mom walk

climbing back out of the hole

I have recovered somewhat from my mental breakdown of a few days ago. I know it's probably not the most entertaining blog to read when someone is flapping about in paranoia and despair, but i do appreciate all y'all's comments.

Living with diagnosed mental health issues for something like 20 years now, i have become fairly familiar with the triggers. Having to take part in enforced fun is definitely one, so having to show up for a couple hours of Thanksgiving sucked a lot out of me. Being locked in or committed to "stuff" is another.

Technically, i don't have any commitments right now, because i have no job, no dependents, very few belongings, and a month-to-month lease agreement. However, my landlord has decided that she really likes me being here, and has made several moves to try entice me to stay.

Originally, i had the place "available" month to month through December. In January, an older couple from Vancouver were going to move in, to help look after their daughter's upcoming baby. That was a hard deadline that gave me an out - whether i find somewhere new to live here or go somewhere else, it was a clear ending. But then my landlord started to feel uncomfortable with the idea of having this couple move in.

Apparently the January couple had a lot of fussy requirements, like... they will need a new mattress installed, they will need to bring a bunch of furniture to set up their home office, et cetera. Basically, it was becoming clear to my landlord that they would be high maintenance tenants, whereas i need nothing beyond a toilet, running water and a stove. So she spoke to me and asked if i could stay longer, then she told me she could lower my rent next year when she puts the place on the market. I said there are no guarantees from me because this was always just a temporary roof over my head, but seeing how stressed she was about the future tenants it would make sense for her own peace of mind to cancel their agreement.

I don't know what exactly went down after that, but apparently the couple got really upset about being told (3 months in advance!) that they couldn't get the place, and they made a fuss, and my landlord had to PAY THEM MONEY (more than just returning the 2 week deposit) to get them off her back. This is a couple who live in Vancouver's ritzy West End, offered above the asking rate for this suite, and told my landlord they had just spent 20k upgrading their kitchen. So, not a pair of working class battlers, by any means. What you gonna do? Rich people gonna be assholes.

All this drama left my landlord drained, and it's left me feeling like i owe her the rent at least through February, just so she isn't stuck trying to find a non-shitty roommate in the middle of winter. And - let's be honest - where the fuck would i go in the middle of winter anyways? All of Canada is going to be cold and miserable. I could fly overseas, but that's just thumbing my nose at the pandemic, and at climate change, and i don't feel comfortable doing that either.

So here i am, stuck in this small country town for the foreseeable future.

It's not an awful place to be stuck, mind you. Even in the rain, you get vistas like this.

When it's clear and still, the river is like a lake.

And even though i hate trees, and i hate fallen leaves, there's no denying the colors are very pretty in those small patches of scrubland where they grow.

I actually don't mind the cold weather so much as the rain. Walking around outside when it is dry and cold is just about rugging up and finding a wind break. It's crisp. It's fine. If i catch a ray of sunshine, i can even pretend it's vaguely warm out. But when i'm wet, when the ground is wet, that's when i pretty much hate everything. Water should stay in the sea, not fly round in the air.

And there is going to be a lot more water. Not because it rains here very often, but because once the temperature gets below 0, it only needs to rain once for the snow or ice to stubbornly take root and piss me off for the entire rest of the winter.

According to the weather reports, we are experiencing an unseasonable cold snap, and this weekend there will be heavy snow even down here in the valley.

I'm not looking forward to it.

Yesterday i took a walk up to the big thrift store and donated some more clothes. I still haven't been able to rebalance my wardrobe after my manic winter gear spending spree.

Did i tell you i bought a sleeping bag too? It's not a winter bag, but the theory was to get something that i could use to overnight in a pinch, like in a bus terminal or something. But then i remembered that bus terminals don't exist in Canada, because coaches only stop at gas stations in the middle of nowhere and the routes only service a handful of towns to begin with. Hell, the VIA Rail stop in this town is just a bare platform in the middle of the CN freight yard, miles from anywhere. Not that it matters since VIA has been canceled due to the pandemic.

This is the car culture. This is how people design society around the concept that everyone either owns a car, or has a friend or phone app that can somehow get them into a car. When a pandemic hits, there are no restrictions put into place on car travel, but buses and trains are junked. Of course, before the pandemic, bus routes were being actively deleted all over the continent anyways. Let's not even talk about passenger rail. What a sad loss for a region of the world that was once famous for its railroads.

Still, at least we got 40km of bike trail in this town. I'm not sure how much biking i'll be able to do when there is ice everywhere, but i spoke to the bike store guy and he said i could order in spiked tires.

Great. More stuff.

