Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oh the people you meet when you are nearly terminal, I mean, in terminals...

It has truly saddened me that for a brief moment in time even I had begun thinking that this, a grand piece of modern writing brought to you by someone of no-less integrity, blog of mine was to go the way of the dodo. But here you are and here I am frantically writing an encore to a show that had barely made it past the first act. I believe I had left you on the edge of your seats when we had last caught eyes, the two of us, writer and reader, as a giant episode in my life had come by and no sooner left fifteen seconds later. I will admit that given that it was such a brief moment in time the aftershocks, both physical and economical/emotional/cultural (you get my drift), are ever-present even at this point more than two months from the initial shake down. But we all have picked up our socks and done what we could given the circumstances. The land moves beneath us but our spirit is grand and no less modest than when all of this occurred. I fear  we have just become so conditioned, so accustomed to this instability that we haven’t had proper time to mourn as even now the unnamed victims of this tragedy are still being pulled from the rumble of a city which may never recover. My heart goes to all of those in Japan, we know that fear all too well and yet may never truly understand the loss.
I am not sure what has prompted such reluctance in me, that I would constantly turn to a book rather than my own blog but I must retrace a few steps, for your pleasure,  as I am getting ahead of myself. You see there are stories to tell of a different land! A land where the no’s sound like nar’s and the number after five has unexpectedly become the act of consummating a marriage, that’s right, the grand colony of Austria!
“Austria eh? Well g’day mate! Why don’t ya put another...shrimp on the barby?”
Thanks goes out to Harry and Lloyd for that lovely reference but there are more important things to discuss! Such as, a lovely visit with Canada’s most beloved ginger! No, no, not Lanny McDonald (although he comes in at a close second) I mean that pretty young thing from the Island of Confederation, Anne of Green Gables! I will firstly admit that my own excitement was one shared alone but life sometimes has a way of saying ‘oh alright, you deserve a bit of a break’. In case some of you are unaware of the distasteful layovers I had on my trip south I will keep this brief, I do not wish to relive such agony. The 3am from Toronto to LAX was ground for three hours in San Francisco because of fog, BUT THANK THE LORD I HAD A 12 HOUR LAYOVER IN LA! I was beginning to feel quite ripe after the first eighteen hour waking cycle had come and gone, like so many departing planes before mine, so after checking in a mere ten hours before another oh, what was it... 16hour flight to Brisbane, I needed a drink or enough for me to forget about the film that was slowly forming on my outer shell. Thanks goes out to Dale and Verena who seemed to empathize dearly by handing me a letter engraved with the phrase “For LAX: The first shouts on us, but this will never be enough to cover your tab for 12 hours!”. Bless their hearts, for where would I be with a pint in one hand?
I had spent the first few hours continuing my reading of Plummer’s memoirs whilst cuddling with a nice tall Belgium named Stella when I came to realize something quite fascinating. It always come to pass that when you measure time by the drink you often find yourself, for your own good, milking it more than anything and after spending a good lot of time in a few terminals of the Western world, they have more often than not reminded me of barnyards. I was sharing a few pleasantries with a younger lad from Washington beside me but for the most part I kept to myself. So you can only imagine my surprise and sheer relieve when from the next stool over I heard a voice which made my brow furrow more than anything since I had come to realize how much Stella was costing me. It’s true, I swear it was her voice that caught my eye and nothing more for she was two long braids of red hair short and lacking those iconic Anne-ish freckles. She said to me, ‘so how are you finding the book?’ and seeing is how this was the first non-airline affiliated human being to say something other than ‘aisle or window?’, I burst into conversation!
I just have to say that considering the amount of people who are flushed through the doors of LAX per day I can count on one hand the amount of decent conversations, and decent people for that matter, I have come upon in my life. That being said, nothing beats a good story about two people waiting for their planes, never to cross paths again, one heading to Orient, the other, Orillia.   
I praised the book of course because I was truly enjoying it but also because you would be absolutely amazed by the amount of people who have never heard of Mr. Plummer. So with that I was off, ‘oh it’s amazing, he has this self-loathing tone and Sinicism that just makes you laugh aloud to yourself[...] I was lucky enough to see him as Prospero in Stratford Ontario recently, it’s this---‘
‘Oh, I know it well.’
‘Oh wow, that amazing. Are you in the arts then?’
‘Yes, actually I am,’ I must admit by now I felt quite smitten by Megan as we shook hands in a friendly greeting and cheers’d to our introduction, her smile simply permeating as she took a sip of her drink. And although I was completely unaware at the time of who she was or what she had done, I immediately felt quite at ease. I remember thinking, wow this woman has some youth to her and she is pretty damn easy on the eyes. I must have some deathly attraction to women in the arts, they seem to exude a quiet confidence. They are completely comfortable with themselves...and I jump towards them as a cat does with their nip.
I continued on, ‘so if you don’t mind me asking, what have you done lately, what may I know you from?’
It is at this moment where a revelation befell on me as she proceeded to say, ‘well, it was ages ago but I was in Anne of Green Gables,’. And so it dawned on me, the freckles returned, the shining red hair and that dimpled smile which has been draped upon Canadian television for decades. I will ensure the reader that Megan could not have been more modest, despite the phrasing of that ‘bomb’ dropped upon in the middle of what was now a busy airport bar.
‘Yes, oh my God, no way! Yes, I see it now, wow, it’s an honour to meet you,’ I nearly fell off my stool in astonishment. Like a proper ass I shook her hand again and probably just about spilt my third Stella all over the bar.  But this was truly it, a pinnacle of the my trip and well deserved at that.  We spent the rest of the evening sharing a few more drinks and a few good tales. And who would have thought, Anne loves her bourbon and ginger, God love ‘er! She was heading up to Vancouver that evening to perform in a show called, I believe, ‘THAT’ but at THIS point I could be quite unsure. Either way it still remains to be a truly enjoyable experience that I will never forget, even though it just so happened to occur smack down in the middle of a horrendous point in my travels. 
Megan eventually had to catch her Air Alaska flight up north along the west coast and I can only hope that she enjoyed our time together. I am sure she has already forgotten about our encounter but I like to remain hopeful that she hasn’t. I spent the remainder of my time loitering around the terminal, looking intently at the duty-free shops which I frequented from hour to hour. I met up with a few girls, one who was heading to Melbourne to visit a friend and the other (an Aussie) who was heading home to Adelaide with nothing in her pocket as her trip to Mexico ended badly with a few instances of theft. I can’t for the life of my remember their names but they were charming girls, lovely to talk to while we waited to catch our flight.
I had been up for hours, longer than I had expected as the final boarding call became a sweet sound of relieve.  With several bags in hand we lurched toward the boarding gates. It would be a long time coming as I left those sweet shores of our beautiful continent, LAX is not the greatest spokesman for such a place but we were on her soil none the less. Australia, get ready.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Our home, the refuge centre.

