Fare Thee Well!

My third and probably last PuSh Festival show was Fare Thee Well!, an unusual art piece I caught today after work. To see it I had to get to the Lookout at Harbour Centre and look into one of several telescopes facing roughly east. For about 15 minutes I listened to sad, haunting instrumental music while a distant scrolling marquee bade farewell to various people and ideas, or showed classical quotes about goodbyes.

It was very high-concept, and it worked for me. What helped was that the messages were not all sad. One said “Farewell VHS players”. I think another was about rotary phones. “Farewell CBC” was followed by “Farewell Jian Gomeshi”. Some were downright ambiguous: for example, how should I read “Farewell Trust in the Father”? A sad acknowledgement of the breakdown of family structures, or a happy end to patriarchal authority?

There were a small number of “Welcome” messages, and all of them were either sad or disturbing. Most memorable? “Welcome Harper”. Yeah.

All in all, a job well done! My only complaint was that the setup in the Lookout needed work. The telescopes were too low, and having to look through them without moving was damn uncomfortable. There should have been some way to move the chairs up or down a bit.

And since this was my first trip up the Lookout, I made sure to take lots of pictures. It was the perfect time of day, too: just light enough to see details of the buildings, but dark enough to give them some magic.

The Longest Day

On new year’s day, I was in three cities: Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa.

I’d spent New Year’s Eve with my brother in Montreal, as is my wont, but this year I decided to do something a little different. I knew a friend of mine from Toronto had a non-alcoholic New Year’s Day recovery party, and he kept inviting me. Well, this time I took him up on it. So with only a few hours’ sleep under my belt I bade farewell to my brother, his girlfriend and their cats, taxied off to YUL just as the sun rose, and thence to YTZ.

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant flight. I was in one of those little propellor planes, and it felt fairly shaky. I didn’t get sick, thank gawd, but it was a bit nerve-wracking all the same.

And then… Toronto. Would you believe it had been over 18 years since I visited Toronto? Yes, for Pride ’96, shortly before moving out west. Wow, how time flies.

And the party was fun! I knew very few people and I’m not naturally outgoing, so I had the urge to glom onto my friend and his partner, or hang around the pinball machine in the Monopoly room*—but I did an okay job of being sociable. It was kind of challenging, but I did my best, and isn’t that all anyone can ask?

(* Really, they had a whole room devoted to Monopoly collectibles: games, coasters, pillows, candles, and an actual, fully functional, pinball machine.)

Socialising aside, Toronto’s an interesting place. I was only able to take in a bit of the downtown area, but it feels very different from Vancouver and Ottawa. It feels like I imagine New York City would feel: loud, bright, kind of oppressive, and architecturally a neat mix of the very old with the very new. Also it’s got streetcars! And Dundas Square, which is like Times Square, except 1/50 as big! Fun times.

Then, the bus back to Ottawa. Leaving at 9PM, arriving at 2AM. This was… different from being on a plane. On a plane you’re high up in the sky, and even if you can see landmarks around you, you’re completely separate from everything. Sure, it’s fun to take pictures of prairie lakes and towns and such… but on a bus you’re part of it. You’re ever so briefly within touching distance of homes, stores, some with familiar names and some without. You get to peek into people’s living rooms, just for a split second, see the Christmas decorations they still haven’t put away, ponder what kind of lives they lead, in these tiny-ass towns… and then you’re off again.

The bus had wifi, and an outlet to plug my phone, so I spent a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook, but there wasn’t a lot going on, so I also followed the bus’s progress on Google Maps. It felt a bit wrong to filter my perception through satellites and fancy software, but it was dark, and I just couldn’t see anything out the window most of the time. So, fuck it, hooray for technology if it told me the names of these towns and rivers, and how far I was from civilisation.

But every once in a while, I did turn off the phone. Not to look, but to ponder. To think about my choices and my life in these last 18.5 years. It’s been a somewhat uneven road, and I have a few regrets, in addition to spending far too long between Toronto visits. And also thinking about the day, which I mostly spent travelling alone. I felt uprooted and dislocated, but in a good way. Not lonely, but cool and adventurous, blazing new paths—or re-exploring very old ones, which was almost as good.

