Monday, December 31, 2001

One of the first things I realized when I got what was at the time called a "real job", was just how much time can be wasted in an office. You can make yourself look busy doing just about anything, and it may take months, or even years for your superiors to learn that you never worked at all. When I worked as a brick layer, making obscenely expensive driveways for overpriced log homes in Whistler, it was immediately evident to my employer how quickly I was working. I was either laying bricks in the ground or I was not, in which case I would be asked why I was not laying bricks in the ground. We even used to joke about the city workers who would gather round in a circle, perhaps 5 of them, to take turns at digging a hole, or changing a manhole; one person digging while the other four adopted a Ken Dryden pose with their work shovels.

When I was hired at that first job, I wasn't hired to solve some immediate problem or produce immediate results. I was hired based on some expectation of future results, which obviously cannot be determined until that future date, and even at that time there are hundreds of reasons why you didn't meet expecations. In an office, you could squeeze 6 months of employment by looking busy; walking around looking stressed, carrying papers everywhere, going on sales calls that don't exist. If I had tried to pull that off while laying bricks I would have been gone by the time the coffee truck made its first visit.

What is even more alarming is that the higher you go in the organization, the more nebulous and vague the job description becomes, and the longer it takes to get fired. It is assumed that you have reached such lofty status by providing great returns to your employer, so you are left to wallow the time away for up to a year before any suspicions are raised.

This reminds me of a story I heard from the COO of one of the big five accounting firms. He had been planning to fire an executive named Sam, but company policy dictated that he do it in person, not over the phone or by email, which is becoming more and more popular these days. Sam worked and lived in Dallas, and the COO was not going to fly to Dallas just to can his ass. Business often took him to Dallas, so he figured he would just do it whenever he got there. Sam knew he was going to get the bullet, and he knew the COO had to do it in person, so he kept a suitcase in his office, which he used to make timely getaways whenever he heard the COO was coming to town.

"Suitcase Sam" was able to keep up this game for over a year, until one day, at a seemingly safe company cocktail party in Australia, he was confronted by the COO, and summarily terminated.
Scott writes again, about his undiscovered genius, undiscovered only by the public, as his genius is quite evident to those who know him.

When you exit your creative writing class and picture your classmates eagerly awaiting for you to pass out of earshot so they can safely discuss your in-class comments and recently submitted work, do you imagine their conversations as adulatory or meanly sarcastic? And while this might be a more appropriate question for your psychiatrist, or even aromatherapist, the answer reveals much about your inner state. The proper outlook as easy as playing a film of success through your frontal lobes, like the visualisation techniques they teach in high school football -- scoring touchdowns and laying powerful well-timed blocks in front of the cute cheerleaders with button noses. As my old coach used to say: “winning is like hot broth. Ingredients: 90% imagination and for flavour, 10% will. Plus a dash of talent.” Unless imagined nothing ever comes to pass.

Sometimes I spend all day contemplating when I will be famous: universally respected for my wit, blinding intelligence, robust build and radical yet sensible opinions. The critical community unanimous in their agreement, and a little bit afraid.

I often dwell on how to best guard my privacy. Becoming too much of a media darling can steal objectivity, which holds truth. Should be serious and straight, or playful -- slipping the media only obtuse clues to decode? And I have to admit that as much as my books will be popular, their final meaning will definitely be cloaked; I -- despite celebrity status; multiple academy awards and a citation for my animated work; a UN ambassadorship, resulting in thick volumes of my collected speeches; and a lordship -- must remain an enigma. It is more a question of whether my influence on foreign policy and the structure of international society should be implicit or explicit. To be an Einstein or a Kissinger?

Honestly, I can envision a Nobel somewhere down the road, hopefully before I’m forty so I can enjoy it. Just like TS Elliot, I want to go ice-skating in my tails and top hat during a Scandinavian winter’s night. Though, with the committee being so political it’s hard to know exactly when the timing will be right.

Evident as well, especially whenever I revisit my writing, is the longevity of the movement I will inspire. Following in my wake: an intellectually cognizant literary faction as much in thrall with my personal life as with my stylistic innovations and structural bearing. A generation of young Turks with an aggressive semi-colon in their toolbox, knowledgeable of military history and displaying a healthy scorn for the Schoolmen of grammar and punctuation. Ready to do my literary bidding at creative writing schools worldwide.

I see fame and influence augmented to such a degree that bonds will be issued based upon my future projected earnings. The squinty-eyed quants, PhDs and other assorted bankers quantifying and formalising the deal will be astonished at the new pricing formulas and financial logics I develop. New vistas of debt financing and methods of derivative option figuring will be opened by my efforts. Ancient financial horizons will be surmounted, made close as I inaugurate the dawning of a new era of capital. As I near a deeply mourned death, knowledgeable experts will celebrate these innovations as containing the same revolutionary power that the invention of perspective brought to Renaissance painting and the birth of the modern. Innovations I, even now, seamlessly integrate into the structure of my more serious fiction and criticism.

Of course you will be there with me, the celebrated second prong of our two-fold, bar-b-que fork attack on the literary world. As much famed for your insight and empathy as your daring-do and feats of endurance. Two prose heroes for an age in need of serious fiction. Our lives mirrored in the art that first brought us such acclaim and critical applause.

We will patrol the corridors and hallways of Knopf, BMG and Verso with impunity, waylaying interns and speaking in loud voices. Our drinking bouts will rival any previously recorded and not a hangover will be suffered. It will be great, until our eventual split and mutual downward spiral -- so necessary for any biography worthy of acclaim. I think we will part when you viciously turn on me, disparaging my work in Esquire, the Guardian, El Mundo and Cosmo. I, of course, responding with generosity and understanding, and a tell-all book thinly disguised as fiction: A life lived less Ably. But we will be reconciled. And for the effort our handshake will grace the cover of the Economist. You will become famous in Mainland China -- personally credited with saving the Pandas from extinction.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

My nephew Bond has taken to wearing a gold cape around the house. He is only in his 4th year, so why stop it? He also has a rubber dagger and magic pearl that has some kind of magical properties ( he won't specify). He was the ringmaster this Christmas, which was spent in Union Bay, on Vancouver Island. I like Christmas to be short, and this was.

