Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Amsterdam In the Afternoon

January 11, 2008

I received my first comment the other day.  It came from someone in Amsterdam, who wins a free subscription to this blog.  To claim your prize, just click ‘subscribe to this blog’ in the drop down menu at the top on the right when you read this.  It made me think about Amsterdam, and when I think of Amsterdam I think of Vondel Park.

Vondel Park is a great little oasis of calm off of Leidsplein where you can escape the open drug market that is Amsterdam.  There are more spectacular or beautiful parks in other cities, but Vondel Park does the trick and left an impression on me.  After passing under an overpass, there is an open air stage and stands where you can sit and while away the time letting your thoughts take you where they will.

When you enter the green area of the park, there is a nice pond in the middle where people have picnic lunches, read, or just relax.  The path, which takes you through trees for a pleasant walk, goes in a loop so the stoned tourists won’t get lost.  That doesn’t mean you won’t see signs of bizarre behaviour on their part.  I came across a couple of American girls hiding in a bush, rolling a spliff.  They giggled as I approached.  Apparently, they were the only two people in the city who didn’t know…

If you’re lucky you might find some interesting arts and performances nearby, aside from the usual and ubiquitous street performers and buskers.  Turning right onto Leidsplein after leaving the park, I walked a short distance and heard a crowd behind a small warehouse.  I decided to take a look and found a wonderful theatrical performamce involving mechanical dragons, birds, and other creatures, as well as what appeared to be a Japanese warrior, and other humans.

All in all, it made for a very nice afternoon and evening in a city full of tourists shouting about the availability of hash.  My sympathies to the people of Amsterdam who have to live there day in day out.  It must get to them.  So, it’s no wonder the locals like Vondel Park.

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The Nuts Are Out

January 10, 2008

As convenient as online banking is, there is still the odd occasion when you have to go to the actual bricks-and-mortar bank and deal with an actual person.  One such occasion occurred the other day.  I set out, cheque in pocket.

Walking along Broadway, I heard a car horn and shouting.  I looked up the street and saw a drunk, stoned, or maybe just crazy guy in the middle of the road, in front of a stationary pickup or SUV that was blocking the intersection.  As I approached, I got a better look at the guy in the road.  He was wearing an old light blue parka style coat.  As I passed them, I got a better look at him than I wanted.  The moon was out early that afternoon…  Beneath the coat, his pants were hanging below his ass.  Apparently, he doesn’t dress in layers for the winter.  A siren blasted and an unmarked police car appeared out of nowhere.  I guess that’s why they’re unmarked, no?

Continuing along Broadway, I heard another siren blast.  I turned to see two women getting out of the unmarked police car and another unmarked car pulling up from the opposite direction, followed by a police cruiser.  A pretty impressive display of force for a guy whose pants were falling down.  I felt safer already.

After doing a good deed at the bank that caused me to wait far longer than necessary and, therefore, to begin to regret my own niceness, I headed back the same way.  One of those square police vans for prisoners – a modern version of the old paddy wagon, I guess – had joined the other three vehicles.  The guy was surrounded by cops.  I thought they were searching or cuffing him but, as I passed, I saw they were trying to keep his pants up.  One of the women grinned good humouredly as she put some kind of belt on him and told him that should hold them up.  She must have thought, “This isn’t what I signed up for”, before the pants were up.  I wonder who drew the short straw.

And not a taser in sight.

A Winter Morning

January 9, 2008

It’s a grey, wet day in Vancouver.  Nothing unusual about that, in January.  Typical, in fact.  Welcome to winter, west coast style.  From November through April, this is what to expect.

The rain was the second thing I heard early this morning, after the rude awakening of the alarm at 5:30.  It was splashing down pretty hard on the deck and roof outside my window, like a sound effect in a moody, atmospheric song.  Then came the coffee machine, beeping, as I’d set it to.  Good timing.  No milk.  One mug of black coffee later, I’m sitting down with a refill to face my webcam-topped monitor.

I have to confess, I get a kick out of the fact that I meet face to face with people in Korea half an hour after dragging myself out of bed.  It’s way more interesting than the various places I’ve worked around town, and more time efficient.  Commute time?  Thirteen steps from the bed to the coffee machine and eight or nine from there to my desk.  Doing business with Korea is easier than doing business locally!

I tried to go back to bed after the session but couldn’t sleep.  So, I got up and showered and here I am, eyes burning.  I was considering a matinee, but sleep has to come soon.  Batteries must be recharged.

