Monday, August 29, 2005 midnights, in cups of coffee

That's how you measure, measure a year.

It's been five days in this new city and I've managed to secure a steady income for the time being. With 26 resumes dropped, slightly sore feet and a sunkissed nose, I sat down to wait. The next day I received a phone call from...the first place I applied! The store named after me (JJ Bean--Vancouver's own micro-roaster) decided that they indeed needed me as their poster-girl. I sighed modestly, tossing my hair over my shoulder in the light breeze. "I think I could fit you into my busy schedule." They complied. Drama aside, the "interview" yesterday went smashingly well. I stopped by the cafe to chat over an americano with Kyle, the manager, and 45 minutes later--not having covered anything "work-related" really--started my first "muffin shift" at 5 am this morning. Phew. Out of the fire and into the muffin pan.

I've now added Granville Street to my avenues of exploration. That one was alone, on Friday, and took about 5 hours as well. I bought a bed, in great condition, from a thrift store right downtown. Delivery, frame, and decent mattress for 130.00. Take that, IKEA. And the guys running the place were good for my days' entertainment. Downtown Vancouver can't seem to decide what it would like its identity to be. Or else it's just content being the eclectic, bustling yet laid-back, modern ugly-bluish-tinted condos meets turn-of-the-century "Gastown" architecture, tidy business suits brushing boho-beauties, cafe doors swinging open into outdoor stores and upscale restaurants, the fresh air of Stanley Part tickling my shoulders. I stopped at the Granville island market, which is the Forks x 50. The Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival was in full swing, and I stopped to listen to a small kitchen band play Eastern Canadian folk songs (and wished Anna was sitting there with me. ) I took a little water bus across for my 5 minutes of touristy fame.

Moving via public transit is an experience I recommend to all for the building of character, and shoulder muscles. With my water bottle and iPod in tow (Help! I have acquired a cell phone, an ipod AND a blog in less that 3 weeks. I'm barely a week here and already modern life has engulfed me!), I proceeded to move my stuff from our temporary condo on 41st to our new digs at east 38th and Victoria. Don't let the proximity of the street numbers fool you--it was not a quick jaunt. And being the frugal female that I am, I had to race against the clock so my transfer would remain active for the duration of my move. I was done in roughly 3 hours--almost but not quite!

Our new place is clean and seems safe, though it is lacking in shower curtains and its kitchen colours seems to boast of bygone days. (ie: the early 80s) It seems we are smack dab in "asia-ville," not Chinatown proper, but a more southeast asian stew of mom-and-pops, family-run grocery stores, hairsalons, and yummy bargain restaurants.

As I rode the bus today wondering how our culture produced the neccessity for getting up while it's still dark (no, haven't done this in awhile, guess that makes me bourgeoise by comparison), excitement washed over my sleepy consciousness. Part of it was admittedly the free coffee I would soon put my grateful lips to, but more of it was the sense of newness the early morning mirrored in its crisp not-yet-sunlight. I feel alive.

I just finished reading "the Alchemist" by Paulo Coehlo. It's gained a bit of a cult following, but aside from its at times cliche newageiness, offers some valuable wisdom. One of the things I came away with was a reminder to live for the present, which he ties in with the Biblical mantra, "where your heart is, there also will your treasure be." The book gave this little lesson new life for me. The promise of something inspires us to pursue it, and there is definitely something to be said for relentlessly chasing after things of we value. But perhaps it is better to love first. Perhaps treasure follows the impulse of the heart. For right now I am content to live less for the hope of a sparkling future, or in a state of pining for the sweetness of the past. The blessings of the present moment are rare and fleeting things, like tiny minnows in a great sea. They are asking of me only one small thing. My whole heart.

title courtesy of the Broadway production, Rent

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A turn of the wheel

There is saxophone music wafting in the open window out on 41st. (I don't think one can appreciate the beauty, if not poetic, of numbered streets until one lives in a city of them.) Kerrisdale Days are on in my new, but temporary up-scale neighbourhood. It is my third day here, and so far, everyone was wrong about Vancouver being rainy. The sun has shone every day since my arrival, except for, of course, on the eve of my arrival on Wednesday...when the stars took over its reign. I've been gone a week.

I've named this post for the first song I listened to in the Calgary airport, back on Saturday. James Keelaghan's voice gave me just enough of a taste of home without nostalgia too painful to bear beneath brimming tears. "The steady state of matter is said to be the norm/But wait for a turn of the wheel," he sings. "The things we never challenge are the things that never change."

I have spent a lot of time in airports over the past week. Thrill and anxiety mingle in those terminals of transitions, those mysteriously non-places. You can be anything. You can be nothing. All are without context. People in motion, stability a memory or future destination. I have waited for moving objects so much this past week. Objects to cart me like cargo, the ghost in their machine.

