Friday, October 24, 2008

An Evening of Homelessness


I'm supposed to be studying psyc right now (if I had a nickel for every time I started a post like that....) but my mac is busy so while I wait, I'll give you a summary of an evening of homelessness.

The idea for this evening came out of a Tuesday meeting where we were discussing plans to have an evening of homelessness in conjunction with a showing of a new monasticism documentary. Sadly, the documentary showing was cancelled but we decided to go on with our night of homelessness anyways, choosing to combine it with the birthday celebrations of Jason and Brendan instead.

The evening began with a celebratory meal at a brew pub in Ottawa where we ate, drank, and enjoyed each others company. Then we split up and set out, Brendan and Jason heading off together, and Todd, Chelsea, Taylor, Liz Nolan, and myself heading off in a different direction.

As our motley crew of 5 stopped for a moment to discuss what to do, we decided to split up the tasks between us. Taylor and Todd were both ready to panhandle so they split off from myself and the girls, in search of some money to hopefully buy us some food or something. (It's worth pointing out at this point that we had ditched our wallets/purses to make it through the night with only whatever we could scrounge. Todd tried approaching generous looking people and asking them for money in the market (he recieved 2 bus tickets) while Taylor tried sitting on the sidewalk with his hat in front of him in a club area(he managed to accumulate $4).

While Todd and Taylor were off doing that, Liz, Chelsea and I set off in search of a place to sleep. This isn't as easy as it may sound because Ottawa has this thing about people not being allowed to sleep in parks and such, so we had to find a place that was sheltered, soft-ish, and secluded. We searched the grounds of parliament, under a bridge near some steam vents, and the forest next to a pathway and decided on the pathway. It was impossible to see down to, had enough space for all of us, and was reasonably soft.

After we had completed our respective tasks, we met up again and headed down to make camp. Todd and I weren't ready to try and sleep though so we headed across the locks in search of a place to sleep if it were to rain. We scouted some woods and eventually found that we could get underneath one of the bridges to Hull. I mulled around under there for a little while before we decided to head back to camp.

When we returned, we all bedded down as best we could. Todd brought a sleeping bag, I brought a rather light blanket and was wearing my winter coat, and Taylor was going to try to go without anything. He used a few pieces of news papers to insulate the ground but that was it. I managed to get a little comfortable by wrapping the blanket around my knees and pulling my arms inside my coat, and I slept on and off from about 2:30 until 4. At 4 though, the temperature had dropped considerably (to about -4 C) and my blanket ceased to be useful. So I gave up on sleeping and headed out to walk around and try and find a place to warm up.

I wandered around the market area of downtown Ottawa looking for anywhere to get in from the cold and maybe use a bathroom. In my hour of walking around though, I found myself with no options except a parking garage and that wasn't particularily helpful since I could see the security guard on duty, ready to kick me out, as soon as he realized that I wasn't there for parking.

It got so cold that I ended up hudling against the exhaust vent of the NAC parking garage for 20 minutes because the air coming out of there was just a few degrees warmer than the outside air. Then I headed back to our camp to wait for the morning light now that it was about 5 AM.

When I got back Todd asked me how I was doing. When I told him I was still freezing, he offered me his sleeping bag out of the graciousness of his heart. I cudled inside, laid back, and managed to doze for another half an hour or so. I started listening for the chimes of the peace tower clock to tell me when the night would be over.

I was so cold that I actually felt as if I would never become warm again. I was so tired that I felt I would never sleep again. And I was so hungry that I felt as if my stomach was eating itself.

Finally though, the morning light came, everyone got up, and we began our trek to a place we had agreed to meet for breakfast. We met up with Jason and Brendan and we all happily ate breakfast together, glad to finally be warm and fed.

One last note, for a few days after our night, whenever I would feel a slight chill, my body would instantly feel so cold it hurt. It's amazing to see how the body reacts after just one night of cold shock.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Point Form Power Packed Post with Proposterious Potency

What a weekend. Let me tell you all about it. 