        The city of Christchurch sits at the base of the Canterbury Port Hills which separates the main downtown core, which is similar in size to Hamilton, from Lyttleton harbor and onwards to the Banks Peninsula. The city is also home to a luscious coastline that lays down alongside the Pacific ocean which had allow it become one of the primary settlements of the country. The historic quarter of Christchurch winds its way through the flourishing and present-day business district. That district seems to have been proudly adopted by the brick-bound structures which had been laid centuries before, one of those being the timeless Anglican Cathedral. Along with the CBD (Christchurch Business District) is the region's tourist epicenter which is all held within the five avenues; Moorhouse, Deans, Harper, Bealey and Fitzgerald.  Last Tuesday the cultural, economic and spiritual microcosm of Canterbury - held within those five roadways - experienced one of the most traumatic events in the country's history. The contemporary businesses which had scattered all over the downtown have crumbled upon their weakened and historical foundations and now lay scattered on the roads that had laid before them. The very heart of the region, the cathedral, can now be found in shambles amoungst the vacant artisan's booths which lured in so many visitors from around the globe. A array of gaping wounds plagues that church's structure as if faith had been literally torn from her underbelly.

        Within an hour of the quake our flat had become both a meeting place and wine cellar. There are nearly twenty Canadian students enrolled at the University of Canterbury and more than half had made their way to our living room, drink in hand. Amidst a plethora of conversation and laughter I made a phone call to my family who sat at home still unaware of the true impact of what had happen not 40 minutes ago; I was fully aware of their sudden realization when my phone rang, it was mum and it was 2am. The rest of the afternoon was spent amoungst friends in the partial shock of the days events. Maybe it was that shock or maybe it was ever-growing bottle collection found on our kitchen table, but spirits were high; solemn reflection would have to wait, we had company!

