Mid-Year Update

Disclaimer: The following post contains brutal, unabashed honesty. This is not a fun post. I make no apology if it bums you out.

So it's like this. 2012 kinda sucks so far. I've been trying to make the best of it, but it's proving to be rather difficult.

For starters, it's now June and Vancouver has barely had any warm weather. By this time last year I'd been to the beach at least 3 times and it was nice enough to bike to work a few times every week. This year all it ever seems to do is rain. I hate the rain. It seems like a small potatoes complaint, but it's come to my attention that I probably suffer from S.A.D. So all the rain and the dark are not good for me.

There have also been troubles at work. The publisher hasn't been doing so hot money-wise. Projects have been cut, lots of staff have been laid off. And I'm stuck doing a job I'm sick of on a project I have little to no interest in.

Job dissatisfaction coupled with non-stop rain makes for a pretty good case of mild depression.

But wait! There's more!

See, it turns out that trying to change all the things you don't like about your life may be a little more difficult than it would initially seem.
I started thinking about where I would like to be in 5 years. You know that 5 year plan people talk about? I didn't have one. Still don't, really.
So I had to ask myself: What do I want out of life? Where do I want to be in 5 years? What's missing from my life right now? What's really important to me?

The answers to those questions are - for the most part - all the same things they've been before. I won't bother repeating them here and now. I've been in a rut. A hole. A really deep one. For a really long time. And despite all thing the good things that happened in 2011 and all the amazing things I did for myself - and continue to do in some cases - the really important things still haven't changed. I'm still in that same hole, asking those same questions, coming up with the same non-answers, and making the same lame excuses.

I'm having to face some hard truths about myself. It's all in the name of positive change, but it's extremely difficult and often discouraging.

Suffice to say that in the last 6 months I've gotten to thinking about maybe changing jobs, maybe changing careers entirely. Maybe going back to school. Maybe leaving Vancouver. I haven't come up with any answers yet, and it's frustrating. It's easy to make yourself happy on the short term. But finding happiness for the long term? That's harder. I'm envious of those who have found it, and wish I could find it as simple for me to do the same.

There was a brief stint where I was seriously entertaining the idea of taking a programming degree. I've decided against it - at least for now. I'd like to pick up the skill, but I'm not totally sold on the idea of doing it full time as a career choice. And I'd hate to invest 4 years of my life into training for something I won't enjoy.
(I've got two different college diplomas to tell me that the next one better be the last one.)

So now I'm seeing a counsellor. Initially my goal was to try and get some career direction advice. I simply wanted to try and talk to somebody to explore some interest areas for jobs and careers that maybe I hadn't explored before. But the counsellor, being as painfully astute as they're trained to be, picked up on the fact that my career issues aren't necessarily the biggest source of my stress. And so the focus of those sessions has shifted slightly to working on some other things that are probably more important to me in the long run.

I'm not sure how I feel about all of this. On the one hand, I'm optimistic about certain things and I'm finding it helpful. On the other hand, I'm afraid that I'll come out the other side of this experience and still be unhappy about things.

I may still dislike my job. I may still hate the rain. I may still have not lost any weight, and may still lack the willpower to make that happen. (Curse my blasted sweet-tooth!)

Thankfully, there's another "still":

I've still got amazing friends and family who care about me. Despite my sometimes venomous negativity, they've all been very supportive and stuck by me. I'm both amazed and grateful at how understanding they all are while I go throw what for me is a rather difficult time.

So for those of you who stumble across this:
I don't expect you to understand, because you can't and you won't. You're not me.
I'm just asking for some empathy, and that you bear with me through this.
When my turn comes, I promise to return to the favour.

In the meantime, if anybody has a crystal ball or a time machine they can loan me, I'd appreciate it.

(...oh, one last thing. I peeked back at that super gung-ho post I wrote in Mar. 2011 about taking ownership of my life. You know that bit I wrote about how "this time it will be different?" I know this looks like the same old pattern, but it's not. The issues are the same, but this time IS different. This time I'm actually taking action instead of just talking about it. This journey I'm on is still the same journey I started last year. This is just the other side of the same coin - it's a valley before I hit another peak. Despite my moodiness, I've made a lot of positive changes in my life and the way I look at things. But a lot of them are shifts in mindset and attitude, and aren't changes that are visible to the naked eye.

Enough said.)


2011 - My Year in Review

2011 was a pretty great year for me. After a bit of a trying period in fall of 2010, I started the year with a fresh outlook. My guiding mantras for the year have been twofold:

1) Always try to keep my best foot forward
2) If I'm not happy about something in my life, do something to change it

Keeping these two things in mind has helped me keep 2011 moving forward on a wave of positivity, and it's been a pretty amazing year as a result. Let's review:

  • Attended a William Gibson reading at the CBC, with Douglas Coupland as a special guest. Went with an acquaintance who just happened to have an extra ticket at the last minute.

  • Created some audio clips for a game prototype for a friend from school. Got to exercise my creativity in ways I haven't before, and make a little extra cash on the side. (Can't say who or what, since it's unreleased. Very hush-hush.)

