Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: VIII. Broken Down Somewhere in Belgium

This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.

I can’t remember how it was I found out that the bus had broken down. What I definitely remember is that it was extremely cold.

The bus breaking down did come several hours into a long bus trip from London. From there, we went across on a ferry from Dover to France and into Belgium. From here, the intent was to pass into Germany and then head all the way down to Munich. Continue reading “Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: VIII. Broken Down Somewhere in Belgium”

Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: II. Madrid, the Arrival

This is part of a series I have been working on. The Introduction is here.

the arrival

I was supposed to take the train from Paris to Madrid. It was one of those things that I had planned out well in advance like the responsible adult I had thought I was. I bought my Eurail pass and everything.

If I remember correctly, it was an overnight train. In the planning stages, this was a good thing because it meant a night I didn’t have to pay for a hostel.

But then, as Paris wound to a close, all the ephemeral friends I had made in my hostel there were starting to drift away… some back to their everyday lives, some onto their next adventure. The loneliness was creeping back in. The tide was coming in again.

Suddenly, an overnight train journey was starting to feel a bit too much like claustrophobia. As if the train would trap me with myself and the bleak possibility of unwanted social interaction. Loneliness is strange sometimes in that you know social interaction should be good for you, but you fear it ever-the-more intensely.

This was the beginning of a pattern that would repeat over and over while I travelled, in one of those unearthly hybrids of art and mathematics.

So I looked up Ryanair. It was something absolutely absurd (like only 20 Euros) to fly from Paris to Madrid. So I booked it. I get irresponsible with money when faced with potentially anxiety-ridden situations. Anything to avoid it. Take my money. I booked a flight leaving that night. It would get into Madrid at about midnight.


I took the Metro to the dying embers of central Paris where I had to catch a coach to this tiny little airport, the name of which eludes me. It was one big room lined with vending machines on one side, and windows on the other. You could watch the rickety planes come in and airport staff push the staircases up to them. For someone who grew up in a city with a major airport, this felt like time travel. As it I would see The Beatles descend at any moment. A pretentious, privileged thought, but one I had all the same.

Ryanair doesn’t book seats. It’s a free-for-all. I would come to learn the best entrance strategy (always go for the back set of stairs; most people rush the first), but at this point, I just went with the crowd.

I had my Lonely Planet travel guide and I spent the flight plotting my route from the airport to the hostel in Madrid. Easy peasy, it looked. Just one metro line, with one change. Doneskis.

But by about one in the morning, I discovered that part of the Madrid Metro was down for maintenance. I had to find the surface and find a shuttle bus. I got on the wrong one.

When I realized something was wrong (which took an embarrassingly long time), I got off the bus, and hailed a cab. I handed the address to a hostel over to the driver and he took one look at it and gave me a long, tired look. Without a word, he started driving.

Madrid in the middle of the night is an odd place. It is funny to compare it to other cities, especially my own, Vancouver, which shuts down at about one-thirty am, just after the last Skytrain pulls out of downtown.

Madrid is one of those cities that goes all night. Sure, it’s quieter than during the day. But there’s still stuff going on. It feels like an underground of sorts. Like you’re somehow complicit in this secret world.


By two-thirty am, the cab pulled up at the end of a long alley. It was wide enough to know that it was a viable walkway, but narrow enough that the cab driver silently said no fucking way.

I gave the cab driver a look as if to ask where the hell am I supposed to go?

He pointed down this Spanish Knockturn Alley and said, “Down. Just little. On left.”


He looked solemn. By now, I had assumed this was his natural state of being, solemnity, but as I opened the cab door, he said, “Careful. Bad town. Very bad.”

I had sincerely wished he’d not said that. How could this have helped? Like now I could watched out for maniacs but before I would have embraced them with open arms? Did he think I was expecting the residents of Spanish Knockturn Alley to break out into a rendition of the Lollipop Guild at my arrival?

I side-stepped a few leering types, but I made it to the hostel unscathed. I managed to get a room and snuck up to it quietly, tiptoeing amongst the already asleep. So as not to cause unnecessary noise, I slipped off my shoes and slid into the bed fully clothed.

As tired as I was after such a long day, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even close my eyes. I pulled the blanket up to my chin and stared at the underside of the bunk above me. My heart was pounding. I could feel my pulse in my ears.

Holy shit! How had I taken the events of the evening in such stride? I had been stranded in the middle of the night in a foreign city I had not even seen in the daylight. And I had been alone. Completely alone. No one had known I was even in the country.

How stupid could I have been?