Got to Ottawa a bit late, and I decided to walk back to my parents’ place. No need for a cab, it wasn’t that far. I did come to question that decision a couple times because I was dead tired, and it was really cold. But I enjoyed the empty streets, the quiet. Gave me time to navel-gaze some more. Soon enough, I’d go back to Vancouver, back to real life, put all my new resolutions into practice. But for just one more day, I could relax.

I went to bed around 3AM, almost 21 hours after waking up. Not a bad day at all, if I do say so myself. And a good omen for the coming year.

On the Road to Kamloops

Lots of pretty pictures on the way to Kamloops!

The muddy Fraser

Elvis Rocks the Canyon

Dry Interior landscape

I took a picture of this church before, and now it has a name: St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church, near Spences Bridge

A family(?) of mountain goats by the side of the road, climbing the cliff like it ain’t no thing.

Let’s show a close up of one of the goats, just because.

Out of the mountains (sort of)

A little farm, on the way back

More here!

Holiday photos

Three sets of photos I took last month.

Three sets of photos I took recently:

First, snowy Vancouver! There was a nice dump of snow just a few days before I was scheduled to fly back East, and I was delighted. Hey, I wouldn’t need to go anywhere to enjoy a white Christmas! On the winter solstice I walked around the West End snapping some pictures. Everything was so beautiful!

More here

The trip to Ottawa was… interesting. I got to the airport a bit too late to check in, which meant they rescheduled me to a flight later that afternoon (hey, it could have been worse!), connecting through Montreal—where I’d have to spend the night, flying on to Ottawa early the next morning. Oy. It would have been faster to drive to Ottawa—though maybe not in all this snow, I guess.

Still, it was my bad, so I’m not complaining. Too much. And I had fun in Ottawa; in addition to seeing my brand-new nephew, I continued the theme of “tourist in my home town” by visiting the Diefenbunker (never been before) as well as the National Art Gallery (haven’t been in ages).

(And though I did take a photo of the first-level concourse, I only realised later that the ceiling is actually itself a temporary exhibit. So it’s not going online.)

More here

Also, last Saturday I took a few lovely photos of Blue Mountain Park in the fog. Eerily beautiful!

More here

Thanksgiving in Regina

So a friend of mine invited me to the Golden Crown volleyball tournament, and it was tons of fun. I’d never been to Regina (or Saskatchewan, for that matter), and was looking forward to visiting someplace new. Before this year, I really hadn’t done much of that—but that’s changing, and gay volleyball tournaments are a great excuse to expand my horizons.

Over two weeks late, but it took me a while to get around to sorting through the hundreds of photos I took.

So a friend of mine invited me to the Golden Crown volleyball tournament, and it was tons of fun. I’d never been to Regina (or Saskatchewan, for that matter), and was looking forward to visiting someplace new. Before this year, I really hadn’t done much of that—but that’s changing, and gay volleyball tournaments are a great excuse to expand my horizons.

Regina is a lovely town, with super-friendly people and super-hot university students. I didn’t know many people there and my introvert side was acting up, which was kind of annoying, but I managed to have fun and socialise, even go out dancing at the gay club. Yes, there’s just one. It looks like it’s managed by a non-profit—probably because a for-profit club wouldn’t survive in a town this size; but according to its Facebook page that does make it the only GLBT community-owned club in Canada, which is pretty awesome. It reminds me of Club 318 (I think that was its name) in Ottawa, back in the day, except that only took place every second Friday at the Lisgar Street community centre. I wonder if that’s still going on?

I gave myself time to do the tourist thing by myself Friday afternoon and all day Monday. Everything is pretty much within walking distance, so transportation is no problem. On Friday I walked around the amazing Wascana Park, dodging all the bundled-up cyclists and joggers. Yeah, Regina is a bit chilly and overcast and hella windy—though I guess I should count my blessings, since it hadn’t actually started snowing yet. Still, the park was beautiful in its autumn finery, all soft golds and oranges. No red that I remember; I guess they don’t have maples in Regina. Which really makes you think: Canada is a big place, with many and varied ecosystems. Magpies in Calgary and Kamloops, but not Vancouver. At least 2 species of crows, in Vancouver and Ottawa. Neat. I just needed to get my feet on the ground a bit more in this big land of ours, instead of flying over it.