  • Started learning more about MIDI hardware and software. Have been working on music projects and posting my creations online. I even purchased a licensed copy of the audio software that I've been "borrowing" for the last 10 years. There's still more music to come!

  • Dabbled in leather working as a new hobby. Made a few bracelets - notably, one that integrates glow-wire and a battery pack. This has generated a bit of interest among friends and acquaintances who have seen my work. I may start making and selling more bits and pieces online for a small profit.

  • Made efforts to get more exercise. Bought new ski boots to do more downhill skiing, started biking to work 2-3 times every week during spring/summer, tried (but ultimately gave up on) fitness bootcamp, and gave wall-climbing a shot (trumped by cost, otherwise I'd keep going with it). Strangely, an increase in nights out at the club dancing have also provided a great cardio workout.

  • Went on a crazy roadtrip to Tacoma on a Sunday night to see Rammstein. Got passes to the after party, met combichrist, and still made it to work the next day.

  • Saved up money for a trip and went to Montreal for the Kinetik 4.0 industrial music festival. Lots of music, lots of culture, lots of dancing.

  • Spent a weekend at the lake house in Cold Lake and visiting family. I haven't been home during the summer in 5 years, so this was pretty great for me.

  • Spent more time at Vancouver beaches, relaxing in the sun and playing in the water. Also made a trip to Harrison Lake for the first time, and at least on visit to Cultis Lake in Chilliwack.

  • Drove through the mountains for a wedding in Calgary while simultaneously conquering my irrational hatred of camping.

  • Bungee Jumped from a bridge in Whistler, and I'd totally do it again!

  • Focused on more self-learning of design tools and practices at work during my downtime. Hopefully making strides towards a shift in direction in the coming year. Fingers crossed!

  • Spent less time overall playing games and staying home, and made many more efforts to arrange social plans and get out of the house. Also did more reading.

  • Paid off my student loan, making a really big stride towards being debt-free.

    But above all else that I've done this year, the most important thing is this:
    I've spent more time with close friends and family and strengthened a number of those relationships. My job may keep the bills paid, but it's friends and family that fuel my livelihood and keep me going.

    And so to all of you I've spent my time with this year, thank you. Your impact on me this past year has been rather profound. I can only hope that I've touched your life in similar ways.

    Here's looking to a bright and prosperous 2012!
  • 7.09.2011

    Week of Mayhem – Segment 2.5 – Kinetik Festival 4.0

    Kinetik Marquee night 3

    My primary reason for going to Montreal was the check out Kinetik 4.0. Kinetik is an annual industrial music festival that brings musical acts from the US, Canada, and Europe together to share a stage for 5 nights. There is no other industrial festival in North America of this scope, and so fans travel from all over North America to come join the party. If industrial music is your scene, this is the premiere event in western hemisphere to go to.

    Should you be considering going to Kinetik, here are a few tips based on my experience to help you make the most of it.

    The Venue


    Assuming Kinetik continues to be held at Metropolis in future years, I think you’ll be impressed. It’s a huge bar with a huge dancefloor. It fits a few thousand people, and it has an upper level balcony that features stadium seating. So you can stand back by the bar and mingle, go out to the floor to dance, and then sit upstairs to relax while still enjoying the show.
    Just be wary of the stairs. There are lots of stairs.

    Take Friends with You

    Everything is better with friends. Enough said.


    As I understand it, the festival has a sponsor hotel every year, but it’s not exactly the cheapest room in town. There are plenty of other hotels, motels, and hostels in downtown Montreal ranging from 2 stars to 5. If you want to be as close to the club as possible Hotel Villa is as close as you can get. However, be prepared for a “colourful” neighbourhood with a bit of “character” and a little bit of noise from the club downstairs. There’s also another place of similar calibre about 1 block west that’s in the same price range.

    If you prefer to be a little further away, the Econolodge is about 10 blocks away, which sounds far but is actually surprisingly close. There are a few other reasonable places in the area as well. If you want a hostel, Casa del Popol was recommended to me, although I can’t speak for it myself.

    If you travel with friends it’s reasonably inexpensive to share a room. If you’re travelling on your own I would pick a nice hostel or a low-rated motel. You probably won’t be spending much time there anyways, so do you really need silk sheets and a chocolate on your pillow? Many places also have in-suite kitchens or at least a fridge, so you can save some money by stocking up on groceries and avoid eating out.

    All in all I suppose the key is to gauge how many beds you need, how far you might have to stumble in the very early morning, and then choose a place you can afford that’s in appropriate proximity.

    Festival Wristbands

    The first night you arrive you will have to get a wristband for the festival. These are colored coded per pass type. If you do the full week – the diamond pass – you will get a “diamond” colored wristband. This must be worn for the entire week. You will eat, sleep, dance, and drink with this thing on. You will shower with it on. It’s kind of gross. You’ve been warned.

    The upside is that these wristbands also make it easier to spot other festival-goers as you’re touristing around town.

    Also, if you’re not in any rush to get through the doors on the first night, don’t bother lining up early. If you wait a few hours and that line will disappear.

