Saturday, 28 May 2016

Glimpsing a view through the thinning haze or T minus 6 days

No, it's not Vancouver's exhaust gas haze I'm talking about.  By now only an EMP will be able to thin that one.

But there are signs.



Only 8 days until I finally get to leave this town again.

That probably should read No Hope

This morning I was reading a side-sentence in the German news magazine Der Spiegel "the president dined with ... Bourdain ... in Hanoi".


WHAT?
not my pic (unfortunately ;-)


My favourite city, my favourite TV show, and my favourite US Prez, all united within a spherical bubble of 3 meters diameter?   THAT is soooo coool.


I'm meeting Denise in West Vancouver for lunch at the Village Taphouse.  Having a great time and the wine is very drinkable but what's with the food?  Their Stinging Bee Pizza is supposed to be SPICY, but then West Vancouver is a place where the artificially dewrinkled population already gets flatulence from looking at a chili pepper. Given that one of the best advice to the ageing is 'Never trust a fart', Depends undergarments are already getting a workout here, so no surprise that my 'spicy' pizza is rather tame, to put it mildly, no pun intended ;-)

The weather forecast predicts very light rain for today, something like less than 1 mm all day long. When I meet Denise, it looks for a while as if for the first time ever the Vancouver forecast was worse than the actual weather. Not a drop.  When I get back to my hotel room at around 11 pm, my undies are soaked. And I'm wearing Goretex pants and jacket.  It was F-ing POURING for HOURS.  So things are still normal in Vancouver. 
Before it hit Vancouver
Yesterday evening I finally got around to assembling my new bicycle that has been sitting around in a box for the last 2 weeks. This is when I notice that they sent me the 2015 model instead of the 2014 model that was on their website and which I wanted and ordered.  Ah well, at least they didn't send me a tractor.
Can't wait for this baby to fly !
Went to Denny's this morning, wearing my burgundy SuperStore Cords and my burgundy Cambodian Monkeys-pointing-at-the-sun T-shirt. Two Jocks exit the diner, look at me, and one of them says " That's a fucked-up outfit".  "Glad you like it" I reply, thinking only how happy I will be able to leave this reeking-armpit-of-the-planet place that has managed to shun civilization to the present day.

When I visit Grandma to unpack one of these clay plates made by 2 women in Vancouver in the 70s, I also get a letter from Fedex. The bill for their customs brokerage services. More than CAD$100 seems steep given I really didn't have a choice. But on the other hand I am glad that the shipping bill listed a 'bicycle' instead of an 'electric bicycle' because importing one of the latter would have cost me another $250 extra. Glorious Canada!

I find a spot right off the busy Capilano Road where wooden stairs lead down to the Capilano River, to a spot with no soul in sight. But the car noises are audible over the rush of the water ;-(

I get an e-mail from Zu, my travel companion, inquiring whether she should bring a VizzyVest. I tell her, only half in jest, that she'd be cycling alone if she wears one of these.  That would remind me of Canada toooo much and I'm trying to get away from all that safety-nannying crap.  No more cops droning "We are only concerned about your safety".











Slowly but surely I'm starting to think about the trip (epic journey? ;-). It's no longer just the desperate desire to get out of Vancouver that I felt in the last few weeks. That's being replaced by the excitement of new things that I might see and new aspects of human nature I might discover. Pictures in planned chronological order ;-)









If this ain't Vagina Art, I don't know what is !










No, this ain't your typical 10 days in Puerto Vallarta or Benidorm, I agree. My remaining time is getting too short to spend it somewhere getting bored!  In addition, there is that saying. Man plans and God laughs.  Just in case S/He decides to cut it back, it might be wise to plan BIG ;-)

Speaking of the devil  about an hour after I upload the above pictorial itinerary, I visit Grandma, who only says "I don't know how often I have fallen today". OMG! WTF! and whatever other acronym stands for MERDE.  This hasn't happened before.  Fortunately Grandma isn't the type of person who will keep lying around the floor. She'll pull herself up with her finger nails if need be. But still worrying. What's even more worrying is the fact that I just don't know what to do.  And I remember the last time that happened and that George was dead a few days later.  NOT a good feeling.

HOWEVER, fears of Grandma's onset of decrepitude have been greatly exaggerated, because she is back to normal when I visit her the next evening.

Time to concentrate on the trip again.  And my NEED to get out of here is emphasized again during breakfast at Denny's.  There are two women sitting behind me. No, I don't turn around.  My favourite waitress, she who is always cheery and spreads joy both in her voice and through her facial expression asks whether they want some coffee to start with. In return, she gets in one of those voices that always reminds me of a squeaky water tap the answer. NO, just some water.  No Thank You, No Please.  Some people really should be taught the difference between Server and Servant and Servitude.  I feel sad for my cheery waitress and eat quickly because now TWO squeaky tap voices are discussing Sales and other boring matters behind me.  







Thursday, 26 May 2016

Hay Buhay (or Sigh! Such is life)

First post in a friggin' month.  Vancouver is wearing me down. As usual.  It's not just the stench of the cars, it's also the horrible noise and the dirt and grime every passing car throws up from the road. After an hour bike ride, my sweater stinks like it's been hung behind an exhaust pipe.





