Sunday, 30 September 2007

Canadian placenames

I was talking with someone today who turned down a job near Toronto because the town was named 'Swastika'. I'd heard of a place in that state (Ontario) called Precious Corners, so I looked up other weird Canadian placenames:

Ochiichagwebabigoining

Saint-Louis-du-Ha-Ha!

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Other names can be found here.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Exploring the city

Calgary isn't as fussy as Toronto. It is pragmatic, it is commercial, and it is whisper-quiet. There is a sense that wintery, dim days are the natural order, and though we are glimpsing a moderate climate free of precipitation, scrubbing the city walls clean would be a waste of time. They would only be smudged again by the inevitable winter.


There are parks, I found some. I retract my earlier statement.













I first thought that these vent treadplate-footprints were the work of a whimsical local government body, but then saw a woman with high heels stepping on them carefully; the grilles are like cattlestops for them.











The city is not entirely without caprice. This horse is made from rusty bands of steel, just around the corner from one of the cinemas which shows independent films.













...but this is a town built on the charred and blasted wastelands of oil sands. It is reluctant to change, conservative. Muldoon would feel at home here.










I am now the proud owner of the crappiest bike in the world. It cost $5 (NZ$7). I dare not clean it; the dirt is the only thing holding the rust together, and without rust, my bike would be nothing. I bought it from a European of indeterminate age and origin. The bike is likewise.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Two Days, 17 Resumés

I've papered this city. Twelve resumés to recruitment agencies, five to the biggest design agencies. Checked out government listings, online classifieds, newspaper ads, talked with locals, pounded the pavement. If there is a job for an intermediate graphic designer with no web skills in the greater Calgary area, it will not evade me.

"From eventime to morning light
the copse was never more than grey;
Darkness did not come that night,
but day passed into day."

Summer doesn't ever really come to Calgary; spring passes unblinkingly into autumn. I went from 25-degree days in Toronto to the 10-degree climate of the Calgary 'summer'. The leaves are changing here, swirling in gentle twisting eddies under the shadow of skyscrapers. Girls who never quite put the finishing touches on their summer figures march determinedly in light dresses, one hand always guarding against the fickle breeze.
The light winds carry Calgary's warmth. The legendary 'chinook', a warm, dry wind blowing north, can raise the temperate from why-am-I-outside to oh-this-is-quite-nice. There is little of Toronto's humidity or blasting winds, which makes the lower temperatures more tolerable.
The PATH network lay under Toronto's streets; the +15 network is above Calgary by--you guessed it--fifteen feet. In the same bold colonial spirit that led man to discover the end of the Pahoia estuary well past the point where the smell of porcine effluvia made progress mildly unpleasant, I set out, sans compass, to explore these dizzying heights.

"...they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it's just there it's a little different."
-- Pulp Fiction

Of course, the stores were the same. There were just more of them, and at a slightly higher altitude. Four stories of stores are connected between 7th and 8th Avenues, running for one kilometre. What makes it confusing is that on the third level it joins with a southern extension, whereas on the second level it joins northward. I missed my compass. I wanted a GPS device.

Calgary is actually easy to navigate when you figure out the basic system: The Calgary Tower (an unassuming air-traffic-control-looking structure) is at Center Street. Roads north to south are called streets, thus 1st St West, 1st St East, and so on. Avenues run east to west, and are similarly numbered.
I stay at 520 7th St West, an area largely populated by hobos. The view out of my dorm window looks like a scene from Waiting For Godot. A few metres from the front door of the hostel is a needle receptacle, and we are advised not to walk alone after dark. I haven't had any problems; they seem to run the narrow range of emotions from mild disgruntlement to low-level civic outrage.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Time Zones, or, Why I Got Up At 4 A.M.

When it is midday in Calgary, it is 2pm in Toronto, 7pm in the U.K., 8pm in France, and 5am (the next day) in New Zealand.
To watch two Rugby World Cup matches (Australia in Montpellier at 2:30pm and New Zealand in Edinburgh at 5pm), I had to get to the only pub in Calgary which plays these pay-per-view games. The entry fee is $20.
When it is 2:30pm in France, it is 6:30am in Calgary. To catch the first train of the day at 6:35am, I set my alarm for 6am.
My alarm was still on Toronto time from yesterday, so buzzed at 6am Eastern Standard Time. After I had arisen, dressed, and staggered downstairs I looked at my watch, which was set to the local Mountain Standard Time, to find that it was.... 4am.