    (I’ve heard in previous years that they did pickups earlier in the day, so that may not even be an issue depending on how the organizers decide to run things.)

    Frontline Assembly_Montreal

    Bring Earplugs

    You will be in a loud noisy club for hours on end. If you value your hearing, bring earplugs. Sure they may not match your funky PVC outfit, but you’ll be thankful when you’re falling asleep to the faint sound of tinnitus on the last day. (Rather than the horrible screeching of tinnitus after the first night without earplugs.)

    Also, they’re helpful for drowning out the sound of a snoring roommate.

    Wear Comfortable Clothing

    Let’s face it, this scene is probably about 50% about the fashion. You’re going to plan outfits, and they’re going to be crazy and elaborate because you want to impress. I know, I get it. I do it too. But try to dial it back a bit and be practical with your outfits.

    If you plan to do any dancing – and you’d be silly not to – then dress for it. Wear something lightweight, cool, and breathable. Avoid all that leather and PVC if you can. Don’t wear a super-tight uncomfortable corset if you’re going to want out of it 2 hours later. (Unless, of course, being removed from it is part of your evil plan.) Less clothing is probably better than more, but if you tend to sweat then you might want to consider a few light layers to hide it.

    I don’t recommend wearing heels or platforms. They’re too hard on your feet for that much dancing, and they make navigating the stairs tricky. Metropolis has lots of stairs. You have to climb them to get to the washroom. You’re probably safer with a good pair of sneakers. Black, of course. We wouldn’t want to let any color show now, would we?

    (Actually, I got a fair bit of entertainment out of watching slightly inebriated girls in inappropriate foot attire try to tromp up and down the stairs. )

    (Wait, what am I saying? Ladies, you look amazing in all those things. I take it all back. Wear the heels and the platforms and the corsets and the leather and the PVC. However, the “less clothing” rule should still apply. *Wink wink nudge nudge*. )


    Drinks in bars are expensive. Hit a liquor store, buy yourself a bottle or two of your favourite poison, and pre-drink in your hotel room before you go. Save yourself some money.

    mmm beer


    That much drinking and dancing makes lots of water a must. Keep a supply of water on hand, or ask one of the friendly bartenders for some.

    Talk to Strangers

    The one thing I regret from my trip is that I didn’t chat with any strangers or make new friends. I went, I danced, I listened, and I drank. I had a great time, but it could have been better. So don’t do what I did - do the opposite. Chat with some strangers and make some new friends. If you’re at the festival then you’ve already got something in common with every single person in the room.

    This can also be done in your hotel. Just keep your eyes peeled for neighbours wearing wristbands, and then maybe arrange for some mutual pre-drinking.

    Be Selective About Bands


    With roughly 10 bands per night over 5 days, that’s about 50 bands. Starting at 6pm and going until 3am every night means you’re in the club for 9 hours ever night that you’re there. That’s a lot of clubbing – maybe too much, even. Some bands will be good, some bands will be bad. Some may surprise you, others may disappoint.

    Unless you’re crazy hardcore, don’t try to go to see every group. Pick your favourite artists, and maybe research a few others you haven’t heard of before you go. Find out the lineup schedule each night and work around it. Personally, I skipped the first 3 or 4 acts every night and didn’t go in until around 9pm. I still saw plenty of great groups including all of the headliners and I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.

    If you have internet access keep an eye on the festival website every day in case there are last minute changes to the lineups.

    Be Prepared to Keep Strange Hours

    Did I mention that this festival runs until 3AM every morning? Which means the best case scenario is you’re in bed by 4AM every morning. You could play vampire and sleep all day, but then you’d be missing out on seeing what Montreal city has to offer. But you can still sleep until noon to get a full 8 hours of rest. Just be mindful that housekeeping will probably skip your suite. And that still leaves time to do touristy things in the afternoon, before dolling yourself up for another night out.



    Week of Mayhem - Segment Two - Montreal City

    Apologies for the somewhat chaotic post. I wasn’t sure if I meant to tell a story, or give you fun facts about Montreal. So I did both.

    A 7:00AM Flight? What was I thinking?

    Having only gotten 4 hours of sleep after Rammstein, I spent the next 2 days recovering from my adventure. This meant going to bed extremely early. This actually worked in my favour, since two days later I had to get up before 5AM to hop a cab to the airport, bound for Montreal.

    The flight was mostly uneventful, although I did have a brief stop-over on Toronto to have lunch with my sister and give her an early birthday present.

    Culture Shock

    I arrived in Montreal early Wednesday afternoon. It was immediately very apparent that I was and Quebec. Most of the signage in the Montreal airport was written only in French. My high school French classes had taught me enough to make sense out of a lot of things, but signs in the airport sure do have a lot of strange French words I’ve never seen before.

    I was able to make my way to the baggage claim, and then over to an information booth to get directions to downtown. This is where I learned, thankfully, that most people in Montreal speak with French and English. So even though I felt a little out of my element, at least I was able to communicate.