Once I replayed everything over in my mind, it was impossible to calm myself down. I had to repeat over and over: You’re safe now. Calm the hell down. It’s over.

It was a strange day, but an important one. I realized I could handle it. Things would be thrown at me and I only had myself to rely on. But I could handle it.

And maybe I needed to be a little bit more responsible with myself… and my money. But I wouldn’t learn that lesson until years later.

Obligatory July Post

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while. I have no real excuse other than I have been writing, just not any blog posts. The body of one book is barely cold and I’ve already started on another.

This one is a comedy, which is a nice change. It certainly makes life lighter.

I am finding a slight frustration, however, in the fact that I seem to keep jumping all over the place in terms of genre and style. I find I switch modes for each project and sort of adopt a different voice for each piece. Perhaps the differences are only really apparent to me, but it makes me feel reluctant to pick one and run with it, lest I find myself tied to that genre or style.

Continue reading “Obligatory July Post”

Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: Introduction

This is the introduction of what I hope will become a series / retrospective project / diary-after-the-fact / examination of memory-and-place-and-all-that-jazz. All the links to other posts about specific adventures and places are/will be below.

Whenever you get back from a long bout of travelling, the world always feels different (at least for a little while, until reality sets in again). For me, however, the world really was different. I was gone from August to November 2008. I have always meant to write more meaningfully about this trip. I’ve touched on bits and pieces here and there, but alas… I’ve never put together something huge.

I imagined that one day it would all be complete, as if I was filling in the pieces on a puzzle that would one day reveal the big picture. It seemed so easy, when I thought of it. That I would be able to simply sit and write. I would start at day one and then it would unfurl from there like a pulling the thread on a sweater.

Continue reading “Travel and the Art of Mental Maintenance: Introduction”

Forgotten Projects


Aviary Photo_130301740208687773As other projects eroded away under the weight of my own disinterest, I’ve decided to cut my losses and not let a withered vine waste internet space. I’ve amalgamated Celluloid Heroes posts into this blog. And after a bit of bushwacking, I found my old Livejournal account from 2005. I’ve also brought some of those posts over. Even if they do not amount to nothing more than “Yay! The semester is Ov-vah!” they are still a mark of who I once was… in a terrifying version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Why you Probably Shouldn’t Blog With a Kidney Infection

For the last two weeks or so (or is it three? I’ve honestly lost count. Maybe it’s even four. Anyway, feels like forever), I’ve been rendered helpless and lame with a kidney infection.

It sucks. It really, really sucks.

After a round of antibiotics, it was getting better but I was still so tired that I felt like I’d possibly died and entered purgatory. And then the infection came back. Seems it never actually went away. My kidney is like Captain Brody on Homeland: I don’t know if it’s really with me or against me.

Continue reading “Why you Probably Shouldn’t Blog With a Kidney Infection”

Dear Blogspot

Dear Blogspot,

You were like a lover. We kissed, we cuddled, we had good times. But I’m flaky and vain, and never satisfied. Thus, we’re through. I wish I could say it’s not you, it’s me, but that’s not true… or maybe it is. I just don’t know anymore.


The truth is, I’ve found someone else. Yes, he’s flashy and arrogant, but that’s kind of what I’m into right now. He’s a little easier to handle. Granted, he makes most of my decisions for me, but any autonomy you granted me always seemed like lip service, you know?

I know you’ve been trying. Really, I do. You’ve been dressing better. I noticed. You were afraid I was going to lose interest, I could tell.

I can’t help it, Blogspot, I feel like somebody when I’m with him. I know you did that for me once, but it was right after I left Livejournal, which was really just a rebound from Geocities, and we all know how that shook down.

I just don’t want my guilt over you to haunt me the same way, Blogspot. Don’t do anything drastic. Keep on trucking, Blogspot, doing what you do best: providing a space for emo sobs and pedantic rants. I’m sorry, Blogspot, that was mean. I know you do your best, and you were there for me for all of my emo sobs and pedantic rants. We had it good, but those times are over.

Just give me your faith, Blogspot, that it will all work out. I know WordPress and I will be happy together. I don’t know how long it will last, but I just can’t say no to those customizable fonts.

Love and kisses,


Will Blog for Food

this epic week, part four

I also got a letter from Langara college, saying they’ve received my application for the Film Arts program, but that they are still waiting for my university transcripts. I called SFU to ask, “Quoi le fuck?” and was politely told that they had been mailed. With any sort of equus attire up my ass, they’ve already received the transcripts and there’s a letter at home as I write telling me I’ve been accepted.

