Sunday, 24 July 2016

Life in the SLOW lane and an unsuccessful escape attempt

SLOW. But not slow like relaxed, more slow like trying to walk through molasses. That's what life in Vancouver feels like.

Yesterday it was time to bring the MGM (Mean Green Machine) to the bike store to have a new derailleur and holder installed.   Thankfully the bus stop is right across from the hotel.  The bus runs every 30 minutes ???? Oh Great.   I wait for 10 minutes and then the bus is another 13 minutes behind schedule. What's the point of a schedule, you wonder?  Yeah. me too.

Along the ride to pick up the bike at grandma's, I witness more of the ever-present destruction of the city.   Yet another grocery store and parking lot ripped out to make room for even more of those cheap wood-framed 3-4 story apartment buildings.

Hey, people pay a fortune for one of those crappy wooden shoe-boxes, and where there is a demand, a supply will develop.

I used up A LOT of good karma points riding the bike all the way down the hill from grandma, going at speeds up to 40 km/h.  I only realized at the bike store that when I had removed the broken derailleur hanger, I had neglected to tighten the rear wheel again.  When the guy at the bike store lifts the bike up, the rear wheel just falls out.  Time to go and earn more Karma points because I seem to be using them according to the Easy Come Easy Go principle.

The bus back to the hotel is PACKED. When the bus driver asks people to make room in the front by moving backward, everyone just gives him blank stares in the rear-view mirror. I wonder if he ever imagined that he would be a cattle transport driver one day.

I'm leaving my motel today. Finally!  The TravelLodge next door has a room left For $369 per night. LOL. I'm enjoying the thought of my room at Roissy France for $44/night and leave Vancouver to its madness.

But first it's time to bring some food provisions to Grandma and switch bikes. The bike that Zu rode (now there is a good book title) has created some buying interest, so I'll take that one to the Coast to see whether a sale will materialize.  No point of giving it away for cheap; it could always travel to Vietnam in a box and stay there as the Resident Royal Ride.

After swapping the bikes I notice that the one in question has issues that need to be dealt with before I can think of selling it. GRRR.  Swap bikes back.  Only when I get to the mail box to drop off some letters for Grandma do I realize that I'm not carrying a backpack.  Back to Grandma,. GRRRR.    Apparently I'm not the only one having that kind of day today.  Too much carbon monoxide in today's breathing air???

On the way to Horseshoe Bay, a car stopped on the side of the road with a hand extended out of the driver's window forces me to stop.  It's my bank guy.  He's laughing and telling me that I should wear a bicycle helmet and NOT smoke while riding the bicycle.  Good intentions probably but also someone who sees the bicycle as an exercise and health device while it really is a means of transportation. Ah well, lots of people share that misconception.

Thankfully the ferry is late again, so when I buy my ticket at 5:45, my ticket is for the 5:50 ferry, which won't start unloading for another 10 minutes. Good timing which gets me to Langdale at 6:50 pm.

After a brief social visit in Roberts Creek, I get to my hotel around 9:30 pm.  The night and morning teach me a lesson about the Sunshine Coast.  While Davis Bay looks miraculous when seen from the beach, it quickly looses its appeal when seen from a motel with 'ocean view'.

No, it's NOT the view that's the problem.The problem is The Coast Highway wich runs between the beach and the motel and which is host to a never-ending procession of pick-up trucks, construction lorries, camper vans, and regular cars. Traffic is much lighter during the winter months, but right now the tourists are here, and traffic noice is atrocious. Ah well, it's a good thing, another false assumption was rectified.

There is that thing in Munich.  And the Erdogan thing.  Funny thing about Germany. It has become politically acceptable and even correct to insult Turkish president Erdogan in the most childish and unsophisticated ways.  I still haven't figured out why that is so.  Suppressed racism against the 3 million Turks living in Germany?  An no one bothers to point out that the man actually accomplished an amazing feat: In a country with a predominant Muslim population that in addition has long borders 

with Syria AND Iraq, there are no ISIS flags flying. But no one gives the man credit for that.  On the other hand, if black flags should be flying in Turkey, Germans would be shitting their pants because the danger would be at the doorstep to Europe, and they would blame Erdogan for those flags as well.

