Monday, August 31, 2015

Long Drives

There are only so many things that you can do when you are driving. You can listen to music, you can listen to the radio, you can listen to audiobooks or podcasts, and you can eat. But if you don't have any music you're in the mood for, or the CBC has Cross Country Checkup on and you don't want to hear phone interviews with the people who call into that show, and you've listened to all of your podcasts, then the car becomes this exercise in patience and boredom. It becomes a breeding ground for positive thoughts about what you will do when you are not in the car anymore.

When you get home there is a brief moment where you can follow through on whatever it is that you thought about doing in the car. You open the door and you see the dirty laundry or the pile of luggage that needs to be put away and you can follow through on your incredible ambition and get to work. There is so much to do all of the time that you're never truly free to say you have nothing to do.

But that's not what I usually do. I immediately plop down on the chair, throw everything to all four corners of the apartment, turn on the computer and start playing games. Three hours later I pause for a moment to think about whether or not I'm ready to carry through on all of that ambition. I am not. I go back to the games and collapse in bed feeling seriously guilty several hours later. If only there was a way to keep those positive thoughts going when I got back in the house.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Car Cleaning

When you get back from a long trip, there's this moment where you realize that even though the trip is over there is a whole bunch of work you still need to do before it's officially over. If you were flying, you probably just need to unpack your suitcase. If you're on a car-camping trip that takes you over 3000 km of beaches and coastline and mountains, you can be pretty certain that you're going to need to clean out the car when that trip is finished. We arrived in Ottawa at the end of our east coast trip yesterday and so I needed to consolidate all of our supplies and give everything a good clean.

When I go car camping, there is this overwhelming tendency to just throw stuff in the back. There is lots of room in the car so you're not rewarded for conserving space like you are on an airplane. On short trips that usually means there's a Mcdonalds bag or two sitting in the back seat. On long trips that means there's dirty laundry everywhere, stuff mixed up, power cords buried under piles of bags, and nothing in its right container. It took me twenty minutes to consolidate all of our junk back together so it could be useful again. This process revealed a huge mountain of beach sand which we had brought back from the east coast with us. This would require a vacuum.

I decided to go to a gas station for their vacuum. It just seemed like it would be easier. Maybe the job wouldn't be as good, but I wouldn't have to lug the vacuum cleaner outside. It turns out that gas station vacuums don't actually do that great of a job. They come with this large head that's hard to fit into small places. They don't seem to offer as much suction as I expected. It just didn't work as well as I wanted it to. But it was a lot easier than doing it at home, and the vacuum job meant that most of the dirt was now out of the car. The car looks sort of clean again and it feels pretty good. I liked cleaning the car out after the trip because it helped with the feeling that the trip was over and it was time to get back to work. Though there's still a few more things to do when we get back to Toronto, I feel one step closer to being at the end of a vacation.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Homesickness

I don't think I would say that I get homesick to anyone else. I like to maintain an aura of steadiness and telling people that I get strong drives to go back home does not fit with that aura. I also didn't really know how bad it was until I was forced into a situation that I couldn't get out of so the fact that it's not well publicized is maybe half my responsibility and half due to circumstance.

There are two types of home sickness for me. As I write this, Amanda and I are in a hotel in a small town in Quebec. We are a little ways outside of Montreal and even though there are people here, I don't speak French and so I feel very isolated. It does not seem to matter that Amanda is with me, I still feel like the start of a zombie apocalypse film. This the first type of homesickness. Sometimes I go somewhere and I just miss seeing people. The place where we are feels isolated like I may never see civilization again. That makes me scared. It makes me want to run home where I know there are people and things which are familiar.

The second type happened to me when I was in California. There are lots of people there and they mostly speak English and some of them are friendly, so it was hard to feel like there was no one else there. But I was sick for people I knew. I wanted to talk to someone about the Toronto Maple Leafs. I wanted someone to tell me how the summer at camp was going. I wanted to hear about the weather in Kingston or the Busker's festival. In California, people don't care about those things. So I was homesick for people from back home.

I will always be homesick when I go away. It happened when we went to Disneyworld and if you can get homesick at the happiest place on earth, you can probably get homesick anywhere. I like knowing what it is that I am homesick for. It helps me to appreciate what is at home, and it also reminds me that I would not do well with travel. For now I'm a Toronto-resident and that is the place I'd like to stay most of the time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Orange Badge

If you leave our apartment and head out towards the MuchMusic building, you have to cross the streetcar tracks on McCaul street. There's a loop there where the Queen line turns around sometimes. Because the loop is so close to a residential area, they have to lubricate the tracks so they make less noise. They just use water. I'm not really sure why. So when I walk across McCaul in the summer, the glint of the water in the sunlight catches my eye. Every time I see it, I think of the pool. Lakeshore pool.