    Granted, there were plenty of deer-in-the-headlight moments for those first few days. Whenever somebody would rattle off a question in French, I would stop and stare, dumbfounded, before sputtering the question “English?”

    In fact, I only had to try and use my sub-par French language skills once. I was left in the car alone with my friend’s grandparents for a few minutes. They’re Russian, and that’s the only language that her grandmother speaks. Communication with her was impossible. Her grandfather, on the other hand, spoke fluent Russian, a little bit of French, and some terribly broken English. He tried to strike up a conversation with me, but the only language we had in common was broken French, so that’s the language we tried to use. Thankfully, it was a short conversation and the content of it was basically that we were sorry we couldn’t converse with each other because neither one of spoke very good French.

    Sleazy Central


    The hotel we were staying at was a few blocks from the bus stop, and so I picked up and walked. Which gave me a chance to look around and scope out the neighbourhood. It seems our hotel and Metropolis (the festival venue) were right smack-dab in the middle of what is probably the seediest part of Montreal. On one side of the street was the Cleopatra gentlemen’s club. On the other, a place offering peep shows 24/7. Just up the street from that were 3 different sex shops, and beyond that was another strip club.
    In any other Canadian city I’ve been to strip clubs tend to be out of the way, have blacked out windows, and feature very little signage on the outside besides their business name. Montreal is another story. They don’t try to hide it at all. Signs are huge neon signs of naked women and/or their naughty bits, and posters advertising the “dancers”* and featured shows are plastered all along the outside walls.

    * Strippers are not “dancers”. I’ve seen enough to know that what they do is not “dancing”.

    City of Artists

    Montreal is also clearly a city of artists.

    graffiti 02

    Everywhere I went in Montreal I saw graffiti. Not the ugly black and white tags done by hoodlums that is commonplace almost everywhere, but actual graffiti art. Great colourful murals covering brick canvasses. I was going to take a walking tour to photograph it all, but that could have taken a whole day and I’d have a lot of graffiti photos on in my camera. So I captured a couple choice pics. If you’re ever there for a visit, I recommend taking a walk around and checking some of it out. Who needs the art gallery anyway?

    My friend and I wandered by Place des Arts one evening. Great big white spires featuring spotlights had caught our attention, so we went to see what they were. We discovered a small park with a long air vents spewing thick fog-like steam. The light spires had colored lights that illuminated the fog, and additional colored light tracks along the vents helped exaggerate the effect. The result is a small field filled with colourful thick smog that’s quite beautiful at twilight. (Should have gotten pictures, but didn’t. Maybe next time…)

    andrew in plaza

    One day I spent some time in the plaza in the old port listening to an enterprising busker who played guitar and sang while tapping a plastic milk crate that contained his tambourine.

    Another day I stopped down the street to watch some b-boys spin on their backs, do flips, and other b-boy things. They even had the cardboard mat and the ghetto blaster. It’s not something you see every day.

    The Old Port

    old port statue in square>

    old port street 02

    The old port area runs along the river, in behind the Notre Dame Cathedral. The aforementioned plaza is in the area, and there are dozens of restaurants, shops, and artisans. The architecture itself is the most interesting part. The buildings are primarily historic structures that were built in the 1700 and 1900. The streets are paved in cobblestone, and horse carriages ferry tourists around. It’s a little bit like stepping back in time a few hundred years, so long as you ignore the all the modern businesses. It’s quite a nice area, and wandering around here with a camera was possibly my favourite part of Montreal.

    Churches – Lots of churches

    half church front

    I’ve joked that in Vancouver if you throw a stone in any direction you’re likely to hit a yoga studio or a sushi restaurant. In Montreal if you throw a stone in any direction you’re probably going to hit an old church. There are old historic buildings, and especially churches, everywhere. The city is a strange blending of modern day structures peppered with huge stone monoliths reaching skyward. One church I saw in particular was actually both: it looked like a Church from the front, but only the front half still existed. Walking inside the doors led you to a paved pedway and into a big brick building (which I think was a library).

    There’s also Notre Dame. If you’re in the neighbourhood, you can see it’s twin spires from literally blocks away. I stood outside and took some photos, but I decided to avoid the tour groups and didn’t go in. However, I was completely in awe of the massive scale of this building.

    notre dame 02

    That is, until I went to see St. Joseph’s Basilica on Mt. Royal. St. Joseph’s is huge. I happened to arrive there just in time for a pipe-organ performance as well. So that was neat.

    st joseph staircase

    I’m not especially interested in churches per sé. I just like the idea that these huge stone structures that are still standing a few hundred years later. I can only imagine all the work, money, blood, and sweat that went into their construction. It’s a little bit mind-boggling.

    A Few Tips for Travellers

    - If you go to Montreal, be forewarned that the little while man at crosswalks that is a beacon of safety does not exist there. In Montreal you watch the street lights and walk with the flow of traffic. And cross your fingers that the traffic doesn’t flow right over you.

    - Everybody (well, almost) speaks English. If you don’t know French, the only phrase you’ll ever need to know is “Je ne parles pas francais.”