        By mid-afternoon I was in a state of exhaustion. I had slept fine the night before but somehow I knew that amidst a barrage of aftershocks, which still plague the very ground we walk on hour after hour, that rest would be hard to come by and so I laid down for a nap. I awoke around supper time which, in our world, occurs whenever one is hungry. Our living room was still a buzz with new faces, new stories and new friends. People would come and go during the day, some would stay the night for God only knew what remained of their downtown hostiles, and then there was Chris and Ashley. If there was ever a more resilient couple I have yet to find them for those two had truly become the iconic faces of the Christchurch tragedy. Their photo dawns the cover of New Zealand's most read national news paper, The Press. Heads towards the ground the two are captured in, what I can only assume to be, one of their bleakest of moments carrying their very livelihood for the past months in three large suitcases. Their aging and colonial home, now on her last legs, lies off in the distance, a brooding reminder of the mercy to which such a disaster is void of.

        Later on in the week when that picture had finally filled newspaper shelves around the country Ashley explained to me that, "we weren't really all that sad, we were just so damn tired from lugging all our stuff to your house!". As you can probably guess the two of them have moved in. We have gladly adopted them as our own. Us Canadians stick together, you know?

        For the better part of the week our flat has been a bustling halfway house for all those who needed to come and either relax, eat, sleep and in most cases drink with friends from around the world and around the corner back home in the great white north. Plans are being made to leave Christchurch for 'higher ground', safer ground. Grounds with safer drinking water and a more stable infrastructure. Some of the girls are heading to Queenstown, some off to Wellington for a vacation - but we've only just arrived! I have decided to tough it out alongside my newest flatmates. It will take more than an earthquake to scare off some of us Canucks, hell, the weather is still fine by me!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tuesday February 22nd,2010

Many people have often said that when you are about to die your life flashes before your eyes, this my friends is not the case. Whether or not my life was actually thrown towards the thresholds of existence that afternoon, it remains that such a moment did not occur to me. The faces of my family and friends did not leap towards me in sequence just as the immense moments of short life were not replayed over in my mind for a brief period of time. I felt utterly alone, frightened, unnerved and completely exposed to the idea that this is how I was going out-not with guns a blazin’ but crouched next to a door frame in a darkened corridor thousands of miles away from home.