On Saturday night my housemates and I headed out to Ottawa for a birthday celebration. Now this wasn't just any old birthday celebration. Sure, we went to a pub for supper, but once that was done it was time for a birthday celebration house famous style. On Saturday night we were homeless for a night. I won't recount the evenings events here because they're likely going to be posted on the house famous blog shortly (check the link "A community of friends and believers" in the sidebar) but I'll give you a brief rundown of what I learned from the experience in point form (because I have to go write a greek midterm in 5 minutes).

-Downtown Ottawa is very busy
-businesses are much less friendly when you don't have money/aren't buying anything from them
-October nights are cold
-a sleeping bag is a wonderful invention
-as soon as you don't have a permanent address, the police become the biggest pain in the world
-nothing is open at 4 AM when you can't sleep because it's so cold
-panhandling is the single most humbling experience in the world. Even just the act of sitting against a wall on the sidewalk is humbling
-a bed is the greatest invention in the world

If you're curious about exactly what happened please ask in a comment. If enough people want I'll post up a full summary of the evening.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This is Embarassing

I just realized that my link "Older Writer Sister Alison" has been misspelled for months as "writier". I am an awful person.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"You're Definitely In It Right Now"


A couple of years back I discovered that I could get up on top of my roof if I pulled the screen  in our bathroom out, and climbed up around the side. Now, you would think that this wouldn't really be that big of a deal. I mean, after all, if you were to ask your average person where getting onto the roof of their house ranked on their list of priorities, they'd probably just laugh at you and go about their business. But not so for me in this case. This was a huge deal for me.

See, I had always had this secret ambition of climbing up onto the roof of my house (now my parents house), sitting there, and just watching the neighborhood go by and thinking, and watching the birds. Now I had a way of doing that, now I could get up to a place where I could be alone and I could do something that I had always wanted to do.

Another time, it was the middle of winter and I was lying in bed and I couldn't get to sleep. For some reason I had some thought stuck in my head or something and here I was, late at night, still awake. And so a thought came into my mind. I thought "I want to climb the tree in our front yard".

Now a little background here might be of some assistance. This tree is one that I had climbed tons of times before (one summer I began timing the speeds of my climbs), so climbing it was nothing special, and this was the middle of winter, there was snow everywhere. But for whatever reason I really wanted to climb this tree. So I snuck out of bed, put on my coat, some mitts, and some boots, and I climbed that tree and sat in it for almost an hour.

The thing is, my parents are probably the only people who've ever heard about these two stories, the first because my mom asked me to stop because I almost broke the window and the second because I woke up my dad when I was heading out. If these experiences are things I really hold special to me then why does no one ever hear about them until much much later.

The reason is this. Sometimes we do things just for ourselves. We get up early and watch the sun rise, we stay up all night to say we did, we run there instead of walking, we hike that trail. We do these things, not because we think it's useful or necessary, or because it will gain us popularity or friends, but because we just want to do it for us, and that's ok. Because not everything in life has to make sense or serve some kind of grander function. Sometimes we can just be, and do whatever it is we want, and that's ok.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How Embarassing

Sometimes I look at pictures of people on Facebook. Now you may be wondering what's unique about this particular activity, and some of you may even be thinking "Well Mr. Gresik, I do exactly the same thing". The reason I bring this up is because sometimes I look at pictures of certain people on Facebook and see the contents of said pictures and the activites recorded therin and think to my self "Well that's disappointing".

I catch myself doing this a lot now, partly because I spend more time on Facebook as a weapon of procrastination and partly because I seem to have more friends who do things that make me think these things. It causes me to stop and wonder why in the world I do this. What is it about males and females that I know dressing up and going to town in a variety of ways that causes me to be disappointed in them.