This is my biggest emotional hurdle, you see. Everything is built around acquiring more stuff. Oh, you don't like winter? That's only because you never went skidooing, you should go out do that! Oh, you don't like hiking in the rain? Just buy this spectacularly expensive raincoat with zippers in the armpits, you'd never even know it was wet out! Or stay at home, use the season to get into some indoor projects, bake cookies, needlepoint, fuck, whatever. Yeah, no. I don't want to buy more stuff just to take my mind off things. The stuff is exactly what causes the stress in the first place!

And, of course, even folks who try sell you on ultralight kit or cheap deals, they all assume that you have a house. Of course you must have somewhere to store the stuff when you're not using it. Surely you have somewhere to work on your hobby. Probably a garage because - hey - fucking car culture.

The wild thing is that i actually do have the room for it right now. This is by far the largest place i have lived in years. I think it might even be the biggest place i have lived in my adult life, period. I don't know what to do with all the space. And yet, i feel trapped here. It's filled up with all this furniture and art that is useless to me. I can get all the entertainment i need from the internet on my tablet in bed. All the extra space in between my bed and the toilet and the stove, it just makes me think about those people living in tents - out of necessity, not by choice - and why the fuck don't they get to have a few square meters of shelter?

There's so much space in North America, and it's so poorly distributed.

My hippie friend N working on a farm down south of here invited me for a cacao ceremony this weekend. I have an appointment for a flu shot on Monday and i already booked in a Skype session with another friend for Friday, so i won't have the spoons. But getting a text from him did help me to remember there are places i can go, short trips i can take to try get a change of scenery. Maybe those things will be like lanterns, shining a light, helping me get through.

Just as long as it doesn't fucking rain.
mom walk

i'm losing my thread

So, i suppose it was inevitable. Whenever i have been in North America (or Australia for that matter) my mental health has been utterly disastrous. It's in these new world nations where i was diagnosed bipolar, where i spent years taking prescription medication just to stay stable, where i spent years as a daily drinker and/or illegal drug user to try cope. The lifestyle here just wears me down.

I fucking hate car culture so very fucking much. I hate that being someone who walks around makes me into a target. I got fucking tailed by the fucking police the other day, for having the nerve to just... walk around on foot? I mean, i guess? Or spend a few hours sitting alone in a park? Fuck, i don't know. Don't those assholes have anything better to do? Fuck the police!

I was doing a test run, packed my pack full of gear and got dressed in my new old woolly clothes, spent 12 hours outside in the cold and the rain. My discovery is that... i fucking hate the rain. I mean, i already knew that i hated the rain. But now it is confirmed. I really do hate it. Everything is colder when it's raining. Everything is more uncomfortable. The plants are disgusting, the grass is revolting, the whole of nature turns into a soggy, seeping, filthy ooze. Don't even get me started on the hideous rot of fallen leaves. The urban area isn't much better, because fucking cars will storm past and splash you head to toe because drivers are self-absorbed dickheads.

The fucking police are after me, it feels like, like... fucking dogs... Yeah, that's another fucking thing! I hate dogs. Fucking people walking dogs. And police dogs. And fucking trucks. And trucks with dogs in them. And police in trucks with dogs. Fuck all of them!

Seriously, i feel like i'm losing my mind here, like my whole world is collapsing on itself. I looked up some pictures of Almería last night and i am regretting that i didn't just go to Europe and brave whatever coronavirus outbreak and post-Brexit nonsense is going on there. It's sunny over there. Rain doesn't exist. At least in Europe i can just put my bag on and walk to the next town. Walk! I can WALK to the next town! Here i am trapped, everything is so far away from everything else, and nobody gives a shit. They just belch more poisonous gases into the atmosphere. There are no corner shops, only chain stores because people are too lazy to even walk a couple hundred meters to do their shopping, they'd rather drive ten times as far for ten times shittier service and products. Everything local went out of business years ago. Roads without sidewalks. I don't care, i'll walk on them anyway because fuck everyone destroying this planet and civilized society with their soulless angry noise bubbles. Some day we will reclaim the streets for human beings, we must.

I can't breathe inside, i can't fucking breathe because i am living in a share house and other people in the house use central heating. Who the fuck uses central heating when liquid water still runs out the tap? Assholes, that's who. It's sweltering, i'm dying, even with the only two windows open that have a bug screen, it's stuffy. I haven't been sleeping properly, like only a couple hours a night and now the sleep deprivation has caught up and i feel like i am on meth. The bad part, not the good part. I can't sleep because i am drowning, i am trapped here. Why on Earth did i buy new stuff? What the fuck was the point of that? Now i have too much stuff, it's more than fits in my pack, i can't escape! The winter will snow me in, i will be trapped! I don't know what to do, i don't know what to do, i am losing my fucking mind. I wish i was in Europe. I wish i was anywhere else. I wish i was on the road. I hate being stuck, i hate having stuff, it is the literal fucking worst, i want to die.
mom walk

cold, thanksgiving and a hobo

The other day after complaining about the cold, i went out and sat in the cold again, because i'm a masochist like that.