12 seconds...
                The day had begun and was progressing like any other. The air was in no way palpable or humid. Things felt neither still or ominous, in fact the weather was quite dull, drape and seemed to shadow how I was feeling with the long day ahead.   With a slight overcast sky I set off for school; a 10am start that would continue until at least 5pm.  I spent two hours in the gym, playing basketball and reviewing some of the country’s curriculum with fellow class mates. We held discussions and, as always, enjoyed  a good laugh which made our upcoming night out something we had no pleasure in waiting for; I feel that our class’ intention to go for dinner and drinks this Friday may be pushed back barring the chance that ‘Joyful’ Chinese Restaurant still stands. I have the strangest feeling that somewhere, someone is watching all us fools enjoying the smallest moments in our lives and spiting us. Or maybe we should rid ourselves of those mundane joys, look for something bigger. Maybe we need to shake things up a bit.
                I left class with nothing more than a thought of what I had to do next, where my day was heading, where my written schedule led me next.
                For the next fifty minutes I found myself in a meeting alongside three other women who had also been selected to escort and facilitate a group of young Kiwis onto the secluded Blumine Island off the coast of New Zealand’s much larger South Island. It will be a weeklong orienteering adventure to raise awareness of the dying population of the nation’s beloved Kiwi bird. If all goes to plan we, the college students, will lead the expedition for the first couple of days and the youngsters will take control of the remainder of the trip building trails, permanent nests and developing leadership skills. It seems like a phenomenal opportunity for not only myself, and I am glad to have been selected, but also the kids who will report back to environment ministers and company heads. In order for the trip to move smoothly the four of us needed to prepare well in advance so after a brief discussion in the college’s courtyard we made our way over the equipment shed which had been filled with spare non-perishable food, kayaks, petrol tanks and their accompanying stove-top cookers. Having borrowed the key from our  own university advisor, Chris, the 4 of us made our way back to his office where he had mentioned to us that sliding the under the door would be no problem; it was 12:45pm.
                Spending a good part of that hour organizing for our travels we began heading our separate ways, whether it be to our next lecture or home for a late lunch, feeling a growing excitement for the impact that such a program could potentially make. Although I shared those same feelings I had another four hours of class awaiting me, the first couple being held on the third floor of the campus’ largest building, Taurew. I remember checking my watch constantly so that I would not be late for Professional Studies as I remained with two of the other girls who were dropping off Chris’ keys; I can only imagine what drove me with them as I passed right by the stairwell door which would have led to my class. There was no need for me to go with them, Chris was not in his office and although I knew I had a bit of time before my class would begin it was not uncommon for us to gather ten minutes before hand for a cup of tea. Some of our actions just don’t make sense to us during times of reflection, this was one of those moments. I can only assume how terrible it would have been to head upstairs instead, upstairs to an empty classroom with empty chairs and  empty desks wondering what on Earth was going on when suddenly all Hell would have broken loose. Standing outside the building amongst an enormous group of students, alarms blaring, I realized I had misread my schedule.  I was to attend a class I never had but decided to stick it out with Sara and Alex for a few more minutes.
                Walking down a secluded and dead-end hallway towards our professor’s door the three of us continued to chat amongst ourselves. We placed the key on Chris’ desk, closed the door behind us and walk a few steps towards the main section of that floor’s reception area.
                I remember briefly saying, “alright, well I better head off to class, I’ll see you girls –“ . A huge crack erupts as if a pack of de-railed trains had made their way through the deserted hallway. The foundation of the building violently struggles with the intensify nature of the very ground it sits on. The corridor, already unlit, begins to unnaturally contort in all directions as I am flung into a state of confusion. Stabilizing myself with knees bend I attempt to grasp out for something but with no avail, I am teetering back and forth in the middle of the hall, with legs of jelly. The sound is deafening; cracks, snaps and screams ablaze amongst falling shards of drywall. A door swings open, the exposed office  becomes littered with fallen books. I see the face of a frightened women beneath her desk gripping the legs of her shaking workspace. My attention moves back left to Sara and Alex, crouching within a door way, arms wrapped around its fragile frame. I fall in line, immediately hitting the floor, ruthlessly attaching myself to one of the girls. For one brief moment, although it always feels dreadfully longer, I thought that this was my end and it was nearly calming. I had a chance to look around and slowly awaited something to come crashing upon me but all that came was the end of the ordeal, it had ended with the start of a sea of alarms and hustling of feet running passed towards the exit.
                 Outside in the courtyard of the college the environment became all too surreal. Pods of students scattered the area as a stir of concerned voices filled the air. For those who found themselves outside during the quake, it may have been much less unnerving but no less foreign, especially to the international community who had never felt something like that before. We began gathering ourselves. We found flatmates, classmates and friends and awaited instruction. I remember over-hearing some of the locals discussing how this quake had dwarfed the 7.1 episode that plagued the region last September. This one had manifested itself just beneath our feet, five kilometres down. It is as if we all live on the top story of a high-rise and when an earthquake occurs it’s like someone below us is playing a stereo very loud; the closer it is to our floor the louder it sounds and the more the walls trembles. This bugger was right below us.
The immediate aftershock, metaphorically and literally,  was, dare I say, a bit more fun.  It may have been because I felt like I had found myself on rough waters with a broken surf board or maybe because the 500 some-odd Asian exchange students had found each other within minutes of the disaster.  I hope that somehow paints a bit of a picture, it was very amusing.  I watched the building I had just ran from wobble before my eyes as the car park began to look like one large bouncy castle; their suspension was getting a solid work out.
Within twenty minutes we had made our way back to our flat. The electricity had been cut because of the quake so we all sat in our living room sharing the “where were you?” stories. We had a long journey ahead of us.
 The hellish reality of downtown Christchurch seems to loom in the distance of my flat, her people torn from a place of joy and now a place of utter silence as more are pulled from her shattered bones.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Brief Intermission