I think I am losing my grip at work. Little things that usually annoy me are now sending me over the edge. I need my quarterly vacation, which is coming up in 2 days. We'll be leaving New Years Day for New York.

See ya!
I normally don't read Heather Mallick's whiny columns, however, I have to give her credit for her year ending piece in the Globe and Mail. You finally got it right Heather.

Friday, December 28, 2001

At last, witty and insightful commentary on the effects of heavy modern weaponry on a deserted and war-torn countryside. Get your war on!

Monday, December 24, 2001

Okay, so it is Christmas Eve, and I am still in the office, with a handful of others, working on next year's plan for world domination. Well, not world domination, just domination in my sales region, on both revenue and non-revenue generating areas. As most people look back on the year, they take stock, evaluate, review, assess successes and failures, and plan to make changes for the coming year. Of course, some people just hit the booze and cruise blissfully until January 10th, when December's credit card bill arrives.

My parents used to make me watch the Queen's Christmas message for my grandmother's sake. My grandmother was a staunch monarchist, despite being 5th generation Canadian and the fact that her family was likely expelled from the "old country". I love how so many of that generation feel a sense of pride for the long-lost motherland that did nothing but persecute them, discriminate against them and all but buy their passage to anywhere just to get rid of them. I have not had to watch the Christmas message since the last Christmas I spent at home, which was in 1992. Since that time, my grandmother has been institutionalized, so my family has also been spared the Queen's broadcast.

Well I have a mesage for you.:

Whatever it is your worrying about, it is probably not worth it. As I often love to say, worrying is interest paid on bill that may never come due.
It requires much less work and maintenance to be agreeable and friendly than it does to be an asshole.
You are not as cool as you think you are.
Others are not as cool as you think they are.

To all my readers, however few there may be, enjoy a safe-but-not-risk-free holiday.


On a completely different tack, I met up with some incredibly interesting people last night. Anya and I recieved a phone call late in the afternoon ( well actually it was a message on our answering machine at home), from Thea, one of Anya's friends from McGill. Thea and Sam live in LA, where Thea has been working for the National Public Radio station, and Sam has recently become a P.I.

The strangest twist on the evening was that I met a friend of friend in a place I had never suspected as our meeting place. Scott ( see archives for Scott) had told me about a friend who had recently moved to Vancouver and was writing for Vancouver magazine. I had planned to ask Scott for his email and arrange some kind of meeting, maybe roll out the welcome mat as a good citizen would. However, it turns out that he was the person whom Scott referred to, and I surprised him with my knowledge of his arrival. A bit spooky perhaps, but word travels fast. But I am always amazed by such coincidences.

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Some people call it luck, some people believe in guardian angels, some feel protected by a divine hand that washes one safely through peril and crises. At times I have felt that I had all 3 of these, as there was no other explanation for my good fortune. Sometimes it is merely the kindness of strangers.

I was reminded of this while playing black jack in Las Vegas recently. There were four of us, all seated at a $5 table, trying to make $50 last all afternoon. We had just come from a $10 table where we were cleaned out to the tune of $300 collectively, all in about 7 minutes. Our dealer at the $5 table was a woman named Tania, whom we guessed correctly was from Israel. Gold and diamond rings covered each finger, giving way to manicured nails that had stopped looking remotely human years ago.

She was a friendly lady, always joking with us, and trying to help me win. Being the novice of the group, among some seasoned gamblers, I often had no idea whether to hit or stay. Sometimes I was just guessing, and when I would guess wrong, I mean really wrong, rather than deal me another card, Tania would stare at her nails, and pick and rub away at an imaginary cuticle, pretending that she heard had not heard me.

Eventually, she took all my money, but with her help my $50 was extended by at least an hour.

On Las Vegas, I am reminded of Obi-Wan Kenobi looking out over the Tatooine desert: "Mos Eisley space station; you will never see a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."

It is amazing what some people will try to pull on you in the US. I must look like I just stumbled out of a smalltown. I must look real country, as they used to say. I am constantly hassled by DEA agents posing as dealers trying to sell me weed. It happened to me in Las Vegas, in the casino of the Flamingo.

We were sitting at a bar with video poker terminals built into it, waiting for someone to come back from somewhere so we could go get dinner. A black man walks up to the bar and sits next to me. He has corn rows like Snoop Dogg. This is how the story goes:

Snoop has just sprung from Carson State Pen, where he has just finished 18 years for shooting a cop in a dispute over drugs. He is looking for a ride home and is willing to offer me an indica bud to do it. I ask where he lives, and he tells me about 2 miles from here.
Two miles? Two miles? I say. Why don't you just walk?
Dude, do you know how old I am? says Snoop. I am 45 years old, I just spent 18 years in Carson State.

Okay, so you just get out of jail, you walk into a casino that must have a surveillance camera every 10 feet and you ask what you think or hope is a drunk frat boy to give you a lift 2 miles in exchange for some weed.

He reels back when I say this to him. I want him to know that I have figured out that he is either the stupidest criminal in Nevada or a very bad DEA agent. I want him to understand why I would not want to get into a car with someone who just spent 18 years in prison for murder.

He doesn't look that stupid, so I conclude that he is a DEA agent. Must have a great pension, because that is the must useless organization on the planet.

Friday, December 21, 2001

There are certain smells that will never leave me my memory. I have often read that the olfactory senses are the senses most closely linked to memories, more so than sound or even sight. In the pre-Christmas darkness I am reminded of the smell of diesel fumes, slush, ski wax and deep fryer exhaust. It takes me back to 1980, Stowe, Vermont.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

It turns out that it wasn't a firing, more of an "I am rich enough to not have to work here anymore" which pleases me. However, the ill winds of change and uncertainty are blowing my way....Don't worry, I am pretty safe for now. I just had a shock to my confidence. While everyone else gets to ignore the rules, I am made to follow them, which is unnatural for salespeople. However, this will not be taken into account when performance reviews are made....
Ever have a day when everything went your way, and everything seemed easy? That is what was supposed to happen today, but it didn't. In fact, I feel that I have been chewed up and spit out, dumped on the side of the road. Things aren't so bad though, I could have worse problems, which, in fact, I have had, but just don't have anymore.
To make myself feel better, I often watch the Sopranos 2nd season DVDs so that I can feel better than Tony. HE has problems.