I've been spending about 3 hours outside each day to walk out to quiet spots and practice harmonica.

There i was, in jeans, tank top and thin hoodie, rain falling on my head, playing harmonica, and some guy wandered out of the bushes behind me. I gave him a nod and he asked if i was catching out. I said no, then asked if he just came in from Vernon. I guess i passed the test of being savvy enough to know what he was talking about, so he let me in on his days-long wait in the yard for the local to finally roll out of the Okanagan.

We ended up sitting in the rain for 3-4 hours chatting. He didn't have anywhere to be, and neither did i. It's the longest i've spoken to any single person since i got to Canada.

Turns out the guy's been riding freight over 10 years. Also, somehow, fantastically, he manages to chuck his bike on the train every time. We talked about traveling and not feeling comfortable with owning stuff, or being stuck in one place. He said i should just jump on a train. I said it might be better if i wait till spring. He shrugged and said now's the best time to go, just a short trip down Fraser Canyon, not too cold and the leaves are turning. He was heading up to Jasper, which is surely a lot colder.

It was interesting, though not surprising, to find i had more in common with someone who sleeps under bushes than anyone i have ever worked with. We talked about how borders are bullshit (he was over from America to ride out the pandemic, almost certainly undocumented), work is bullshit (he only does odd jobs to make enough for necessities), cars are bullshit ("the noise makes me anxious")... The common theme was that the more stuff you own, the more trapped you feel. You can never truly be free if you own stuff, or if you have a lease or a job. All that stuff is just a bottomless pit of stress and anxiety. This kid felt exactly as i do, but he actually did something about it after moving out of home, and didn't look back.

He shared a lot of fun stories and near escapes, and i shared some of my own. It felt so good to talk to a human being again, really talk, you know? Just enjoying one another's company. I didn't even ask his name till just before we parted ways. Maybe we'll run into one another again some day.

It was a poignant conversation for me, because as i talked a bit about my life and my feelings i realized just how feeble my justification is for continuing to work. I don't spend any of the money. I don't have any stuff. I don't have any dependants. I don't enjoy working. I never have and never will. So why do i keep doing it? Because it's what adults are supposed to do? That's a fucking shit reason.

Also, seeing a guy who will be spending the entire fucking winter outside with just the clothes and sleep system in his pack made me shut the fuck up about the cold and the rain.

Well, nah, i still fucking hate the cold and the rain. And i definitely am not equipped for it like this dude was.

The next day i went to the thrift store and bought some gear. The day after that i went to some outdoor stores, a cowboy shop and a workwear place to try fill the gaps.

I never buy clothes, i never buy anything, so it is very rare for me to have a haul. Here is my haul:

- woolly jumper
- cotton longsleeve
- merino undershirt
- alpaca wool scarf
- acrylic beanie
- merino glove liners
- leather work gloves
- woolly socks
- hiking shoes

It was around $400 all up, most of which was the cost of the shoes and merino underwear. I actually don't need the shoes for winter (they're not waterproof), but my sneakers are almost completely worn through and they haven't been serving me very well on the steep slopes around this town.

The gear is Extremely Not Fucking Vegan, but most of it was thrifted, and anyway going animal-based is a matter of practicality in this instance. Cotton is hopeless in winter, and for some reason my body reacts very poorly with synthetics - i feel clammy and sweat too much and the clothes start smelling funky almost immediately.

What i am thinking is that having more stuff that i can layer will make my two hoodies (thin and thick) obsolete. That's sad because i adore hoodies, but they're a ton of weight and don't provide enough warmth. I already will be donating back the cotton longsleeve, because even though it's very soft and comfortable, the undershirt (which i bought the next day) is going to be more useful. I still don't have a jacket or a faster-drying pair of pants than my jeans, but i am hoping this will be enough for walking round town doing chores.

What it probably won't be enough for is continuing my outdoor blues sessions. I did a test run today with woolly jumper, glove liners and beanie instead of my usual hoodie, and i hit my comfort limit after about 2 hours. The mercury read 9 degrees, but there was epic wind howling through, kicking up surf on the river. With thermal underwear on, i could probably survive a couple hours down close to 0, but we'll have to see. Wind and rain remain an issue.