So I happened to watch one of those life-changing music videos again: Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel. Watch out people, this is not just one of those 'pretty' songs. It's about finding freedom in LESS. Listen to the lyrics and note how the tone changes from "Grab your things, son, I've come to take you home" to "You can keep my things, they've come to take me home".  Life is BETTER without an iPhone and other iCrap!






No-where to go! This is trivial. Imagine what transgendered people in North Carolina feel like !



If you follow the TV ad's call to visit 'Supernatural British Columbia' don't bring a zoom lens !
pretty


less pretty


yuk

So I just bought a new laptop.  

New laptops come with pre-installed Anti-Virus software.
They work for free for 2 weeks, then they want money.
No problem, I just download and install an internationally recognized FREE Anti-Virus software.
Now they detect EACH OTHER as MALWARE.
My new laptop has become unusable. (20 reboots later it works again, at least for now)


What's this right in front of my hotel?  Stop and Go traffic all day long.

I''m just about to enter the motel's laundry room, when from the next room (containing the motel laundry for towels), I hear Richelle, head of the Philippine cleaning brigade, talk in Tagalog to her colleagues.  Something Something Boo Hi Something Something. My ears get pointy WHAT was that?


I walk over to the Hotel Laundry and ask the assembled representative team of the Philippines "I just imagined hearing an expression Boo Hi.  Does that mean anything in Tagalog?


The reason for me stopping in my tracks is that there is a German expression. Don't make such a grand Boo Hi of it.  That expression has been around forever, and everyone in my family knows it. But no-one, except yours truly knows where the Boo Hai comes from.

It's Tagalog and it means ALIVE.  So what does that say about the German mentality ? ;-)



And yes, Hay Buhay roughly translated means "Sigh, what a life" or simply Oy Vey



Glorious Canada. New rules specify that I need a valid Permanent Resident Card to return to Canada.  Airlines will not let me board a flight to Canada without one. Processing time for a renewal is 8 weeks !!!!  And NO, the capitalist country Canada does not have the pay-us-xxx-$-extra-and-you-can-have-it-tomorrow option that the socialist country Vietnam does. Go figure. 


So what does a frequent traveler do to return to Canada?  It seems that the ONLY option I have is to apply for a VISA at the Canadian office in PARIS (France).  Otherwise I can't come back home.  HOWEVER, if I get caught under the influence at the wheel of a car in France and that becomes known to Canadian officials, that renders me automatically INADMISSIBLE to Canada and my visa would be refused.  OK, drunk drivers suck so I can understand that one, but knowing Canada and the direction it's going, 5 years from now it will be smoking a cigarette in public that will render me inadmissible.  There might not be 'place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation' as the fabulous and much-missed Trudeau declared such a long time ago, but the state seems to be sniffing around everywhere else.

Speaking of sniffing around:  Is anyone else wondering why Microsoft is giving Windows10 away for FREE, is even advertising it, and will most likely make the upgrade MANDATORY?  I have been clicking away those annoying messages for months now on my old laptop, and just this morning the fuckers (Yes, you Microsoft) didn't even give me a choice anymore an just shut down my laptop and started installing it.   Microsoft manhandling its customers to give something away for free?  That doesn't make sense!

UNLESS, the NSA has developed new spy software that they can't smuggle into user's PC's the usual way, so that they have to resort to this way.  Orwell showed vision when he wrote Nineteen-Eighty-Four in 1949. The second popular warning shot came with The Matrix. 
But Gee, everyone's happily dreaming on ...

Next happy moment: the new bike (a twin to my present e-bike) I have ordered in San Francisco doesn't ship for 10 days. I'm starting to panic because I need the bike on June 5.

The most beautiful duck on Beaver Lake
When it finally ships, I get a phone call from a Fedex office in Ontario. I have to fill out paper work to appoint them my official Customs Broker.
2000+ souls paid big bucks for their chance to get diarrhea in arctic waters.  Anything is better than Concrete City!




Yes, and somewhere in there is  May 8, which means that George has been missing from our lives for 2 years now.






Then finally the bike delivery day rolls around. Fedex has promised to call me 2 hours before the actual delivery time, so that Grandma doesn't have to deal with too much.  But then today is another special day, so we'll see how that works. May 13, a Friday !!!!    At the end of the day, the bike has been delivered.   And what is this light in a sea of darkness?  The Fedex guys didn't demand tax or duty payments before handing over the box.  Unheard of in these days of money and information grabbing governments.  Then I remember something about bikes being tax free in BC. After refreshing my memory and a quick internet search:  Bicycles are PST exempt in BC,  BUT NOT E-BIKES.   GST has to be paid on all bikes.   So I should have been dinged an extra painful 12%.  