Makes me think of the blues; the Filthy Bastard Blues

There's blood on the payphone
and a crack in the glass
somebody done cut me
and kicked my sorry ass

Livin' down on Pain Street
and wakin up alone
molestin my memories
with a squirt a groan

I'm Filty Bastard
way beyond bad news
ain't got nothin but a boner
and these filthy bastard blues

From Dry Shave, by Rod Filbrandt

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

More firings at work, or "resignings" as they say in the emails. Who resigns from our company? There is no reason anyone would do it other than to look like they left on their own terms. Makes me think of the cliche "You can't fire me because I QUIT!" However, I think it is just natural justice coming home to haunt those who have suckled too long on the bosom of complacency and residual revenue. Enough about work, as if lugging this anchor laptop home to update my sales forecast is not bad enough.

Luckily though, at least I get to do it in the luxury of a faux mediterranean villa in West Vancouver, which I am house sitting until the end of the month. I am getting spoiled with the selection of bathrooms (five) televisions (three) and studies (two). The only thing I think it is missing is a wine cellar, however, these people don't seem to be heavy drinkers, despite the bottles of Absinthe and Hennessy in their cupboard.

I reluctantly attended our company Christmas party, which was better than last year, when they ran out of food just as I arrived at the buffet station. This year the spread was opulent and I must have eaten $100 worth of scallops alone. Everyone seemed to be parading their partners around as if on display. It was interesting to see who was with whom and what their partner looked like, having listened to endless stories about them.I was alone of course, as Anya was working. People are used to her never being at anything due to her employment in the film and television industry. What amazed me was how many people that work right under my nose.

Man this weather is getting me down. I think I have SAD, and need to go on a vacation, but none is forthcoming, at least nowhere hot. Why doesn't someone ask me to housesit their villa in Costa Rica?

Please? Anyone?

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

This morning I was pleased to receive a number of messages from Scott, recently located to somewhere in Canada ( I can't say where, lest I blow his cover), one of which had a pasted story from Misery and human loss aside, the so-called war in Afghanistan has revealed the mainstream media to be a wretched horde of obsequious hacks, concerned more with creating a warm feeling in their readers bellies than accurately and objectively reporting the facts of this war. Rather than being outraged by John Ashcroft's decision to limit media access to information, they seem to be content to just make everything up now.

Here is a little clip from Scott (somewhere in Canada)

More disconcerting than the wacky exploits of Fox News (which is, after all,
regarded as a bit of a pariah in the journalistic community) is that even
supposedly responsible media outlets appear to have lost touch with reality.
The other day, a journalist friend gave me a list of items that he took from
the headlines of the New York Times. Here, with only mild paraphrasing, are
some of the proclamations that the Times has made since September 11:
* The age of irony is over.
* Red, white, and blue is the new black.
* More Americans are eating comfort foods.
* Post 9/11, no more disaster movies.
* Kids are anxious about Santa Claus.
* New Yorkers are drinking straight martinis, not apple ones.
* More people are considering moving to their summer houses year-round.
* Office parties are canceled. It is no time to celebrate.
* Office parties are expanded. It's time to get together.
* The age of irony is not over.

I have read many of those headlines, as I get the Sunday New York Times, and I have to agree that the quality of the times is slipping. Do I really care about the latest style of pajama-like pants for women to depressed, scared or broke to leave their appartments?

More on Scott.
In the winter of 1997, I took a job that was thrown into my lap as a ski/snowboard instructor for snot-nosed Eurobrats and diplobrats in Switzerland. I met Scott in the staff pub on the first night of my arrival. The manager of the camp was a pale englishman, who upon meeting me, uttered "Just what we need, more Americans." He brushed me off and went back to smoking his Marlboros and continuing the story about how he saw Blur in Geneva. Scott told me not to worry about the manager; "It's not that he's english, he's just a prick." Scott helped me adjust to the local customs so that I would not stick out so much, giving me pointers on how to avoid getting fleeced by unethical bartenders (geen and toneeek? 14 francs please), and what beer to avoid at all costs. This unholy brew could give you a 16 hour hangover from 2 pints. Most of the time we drank a beer called William Tell. Imagine that.

The pay was so low I won't even mention it, but the experience was worth the free ride they gave me, allowing me to ski France and Switzerland for at no real cost to myself. I was also able to influence many young children, preventing some of them from becoming accountants, lawyers, and policy analysts.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

I don't have cable at home, as I feel $40 a month is too much to pay in order to waste your time. Since I have been housesitting for the last few days, I have been taking advantage of my absentees friends' cable, clocking as much mindless fluff into each evening as is tolerable. My favorite new program is the Much Music Bio, which I have watched both last night and the night before. Last night the biography spotlight shone on Judas Priest, who are a suprisingly amiable group of lads that you would never suspect play in a heavy metal band. A very articulate bunch, they were happy to explain how they made their riffs sound so heavy. They revealed that on one track, ( I think it was Metal Gods), Rob Halford shook a tray full of silverware to produce a clanging "metal" sound. This was layered perhaps 20 times, to create a sound that would conjure up images of a robot covered in chainmail, roaming a bleak planet and annihilating humanity.......

I was also pleased to learn that chaos, chance and pure dumb luck were part of Judas Priest's success. Having been shut out of America and largely known as a British metal band, Priest were sprung into success with "Living After Midnight", their first US hit. The song was recorded by three of the band members while singer and lyricist Halford was trying to sleep directly above where the guitarists were laying down their riffs. Of course he couldn't sleep, so he wrote the lyrics while lying in bed.

Monday, December 10, 2001

All I want.

All I want is a v-neck sweater, grey, if you can find it. Can you believe that I cannot find an item as simpe and as staple-like? Please help.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

The recent lapse of posts is a result of my increased hours at the office. The darkness keeps me there, knowing there is nothing I could be doing outside other than running or walking in the rain. So I stay later, and come in earlier. The only time I go outside during daylight is to get lunch. This darkness drives people into hibernation in Vancouver. RIght now, across Vancouver, thousands of people are curling up on their couches to watch movies and get stoned.

