Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

A Considerate Person’s Guide to Riding the Bus, or Don’t be an Ass

Dear Bus riders:

Thank you for riding buses. They are not always the most convenient option, sometimes they smell or they’re slow or fellow riders make less than surreptitious noises or engage you in conversations too deep for morning commuting. You’ve made sacrifices and you want them recognized. I understand. I too have been coughed on, driven past, glared at, or almost run over. But today I plead with you, ask not what your bus ride can do for you, but what you can do for your bus ride.

Just because you’re angry you don’t have a car to drive to work when it’s completely unnecessary or to go to your friend’s house to do things other than empower the homeless or combat the AIDS epidemic (in which cases a car would be needed for the pamphlets, bullhorns and information in your brain), does not mean you have to be a bus nincompoop. Don’t take your bus ride frustrations out on your fellow riders!

In case you’re unsure whether you’re a bus nincompoop, I’ve assembled this Considerate Person’s Guide to Riding the Bus, alternatively titled “Don’t be an Ass”:

  1. Be polite to the bus driver. Heck, say “hello” “good morning” or “thank you for putting up with my ilk”.
  2. Your purse does not need a seat. Neither do your backpack, pocket dog, feet, and chia pet.
  3. Before you step on the bus put your sense of personal space in the roof-top storage bin – there’s no place for it on that bus (my apologies to the Queen Mum).
  4. Unless you’re Rosa Parks, move to the back of the bus.
  5. Don’t stand needlessly in that hallowed spot by the midway door/release hatch. You will block people getting out, block people getting to the back (see #s 4, 6,and 8), and block people’s ability to remain non-homicidal. You are not Superman. You do not need to be able to leap out at every stop in a single bound.
  6. For the aforementioned make-a-better-concrete-block-than-a-pathway sort of reason, do NOT move to the midway door/release hatch until the bus leaves your penultimate stop. If it’s not going to take you a week and a half to get to the door and you’re not about to upchuck, stay put.
  7. Evacuate your seat (not on your seat) for elderly people, people with children, people looking like they’re struggling, and people looking around desperately for a seat. Hidden disabilities are every bit as real as visible ones.
  8. In case you missed it before or thought it didn’t apply to you: move to the back of the bus! The guy outside freezing his, uh, whiskers off, has as much right to be on the bus as you do.
  9. Unless you are hard of hearing, turn your music down. If we wanted to go to a Taylor Swift concert on a bus, we would borrow some strangers, then rent a bus and a Taylor Swift impersonator.
  10. If you’re still struggling with that personal space thing (#3) — don’t! (…unless people have in the past or are now abusing your personal space – in which case, do what you will).
  • Consider Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life. When riding the bus, you live in a house like the Catholic house. Kids are in the cupboards, swinging from the rafters and piled on the furniture like folded laundry.  When you get off the bus, you can live in the Protestant house with a 10-feet-between-people-at-all-times-except-for-the-conceiving-of-children ethic.
  • Expect this (the first minute should suffice):
  • Not this:
  1. And finally, making room for others does not mean forming a single line down the aisle and shrugging your shoulders at the guy standing outside freezing his, uh, whiskers off. Plug the gaps, shuffle, MAKE SOME FREAKING ROOM.



November 17, 2011 Posted by | Bad TV References, Community, Irritated, Travel and intrigue | , , , , | 16 Comments

How Did I Get Here?

All in a day. There’s something to be said for breaking routine. There’s something to be said for keeping it.

Listening, absorbing radicality from people who make time worthwhile. Sensing. Finding warmth. Can I?

Family moment, cat on chest. Unwilling to budge. Warming. Being warmed. Comfortable.

How did I get here?

Cold. Stranger holding dirty cukes in a windy vessel house. Drug busts and politics. Friend nowhere to be found. Where am I?

Too early. Waiting. Me and a bouncer. Fast friends. Working to not disturb the other’s silence. Look away. No friend in sight. Be warm, be warm. Who am I?

Inside a hallway bar. 1 of 6 tables along the wall. Just me. Sesame St. t-shirt. 5 other people. No friend in sight. This is new. It’s not me. It’s fun. It’s fine. Who am I? Bartender brings me a water. What service!