It was Thanksgiving this weekend. My landlord invited her sister and niece, and one of my roommates had a buddy over. We stayed reasonably distant from one another, drank wine and ate Thanksgiving stuff. They generously prepared some brussel sprouts without the bacon and roast veg without the dripping for me. Of course i still cheated by putting a tiny splash of gravy and eating a small slice of pumpkin pie, but hey, it's Thanksgiving. I felt thankful.

I also felt cold. Did i mention it snowed already? Not down here in the valley, but there's definitely a good dusting of the white stuff all over the mountain tops around town. Ugh. Fuck. Winter sucks. I am going to cook myself a giant burrito.
mom walk

when the mercury drops below 20

I am so upset right now because of the fucking weather. I know i am living in a place with one of the best weathers in Canada because i literally looked it up and made a list of the only cities worth a damn in this fucking hellscape of a country before i got here, but it still fucking sucks.

It's like 15 degrees now, which i suppose shouldn't be anything to complain about, but it's windy and overcast too! Everything is vaguely soggy and it isn't drying out. Cold and wind and drizzle ass piss rain can fuck right off.

I was outside for 3-4 hours today just playing harmonica and reading and my fingers damn near dropped off. And that was ducked behind a large pile of rail ties to hide from the wind, and sitting on a pallet to keep my butt warm.

To be honest it wasn't being outside that kicked off this funk. I already started panicking this morning when i counted up exactly how many months of this shit i still have to suffer through. The snow doesn't go away till like fucking April in a good chunk of the country. Down the hill in the miserable fucking swamp that is Vancouver and surrounds it's marginally warmer, but it's all boggy and gray and i already want to throw myself off a cliff after just one overcast day here.

I mean, i don't mind overcast days. Fucking Guangdong, fuck, it's overcast all the time. Typhoon, thunder storm, whatever. But at least it's not cold too. I hate wearing all these big, heavy clothes. I hate carrying them in my bag "just in case". And i don't want to buy even more shit! Fuck!

I don't know what's happened to me, if i just got old or what. I have lived in much colder places than here. Toronto's winter is far worse. Hell, Berlin winters are pretty grim. I've lived in Holland, Denmark, even Scotland for crying out loud! New Zealand isn't anything to write home about during winter either. I know my body can handle this.

Obviously my body can handle this. The only good thing about being in a cold place is getting skinnier. Winter is like the ultimate weight loss program. You walk twice as fast when you're outside, and when you're inside you still burn calories just sitting around shivering to death. There's no decent produce to eat either so it's a miracle everyone doesn't just waste away. But yeah, we make it through. Human beings are resilient.

So perhaps my body will survive, but what about my mind? I am supposed to be on vacation. I don't know what i expected to happen when i got back to Canada. I think i had this romantic notion of pootling across the country on bus and train and whatnot, but i absolutely neglected to factor in the weather problem. (I also neglected to factor in the fucking bear problem, but that's a whole nother rant.)

The prospect of being stuck here, in the cold, for months... Months!!! It's just depressing. There are whole bands of this planet where winter is not even a fucking concern, like oh no, i might need to put a long sleeve on after sundown, woe is fucking me. I used to live there! But now it's like, might as well switch off the whole fucking country for 6 months. Yo, get fucked with those expensive ass winter sports too. And then couple the abysmal weather with the complete and utter lack of public events due to the virus... I mean, what the hell, man?

Okay, i vented.

I hope i can get over this soon. There's no point staying upset over something i can't change. But right now. GAH! I hate winter so much. As if to rub my nose in it, a unit from the world capital of maple syrup and way too much fucking snow decided to visit my western sandbox.

Even the trains are blue!
mom walk

slowing down

After my last entry i reluctantly spent two days at home to try recover from my sniffles.

I actually don't mind spending weekends at home now that i am no longer working. Weekends suck. The roads are busy. There are too many people in the park. Everyone is in a rush to do something. During the week it is much more relaxing to go out.

I remember this in China too, climb a mountain during the week, you can almost pretend you're in the wilderness and not one of the world's biggest megacities. In Germany, go clubbing during the week, you don't need to line up for a drink, you always have room to dance. Canada, you can bike along the highway without fear you're about to be run over by a distracted parent in a luxury SUV driving their family somewhere for an adventure they could've had literally walking distance from their home, if they ever bothered to walk anywhere.

Anyway, yesterday i was getting tired of sitting at home watching shows (i marathoned season 3 of The Chi) and playing games (highly recommended: AER Memories of Old). I still woke up with a sore throat. So, damnit, i decided to quit smoking again, again. I had my last smoke with coffee on the balcony, then walked to the grocery store for supplies, not including smokes.

