i'm stuck with them, and they're stuck on you

when i was a kid we lived in the suburbs of victoria in a place called colwood. it was pretty average, as far as these things go. like many kids back then i was often left unsupervised for afternoons at a time, building forts and attempting to catch cray fish in the stream. there are two places that contain most of my memories from back then, well outside of school, a cemetery and a golf course, both only a stones throw away from my house. the golf course was the more dangerous choice, oddly enough, with the occasional FORE shouted our way. we loved to look for lost balls, under bushes, or in the bottom of creeks. we would collect them, line them up and study their names, titleist and top flite, their colours mostly white, but every now and again there would be a fluorescent one (bright orange and it still got lost, my kind of ball). we loved the element of danger about the golf course, the electric feeling of doing something you aren't supposed to. there was a mystery about it that we couldn't resist.

my friends and i had a route we always took when we were on the course. first you needed to sneak through the hole in the chain link fence, make sure to look both ways so as to not get caught, and then run as fast as you could to the trees and hide. mostly we walked out in the open without a care, but there were a few spots where you needed to tread carefully, more windows in sight, or the clubhouse looming. where we entered was like that, but once out of the clear we were fine. singing tiffany songs or laughing at some dumb joke. being 10.

it was a hot day near the end of august when i first saw the building. we hadn't found any balls that day and started to wander off our usual path out of boredom. it was on the far side of the course, an area i had never been to before. it was so huge and regal looking, something out of a book. i wondered why a building like that would be here, in the middle of what had to be the dullest town in the world. all one side was windows, so many panes with stained glass. my friends didn't have any interest, they hardly even noticed, but i couldn't stop looking. i had to look inside, i needed to know what i'd find. i couldn't reach flat footed, so i pulled myself up with the sill to get a view. what i saw was an enormous ballroom, with wood floors and fantastic natural lighting. it was vacant. well not just vacant but in decay, the wallpaper peeling, dust inches thick on everything. in the corner there was a wheelchair turned on it's side, cobwebs filling it's wheels. i was terrified and captivated all at the same time. i still remember the way it felt to look up at the chandelier imagining one thing, and then to look down at something altogether different. i never forgot that, the enormity of it, to me.

then last week i decided to go into a house that is slated for demolition. the doors had been removed, so my access was relatively painless. i was curious what it looked like inside. i wondered if there would be anything worth photographing. what i found was a house that had been pulled apart from the inside out, pipes and sinks, tiles and windows, all removed for sale or scrap. the power was off leaving only natural light filtering through the space. it had that same magic to it, the beauty and the destruction all mixed together. i came back the next day to photograph it.

i later told a friend about the house, and the photos, and he told me that it is a thing, a movement of sorts. urban explorers. i guess it makes sense that it would be a thing, i mean, i didn't think i was the first to think of it, but it was neat, to discover something new. to find inspiration in a place you weren't expecting it. now i find myself reading about hdr and exploring wide angle lenses, scouring flickr groups, and finding photos like this. there is a beauty in that which has come and then gone, a reminder of our mortality framed in the perfect afternoon light. i would like more of that. preferably without needing a crow bar.

some of my photos (the whole set is here)


enjoy it!

i live in vancouver, so i guess this post isn't going to come as a surprise. it seems to be the thing on everyone's mind. the olympics.

i swear it was only a few months ago that the city voted (or were asked to vote, i guess) and agreed that we wanted the games . in truth it was years ago now. the signs of their impending arrival were subtle at first, a new building being built, or a billboard, but then it became hard to miss. these days there isn't one bus stop poster or roadside ad that isn't olympic related. most of the buildings downtown are dressed up and ready to sell. they are here, there is no doubt.

i haven't really been affected personally. i live on the east side of town away from the action and although there is a venue at the university that has caused some rerouting for me, by and large i haven't been negatively affected, or positively either. which has been a bit disappointing. i think i thought that the energy would be so infection that you wouldn't be able to miss it, and although i understand that it may have proved true for some people, i have definitely had to go looking for it.