How to End a Movie – With Conviction

January 8, 2008

I watched ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ last night.  This is a movie I ignored on its release, dismissing it as an attempt to glorify religion.  Sometimes, first impressions are accurate.  Sometimes, they’re off the mark.

To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be the kind of movie I would like to make about the crusades.  My only complaint is that it didn’t go far enough.  Like some other films framed by a religious context, it pulls back from the brink of the logical, sensible conclusion.  The slaughter in the name of one god or another, carried out by fanatics obsessed with the idea of owning ‘heaven’, should be enough to put anyone off the idea of religion.  There are a couple lines in the film that drive home the fact that we’d be better off without it altogether.  “You have taught me a lot about religion…”, comes to mind.

But then, near the end, the main character’s Muslim counterpart, another one of the few ‘decent’ people able to see past the different brands of chicanery and superstition and that how one person treats another is a better judge of how good he is, says something like, “Why do you think god does not love you, with all you have achieved?”  Why reassert faith in god at this point?  It seems obvious to me that there were no gods willing this carnage – that we, and we alone, decide on a course of action, choose to take life or not, and achieve things.  Faith in oneself and one another seemed to be the message throughout the movie.  Maybe the producers were afraid of a backlash if they appeared to be advocating atheism.

A couple of Canadian films are guilty of the same thing.  ‘Water’ is an excellent movie set in a Hindu ashram, or widows’ home, in which one young woman is reduced to prostitution and a child, widowed before reaching puberty, is raped.  Yet, even this story of institutionalised abuse and confinement has a character saying “Never lose your faith”.  All I could think was, “For your own good, that child’s good, and the good of humanity, please lose your faith”.

‘The Black Robe’ is another Canadian movie about a 17th century Jesuit missionary who travels with Indian guides to a mission far from anything he recognizes as civilization.  It’s clear throughout the story that he is in the wrong and yet, at the end, when he seems to realize this and that his faith has been misplaced, the Indians, who have been ravaged by disease brought by the other missionaries and now have a choice of killing him or accepting baptism, choose baptism.  The closing shot is a cross with the sun shining behind it, which seems to assert the very religion which has been presented as inadequate and misguided.

Are we really so afraid of offending religious interests that we don’t even have the courage of our convictions to reach a logical conclusion?  Could it be that we have taken respect for religion too far?

Legendary Law of Attraction

January 7, 2008

I was browsing around to see what other blogs are out there.  As I mentioned before, blogging provides insight into other minds and lives.  They range from the mundane to the predictable to the unusual.  It all depends on the beholder, I suppose.  But I came across one blog that deals a lot with the ‘Law of Attraction’.  It’s basically a new age sounding explanation for something that’s essentially common sense.  Mindsets attract similar mindsets and, so, associate with each other.  Hence successful people are surrounded by other successful people and… well, you get the picture.

Anyway, this reminded me of the web site of a woman I met once.  It also mentions the Law of Attraction and a variation of it, the exact name of which escapes me at the moment.  I found the site after reading about her in a magazine.  Let me backtrack for you.

It was about a year and a half ago, the spring of 2006.  I was standing on a bus and turned towards the back.  I found myself looking at a girl with a big, beautiful, flower in one side of her hair.  She immediately said “Hi”, in a sweet voice.  I replied in kind and complimented her on the flower.  I asked her her name and then what she does.  She said, “I’m a burlesque dancer”.

As it happens, I had recently been told by a woman in my neighbourhood I’d met several times over the past few years that she, too, was a burlesque dancer.  I mentioned this and, of course, the girl on the bus knew her.  I commented that its unusual that I should meet two burlesque dancers and that there seemed to be some kind of revival.  She explained that there was.  We talked a little more then I told her I hoped to meet her again some time as I got off at my stop.  I didn’t.

A couple months ago I saw her on a magazine cover.  I read the article, which proclaimed her “legendary”, and learned some about her life story and her “spiritual” approach to burlesque.  It was endearing and interesting, but I felt a little uncomfortable because I realized I’d still like to see her again some time but I felt like I’d spied on her, somehow.  It wouldn’t be fair if we met again because I know more about her than she does about me.

Meeting again always was going to be difficult, read ‘awkward’, at best.  Imagine the scenario.  I go to a burlesque show to find her and then look for her back stage or at the afterparty or something.  I walk up to her and say, “Hi, I enjoyed watching you… taking off your clothes.  Let’s go somewhere for a drink.”  I’ll bet she’s never heard that one before.