    - Restaurant menus are usually printed in French, which can be tricky. But many of them also have a second page in English.

    - Unless you’re leaving downtown, you shouldn’t ever need to take a cab in Montreal. The Metro is easy to find, well marked, and easy to navigate. Beyond that, most everything downtown is in walking distance.


    Mayhem Week: Segment One - Rammstein in Seattle

    It's not every day that a german industrial-metal powerhouse like Rammstein comes to North America. Things have been quiet for them for the last couple of years. So when I found out they were going on tour, I jumped at the chance to get tickets.

    There were of course, a few catches to making this happen:
    1) None of my friends wanted to go, for varying and totally legit reasons. (No money, no passport, no musical taste, etc.)
    2) Since they weren't playing in Vancouver, the closest venue was the Tacoma Dome in Seattle. (Or is it Tacoma? I'm still not clear on whether it's a suburb or not.)
    3) The Tacoma show was on a Sunday night*. (Another one of those totally legit reasons not to go.)

    * This is notable because I had to go to work on Monday morning, which would necessitate driving back to Vancouver the same night, right after the concert. Getting time off was not an option, since I had time booked off later in the week to go to Montreal. More on that in the next few segments.

    Enter my perky friend "V". Thanks to facebook, I happened to know that she wanted to go, and she was having as little luck finding friends as well.
    A few facebook messages later we decided we were the only ones cool enough (or dumb enough?) to drive to Seattle to see Rammstein on a Sunday night.

    The Road Trip
    V met at my place a little before 4pm on Sunday. Google maps told us that with no traffic and no border waits we would need about 3 hours to get to the dome. That would get us there at about 7pm, with the show slated to start at 8pm. Go team!

    While V and I have known each other for a while, we've never had much of a chance to hang out and talk. At least not outside of a loud environment where actual conversations can be had. So while I was a little worried that we would sit and ride in awkward silence, it couldn't have been more the opposite. V made an excellent road trip buddy. Not only was she handy with operating the stereo and changing CDs, but she also brought a complete picnic lunch! We had drinks, water, sandwiches, and snacks. We would not be hungry and we wouldn't need to stop for food.

    We crossed the border with no problems. It was late on Sunday, so the wait at the Peace Arch was less than 5 minutes.
    But we did stop for a bit in Bellingham for a washroom break, and some meandering around led us a bit astray off the highway. So we lost some time here.

    I had my phone set to GPS in case we got lost, even though the route was very clear: get on the I5 and drive straight until you see a dome.
    We drove. We talked. We listened to music. We ate sandwiches. And then we saw the dome. Actually, the dome was really hard to miss. Finding parking was a bit trickier, but we found a secure lot a few blocks away that charged less than the official lot, so that was that.

    Concert Prep

    We didn't make especially good time on the highway, partly due to my reluctance to speed and partly because of the pit-stop in Bellingham. So we were in line to enter the dome by a little after 8pm. That was the start time printed on the ticket, so we had figured we wouldn't miss anything. There was music-like noise coming from the stage as we entered, but we took very little notice. First, we needed another bathroom break.

    An aside: I dislike public washrooms. I don't have a phobia, but I will still try and avoid them whenever possible. So the idea of using the washroom at the dome already had me on my guard. Rightfully so when I discovered the Tacoma Dome does not have urinals in the washroom. Where the wall of urinals should be, concert-goers are greeted by two long metal troughs. Pee troughs! Gross. Never again.... *shudder*

    Next, we needed drinks. It was around this time that we realized we had no US currency on us, and our debit cards wouldn’t work at the concessions. So we had to wander around the stadium looking for the only ATM. We stopped at the merch stand because the poster-guy said he would take Canadian money. Which lead to a heated exchange between him and V when she asked for her change back in US bills and he refused to give her back anything other than Canadian. So she demanded her Canadian $50 back and decided not to buy the poster after all.

    Frustrated, V stopped and asked the nearest gentlemen passing by if he knew where the ATM was. She explained that we were from Canada and had no US money, and that all we wanted to do was get a few drinks before the show. His reply was something along the lines of this:

    "No, I don’t know, I'm sorry. But would you like to meet the band after the show?"
    Our response was one of scepticism and disbelief, and also of confusion. We can meet the band? But you can't help us get beer?
    WAIT! We can meet the band?! HELL YES!
    And so the guy gives us a pair of convincing blue after-party wristbands. He explains that after the show we are to find the elevator between sections 1A and 1B, ride it to the bottom floor, and then find the northwest corner where he will meet us. This all sounds a little too good to be true. It sounded almost like the plot to some sort of cloak-and-dagger backdoor deal. So we figured either we just scored really big, or we were going to be murdered horribly and forgotten.
    (Special note: There's no way I would ever have gotten those passes on my own. It’s a good thing I brought V as my concert buddy. Sometimes it pays to have attractive female friends.)

    We found the ATM not far from the mysterious elevator. The line-up was quite long because there's only one ATM in the whole building. So I gave my VISA a try at the nearest concession while V waited in the ATM line. Thankfully the VISA came through and provided us with the beverages we sought.