        I realize that nearly an entire year had passed between my true international episodes but like with many things in life you must always be able to fund your passions. That, and I needed to complete my degree by pushing my way through a horrendous final semester; four fourth year honours level English courses and a nice and light physical education course, thankfully. Just as soon as I had began diving into Virginia Woolf, who can not only be mentally exhausting after a few pages but who wasn’t havin’ any of it, I was conned, rather, slightly coerced into another adventure. Next stop, Caribbean!
                The week long adventure was exactly what had been expected, an open trough with equally open gullets. The six of us, drowned  in liquor, were victimized by not only but the scorching sun but by our very poisons. We were either backed up or found ourselves telling others to back out. Our fair Canadian skin was no match for such a climate; I can only imagine it must have looked like watching beached fish being baked under the relentless sun. But no less, we made our way to the Disco every night with, would you imagine, other Canadians! We finally realized we could have paid much less for an equally enjoyable experience, minus the weather of course. This is no way deterred us from going. I, in no way regret falling into Seebs’ debt as it became one of the most memorable weeks of my life. Money well spent if you ask me.

My travel philosophy is as such; justify whatever it is you desire to do. Whether it be for school or sheer pleasure, have a reason for jumping aboard a plan, train or automobile. My thoughts on our trip to The Dominican Republic was this; who knows when I will endure this type of experience with this grand group of lads? It was our final year of a collection of semesters spanning over four years. Jason, these are the guys you will share a beer with for the rest of your life so why not get a nice sun burn while you are at it?
The rest of my year was dull in comparison to these adventures but off in the horizon I could barely make out another ship, slowly making her way into the harbour.  My ticket had been booked long before, while I was still in the United Kingdom actually. This planning finally led me to Mike Johnson and thank the Lord for him as he made my next OE, overseas experience as Kiwis say, very easy. Oh if you haven’t caught on yet or if you have been living under a rock, I would be departing for New Zealand, a tranquil land..oh wait, I think the house just shook.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This is a collaboration of present day thoughts and something I had written after arriving in England...

        I would like to begin this documentation by graciously thanking my friends and family, those categories which often skew into one another. Where would I be without them? Well most likely at Brock living comfortably, spending too may Thursdays at Isaac's and regretting a missed opportunity for many years to come.I am aware that this all seems quite self-reflective but the reception I have received from others would suggest otherwise:

“Tell me all about it Jason! You know I live vicariously through you!”

I'll do my best. 

        Starting back in November of 2008, this journey of nearly 12 months holds with it highs and lows, stops and starts but especially frustration and joy. I am glad I am here, this already seems very important. The closer I came to the date of my departure the more I felt I needed to do this. I needed to be thrown on that plane…

        After my ordeal with checked luggage I thought of how one can only expect a decent amount of the 'unexpected' when it comes to travel; it is definitely a learning process. Sitting in the terminal I watched a bit of the Leaf game, had a coffee and listened to my iPod as I waited for my plane to board. Seated in A23 I took a rest beside an elderly couple who had been married for nearly 64 years! A truly charming pair from Manchester. Most of their children and grandchildren were scattered all over the world but all that travel seems to have made them even more youthful and adventurous. So as we sat beside one another, and when they were not peacefully asleep, the old gent told me stories of how he flew for the British during the Second World War, delivering supplies to the French resistance. I was so interested to here him speak of how his squad never used maps but rather the light of the moon off of the rivers and streams of the French country side. They asked me what I was doing in England and where I would be staying. After a long chat about my education he gave me a bit of advice if I was to ever find myself in a pub near Stoke (the main city around Keele University). Apparently I was supposed to mention a very famous football player from the area, if I brought this name up (as you can tell I don’t remember the name) I would make a few friends.Unfortunately I never made it to this specific pub but was never at a loss of friends after the first few weeks.

        I didn’t sleep very much on the plane, just rested my head for some brief moments while I awaited our touch down in the United Kingdom.  Looking out through my cabin window I saw my first encounter with this truly beautiful country. It reminded me of a patterned quilt, each block a different shade of green or yellow or brown.  Each piece of land was bordered off with a hedge or wall and it was imperfect, unlike back home. The roads here are at the mercy of the land which may explain their less than manageable width and character.