I also decided to try warm up by taking my bike out to the rez, which is the sunniest part of town. Much of the wilderness there is marked as private property (as in, band members only), but there are a few right-of-ways for CN rail and whoever owns the highway, so there are some quiet spots to sit and play my harp.

Last week, before i took the two day break from going outside, i found the right mouth position to bend, which is a trick harmonica players use to play different notes outside of the pre-programmed set. It also is what creates that bluesy moaning/wailing sound that people automatically think about when they think of someone sitting on a bucket next to the train tracks playing harmonica. So, i now no longer feel like a sad child playing penny whistle tunes, which has made practicing a lot more fun.

Yesterday i was sitting on a gravel backroad where i did not expect any traffic. As it turned out, every twenty minutes or so a cyclist went past. One of the cyclists stopped and looked at me, then called out "i know you!" Say what?!

The spandex-clad chap out for an exercise ride revealed himself to be the same guy who, over in a completely different part of town, had been dumping rocks out the back of his pickup. Ex train conductor, that guy. He said it was nice to see me again, we chit-chatted a bit, and he recommended i jump the fence to go explore the trails on the riverbank... Which... Hmm.

I mean, most readers know that i think private property is bullshit. No trespassing signs are bullshit, especially out in the country where the only people who'd trespass are local kids, hikers and hobos anyways. But at the same time i think being white and traipsing over the tiny scrap of land that indigenous people were granted for themselves after white people seized the whole damn rest of the country is kind of a dick move.

Of course, i haven't been here long enough to know whether those signs are just for show. I know there are certain areas where everyone ignores no trespassing signs because they know the owner, or at least they know the owner doesn't care. But i'd rather err on the side of not being an asshole.

Ugh. Land ownership is garbage.

Anyway, i'm now 24 hours without a cigarette and not missing it too much. Probably when i drink again i will, but right now i'm focusing on trying to evict this sniffle. This morning i still woke up with a throatache, but it was less. What i have been doing is going outside to sit on the balcony for 5-10 minutes, apropos of nothing. It gives me the same emotional break that smoking did, but hopefully will not thrash my body so bad.

Granted, there is still a bit of wildfire smoke floating around and the areas i am hanging out to play harp are extremely dusty and likely not doing my respiratory system any favors. But i'd rather die from breathing in industrial fumes and desert air than goddamn fucking cigarettes.

Just you wait, i will start up again by the next entry.

Here is a photo of a church and a train and a mountain.

My landlord spoke to me about staying past Christmas. Originally she had promised the place to a different tenant in the new year, but she was getting stressed about the idea of having to switch from a very quiet and low maintenance tenant like me, so she returned the other folks' deposit and i can now stay till into next year. I still would like to travel about a bit, but traveling in Canada in winter is trash, so i will remain hunkered down.

The next big question for me is winter gear. The same dilemma i went through living in Toronto and Berlin. I don't want to spend any money on clothes that i can only wear for certain months of the year. And yet, not buying those clothes makes living through unweather extremely miserable. This is the reason i don't have an umbrella, no coat, no boots, no gloves, no nothing that i could not wear literally any day in any location. Well, i do have a pair of longjohns, but they roll up very small, so it doesn't feel like a waste of space to carry them around.

I have too much fucking stuff as it is.

God, i so fucking remember why Canada always made me want to snowbird. The winter is just too much of a pain in the ass. Obviously if you just sit in your house the whole time, doesn't matter. But going outside sucks, completely and utterly. It's not just the weather, it's the whole car culture that makes trying to live with the weather a far more uncomfortable experience than it should be.

I really fucking hate cars. For a moment there i thought coming back to North America would help me break through to the point of getting one anyway - it's just the practical thing to do - but nah. It's only made me even more resentful. Cars are the fucking worst. Everything about them makes the world worse. Everyone gets further away from each other. The community gets splintered, or destroyed altogether. Buying one would just perpetuate the problem. The only way to try fix this broken society is to keep on walking.
mom walk

please stop with the woo

It is thoroughly ridiculous that the American people are waiting for a medical report on their president, delivered by a quack. What kind of hopeless world are we living in when "doctors" of placebo are put front and center as if they have some kind of authoritative view on medical issues?

Argh! This infuriates me. It reminds me of all the money my family has spent on osteopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists, reiki healers, whatever goddamn useless fucking herb that does nothing at all except make you feel like you have a bit of control.

I mean, not to discount the placebo effect. It's better than doing nothing at all. But it is categorically not better than going to a real, actual, legitimate doctor. For fuck's sake, it's likely that one of the reasons the world is in pandemic right now is because a significant amount of people still believe that consuming exotic animal parts is somehow beneficial to their health or social status.