I cannot recreate what I saw passing into the Canadian Rocies. They unleashed some grandeur or some rectitude in my soul and I was unabashed, even in this small van of seven strangers. The towering cliffs echo my gains and losses, the peaks shout out remnants of glory I've managed to hang onto. Their valleys resound each parting of the past few weeks.

Later, on our backpacking trip, Adam would remark how the mountains were not really sublime for him. They were far from foreboding, rather warm, welcoming, a protective barrier. Once you climb one and are granted the view out over the strange, mottled mountain horizon, it is no longer possible to be intimidating.

I had a glorious time at Num-ti-jah, the lodge where I worked last summer. Despite a persistent illness, a nausea carried over from the day of my departure perhaps, I was able to climb Mt. Temple (Altitude: 3,543m [11,621 ft]), see the picture above (one of me is forthcoming!). I also backpacked into Skoki Valley for one night with Adam, until we got caught in a bonafide blizzard. (I experienced all four season in less than a week, I am sure.) No matter though, we hiked back and dried off back at Num-ti-jah playing scrabble by the fire. It was also a higlight to see Meghan, the Ward cousin who has proved herself to be the reincarnated Yaheweha ("mountain woman") of our family.

I arrived in Vancouver sore and tired on Wednesday night. Thursday was recovery day, with some promenading on 41st. Malani and I are condo-sitting for friends of hers, and they have a beautiful home equipped with good music, good wine, and a wonderfully soft cat. I quickly learned that Vancouver is synonymous with Starbucks (you can wave at friends from one to another), sushi (we ate it for lunch for 2.50 each--and it was good!), and health. I am continuously delighted to see elderly people out and about, on the bus, shopping in the markets and enjoying their neighbourhood. We barbequed salmon, and made a mango salsa with fresh herbs and a salad. There are fantastic bakeries here as well. We've been reconnecting, and reading out on the open-air patio that stretches around their corner suite.

I am feeling 100% healthy again.

Yesterday, my second day here, we walked for 5 hours straight applying for jobs. I left with 15 resumes in tow, and returned with 3. Once you get going, it becomes kind of like a game, and your confidence builds. We bused by our future apartment, and then down to Commercial Drive, which is voted by one of my favorite magazines (Utne) as one of NA's hippest neighbourhoods. Upon seeing a coffee shop named JJ Bean, I had to apply. My dad's childhood nickname for me was an omen, I guess. I would gage a prospective job site by its vibe, and apply at the ones whose energy I liked. I applied for a catering company run by a Winnipeg chef, at various restaurants and cafes pulsing with music, conversation, and art. We walked all the way down Commercial, Venables, back down Main, and home via 41st.

I cannot put my finger on the culture of this place. Metropolitain, mediterranean, Canadian, and very asian. It feels like a different country, but simultaneosly as familiar as an old pair of Birks. I could see a live act every night. Sigur Ros, Juana Molina, the Arcade Fire, Death Cab, the Killers and the Proclaimers are all playing in the next week alone! Rodin's sculptures are at the Gallery, and there are community events galore.

I've also applied for an internship with a local magazine called Terminal City, and for door-to-door sales with greenearthorganics.

Good Vancouver Karma Episode 1: After eating a delicious portobello sandwich and leaving my resume at a tiny adorably kitsch "chew and chat" eatery on Main, Malani and I wandered down past the strip's plethora of antique shops, furniture stores, and clothing boutiques. I stopped outside a pawn shop to envy some of the Brodie bikes (and grieve my latest loss), as well as eye some of the guitars. I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a deal going on. A young man was trying to sell his bike to the shop proprietor. "I can only give you 60$, it's the end of the season and it's just not likely it will sell." The young man apparently just wanted to get it off his hands. I meandered over and asked if I could look at it. There was a semi-awkward pause, which I filled with statements of growing interest as I examined the componentry. The seller now seemed more interested in me as a prospective buyer than the pawn shop owner. The owner asked us to leave if we wanted to conduct business in his shop! (5 minutes later we were futher "encouraged" to move down the street!) As it turned out, the young man was about to travel to Thailand and wanted to get rid of his mountian bike that day. We met up later than night to complete the transaction, and now a Giant Yukon-model beauty, the same colour and year as my beloved Brodie is mine...all for only 70 bucks! And just when I was about to sigh with contentment at how generous and well-meaning Vancouverites were, John smiled and said "I'm from Manitoba, too!" I returned to a phone call from JJ Bean wanting to pursue my qualification. (listen to me, I've been writing too many cover letters!) What a day.

I am about to embark on another job hunt down Granville Street this afternoon. I can't wait to keep exploring the city and all its wonderful quirks and unfolding vistas. Friendly mountains tumbling all over the place, a diversity of cultures, and delightful clusters of blackberries hanging over all the sidewalks. Where else can you get a pint of strawberries for 2 dollars, a mango for 50c and 18 pieces of sushi for 5.95?

I think of Winnipeg fondly but do not miss it yet. I do, however, notice the absence of all the fine folks I know there. From my heart to yours,