Wednesday, December 31, 2003
As you may or may not know, Vancouver barely has winter. It rarely snows. It rarely gets below freezing.
We had a nice dump of snow yesterday, and I found some pictures. They are news photos, and the links may not last very long, but check 'em out:
1. Snowman and Shorts!
2. Have a seat!
3. Great Late Night Stroll
4. Snow on the Palm Trees!!
Ignore the "usually rainy and damp" blather some Eastern caption writer added to the photos. They're just jealous!
It's 2004 in Nova Scotia now, byes. Yeee ha!
I just watched them ring in the New Year in Newfoundland. With my Satellite TV, its easy to watch the clock strike midnight in every time zone. Next up: Halifax.
This is also the time of year for lists. Lists of things to do (aka resolutions) and lists of things to be thankful for. I, then, present three lists:
--- Really Crappy Things About 2003 ---
2. America going bonkers
3. My finances
8. Not being able to think about crappy stuff
9. Maybe that's a good thing
10. The end.
--- Really Great Things About 2003 --
2. Drinking beer in Russia/The third border expedition
3. Turning 40 in Guatemala
4. Meeting Grandmaster
5. Going to Belize TWICE (and Caye Caulker)
6. Living in Vancouver
7. Doing radio and print pieces on my travels
8. Being healthy
9. Having lotsa cool friends all over the globe
10. Travel, travel, travel!
--- Cool Things About 2004 (or things to do) ---
1. Photography show (Cafe Barney, all January)
2. Potential travel to Halifax (or Calgary or New York)
3. Selling more stories
4. Reporting at CTV??
5. Spring! Summer! Cycling!
8. Affiliate Marketing!
9. Eating less, getting smaller!
10. Living in Vancouver
Happy New Year!!
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
This morning, I was once again reminded of how neat this city is. I took Skytrain in to work (the elevated subway thingie)... and there were more people with snowboards than brief cases.
There was a light snow all day too.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Sunday morning writing exercise.
Background music: Ben Harper -- Diamonds on the Inside.
Random thought: sadness at the closing (Dec 31) of the Sugar Refinery.
After an alarm-less waking at 7:30am, I set about to use my hours in the most efficient and relaxing way possible. Task #1: watch the final hour of the film High Fidelity. It was on when I got home from work late last night. I watched for as long as my brain would allow and then rolled tape in a preemptive move to counter falling asleep on the couch. Which I did.
I love that movie. I believe I shall own it one day when I once again allow myself to spend with the frivolity to which I am accustomed.
After the credits rolled, I realized that I need to lose of my Christmas lard. Positive thinking did nothing. A couple of eggs slathered in hot sauce (Marie Sharps from Belize) was a guilt-free start to the eating day. And then, after tossing in a load of laundry, I decided it was time for a 45 minute walk thorough this neigbourhood of mine.
I passed the kooky blossoming tree and snickered. I gave my best death-stare to a drug dealer standing at the corner. No bud today. Up Commercial Drive I strolled, past folks in the Italian coffee shops (I know this because of the large numbers of smoking Italians gathered outside in their Sunday best) and the nouveau-trendy in their berets (they're the ones who drive the Benz SUVs and buy coffee at Starbucks of all places. Note: Commercial Drive is the home to the best INDY coffee joints in the city. There are 20 of them and one StarYUCKS -- and people STILL hand their money over to the snobby barristas).
I also spotted people with snowboards, hippies eating organic breakfasts at Cafe Du Soliel and Cafe Deux Soliel, and even a clutch of homeless people in a makeshift room on top of a steam vent. They were discussing mad cow disease.
Past more dealers and trendoids I strolled. At JJ Bean, my other favourite coffee joint, I nabbed an Americano Misto and read Cleo Paskal's travel column in yesterday's National Post. This woman has my career!!!
An about face brought the sight of the North Shore mountains into view. The snow from yesterday is thick -- and covers much of the lower part of the mountains. Beautiful. And a nice contrast to the hundreds of car accidents last night, caused by the very rare snowfall (which was very very little down here at sea level).
A hobo held the door for me as I popped into the bank to sneak another $20 for my wallet. And before I knew it, I was snickering at the cheery cherry blossom tree and almost back home.
The sun is shining, and it saddens me that I must go into work at 2. But if I want to buy High Fidelity, its what I must do.
Saturday, December 27, 2003
Snowing this morning in Vancouver, but warm enough that it turns back to liquid upon hitting the ground. And there are more blossoms on the kooky cherry tree!
Friday, December 26, 2003
But lets go back to last night: after work I had a lovely dinner with my pals Cheryl, Tom, Misty Moo, and more. It was nice to chow down on a traditional meal. And lots of stuffing. We watched the fireplace channel and talked about this and that. Winnipeg and the Whiteshell came up a lot as there were at least 4 people with those roots -- in addition to the other prairie folk. Just like being in Winnipeg, but warmer.
