Canadian nuances

Canadian nuances – Part 7: The grizzly arrival

I remember tossing and turning the night before I left Vancouver. The morning I left was a mixture of brew great coffee/pound down some Ritalin/panic slightly/jump on the bag until the zip merges.

Bad weather circles these big changes. Much like the ripple a fish makes. Will your reward be a fierce archetypal mammoth that exhausts you…or will it be an overgrown flea  – an inflated ending – that brews inside the heart of moody clouds? I digress…

I left in the rain. I paid a cab, and slowly inched towards the yellow submarine. Coffee thundered in my chest, bees and butterflies bounced inside my head like giddy popcorn struggling to get comfortable. I remember driving down Main street. It was 5:30am. The sun was asleep along with the sensible. I watched the rain give the street an unconscious hue.

This was a street I wouldn’t see for a long time. I worked on this street. I cried in the rain. Found friends. Caught snatches of banter. Felt the golden face of the old clock watch over me…an invisible parent on a drunken night. Now I couldn’t mourn for this street or myself. It seemed very far away behind the taxi window, stained with rain.

I arrived at the bus station. I stood in line. I glanced nervously at strangers hoping their story mattered as much as my own. I was leaving home after a frantic week of planning, rhythmic drinking and watered down goodbyes. The anxiety made me drunk. I wasn’t falling over…just everything was in a haze at the station. Conversations flickered past without a glance.

I weighed my bags, paid the extra cash, dragged the dead weight to bus 19. Cabins of steel lined up, perhaps they were saluting me? I think I saw at least two throw a palm over their face muttering “didn’t someone tell this dude to pack less?”

On the bus I watched a movie on my laptop, read a chapter from my book, stared at the mountains and stowed vodka into my flask to oil the joints. It’s nothing to really write home about. The chaos happened, naturally, when I was one hour away from Banff. The moment I felt chuffed about the first 13 hours, collided with a jarring thump under my seat. A passenger in front of me jumped up a minute later and scuttled towards the driver like a frightened cockroach.

We stopped. There were mutters from passengers about us hitting a deer. Planting a murky syllogism in a leader’s head only leads to more marbles dancing across the floor. The driver pulled the bus over, checked the side of the bus and didn’t see any visible signs of trauma.

He tossed a coin inside his head, and continued. Burnt mechanical popcorn crawled through 52 nostrils. Shards of worry and an warning beep drummed faster than the fear in our hearts. We pull to the side of the road for the second time. The young driver stands up to talk to us.

A sense of shame clouds him. He forgets to use the bus intercom and starts muttering something to us. I’m two thirds from the back, I can only assume the first 6 people understand him. Myself and two other passengers raise our voices and ask him to use the magical microphone. We get told there’s a problem with the brake line. We now have a 3 hour wait. A shorter version would be something like this…

The bus dies. Bad news. 3 hour wait. The air conditioner died an hour before the loud thud.  Driver gives up and turns off the engine. Silence. The Wi-Fi dies along with the electrical outlets and we can no longer charge our phones. Now the cry of the 15 month old baby punctuates the situation. Many get up to smoke. We open the emergency windows for air. I walk outside and share my mickey of vodka (neat) with a gaggle of smokers. I tell them it’s neat. No one complains. We stare at the throbbing sunlight on the mountains, the beauty seems so far away now. The vodka paints a smile on me and I hand out a couple of my granola bars like Oprah trying to disrupt that sombre stares. I fall asleep.

I get shaken. I am barely awake. The driver is busy saying too many words that I can’t process. Others ask more questions my consciousness stirs. My Québécois sidekick tells me something like “we’re getting on the rescue bus. grab your shit.” I give a slight cheer, and redemption pulls me into the new bus. Clean, leather scented, warm…all the signs of salvation. I juggle a few things and pound my bag into the overhead slot. Two elastic bars fuck with me. Drum roll please…

A new driver emerges. He’s older, something inside me relaxes. His hair looks like a burnt cigarette. We’re on our way soon. Great. The old bus has an “airlock system” and our baggage is trapped. I’m told we have to wait a few hours for it. One driver says my luggage is headed to Calgary and I must go there and get it. The rescue bus driver tells me it should arrive in Banff (my destination) a day later.

17 hours later I get off the bus. I say goodbye to strangers, and walk into darkness. I have a laptop, coffee grinder, French press (coffee plunger), no coffee beans, a heavy laptop, the clothes I’m wearing and a lonely bag of trail mix. I sit at the bus stop to wait from my brother. My knees applaud the brisk wind. I’m wearing shorts, of course. I feel incredibly sober again.

I spot a bobbing flash-light. I’m not sure if it’s a security guard, or a tourist riding a drunken bicycle. A beaming face emerges. The beady eyes of a brother, an old friend, a bouncy critter with a deeper heart. We fling our arms around each other after four years. We laugh. We separate. Seconds stagnate and we stare. We soak up the soul that lingers behind the eyes.