    The Concert

    We took our drinks, found our seats, and sat in preparation for Rammstein. The previous noise from the stage had ended quite a while ago. Curious, I asked the guy next to us who we'd missed.
    "Ummm... Combi-something?"

    F&*K. We missed Combichrist*. Apparently they're really serious about starting shows on time down south. Here in Canada everybody knows that if you print 8PM on the ticket the show won't actually start until 9pm. But as luck would have it Combichrist were already on the stage before we even made it through the doors, and off the stage before we found our seats. So that was a little disappointing. But you can't win 'em all I suppose.

    * Another aside: Panzer AG was originally slated to play Kinetik in Montreal later that week, but had dropped from the roster so that Combichrist (they share a member) could play the Rammstein tour. So I figured if I saw Combichrist at the Rammstein show I’d be getting a pretty great deal.

    Rammstein put on an excellent show. They were loud! They were metal! They had fire! And giant metallic angel wings! They pretend-smashed through a fake wall! They rode a rubber raft out into the crowd! It was all very entertaining. I'm ranking the show as probably number 3 in my top 5 concerts I've ever seen. (Nine Inch Nails still holds both slots 1 and 2).

    Here are a couple of choice clips from youtube to give you an idea of what you missed:



    Of course the excitement of this was amped up for me by V. She was clearly very excited about the show, and I was feeding off her excess positive energy. V, for those of you who don't know her, is a bit like a glitter-filled-energy-hurricane. So we danced and rocked and headbanged and screamed and it was awesome. Well, for us anyways. Some of our row neighbours may have disagreed. They certainly didn’t seem to be as excited as we were. Although the man to our left definitely seemed to appreciate that V was doing her very best to get his somewhat bored-looking [wife/girlfriend/mistress?] to show a little more enthusiasm in the show. By dancing with her, helping her pound her fist in the air, and then by naughtily unzipping for sweater down the front – but just a little.

    I think Rammstein played a set of about 15 songs. It was a 2 hour set and I heard all my favourite songs, but the time just flew by.

    The After Party

    So we sat in the stands for a few minutes to catch our breathe. It was 11pm. We still had to drive back to Vancouver and I had to work in the morning. But you only live once, right? How often is somebody going to hand you a pass to an exclusive invite-only after-party?

    So we went back to the elevator. Sure enough, somebody inside greeted us. We flashed our wristbands and she took us to ground floor, where another guy pointed us across the floor to the meeting area.

    We were then lead through a series of back hallways of the stadium and down some stairs into the basement. About 50 of us congregated in small white room furnished with a half-dozen chairs, a tiny audio system, and a makeshift bar with free water, free beer, and a guy in a sombrero mixing vodka-red-bulls.

    Responsible driver note: I should probably mention for the sake of worried readers out there that I only had a single beer during the concert, and then had water at the after party. Drinking and driving is terribly irresponsible!

    So there we are, in this weird little poorly-black-lit white room with a select group of other concert goers. And maybe band members? I realized at this point that I would never recognize any of the members of Rammstein unless they were still in costume or holding on to their instruments.

    And then in walks a group of youngish awfully industrial-looking tattooed guys. V started saying hello and shaking hands and trying to be friendly. It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but eventually I clued in that we were talking to the members of Combichrist. I suppose the bullet belts, facial piercings, and dyed black hair probably should have given them away. V actually had no idea - she was just being friendly.

    I don’t think I met Andy, the singer. But I did meet drummers Trevor and Joe. Who we thought was named Justin for some reason. I think at one point I caught him giving V a little playful peck on the lips. Which was terribly entertaining to me, since he stands at least a foot taller than she does.

    I tried to strike up a conversation with an attractive blonde who was playing with a bouncy rubber ball. I asked her about it, and she said “oh, it’s for us to play with in the dressing room.”
    “Wait, so you’re in the band too? Are you female vocals?”
    (At this point I was confusing Combichrist with Icon of Coil, another of Andy’s musical projects which used to feature a female vocalist.)
    “Oh, no. I’m Trevor’s* sister. I’m in a different band.” *(or maybe she was Joe’s sister?)
    “Oh, I see. So what’s the name of the band you’re in”.
    Completely non-chalantly she replies: “Alice Cooper.”

    My jaw basically hit the floor here. I don’t even really like Alice Cooper, but the guy is still a music legend. And here I was talking to his … something…, who name-drops like it’s not a big deal. I was so dumbfounded I actually didn’t even find out what she does in his band. And wikipedia has failed to fill me in, nor can I remember her name to google it.

    Till Lindemann, Rammstein’s singer, did come in for a few minutes at some point. But he was basically immediately surrounded by other after-partiers, so I kept my distance. He disappeared shortly after, so I didn’t get a chance to say so much as “hello”. As I understand it, somehow V didn’t even notice Till, who was standing no more than 3 feet away from her. And if the other guys from Rammstein were ever there, I don’t know and didn’t see or recognize them. Heck, for all I know the guy in the sombrero was one of them.