Two days of volleyball and partying really took it out of me, physically and emotionally, so on Monday I was happy to do the solo tourist thing again. I bade farewell to roommates (they were all driving back to Edmonton), and I set out.

My first stop was the Mosaic Stadium, home of the Roughriders, and easily visible from our hotel room. I don’t particularly care about football, but I was told I should try to get in, and take pictures from the seats—or even the field, assuming there’s no practice going on. I walked around the whole place but couldn’t find a way in, so I shrugged and went on my way.

Next was the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, located in Wascana Park (like half the city’s major landmarks, it seems). An awesome place where I learned all about Saskatchewan First Nations, geology, and wildlife both past (dinosaurs) and present. Amazingly, they had a fossilized Mosasaur skeleton, along with stuff about how Saskatchewan was mostly underwater back in the day. But I already knew that, thanks to The Oatmeal!

Megamunch the animatronic T Rex, was just the icing on the cake.

Next was the Legislature. I wasn’t sure if it’d be open for tours on a holiday, but it was! Yay! (Though the bookstore and gift shop was closed. Boo!) The handsome francophone guide took us around the foyer, to the Library with neat historical artefacts on display, the hall with Saskatchewan Order of Merit recipients, the room with portraits of past SK Premiers and even more historical artefacts and documents. And the Legislature itself, which we unfortunately were not allowed to set foot in, so we had to take pictures from the door.

And last, the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Which at first I thought was closed, but then a security guard came up and showed me the right door to use. Derp.

And then I was off to the airport! But I’m sure I’ll be back someday.

More photos here!

Hwy 1 crossing Evans Rd

Downtown Calgary

Victoria Park

Good morning

Mosasaur skeleton

Sask Legislature

Saskatchewan Legislature

Saskatchewan Legislature, from the West

Albert St

Rainbow Racing Stripes

Today was a first for me: I got my hair dyed. And then I thought, what the hell, let’s dye it ALL THE COLOURS. So, in honour of Pride and especially our lovely rainbow crosswalks, I got myself all 8 colours of the Pride rainbow.

Incidentally, this is the first time in a long while I’ve felt really happy with how pictures of myself looked. I guess all I needed was different hair colour?

Celebration of Light 2013: United Kingdom and Canada

The first show of the season, by the United Kingdom on Saturday the 27th, was quite good. Not great, though: I’ve got the same complaint as with Team Mexico’s show a couple years ago, and that’s the fireworks display seemed too tied to the music. I’m not 100% sure, mind you, but there were a number of repetitive parts that weren’t very exciting visually, and I assume that’s what was going on. Music-wise, from what I could see, it seemed to be a tribute to James Bond. There was the theme from Goldfinger, plus another Bond flick which I can’t recall right now. Still, it had lots of good moments.






(More photos here)

I wasn’t really planning to go to Canada’s show on Wednesday the 31st because it was after volleyball, and I’d be tired and I’d have to face not only the crowds, but also driving home around 9. To my place in the West End. In the West End that was 80% closed to cars because of the fireworks, and only had a few points of entries for gas-powered vehicles. But I got invited by a couple of friends, and after vball I found I had more energy than I thought, so off I went.

(And then I couldn’t find them and for some reason my phone didn’t have coverage so I could neither call nor message. Maybe it’s my carrier, maybe it’s the massive crowds, or both.)

So that was annoying, but I had a good view so I decided to stay. I’m glad I did, because it was phenomenal! No repetitive parts, clever visual effects that I’d never seen before, gorgeous use of colours, I loved every bit of it!

Northern Voice 2013, Part 2: Bigger on the Inside

No, this post isn’t about TARDISes, but about stories and the art of storytelling. Neil Gaiman wrote (in Sandman, I think) that everybody has worlds of stories in them, no matter how mundane and small they seem on the outside.