How did I get here?

The payphone search reqires a multi-lateral meeting. Friend arrives before talks break down. Vans, banks, chats, and chance encounters. Speechless.

Dancing                             Dancing                          Dancing

Parked in a dark driveway. Back at the vessel. Trespassing? Friend disappears a moment. Things bad movies are made of. Unsafe? Unusual. Un-me. Uneventful.

Cold onion rings out of tupperware. Scribbling away in bed. Nausea. Onion rings? Another late night? Drinking water does not warrant the onion rings.

How did I get here?

Blessings and oddities. Oddities that may be blessings.

November 3, 2011 Posted by | Community, Self-reflection, Travel and intrigue | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Putting the Freak in Freecycle – a Halloween special

I’ve written some about a lack of focus and motivation. It should come as no surprise that when I got a freecycle email at 10pm on a Wednesday announcing that a working stand up lamp is out on the street a few blocks away, I jumped in my car (thinking this time it might be smart not to attempt a retrieval by bike. I am, after all, still recovering from the superman incident).

I drove along the darkly lit street feeling like a desperate junk collector looking to score. I was sure that people were hiding behind their curtains and blinds, writing down license plate numbers, repeating inaccurate descriptions of me and Forest in their heads should the police come knocking tomorrow. I was jittery with the thrill of the chase. In the dark, I looked longingly for 947… or a lamp parked inconspicuously at the curb … 901, 907, 923 …. The anticipation was building as well as the sense that I should be prepared for disappointment. You’ve been scooped before, Rose, it could happen again. I cursed myself for not wearing running shoes and a headlamp. … 927, 931…

Then lo and behold, from the corner of my eye, I spotted it standing tall but oddly embarrassed in the shadow of the streetlamp’s glaring light. Thar she blows! The little freebee was feeling emasculated under all that towering city light glory. It may have perked up a little as I approached, but things go fuzzy for me after 9, so maybe not.

I parked, pulled the secret seat hatch that gives me alternative access to the trunk, and left the car running, which is strange for me. I had gone from feeling like hunter to hunted. What if someone came from behind a tree with a bat, growling “Myyy laahhmp!” Thud. Probably a camera or two with crimestoppers on speed dial. At the very least, there were ghostly forms watching stealthily from keyholes and attic windows. A gate creaked eerily in the distance.

Despite all this paranoia, I took a moment to inspect the lamp, pretending to be picky, pretending I could see anything in the dark. I stumbled on a neutral grey yoga mat looking clean, unbuggy and tidily rolled. Why not? I slunk back to the car with the lamp in one hand and the mat in the other, working on not tripping over the cord, dropping the lamp, or unfurling the yoga carpet, more convinced than ever that someone was dialing 911 right at this moment to report a robbery. I hoped that the arresting officer would not cause permanent damage.

Back at the car, in the trusty light of the trunk the mat become substantially more lavender, not exactly my colour of choice. It did however remain free and unbuggy. It would also allow me to have one at home and one at the studio. Lavender shmavender. The lamp too came with a little surprise, about as much dust as anything in my home has on any given day. I wondered temporarily if other people’s dust was grosser than mine before wondering no more and popping it into the car. And by pop I mean struggle. I jiggled, I eased. I did not need the extra space afforded by the secret seat hatch. I am now one of those Darwin Award winning criminals you read about and snicker.

I jumped into the getaway car, sure that all the tires would deflate driving over getaway car foiling spike strips, waiting for the hiss. Only as I got a few blocks away, safely nestled into my parking garage, did my racing heart begin to slow. Just another non-adventure turned into excitement.

And the lamp? It only leans mildly to the left. Though occasionally it breathes, which is creepy.

October 31, 2011 Posted by | Free and cheap things, Travel and intrigue, Waste | , , , , | 6 Comments

Meandering through life keeping fed and watered

I have been lacking focus something fierce. Not just for a day, a week, or even a semester. Rather I feel like I’m experiencing some long slow grind towards absolute focuslessness (deal with it). I’d like to blame it on drugs, malnutrition, the internet, life circumstances, our constantly beeping world, or severe winds, but I don’t think I can.