Don't even get me started on the government of Canada covering placebos in their universal health care, or every single health insurance provider in Germany forcing you into a package that pays for a certain amount of placebo treatments every year. And China, fuck they're the worst of the bunch, with top-level party support for marketing their hocus pocus all over the world.

I am sympathetic to the appeal of "woo". My mom was new age, lots of my friends and former partners have been into crystals, witchcraft, astrology, religion, all that stuff. I can see the emotional benefit. I understand why people like that stuff. I like it too, it's fun. But please let's keep it out of medical discussions, especially on contagious diseases, that doesn't help anyone.

PS i am fucking grumpy because i still have that dentist's cold. It went away a few days after my first filling. Then i got the second and third ones and it's back with a vengeance. It's not a very bad cold, but due to the current world situation i am wary of every little cough and sniffle. I don't want to be wary. I am sick of being wary, and i am sick of being sick. Also, winter sucks. Fuck!
mom walk

occasionally i get mistaken for homeless

Usually, people just give me a coffee. But today i got a hot chocolate and a pumpkin spice muffin! Thank you, Good Samaritan!

I suspect there is a sweet spot of looking homeless where people buy you stuff. If you look too dirty or too crazy, they probably won't. If you look too much like a normal person sitting in the park, they definitely don't.

I guess i tend to find a spot away from normal park-going folks. I prefer to sit on gravel or amongst wildflowers/weeds more than on manicured grass, since there are less insects and it's drier. Also, practicing harmonica, i don't want to annoy anyone, so lately i have been finding places near the railyard or main roads where there is a lot of background noise to drown me out. Apparently someone working nearby recognized me so now i'm the town's newest bum.

Yesterday i had an amusing harmonica-practice experience too. I cycled out past the airport and found a nice rock to sit on just next to the railroad and by a clump of bushes that blocked some wind. I'm just tooting along and this huge pickup rolls up. Guy jumps out, he's like "uhhh... you weren't here before". I'm like... "nooo?"

Turns out he was dumping a bunch of old rocks from his garden, and i was sitting on one of them! It's probably not strictly legal, but i can say that any hiker, cyclist or hobo going by would be grateful for the place to sit and/or weigh down a tarp. We chatted while he unloaded. He used to be a conductor! He told me that when he retired trains were only a mile long, but now they're several miles long. I said it must be pretty boring to literally just pull out of the station and then have to sit there for an hour waiting for other trains to pass (we were near a siding). He said, yup, a lot of driving trains is just sitting around stopped.

Anyway, i am now about 10 days into harpin' and i can kindasorta play the major scale without fucking up and hitting two holes. I also figured out most of Cat Stevens - Father and Son today. It's taking me back to learning guitar all those years ago, where the teacher keeps giving you boring songs to play, because that's all you can actually play when you're a beginner, so you desperately try find songs that are still easy but don't suck.

Oh! Susanna is really fun to play, but it feels a bit weird playing a minstrel song.

When i was learning guitar, i never really practiced for long enough each day to get past a certain level. As a kid i just kinda figured i could go to class and play once or twice during the week and it'd be alright, but the reality is you gotta put in an hour or more every day. I did feel more inspired when i got my second guitar teacher, though, who had long hair and earrings and a leather jacket. He was very cool. He introduced me to Joe Satriani, whose stuff was far too advanced for me, but i tried anyway. To this day Satriani is my favorite guitarist.

Satriani is given a lot of shit for being soulless, for sounding like a synthesizer, but that's exactly why i like his stuff. I like when the melodies are really clean, really sharp. Even if you slam a bunch of distortion on top, i still want to be able to hear a pure, loud, monophonic sequence at the front of the mix. Chords fucking suck. I hate chords. So, learning guitar, what made me care about it was when i switched to doing arpeggios and scales. Which... needs lots of practice, so i stopped. On a synthesizer you can just sequence it all up-front. Skip all that tedious work and get straight to the good stuff of composing a tune.

There is something to be said for being able to play live, though, it's more immediate.

Anyway, i was jamming on my harp on this shitty fucking abysmal major scale that everyone learns first, and i noticed that part of it sounds like the beginning of Always With Me, Always With You.

Joe Satriani - Always With Me, Always With You

So now i have made it my mission to try to play at least part of a Satriani song on the harp. Which no doubt is some kind of blasphemy. But what am i supposed to do? I can't fucking bend with grace and dignity yet. I can't even fake being a bluesman. I biked all over looking for a suitable crossroads to sell my soul to the devil yesterday but alas this valley is too narrow.

