Moving day

I haven’t really had the will to write anything for a while now, but I am forcing myself to sit down and write this blog because it is quite brilliant – one of those things that really needs to be written. I’ll probably serialise it a little bit because it is quite complex and the story is still ongoing.

Anyway, as I mentioned in a previous post, we were having issues with one of our flatmates. Mark came back from the USA and was dismayed (to say the least) to see Matt still hadn’t left. He told me he had words with Matt as soon as he came home, then went into his bedroom to find one of Matt’s cats had thrown up on his bed – a real warm welcome home!

Mark and Roger decided the kick out date was Saturday 15th – having waited one month for Matt to leave, two weeks of which he hadn’t paid any rent. Mark’s girlfriend Hannah, their friend Raj and a couple of other people came round to help out with the removal – Matt took serious offence to this, seeing it as us trying to stand as a united front against him. We must have been the least threatening heavies in existence.

Essentially we had 8 hours of melodrama trying to get Matt to agree to leave the house. He claimed he didn’t know why he was being kicked out (“I am fighting an injustice!), that the thefts had nothing to do with him (he had already blamed several friends of his at different times) and that the law was on his side.

To prove this last point, Matt called the police. In the interim, he looked up the B.C. laws online – then read them out. Roger told him these laws didn’t apply to him because he hadn’t signed a lease (Mark, Roger and Jesse – the guy whose room I took – are lease holders; Matt moved in on the same unwritten agreement I did). This led to the highlight of the day’s arguments:

Matt: “Dude you can’t just interpret the law!”

Roger: “What do you think a lawyer does?”

Matt: “…You hipster rich kids with your university degrees! You know nothing!”

One plain clothes officer showed up after Matt’s call, who arbitrated this highly logical, intelligent argument – and told Matt he was in the wrong. The officer left, but Matt kept going. I left at this point to go downtown, but when I returned an hour or so later, nothing had changed. Matt’s belongings were mainly still in his room, there were arguments going on in and out of the house, and Matt’s girlfriend Kelsey was on the grass at the front of the house with the boxes that had already been removed.

I went back inside just after Mark changed the locks (which now, due to the wonderful branding, reads “DEFIANT” on our front door) and we had a discussion about what was going to be done: either let him back in until the end of the month; or keep going and kick him out right there and then. We went with the latter option – the former would just lead to the same stresses all over again delayed for a fortnight.

I asked what had happened since I had left and apparently all I missed was more melodrama: Matt – who had lung cancer (or so he said, sometimes it’s hard to tell with pathological liars) – was at times writhing around on the floor and allegedly coughed up blood, screaming “you’re killing me with the stress! You’re shortening my life with this shit!”.

He was trying to blackmail Mark and Roger into letting him stay – trying to play on their compassion. I am glad I left this post long enough to find this great accompanying quote in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

“Why yes I can,” said Midas Milligan, when he was asked whether he could name a person more evil than the man with a heart closed to pity. “The man who uses another’s pity for him as a weapon.”

Then the police had returned. Matt had called them again. Two cars this time with four uniformed officers – perhaps just a little over the top.

Two of them spoke to Mark and Roger, the other two spoke to Matt and Kelsey. I stayed inside with Hannah and the others. After maybe half an hour of deliberation, the police Matt had called said he had to be off the premises “by sundown”. A nice catch-22. Mark and Roger wrote up a contract on the spot saying Matt could use the garage to store his belongings in until the end of this month, then they had to be gone.

Kelsey came by the next day to pick up the cats. You’d think that would be the end of it…


The Reckless Spending of Money I Don’t Have.

One of the best things about Vancouver is the massive Public Library. Every time I visit I find something new, like in my first week here when I found books of sheet music covering the entire career of Joni Mitchell – including, somehow, the difficult jazz years in the late 70s, with Jaco Pastorias’ bass lines notated perfectly. Today, I found nothing short of epiphany.

I think it is safe to say at this point I am a geek. I read four books at a time and brag when I get the highest mark in the class. Today I took it to new levels by bringing my own books to the library.

Instead of going all the way up to the seventh floor – where they have the cool study tables I like to read at – I stopped at the third floor, where they have the Literature and Social Science books. I found tomes of Yeats’ letters and a book I never knew existed co-authored by Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood (which adds another hurdle to my race to read everything Huxley wrote by the end of the year – there could even be more of which I’m still not aware!); and then at the end of the literary tunnel, the arts magazine section!

Someone had left out a magazine called Broken Pencil which I started reading by accident and ended up continuing to read until closing time (sorry Huxley). I had a look at their website and they offer a five-month internship programme which looks really, really good. I have about seven months to spare after my handshake-agreement comes to an end with the rooms I’m in at the moment, so I have contacted the magazine to see if they will take me on after September.

The majority of Canadian culture magazines seem to be coming out of Toronto – a city which experiences horrible, wet-heat weather in the summer, by all accounts (from biased  Vancouver people) – so I may look into other magazine internships in the city during the winter-leg of my trip.