I’m even struggling to read fiction – something I don’t recall being a problem before.  My eyes move over words like I’m reading for punishment. After a few concerted tries I absorb enough to follow – and enjoy – my beloved Bissoondath. But it’s a tense battle.

Now I’m distracted by Calgary – of all places. I spent five years of my life here and returned only once since. Calgary was my first foray into city life, understanding the province of Alberta, higher education, and parentlessness (I won’t apologize). The story is not new or particularly interesting in itself, but for the person whose life was changed, those moments hold their power, significance and nostalgia. In an attempt to woo me, the weather here is strangely Victoria-like. The humidity is in the 70% range, the window before me is alive with dancing, yellowing leaves, goading me into thinking I like the climate. My friend’s tidy but lived in condo, seamlessly combining simplicity and flair, is like an offering. Her lonely deck cherry tomato, fighting to ripen in peaceful rebellion. Stoic. I remember learning what that word meant.

I remember walking out of the classroom on a crisp fall day with my heart singing because a window of understanding had been thrown open before me (by a man named Fabio no less). Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, I was sure, was written for me. The power of words, ideas, awareness and education was like, I’m convinced, what others feel when they find religion in their hearts. It was all consuming, the pinnacle of my optimism. It’s been some time since I thought of those  moments. I more frequently recall the loneliness, my weirdness, and a battle of wits with a cold March of persistent -30 degree weather tempting my sanity.

Like I said, I can’t focus. But I’m hoping that getting this down helps.

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Books, Self-reflection, Travel and intrigue | , | 11 Comments

California Part 3: lived myth

The trip from Yosemite back to the coast (Monterey) was mostly uneventful. Mostly:

Not an event exactly, but warranted u-turns and picture-taking

Once we reached Monterey, and thereafter, I was no longer in completely uncharted territory. I felt so veteran, so in touch with being a tourist in California.

Therefore, having spent a total of 12 days in California in my life I am qualified to write as a California know-it-all. In my presumptuous Canadian fashion, I’m about to tell you what California is. Conclusively. No really. I’m positive I understand it all. By “all” I mean the coastal portions along the remote, harrowingly winding roads of the number 1 highway, with grazing cattle, crazy post offices, and pavement known only by those who spent way more time in the car than, well, anywhere really. Ready to learn?

California stings

Monterey Bay Aquarium lion's mane jellies

California educates

California  mystifies

Seahorse magic

California emancipates

California inspires fashion

California thrills

Santa Cruz beach carnival along the boardwalk

California disappoints

In my carousel inexperience and excitement, I picked a dud horse

California nourishes

Yummiest store ever with reasonably priced foodie options of all kinds

California goes under cover

I promise, it's the Golden Gate

California glamourizes

California hollows

Drive through a tree? Check.

California ensconces

The hospitality of ancient wood

California awes

Looking up a lightening scar

California dominates

California ends

Finally someone else taking a picture of a state sign

I can’t say much for the urban pulls of California. Seascapes, rolling hills, rock formations, and endless remoteness bowled me over. For a state with so many people, there’s a heck of a lot of space to just be. I am grateful for the utter miracle that is the expanse of undeveloped, or little developed coastline. Shh. Don’t tell anyone.

October 6, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , , , | 4 Comments

California Part 2: Yosemite

Unfortunately, we reached Yosemite at the point in our adventures where trip burnout was sinking its teeth into my smelly flesh. My cranky-meter was going off a fair bit and I wasn’t as able to fully appreciate the famous Yosemite National Park. What might I have appreciated more on another day in another time?

