PRIDE: days 216 — 220

It’s that time of year, and it’s been ages since I blogged about Pride. I think this resolution is really good for me! This weekend is always a bit rough for me; as a socially awkward introvert, it’s hard to look at everybody else having fun and partying without (a) wishing I could just join them and (b) knowing I wouldn’t have much energy for it.

But hey, I’m much more relaxed than I used to be. It’s all about building up social stamina and pushing my comfort zone a bit at a time.

I began celebrations with the Davie Street Party on Friday. I went by myself, but I knew I’d run into friends and then we’d just walk up and down the street running into other friends, checking out the hot ginger juggler. Lana Wachowski and some of the cast of Sense8 were in town, and they did a little fan meeting thing, but I didn’t get much out of it. They were behind a fence, got some selfies with a few fans who weren’t me, and then security hustled them out. I think I got half my face in one of Max Riemelt’s photos, though. So I guess that was nice?

Saturday I slept in waaay late and missed the pancake breakfast, but I was in time for the Dyke March. Which wouldn’t have happened without me. Well, the march itself would have happened, but the BC Humanists would not have been a part of it this year. I wanted to go, but didn’t want to go by myself, so I put out the call on FB, and enough people responded (including the guy with the banner, who was saving it for Sunday) that we had a group. Yay! And we walked behind some grumpy old dykes!

Afterwards we had a bite to eat at Storm Crow Tavern. They had a special thing going on, where they gave out and various Pride buttons with their logo on it. I got a Trans flag, and asked for a rainbow one. Imagine my surprise when I got the special Philadelphia one, with a black and a brown strip on top. I seriously didn’t think I’d see that outside of Philly, yet here we are. I believe it’s as good a Pride flag as any other, and I was happy to wear it for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday night: a little fireworks party. From a West End balcony I saw a very red sunset—it looks like the smoke’s clearing now, but damn did it look nasty for a few days, followed of course by some lovely fireworks courtesy of Team Canada. I was quite impressed with my little Samsung Galaxy S5 camera, it did quite well in the low light, even differentiating colours pretty nicely.

And then Sunday: the parade! My friend Colin went as a bearded and beglittered Wonder Woman, and as soon as I snapped his photo, I knew it would be my official daily pic. Although I’m kind of liking this other photo of me between Peter (who is maybe 6′ 6″) and Colin (wearing about 6″ heels).

Since I was helping to carry the GVAA banner in front of the truck, I had the chance to snap a few more pictures of the crowds. Sometimes I think it’d be nice to just watch the parade—from a nice comfy balcony in the shade, naturally, I ain’t sitting on the sidewalk for hours—but there’s a real rush to walking and drinking in the crowds. It’s kind of exhausting, but it feels amazing. With no plans afterwards, I checked out the festival at Sunset Beach, hugged a couple more friends, then went home. I could hear people still partying in the streets, but I was good.

Monday: nothing, and it felt great. It took me the longest time to get off my ass, and then I just didn’t know what to shoot. So I shot Davie Street, which is what I do when I’m not inspired.

Tuesday, walking through the Village for the first time in a while, I spied a quaint old fire station that I’d seen a million times but for some reason looked nice. Ending a weekend of modern, progressive things, with an old thing. Ehh, why not? It’s a heritage building, built in 1907, rehabilitated in 1988. How many people lived in the West end in 1907? Couldn’t have been that many.

On fire: days 211 — 215

Jesus, this heatwave. The smoke wafting in from the Interior isn’t helping things either—kind of maybe cooling us down a tad, but the grey sky, orange sky and smell more than makes up for it. I don’t feel it’s quite as bad as the last time this happened two years ago, mind you. Most of the time I don’t smell the smoke, though for a couple days my throat has been scratchy and sensitive, and I think my sinuses are reacting too.

Last time I played beach vball, I didn’t enjoy it that much. Yes, hot guys in skimpy shorts are a definite plus, but it’s really hot and dry and exhausting. I’d much rather play grass vball in the evening when it’s relatively cool, and there’s still quite a bit of eye candy.