    We stuck around and chatted with a few more random people. Somehow, through some weird coincidence, at least 20 of the people in the after party were from Vancouver. V and I recognized a few from our local hangout club of choice, and a few more recognized us. So if there were only about 50 people there, almost half were Vancouverites.
    I know, it’s weird, right?

    We left around 12:30AM, as we still had a trip to Vancouver to make.

    The Return Trip

    So we got back to the car around 1:00AM and hit the highway. We cranked the Rammstein and sang along. I drank a Rockstar energy drink to stay awake. We talked and laughed and reflected on how ridiculous and awesome the night had been. And then V curled up and fell asleep in the passenger seat, and I got us a little lost when I pulled off the highway to get some gas.

    Compared to the way down, the drive back seemed to take forever. And since it took me about 2 hours to realize the distance signs were all in miles instead of kilometres, I had no real way of gauging how far we were from Vancouver. (For some reason my phone wasn’t roaming and so I couldn’t get a signal on the GPS.)

    We got back across the border and arrived back at my apartment at 4:00AM, where I promptly put on my PJs, set the alarm for 9AM, and flopped into bed with the faint sound of tinnitus to rock me to sleep.



    2011 is proving to be a pretty good year. I’m making sure of it. It’s hard to explain the how or why, but the Christmas Holiday was a bit of an awakening for me. I came back to Vancouver and it was like somebody flipped a switch. No more misery, no more useless negativity, no more defeatist attitude. I’ve been trying very hard – and mostly succeeding – to take control of those things I don’t like about myself and trying to change them. It’s not easy, and I’m not perfect, and it’s not like I’ve changed overnight. Heck, I don’t even feel like I’ve changed much at all. But I certainly changed my perspective on certain things, and it’s making a world of difference in how I feel.

    Among those things is my single status. I’ve been single for a very long time. 7 years 3 months for those counting. I haven’t dated (I’ve been on a single date in that time), and have barely made any effort to do so since I moved to Vancouver. I feel like it’s finally time for that to change, and it’s about damn time.

    But what took me so long?

    In the spring of 2002 I started spending a lot of time with a close female friend of mine, and by August of that year we were dating. We spent about a year in what I could call a “serious” relationship, which peaked when I moved to Vancouver in August 2003, and ended officially in December 2003.

    Those of you who know me already know the story and all the gory details of what was a crazy roller-coaster ride of emotions. It had a lot of amazing ups, and a lot of really scary downs. The coaster in Galaxyland had nothing on us. She was – is - a great girl with a lot of great qualities. But there were things just didn’t work between us a lot of the time.

    You see, there were issues going into the relationship. Problems I knew about. Things I knew about her, about her personality, about her past. Things that, prior to dating, I told myself would prevent any sort of relationship with her from ever happening. But when it did, I convinced myself that I could get past those things. I convinced myself that I – that we – could get past them together. That they didn’t matter in the long run, and that I wouldn’t let them bother me. That things could be different.

    I fooled myself, and for a long while it worked.

    But my subconscious mind knew better, and I always felt like I had one foot out the door, just in case at some point I’d have to run. I think she knew. No, scratch that. I know she knew. (On the off chance you’re out there reading this, I’m sorry about that. It wasn’t fair of me. Neither one of us was perfect. )

    Ultimately, those things that I couldn’t get past would spell the end for us. We ended things amicably, but it we ended nonetheless.

    Afterwards, I felt positive about the outcome. I was glad we were still friends. I felt like I’d grown. I felt like I’d learned something. For better or worse, I felt stronger.

    It’s taken me this long – 7 years, 3 months – to realize the damage that was done. I thought I’d come out unscathed, unaffected. But I was dead wrong. Layers of me had been stripped away, quietly, silently, and with careful precision.

    For the record, I don’t blame her. I don’t resent her. I don’t regret it. I just wish I’d been able to open my eyes and see the very obvious signs sooner. I wish I’d been smarter and more honest with myself about my feelings.

    Thinking about that part of my past has been like a slow acting poison seeping into my brain. Self doubt. For a long time I didn’t feel like I could handle another relationship. Maybe I’m not nice enough. Maybe I’m not good enough. Not sexy enough. Not witty enough, or clever enough, or mature enough. Maybe I’m not the kind of guy any woman would want anything to do with. Maybe there’s just no girl out there that’s compatible with me. Maybe I'm just "damaged goods".

    I’d lost sight of myself and about many of the things I valued about myself. No, scratch that too. Things I do value about myself. I don’t need that poison anymore. I don’t need to hold on to that. Maybe I never did. And so I’m taking that poison and turning it into an antidote. Live, learn, grow, and love.

    I saw a lot of good friends during my Christmas vacation. People who know me well. People who often have a stronger sense of who I am and what I’m capable of than I do about myself. Somehow they put a lot of things in perspective for me, and probably without even knowing it. I don’t know what I’d do without my friends, and I’m infinitely thankful to be blessed with so many good ones.

    I feel like I’m waking up and remembering who I am again, and what I want out of life. I’ve always known, really, but it’s taken a long while – definitely too long - to come back to the point where I feel like I own that.