  • The two and a half hours of campsite searching. Despite all warnings, planning and good intentions, these hours were spent hot, hungry, smoky and desperate with a car making loud weed-wacker noises through several otherwise idyllic and quiet campgrounds. There may also have been chasing cars and a general sense of frenzy.
  • The hilarity of the gas station inside the national park being mounds cheaper than the gas station just outside the gates – the one we used. (Only in America do National Parks have gas stations, multiple gas stations.)
  • The dry and dusty two mile Mariposa Grove trail through a variety of magnificient and huge Giant Sequoias. This was beautiful and I actually enjoyed it immensely considering I was a slave to the last shuttle of the day (bad planning on my part). There was little time to take photos and actually enjoy the trees. We brought no water, the trail was darn steep and I literally ran most of the way back down. I may have used expletives most of the way up.
  • A good old fashioned full day hike. I was just too burnt out to take the time to enjoy a good hike. It’s sad.
  • The family that poached/shared our campsite while we were away all day. We had heard stories of people sharing campsites in desparation, but were a little surprised to learn that we’d driven past our campsite in the dark because an entire surprise family of 5 was bustling around the fire blocking the view of our tent. I was very sympathetic until they pretended they couldn’t understand us and were doing us a favour by letting us stay. Things warmed up after that and I realized I was just really tired. Eventually, we were offered blankets after realizing the parents were keeping their kids warm with towels.  They left in the middle of the night.

What would I probably never appreciate?

  • The acrid smell of forest fire and consequent smoke all through the famous Yosemite Valley
    • I get that the forests have to regenerate and all, but that doesn’t mean I have to love wheezing it in.
  • The mounds of people. Yosemite is just too darn close to thriving metropolitan areas. It’s no Yellowstone, which was still busy, but not like this. Note to self: go again, go often, but don’t go in August.
  • The couple that was every so grateful that at least we were from a neighbouring country and spoke English unlike all those real foreigners who surrounded us. Actually, this was the only anti-tourist/foreigner comment we got the whole trip so I was pretty impressed.

I will, however, always appreciate the couple who saw us driving around looking desperate and waved us into their site. After giving us an interpretive tour of the site’s many bonuses: next to the outhouse, has its own stream, far from people, visiting bear, tent in morning shade, picnic table in morning sun (they were like campsite realtors); this lovely couple recommended some of the top to-dos and merrily got into their Prius and drove into the afternoon sun.

Gremlins are withholding my captions (grr). Choose your own adventure:

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October 3, 2011 Posted by | Hiking, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , , | 6 Comments

California Part 1: the central coast

Being masochistic and heat-hating, we continued a lengthy drive from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas by driving all the way to the outskirts of Los Angeles. This meant we managed about 690 miles or 1,100 kilometres in a day. Next up? Coastal life was on the menu, from Lompoc to Salinas along the coast.

Still recovering from desert punishment, I was mildly perturbed (steaming mad) when I missed the “Welcome to California” sign and got only this:

I am Canadian. Cacti crack me up. Especially cacti that look like fraggles.

My interest in the law had little to do with how cool this courthouse in Santa Barbara was:

I can only dream that this light actually lights up when court is in session:

Thinking optimistically that I would be keen to cook vegetables on the road, I could not wait to hit the famous (overcrowded) farmer’s market in San Luis Obispo:

And who knew roasted corn had so many condiment (ewww) options?

Eventually we made it to William Randolph Hearst’s castle and ranch to see what it’s like to be rich, love art and cultural objects, and be crazy. These are just a couple of the dozens of ceilings he collected. L’il ol’ me didn’t know you could collect entire ceilings, walls, or fireplaces.

If I had my own movie theatre, I guess I’d have something like this lighting the way:

One of hundreds of statues contemplating nakedness:

or contemplating a visit to a roman bath:

Getting in touch with my Mediterranean roots, except not really:

Next stop, off the ranch, I managed to catch an elephant seal in something other than the “I’m dead” position. I wish you could see how they move. Imagine jello doing the worm.

One of the many views at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

And finally, the requisite crazy coastal bridge with fog coming in or out, as it did most of the day. This, of course, has nothing on the upcoming Golden Gate fog.

Next stop: Yosemite!

September 28, 2011 Posted by | Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue, Wild Animals | , , | 5 Comments

Woman Recovers in Vegas from Assault by Arizona Desert

An ampm. Posture like she’s been doing hunchback auditions. Slumped at an empty row of slot machines. Face tomato red. Remaining skin white. An exception. Armpit in violation of an air pollution regulation. Also an exception. T-shirt pulled up on her rib cage. Unaware. A scarf pretends to cover greasy hair. A greasy scarf. Slaughtered by Route 15.