More recently, I checked out her web site and found out more about her and that she also teaches self healing, among other things, and coaches people towards self-fulfillment using a variant of the Law of Attraction.

So, what does the Law of Attraction have to say about all this?  That we’re attracted to each other?  She spoke to me first, after all, but I understand a lot of where she’s coming from.  That she thinks I’d make a good client?  Or is the ‘Law’ telling me that, because I keep running into burlesque dancers, they are my ‘tribe’ and that I’m missing out on a great career in the adult entertainment industry?

To tell the truth, I don’t care about the legend.  I just remember the nice girl on the bus who said “Hi”, because she seemed to like me.  Sometimes I wish I’d stayed on a little longer.

I’m So Excited… By Statistics

January 6, 2008

Have you seen the chart?  It’s a hell of a start!  This could be made into a monster if we all pull together as a team!

Apologies to Pink Floyd for borrowing their lyrics but they happen to fit.  Just three days and three posts into this project and I’ve already had eight readers.  Actual readers!  Registered eyeballs.  I’M AN AUTHOR!  And the graph!  A beautiful upward curve.  If I was an investment advisor I’d rate me a solid ‘Buy’.  I may not be riding the gravy train yet, folks, but get your shares in this now while you can.  This is a ground floor opportunity not to be missed.  At no point will the growth curve be longer.

I haven’t even tried to link to any other sites or resources, yet.  I’ll have to look into that to see if I can really get things going.  But people are finding me, anyway.  If the ‘spam’-marked comment can be believed, someone has even bookmarked me.  That means they intend to come back and read me again.  A fan!  A devoted follower!  A repeat customer!  Someone likes what I have to say and how I say it.  I matter.

One of the great things about blogs is the insight they offer into the minds of others.  From a safe distance we can offer up and observe views and opinions that would otherwise be difficult to share in most face to face situations.  You can’t tell people what you really think at work because it wouldn’t contribute to a constructive and efficient environment.  You can’t do it while socialising without running the risk of offending someone or being asked to lighten up.  And, if your family is anything like mine, you can’t even talk openly with them without an argument erupting.  How five siblings could all be so different is a mystery to me.  It’s like we all grew up in different houses.  If your family isn’t like mine, consider yourself lucky and know that at least one person envies you.

 In order to function, we have to live in a neutral world.  Bland.  Beige.  But a functional life is not enough.  There is ‘I am’.  Then there is ‘I am someone’.  By spewing words onto the screen and a file stored on some server somewhere, some unseen, insignificant nobody becomes somebody again.

Less Than Humble Beginnings

January 4, 2008

They say a new year is a new beginning and this one has me thinking of my first beginning.  On New Years Eve I met a woman from the Scottish town where I was born, who happened to be standing next to another woman from the Canadian city I grew up in.

I was in the Cascade, a fairly new pub-eatery with a friendly enough vibe on Main Street here in Vancouver, where I exist.  She was asking about Absinthe.  Do they have it?  Is it the real stuff, like she’d had in Budapest, or the imitation?  I pointed out the two bottles behind the bar and that one looked like the stuff I’d had in Prague, which was unavailable in the west at the time.  I asked her what part of Scotland she was from, cleverly deducing that she was by her accent, and she said “Cumbernauld”.  Well, what a coincidence – that’s where I was born.  Apparently, Craig Kilborn, of Late Late Show fame, was too.  Or his mother was – I can’t remember, there was alcohol involved.

We talked some more and, as it turned out, she’d not only lived not far from the house I was born in, she had also lived in the Maryhill district of Glasgow, where relatives of mine lived.  Pleasantries aside, she then told me how lucky I was not to have grown up in Scotland in general, and Cumbernauld in particular.  If I’d grown up in Scotland, I would probably be an alcoholic, drinking whiskey for lunch, she said.  I recalled stories of visiting relatives for her, in which I was hospitably fed whiskey like it was beer.

She would later say something that reminded me of another unpleasant aspect of life in Scotland.  She asked about my religious origins, making an assumption on my name.  Apparently, in Scotland, people can, and do, guess your religion based on your given name and treat you accordingly.  This is just one aspect of the religious divide there, particularly in Glasgow, where soccer violence has been fuelled by religious affiliation.  The two rival teams – Celtic and Rangers – deliberately encouraged this to build fan support, thus profiting from religious hatred and violence.  I let her know that I rejected all religion as nonsense.