it was because of this that i was delighted to learn that the torch would be travelling down broadway last night at the exact hour which i had to kill before meeting friends for dinner. i browsed the used bookstore and watched as the crowds gathered by the dozens, and then hundreds. everyone was wearing red and white, people had their dogs wrapped in flags, or maple leaves painted on their cheeks. there was an energy, it was hard to deny. i started to wonder if i had tissue in my bag, it was looking like i was going to need it ( i cry when the national anthem is sung at hockey games). and then the start of the torch parade arrived and everything changed.

if you live in canada and went to see it, then this isn't a new story. i was taken aback anyway. there was a hippie on the patio sipping a beer behind me, he told his friend that it felt wrong to be watching this but he felt compelled anyway. it only took a moment before he picked up his beer and went back inside without saying another word. somethings can't be apologized away. you see, the actual torch is proceded by a commerce parade. first comes two rather large heavily branded coca cola trucks that are belting out some base heavy music with young people yip and yapping off the side, the announcer yelling into the air something about the history of the torch and then ending with a reminder that coke is a proud sponsor of the olmpic games. it was so overt and deliberate, it felt dirty. i started to look around at everyone wearing canadian colours and all i could see were coke bottles. it was depressing.

i realize that this complaint isn't a revelation. the olympics have long been more about selling something than celebrating any true human experience, but to witness all these people filled with a genuine sense of community, something i almost never see anymore, and then to have it infected with reality. it was no good.

not to lessen the experience, as to be fair, after the rbc dance party truck passed out all their plastic branded paraphernalia and drove on, and we came to the actual torch that was passed from one unbranded human hand to to another it had a certain magic to it, a connection with something larger. and it was worth it. i wish it didn't have to have everything else though.

tomorrow night i am going downtown to try and catch an outdoor concert. i am looking forward to immersing myself in it all. the crowds, the excitement, the happiness, it is going to be there, right? i have always been in the anti camp, like so many vancouverites i don't think it was the right thing for us in this economy and with our social problems. this isn't a unique opinion, it seems more people feel this way than the other. i have decided though, since it is here and done, that i should allow myself to be open for something great.

wish me luck!


to all the planets and all the stars and back again

22 months. i won't say that it seems just like yesterday because everyone says that, and besides, we all know it is true. she isn't a baby anymore. she is a full fledged strongly opinionated, walking, talking, little girl machine. if cohen has a special place because he is the one that came after, the one that brought me back my joy, then she has one for reflecting myself back at me. i see so much of myself in her, some of it in looks, but mostly in her ways. she isn't easy with her smiles and if you walk in to a room she will probably run behind my leg, but she will peek out and she will consider it. there won't be tears of fear, but quiet contemplation of her next move. after ten minutes she will probably be asking if you want to see her dollys. she doesn't jump head first into anything and my heart is calmer for it.

she is a clever one. she likes to take off her clothes and change into something else when you aren't watching. it is not uncommon to find her room strewn with clothes that she has put on and decided against. it is always interesting to sit and watch her bring out new outfits, size them up for colour and texture, and then throw the unsatisfactory ones over her shoulder while muttering a "not that one". when it comes to which shoes, or jacket, or pj's you put on her she ALWAYS has an opinion. you are best to listen to it.

i fear that i am painting a portrait of a princess. i don't think she has verged onto that yet, and rest assured, if she does, her tiara will be taken away. mostly i just think she is a girl in ways i don't think i ever was. it is amazing how much of it is built in. the trains/cars/planes and clothes/dolls/kitchens. it is a constant struggle to allow them to be the thing they are meant to be and to encourage them to consider the other all the same.

her latest interests take her into the kitchen. she will spend hours at the kitchen sink washing the plastic dishes from ikea, putting them in the drying rack, and then promptly washing them again. she also pretends to make soup on the stove with a variety of items from around the kitchen, including grinding the salt, and breaking the carrots. then when she is done playing she gets down on her knees with the rag and washes the floor where she has been. with an "all done" and a toss of the cloth into the sink she is back into the bedroom to change again.