The trip to the washroom all a blur. Pacing. Maybe buy something? No wallet. No idea what to buy. There she sat.

The chicken bites™ shine under the hellish red light.

People enter and exit. Gas, condoms, pop, gum. Staring. Unaware they’re living in hell. Hell with craps. A clerk passed giving sideways glances.

“You know, you look familiar.” “Oh, I live in Canada so…” “Hm, but you look familiar.”

The chicken bites™ smell under the hellish red light.

Face still burning. Body too covered in salt to perspire. A pig on a spit. He walked in to buy ice and a slushy drink. Did she want anything? No, she still couldn’t think. Is this deliriousness? Or just hot?  Another slot maching occupied. Man with chicken.

And the chicken bites™ smile under the hellish red light.

Sniff. Armpit requires its own postal code. Must go outside. A slotty goodbye. Skin peeling off vinyl. Doors like biblical gates. Shade is an oven. Sun is a frying pan. Man with chicken follows. Into her deep fryer car. Gestures. “British Columbia, where’s that? Vancouver?! That’s cool! I’d love to go to Vancouver. Coffee shops and stuff.” Smiles. “What do you need to get into Canada? A passport? You probably need a passport…Do they let felons into Canada? Maybe, eh? S!*$, that’d be cool. Yeah.”

A wave of privilege overwhelms the heat. For a second.

“So what do you think? Just driving through? … Hot? Oh, this place is [whistle] something else. No air conditioning!? I’ll show you. Everyone has air conditioning. Huh. No air conditioning. Party on the strip tonight. It’ll be fun… Is this your guy? Canada, eh? No air conditioning. Have fun on the coast.” More smiles, waves.

Action: Cooler full of ice. Ice on skin. Ice on tomato face. Feet in cooler. Ice.

Driving, dripping, icing, wind, eiffel tower, driving, drinking, ceasar’s palace, wind, ice, ice, ice.

And the chicken bites™ fade in the softening red light.

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Minor American Roadtrip, Travel and intrigue | , , , | 8 Comments

Utah: Another blip in the Minor American Roadtrip

I admit that this is painful installment 4 of 74 of my boring summer vacation. I somehow feel the need to document. I understand if you somehow feel the need to ignore me entirely.

I had already entered Utah in my last Minor American Roadtrip post. The state, to some, is the new “it” place. Where people still sound un-mainstream for going and there’s tons of cool, outdoorsy things to do. It was pretty easy to understand why. We planned to go back before we even got there so our 30 or so hours in Utah didn’t entail much except a promise to return. Its national parks are still calling my name.

The next stop (after the Bluebird Cafe) was Antelope Island just north of Salt Lake City, apparently referred to as just “Salt Lake” when you’re  in Utah, not to be confused with Great Salt Lake, which is the actual lake where Antelope Island is. Confused yet?

I had read about Antelope Island before we started our trip. Somehow I pictured some sort of uber-Okanagan wonderland with piles of kids just pouring out of doors, windows, holes in the ground and beer cups; 20 year olds in boats and hip bathing suits sounding ever-so-vaguely obnoxious on the water; lots of retirees; and a healthy dose of sunscreen and goofy hats. Maybe I had Antelope Island confused with a Kissime St. Cloud commercial mashup with a Florida-style spring break. At the very least, I thought, being 45 minutes from a city in the dead of summer would mean there’d be some traffic and maybe even a full campground. I was pretty dead wrong. P.S. This is always okay by me. People are minor irritants at the best of times. I love seeing everyone out enjoying beautiful places, I really do, but I love near solitude even more.

After 7 miles along a narrow causeway, we reached the actual island. I had never seen a campground like ours; the photos are pretty inadequate to show the surreal views of the lake, cheeky sunflowers dotting the landscape, and blessed metal shelters giving my pale skin a refuge. Aside: the downside of the metal is that creatures arriving in the night sound an awful lot like a band of toddlers playing jingle bells on pots and pans. After setting up good ol’ Mr. Wet Tent, we ventured to the lake for a swim.