Any internship will of course be unpaid, so I’m going to have to come up with some sort of financial plan. Again. The one I wrote up months ago hasn’t come to fruition because I still have no job in Vancouver. Money is increasingly tight and will continue to be unless I get some sort of income in the next few weeks. But of course, Vancouver Public Library (I still laugh at the anagram VPL because I am immature) provides: as I was leaving the library, I noticed signs for a couple of poetry competitions – with prizes in the $800 range. I have about three days until the deadline to knock up some poems, send them off to whatever authority I have to send them to, and grow some Ezra Pound style facial hair so they can’t tell I’m a fake.

Wish me luck!


One of my flatmates has been asked to leave. Apparently things have been going missing around the house, and the hefty straw that broke the eviction-camel’s back was $100 straight out of Mark’s girlfriend Hannah’s purse a week or so after I moved in. Matt came up with a number of strange and disparate excuses, including a claim he had heard people coming into the house. Mark and Roger can’t trust him anymore and asked Matt to move out by May 1st – a week on, he still hasn’t left.

It’s a shame, as I like Matt – he is the guy with the Lion Rampant flag in the front window. On the plus side, when he does go, he will be taking his cats. I realise I had listed the cats as a plus point to the house when I moved in, but they really, really hate me. I’ve never experienced cat-hatred before, but these felines despise me.

In trying to gain their trust, I thought new names would help. I renamed Zena, the female cat, as Cyanide…

… and the man-cat, I renamed Schrödinger.

Mark went home to Wisconsin for his birthday, so Roger and I are trying to deal with it ourselves – Roger has gone to the landlord and the government to help out. My role has been limited to trying to find a replacement roommate, so I put adverts up online and on notice boards.

So far there haven’t been many responses: the city is full of empty rooms for rent just now because the universities are finishing up for summer. The responses I have had, however, have been borderline crazy. This is my favourite one:

Just saw your ad and would be disposed to renting from you.

I was born in and raised in Europe 26 yrs ago and pretty much moved around Europe half of my life until my parents Decided to settle in England where I live now. I’m a matured, Vivacious, career driven individual. I do not smoke and drink are very sparse occasions (probably will not even consumes up to 5 liters in year) which might be buoyed something very special like a job promotion or maybe a best friend’s wedding (lol).

I am also not opinionated and will never condemn anyone for their sexual, religious inclinations or what so ever important variables. I think the day we perceive ourselves beyond such crossing, there would be world peace and visceral love.

I plan on staying in Canada for at least 3 years minimum work because my contract
is for two years and I will be working for Cross Bow Technology. So I should be able to sign a year contract there is need for it.

Kindly respond to my e mail when you can.
Have a spectacular day!

PS: “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.”

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Four and Twenty Blackbirds

On April 19, Vancouver parks board voted unanimously to ban smoking in the city’s 200 parks and 18 kilometers of beaches, extending the current ban on smoking within 6 metres of doorways, open windows and ventilation. The extension comes into force on September 1 this year.

The next day, April 20, is an unofficial holiday in Vancouver – an event which, according to the supporters and mcs at the event, “doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world”; but due to the timing, it seemed like a knee-jerk reaction to the new law.

Four-Twenty is a North American institution, celebrating cannibas culture, leaning towards acceptance and legalisation of the drug. The Vancouver celebration saw stalls erected to sell marijuana and paraphrenalia, with around 3000 people collecting around Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery, most of whom were openly smoking pot.

Along with the vendors, the square had a lot of music (live and canned), dancers and street performers; including the ubiquitous Spandy Andy.

Although the event was mainly about cannibas culture – including stalls where political lobbyists tried to sign up people to pro-marijuana political groups – there was also a strong anti-war message, with many stalls dedicated to pulling Canadian and American troops out of the Middle East as well as one protesting the military involvement in Haiti.

Vancouver itself is very liberal when it comes to cannibas. The 420 celebration was monitored by police, but drug laws were not enforced. The art gallery had ambulances on standby and the city had hired people to clean up the site. In other words, the city was entirely behind the “smoke-in”.

I overheard someone speaking to a policeman:

“Hey officer, how did it go for the most part?”

“It gave me a sore head.” (laughing)

The site itself was in a very prominent place, hemmed in between the art gallery facade, Sears and the Fairmont Hotel.

And of course, there was attention from the mainstream media.

As a sidenote, the gallery facade is a handpainted mural called “A Modest Veil” in the style of Taiwanese fabric designs, designed by Taipei-based artist Michael Lin. The mural “invites visitors to reconsider the building’s history and its neo-classical architecture, while celebrating the city’s diverse cultural traditions,” according to the gallery’s press release, which becomes all the more potent when combined with a gathering of this size, transcending racial divisions. The mural itself is also a wonderful reflection of the city during this month, since most of the streets are lined with blooming cherry blossoms.

Another macabre day trip

The day before I left Seattle for Vancouver, I was on a mission. I had done all the touristy things – the music museum, the pointless Monorail, the vain attempt to find Bruce Lee’s gravestone, and had been at the foot of the Space Needle (there was no way I was going to pay $20 to go up to the top) – except for one: Kurt Cobain’s house.