But I still kind of wanted a photo of the place… so, avoiding creeper shots because they’re creepy, I spied a bit of green snuggling in the shade of a pole. Didn’t think anything could take root in this sand, which they supposedly rake regularly, but I guess life finds a way.

Monday I didn’t feel that inspired, so you got a photo of Granville Street. Not the first I’ve taken. Not even the first of the Vancouver Block Building. But meh, that’s okay. I can’t be on all the time.

Tuesday things got very bad for the Lower Mainland, when we got a little taste of what living in the Interior must be like. I’ll be honest, the orange sun and grey sky makes me feel helpless and scared. I don’t want to get used to this. I don’t want it to be the new normal.

Wednesay night, fireworks provided a nice distraction.

Thursday, a bit of construction on the way home. No real point to this, except I liked the composition and colours, and this is an angle I’ve never looked at before. So hey, let’s celebrate the whole point of this year-long exercise!

Coming up next: PRIIIIIIDE

Towers and burbs: days 206 — 210

It occurred to me a while ago that I was working almost right next door to a place where I worked in 2008 for about 8 months: Waterstreet Technologies, located on (you guessed it) Water Street in Gastown. I couldn’t remember the exact address but figured I’d recognise the place, so I went up and down Water St a couple times; but nothing rang any bells in the 300 block where I thought it used to be. Eventually I gave up and checked out their website, and… it’s at number 55? Really? I guess the 300 was just the suite number. The place still didn’t look familiar, and part of me is still thinking they moved in the last 9 years. But no, it’s just my weird brain playing tricks on me.

Anyway, I then decided to take the scenic route home through SFU Woodward’s, where I snapped a picture of coloured flags on… power lines? Is that what they are? It seems I’ve been noticing them a lot more recently.

Wednesday is volleyball at David Lam, so I took the usual pretty shots of Yaletown and False Creek. But it was the building under construction at Pacific & Richards that caught my eye. The Charleson, I think it’s called. Which is also the name of a nearby park right across the water from David Lam.

Thursday night a lot of queer (and other) nerds congregated on Jim Deva Plaza for a few hours of tabletop gaming. I’d made plans to meet a couple friends, but what with one thing and another we kept missing each other, and everybody already seemed to have their own boards and their own groups. But not to worry! Turns out playing giant Jenga is a great way to meet people. It’s loose and fast-paced, a lot of it is spent standing around either judging the active player or shouting suggestions, and when the thing comes crashing down, we all get to commiserate, and welcome new players. Hella good fun.

Friday I kept up the theme of “exploring Gastown” and on my lunch hour snapped this and that, finally deciding to post a nice picture of trains, with Canada Place and some cruise ship in the background. That‘s a blast from the past too: I took the West Coast Express for about two years when I worked downtown but lived in PoCo (including those 8 months with Waterstreet) and took many, many photos that I posted on Flickr. A few times I toyed with the idea of taking the train out past PoCo to see what life was like in the far-far suburbs. Which I did do once, stopping at Pitt Meadows, the next station over. It wasn’t that interesting, just more… suburbany. I didn’t like it.

Although I did like the ride, crossing the river in the still of night… I do like trains, but until my Europe trip only went on them a handful of times. It’s not something you can really enjoy out here.

And hey, speaking of blasts from the past. On Saturday I went into those same burbs for a games night with friends, and I had a hankering to check out my old stomping grounds. I stopped at the Shaughnessy Station Mall and hiked up the pedestrian overpass—I remember when they installed that thing!—and enjoyed the intensely suburban panorama. And then I got artsy. So that was fun.

Who knows, maybe I’ll take the train out there one of these days? But nah, I drove through Mission 10 days ago. I’ve seen the place. I’d rather not spend the night there if I can help it.

Too good to be true: days 201 — 205

Question: Is it that more interesting things are happening to me recently, or is that my new outlook on life is making me notice the interesting stuff more?

It’s the chicken and the egg, Will. The chicken and the egg.

It’s the same thing as photography, when I think about it. I remember being so worried about finding anything interesting to shoot, every single day. I figured it would just highlight how boring my daily routine was, or I’d just drop it after a while. But I learned there are beautiful things everywhere all the time, even on streets I walk every every day. I just need to keep my eyes open and yes, get off the beaten path once in a while.