        After a brief stay in Manchester I just barely caught my bus one morning and heading west towards the Irish Sea I barely had time to hold a conversation as I could not turn my eyes from the green pastures of the English countryside. The view from the plane had done the land a fair justice but to actually absorb the scenery, interact with it, is a treat unto itself. It's truly a wonder how such a place has managed to capture and maintain such a pastoral image for each time you blink it seems you pass another small town or village; each with its' own Pub and just maybe a postal office if your town was big enough. Now, the Pub is a very unique concept which had planted it roots deep within British culture away from the monarchy, bureaucracy and well-to-do high society prudes which had only furthered the separation between the classes. Being found in every hamlet, village, town and city the original purpose of the, as North American's have dubbed it, 'Pub ' was to be a Public House of rest. I suppose we all feel quite at ease in our local pubs most nights but they were never truly meant to become our beloved watering holes, rather, it would be as though you were popping by a friend's cottage for engaging conversation and a small meal - could have fooled me! 

        On most nights you were more likely to find me mingling with the locals, bantering with fellow students and football mates, or joking with the occasional drunk. Whether it be down at our very own residence, hole-in-the-ground, bar or well onto campus at the Union Station - a place you could truly get lost in be it from a hazy disposition of merely the bar's enormity - we would begin our drinking early in the evening and well into the early hours of the morning. The service was always friendly at such places but never rushed as they are in most Canadian institutions so it would be ergonomically wrong not to get multiple drinks at once, and triples at that! Stumbling home became an art but merely unlocking your door require god-given coordination at 4 or 5 in the morning. I remember being awoken after one hellish evening by Jane, a fellow international student from Germany, as I lay spread eagle, grass stains covered my attire, outside my room with key in hand and a,as I can only assume, frustrated look upon my face Jane guided me to bed. God love 'er, she was one hell of a girl. We would bickered and fight until the sun came up but for those 5 months I would never meet anyone else like her.She got quite the attitude on her when she drank, she was loud, demanded attention and was loved by all. It was only once I had left Britain that I finally figured out why I could never stand her and why I was drawn to her, she was just like me!

        When I was of a better frame of mind I would attend classes, read my books and take in whatever parts of the country I could. Rob Artinian, Jay Rankin and I, all Canadian music lovers, had made a point of heading north for Scotland one week to see the Tragically Hip. Beers in hand we were nearly 5 feet from Gord and the boys as they pumped out all the classics 'til they were finally forced to call it an evening. That morning in Glasgow we were walking about town taking in the sites when Rob thought he caught a glimpse of Rob Baker, the lead guitarist of The Hip. Wearing bright purple pants and shockingly silver boots this beast of a man, hair down near his ass, walked along the sidewalk. 'There's no way it's him' I said, 'Rob is not that big!'. Sure enough, that night those purple pants had made one hell of an appearance, Rob had gained a bit of weight too. 

        Touring around Edinburgh and the Scottish country side was also a treat. Jay had left so he could join a touring heading toward Lincoln and some Christmas market as Rob and I climbed up to Arthur's seat to enjoy a full view of the city. Rob was not nearly as impressed with me as he was with himself; more often than not  I would hear from 20 feet behind me 'I hate you Pooley'. But the view was worth it just as the entire trip was. I would have an equally lovely time in Spain with a good friend from Australia named Elise. In Barcelona we would hit up the local bars on the beach for sangria and tapas then make our way through the Gothic centre of town hitting nearly all the artisan markets we could. Our accommodation was no more than a block from the Gaudi Museum so at night we would sit up on the rooftop, drink in hand, and watch the tourists walk about the exhibits which had be delicately lit up at night, giving them all an entirely new perspective.

        Europe, as it can sometimes do to a traveler, treated me very well as I was no more worst for wear when I had arrived home. Britannia had left with me a true image of her beauty; it had truly scared me, truly! That's another story, one better told face-to-face. But aren't all stories like that, told 'round a camp fire with a few good friends? I try, with much effort and patience with myself, to paint a bit of a picture with my vocabulary but one thing you must always realize is that a photo, a journal entry and dare I say even a video, will never truly give justice to an experience abroad. I have been to New York City a few times in my life so far and maybe it was because I was an even poorer student at the time but I never once brought my camera. Places you go will always affect and infect you in some way or another and you will never truly grasp such experiences from sitting by a computer or rummaging through old shoe boxes filled with photos. Of course, you must one day sort such photos but be weary, you must always detach yourself from the material versions of your perspectives and experiences. The views will always be better kept in your memory and the stories will always be better played out on your little stage back home, drink in hand, as per usual.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Grand Prelude.