Even though Chris couldn’t navigate his way out of a paper bag, GPS made getting there really easy. Just as we punched the address into the Sat Nav, the awesome new Hole song came on the radio, and I heard it for the first time. It was a sign!

You can see right through the front gates to the house where Cobain shot himself in 1994:

Next to the house there is a small park bench preserved as a shrine to Cobain’s memory, covered in graffiti messages, coins, bangles, flowers and cigarettes:

The messages are generally over-the-top reverential towards Kurt and his work and Nirvana and, for some reason, Dave Grohl. Of course, the bench could not escape the “Courtney did it” controversy:

I added my own message, telling Kurt not to let all these messages go to his head; that he wasn’t actually all that good anyway; that there is a real cognitive dissonance between the hype surrounding Nirvana and his actual level of talent; that not only did he not invent grunge, but Neil Young did it better.

Our house is a very very very fine house!

I realise I haven’t posted anything in about six weeks. Yes I’m lazy, yes it undermines everything a degree in journalism stands for; but lay off, all right? It’s been a busy month.

I just moved into a proper house. I have a basement flat with my own kitchen and bathroom, sharing the house with three other guys and two cats who live upstairs.

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where George Bush Sr. moves in across the road? Remember his ridiculous big house?

This is the house across the road from me:

And this is our house:

In its defense, the rent is cheap, and it’s fairly nice inside. There is a library with so many books I want to read that I won’t have to spend a million bucks on reading material to keep me happy – and in good time too, since I just finished all the books I brought with me. This summer is going to be all about completing my aim of reading every Huxley novel; then ruining my life by reading the entire Ayn Rand collection on the book shelf. And if I get really dark, there is a whole host of existentialist lit as well.

The Lion Rampant isn’t mine, by the way; one of my flatmates is Scots/Irish and proud of it. There is a Gaelic phrases poster on the door to the main bathroom. Oh, and of course, Gaelic phrasebooks on the bookshelf – though I think I’ll stick to Kierkegaard.

The basement also has a fully stocked rehearsal room, with at least five guitars, all the amps anyone could ever need and a big drumkit – not to mention all the weird other instruments dotted around: glockenspiels; violins; bongo drums… The living room boasts a massive record collection and loud, loud, cat-scaring speakers.

The house is a block away from the Skytrain, so it takes 10 minutes tops to get downtown from here.

Oh, and of course, this is the view from the street, facing north.

I will, at some point, write up some more posts about when I was in Seattle, Boston and Vermont. I have almost no photos of my own from then: everyone else had cameras and it seemed a bit redundant. Plus they knew what they were doing.

Unmade bed

Today I visited Seattle’s Experience Music Project and Sci-Fi Museum.

Maybe I should start at the beginning – yesterday I took a bus down to Seattle. Lastnight, I checked into a hostel in Seattle, and my roommates were two Australian guys and a girl from New Zealand; and we all seemed to click. We went out for beers and bad music in some Seattle dive (the only way to listen to music in Seattle, home of grunge!), and we got to talking about the museum. So that’s how we ended up there today.

The whole building is incredible – dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, the walls are made of sheet metal, none of which are straight; and you can access it via the famous Seattle monorail which cuts right through the structure.

The uneven walls and weird structure continue inside, and throughout the whole museum.

One of the coolest things in the Experience Music Project is a hurricane of guitars – kind of like what would have happened had Katrina hit Steve Vai’s house.

The whirlwind of instruments goes up to the roof of the museum and has an uncountable number of so many different instruments suspended at high height.

The majority of the exhibits are about Jimi Hendrix: cinemas showing Hendrix documentaries; artefacts of blues history; clothes; guitars; notebooks. On some of his own guitars, smashed to pieces after a gig, you can see Jimi’s grubby fingerprints still intact.

And other Seattle bands get a fair hearing – of course Heart, Sleater-Kinney and The Fleetwoods have to make way for the big boys – Nirvana.

The plaque for this exhibit read:

Grunge was great for moshing but hell on instruments

Nirvana rocked as hard as any grunge band, and their gear paid the price. The instruments displayed here include one of the many guitars Kurt Cobain destroyed onstage (1993), the battered Ibanez bass that Krist Novoselic played in concert and on the 1989 LP Bleach, and the scattered remains of Dave Grohl’s drums.

And the even bigger boys got an even fairer hearing: the museum has preserved mock-ups of The Stones’ original album art ideas for Exile on Main St. handwritten by Mick Jagger.

Strangely enough, it would appear my uncle played on that very record – an undisputable fact I never knew until today. I guess he’s more modest than I thought.

Undoubtedly, the exhibit I got most excited about was this sculpture by Ginny Ruffner, called Beauty Flows in Many Ways. It has three translucent “leaves” with pictures taken around 1970 by Graham Nash of his bandmates Steve Stills and David Crosby, and his then-girlfriend Joni Mitchell.

Finally, in tribute to Jimi, we were messing around with the cameras, pointing them into the walls with long exposure – and what we came out with were Purple Haze photographs