28 May 2008


On Saturday, Ami and I went to see The Presets. Since this is not Duck & Cover, I won't go into a full music review. Just know it was a dance gig: loud, thumping, sweaty. Having been to our fair share of clubs, we scrambled up the stairs to the top floor where we could gaze down at the pandemonium that is the Plaza at full capacity. Also, from that vantage point we could also indulge ourselves in a game of fashion police, which is decidedly more fun in Vancouver than it was in Wellington because of Vancouverites' remarkable tendency to wear Lycra.

Normally, gigs of this ilk kick off at 10pm and go until 1 or 2 in the morning. But this one was different. With a start time of 7pm, this was going to be the earliest show I had been to since turning 18.

When we got to the Plaza on lower Granville, the sun was beaming. We both mumbled back and forth how we'd rather be at the beach than walking into a dark dance pavilion. The upside of the early gig was that it was still light when we spilled out at 10. I ducked out first, skipping out on the last song due to the fact that I couldn't really hear anymore anyway. Although daylight still pinged the windows of Yaletown's apartment towers, Vancouver's night life was going full tilt. I sat on the curb waiting for Ami and observed: bunny-eared hen parties moved in gaggles, security guards paired up with police and strolled along the sidewalks like nervous lovers, strippers climbed out of white limos and disappeared into windowless clubs.

I refused offers of LSD, ecstasy, sex, cocaine, gay sex, and a few joints before Ami and Jess came out of The Plaza--I had been sitting there for all of five minutes.

I would like to say it was downhill from there, that we fell into a spiral of debauchery. I'd like to say I can't remember what happened next. But I do. We went to an after party in a small warehouse on the outskirts of town. Well, we stood in line for an after party on the outskirts of town . . . okay, we walked up to the line. We quickly scurried away when we realized everyone was between the age of 14 and 16. Ami leans to me and whispers loudly, "This is creeeeeepy!"

Luckily, Jess knows Vancouver. "There's a DJ at the Audio Engineering school," she says as she waves for us to follow her to her car. The only problem is that there were six of us by this time, and we'd all arrived in different taxis. Jess's car is a VW Golf. It was a tight fit.

Because the police were out in force that night, the drive to the next party involved a lot of sudden turns down back alleys, a lot of ducking down to make it look like we weren't sitting on each other's laps, and quite a lot of swearing. When we finally arrived, I got out of the car with a noticeable limp; noticeable because I was limping on both legs. Ami had been on my lap in the front seat, so one leg lost circulations, and the other . . . well, just know that I had my keys in my back pocket.

The party appeared to be in a small theater that had all the seats removed. On screen, some art-school crap flashed epilepsy-inducing , and in front of that some very good DJs mixed some very un-danceable tracks. Ami and I stuck around for about an hour, but finally left from sheer boredom. We felt bad because a.) we wanted to hang out with Jess, and b.) we'd paid $15 to get in (more than tickets to The Presets cost), and c.) we weren't tired.

Outside, the night was warm. We meandered down 2nd Street for awhile before hailing a taxi. Once home I sipped Spanish wine and waited for the sun to rise.

23 May 2008

Seattle, Take Two

Last weekend was, by definition, a long one. So we celebrated that great Canadian holiday (Victoria Day) by driving to America. Our friends Pete and Nic live there with their less-than-one-year-old boy, Harper, and we hadn't seen them since Holly's wedding. We spent the weekend shopping, driving, playing with Harper, driving, and looking for a place to park. Don't get me wrong: we had fun, but the fun was had with friends, and not particularly with Seattle. For being a haven for all things hipster and cool, the city itself is a pain in the ass.

Remember, though, that I'm not from Seattle. I've spent a grand total of 20 days there, so I probably just don't know where to go. The fact remains, though, that to get anywhere, you need to drive: the market downtown, Alki Beach, Ballard, Capitol Hill--none are within walking distance of each other. We spent almost as much money on parking as we did on gas.

That being said, we had a great time. Dakin cooked amazing hamburgers for us on Sunday night, and we managed to find some wonderful little shops. On the drive home, we stopped for pizza just outside Bellingham. And after that Ami got her first Wal-Mart experience. I showed her that, indeed, they do sell firearms there. Yet after a small debate, we bought tennis racquets instead.

At the border (need I remind you how they make me feel), I was worried about all the shopping we'd done. You're supposed to declare anything over a certain amount ($50, I think), and we'd spent about $500. The rules are to hand over the receipts, and pay some taxes. However, viewing this as a ridiculous restriction, I decided to flout it, and ripped off all the price tags, threw away receipts, and stuffed as much as I could in my suitcase (amazing how small you can squish pillows).

The border guard asks me when we drive up, "did you do any shopping?" I answer with a straight face, "Yes. . . we bought tennis racquets at Wal Mart." She giggled and waved me through. You see? I didn't even have to lie.

So why do I get the feeling that one day it will all catch up with me and manifest as one gimonstrous, epic fail.

Check out the pictures from our trip.

17 May 2008

Bike Streets and Sky Trains

Photo: my bike, in all it's orange glory

The sun is out again, which is always cause for celebration in this part of the world, and considering the fact it's Friday, I decided to ride my bike to work. This in itself is not blog worthy--I've ridden my bike to work for many jobs, in many countries (except Ireland because that way lies madness). This difference is two-fold: bike streets and sky trains.