Sometimes life comes at you fast. Sometimes life takes the form of out-of-this-world delicious donuts. Or attending a geeky wedding out in Harrison Mills where guests played board games, Mario console games, and I found a Blue Eyes White Dragon card in one of my cupcakes. Apparently it was the only BEWD in the whole lot, so I feel pretty damn special.

And sometimes you see something so perfect but you have to work to make your camera see it. So on Sunday I was walking along the seawall; it was windy, waves were high, and I saw a bunch of logs / large branches stuck amongst the rocks. Plus, a bunch of little inuksuit.

I didn’t want to make those the focus of my daily pic—been there, done that—but the crashing waves and setting sun were too good to resist. Still, I had to take a couple dozen shots until I found one I was happy with. The end result was absolutely perfect and totally worth it, though.

Besides birthday donuts, you know the other nice thing about working at Gossamer Threads? The rooftop patio overlooking Granville Street. Gawd, I love being downtown. I mean it’s kind of grey and a bit claustrophobic with the high-rises and sometimes I wish people would just walk faster already… but right now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The big Two Oh Oh: days 196 — 200

And here’s a milestone: 200 days of photos, at least one a day! Some days, way more than that of course. My blogging sort of fell by the wayside after coming back from Europe, but I’m back now! And I’m blogging about more than just photos, which I figured would happen eventually. Focusing on 5 photos at a time was just a way to kickstart my creative brain, get it going through the motions on a regular basis. Plus… it’s not a coincidence that I started blogging again on the first day of my new job. Because finally yes, in spite of that damn imposter syndrome, I feel positive about where my career—and indeed my life—are going. Finally, I feel I have something to write about.

On day 100 I took my creativity to the next level and started blogging again. On this multiple-of-100 milestone, I’ll… stay the course. I’m still feeling my way forward, blogging-wise, and I’m nervous about committing too much. One photo every day and one post every 5 days is good for now.

But speaking of that “one a day thing”, I really need to stop overanalysing how I number photos, and worrying about which photo is the “official” one. And whether it’s okay to change my mind. I think that line of thought is really limiting how many photos I post per day. At least one, yes. But hardly ever more than one, unless I’m in Europe.

Anyway. These 5 days were fun and nicely social, from my birthday party at the Storm Crow to seeing Phantom for the first time (fantastic), and snapping some geese at the park.

Crepes and nostalgia: days 191 — 195

“Happiness is”

You know, I haven’t used that word in a while, and really meant it. “Happy” is a big word, but I do feel… good. Better than I used to be. For the first time in a long while, I feel like my career is in motion, and with it, the rest of my life.

All that and strawberry shortcake crepes. Good thing I’m also going back to the gym! And I could make a crack about getting a Pride body, but fuck that noise. Body pride, not Pride body.

But speaking of bodies, I did something a bit unusual this week. On Thursday I attended a Pride reading series at the Jim Deva Plaza—a nice little event celebrating LGBTQ+ literature. Pride isn’t just about parades and parties! This event was MC’d by Cicely-Belle Blain of Black Lives Matter Vancouver and Qmunity, and I had the urge to take a picture. Which I then posted, after asking their permission. Photographing people, that’s a pretty new thing for me, especially strangers. It’s a lot more interactivity than usually I let myself get into.

Friday, Bastille Day, the day before my own birthday, I attended a birthday dinner up at SFU. My gawd, the place has changed since the last time I saw it—2004, maybe? Development all over the place, even a new observatory. Jupiter was there to greet us, though I didn’t look at it through a telescope. I’d done that before and to be honest, it wasn’t as inspiring as I thought it’d be. So I was happy with the twilight sky and little Jupiter shining over the AQ.

Afterwards some of us went for a walk around and under the AQ, and I felt on more familiar ground. I drove some friends to the nearest SkyTrain station… and then instead of going home, I hauled ass back up the mountain. When would I get another chance to reminisce like this?

My first stop, of course, was the Applied Sciences Building, where I spent so much time between ’96 and ’99. Hasn’t changed much at all, as far as I could see. I think the couches layout has been tweaked, and I could have sworn there used to be photos of all the profs and staff, but that seems to be gone. Pity, I would have have liked to see how Fred Popovich, my supervisor, was doing. (He’s still around, actually.)