No, this post isn’t about TARDISes, but about stories and the art of storytelling. Neil Gaiman wrote (in Sandman, I think) that everybody has worlds of stories in them, no matter how mundane and small they seem on the outside.

Theresa Lalonde: #story

Theresa Lalonde loves stories. Listening to other people’s struggles and how they’re navigating this difficult world, creates a sense of connection and gets her own creative juices going.

The real gift of a good storyteller is to respect the people whose stories you’re sharing. You have to make them feel that they’ve’ve been heard. Her motto is “Everybody else is more interesting than me”. Which sparked a bit of discussion—no, it shouldn’t be taken literally to mean you’re the least interesting person on the planet. A good storyteller has to be an interesting person, to properly reflect other people. But when you’re in storytelling mode, you’re not supposed to take centre stage yourself. Let other people be the stars.

There are stories everywhere, it’s just a question of watching out for them. Theresa told the of Fraserview Cemetery, where the paupers’ graves hold three people deep, and are recycled every 40 years. But the names are still there, and you can find out their stories.

(She might have told the story of one such pauper, but I don’t have it in my notes. The mention of cemetery names might have got me thinking about this amazing Vlogbrothers video, which led to this even more amazing video, and if that’s not the perfect illustration of Theresa’s point, I don’t know what is.)

She also dispensed some more practical advice: use the “zoom-in” factor, to focus on small details of a story thereby making it more immediate and personal. Also, need to overcome the fear of the blank canvas? Dirty it up, scrawl some doodles and/or nonsense words, that’ll dirty it up and get you ready for the real work.


Friday afternoon was the photowalk, hosted by Vivian McMaster. For some reason this was the first ever photowalk I’ve been on. I think last year the weather was too bad, and in previous years… I guess there were interesting talks going on at the same time.

Anyway, Vivienne took a bunch of us around Vanier Park, offering a few tips on thinking outside the box: trying different angles, different perspectives, wave your camera around and capture the motion blurs. I took a number of photos and I’ve decided to post them all, even the out-of-focus ones, even the repetitive ones, without any self-censorship. It’s liberating, and intriguing. There are actually some nice shots in there… And here they are.

Near the end a couple of us were chatting and I mentioned how I’m a very left-brain person, and how sometimes I doodle to work out my right brain. They suggested doodling with my off hand to really give my right hemisphere a workout. Sounds like a good idea!

Dave Olson: Vancouver: The Untold Stories

What can you say about DaveO that hasn’t already been said? He’s smart, hilarious, and insightful as hell. I won’t go into too much detail his talk because (a) I couldn’t do it justice, and (b) I wasn’t taking notes at all (more on that below). Partly it was about the roots of today’s social media in much older technologies (home-printed zines, CB radio—a recurring theme, he talked about that one in a previous NV), the history of Vancouver’s music scene (complete with tickets and posters), and tips on finding stories.

Basically: get out of your comfort zone, and find weird things. And you don’t even have to look that hard, either. The weirdness is all around, from a street in North Vancouver named after one of the Group of Seven who lived in Kits for a bit and kick-started Vancouver’s art scene, to anecdotes of bands playing in long-gone clubs, every block in the city is crammed with stories that just need a little digging.

DaveO did some of the work for us, too. He had a couple of large envelopes from which the audience could pick out cards with names to start from. I picked Frederick Varley (the aforementioned Group of Seven artist). I was a bit relieved, since it seemed easier than digging up dirt about old Gastown clubs and whatnot, but maybe not. Who knows what this’ll lead to?

One last point about the talk: at the start Dave invited a few audience members to come up on stage and handle some of the props (posters, records) while he sat in his comfy chair and babbled on. So I went up, sat by the fire and put a couple old records on.

A friend told me afterwards that I was brave for going on stage. Brave? Maybe, I don’t know. I’m not usually one for the spotlight and yes, there was a little part of me that hesitated, but I made the leap without trying too hard. I guess bravery is in the eye of the beholder. Going up to talk to a cute guy? Really hard. Being on stage in front of a few hundred people, at least when I’m not the centre of attention? Apparently not that hard. Go figure.