I know what it is, it just saddens me that this is how I think. It all ultimately comes down to the fact that I wasn't allowed to participate in said activities and automatically thought that those who did participate in them were doing something bad. Now this isn't to say that sometimes when I find pictures disappointing it's only me, sometimes they are actually making poor choices, but the root of my reaction comes from this lengthy period of time where I wasn't allowed to "go to parties" or "hit the bars".

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get over these kinds of gut reactions/thoughts.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Stalling

I'm supposed to be deriving trigonometric functions right now but my brain is running on a severe shortage of both sleep and glucose so I'm gonna go ahead and say I won't be doing anymore deriving until after supper.

Once upon a time I used to have a blog that I started in Grade 10 that actually went on for a while. I feel like I had varying levels of success with it, mostly because it balanced somewhere in between being an outlet for my random philosophical moments and a summary of my daily events. I'm thinking that the quality went south whenever I leaned towards the latter. I think that people read blogs when they want to hear what you're thinking, not what you're doing. If they wanted to know what you were doing on that particular day they probably could have just called you up and asked or sent an email or something. 

The problem with running a blog on philosophical musings though is that it leads to an erratic and inconsistent level of output (as evidenced by some of my one sentence posts during the summer). It also has a tendency to make me want to use a lot of big words (as evidenced by the previous sentence...).  So where does one strike the balance between careful thought and consistent content.

I think I had it right a few times when I would be doing something and I would come up with ways to blog about it in a creative way. Silly, I know, but effective. I find that unless I think someone else is going to look at them I sort of just let my thoughts run free and I tend to learn lessons slower because I don't process them.

So in conclusion, this is now my public outlet for examples of my stupidity or lessening infancy. I hope you all enjoy.

PS. Thank you for reading a blog about blogging. You have my utmost adoration and respect.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fantasies, Chick Flicks, and Kids shows

You're probably wondering how in the world I'm going to combine those three things and to be honest I'm not totally sure. My writing skills have been pretty steadily declining as of late but this is my attempt at putting them into practice once again.

Once upon a time, when I was younger than I am now, I used to read this book called "Ender's Game". It's about a time in the future when humanity is at war with aliens and takes to training young children from the age of 10 to be military leaders, based on a screening process. Ender is one of these kids who goes through this screening process and he gets selected to go off to this place called Battle School where he meets new friends, and has some crazy adventures.
When I was younger I used to read this book obsessively. I read it all the way through in 4 days the first time and then I read it over and over again after that. There was one point at which I had it in the bathroom and while I was in there "doing my business" I would read 4 or 5 pages because I loved that book so much.

I don't think I'm alone in getting really crazy about things like this. I had some friends in High School who would watch some "chic flicks" religiously like "The Notebook" or "A Walk to Remember" (something about that Nicholas Sparks guy). What was it that made them latch on to those movies so tightly and love watching them again and again?

And to be honest, Ender's Game wasn't the only part of my childhood that I got really into. This is sort of an embarassing story but when I was kid I got really intimately involved in the show "Digimon". I watched every episode of every season multiple times and would sit up at night wondering how it would be possible to make life like that and how cool that would be. I was obsessed.

What is it that makes me or anyone else for that matter so obsessed with some things? Do all of these things have something in common? I think they do. See, I got really into Ender's Game because I was absolutely enamoured with the idea of getting on a space ship and flying to a completely new place where all the rules for things were totally different and you were put in a place where you could have this amazing experience. Chick Flicks are all about a new guy/girl showing up and taking you to places where you've never been, leading you on a totally new experience. And as lame as it is, Digimon was a show about kids being dropped into a completely diffferent world with all new things.

I feel like myself and others latch on to this idea of completely new experiences. People want to get out of wherever they are right now and go somewhere else. People want to hop on a plane to California, Vegas, British Columbia, or Europe and start over again. We love the idea of being dumped into something totally new and having adventures as a result of this.

I don't know where this realization/discovery gets me. I'm still stuck here for at least the rest of this year without hope of complete change, but at least I rest firm in the fact that lots of other people feel the same way I do. They'd like to get on a spaceship and go to battle school.