The rumours are true. Great Salt Lake is greatly salty, and consequently stinky, but also very warm. It was great fun to swim in and a huge reprieve from the heat that day. That said, I did gain an appreciation for freeze-your-toenails-off glacier fed lakes. They feel and smell so incredibly clean and have a crispness that you just can’t buy in that heat!  Post-swim we were on the hunt for bison and antelope, which the island still has both of, strangely. I may or may not have driven around screaming “Home, Home on the Range.” Probably not. The relaxing, warm evening with accompanying sunset was just what the doctor ordered.

In classic bad tourist fashion, the next morning we moseyed to Salt Lake for a quick glance at the capitol building and Temple Square, the Mormon complex with piles of volunteers guiding tourists around the awe-inspiring grounds. I then got religio-skittish and we drove like we were getting paid…all the way to L.A.

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September 17, 2011 Posted by | Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Now featuring a few hours in Idaho/Entering Utah

The next installment in the documentation of the Minor American Roadtrip:

A trip always means choices. On some trips, that choice means driving straight through Idaho twice without much regard for Idaho’s self-worth and what it has to offer. Sorry, Idaho. I’m quite certain you have your charms and wonders, but I’ll have to explore them another time.

What little I did experience of Idaho was pretty fun and memorable though.

Well, not the sign part, but the rest of it. We had a visit with the jerky man whose name I can’t remember. He and google have not yet met up, sadly. He sold elk and bison jerky as well as plain old beef. With a set up like this, we couldn’t help but stop:

I sneakily tried to take his picture as he got right to work on  his sales pitch. As I was digging for the camera, spy style, he yelled out for the little lady (that’s me) to come out, too: “I’ve got saaaam-ples!” he bellowed. This guy was something else. So excited we stopped, he cut small samples from about 12 different kinds of jerky. And he had a system. You start with plain bison, then go to plain elk (it has more flavour and will ruin your pallet for the bison), then you move into teryaki, spicy, extra hot and goodness knows what all else that I can’t remember. Once we disappointed him by buying only one package he launched into the second part of his work: giving directions on the most scenic and entertaining way to get to Salt Lake City, UT. This guy mapped it out for us and we followed his instructions to the letter.

  • First stop: The Montpelier Oregon Trail Centre. Now when I say we followed his instructions, I mean we drove by, slowed down like annoying tourists, and took pictures. I’m sure the Centre had a lot to offer, but as I say, travelling is choices (I’m a big, touristy ass).

  • Second stop: St. Charles (only on the map if you scroll in) for the famous “best” raspberry shakes. I was off dairy so instead I entertained myself in other ways.

  • Third stop: Viewpoint of Bear Lake. He was right yet again. This was beautiful and worth a stop, though the picture doesn’t do it any justice. Technically at this point we’ve already entered Utah, but I’m using my artistic license (not yet expired) to talk about the rest of jerky man’s recommendations within the Idaho post. Idaho really does get the shaft.

  • Finally, the climax: The Bluebird Cafe in Logan, Utah. Jerky Man said that this was the place to get lunch. I believe he said something along the lines of, “a neat little place with a lot of character.” So after a stop at the Logan  Temple, we headed to the Bluebird. Guess which one is which.

What I failed to factor in at this point is that, as lovely as the man planning my day was, we may not have the same taste in restaurants. He really got me with that whole “character” thing of his. And he was right, it was a different sort of place, with murals of Logan’s history, cheap food and a diner style menu. We went in looking like people who hadn’t showered in a couple of days, because we hadn’t, and they stuck us in a back room by ourselves. I was a little uncomfortable but probably also weird looking, so I thought that was ok. Unfortunately, my nose is a little in the air when it comes to food and my meal didn’t thrill me. It was, however, good for a laugh.

Cheers to the Jerky Man, he made our day in more ways than one. Next Post: Utah Continued!

September 15, 2011 Posted by | Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue, Wild Animals | , , , , , | 4 Comments