We embrace again. Holding, smelling, feeling, being.

Canadian nuances, Rantings

Canadian nuances – Part 7: That African Twitch

It’s cold. (Well, only 5°C but you forget…I’m a wuss with warm tropical blood.)

My backpack is crammed with groceries. It has the weight of a dying child. Each hand holds two more shopping bags. It’s around 10pm. I’m tired and starved. All I want to do is get home and throw food at my face until a gravy coloured smile emerges.

I’m walking up Yukon street and my steam-engine breath is pumping ahead of me. My eyes catch those of a girl walking towards me. She looks young. A brief guess puts her as an older teenager or in her earlier 20s.
She sees me and a train of words comes rushing out of her mouth.

“Hey, can I ask you a favour?”

“Do you have a phone on you?”
I freeze for a second. My hands loosely hold the two shopping bags ready to release them. My eyes scan the road behind her. No one there. My brain blurts to the saner part… Are there two guys in the bushes behind me?

I still feel skeptical of parting with my phone on command. I ask her why. Another torrent of words hurtles towards me. She was trying to find her friend’s place blah blah blah. She was from North Vancouver, she felt lost. At this point my Canadian brain says… This chick’s too stressed out to create moving bushes.

I ask her the address. She tells me. I know it. I point to the street behind me that I had just crossed. This doesn’t seem to be enough to quell her bubbling questions. I shrug and pull out my phone. I open up Google Maps and punch in the address she gave me.
“Oh wow, you’re actually looking it up. I’m so sorry to do this to you…”

“Nah, shit happens,” I reply. The red balloon thingy mushrooms on the screen and I see where she was meant to go. Turns out she was only 250m or so away.
“Oh my gosh, thank you so much. I feel like such an idiot.”

A gloved hand flies up to cover her mouth. An embarrassed laugh trickles out into the night air. Within seconds she scampers away again.

I bend down, and pick up my shopping bags again. I chuckle to myself. Those goddam bushes.



Canadian nuances, Rantings, Uncategorized

Canadian nuances – Part 6: Wading through sludge

I spent my New Year’s Eve in an empty house. The warm kiss of sherry coating my lungs, and the gentle sigh of a dog narrating my thoughts. It was lonely, but perfect. Quiet moments give us time to reflect. On everything, really.

I babbled to a few people on Facebook, my thumbs thundering against the glass face of my phone. I checked the time 23:34…shit, time to leave. I threw on my headphones, slung my bottle of sherry back into my bag, began my ascent through the ice and sludge. The succulent anger of Slipknot thundering threw me.

I approach the SkyTrain. Reach for my wallet. Seconds after my hand collides with its porous body, my eyes dart to the sticker adjacent to the turnstiles Free Ride on New Year’s Eve. 8 P.M. until 5 A.M. A smile creeps over me. “Thank you Canada,” I mutter to myself.

I get off at my station. A few of my heavy metal anthems are now slithering across my playlist. I start headbanging and beating drums like invisible ghosts in the air. Somehow this doesn’t seem like enough. I kick up a bit of snow and do an Irish jig in the middle of the street. (It’s like a version of Riverdance you should never watch. Trust me.) A thought came to me this morning as I began etching out the events of last night. I think I’ve fallen in love with this country. Or perhaps it’s fallen in love with me? I don’t care which way you slice it.

During the summer of 2016 I had a romance with a beautiful Japanese girl. I see an interesting parallel between loving a person and loving an environment. There’s the initial awe of something new coupled with anxiety of being able juggle the complexity of it all. Maybe one has an angry parent buzzing in their head saying “You’re in a new country / relationship now. Don’t fuck it up!”

Initially being in Canada felt like wading through sludge. There’s so many details, -isms, directions, slang and faces thrown your way, all that’s left to do is slowly wade through it. The sludge. Now that I’m two and a bit years into being “settled”, there’s less sludge. I can still see parts of it, others haven’t found me yet.

Where am I going with all this? Well, you remember the earlier analogy about the lover? A tipping point comes in any relationship. It is when you let your guard down. You express yourself, and run with it. It feels like flying. It tastes like freedom. That was exactly how I felt a few hours ago, churning up snow and dancing like dyslexic spaghetti.

Yeah…I may have looked like a fool, but I’m cool with that. Man must frolic, and so should you!


scenes from a memory

echos spin through
the dialect of the street
peoples feet shimmer and
evoke the stones of cold motion
the rapids of incense
churn through
treacle trusses
of a stoners song

clouds are sewn into the sky
a slow rope of saliva falls
from a pitbull
his jaw opens and closes

two hands of lovers clasp
and dance away into
suburban sunlight
absorbed in supple scents
and a growing gravitas