It is strange weather, mostly dry, but occasionally unloading an epic summer shower. Except it is far too cold out for it to be a summer shower.

Here's what it looks like out my window.

Somehow i have caught a cold. Bit of throat ache, bit of sniffles. With all the masking and social distancing it's been a very long time since i had a cold. It sucks. Winter sucks. Cold weather sucks. I wish things weren't such a clusterfuck south of the 49th parallel. Otherwise i could go down the Mississippi for winter and find a proper crossroads.
mom walk

harp, deer, teeth and trash

What have i been up to lately? Well not a real whole lot since the smoke rolled in. For several days it was so thick it hurt my eyes and throat just to be outside, plus the sun was blocked out, so there were no walks or bike rides.

One thing i did decide to do was book in some dentist appointments. The corona outbreak is getting worse again in Canada so i figure i have a short window where i can do elective medical stuff before they shut it all down.

Also, i haven't been to the dentist in a very long time. 5 or 10 years, probably. Last time i went they did an X-ray and told me i needed a filling. I didn't have the time or money for it, so i just got them to do a clean and leave it at that.

I don't have any fillings. Everyone in my family has terrible teeth that were riddled with holes by the time they were 30, but that never happened to me. I think it's because i rarely eat sweet food.

Anyway i went in last week and they told me i have 3 cavities that need to be filled. When they described what a filling actually is - cutting off a whole chunk of perfectly healthy tooth, then recreating the discarded tooth-shape with magic goo - it made me even less keen to get one. I thought it was just an injection or something. My adult teeth have served me well for decades, so excavating and replacing large portions of them seems like a step backwards. I'm also worried i'll get roped into a lifetime of maintenance fees, as they inevitably come unstuck or worn down and need to be replaced.

But, after i gave it some thought, i booked myself in. On one hand, i am still skeptical that giving me cyborg teeth is going to actually be stronger and better than my original teeth, given how many people i know who seem to visit the dentist more often than the fucking grocery store. On the other hand, given that right now i have no job and a comfortable sum of money, it is also the best possible time to get something done. I could gamble that the cavities will never start hurting, but if they do start hurting when i am broke, then i will be pissed that i didn't do anything now.

Another interesting thing happened during the last of the smoke days. A family of deer decided to come into the back driveway.

I didn't catch a very good photo, but you get the idea. To be honest, it kind of terrifies me that animals that huge will come into the city. If deer are walking around, that means surely bears and cougars are too. And if bears and cougars are walking around, that means it's not safe to go outside.

I am not a fan of animals. All animals. Wild animals, pets, cattle, they're all equally shit. I have no problem with them living off in the distance somewhere, but they creep me out when they get close.

Toward the end of the smoke, i decided that i should try to occupy some of my retirement days with something constructive. So i bought a harmonica, which is probably the most portable musical instrument that isn't electronic. I love electronic music and nowadays you don't need anything more than a phone to make full-fledged songs, but there is something nice about an instrument that you can fit in your pocket and play anytime without worrying about battery life.

Dude. Harmonicas are hard. First of all, it's the first time i've ever played a diatonic instrument, which is muso jargon for instruments that can only play one scale. If you're thinking piano, think only playing the white notes. Which is to say, the most boring notes. But there are tricks you can do to make it sound slightly more interesting. Those tricks involve a crazy amount of tongue, lip and throat control. Currently i am still figuring out how to play one clean note at a time, using the major scale, Frère Jacques and Oh! Susanna. I assumed i could just pick it up and sound like a bluesman since i can already play decent guitar and keyboard, but actually getting good with the thing is going to take a long, long time.

Still, it's kind of neat to just walk out to the back of some industrial lot or lean up against the fence at the rail yard and toot around a bit.

The other thing i did was set up a fucking yard sale. My landlord is busy trying to get rid of all her and her family's stuff so that sometime next year they can sell the house. I've never been to a yard sale before, and the reality was pretty much exactly like what you see in the movies.

People started showing up first thing in the morning while we were still setting up. All the early birds knew each other by name, presumably because they frequent every yard sale in town. Inexplicably, people spend actual money on what is essentially trash. There were no antiques or anything. All the stuff was the sort of thing i would either throw out or donate/freecycle. But folks are happy to pay a couple dollars for a weird candlestick, or for some mismatched plates, or whatever.

I think yard sales are almost more of an excuse for socializing than actually making money (or buying useful products). My landlord and her sister chipped in with the stories behind everything, reminiscing about mementos brought back from trips overseas and relatives who had passed away. Such a different world from mine.

We still had lots of things left unsold. Some friends of the landlord hauled it off for donation the next day. I got a six-pack of booze for my troubles.