Naturally I couldn’t get to my old desk. That section, next to the upstairs grad computing lab, was (and evidently still is) behind keycard-controlled doors.

Next: quietly ambling down the AQ, 3rd level. That part hasn’t changed much either, except for maybe more vending machines? Plus a couple new concession stands. And desks where students could burn the midnight oil on a Friday night.

The Convocation Mall was all dressed up, with chairs and tables. What was the occasion? Graduation was long over, wasn’t it?

And then, my second main destination: the Transportation Complex, housing SF-PIRG and Out On Campus. And holy cow, OOC was still there, right where I left it, at TC 314N. Amazing… but maybe I shouldn’t be amazed. It’s great real estate: a nice space with a little lobby for picking up pamphlets and whatnot, right next to SFPIRG and the Women’s Centre.

And that’s when I went home, tired but happy to have strolled down memory lane.

Day 195/365: clouds and Jupiter #dailypic

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In transition: days 186 — 190

I’m still feeling lost and unrooted. A new job, a more challenging job in many ways, but I know it’ll be so much more rewarding. Even now, I’m in a better than I was… but it’s still hard. Imposter syndrome was hitting me hard, and though it’s lessened, I don’t expect it’ll go away soon. I understand what it is, I understand it’s an irrational reaction. This too shall pass.

And then there’s all the little details, like where to eat: I was going to the same lunch place for years week in, week out—and don’t get me wrong, they’ve totally earned my loyalty, but I’m a creature of habit and I’ve been spoiled. So I must strike out on my own, find a new good place. Or find many good places; this is f***ing downtown Vancouver, after all, not North Van. I have many more options available here.

Not all those options are good, though. One of them gave me indigestion (or something) Thursday night, which kind of ruined the last day of my first week, but there you go. It’s all part of the game.

Photography-wise, I feel like I’m starting from scratch. My days (and my evenings) are in the more populous downtown core, not Davie Village, Lions’ Gate Bridge, or North Van. The stress and insecurities of the new job are also probably not helping with the whole creativity thing… So looking back, it kind of feels like a lot of “safe” shots, you know what I mean? City shots. Alleys. The Gabriola Mansion. The only one that really speaks to me is the public art piece by Jen Brisson near Harbour Centre.

Ah well. I’m still in-between. I’ll get my bearings soon.

The end of Canal Time and what came after: days 136 — 185

It’s been 50 days, folks.

It’s been a weird 50 days. First, the last bit of our Europe trip:

Day 136 was a tour of various Dutch towns: Delft, Rotterdam and The Hague. My special pic for that day was a look from the top of the New Church bell tower (New Church, started in 1396. The nearby Old Church was started in 1246. Gotta recalibrate your sense of what’s old in places like this). This was not nearly as much fun as the Bruges belfry escapade 8 days before. The New Church tower staircase was narrow and steep, the day was hot, and the top of it? Wide open. Instead of a safely contained space that let us take great photos through nicely solid windows, we dealt with a narrow balcony-like structure that went about 3/4 of the way round. Fucking hell. Martin and I spent just a couple minutes taking a few photos and hightailed it back to Terra Firma.

Delft was quite a lovely place, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if the weather wasn’t so bloody hot. Rotterdam and The Hague were quite nice too; Rotterdam is too modern a city to get much of a feel for, and we just didn’t spend enough time in The Hague. Also my phone died, so I couldn’t take photos of the royal palace, parliament and other landmarks. Oh well.

The following day we stayed in town, checking out some more of what Amsterdam has to offer: the Artis Zoo, the Portuguese Synagogue, and the Tropenmuseum. All good stuff, but nothing really super-grabbed me. Though now that I think about it, the synagogue was pretty special. Never been in one before, you see, and it’s a fascinating look at a place that’s kind of like a church, but also kind of not like any church I know.