       By now, for those who have risked mental stability by reading my inaugural posting, you have probably come to some conclusions. Before I even dare to think of what those are keep in mind that I am fully capable of self deprecation, in fact it is my own personal opinion that such honesty can become far more entertaining for readers. Yes, Lord save me, I can be more of an empty headed braggart and ass than El Capitano, the unsympathetic military commander from Italy's Commedia dell'arte.  For the sake of the reader I will attempt to tone down some of my pompous literary references but be aware that I am just as surprised as you that the $40,000 piece of paper I picked up recently has gone to good-well...let us just say, 'use'. Oh, and I think with that I have found a decent segway on to something of more relevance, finally!

       Being a student of not only the English language but also English literature has taught me many important things that I hope will be uncovered one day from beneath the haze of those ever-reoccurring all nighters. You know those moments, where you have just awoken but were never literally asleep and you look down at the cluster of words that you've miraculously put in a decent enough order to submit and say, 'how on earth did I manage that!?'. The real kicker is when you get the mark back and the professor has either sympathized with you because of the coffee stain on the reference page or you have actually created something of value and worth. I was, of course, never alone in such battles and because of that have never been more grateful for the amazing people that were there to accompany me through the first lectures and last ceremonies; that brief second in time, 3 if I am feeling generous, when you are finally recognized...along with the geography major you walk across the stage with, thank you very much Nathan Pontius! Ah well, it was all in good fun and what fun we had!

        One of our favourite watering holes had to be The Merchant Ale House, a fantastic on-site brewery. That place was where our lowly arts crowd would frequent, alongside some of our professors we would drink late into the night and often into the morning talking about film or culture and never once feeling out of place but always under-read. I remember one evening we had just released a collection of creative writings put together by the university down the road at a some tiny wine bar. It was a more classy establishment but after a few of the contributors, including yours truly, presented their works we found our way down to the Merch, no surprises! The upstairs area was always packed on a Saturday night so we spent our time between there and the basement, where the true regulars would converse. Now by this time we are feeling quite happy, professors included, and I was upstairs amoungst them sharing a few beverages discussing some of the readings, poetry and fiction alike. I had read a short story I had constructed for the anthology and was given a good reception by the, according to us, elite of Brock's English department when Dr. Martin asked if I had ever thought of getting them published in the grander sence of the industry. Modestly I replied, 'Well I don't really, I-I write for myself, you know?". The four of them were all in agreement about the matter, especially Tim (Dr.Conley), a published writer, who said with great conviction, looking me square in the eye, 'You know what I have learned about publishers? Fuck publishers'. We all had a good laugh, especially Dr Betts who had just poured the rest of Matthew Martin's beer into his cup.  I will never forget the commradery that was established at that place, where we all became students and educators alike.

        Now, it was at this period in time where I had begun organizing some of the preparations for what would eventually lead to my first departure from our brave colony to the land of the colonizers; a place which had once boasted of how 'the sun never set on the British Empire'. It would only be for a few months but I was eager to gain some culture while further educated myself in a place that had a true grasp for literature. I am once again reminded of the night of our anthology's release. I was at the bar discussing the concept of Ballard's mental geography with Dr.Conley, it was a topic I was pursuing for a paper, when I had briefly mentioned my trip. Tim had told me about a few places I should visit and he and Dr. Martin - a native of that isle - were both very encouraging even though I would be missing some of their classes. We cheers-ed  to my first grand adventure and carried on with the drinking. I remember feeling quite excited after that night, though it may have been the company and drinks alike, and my classmates were all very supportive unknowingly to them I would be saying 'so long' quite often during the next few years.