So, that's about it on my end. Even though the smoke cleared up, the weather is now cold, by my standards. It's under 15°C overnight and even during the day it's under 20°C which is way too fucking cold.

I have discovered, while sitting on a piece of cardboard in the rain, that cold harmonicas don't play properly. Your breath causes too much condensation, so you gotta physically warm the thing up to get it to sound right. Acoustic instruments, i don't know man...

I finally got my divorce certificate in the mail, and my BC drivers' license.

This is my boring life. Sitting on an upturned bucket watching the trains go by. Playing harmonica. Poorly.

Tomorrow i get my teeth drilled. Hooray.
mom walk

smoke and hobos

Today, unsurprisingly, i woke to clouds of smoke all around. The air quality index is off the charts. It's been increasing the past few days, so yesterday i picked up a bag of food so i can stay inside.

I have a vague memory of it being my birthday in Australia at some point when the skies were bright orange. Beautiful, but outside it was so unpleasant to breathe that you couldn't fully enjoy it. I also remember driving along the highways and seeing fire literally burning trees at the side of the road. Weird sight, but just part of the circle of life i suppose.

Growing up in places where forest fires are relatively common i have often found it a bit uncomfortable when people treat campfires like they're just a bit of fun. You want fun? Bring a sound system. You want to cook? Use a gas stove, bro. It's been drilled into me since childhood that you should pretty much never light an open fire, not unless you're legitimately at risk of hypothermia. I've still spent plenty of time around the fire at outdoor parties, but every stray spark tends to make me nervous. It's not as relaxing for me as it seems to be for others.

Anyway, a couple days back i took a walk along the riverbank. There are some riverside parks here, but a lot of the riverbank is a strange no man's land. I think in the spring it will be full up with meltwater so probably you can't walk it, but this time of year there are beaches and vegetation for miles. Lots of people are sleeping rough out there.

I was walking along a trail while a guy frantically scuttled along in the bushes beside me. He jumped out and yelled "why the fuck do people keep stealing my tent?" I said i was sorry and that that sucked. He grumbled some more then disappeared off under the next bridge.

You have to be a real shitheel to steal a homeless person's tent. A lot of these guys leave their tent and clothes bundled up under a bush while they head into town to panhandle or dumpster dive or charge their electronics. If you're not homeless, then you are truly an asshat for shitting on people with less than you. And if you are homeless, then you should fucking know better. Steal from the rich, motherfuckers, not the poor.

Anyway, the nice thing is if you walk along and find a vacant clearing, you can just sit down there and drink booze and smoke cigarettes and no cops or busybodies will walk by to make your life miserable.

It's fun to lounge there and watch the world go by. Sunbathers on the opposite shore. Dickheads on jetskis. Woodpeckers in the trees. These little guys scampering about.

I squatted down by the water to look at the haze from the smoke gathering in the distance. I must have been there a while because a girl called out from the bushes asking if i was alright. I said i was okay. There is some kind of community amongst the punks that live on the edge. One enterprising crew had built a large wigwam. A couple downriver were knee-deep in the water, washing their clothes.

Not sure i'd want to sleep rough myself, despite it being an epic moneysaver when you are traveling. Especially in Canada i'm a bit worried about bears, although this close to town it might be okay. The other worry is assholes with weapons, probably the same assholes who steal people's tents.

I walked back home along the railyard and saw a rider sneak through a hole in the fence to hop a train, maybe out east to Revelstoke, or west to Vancouver. I hope he went east, given how bad the smoke is here and on the coast right now.

I would like to hop a train one day. Apparently most of the time you are very cold, very dirty, probably also low on water and either worried they'll unhook you in the middle of nowhere or terrified of being spotted and arrested. But in the in-between moments, traveling all alone with wind in your hair, through countryside where there's literally nothing for miles around, i think that would be a nice emotion to experience. Bucket list stuff.

For now, though, i am holed up in a house with a yard and a truck.

It's that weird period before it gets too cold to do anything, where you kind of want to go out and enjoy what's left of the good weather. Soon every time i step outside i'll get wet socks that will take days to dry. But also i feel like since i am paying rent here it's a waste of money to travel somewhere else, even just for a weekend. And this fucking virus, man, it's still not gone away. If it wasn't here, perhaps i'd be on the road. America is a scary place with all the gun nuts around and the woeful healthcare system, but it's still a beautiful country and i know there are some warm and happy corners to spend the winter.

Alas, still got virus, so i am hunkering down. I'm most worried about getting tempted back to work, as headhunters continually ping me on LinkedIn and other industry sites. I wonder if i should update my status to indicate that i am legit on sabbatical? Fully cut the cord. That would make it really real.