Our last full day in Amsterdam, we spent at the Rijksmuseum. It is an absolutely amazing place, full of the most amazing works of art you’ve ever seen. I had the hardest time deciding which should be my daily pic (The Night Watch? too cliché) so I instead decided on a view of a little garden outside, near a statue of Mercury. I’d originally planned to come back later, photograph Mercury against a dramatic setting sun backdrop, but that was a total fail. The little park closed when the museum closed (6PM) and the angle was all wrong anyway. Well, it was worth a shot.

Day 138/365: tulips outside the Rijksmuseum. I’m really going to miss this place #dailypic

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And that later trip wasn’t wasted time, either. On this last day, I finally worked up the nerve to visit a gay bar. It was still super-early and there were only 2 people there, so I drank a soda for 20 minutes, briefly chatted with the bartender, and left.

And then… back to Vancouver. Back to the routine and a job I was increasingly dissatisfied with. My head wasn’t in a great place. But, there was hope. I’d been talking to a couple of recruiters before the trip, and then I spoke to a couple more. One prospect moved from “send us your resume” to “phone interview with HR” to “in-person technical interview” to “we’re making you an offer” in the space of just a couple weeks.

Meantime I kept taking photos. My blogging might have fallen off, but my photography didn’t. Some of my faves from that period were: a closeup of some flower or other, a shot of a gorgeous rose by the Mole Hill houses, the sun going down on Sunset Beach, and that time a ladybug landed on my WordCamp t-shirt. I just had time to turn my phone on myself before it flew away.

And then, on July 4, day 185: my first day at the new position. The end of an era… and the beginning of another. This is a good place, and I think I have a future here. It’s been a while since I’ve felt positive about my career. But hey! Better late than never.

Day 185/365: this seems like a nice place #newjob #dailypic

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The selfie: days 131 — 135

These five days cover the last couple days of our stay in Belgium and the first couple of our stay in the Netherlands. And I think they include some of the most amazing and memorable things I’ve seen in Europe.

On May 11 we headed into the mountainous(ish) south, to the quaint little town of Han-sur-Lesse. Picturesque as it was, the town wasn’t the real attraction: that would be the awesome cave system (about 3M years old, and last visited by me 38 years ago) plus a semi-wild nature preserve. I took many awesome photos in those caves, but none of them really stood out. What did, was a gorgeous panorama of the countryside. A little part of me is still torn: I could have used a more “sciency” kind of photo, seeing as it was a sciency kind of day, and panoramas like that are hardly unique. But what can I say? This was the sight that really moved me.

Footnote: the cave has changed a bit since we last visited. One chamber that used to house a snacky restaurant place complete with tables, is now used for a big sound and light show. And to end the tour we’d all float along in little boats out the cave mouth; that’s stopped now since they discovered evidence, at the bottom of the river, that humans used these caves long ago (4,000 years, I think?).

On the 12th we capped off our stay in Belgium with a tour of Antwerp. Amongst the sights was the amazing Plantin-Moretus museum, housed in what used to be the private home of 16th century printer Christophe Plantin and his stupendously rich descendants. It’s a great place if you want to look at how Golden Age rich folks lived, see how the whole printing business worked, and enjoy some samples of old-school printed art. One that stood out for me was a sonnet written by Plantin himself, entitled Le Bonheur de ce Monde. Plantin was a humanist, and though still religious, he seemed very much focused on this world instead of the next one. This was a time when people were starting to question a lot of things, and the rising merchant middle class was challenging the power of the church.

On the 13th we relocated to Amsterdam. Honestly, Amsterdam and the Netherlands are what I was most looking forward to: sure, Belgium had history, but did they have windmills, canals, and all sorts of cool stuff? Plus it was brand new to me! After checking in I snapped a picture of the street, and… there was Amsterdam in a nutshell: the busy crowd, the bikes, the cool old houses, everything. It was perfect.

The next day wasn’t so inspiring, photo-wise. We stayed in the city, visiting the Amsterdam History Museum (very awesome) and the Maritime Museum (pretty good). We would also have gone to the Anne Frank house, except it turns out you have to reserve tickets months in advance. Too bad! I took some good photos, but nothing that really grabbed me. It’s only when I went out on my own after dinner that I saw the houseboats. All right, I know it’s silly, but wouldn’t living on a houseboat in an Amsterdam canal be kind of awesome? The legal ones get water and electricity from the city, so just add internet and I’d be all set. Dare to dream!