My younger brother has been barely turned on a computer yet he has a more advanced presence than I do. Typically done with much less effort than it seems.

Last week my mom sent me my high school alumni newsletter, Loyola Today. The front page revealed that my grade 7 (or secondary one, as we called it) English teacher had been murdered by gunmen in Jamaica. HIs name was Martin Royackers, SJ. I went to a Jesuit all-boys Catholic school. The Jesuits were the renegades and mercenaries of the Catholic church. It was founded by a warrior, and his tradition carried through into more than a few of my teachers. Our principal went down to Nicaragua, in the darkest days of it civil war, for 10 months. His mission was to work with the local villages to help them protect themselves against the CIA sponsored death squads, or as Ronald Reagan euphemistically called them, The Freedom Fighters. In a civil war between a recently disposed corrupt family dynasty and a socialist revolutionary, dirt poor villagers had nothing to gain from either side, their lot was going to remain miserable regardless of who was in power; all they could offer was free food and hiding. However, his duties often found him involved in confrontations from both the Contras and Sandinistas.
Father Brennan had spent years in the Phillipines, organizing villagers against onother US backed family dynasty. One of his better stories is how he was late for work one day and had to run to the village church, from his shanty some 5 minutes by foot. He was forced to take a long detour through a swamp due to the poison spitting frogs that were blocking the path. The delay saved his life; when he arrived 17 vilagers lay slain in front of the church, shot by Marcos' soldiers.

Royackers was a tough but fair man who did not suffer fools gladly. He could recognize even a trace of effort and skill. But for those who showed neither, he had nothing but contempt, and he rode your ass until you were on your way out.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

This may be a pathetic roll, but at least I am on it. Now, normally I don't finish one book until months after starting it and putting it down for something else. I can remember all of the books I have read this way. Put I am on to two in row read in this way, with my timely completion of The Corrections and Dispatches. Both I would classify in the top of their genre. Two books so different but both remind you that stories are merely metaphors for life.

I have always had an intense interest in the US involvement in Vietnam, ( I don't know what to use in the place of "involvement"), probably because I was taught by so many draft dodgers in junior college. Dispatches is the best representation of that time and that place; the mindless bureaucracy and corporate efficiency, the terror and its effects on young men, the escapism needed to survive, and the submission exchanged for endurance.

What I can never get over is that most soldiers there were only 19 or 20. People that age to me seem so young, babies almost, so little knowledge of the world. Michael writes how there was so much energy in young men invested in that country towards destroying it; if only that energy could have been to something creative.

Sunday, November 18, 2001

With Anya away, my grim slide into bachelorhood begins. Unmade bed. Dirty dishes in sink. Euros in the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Anya and I spent the weekend in Whistler, shacked up in the Summit Lodge. November was in full effect; fog, rain, and near freezing temperatures, so we stayed indoors most of the time.
Having lived in Whistler for 4 years, I recognized the look on many people's faces- the pale, expectant faces, numb from 2 months of rain and manual labour. Looking up at the clouds obscuring the mountains, hoping that the rain in the valley means snow above midstation. I saw myself in those faces, and I realized that I have travelled a million miles from their situation. I have become the person I hated when I was 22. A city-dwelling, career-minded married guy whose idea of a good time is a dinner party with enough red wine to last late into the night and who complains because the VW dealership screwed up and his wife does not have her new Passat Wagon. But at the time I cared only about getting my share of powdies. Everything else came secondary. It was great until I had achieved my goal of skiing everyday without having to work a full time job. Like the residents of the Beach it turned into hell.

So while most people ignored me and chalked me up as just another yuppie tourist, I kept my mouth shout about my past, and what many of these young punks may face in the future. Everyone's got to learn some things on their own I guess.

Monday, November 05, 2001

I have been helping Jim with his film over the weekend. He was shooting in a penthouse in the Waterfall Building. When I visited on Thursday night I was concerned, but the turnout of volunteers was truly amazing. Almost 20 people volunteered their whole weekend to work on this, for no money and little recognition.

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

I watched Evil Dead last night, after hearing so much about it. I had no idea how many people have devoted web sites to the adulation of this masterpiece of cinematic horror.
So many of my childhood fears, of basements and of carnivorous vines seem to have stemmed from this film.

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

I just started rereading Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom, which I first read in my last term in univeristy, Theories of Totalitarianism. Since I spent much of my time hungover or in some state of daydreaming, I picked up little from the chapter summaries I read, and put it down without truly understanding the fear of freedom.
It was only when I was entering my fourth fall season in Whistler that I realized I was afraid of the responsiblities of being free, so I chose to be bound instead.

Bound by what, you may ask. Bound by the comfort and security of belonging to a small community, where everyone knows who you are; a place where advancement is difficult if you work for someone else, in fact it is likely you will struggle to develop professionally and personally. Leaving Whistler terrified me, because I was leaving a world that I had figured out, and there was comfort in that familiarity. I may have been driving a cab and lifting rocks for a living, but I knew how to interact within a certain framework. It was strangely comforting to be able to exist in the white bubble that is Whistler, like lying in bed late into the afternoon, with a pathetic satisfaction in the warmth of your cocoon.

I was heading towards a failing grade in this class very late in my final semester. A failure would have meant either summer school (not a possibility) or taking a course part time in the fall. It came down to one final exam and one final paper. The night before the paper was due I ran into Professor Tucker in the parking lot of the Provigo. He told me we had a 4 day extension. We also watched Swept Away and Seven Beauties, both Lina Wertmuller

Somehow I scraped by with a 54. Thank you, Dr. Tucker.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Why am I writing this? Why do i feel the need? Sometimes I refrain from posting to the blog because what i put here is lacking in hmmm....literary quality?

My wife is watching Memento. I have already seen it, and have even watched the scenes in reverse order. (Thank you for the DVD player, Jim)

This weekend I'll be helping Jim with his film, Helliwell, in the capacity of Transport. Actually, I will be all the transport there is. Hey, he's doing this on a credit card.

Monday, October 22, 2001

Reading the Sunday NY Times this morning, I came across the newly expanded wedding announcement page. Each couple's description had the same format. Bride and groom's name, alma mater, occupational status, parents occupation. In some cases, it seems the only reason they placed the announcement was to show that their father is CEO of this or that company. So very American. It reminded me of an article I read in the now defunct Spy magazine, which revisited these announcements several years later. Few of these marriages had survived.

