people who like reading books about the special forces, I put them in the same boat as guys who like to read gun catalogues and people whosfavourite Warner Bros cartoon character is Taz-mania ). first game was 3 and 4 and the Mancunian who was teaching us how to play kept on changing the rules on us (i kept on expecting him to claim victory with a royal sampler) so I taught them the finer points of playing S**thead. Fortunattly there were no broken bones or criminal acts resulting to the losing players.

Lost in Joisey ...

28 April - Would have loved to spend more time in New York but my schedule prevented it so after an awful breakfast I somehow managed to find my way to Newark and paid the exhorbitant parking fee before trying to fnd my way to thInterstate 80. Followed all of the myriad directions I was given but ended up on the parkway southbound instead of north and by the time I realised I'd lost a few hours before eventuallygetting on the right track. Whilst on the way I found myself in a couple of traffic jams and while consulting my map in one of the numerous stop times my foot slipped and I ended up tapping the car ahead of me. No real damage at all (a slight dent to my front licence plate) but as me and the woman were examing the damage a state traffic cop pulled up beside us and told us to pull over. What could have been a very bad situation was resolved when the woman explained that she was in too much of a rush to do anythingso we were sent on our way. From New Jersey I followed the road through to Pennsylvania and was very disappointed when I found myself passing Punxsatawney around half 8. Would have liked to havedropped in to see Phil but he's probably sleeping after seeing his shadow a couple of months ago (in stark contrast to his Canadian counterpart, Wiarton Willie who claimed that there was to be no extension of the winter season). Most of the day's entertainment came from the national public radio with Science friday. What could have an absolutely fascinating story on a Nobel Laureate's new methonal fuel cell that could solve the world's energy crisis as well as help with global warming by sucking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere turned out to be an incredibly dull rambling as the scientist talked about the history of energy despite the host's best efforts to keep him on message. Ended up crashing at a rest stop somewhere near the edge of ohio - unfortunattely now that I’m back north again in car temperatures have fallen again. I don’t know what 37 degrees fahrenheit is, I don’t want to know what 37 degrees fahrenheit is.