There is an added twist to this story.  I'm not sure Germans are quite aware of it ;-) While Erdogan is loudly pilloried whenever someone is arrested in Turkey (Read savage un-German dictator), most Germans deep in their hearts are YEARNING for a STRONG LEADER that would solve all of Germany's 'problems'.  I find it very ironic that in today's times, where life is safer and more comfortable than ever before in history, everyone is AFRAID!  Afraid of immigrants, afraid of being poor, afraid of I don't know what else.  So a STRONG MAN would actually be very welcome, but most Germans have a tiny amount of not moral standard, but guilty fear left to not say that out loud. There is a certain history there that Trump voters don't have to worry about (yet). 

So while Germans loudly denounce every action that Erdogan takes, in their hearts they wish they had someone like that to 'clean up Germany' instead of the chubby woman in the ill-fitting clothes.  An NO, I'm not one of them.  Germany doesn't have any problems. Not really. Unless the problem is whining Germans.  But Turkey is not Germany.   So give the man some breathing space and possibly even try to credit him for the fact  that ISIS hasn't marched on European soil yet.

There is a movie. It's called "Look who's back (Er ist wieder da). Think of it as a kind of Borat movie with Adolf instead of Borat.  And while most Germans would be hesitant to voice their true opinion in front of news cameras, put them face to face with The Fuehrer and their hearts melt and their right arm twitches again. WELL worth watching. Here is a TRAILER.

After sleeping a solid 8 hours it's time to have some breakfast (Frankfurter Knackwurst & Comox Camembert with Dijon mustard on Ciabatta bread. YUM) and start packing.  There is a ferry leaving at 12:30 and the next one after that is only at 3:25 pm. That's hanging out for 3 hours in the desolation of Langdale if I miss the 12:30 ferry. MUST NOT MISS FERRY!

The Sea Cavalcade is happening on Gibson's main street, so all the ferry traffic and I have to take a detour to get to the ferry.  But I arrive with ample of time and have devoured my cheesecake with strawberries before the ferry even leaves.

There are two things that I really notice on the ferry.  All the smokers are smoking WITHIN the boundaries of the smoking area defined by yellow LINES  on the floor. Even one Asian guy smoking an e-cigarette. WOW, my head is about to explode being confronted  with this overwhelming nonsense..  The smoke of course pays not the least attention to the yellow lines but is gone with the wind.  That's what human intelligence is wasted on these days.  People are always proud of being smarter than cows, but all they seem to use it for is to smoke within yellow lines on the floor instead of requiring cattle fences like cows.

The other interesting thing is a large group of scouts.  There are lots of little ones (maybe 8 or 9 years old) being herded into and out of the washroom by about 16-18 year old scout herders that in their black uniforms look like prison guards or junior SS applicants.  But instead of hand-cuffs it is  the black handles of scissors that protrude from their pockets.  How odd.
Arriving in Horseshoe Bay

NO, that is not lens glare, that is visible air (even rhymes ;-)

Then it's back to Vancouver. OMG.  Fireworks tonight.  The air is already opaque, more smoke is the last thing Vancouver needs.  Add 500,000 people that are expected to watch it, and most of them will take their cars.  

All else is the same as well:
Go 50 meters, break hard for a red light. WAIT, Almost suffocate in the clouds emitted by the cars hitting the accelerator HARD when the light goes green. REPEAT. REPEAT. ad nauseam
The view from New Brighton Park. I'm enveloped in grain dust (grain elevator right next door) and other dirt (Second Narrows Bridge on the right + Railway line right behind me + the industrial harbour right across the water). Look pretty though, eh?  Pictures can be VERY deceiving ;-)

Why do I eat again at ABC Country Restaurant???? Right, last time I had fabulous French Toast with Peaches.  Too bad they're NOT on the dinner menu. And they ONLY do the dinner menu at 7:30 pm.  Life in a corset.  The fact that I have to wait 15 minutes for the ONLY waiter to finally get to me and to ask him that question doesn't add much to my benevolence or willingness to leave a tip tonight.  Neither does the fact that I've been running around ALL friggin day running errands for OTHER people.

Anyhoo, it's my first night alone at my house-sitting place. Just me and 2 cats. And they're NOT whining.  Yet .....

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Remain in Light ( 72 hours on the Sunshine Coast) and Tremendous Turmoil in Turkey !