Onward, To Calgary

I flew to Calgary today. Like most travel, it was a series of minor ordeals punctuated with moments of wonder and bepuzzlement.
The four-hour flight tracked over all of the Great Lakes and the states of Ontario, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and finally Alberta. Nowhere in this span did I see a single forest; in fact 90% of the landscape was corn and other crops, for hundreds of miles. To gaze out and see nothing but a flat patchwork quilt of harvester patterns, again and again and again, makes me realise how vast these countries are.
The patterns themselves were seldom the same. I would have thought that there would be a 'best' way to harvest a field, but there were symmetrical, asymmetrical, triangular, rectangular, diagonal and circular patterns in ever-reducing circles. There were harvesting patterns which resembled the fairway on a Masters' golf course. There were patterns which looked like crop circles. There were idiosyncratic jinking weaves which outlined small ponds and streams. This continued for hours.

I caught a bus, then a train from the airport. America and Canada allow you to continue travelling without paying more by getting a transfer from the first thing you get on. You can keep going in the same direction but you can't backtrack because the transfers are a different colour.
Downtown here has been affected by white flight; most of the people you see on the street are actually *on the street*. When I checked in to the hostel, there were four old homeless guys lounging in the grassy area beside the building.
I walked around downtown for several hours. The trains are free within the 1km central strip, so I hopped on and off a few times. I bought some Chuck Taylor-style shoes ($7.50) and went to the only supermarket in the area, Safeway.
Calgary had a strange feeling about it, which I couldn't quite place. I realised after a few hours what it was: there are no public spaces. I bought a Coke and some cookies (I love cookies) from a store and looked for a foodcourt, a park, an eating area of any kind. After half an hour I gave up and perched on the plinth of a statue near a street corner. I looked at people; people looked at me. It was weird. A rambling bunch of teenage boys in yellow livery came along. "Hey man, can we shine your shoes for a donation to cystic fibrosis?" I said yes. They looked surprised and, honest to god, cheered. People in Canada are so happy, it's like living in a Smurf village. Today I saw a rough-as-guts biker hold open a gate for a little old man with a cane.
'Help Wanted' and 'Now Hiring' signs are everywhere, often followed by, 'For All Positions'. The last few minutes of the flight today revealed significant development going on outside Calgary. It's a city which is in a boom phase, and now I'm here to grab my slice of the pie.
And maybe see a moose.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Canadian signs

Today I bring you signage from the great northern land.








This is always good advice.









None were.











Tastes like chicken.









$8.99. Mums love 'em.











Actually, close to a nude beach.











The Pope has one of these too.











Once you go Guyanese, you never go back.











I got the gist of it.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Cartoonishly Nice

I'm constantly noticing the niceness of Canada. Take this example:

002 This barrier arm is padded. A group of people sat down and decided that people illegally running toll booths may scratch their vehicles, and that would not do.






I took a ferry out to the island off the coast, if that is what you call the edge of a really big lake.

011

The CN Tower has a short, fat friend. His name is the Rogers Center, but people call him the Skydome.








021

The CN Tower from a little further back.

The island is about 90% parks.










Hey look, Canadian geese.

033










Someone put a rock here, one year to the day before I was born, to say that there is a Trout Pond here. There was no Trout Pond, but it seems like a nice rock.

050









Cynicism not spoken here.

054b









I knew I was in for a long walk when I saw almost every other ferry passenger with a bicycle.
At one point I heard a cycling child, in a row of ducklings on wheels, cry "It's a car! Look out, it's a car!"

The island was lush and deserted.

057











The tourist season had ended a few weeks ago.

064









This quadra-cycle nonsense must end, and end here, at the Olde Time Bridge to Happy Animal Land.

072











Happy Animal Land had a variety of the sort of things that scurry when one goes out in a Surrey with a Fringe on Top. The animals seemed pensive.
My favourite was an old goat with a cough like a child trying to stay home from school.

073









There were five hundred more of these out of shot to the right in the Great Canadian Goose Savannah. One of them hissed at me; I can only assume he was an American Goose.

081









Oh, Canada. So damn nice.

083b











Back in the city. I'm just glad these aren't fibreglass moose.

093











The sun sets behind the Tower.

088












I've bought a ticket to Calgary for Saturday, so I'm cramming in all the touristy stuff this week.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

We'll dig our way out.