As for today, I got an unprecedented email from the lovely (I’m assuming) people from all voices saying that they ventured upon my blog, this blog, and that they wanted me to consider writing for them. I’m going to spend this weekend considering their offer (and my boss’s), and will thus have a hefty Monday looming. Hopefully it won’t pass into nothingness like most other Mondays.

Lastly, this happened far earlier this week, but I wanted to save the best for last. This will go down in history as the week I published The Savannah Stories, Series One: The Frampton Menace. The first few copies I’ve ordered are in the mail, and once I’ve checked them over, I will proceed. (“How?” you ask. I don’t know yet. I make this up as I go.) It’s available to order through, whom I totally and utterly recommend for any self-publishing ventures! You can buy it here: BUY ME. The book is $17.99+S&H. I will love you forever. And ever.

Here’s the description:

Printed: 224 pages, 18.91 cm x 24.59 cm, perfect binding, black and white interior ink

One eventful day, Savannah Hunter gets an unexpected ‘I need a favour’ phone call from Jason Manning, an old friend who managed to screw up his life fast enough to set a few world records. Naively taking pity on him, Savannah lets him into her home with half-open arms. Suddenly, her apartment has become a stage show full of characters so colourful they might as well dress as a packet of Skittles for Halloween. As the horrors of the male geek world fall down upon her like Overeater’s Anonymous at a Las Vegas breakfast buffet, the parade of guys begin to monopolize the apartment through various events like a 48-hour long Survivor game on the sofa, a trip to the VD clinic, the construction of a fully-operational battlebot, and many other surreal events that not only border on insanity, but completely conquer it.

Oh my god, I’m blogging again

So here I type. First entry. Cigar between teeth gonzo style. This, however, is not gonzo journalism. This is simply me trying to organise my thoughts, which in and of itself is a proverbial strange trip. Let’s see; I can easily breakdown the thoughts that continue to run through my head into five basic groups: (1) Quarter-Life Productions,  (2) Hacksaw, (3) the impending Euro-trip, (4) Work and other general ennui, and, (5) Everything Else.

(1) Quarter-Life Productions

QLP, to be less precise. Well, forget the details of the last two and a half years, how about the last two and a half months. Fuck. What a series of ups and downs. The rollercoaster simile does not do it justice, and thus nothing else will. Last weekend, we launched (Jason says “launched” in his business-like producer-speak, I say “premiered,” wearing my artisan/director hat) our third short film, The Year Without Hockey. The prophetic journey there had its potholes in the road. With a few days before we had to submit the DVD proofs to get them pressed, Graeme’s computer crashed, with everything but the films on it. Argh. And then we solved that problem, but then we had a whole issue where, two days beforehand, our venue tried to cancel on us. Argh. But it worked out. I even got a call the day before, while at work, from CBC RADIO wanting me to do a live interview. After about three hours of shitting my pants, I called in and was on the radio, talking about my film. One third of me felt too nervous and shocked to even react; another third of me felt on top of the world, like the clock on my fifteen minutes just began to tick; the last third of me felt like any second now they were going to call my bluff or realise that I was just lil’ ole me from North Delta playing “movie director” in my backyard with an old camcorder. I still haven’t heard what I actually said, and all I remember of it was hearing everyone I work with crowded around a computer on the other side of the room listening to my interview streaming live off the internet.

(2) Hacksaw

Hacksaw Literary Arts Magazine, to be more precise. The first issue is well underway (“well,” of course, being that oh-so-subjective term used to denote the fact that we’ve started, but still have a lot of work to do in order to be considered “finished.”). At that late stage of “quarter-life,” where QLP seemed really like the beginning of the solution to many of the mid-twenties problems, Hacksaw is a much different direction in which to take my rambling sense of art and aesthetics. The older I get the more I realise the truth in Joe Stummer’s words (see “Everything Else”), “Without people, you’re nothing.” I have been so incredibly lucky to find one person that perfectly compliments myself in making QLP the success it has been so far (“success” also being ambiguously subjective), that to find another that compliments myself in my crazy ‘zine stylings is just so insanely lucky that I feel an array of contractions. Usually when you start a venture such as this, like with any relationship, you usually get a gut feeling right off the bat as to whether or not it’s destined to burn out quickly or to be something long, substantial, and fulfilling. I’ve really only known Taryn Hubbard for less than a year, but she was one of those rare people you meet that you just really click with. I think a week after working together, someone else we work with said, “You guys are, like, the same person!” Day one of sitting beside each other at our menial file clerk jobs and we got on the topic of postmodern literature. The med student sitting beside us said, “I have no idea what you guys are talking about but it sounds really smart.” Not to say that we are, but we can rattle things off to each other without having to worry about context or backstory- those irritating nitty-gritty bits that usually plague a blooming friendship. We have so much in common: interests, histories, values, ambitions. Anyway, cut to several months later, after discussing everything we want to do with our allegedly creative selves, we thought, “Fuck, let’s just do it.” And thus, with a punk-rock ethos, Hacksaw was born. Now, the contradictions appear because everything’s just going so well. The endless riding of waves that swiftly break upon a rocky shore that pretty much sum up anything we try to do with QLP has me prepared for something to go wrong. Everything that seems too good to be true usually is. Where’s the fucking catch? I feel like I’m hunting around for it like a dog who knows he has a bone hidden somewhere in this backyard.