35 years ago ;-)
The first part of that post title also happens to be the title of my favourite Talking Heads album.  I bought it when I was 15 (Yes, we're talking Vinyl in those days) and at the time, having been deserted by my mother, I was living at my Spare Mom (Much Missed!), which happened to live right across the street from the Grammar School that I attended at the time.  Suffice it to say that quite frequently I was sitting in her living room listening to this album when I really should have been attending some class across the street.  It was just too easy and being an unhappy teenager didn't help much.  HERE is a listen ;-)  The LYRICS to this 1980 song are also worth READING .
  So yes, in retrospect that album was responsible for me ultimately repeating that school year, but that album together with my spare mom also saved my sanity and maybe even my life.  So there, without that album, you might not have to read all this drivel ;-) 

My first full day in Roberts Creek is relaxing.  I have two naps on the day that arrive, sleep 8 hours solid at night, and have another 1-hour morning nap. 

 Nothing much has changed here.  Hans is still following his routine of alternating between eating to fully wake up from a nap and then taking a nap to properly digest the food he ate. This routine only seems to be interrupted by the daily trip to the public swimming pool (more of a cover story, since he always returns from ‘swimming’ with all the items he could buy on sale at the Sechelt supermarkets).  But he is great fun and a good sport at the jokes directed towards him.  

It's more obscene curving the other way around and dangling from a rope ;-)
When he is napping in the Garage facing the open garage door with his legs spread wide, I quickly dive towards the fridge to get the last remaining Knackwurst and then organize some rope. A quick stomp on the deck on the garage roof and he’s fully awake, only to find a Knackwurst dangling obscenely in front of him.  His groaning only increases by a few magnitudes after I explain to him that I just exposed his inner Hanswurst (Hans his name, and Wurst the German word for Sausage).

I pay for this later (literally) when Hans, Denise, and I each put 5$ on the table together with our best guess of Hans’ weight.  At first he refuses to get on the scale, but after Denise and I test the respective self-estimates of our own weight (I’m guessing 180 pounds and the scale says 180.2; not bad for not having seen a scale in half a year or so), he finally steps up to the task.  With 269 pounds, he is almost 100 pounds heavier than me, almost 3 times the weight of his wife, but he guessed most closely to that number so he is $10 richer.

In the afternoon, I hop on the bicycle for a short ride along Davis Bay to Sechelt, because I have been craving the Hot and Sour Mussels at Pho Kien Giang for quite a while now. 
Davis Bay

I get there by 3 pm, which works out well because the lack of other guests lets the cook concentrate on my meal and deliver it in record time. 
The only thing eft in the bowl at the end of the meal are the tomatoes (not the greatest fan) and the empty mussel shells.  The broth has been spooned to the last spoonful.

When I return to the house, I am exhausted by the cycling and lie down for a nap, but only after having seen the first news reports about a successful military coup in Turkey.  When I wake up 1.5 hours later, the news sounds different; apparently the coup might not have been successful.

The next morning, the Sunshine Coast is no longer sunny.  Both inside and outside it is so cold that I resort to going back to bed, watching a movie, and napping until noon as an emergency measure to keep my feet from hurting from being too cold.

The rest of the day is pretty much spent in front of the computer, whittling down the amount of tasks that have to be done there, a bike trip almost to Davis Bay to get more Knackwursts, and then leaving Hans in the garage to find some peace and quiet while Denise, Max, and I head to the beach.

Not a young dog anymore

What leaves Vancouver at 5 pm, arrives here around 6

Max & Denise among driftwood

The 180 pounds...
...suit me well

When I get up at 7 am I am the only thing stirring in the house besides Max, who gives me his usual puppy look when I sneak upstairs to run the coffee maker.  It reminds me a bit of my 4 am risings on my trip with Zulema, but hey, it's fully bright outside at 7 am and I don't want to miss part of the day!

It's time to return to Vancouver today and the frequent ferry sailings during tourist season will make that especially uncomplicated today. With the chance of rain increasing later in the day, I'm ready early to catch the 10:50 am ferry back to Vancouver.

NOT Bc Ferries' fault.  Stop taking your stupid cars on the ferry !
I get to the ferry terminal at 10:20 and there is already a 1 ferry wait. TOO MANY CARS. Hint: There will NEVER be a ferry wait for bicycles ;-)  While waiting, I spot an older German woman in the passenger area and am about to greet her with "Tutto Bene, Marlene?" but then she leaves after having dropped friends of at the terminal.  Too bad, I like her spirit, and would have loved to use the line, which my spare mom overheard and rightfully LOVED in Bellagio in the fall of 2012.