        The entire process had gone on without a hitch. I had been interviewed by both schools I applied to and being, to my assumption, turned down by a school in Southern Wales I was to ship off to Staffordshire, mid-western England. I am fairly certain this was the first time it had occurred as I have never met a more selfless and welcoming people then the Welsh. If there was any sheep shagging going on in that beautiful country you can bet those furry creatures were taken out for breakfast the next day.

        With the time I had before departing for Britannia I had won a few scholarships from the University and Government that would be promptly deposited into the bank of Keele University since I would paying for a full years worth of accommodation. So, to your surprise, the drunkard that I can be did not rush off to the nearest pub on campus upon arrival, and consume in celebration with the money generously given to me our dear government...that was what OSAP was for and I will need to pay that back one day! With my gargantuan hockey bag packed full of clothes for every type of weather I said goodbye to my friends, reassuring them over a hand full of paid drinks (you didn't think I would pay when it was my going-away party, did you?!) that it would only be for a few months and we would be right back to it! I also said goodbye to mum, who, after much confusion only got a few minutes with me before I left to make my flight. The poor woman wasn't only saddened but frustrated. All this would be forgotten as I was able to share a solid week, and several bottles of wine, with the family before departing for New Zealand, but I am getting ahead of myself.

        So off I went, dad being my chauffeur as we arrived at the airport. It would be a 7 hour flight over the pond and I would arrive at 9am British time. And wouldn't it be my luck as I checked in my one and only piece of luggage I was informed that since I had broken weight restrictions by 4kg it would cost me. Superb, I haven't even left the country and I was already in the red.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's a Damn Shame.

        You know it's a damn shame thinking that maybe 30 years ago if one were to convey his or her thoughts, be it for only the self or possibly for public solicitation, they would turn to the mighty pen rather than the mighty Pentium.  Grasping leather bound pages, or in most circumstances small pieces of  parchment, peasants and poets alike would sit by candle light and immerse themselves in exactly that, their own "self" in relation to their own world. Your desk and chair had no sooner become a confessional when you truly begin to appreciate the importance of release; in most cases literary deification. On that note we come to one of the more attractive words in the Oxford Dictionary, the blog. I dare anyone to say such a word and not feel like some cross-bred English bulldog; if ever there were a time for botox! Where are my real house wives of Southern Ontario!?

        I am not particularly happy that I am currently blogging. If I didn't know any better I had done plenty of blogging on most Sunday mornings or following a lovely meal at Guelph University; I never knew grilled chicken would make a young man run to the toilet like a chicken with it's head cut off, it must be retribution from beyond the poultry graveyard! That being said, this was all a recommendation, a suggestion. For God only knows that my eager ways with the locals could eventually leave gaping holes in my memory, leaving its appearance to be no less fragmented than the body of our ever-persistent Coyote as he finds himself on the other end of some lit ACME-grade TNT. So before you thank me for posting such wonderfully articulate, joyful and definitely not cynical...blogs...thank my mother and grandmother. They may be the first shake their heads and look solely to the sky and ask 'why?', but they are the first to encourage and laugh at my colourful array of misfortunes and adventures.

        The irony in all of this is I could have easily gone to some stationary store and bought a journal that even Wordsworth would be proud of . And even more I could sit in the shade looking out over some pastoral scene. But I couldn't use all these fancy fonts and crazy effects! Gee-golly mom, look at me now! Also, now that I think of it, consciously it must have just dawned on me that no one would be able to read all my passionate and worldly thoughts if they were stuck in some stupid book! Well I hope you've found some humour in the fact that after courageously defending a traditional form of written catharsis, I have only led myself to the less than reputable and appreciated form that is...the blog. Seriously, feel your tongue as you say that word.

        While these entries may not have the same scandalous undertones as Virginia Woolfe's diary, with all her talk of the Bloomsbury set and her constant thinking of things 'outside the box', they may still hold some value. The world is there to be seen by eyes that are in turn changed forever by such apparitions. This blog is merely a vessel for my changing perspective on this world; what I have perfected and what has affected me, who I empathize with and who I truly grow envious of, what scares me and what scars me, what enlightens me and what I can bring light to.

Subscriptions are limited, so get it while it's hot and steamy! My illustrious blog has begun and in true form this first posting is merely a justification or an attempt to justify why I have made the decision to start it in the first place.

Salut, Cheers and Slainte!