The Road to Kamloops

Oh, and I took pictures before, during and after Imagine No Religion! The weather was fine throughout and if I do say so, I took some awesome shots. I’m particularly proud of my shot of Merritt after we left it, lightly kissed by the setting sun.

Plus, the Kamloops flora and fauna. I didn’t see any magpies this time because I didn’t go on a long walk, but there was this species of tree growing by the convention centre parking lot. It had very thin leaves, of a light silvery-green colour. What kind of tree was that? My googling suggested some kind of spruce, but I don’t know anything about trees, so… All I know is, I’ve never seen one in Vancouver. They must like the drier climates.

Highway 1

Coquihalla Hwy

Coquihalla Hwy

Coquihalla Valley farm

Friday night sunset

Tree and mountains

Stopping for gas in Merritt

Oh, and a moonshot. This was pretty much the only time of day I can take photos of the moon: late enough that it’s clearly visible, but with enough light for my camera to work.

Half moon

Leaving Merritt

I think I heard one of my friends say this is the Coquihalla summit.

Coquihalla Hwy

Some thoughts on the Calgary skyline

It’s been a month and I’ve kept postponing writing this post. Partly because I still have hundreds of pictures to upload, until I realised I could attach only the required photos to this post, and worry about uploading the rest later.

So, Calgary. I’d flown over it a number of times, connected through its airport a couple times, but I’d never really visited until this Easter weekend. The occasion was Western Cup, an annual volleyball/curling/dodgeball tournament that I heard was tons of fun but never got around to. But a couple months before, I’d been hunting for a team for Queen Vicki, Vancouver’s own queer volleyball tournament, and a friend invited me on his QV team, his Western Cup team, and his Ottawa team (there’s a gay volleyball tourney in Ottawa two weeks before, which I also went to, but that’s another story.)

I had a great time, and met tons of amazing people. But my view of the actual city wasn’t so positive. Downtown Calgary looks pretty ordinary from the air: a cluster of high-rises surrounded by urban sprawl, not too different from Vancouver.

Downtown Calgary

From the ground, though, actually walking through it, it’s a different matter. Downtown Calgary is full of massive, shiny buildings, monuments to the giants of industry, oil and finance. Catch them from the right angle, and they’re attractive enough. But they also easily become dark and oppressive, since they’re far more crowded together than Vancouver and block out much more of the sunlight.

But in the midst of these ultra-shiny highrises there are older buildings, smaller and more modest, showing that Calgary does indeed have a history. Some that were previously commercial space have been converted into condos. I found them comforting, architecture on a much more human scale.

Down side: some of them, like the old City Hall, are utterly dwarfed by the surrounding highrises. Which is not unfamiliar. Christ Church Cathedral, anyone?

And some of these old buildings are just… old and sad. The eastern edge of downtown feels empty and run-down, maybe in the middle of pre-redevelopment, I don’t know. Just empty lots, gravel, and faded commercial façades. In fact, a lot of the eastern and southern edges of downtown feel very haphazard, with apartment buildings, heritage homes and commercial lots arranged seemingly at random. It had the feel of a city that had grown very fast with little actual planning—which, well, I guess is exactly what happened.

In fact, it was while walking back from Fort Calgary towards downtown that I formed my strongest impression of downtown: it felt like a herd of sleeping behemoths, shiny and faceless, as forbidding as the not so far-off the mountain ranges. It was not a pleasant impression.

What would Colonel MacLeod say if he was still alive? I’m sure he’d be happy to see the city prosper, but wouldn’t it look weird and alien to him?

Gut impressions aside, there was a very real downside to Calgary’s highrises: they blocked part of the view from the Calgary Tower. To the north I could see only straight up Centre Street; to the south and east I could see forever; to the west my view was half blocked by downtown. This being so close to the equinox the sunset was pretty much exactly due east, and it was just barely visible by one of the big shiny highrises. Any later in the year, and visitors to the Tower would be minus a sunset.

Shame, isn’t it? Just a few short decades after its construction, the Tower has been passed by the rest of the city. What good will it be as a tourist attraction, if Calgary keeps growing around it?