she loves books, but isn't so great at sitting through them yet. she usually wants to go get another before the first is done. and so far she seems to show a much stronger inclination towards art and playdough then cohen ever did. this pleases me. i need to have a fridge full of hastily drawn crayon self portraits, it was part of the contract i signed before becoming a parent if i remember correctly. but then i always have been a sucker for art.

it makes me sad to not be here with her all the time to watch her grow into the person she is becoming, but everyday when i get home she is there at the back door waiting, her arms outstretched, her face in a grin, "how are you mommy?" she yells and everyday i say the same, "i am great now that i am here with you my little bobada" (bo-bay-da). now come on, let's play!


if i'd only thought of the right words

when was the last time you sat down and wrote something with a pen and paper? was it a list, or a short note to let someone know how to feed the cat? i wrote my brother a letter last week and writing the 4 pages made my hand numb. i hadn't written a letter for more than a year i'm sure. it made me feel sad to realize it. it feels like i blinked and the world changed.

i was walking on campus the other day and i took a peak in a chemistry class. every student, and there were a hundred or more in the lecture hall, was on a laptop typing. what does that feel like? all that clicking and the sea of facebook pages open while someone talks in vein at the front. you have the whole world right in front of you with the click of a mouse, there is no need to even look at the guy beside you.

it isn't that i have a problem with technology, well not entirely anyway, but more about how it has changed the way we communicate. now a days when you write you can revise, and then revise some more. you can create the character you want to be. it used to be that if you were young and you liked someone you would give them a hastily composed note, or debate calling them for several nights in a row. it wasn’t instant. if you finally did get up the courage to phone, or pass the note, your hand would be shaking, your words coming out would be awkward and forced. you would be embarrassed. you would know by the inflection of their voice whether they liked you or didn’t. you grew a little every time you did it, by finding the courage and living with the consequences. if you like someone now you are more likely to send them a carefully crafted text message, delightful and witty. the perfect you. if you are lucky they will text back and pretend to be their perfect them, but you get no tone or context. no emotion. no connection. no truth. you are left to interpret the story yourself. if they don't share you affection it doesn't matter. the whole experience is empty and easily forgotten. there is no tangible moment to hang on to for later, no experience, it is just a few words on a screen. 

it seems like it should be disappointing, but then again what do i know, i can barely even use my phone.

i need to start writing letters again.


day one

10:49 on a sunday night, i should probably be sleeping. at the very least i should probably go put the clean sheets on the bed instead of writing here. there is always something else that i should be doing. that i should have done. i slept in this morning until after 10, i can live on the edge and stay up a little tonight. now if only i had something interesting to say*. i take that back, i think i have a lot of interesting things to say, i am just not certain how one goes about saying them. practice and perfect they say.

i got ambitious tonight. it happens every now and again. usually it involves me coming up with some kind of creative project, completing a quarter of it before opting for a long hot bath and wine instead. sometimes i go back to the project, usually i don't though, which is why i recently purchased a bookshelf that houses, almost exclusively, my unfinished projects. i guess you could say that the shelf itself is a finished project though, i mean it got put up and has stuff on it, can't ask for more from a shelf. my ambition tonight though was of a culinary nature.

i periodically get together with a couple of friends and have a cook off. we drink booze, chop vegetables, and eat chocolate covered bon bons. in the end we have 12 meals to take home for our freezer. we each bring the ingredients for six of each of two meals. we wear aprons and talk about mad men. i think it is just as much about connecting with a past that doesn't exist anymore as it is about the food. it has been awhile since we got together though, and my freezer was empty, so i decided to have a party of one, well one and a lot of food. i didn't talk about mad men (although i might have had a moment where i thought about don draper) and there were no bon bons, but i had the booze and there was plenty of chopping.

when i first started working at ubc i was a clerk b in the admissions office. there was no clerk a, so b was as low as it got. my tasks were primarily made up of opening mail and filing dockets. it took zero skill and almost no mental effort on my part. i think it might still be the best job i have ever had. the filing was my favourite. hundreds of envelopes coloured coded and numerical waiting to find their home, the perfect spot just for them. there is a rhythm to filing that i never appreciated before, a meditation to it. my thoughts seemed to flow easily through the act. i am sure that if i had to do it for the rest of my life the story would read different, but i knew it wasn't forever, just a term position of 5 months, and i loved it.