(3) The Impending Euro-Trip

On August 10, I’m going to Europe. For how long exactly is TBD. I bought a one-way ticket to Paris, and (as I’ve rattled off to several semi-interested people) from there I go to Spain, then Morroco, then London, where I meet up with my sister, Brianne.  We board a bus to Munich for Oktoberfest, then on to Amsterdam, where I will celebrate my 25th birthday, and Bri was instructed by my mother to buy me a birthday “cake.” Then, we make our way through Benelux to Paris again to check out Disneyland Paris (the third Disney theme park Bri will have visited in as many seasons), then we bum our way out east, hitting up Italy, Greece and other southeastern countries before arriving in Transylvania, Romania, where we will be in the village where Vlad Dracul was born just in time for Halloween. From there we make our way north, through Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, etc, to Finland, where we have family. While in Finland, I will make a side trip to St. Petersburg in Russia. From Finland, we are going back west across Scandinavia to England once again, where we may or may not spend Christmas. This is the plan, but we know nothing goes according to plan. That might just be the fun of it. Needless to say, I’m a little scared shitless. There’s nothing like jumping in the deep end and learning to swim on the way up. Sink or swim. I’ll probably bellyflop, but that’s always a learning experience, too. I have also made attempts to wean my vegetarian stomach back into the possibility of eating meat. I’ve quarrelled with my ethics over this one, and have decided that as I will often not have any choice but to eat meat or starve, I don’t want “stomach troubles” anywhere in Europe, thank you. I’m also a firm believer in the saying you haven’t really been somewhere until you’ve had the food. Since I really want to learn about the places I’m visiting, in a see-how-people-live way, rather than a hit-up-every-museum way, I will regret it if I restrict myself in anyway. Bri has also used this trip to Amsterdam to similarly wean herself onto weed. I guess we all know our strengths and weaknesses. Anyway, this blog is primarily intended for just this trip, and I’m taking my laptop with me, yuppie-style. If I write anymore about it now, I will just freak myself out. I leave soon, but I have a couple of more weeks before I really need to plan stuff, right? Ha.

(4) Work and Other General Ennui

“I hate the civil service rules,” to borrow a more idealistic phrase from the Clash. Ugh, work. Overall, I like my job, but I often feel that I am simply a cog in a machine. Not even a deus ex machine either, but a bureaucratic, “I process noise-violation complaints” type of machine. I can’t really complain, as I only really have myself to complain to and even then I would want to tell myself, “Suck it up, Princess.” I hate people that complain about our job, but really they are getting paid twice as much as someone with the same job in the private sector, get better benefits, and don’t get in trouble when they take two hour lunch breaks. Our job is sweet in and of itself, and the people I work with are awesome. If I’m not happy, I can get a different job. But I am happy enough. So you want to be an independent filmmaker or start your own magazine? Lesson one: Get a good day job. Done.

(5) Everything Else

Last night I saw Gonzo, directed by Alex Gibney, the new documentary about Hunter S. Thompson, so pardon my reference earlier. I’ve also just got my copy of The Future is Unwritten: Joe Strummer, directed by Julien Temple, in the mail, and have watched that, too. I just finished reading The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town, by Marcus Gray, so needless to say, I’ve been listening to the Clash a lot. A lot. Now this is nothing really new in my life, but I do seem to go in phases. I’m either in a normal phase. Or I’m in a Clash phase. It comes and goes, but the cycles are never really that long. Anyway, I’ve also been watching a lot of old movies lately. I simply mention this because what I currently am watching, reading and listening to often tends to form a frequently referred to wrinkle in my brain. You can’t escape it. I need to get out more. Good thing I’m going to Europe. There’s no point in trying to form some sort of big-picture mentality right now, when it will simply all change in a month or so.