    It's time for change. No more complaining about rainy days, when I could be spending my time looking forward to those amazing sunny days that are just around the corner.


    Quick addendum:
    I got to reading back on some old posts, as I do about once a year. The theme of this post seemed familiar. Back in Jan or Feb of '09 I made a similar (but different) post and made some very similar claims about "taking control" and "making changes".

    So while you might be thinking "oh, I've heard this one before", you'll just have to trust me when I say that this year has already been a different story.


    Vancouver is cold, and I don't mean rainy.

    Every once in a while I pick up one of the local daily papers and read the dating columns. If you've ever read one of these in the Vancouver area then you know that one of the number one criticisms of Vancouver singles is that it's incredibly hard to meet people here. In my experience, it's been equally hard to build on any sort of relationship, even if only a friendship . Relationships in Vancouver, for some reason, are often very impersonal.

    A friend and I were discussing that this evening. Nobody seems to be able to explain it, but most people seem to agree that when it comes to the people, Vancouver is a very cold city. That's certainly been my impression, and it's one of the primary factors that will ultimately keep me from ever settling down here for good. Eventually, when the time is right, I know I'll move to a new city. Because ultimately I just don't like Vancouver, no matter how much I want to. It's the people that make a city, and my experience has been lacking in that respect. I've met some great people and made some great friends, but there always seems to be a closeness lacking here that I've had with past relationships in other cities.

    An aside to illustrate my point: I went to a house party last night. There was an interesting guy there from Sweden who had only met the party host perhaps days, or maybe even hours, before. Through a brief case of mistaken identity, he had met some people I know. But instead of letting the encounter pass, he had pursued them, told them they seemed friendly, and suggested that they hang some time. And so here he was at the house party. This kind of thing does not, in my experience, ever happen in Vancouver. People generally aren't this forward and friendly. But I guess when you've moved to a new country where you don't know anybody you have to make friends somehow. I think a lot of us could learn something from this guy.

    I'm sure there are lots of people who would disagree with what I'm saying here. And in my case I'm sure that some of this perceived coldness probably falls upon me and how I deal with people in my life. Maybe the city isn't all that impersonal at all. Maybe I've just removed myself a step or two from the rest of society. Maybe I'm the one that's being impersonal. But I know that it wasn't always the case, and I wonder what's different. What changed?

    The friend I was talking with got me thinking about it. How and why have I changed the way I respond to the people I meet since I moved here? What keeps me treading that fine line been friend and acquaintance? And how come chance meetings with strangers always seem to stop there?

    I think part of it is technology. Communications technology especially has become more and more advanced and become more ingrained in day-to-day life over the last 10 years. We have cellphones, internet chat, VOIP telephones, video messages, e-mail, text messages, MSN, Facebook, Blackberry messenger...

    And the more ways I'm given to communicate, the more I find I'm doing less of it, or doing more of it with a significant decrease in the quality of communications.

    I would estimate that 75% of my regular communications with friends these days is done via MSN, text, or e-mail. When you're limited to text-based commication mediums, you tend to pare information down to only the basic essentials of a message. All the flavor and fluff tends to get left behind in favor of speed and efficiency. Nobody wants to write a book about their life into a chat box 150 characters at a time. A conversation about your feelings just isn't any easy thing to carry out over instant messages or cell texts.

    There was a time when I spent a lot of time on the telephone talking with friends. I made a point of calling them and chatting for as little as 5 minutes and as long as a few hours. I hardly do that anymore, and I miss it. I'm not sure why I stopped, but I definitely think that my relationships with my friends were much better when I did. These days I get daily updates via MSN status, facebook updates, and twitter about what my friends are up to. And I like to think that this is keeping me up to date on what's going on in their lives. But that personal element is still missing.

    This is probably also a major contributing factor to my perpetual singledom.
    (I'm sure there are plenty of other factors, but let's not dwell on that.)

    It turns out that building and maintaining relationships takes work and a bit of effort. And it seems like all the technology in my life provides an illusion of ease and convenience, while actually making the situation worse.

    The aforementioned friend and I have been talking a lot lately. We can talk to each other for hours, and often do almost nothing else. In fact, just this evening we stood in a parking lot for almost 2 hours chatting under the street lights, well after the movie we saw had let out. And it's been very refreshing. Of all the relationships I have with people, these are the kind I value most.

    Another sidenote: We had just seen "The Social Network". Conversation was not about the movie, but there's an interesting juxtaposition in that.

    So I'm trying to be more conscious of how I respond to people. I'm trying to make more of an effort to show an interest in the people around me and their lives. It's fairly apparent to me that I've become rather insular since I've come to Vancouver, and I think it's time that I change that. Though it will take some considerable effort on my part to change my habits, it's time to open myself to those around me. And maybe if I do I'll learn to like the city a little more.

    Of course, it's not just me. I've had similar conversations with quite a few people about this, and there's certainly a consensus on the issue. It seems like the whole of Vancouver could benefit from a change in habit.

    So maybe all we need to do is get off the internet, switch off our cellphones, and talk to each other. With our voices, and with our hearts.