I am slow today. I was slow yesterday. In fact, yesterday, I should not even have gotten up from bed. Monsoon season has hit Vancouver hard, and it poured all day. I wish I lived above ground so I could stay indoors all day and not feel like I am living in a bunker.

Saturday, October 20, 2001

Sneaky little worker I am. In times of chaos and confusion, there are a few who prosper greatly. However, I am only doing what they tell me to do. My moves are going to benefit The Business more than myself. Besides, I am quicker than most people. A lot of the new hires are just here to work, and think that it ends every day when they leave. They don't realize that what we have is a situation that comes along a few times in a lifetime. It is the opportunity to become the #1 of #2 in a fast growing industry. I suppose they would rather go home and work on something more important.

Monday, October 15, 2001

My company recently hosted its sales conference, which was concluded with a "motivational" speaker. This speaker is always scheduled for the last slot of the conference, after everyone has been subjected to 5 days of all you can eat and drink on the company dime. Attention spans wane during this slot. Last year we were treated to a school board superintendant who espoused us with the wisdom of Wayne Gretzky: "You miss all the shots you don't take."

This year we are lucky enough to listen to a man who fell off a ferry while vomiting over the side (he claims he had sunstroke) and turned it into a motivational speaking career. It seems this man floated in the Straits of Georgia for 8 hours. The water temperature in this strait is rarely above 5 degrees Celsius, yet he still maintains that he was immersed for 8 hours, until rescued by an off-duty Washington State cop. I find this hard to believe, having fallen in this water and nearly frozen in 5 minutes. Whatever...

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

My neigborhood is becoming gentrified. I don't want to sound like a whiner, but I liked the way it used to be. Now Black Dog Video is crowded with aimless souls staring at the walls, unable to select their 4th video rental of the week. How superior I feel when I march through them to the nearly empty DVD section (thank you Harry and Barb and Jim for the DVD player). And these same people comment on why my dog Shrub is in the store. Why do you think they have dog biscuits on the counter? If you don't like dogs in your video store then go to Blockbuster.

I really noticed it last night, as I was in Choices, a store I normally don't patronize, but had to because I needed to replace the overpriced natural cheezy puffs that I had taken from Anya's arsenal of snacks. It is 8:30pm and the store is full of "good white liberals" that have moved into the neighborhood to pay $500,000 for a shack that was built in 1962 and has retained all of its original features, including plumbing, wiring and heating. Now they are in front of me pushing their strollers and talking on their cell phones, looking for the best organic chocolate, debating which flavor of Ben & Jerry's to eat while watching PBS, discussing various cleanses and generally getting in the way of one very aggressive and hungry young man. There are two young lesbians sitting cross legged in an aisle,in the aisle, examining which flavour of organic chocolate to buy.

As I place my groceries (curried lentil wrap, Barbara's All Natural Cheezy Puffs, 2 green peppers) on the check out counter I have to push out of the way a raggedly dressed couple who are deep in discussion about their diets. Raggedy woman confesses to raggedy man that she has been eating tomatoes, who responds that tomatoes are "bad food".
"I know", whines RW, " but my aunt grows organic tomatoes and I just couldn't say no. Secretly I have been eating them for a while."

I turn around and look at them. These people are worrying about their diets to the point of excluding organic tomatoes because they are "bad food". What do these people eat? They are both dowdy and dumpy in appearance. The woman looks overweight, despite her strict diet.

The cashier wants to roll her eyes, but she can't because she is facing them. So I roll my own for her and she nods in agreement. God I hate this place I think. These people are so soft that I relish a confrontation with them. I get back to the car and turn on Physical Graffiti.

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

Ever since Napster's servers became unreliable, my MP3 file growth rate has stabilized. Declines are leading advances in almost every sector and genre. However, all is not lost, as I have started using this thing called KaZaA. There is something creepy about it though; for some reason I don't like it, I don't trust it. Whatever. I actually had to buy two CDs last week, but I don't mind paying for quality.

For the first time in years, I actually played Physical Graffiti. I was on my way to Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws (well actually, my wife's aunt's second husband's family made up most of the diners) and was feeling like I needed to rebel against something, so I went with something tried and true. Dinner was as predictable as a Swiss train schedule. Guests sat and made awkward conversation about cruise ships, Puerto Vallarta, and Osama bin Laden's speech. An attempt at debate was made, but one loudmouth, who always feels the need to show that he is smarter, and always, always has to have the last word made me so angry that I had to leave for a breath of fresh air. I just want to have a normal family.

Saturday, October 06, 2001

I recently bought myself some new shoes, about which I have received many compliments. I don't have very many pairs of shoes, but the ones that I do own are the product of quality work and should last a long time. As I was checking my Campers for scuffs and stains from the bar I had been at the night before, I noticed a gum-like substance stuck to the sole. It looked like a tobacco flavored gum, only with raspberry seeds in it. I took a whiff of it to ensure it wasn't produced from the end of a dog. The gum was an olfactory collection of tobacco, alcohol and sweat. To inhale its pungent, filthy odor made you feel as if you were waking up on the floor of the bar, your nose mired in the putrid carpet.

This gum made me think about a substance known as "pubscum", which was the ruin of many pairs of pants when I was at university. The dance floor in the student pub, which was simply called "the Pub", would get covered in a viscous gray liquid that caused indellible stains on any clothes. This was known as pubscum, and its composition we could only speculate, but it was safe to assume it was a mixture of beer, hard alcohol, sweat, urine, vomit, tobacco and blood. You would come home from the pub with gray stains at the bottom of your pant legs, which is why everyone simply wore jeans to the pub.

Sunday, September 30, 2001

Hotmail staff sent me an email telling me that my account is too large, so I went looking for emails to delete. I came across this email I wrote to a friend in November of 1998. It was never sent, and it has been sitting in my "drafts" folder for almost three years.