chopping is not unlike filing. when chopping is combined with watching jon hughes' movies, it can be downright spiritual. so i chopped my way through some kind of wonderful, and sauteed for most of pretty in pink, and now my freezer is full. time to oneself to simply get lost in thought is a rare thing when you are in possession of two toddlers, but then maybe i don't have to tell you that? it is why i love my commute everyday, and also why i love cooking.

the end result was (and i include this list here as i have tried all of these recipes and they are great, so maybe you would like them too):

3 chicken enchiladas**
3 spinach cannelloni
4 jars of chorizo spaghetti sauce
2 chicken pot pies
4 mexican lasagna***

now take a moment to imagine what my kitchen looked like after this. the stovetop alone was enough to make me want to run for the hills. so tell me, do you have any good recipes for the freezer? (and if this seemed to end abruptly it is because i am feeling guilty about the sheets!)

*although incredibly riveting, this post is not the most interesting thing i have to say (i swear)
**this is all cream and no veg so i add corn, red pepper and peas
***if you make this please note that her recipe makes enough to serve and entire congregation at her church, i am not kidding, well ok, i am kidding a little, but it is a LOT


everything that happens is from now on


i am home alone on a saturday afternoon. being alone at the house is probably the rarest of time, something almost never seen, and yet, here i am. my computer is in a little sunroom that was added on after this house was built, the floor is tile and the walls are yellow (or buttercup if you prefer). through the windows i can see north to the mountains and west to the ocean (i only know it's there in memory though, i can't actually see it). this means the sunset is my entire view at the end of the day, the birds migrating by the dozens to their overnight perch, silhouetted by the brilliant hues. i only get to see this two days a week, most days it is dark already before i get here. i love to just sit and watch the crows, i think this is partly why i am so fond of this. the starlings do this here too, circle around and around. i think one day i will have to make my own video.

the other day someone said that they were going to have a look at my blog to get to know me better. it made sense in context, i mean it was someone who i first got to know through their's, so it only seemed fair, but i couldn't help wonder, what exactly does this place tell someone about me? i don't ever read the archives around here, sometimes i will remember a specific entry and search it out, but mostly history is history, which is probably how it should be. never the less i was inspired to go in and search around the other night. i was amazed to see the things i wrote before i had kids, it was a completely different place. no one knew it existed so i didn't worry too much about how it was perceived. i remember feeling different about it later though, after the kids were born.  i have often struggled with this space. i was tired of writing about my stay at home mom life, not because that life isn't worthy, but because my heart wasn't in it and really, i had nothing new to say. i tried just photos for awhile, but this isn't the best venue for that either, so then i just stopped (with the occasional putter along the way), which brings us to last wednesday night and me reading my archives. it was such a great exercise, to put it all out there and see the line from there to here, it made me feel like i had accomplished something.

the earlier entries made me want to do it again, to make the quiet time to write fiction, or semi-fiction anyway. to be creative with words (and photos) again. this blog used to be called the way people run, which is probably what it should still be called, so i thought i would do a retrospective of the 10 posts i think represented each person i have been along the way and how i have run. the title of the links here were inspired by the 6 word memoir movement.

4.25.2005: i'm the best part of lonely
5.11.2005: tomorrow i'll be something altogether different
9.01.2005: forever looking back i ignore tomorrow
9.12.2005: a minute's enough to change everything
9.22.2005: i came from there, here's better
2.09.2006: into the light we start again
6.23.2006: it wasn't the same before you
11.22.2006: the trees loss was my gain
6.22.2007: that first year changed everything after
12.21.2008: there is no end in sight

i just realized that there wasn't anything about ada in those ten. mostly it is because after she came my life was a blur, a whirling cloud of chaos for so long. she holds this special place inside me, the way she reflects back on myself in so many ways. the post about that is yet to come though, so to be true to the story i should include this one.

so that's where i have been. i still don't know what it says about me though: that i have an unusually strong affection for the past? that as a person i could work harder at being less sad? that i am hopeful about what's ahead? all of them true and of course just part of the story.