On the 15th we went on a guided tour north of the city, visiting a heritage village with windmills, then Edam where they make cheese (also, clogs), then the fishing village of Volendam. And for the first time in a long while I had my daily pic all planned out: it would be a selfie, with windmills in the background. I went through maybe a dozen tries with different angles, different windmills, with and without my hat, until I got one complete with the Dutch flag! Gorgeous. Sure, I was squinting a bit, but my selfie standards aren’t high.

PS: can I just take a moment to gush about Amsterdam ferries? They’re completely free, no tickets or anything! They’re a service provided by the city, just like roads bike paths and whatnot. Now that’s good city government right there.

The first step: days 126 — 130

On Saturday, day 126, I left Canada for the first time in almost 19 years, and travelled to Europe for the first time in almost 34.

(Yeah, I haven’t travelled much in my life. I want that to change.)

It was a big step, not gonna lie. I was super nervous about whether there would turn out to be some problem somewhere or everything would turn out okay. Going through the international security gates was a big and scary step, one that I had to consciously choose to make.

Passport check in Schiphol was also scary—in anticipation, not in fact—but I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter.

So there I was, in Amsterdam. My family, who’d flown from Montreal and had arrived a couple hours earlier, were waiting for me at that big checkered cube thing that’s apparently a popular meeting spot.

Then we set out for Brussels. The first week would be spent going around Belgium, the second week would be for Amsterdam.

Some shenigans with trains followed—shit happens, right, and I’m sure the train system is tops, but there was work being done on some tracks which required us to take a longer route, and then we had to switch trains at Rotterdam for some reason that I forget right now.

Aside from that I really enjoyed the journey. It looks like the Netherlands doesn’t do suburbs, or at least not the North American kind. There’s no big urban sprawl of big detached houses. All I saw was either (a) a lot of row houses in small towns or conurbations, or (b) bigger houses in rural settings, nothing in between. I approve of this. We talk about promoting densified living but the Dutch have got this shit figured out. Plus, people on bikes. So many people on bikes. Plus quaint little canals. And wind turbines in fields. And I saw my first windmill! It was just from a distance and went by too fast for me to take a picture, but that’s okay. I’ll take more.

On our real first day we went on a bus tour of the cities of Ghent and Bruges. I took so, so many pictures, and for the first time, I couldn’t decide which would be my hashtag-dailypic.

But then my brother and I decided to climb the Bruges belfry, and the choice was clear.

On day 2 we stayed in Brussels and visited a few churches, museums, and neat public places. The Grand-place, just a block from our hotel, was particularly impressive with its neo-Gothic façades and ornately decorated spire. Since we had some extra time to kill I proposed we go visit the Atomium. Turned out to be even better than I expected, with great views of the surrounding area and a nice dose of 50s retro-futurism. Plus, we learned how to get around the Brussels metro, which is never a bad skill to have.

That evening after everyone else retired to their rooms, I was feeling restless and in need of some air and photo opportunities. I quickly checked out Google Maps and found a few likely spots, then set out.

My official pic of the day was of a building bathed in the light of the setting sun, but in hindsight maybe I should have waited a bit and made a picture of the Anspach Fountain my official one. But no take-backsies! Is that going to be a rule? I don’t know.

On day 3 we visited the little university town of Louvain-la-Neuve, where my family and I lived way back in ’79. It’s a nice place, with some pretty students enjoying the warm spring weather, but as for reminiscing? Ehh. It was too long ago, the memories are too dim, and most everything’s changed so much anyway.

Oh well, I’m not upset about it. The point of this trip was to create new memories anyway, not revisit old ones.

Plus, the Hergé Museum! We happily spent a couple hours there.

Part of me kind of wanted to head out tonight, but no landmarks caught my eye, I’m too tired. Fortunately I saw that coming, and snapped a picture of Rue du Marché aux Poulets. It showed the lovely textures of old town streets like this one, the varied materials, colours, window styles and window heights, signs of a city growing organically over centuries. And, a few modern signs. That’s not a bad thing. People here live with the old, but are not bound by it. Touches of modern are good, as long as you respect the foundations.