Well folks across the water, I have lost Nic's email address sine I left Victoria and I hope this is the correct one Sarah. If it is not it might make for some interesting reading for one of your coworkers. "Struggling young Canadian finds love and bliss in late millennial escapism," they could conclude before relegating it to the trash can. Or do you call the recycling bin something else, like the rubbish folder, or the dustbin file? Life on the mainland is incredibly different. I have to work much harder for the same pay, and answer to a boss who can see through my entire productive, nose to the grind charade. How long can I keep it up before I am let loose, cut adrift to float with the jetsam on Main and Hastings? I have started having nightmares about work, and my weeks are 45 hours of sheer torment. I know how much contempt you must have for whining little fucks like me, but I’m just telling you what is going on in my head. I have a good opportunity across the street to work for a software company that has positioned itself globally to really go big. I have passed through all the hoops and tests and the only thing that remains are for my references to be checked. I wait anxiously, checking my messages hourly for the call that will set my soul free.
My point is this: when I don't care, I just don't care.
Don't get me wrong, life is stellar here. On Halloween, sometime around 6 in the morning, at a dangerously overcrowded rave underneath the Second Narrows Bridge, Anya and I decided we must spend the rest of our lives together. I could write volumes about it, but suffice to say that she is what I have been waiting for all my life. I have no doubts about her. You must meet her soon. But I figure that is one of the more important puzzles in life. When I sit back and think about all the roads I have taken in life, and how by some fluke I ended up driving to Penticton with her, it really makes me wonder why I worry about little useless details like how many new leads I have every Monday morning. When I met her for the first time I knew that given the right environment it would happen. And sure enough did. So the rest of the life puzzle is all detail I think, now that I have this sorted.
Sorry to go on about MY personal life and MY problems, but hey, we Canadians like to whine. Right now it is popular to whine about the PM, APEC, the lack of choice in our federal parties, the fact that hockey is boring, I mean what a pathetic country eh? The problem with Canadians is they get so concerned with minor details that they forget they have not been around long enough to worry about shit like that. I mean where is the long term thinking? It is nowhere; it is what is missing from our society and what makes us mediocre. We could be so much better, and all it would take would be for most people to cut there TV watching or nosepicking time in half and devote it to something else. I hear people say all the time "Oh we're so busy right now." Bullshit you are, you spend 20 hours a week watching TV. You got time for Ally McBeal? Then you have time for something productive. We are keeping files.
And what is with the architecture? I have learned that if you spend about 10% more effort and/or money on a given project you reap unlimited amounts of increased enjoyment/profit. Would it really be that difficult to make buildings that are aesthetically pleasing? or ban neon awning from the face of the earth. In my regime there will be Cultural Ministers whose task it will be to shut down the businesses that refuse to take pride in their own surroundings. Windows will be smashed and family run business will be destroyed, "I m sorry, but your storefront does not meet building codes, and you have been ugly for far too long." At the risk of long debate, Yes I do think that it is possible to debate taste. Some is good, most is bad.
I must go now and buy Anya a book. This is Canada out>

Thursday, September 27, 2001

A visit from the Three Houseketeers has given me a new lease on life. The apartment has never been cleaner. I realized when looking at the bill, (which was completely reasonable) that one could make a reasonably easy living if one had the right clients and right employees in a cleaning service. I am not talking huge dosh here, just enough to live moderately without having to work too hard for it.

When I first moved to Whistler my girlfriend at the time cleaned construction workers' temporary apartments. She charged $40 for a 45 minute visit, or what was suppose to be 45 minutes. Most of these guys never ate a single meal in these places, either eating out or ordering pizza, so the "cleaning" of the apartment usually meant vacuuming the floors and running the dishwasher. I think the most time consuming task was sorting the beer bottles, which we kept of course -times were tough back in '93.

She even had a "collector" friend who was a plumber, as well as a karate blackbelt and blow monkey, who also worked with many of her clients. Any customers who forgot to leave the money on the counter were quick to pay up once Eric found out about it. Well, it's not like he hurt anybody. It was a good gig while it lasted I suppose.

Tomorrow is the end of the quarter, and possibly the end of the first part of my career...
Canadians are often guilty of complaining that Americans know so little about us, and I have to say that it can be annoying. While I understand that Canada is a relatively insignificant and provincial country ( and becoming more so every year), I do expect our neighbours to have at least a general knowledge of our nation and of the world at large. Right wing sycophants in Canada are quick to point out that we have an inferiority complex, that we are self obsessed, and that we are more concerned with what Americans think of us than what we think of ourselves. It is reassuring to read that some Americans recognize that now is a great time to correct their collective ignorance.

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

cereal box prize
a jungle book cd rom
only for windows

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Mike returned from Montreal this week, fresh from a 3 day trip cramming as many urban pleasures into those 72 hours. Of course the trip included a visit to Sona, Montreal's infamous afterhours club. Having grown up in Montreal, I know how much they love to enjoy life, but a night at Sona proves they take partying to a world class level. Mike was lucky enough to drop by on a night when Anne Savage was playing.

When I asked him how it was, he had to stop and think presumably about some way to emphatically describe just how hard the music was. That is what Sona is about- Hard House with capital Hs. You never here that hear in Vancouver, and I think it must have something to do with the climate. Surrounded and spoiled by a temperate climate, we like to hear uplifting anthems, funky deep house, anything with some "natural" or human sound in it. Since we don't need the music to forget our surrounding, it often complements and celebrates our surroundings. The hard house in Montreal, however, is a completely urban and industrial experience. A cavernous darkened room, corrugated steel staircases, gangstas, strippers and prostitutes,sanctioned dealers ( 18 year old up and coming players wearing white ball caps) all contribute to a totally industrial experience. Hence, the music is as inhuman and industrial as you can imagine. There are no vocals, no acoustic instruments, no emotional sounds. Just hard, loud, repititive beats that you can only assume were created using some audio equation working with a chemical equation to achieve an hallucinatory effect.

So if you visit Montreal, drop in but be prepared.

Friday, September 21, 2001

So I guess we are gearing up for a long, drawn out war that will have much of its operations remain covert forever. As GWB says, this new type of war has new rules, a vague enemy and requires different tactics. To me he is saying that the rules can be made and changed as we go along, the war will target anyone, anywhere, and that this one is going to be dirty. "Terrorism", or the threat of it, will become the bogeyman of this century, one which we haved learned is all to real.