The PATH network is a series of underground food courts and overpriced retail outlets designed to separate Toronto residents from their money during the six months of the year when going aboveground is about as sensible as giving a raccoon a piggyback ride.
Today I wandered aimlessly around this subterranean salute to capitalism with a map in one hand and a compass in the other. I had not sun, nor wind, nor any other thing of nature wrought to guide me. Despite my orienteering accoutrement, I was a poor sub-urbanite: I surfaced twice when I intended to dive, and found at two points that I had completed a tight circle, at one point passing the same Tim Horton's three times. In my defense, I would have passed twenty Tim Horton's while in the bowels of the city.
For lunch, I had a Coke Zero and a pack of Ruffles chips: 'All-Dressed' flavour. Nowhere was there an explanation of what this meant.
I continued my search for items of perfection. Yesterday I had found the perfect notebook, or as close to perfect as CAD$5.00 gets you. Today I bought (at 'Essence Du Papier') a zip-closed ringbinder folio in fake leather for $35, or $40 at the till. I leveraged out the metal bindings with a quiet fury and a screwdriver, and zipped my laptop inside. Almost. The now-unreturnable ('Loganized') folio is 8mm too small on one side to zip up completely. When I un- the zip, it sighs open like a fat man releasing his belt after an all-you-can-eat buffet.
I'm an idiot, yes, but, from above and to the side, a stylish idiot. With a compass.

CODEPHRASE: The Wombat Floods At Night

My roomate, tonight, snores. Loudly. It sounds - and I had time to pinpoint this exactly - as though a wombat had a flooded engine, yet someone kept trying to start it. Who? Oh, perhaps one of the lesser gods whose power, though falling short of smiting, still had an infinite and transcendent ability to annoy.
Little can be done. I have tried throwing small objects. This afforded me the delight of finally finding a use for my now-significant pile of pennies, but did not affect any change in state, except a few minutes of the sound becoming that of a vacuum which had sucked up a sock. Nor did a pillow, flung with a reluctantly cathartic desperation, affect the slumbering source of septic sound.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Steamwhistle Brewery

Today I took a tour of one of Canada's local beer producers, Steamwhistle. Its livery is taken entirely from the building's past when steam trains were primed with steam produced by Toronto's massive subterranean heating system. The building, though modest by today's standards, has a feeling of hugeness on the inside. The solid beams are a metre thick; the lightbulbs have metal mining enclosures.

010

The brewery as seen from the CN Tower side.
The motards are a ruse, Canadian police ride bicycles and horses.





I bought a ticket from the hostel for $6 (NZ$8.50), and as soon as I arrived a free beer was in my hand. A few seconds after I had placed the emptied glass on the bar (which doubles as the reception desk) it was refilled. Visitors don't go on the tour without a glass of beer in hand. This wasn't much of an issue with my group, as there were just two of us plus the guide.

Steamwhistle is a microbrewery that is popular among the beer cognoscenti of Toronto. Pilsner is a variety of lager that is very hoppy (tastes strong and a bit yeasty). They import the yeast and a few other things from Europe, but the bulk of the materials are from within Ontario. Given the unusual amount of beer I had drunk at 2pm, it is remarkable that I remember any of this; most of the tour was sitting around or looking at stainless-steel vats. At the end you get to pull the steam whistle (yabba-dabba-doo!) and go back to the bar/reception/weird-art-gallery for another beer and maybe the bathroom.

006 The CN Tower, the tallest and most 70's-looking freestanding structure in the world.
At the base are Americans bitching about things; at the top is an overpriced restaurant.






007 Little things are different.

Cigarettes come in wide packs with two separate foil wrappers. When you've finished the first lot, the curiously-wide matchbook fits neatly into the space. Strangely, there are an odd number of cigarettes. I don't know which side gets the extra cigarette.


017 The essential coffee chain, Tim Hortons are EVERY-WHERE. The saturation level is one per 10,000 Canucks... that's twice the level of McDonalds in USA. You can get $1 coffee, so it's a bit more ghetto than Starbucks is. They sell donuts just like Dunkin' Donuts ones, plus spherical mini-things called TimBits, at 10 for CA$1.70, which aren't very nice.



018 A caffeinated muesli bar from the third big coffee chain, Second Cup; a cheap, mild-tasting apple variety; an a bagel. This meal: less than a buck.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Merry Squirrels; strange Venice Beach guy

video
The squirrels of Osgoode Hall: Frenetic.


video
Venice Beach guy: only knew two songs.


video
That's playing on the radio.


video
First chorus: black guy singing.

Meritocracy

Most job listings for designers in Toronto add words to the effect:

"Due to the large number of submissions for design position, we cannot contact all applicants. Please, no phone calls about this job."

Most listings express some desire for web expertise and Mac proficiency, which I don't have.