Lakeshore pool was a strange thing. It was in Kingston and it was definitely a pool but it was nowhere near the lakeshore. In fact it is a solid twenty minute walk from that pool to the shore of Lake Ontario. I assume the just used the same logic they use when naming suburbs. You know, like when they make a new development and they call it something like Sherwood Forest and then the first thing they do is cut down all the trees? There was another development near our house called Conservatory Pond. It was near a pond but the pond was actually an old rock quarry so I think they get as many points as the Sherwood Forest people.

But Lakeshore was also strange because it was a private/public pool. It was private because you had to be a member to get in. It was privately owned by some kind of neighbourhood association and when you paid your membership fee, you got coloured badges to indicate that you were a member. Every year the pool would open and they'd have to make an announcement saying you had to sew on your badge, and you couldn't safety pin it to your shorts. As I am writing this, I just realized that that policy was probably to keep people from sharing badges. That makes so much sense. Your badge would indicate membership and then you could occasionally bring guests, but you had to use a guest pass. We had some that we had bought 6 years before I was born and we were still using them. We didn't have guests very often.

Your badge was colour coded to indicate your age. Different ages had different privileges. Purples were for little kids. You had to have an adult accompany you, but you were allowed in the wading pool with all the other purples. It was a pretty rad place. I was ok with it because I was scared of the water until I was six or seven years old. Then when you hit a certain age, you graduated to an orange badge. Orange meant you could swim without an adult during daylight hours (they had lights and they stayed open until ten).

I had just learned how to swim a year before I got my orange badge. My whole family watched at the cottage as I dog paddled between two docks without any assistance. I don't think I've ever felt more encouraged in my entire life. My mom sewed that orange badge on to my bathing suit, and my days of being home during the summer were basically over. I had a bike, the pool was a block from our house, and I could go there anytime during the day. I spent most of the hot days of summer at the pool bobbing around, swimming under water, doing jumps off the diving board. It was a sweet time. I can't imagine a place like that now where you don't have to be accompanied by an adult. I assume they exist, but you'd probably be arrested for letting your kid go alone. It's silly. I think that orange badge was my first experience of independence and responsibility and I'm glad I got it when I did.

I turned 26 on Tuesday. It's the first birthday where some new form of independence hasn't happened (25 meant my car insurance dropped and I could rent a car from anywhere). It was a very quiet birthday. Amanda and I went to the Pan Am games and watched some goal ball. Then we went to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and finally we took in a Blue Jays game. We enjoyed the day together. It wasn't an "orange badge" type of birthday, but it was a good one. An adult birthday. What I imagine the rest of them will be like. I like that.

I also like how I can walk across McCaul Street and see that water in those streetcar tracks and remember what it was like to get that orange badge.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: Trust Me I'm Lying - Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

Today I had to drive to Westport and back. Not wanting to endure the drive in silence, I purchased an audio book for the occasion. That book was by Ryan Holiday and is an extended study of how blogs (blogs in this case referring to news websites that lack any print format like Gawker, Huffington Post, etc.) and PR people interact together. He touches on a number of interesting aspects of that relationship and the book is certainly an entertaining read. I would say the most interesting part of it is the stories that he tells to support his claims. Holiday works in Public Relations for American Apparel and from what he says in the book an number of other companies and he recounts stories from these jobs, especially from American Apparel, to support his claims and his thoughts.

There is an interesting tension present in the book. As Holiday tells stories and makes comments he sounds credible and reputable through most of the first two thirds of the book. I had very little to question about the way that he talks about things. When you get to the final third though, he begins to make comments that will raise some small warning flags for you if you spend time saturated in media, particularly around how he discusses some topics that often appear on the site "Jezebel". I almost feel like he becomes an unreliable narrator in this segment. There are not enough flags to keep you from reading, but certainly enough to give you pause and think about the substance of what he is saying instead of passively absorbing every sentence.

I would say this book is definitely worth reading, at the very least for thinking more seriously about how it is that we get news and how blogs can potentially provide misleading information. It will probably also lead you to notice how often print media pick up stories from things that you read online. It's only 6 hours on audiobook and it's available on Audible so there's no need to go to a store or anything like that.