I support the capture and persecution of those responsible for these WTC terrorist attacks, and as well the capture of any perpetrators of terrorism. What worries me about the mood in the Western world is that our military leaders can easily use this situation as carte blanche to assisisnate any uncooperative leaders in any country. I feel like we are in a time warp, and the US and the British are embarking on some crusade to spread the freedom of Western society. This is a war that could last for 20 or 30 years, and see an decrease in the level of the freedom we are trying to defend.

But to win this war, we have to understand the terrorists' view of the world. I don't support their tactics, but I can see why are frustrated with the status quo. The West has to face that its lifestyle screws over so many countries so hard and that efforts to change that through diplomacy have never been a serious priority, and are nearly always subordinated to profits and power. Deals have been made by the US and Britain with the Kurds, the Palestinians, the Iraqis, the Afghanis, only to reneg on the deal once the other party had held up their end of the bargain. So there are bitter people all over the world, seething at us as we complain about the price of gasoline, or moan about poor internet service providers.

If we are going to end terrorism we certainly need to bring these people to justice, but we alsoo need to be aware of the consequnces of our actions.

Enough of my rambling. Feeling like today I shed my old skin......

Friday, September 14, 2001

How Not to Be a Leader, by my VP Sales
VP:Hey schoolboy, how are your customers reacting to the tragedy?
Schoolboy:Well VP, they are putting things on hold.
VP: Well, what are they telling you? What do you mean on hold?
Schoolboy: Well there aren't many in the office, and I can't get a hold of any project managers.
VP: What about the ones you can reach? What are they telling you?
Schoolboy: To be honest, I am not pressing the issue. I'll wait until next week.

VP nods head, as if to say " if you think you can use this time to slack off, you are wrong.
Schoolboy turns gaze to monitor as if to say "f*** you

I am becoming convinced that the worst is yet to come. There will be many more people dying all over the world. In the midst of this I am searching for some good. I am looking for ways to show that we are better than this, that the one unstoppable force in this world is the human spirit. If there is any good to be found, I think it will be that we have been brought together by this horror, and it is my hope that we will stay together knowing that if anything is to change, we must be the ones to change it. This sounds trite, but when everyone is caught up in working, earning, spending, surviving and consuming, we forget that what is important and enduring. Jobs come and go, fashions are replaced every year, but our relationships are what endure. Hopefully this will be the wake up call we need to bring more decency to a world that was getting cruel and smug with its success.

The attacks on the U.S. have produced much rhetoric from all sides. Always able to find the gems in the rough, textism comes through again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Selling business intelligence solutions is not what I feel like doing today. The world has other things on its mind, and our management should not be encouraging us to contact customers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

I thought for a long time that we would never have to live through anything like this. I thought that we had evolved beyond this, and that my life would be free from mass slaughter and thoughtless, remorseless murder. Nic, Lucia and Chris are all safe. I don't let many people know this side of me, but I was on the verge of tears all day, until I finally packed it in and went home to play tennis.

But this is just so sad. Hopefully, this will be the worst tragedy in my lifetime.

Monday, September 10, 2001

Now here is a job with upward mobility! All you must endure are football hooligans, rioting strikers, drunks, addicts and shoplifters. You could be a super in only 5 years.
Yes! I can make more than Cheerios for dinner! On Saturday night I actually made sofrito lamb. It took about 4 hours and I made a mess, but it came off wonderfully, a surprise hit actually, as I am known for not being able to make anything. Maybe I feel that way because so many people around me are great cooks.

On Sunday we had Sean and Shelley over to the lighthouse. Shelley was on her way to the airport, en route to Denver. Now I have not paid attention to the NFL in several years ( I don't have cable and I cannot even get CBC), but I joked to Shelley that she should check if there is some Monday Night NFL happening in Denver. Well lo and behold today I get an email from a Broncos fan inviting me to watch Monday Night football at his place.

I had not done this in years, but it was so enjoyable to sit and watch football and eat chips and drink cold Stellas.

Friday, September 07, 2001

I slept in today. Not exciting news for a blog, but it felt wonderful. Anya went to work at the usual ungodly hour of 5:30am, and I didn't bother to set the alarm. All I remember is her telling me to walk the dog.

Nic writes me about his trip to Costa Rica. I think he might be considering packing it all in and opening a surf shop down there, or maybe in Nicaragua. He tells me that is the new hot spot for cheap surf. More on Nic later.

Thursday, September 06, 2001

I have great news to tell my wife, but I don't want to tell her until it is 100% in the bank, which isn't yet, but should be by month end. However, in the meantime she is stressed out by situations that would be eliminated by my good news. Should I tell her about it to stop her worrying? I think I will hold off until it is official. The organization could reneg on its promise to me.

I wrote a mean-sprited letter to this guy, I now I feel bad. I should apologize, so I will right here and now. Dean, I am sorry.
Sometimes I enjoy falling ill for a few days, knowing that I will eventually feel better. The feeling of waking up and having more energy and vitality is almost worth the pain and annoyance of a runny nose and sore throat. Almost. It reminds me of the saying, I can't remember who said it, perhaps it was Bukowski, that people who don't drink wake up knowing this is the best they are going to feel all day.

When I was 17 I had a bout of stomach flu that was that gave me the most painful stomach aches I have ever felt. I was eating chinese food at my girlfriend's grandparents house, and I suddenly lost my appetite. The sight of food began to make me ill, and I had to excuse myself from dinner. Once we got outside I told Allison, my girlfriend at the time, that she had to drive me home as I was on the verge of puking. On the way home I sat doubled over in the station wagon, groping my abdomen, praying for some kind of relief. It was like there was a hurricane in my stomach, some evil brew concocted by viruses, boiling, frothing, releasing its poisonous, foul gas inside of me with no outlet. If only I could vomit it would be over.

When I got home 20 minutes later I ran into the bathroom and blew chunks into the toilet, and the pain disappeared into the porcelain basin along with the half chewed egg rolls and pineapple chicken. The relief I felt was like an orgasm, however twisted that may sound.

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Sorry about the lack of posts. I was on vacation in Montreal, and had sworn off any electronic devices, except for a cell phone and my friend Chris's stereo. The purpose of the trip was to attend John and Daphne's wedding. Dinner was 14 courses, including shark fin soup, which I am told is a delicacy and a commonly used guage of how much was spent on the wedding.