 

some downtown castleBut I do have a photograph of a downtown castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OsgoodeThis is Osgoode Hall. Squirrels infest it.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Bluetooth working, pics off phone now

Vista, the new version of Windows, was released before the market was ready for it. I have it on my laptop (new PCs now all have it pre-installed) and it has been a tremendous pain in the ass to bring it into line with all my stuff. Only today, after having it a few weeks, have I managed to get my cellphone to copy stuff across using Bluetooth.
I forgot to bring the power cord for my Fuji camera (thought it charged via USB), so until I get a local plug, my photos will be grainy like these.

They are all of Buffalo. Enjoy.

From the theatre district.

Only $9.99, if you can believe it.

It was 80 degrees in the shade of this tree.

On prepay, no contract.

I saw a huge black guy with one of these in L.A. People take them into Burger King, McDonalds, anywhere with a soda fountain. His said, "BIG DOGS CUP".

I'm going to start looking for work tomorrow, as I now have a Canadian bank account and a SIN, which is a national ID number for tax and pension records. I'm legit, so now I can walk tall in the street and stop sloping around like some kind of Southern Hemisphere drifter.

Video footage

Here are a half-dozen videos I shot but didn't get web-ready until now. They're mostly from L.A.

The Getty Museum:
video

Snake-handling at the Museum of Natural History:
video

The oil rigs off Seal Beach, near Venice Beach:
video

Going nowhere on a hot day:
video

Fleeing the South

I chose an early bus out of Buffalo, 10:15am. I caught a cab to the Greyhound terminal through the first fall of rain I have seen since being in North America.
We cleared Canadian customs in ten minutes, despite having four times as many passengers as when I ran the gauntlet that is Homeland Security on Friday.

I'm going home.
.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Mad dogs, Englishmen, me

I slept late today and took a stroll down Main St, soaking in its dubious charms. I bought some all-American junk food at a drug store (brownies, cherry pie, peanut-butter cheese squares) and wandered up to catch the #20 bus.
A black guy asked if I had a dollar for four quarters. I gave him a dollar; he gave me four silver coins. As I walked away, I glanced at the coins. Three were nickels, which are about the same size as quarters. Ah yes, I had been buffaloed.

While waiting for the bus, I was reminded how germane cell phones are to Americans. The poorer the citizen, the longer the conversation. A woman talked for fifteen minutes, continuing on the bus, about what she was planning on eating that night. I was convinced a guy was muttering to himself until I saw his wireless earpiece. Again and again, I saw -- and overheard -- people twittering in perpetuity. They were walking, or listening to music in the other ear, or cycling one-handed, or sitting in trees, or lying on park benches. The only thing they weren't doing was driving, something they may have been able to afford had their money not flown out their mouths and into the digital ether.
I rode the bus up to the Albright-Knox gallery. I picked up the local paper on the seat next to me and noticed that the previous night, just a few streets up from where the bus was currently travelling, a store had been raked in gunfire, killing two people and leaving more than 50 shell casings in the street. One of the wanted cars was an Oldsmobile Cutlass. Around here, gangstas do it old school.

The gallery had an incredible collection: David, Miro, Delacroix, Magritte, van Gogh, Cezanne, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Pollock. There was a Renoir which generated a breathtaking emotional reaction. A collection of pop art and post-pop pop art ran in conjunction with a series of photographs of the artists at work, at ease, at lunch.
The gallery was smaller than I had expected, though it was still large enough to look out of place. The exterior was classical Greek (there was a replica of the Caryatids, for gods' sake) and looked cool to the touch; meanwhile it was eighty degrees in the shade.
I made the silly decision to walk to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Martin Complex. (I'm really going to town with the web links.) I sauntered casually along the parkway.
A parkway is a four-lane road.
I sauntered because walking with any sort of deliberation in this heat is a great way to collapse and have your prone form ignored for hours, eventually waking with no possessions and a fascinatingly idiosyncratic sunburn.
I opened my cherry pie. It cost fifty cents, and came in a cardboard box about the size of a PDA. It was liberally sprinkled in sugar and internally congealed in a vibrant red. The ingredient list boasted at least four ingredients that were 'partially hydrogenated' and one ingredient had Reduced Iron. I guess Americans get enough iron from their drinking water.
I soon tired of the parkway and, looking both ways several times, crossed the road into what turned out to be the largest cemetery in the goddamn world. There were crosses, spires, spired crosses, crossing spires, catacombs, grotesques, and one tombstone which was designed to appear upside-down, like a 'U'.
Americans are even weird when they're dead.
Eventually I gained the top of a hill and saw some roadsigns. Checking my map I realised that I had walked for twenty minutes and was no closer to my goal; I had somehow gone sideways and slightly backwards. At last I felt that I could identify with Buffalo.
I took the #20 back, stopping short of the hostel to peruse a Dollar store. I bought a can of Campbell's Soup (I felt I owed it to Warhol) for 89c, a pack of Kool-Aid Jell-O for $1.07, one pound (20 pieces) of fig bars for 99c, and two liters of Diet Coke for 79c. I was in America, dammit, and I was going to die like a patriot: obese, diabetic, and always, always shopping.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