On the ferry I talk to various Vancouver-bound passengers, a Vancouver-detesting Jamaican guy living in Madeira Park and a family, in which the daughter rides an e-bike and the father transports chickens in a cat-carrier..  

My room is ready when I arrive at my motel and I head over to Denny's for Fish & Rice. Eda is working today, and I'm anxious to ask her whether her family in Istanbul is o.k. 

 Her family is O.K, but she feels as if she just lost her home country over the weekend. She's afraid that Erdogan will further tighten the screws on liberties, a sentiment shared by many.  IMHO the fact that Erdogan has managed to keep black ISIS flags out of a predominantly Muslim country that has borders with BOTH Iraq and Syria is a masterpiece of political maneuvering and might (!) justify the curtailing of some liberties.  

One thing I hadn't even thought of when looking at images of young soldiers confronting citizens in Istanbul:  When they moved to strategic points in their tanks and vehicles, they had NO CLUE that they were taking part in a coup.  They simply were told "There is/was a terrorist threat/attack. Secure that location".  So have some pity with those front line 'coup participants'. Their lives might be ruined just because they followed orders.  And some died for that simple reason.  You haven;t forgotten General Jack D Ripper from Dr Strangelove and all the common soldiers that died for his lunacy, have you?

But don't forget that some of those soldiers opened fire on common Turkish citizens. Not nice, even if ordered to do so under false pretenses.

Being back in Vancouver sucks as bad as usual. 

The baby elephants are living above me and their parents are kind enough to let them stampede freely back and forth until at least midnight.  The exhaust dome that I'm living in doesn't even try to camouflage itself any more; it is openly manifesting itself but everyone pretends that it's just haze that obscures the view of the mountains.  An amazing feat of self-foolery because all one very noticeably smells when coming out of an air-conditioned supermarket is exhaust gas.

I arrive at Denny's at 9:50 am and am informed that their kitchen is closed and they don't serve food. Vancouver never seizes to amaze me.

So I head to the motel lobby to partake in the hotel's free nourishment offer.  Since it nominally stops at 10 am, that is no fun either, in particular since the motel's WiFi doesn't seem to work in the lobby.  Fortunately I have my cell phone with me and use it as internet access.

I will start house-sitting on about Saturday and my hotel room is booked until Thursday. Book again in North Vancouver?  My hotel has no rooms available. For $313/NIGHT (+tax) in the run-down TravelLodge next door? LOL, I think NOT. The only bearable option I have found so far is a $80/night motel in Squamish, but all the reviews seem to say "Whatever you do, do NOT stay here".  Ah well, I'm sure I'll find a couch somewhere.

What else?  Oh right, Vancouver, self-proclaimed "Greenest City" LOL, has finally joined the 21st century. Vancouver now has a bike-sharing program !!!!!!  Naturally it's ludicrous. Bike stations are only available between Main Street and Arbutus, and the cheapest option to participate is $99 for a one year subscription.  There will be 1500 bikes (There are less now) at 23 stations.  Hang on, one year subscription? What if you're a tourist?  Any tourist in Paris can buy a ticket for about $2.50 and use the bike--share program there (24,000 bikes in 1800 bike stations).  So why is there no short term usage plan????    
Wanna bet that City Hall listened to the whining bike RENTAL places on Denman and Georgia, that make a KILLING renting bikes to tourists???  It's like the city building another suspension bridge right next door to that other tourist trap, Capilano Suspension Bridge. It's not going to happen.  

Watch for Vancouver to be the first city in the world where a bike sharing program fails because the ultimate motive is NOT to get people out of cars (what would Jim Pattison, owner of most car dealerships in town, say?) but to make MONEY.

Gotta get out of here!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Ascent out of hell (and darkness)

What can I say? This blog first suffered from too much too see and do outside of Vancouver (there are still about 10 posts from the last 6 weeks that will pop up sporadically) and then the blog suffered from two weeks spent in Vancouver, which always does instant damage to mind, spirit, and the ability and desire to write a blog.

So what exactly happened in the last 2 weeks?

The picture on the right looks like one of those police arrest pictures after being caught driving under the influence.  Granted, cycling under the influence is not exactly uncommon for me, but this is NOT an arrest picture ;-)

What I'm doing here is reading my HAT SIZE off a hat-size-measuring tape constructed from a PDF file found in the internet and printed at my hotel reception.  