Here is another SUPER-NATURAL BC but don't bring a zoom lens series:





Riding an e-bike gets you to areas of a town that you'd never see otherwise.  The more I see of this city, the less I like it.  All those shiny expensive new cars moving in the stop-and-go traffic at about the same pace as the homeless pushing their shopping carts full of collected empties to the next collection station.  But it's like they live in different dimensions.  They two groups are invisible to each other.  For those with more money, they're afraid of catching something.  For those with more wisdom, what's the point of looking at empty heads in metal boxes?




Seems it's a bad time to own a fishing boat in Chile.  High ocean temperatures have killed the fish and there is a sea of dead fish lining the beaches.    Given that there is also the issue with the risk of the world food supply failing because human is managing to kill the bees with pesticides,  I finally understand why the Egyptians in that biblical story about the 7 plagues were so stubborn.   No one paid attention.  They just kept on following the same old routine.    So, have you driven a car yet today?



There are glimpses of light in this city. Strangely they all come from unorganized individuals at the lower end of the income scale. This woman and her companion are found every other day (more or less) in front of Waterfront Station in Vancouver.  Finally some STYLE and GOOD music. A hint of life in mindnumbingly boring Vancouver.


video



On one of these days, I hand out 2 $20 bills to the apparently needy.  Yes, the excuse used by most people is that it is such a big problem that a single donation doesn't solve the problem. So people give nothing.  The other excuse not to give is that the beneficiary will use the money for purposes that the benefactor doesn't approve of.  So people give nothing.
That soft coloured haze. So romantic, but just another indication that I'm living under a huge dome of exhaust gases


The 40-60 year old women walking their dogs here probably have no idea how funny that sign is !
Somewhere in here I receive my Hopi bracelet (replacement for the one I lost in the Hot-air-balloon mishap in Siem Reap) and I'm getting a pedicure together with Wanda.


Gold fish in a Vietnamese Restaurant on Kingsway. Cam On!

There is a younger guy sitting with a cup in front of himself in front of Waterfront Station downtown.  I drop all my quarters into his cup, when I notice his very nice but filthy clothes. I also read his sign. "Sorry 4 bugging you ..." I don't even read the rest. I've heard that line so many times before from someone very close to my heart. I step away a few meters and check my wallet. I have one more $20 bill than I thought I had.  So it has to go. The guy is asleep sitting behind his cup, speaking to him has no effect, I have to tap his knee.  I give him the bill and walk away.  About 2 minutes later, after visiting a bank machine, I see him and his backpack walking through the station to catch some transportation.  It's that easy ;-)

Another highlight (pictured above) This one I already saw a few years ago on Commercial Drive, but in those days he wore a long kilt and horns on his head, which worked fabulously with the hoofs he's standing on ;-)   All his stuff travels in this big box trailer which actually is an E-BIKE!     He might not be John Galt, but he probably knows him.  (Wasted on anyone who hasn't read Atlas Shrugged yet. And DO NOT watch the movie).
video

Later that day, I'm in a foul mood.  The city is getting to me. I cycle under a low bridge that is packed with cars lining up to get onto Lions Gate Bridge.  Under that bridge I have frequently observed an old guy in a long black frock, who probably also sleeps on the mattress placed right under the pavement. For a while now I've had it in my head to stop when I see him and offer him some money. Life without running water, central heating, washer, dryer can't be that comfy and I want to try to help make it a tiny bit easier.  And there is the black-clad figure. I stop, awkwardly present my suggestion, and as usual am blown away by what an easy way the homeless have talking to other people. He accepts my donation and within seconds we are engaged in conversation about e-bikes, the lack of fresh air in the city, etc. etc.  What I had taken for an old man is actually a bearded guy younger than me.  What makes him look old is his way of walking, which stems from a time when he managed to break his back (literally) trying to stop a gold-mining sluice floating down a river.  He is convinced that his determination and his year of using a walker and then pushing a bicycle around saved him from the wheelchair. This guy living under a bridge has more life in his eyes than any BMW or Porsche driver I have encountered in this city, and it most likely will not have been the last time I stopped under this bridge.






So there is a big fire that incinerated part of Fort McMurray. That is the town at the center of the Canadian Oil Sands.  A lot of those houses were built at the peak of the Oil Sands Boom, when welders and workers could make in excess of $150 / hour.  All of Canada is collecting money for the victims of that wildfire and now distributions of $600 are made to every adult and $300 to every child affected by the Red Cross.  I've also seen job offers for clean-up and basic rebuilding to surrounding First Nations for $10 to $12 /hour.  


I'm not sure whether there is a fire in Fort Chipewyan, on Lake Athabasca, not far from Fort McMurray. Just by the names of the two places you can guess the ethnic makeup of the population. Fort Chipewyan did not benefit as much from the Oil Boom as Fort McMurray.  Quite the contrary actually.  The smoke stacks of Fort Mac only enriched the ground of the hunting land and the water of the lake. With mercury and lead. A lot of it.  Fish are deformed. Wild game is contaminated. Cancer rates among the residents are shooting through the roof.


Residents of Fort Chip are NOT getting any money from the Red Cross.  Adding insult to injury, government and industry won't even acknowledge the damage done by Big Oil, despite various self-financed studies by doctors and scientists.  Oh Canada, what a shame!