Buffalo is unique in my travelling so far in its unmitigated awfulness.
The bus trip down ran an hour longer (from three stretched to four hours) because the immigration control at the 'Peace Bridge' between Lake Erie and Buffalo was chronically understaffed and overaggressive. The ten reception stalls had two, and at times one, officers checking documentation. The security checkpoint had five officers, only one of whom spoke; the others stared with expressions of contempt, suspicion and pity in equal measure. It resembled nothing so much as a gathering of vice-principals.
After promises of a short stay, an expedited exit and my first-born child, I was allowed back on the bus. I wandered uneasily around the Greyhound bus terminal, eventually discovering an ATM, an information booth, and several people eying my bag with interest. I took a free train to the hostel. There was a ramp to assist people in wheelchairs to board the train, though I noticed that it was used exclusively by those too fat to climb the stairs which dropped down from the opening train doors. One woman clambered onto the train, walked the length of the carriage asking for a dollar, then got off at the next stop.
The hostel was entirely at odds with its neighbourhood, in that it was clean and tidy and had white people in it. I got directions to the restaurant district. In my dorm room, a middle-aged man from Los Angeles told me, in a rambling monologue, about the boats he owned and world titles he had won. His success had clearly not afforded him the dental attention that his prominent missing tooth would seem to require.
Buffalo is the home of that famous American treat, buffalo wings. This spicy chicken dish is lauded as the essential food for watching football and scratching yourself. Allen Street in downtown Buffalo is the birthplace of the wings, so I found a diner and ordered a medium.
I shouldn't have been surprised that they were revolting. Many of the culinary contributions America has offered which other countries politely decline I have discovered to be disturbing experiences, not least because eating in the U.S. is not so much a pursuit as an endurance event. A 'medium' was eleven pieces of chicken.
Foolishly in my exuberance I had also ordered a side. The "tuna pasta salad" was larger than the entire Japanese meal I had eaten the previous night in Toronto. Still, I battled through both, as well as the celery sticks and dip which came with the wings.
The wings were a microcosm of the city of Buffalo: desperately making up in spice what they lacked in flavour. I had played safe and ordered 'medium' rather than 'spicy' flavour, and after the fifth wing I congratulated myself on my restraint while wiping hot tears from my face.

The city has two points of interest for me: the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, the Martin House Complex. Apart from a few historical remnants, there is little left to offer denizens of the Rust-Belt city. There are none of the excessive displays of self-made opulence of which Americans are so fond. Few SUVs roam the streets. No giggling gaggles of girls gush over Gucci. People loiter alone or in pairs on corners, on lawn chairs or sprawled awkwardly on the grass, and give the impression of being trapped here in a city where prosperity has come, glanced round, and left.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Toronto International Film Festival

The film festival is coming... starts tomorrow, runs for a few weeks.
Toronto is huge on films even when the fest isn't on. Check out the page below, showing the staggering number of different films you can see today, with no festival on:

http://www.cinemaclock.com/clock/ont/Toronto-now-playing.html

The combination of the fest plus the Virgin Mobile two-day concert here leaves me without a bed for two nights, so I'm going across the border to Buffalo, New York. I pass by Niagara Falls on the way, twice. Buffalo sounds fairly mediocre but it has world-class art museums. I didn't want to try to cram Montreal or Manhattan into a short, impromptu jaunt, so Buffalo/Niagara it is.

Backpackers hostels suck. There is no privacy; the bathroom and shower stalls are constructed so haphazardly that there is a half-inch gap running the entire hinge side of the stall door. Noise is everywhere; the British are everywhere. An apartment search is imminent.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Coffee in Chinatown

Toronto is a wonderfully chilled out city. The climate is a bit more humid and less hot than I'd expected given that this is the tail end of summer. People are relaxed, friendly, and in no hurry to get anywhere. Reminds me a bit of New Zealand, actually.
The Canadian flag shot is taken from one of the many parks around the central city, and the Oxbridge-esque cafe is around the corner from where I'm staying.
The aeroplane shot is of the Grand Canyon from a very great height. Given that we flew clear across northern America, you'd think there'd be more to see, but apart from a glimpse of Detroit, this was pretty much it.