But Cumbernauld, she said, was a bad place within a bad environment.  In fact, it was a bad idea.  A great place to get raped, I think is how she put it.  With pedestrian underpasses replacing crosswalks, it seemed designed for crime.  All part of the ‘new concept’ design of the time.  The lack of foresight is astounding.  Even a child would instinctively know they were a bad idea.  My sister may be the proof.  I’m told her claim to fame is that she was the first person to be hit by a car in Cumbernauld, a town designed to prevent people getting hit by cars.  Probably thinking, “That tunnel looks scary”, the little girl crossed the road instead.  The driver of the car, probably not expecting a child to be crossing the road because he would have been led to believe there wouldn’t be any, hit her.  So, this ‘people friendly’ design actually seems to have been more car friendly, as it kept traffic moving, and put people at greater risk by creating a criminal friendly environment.  Maybe the drugs really were stronger in the old days.

Curiosity led me to visit Cumbernauld, once.  During a visit to Glasgow, where I drank much whiskey, I decided to go see the place of my birth.  For anyone who has never heard of it, Cumbernauld is one of five new towns built in Britain after the second world war.  Others include Eastkilbride, also in Scotland and home of postpunk pop band The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Milton Keynes, in England, which has a reputation for being rather dull.  Anyway, after waiting at least an hour for my connecting bus, I finally got there.  The driver, who had clearly been in no mood to explain the delay earlier, dropped me off at what I initially assumed must have been the wrong place.

Most cities and towns are established and grow in a location for a reason – there’s a good harbour, a river, or a useful resource or good farm land nearby.  Cumbernauld doesn’t appear to have any of these.  It sits in the middle of central Scotland, roughly at the centre of the triangle created by Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Stirling, but not close enough to any of them to be considered a suburb.  I could be wrong, but there doesn’t appear to be any water nearby.  If the land surrounding it is arable, it seemed it wasn’t being farmed.  I know this because the place I was dropped off by the side of the road was also beside open land, empty except for a power pylon near a hill.  On the other side of the road were buildings.  So there it was, in the middle of nowhere with no apparent purpose.

I looked at a map and found I was not only not in the wrong place, I was actually near the street I was born on.  It was just on the other side of the road which, as it turned out, was the main road.  To create the people friendly town that wasn’t actually very people friendly, it seems to have been designed with the main road going around the town rather than through it.  Now there’s a way to create a vibrant, people friendly atmosphere.  I left the emptiness of the main artery and walked into town.  One street in I turned into Lennox Road, walked a short distance and found it.  The house I was born in was a little pebble covered townhouse, identical to all the others around it.  A bit dreary, really, and hardly worth the pilgrimage.  Be careful what you look for, you might find it.  I came, I saw, I left.

This trip planted an idea in my mind that was confirmed on New Years Eve by the woman I met.  I am the product of a failed, terribly misguided social experiment.  This explains a lot.  But, on the bright side, look what it did for Craig Kilborn.  Alchemy?

As for the other woman, we agreed that Windsor is a place people come from.  More about that fabulous metropolis will no doubt come.  In case you’re really wondering, one is married and the other has a boyfriend so, no, I didn’t get my tongue down either throat.  However, it may come as no surprise that the Scottish woman is the one who stood on the bench against the wall and counted down the new year for everyone.

Introduction

January 3, 2008

So I’ve decided to partake in this cultural phenomenon known as blogging.  For anyone who’s interested in following this, I’m challenging myself to write something every day for a year.  Why?  Because the world needs my voice, I tell myself.  Because I want to discipline myself to write more.  Because I have to get things off my chest, blow off steam, impart knowledge, enlighten, express, and create.  Because Mavis Beacon says I need the practice.  Because, regardless of what anyone thinks of it, I’m now a ‘published’ author, and no one can take that away from me.  Along the way I’ll share my thoughts, observations, and insights on people, culture, society, art, politics, the world.  You know – life, the universe, and everything.  Inevitably, subjective opinions will be expressed which means some people may have their own opinions and beliefs challenged and possibly feel offended.  Oh well.  I’ll try to keep it civil. 

I don’t get paid for creative or intellectual pursuits and I don’t make enough money from my recently launched business to live on, yet, so I’ll also have to keep another job.  The end result could be either a total meltdown or greater self-awareness by the end of the year.  Whatever the case may be, it should be interesting.