Being from Montreal, I had a list of old haunts to visit, few of which I actually managed to grace with my west cost ambient presence. I did get to eat a big plate with pickles, fries and cherry cola at Schwartz's, dance to minimalist techno at Sona, and even pay a vist to my old school.

Montrealers love to party, and I was sucked into their world of non-stop good time rolling for 10 days. I had to check out for a weekend in the Eastern Townships, where my parents have rented a cottage on Lac Massawippi.

Now I am back in the grey cubicle, hiding behind my low walls ( part of the "open office" plan) just riding it out until the end of the quarter. The pressure for management will start to rise this week, and they will definitely disable the air conditioning....

Friday, August 24, 2001

I feel so lazy, even though I could blame my lack of blog updates on so many circumstances. Our friends Peter and Lynda have asked us to house-sit their place in Lighthouse Park. You really could not find better waterfront property in Vancouver. However they have no internet access there, and I have been so busy at work, or I have been preparing to be busy, or lookiny like I am busy, but really I am busy.

I also have not been able to use the internet at home, as Telus is living up to its promise in Article 57 of my contract " we cannot guarantee we will provide service". I love that. I would love being able to make promises that I am the best, the swiftest, smartest, whatever superlative promise you can imagine, and then be able to say, well, I cannot guarantee that I will actually do all those things. Whatever happened to either keeping your word or admitting that you screwed up when you don't keep your word?

I am off again to Montreal, for my friend John's wedding. In 1997, John let me use his computer occasionally so that I could learn how to use a computer. I remember when we stole my ex-girlfriend's Window's CDs so that he could upgrade from Windows 3.1. Anyway, in 1997 he was tasked with building a web page for the library. I helped in the capacity of "design consultant". The results were quite ghastly, but remember, this was 1997.

I am so happy he is getting married.

Sunday, August 12, 2001

I have had no posts here due to network problems we had at work. No one I spoke to outside of our company had these problems. Why us? We're supposed to be on the bleeding edge.

Friday night we saw JR off to Dallas. He's not leaving until Wednesday, but we thought Friday night was better for a going away gig. The unusually warm Vancouver night allowed us to sit on the patio till the wee hours without having to resort to wool sweaters, fleece or heat lamps.

Same story last night at Raul's, where most of the party remained in his backyard despite the pounding beats inside. I left shortly after midnight, and the way it was going it was likely to be busted by our intolerant police.

Who loves the sun?

Thursday, August 09, 2001

The code red virus struck our company on Tuesday, and it is only just now that I have been able to browse the web. What is scary is how much time I had on my hands while I was confined to my desktop applications. I guess there is always Unreal Tournament!

What kind of person aspires to be a middle manager?

Monday, August 06, 2001

I am still full from a meal I ate yesterday. Needing to get out of the city, Anya and I drove south to Washington, looking for a scenic drive called Chuckanut Drive. Crossing the border into the US usually makes me paranoid. Not that I have any reason to be paranoid, but the guns, the pictures of GWB, the thought that some of these guards could throw me into detention without any regard to my civil rights makes me a little anxious. However yesterday I had the shortest conversation with any customs officer I have ever had, and I have crossed the border probably 500 times. It went like this:

me: Hello
Customs man: Got any merchandise?
me: No
Customs man: move along

It was not the brevity of the questions that baffled me, but the choice of question. Why would a Canadian travelling to the US bring merchandise to the US?

Anyway, I wanted to have a greasy breakfast, and I found it in Mt Vernon. It was called "The Home Cook Inn". It had a screen "flap" where the kitchen door should have been, and from the inside came the shouts and sounds of a busy diner on a Sunday morning. A bucket of fry oil held the screen flap in place. Inside we were greeted by a teenage hostess. I ordered corn beef hash 'n' eggs, which turned out to be the largest portion of food I have ever been served. The hash browns were grated, just the way I like them.

Friday, August 03, 2001

So much for teutonic efficiency. Last night I watched One Day in September, a documentary about the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. It seems that Germany was so careful in erasing their Nazi past that they forgot why it is sometimes important to have armed police officers around at large international events.

I don't get cable TV, so I am out of touch with television. However, I do have a sitcom broadcast from the desk behind me. It is B-Mac Daddy, broadcasting tales of woe, misery and hangovers. I am glad he has been convinced to spread the word to more than just his immediate coworkers.

We fired some more people recently. After the latest victim was removed from the office, his desk was emptied, and lo and behold there was a Penthouse magazine in one of the drawers. Now everyone knows why his door was always closed.....

Wednesday, August 01, 2001

Whenever I tell people that I live in Vancouver their initial reaction is "Oh you're so lucky, it so beatiful there!" I had a girlfiend for several years who was what most people would describe as beautiful. When she walked into a room, every head turned to her. She was also vindictive, manipulative, unfaithful and quite dense. Was I lucky? No; I was miserable.

Vancouver is like my ex-girlfriend. It is beautiful, but there is no substance beneath the beauty. We did not create the beauty here; it was formed from glaciers millions of years ago. We have done little besides defile its beauty with strip malls, stucco condos and cheesy tourist sites left over from what must have been a cocaine induced building spree for Expo 86.

So I have had it. I want out.
Normally I don't get snappy with people who cut lines, or push me out of their way so that they can save themselves 5 seconds. I usually assume they are having a rough day and let them stew in their own misery. Then I walk away and fantasize about throwing hot coffee in their face.

Monday, July 30, 2001

Had dinner last night with Sean and Shelley. Conversation topic was how we have all been stalked by Amway people, looking for new recruits to the cult. Is it really a cult? As if you had any doubt.
My younger brother and I used to be able to argue about anything. Every spoken word was an opportunity to show up each other. We had a burning desire to best each other, no matter how inocuous the task. "Oh, so you think you've seen more Three's Company episodes than me? So how high was the appartment building supposedly owned by the man whom Jack "saved" from choking in his restaurant?"
One of our favorite subjects for debate was music, and I remember arguing over who was born in the year which saw the best music released. It was 1971 vs 1973, and I am certain it turned violent. This may have saved us some bruises.