Since mirrors are rare in hotel receptions and one kind of needs one to read the numbers on one's forehead, I resorted to taking a picture using my cell phone.  Works!

So WHY exactly would I want to know my hat size????  

Well, there is this guy on Facebook.  He makes traditional West Coast cedar bark hats.  Already back in France, I had contemplated buying one from him (I think of it as a kind of redistribution of money to the ones with less), but when I saw his posting on FaceBook that he had created a Fedora that he wanted to sell or "trade for food", I had to act quickly.  Suffice to say that I met Tiger at The Carnegie at Main & Hastings in Vancouver.  This is how I learned that The Carnegie is NOT the corner where all a LOT of people hang out at the corner, but that it is actually The Carnegie Community Centre.

Tiger made a comment of me wanting to ride off on the bicycle while wearing the hat, but I ignored him.

Foolishly so, because on Kingsway a wind gust ripped the hat off my head, and two car drivers made not even the tiniest attempt to avoid running over it. 

What can I say?  Thankfully the cedar bark was still drying, because the hat did NOT shatter, and with a bit of re-moistening and remolding it is almost as good as new.

What else happened in the last 2 weeks?  Most of it is lost in the blur of car traffic and noise and supply trips to Grandma. But a very few events stick out.

There is the day when I see 4 fit guys in their late 20s or early 30s standing at the railing of one of the towers of Lions Gate Bridge, all quietly staring onto the water below mid-span and one of them holding a flower bouquet.  Oh FUCK, not another one! is all I can think.  As I see the same bouquet withering tied to the railing at mid-span it serves as a daily reminder of what this city must feel like to those that don't know that there is a sane world outside of it.

And it's not only the 'concrete without pity' attitude of this city, the weather doesn't help much.  What other place on earth can offer such gloominess in July???

 Add to that the filthy air of North Vancouver that in the civilized world  not even be present downwind of an unfiltered brown-coal fired power-plant

Last night I was riding my bicycle through Stanley Park at about 11 pm. The hotel room above mine was used to house an elephant or an overactive child with wimpy parents and the constant back-and-forth galloping had driven me out of my room.  For some reason I had assumed that the park was closed to traffic after 10 pm, but the rush-hour-like onslaught of cars quickly taught me otherwise. I will make no pretense of pretending not to know what a lot of the drivers were doing in the park at this hour.  I already got the idea from a lot of cars starting to pass me on the bicycle but aborting the passing when they were right alongside me.  A park-maintenance vehicle then finally drove the message home.  The car was passing me and then slowed down in front of me.  Not to cut me off or to force me to brake.  It was one of those pickup trucks with a glass rear cabin window.  The driver was holding something up in the middle of the window, but I could only see it silhouetted against the brightness of his headlines in front of the car.   
The picture of the pick-up truck has been changed to protect the guilty !
In retrospect, I wish my headlight was brighter or pointed higher up, then I would know what the colour of the currency bill(s) was, because that's what he was holding up. 

Also in retrospect I am thinking that it never hurts to earn some extra money on the side but at the moment I was so flabbergasted when I realized what he was holding that I took a quick right turn when he kept going straight (so to speak, pun intended)

Also yesterday, but before the moment when I almost found money 'on the street', I took another picture of the daily glacial traffic parade, 
 AND my new sandals arrived.  

By now I know which shoe brands I like, which sizes fit my feet, so I can do the whole thing online, and don't have to be bothered by the limited selection in shoe stores.  My old Teva sandals arrived in the mail in the Spring of 2015 and they needed replacing. No wonder, since they had born my weight in the following locations:  Los Angeles (twice), UK, Belgium, Northern France, Hong Kong (twice), Vietnam (3x), Cambodia (twice ), Grand Canyon, South Korea.  Not bad for one pair of shoes, especially since they were not used in motor vehicles but almost exclusively on foot and on bike. But that itinerary did finally wear them out.  Meet the new ones, to which Grandma only could say "They're very colourful". 

Good timing. I am wearing them during my escape! There are no pictures of the ride to Horseshoe Bay and the ferry trip. Staying in Vancouver seems to have an anesthetizing effect on my desire to take photographs.  But that should re-awaken shortly.

Stay tuned ....

Breaking news...
Military Coup in Turkey!
I was just there ....
Turkish people were happy, I hope that doesn't change ......