Cycle lanes on a road I've seen, but Vancouver is the first city where I've experienced streets marked as cycle streets (expect photo documentation soon). There are even maps available that show all the bike streets from a bird's eye view. Ami is using such a map as I type to navigate to her office on 7 millionth street. I, however, work in Burnaby, a suburb so far away it might as well be a different city. Biking all the way from our apartment to my office would be like biking from downtown Wichita to Andover, or from Te Papa to Titahi Bay for the Kiwi contingent. Fortunately, Vancouver has something available to neither Wichita nor Wellington: a sky train.

::pause for OOOs and AAAs::

I won't delve into the local commentary on the relative benefits vs. the flaws of the service (no matter where you go in the world, someone is going to whine about something) because the sky train suits me nicely. I ride half the distance, jump on the train with my bike, and am whisked away: flying above the suburbs like Aladdin on his carpet, were Aladdin's carpet a 2-ton electric train with a maple leaf stuck to the side.

My bike is an old, standard cruiser that sat in a little Korean man's garage for 30 years. I'm quite confident that I'm the second person to ride it in its life. With its "safety" orange paint job, I'm like a giant road cone hooning down the street, which is good because people tend to stop for orange. I'll by flying downhill, blowing through intersections while cars screech to a halt. Even if they're not even on the same street, they'll slow down if they see me out of the corner of their eye.

"Why are you stopping, honey?" She'll ask.

"I saw something." He'll reply.

"Saw what?"

"Dunno, but it was orange."

04 May 2008

Of Visas and Border Control, pt. 2

If you've been following me on Twitter at all (on the left side bar), you'll already know how this story ends. Despite my pessimism, everything went smoothly at the US/Canada border. Well, everything but my rental car, which over heated when I was in line to re-enter Canada. Not a good first impression.

Some of you have been asking why I needed to travel to the border at all. The answer lies in the nature of the NAFTA work visa. Without delving too deeply into immigration law (with which I've becoming very familiar over the past six years), citizens of NAFTA countries are provided a fast-track, short-term work visa to other NAFTA countries, assuming, of course, they meet certain criteria. The best part about this visa is you just bring your paperwork to any point of entry, and they process your visa right there. Presto. In contrast, my New Zealand working visa took six months; permanent residency (counting all three application attempts) took two years. So, the option to apply for, have processed, and receive permit AND be home in tome for tea was refreshing.

Still, I was nervous.

Those who know me well (I'm looking at you P. David Sueper) know my penchant for bending the rules. My plight for a Canadian work visa was no exception. Again, I don't want to bore you with details, so let's just say I didn't exactly meet the visa requirements. To work as a web designer, I needed a science or design degree. My degree is in English. In order to obtain the visa, I would need to show my college transcripts and a letter from my prospective employer. The letter would list the sort of work I would do, so the border guard would make sure I was qualified to do it. No amount of As in "20th Century American Women Poets" was going to convince Mr. Mountie that I could write HTML. The choice was made for me: I was going to have to lie.

Or was I?

Due to the public nature of this blog, I'm not going to explain exactly what transpired, but know this: I obtained my permit legally and without bending any rules whatsoever. . . Of course I did.

01 May 2008

Of Visas and Border Control, pt. 1

I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but the frustration of unemployment is beginning to creep up my pant leg. While there have been a few bites on short-term website updates, I lack a proper, 40-hour/week gig. So when a local recruitment firm offered to sponsor my work permit, I believed I was in the clear.

They sent me to interview with www.trader.ca to help them re-brand and develop a new website, and of course I sailed through the interview and was best buds with the IT manager before leaving. When can you start, he said. Just as soon as my university transcripts arrive, I reply.

You see, in order to get the NAFTA temporary work visa (which, once all is said and done, is a very handy option to an ordinary work visa--and I know a thing or two about visas), I need an offer of employment, and either a copy of my degree or a copy of my university transcripts. Yet it is the latter that I've had so much trouble obtaining. The first two times I requested them (!!), they just seemed to disappear. Poof. No record once they left Wichita. So now, take three, I've paid $30 to FedEx overnight the damn things to the recruitment firm directly. Imagine my frustration when I rang them this morning to grab the tracking number, only to have the lovely receptionist at Newman registrar tell me there is a problem.

Registrar: Oh, you forgot to supply me with a phone number.
Me: You didn't tell me that you needed me to supply you with a phone number.
Registrar: Well, FedEx won't deliver to Canada unless there's a number.
Me: So you haven't sent the transcripts yet?
Registrar: No.
Me: ::audible sigh::
Registrar: And you didn't even give us the name of the company we're sending it to!
Me: What?
Registrar: There's no company name on the address that you faxed us.
Me: "Aquent."
Registrar: Excuse me?
Me: A-Q-U-E-N-T. Aquent. That's the name of the company.
Registrar: Oh, THAT's the company! We thought it was the lady's job title.
Me: No, her title is "Account Manager," like it says on the fax.
Registrar: Well, you still should have given us a number.

It actually went on like that for a bit. You think you have everything in order, but you forgot to factor in that you're dealing with Kansas.

I've given this post a "part one" because part two (and maybe three) will involve interaction with border security, which has yet to happen. And you know how I feel about border crossings.