My favourite thing in Toronto so far is going to the park and seeing the squirrels; they were merry. When I figure out how to put video up, you shall see and enjoy.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

The big T.O.

Canada is like America without the disadvantage of Americans. All the stores, highways, culture and opportunities are here, yet it is blissfully free of the self-obsessed whine of their neighbours to the south.
The dual-language thing is big here. I haven't actually heard a conversation in French, but public signage is often in French as well as English. The only problem is automated telephone systems; you have to wait twice as long to get through, as all the statements are repeated in lingua Francais.
There's a hesitancy to glances, to social interactions. Canadians are timid, and despite the size of the country and the city, there's a small-scale feeling in Toronto. The malls are large, but not expansive. The streets are broad, but not grand. The city is engineered for comfort. It is Greece, not Rome; built around culture, not around empire.
Goods in the U.S. were cheap, as if they remembered when the greenback was strong. Goods here are more expensive, as if they remember when the CAD$ was weak. Many things cost the same in CAD as Kiwi stuff costs in NZD, despite the 30% value difference. Some things are cheaper than in NZ: $5 T-shirts, $1.25 coffee, 30c/min cellphone calls. The States is another world, though, for ridiculous savings. Apart from the 99c store (a Wonka-like revelation for me), online shopping in America yields incredible discounts. Order across the border, though, and you're immediately paying 25-30% more for the same stuff. With one-tenth the population and one-twentieth the economy, the numbers just don't work the same.
My first full day here was a national holiday, Labor Day (yes, they drop the 'u'). There was a parade down Queen Street of float after float of union workers of all stripes. It was charming in an old-world sort of way; I had to bite my tongue not to sneer at their solemnity. One float had a black guy singing Old Blarney, in full voice with an Eire accent. Not sure it was genuine, though I suspect it was heartfelt.

Monday, 3 September 2007

In Toronto

I'm in Toronto now - five hour flight but it sucked up a day 'cos I had to get up @ 6.30 to shuttle, check in, fly, lose three hours, Toronto shuttle, suddenly it's 8pm.
Canada's much mellower. I'm glad I spent a week in L.A., it took the edge off Toronto completely.

My last two days in L.A. I was hanging out with some strange people. We went on looping long drives around the southern beaches, four hours one way. One was an American guy who had smuggled marijuana out of the Dominican Republic and Nepal, and rolled hash into his hair to get it through Indian roadblocks. Another was an independent documentarian who was about to make a film about the indigenous population around the Grand Canyon, and the third was a girl from Montreal who ended up as a teeth-whitening salesgirl.
We went all around Venice Beach, Seal Beach, Rodondo, Huntingdon, Santa Monica, and everything else in great wandering arcs. It was just a lost couple of days in true L.A. style. If I ever want to waste a few years and completely lose any sense of who I am, I'll head back to Los Angeles.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

General L.A. photos


I caught a ride with some Italian guys to Exposition Park -- they were heading on to Malibu -- to visit the Museum of Natural History. Even when we knew that we were on the correct path, we kept asking directions. L.A. is so vast, the distances between things so surreal, that we continually required reassurance that we were, in fact, not halfway to China.
The museum was full of small children and their lumbering herdswomen. The displays were impressive, although the wise, concerned expressions on the faces of African animals strained credulity.
The building was the backdrop to Ben Stiller's 'A Night In The Museum,' with an exhibit about the film (a la Planet Hollywood). The best room was a hands-on area with creatures' horns, fangs, an enormous stuffed polar bear, and a python-handling demonstration every half-hour. You don't get to play with the tarantulas or leeches.
Between my four (!) buses home, I stopped off at Walgreens, Staples, a Korean place, used the WiFi at an IHOP (acronyms both), and got a 99c burger at Jack In The Box.
I feel like Morgan Spurlock... I'm beginning to revolt myself with my relentless diet of Americana. My dinner is a six-pack of airline-sized Diet Pepsi, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Twinkies. Lunch was a hoagie and a Big Gulp, breakfast Pop-Tarts, a 99c Store box of some form of cereal bars, and Goobers. All are saccharine-sweet and unabashedly artificial, and fulfill some idiotic hipster desire deep within my psyche.