Today I was up early to finish watching Lord of the Rings (long boring story). While walking back from the video store around 9am, I happened to notice my favourite crazy tree -- a little cherry tree in Grandview Park -- already had blossoms. It did the same last year, but I think it was able to hold on until the first week of January.
Then it was off to another day in the newsroom. Can you say Iran earthquake?
Tonight -- drinks and festive fun with more pals... and then a nice sleep in... I don't work until 2 tomorrow.
You should have seen the crowds on Robson Street today -- more shoppers than I've ever seen in Vancouver and similar to the scene in New York on a normal day.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
And Merry Everything!
Today is the big day -- and the sun shines brightly here in Vancouver. The only snow is in the mountains, and the palm trees sway gently in the breeze. Hard to belive this is Canada.
The day started with a bit of a sleep in -- followed by a mad dash to open a few gifts ($, gift cards, instant breakfasts) followed by another mad dash to get to work. And now it is all plane crashes, suicide bombings and toxic gas clouds killing hundreds.
Ho Frickin' Ho! The calendar says joy to the world, yet the world says -- whatever!
Anyway, back to the death. At least at 6 I can walk away from all this depressing shit.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
And all through the day;
I sat writing news;
When I wished I could play!
It was a day of terrorist alerts, car accidents, mad cows and dead dogs. Boy, am I full of spirit!
Ah, its not that bad. The night will be quiet: a film and some dinner and some chats on the phone. Tomorrow, Christmas, I work. But only until 6 and then I'm having the standard dinner with friends.
Tonight, while walking up Commercial Drive, I thought of all the places I've been and the people I've met. Pretty lucky, all in all.
Would I change anything? Maybe some small things, but in general, nope. Not at all.
And thus, a little introspection on a Christmas Eve.
And to all, a good night.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Luckily, there are some notable exceptions. My new favourite station is in Victoria, BC. It's on the campus of Camosun College... and branded as Village 900. It is available off-air in the lower mainland on 900am. The station also streams. Go to Villiage900.ca and click and let your ears feast to world music.
Also, check out KCRW in Santa Monica, California for cool new "modern" music. And KPLU in Seattle for some great Jazz. And harder edged stuff on KEXP, also in Seattle.
Cool-FM in Winnipeg is pretty decent too.
Monday, December 22, 2003
This is a rare day off... lots to do, but I think I will relax instead. I work 6 straight beginning tomorrow, and then one day off, followed by another 5 or 6. Great money, but tiring. It's been a good run at ol' CTV.
There isn't much else to blab about...
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Saturday, December 20, 2003
However, I am able to pull some of the files off the drive, but unfortunately most of them seem to be system and program files. That stuff I have backed up or on CD. I seem to be unable to find or retrieve any photos, documents or financial files.
I am running the program over and over again -- as I seem to get more access each time. In addition to that, there is a huge cluster of files that I can't get at. Methinks that they are all my documents, photos, and excel files.
It's Saturday as well -- and I am at work. Here until midnight and then -- back again tomorrow. The early part of the day was spent getting Christmas decorations, groceries, playing data retrieval man, and doing this and that. Not the most relaxing Saturday. And certainly not the most interesting to write about.
I shall stop.
Friday, December 19, 2003
Wow. Am I tired.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
The Bad: As much as it pains me to say this, I just received an email from National Geographic. Seems they think the EU border thing is such a great idea that they're doing a full blown story. And that means they're assigning a photog and that means that they're not going with my image(s). The discussions continue, and since there was a deal -- they may pay part or all of the fee. However, the money is not the important thing: the credit of being in the magazine is. Bummer, sure. But completely beyond my control. Maybe positive thoughts will make something better come of it.
The Good: CBC just called and I am to go in training in the newsroom the first week of January. We're still working out the fiscal details, but seeing as though my run at CTV is ending Jan 4, it's perfect timing.
The Ugly: Still without my computer -- so I am at the library catching up on business email (and catching God knows what from this keyboard).
The Christmas shopping is finally done. And shipped. I no longer have a concern in the world regarding the festive holiday non-gender specific season. Other than decorating the house and getting a tree.
And so it goes...
Wait... I don't have kids.
I must access the net via work... and I often have very little time to check mail and surf porn without someone looking over my shoulder.
The latest news is that my photos are going up in Caffe Barney (South Granville St., Vancouver) for the month of January. They certainly have the right clientel. Hopefully some (or all) of my framed work will move.
12:15am here in the newsroom at CTV -- I must run and get the bus. I feel soooo successful.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Saturday, December 13, 2003
If you missed it, and want to hear it (and have a PC), go to the CBC DNTO ON DEMAND website (click here) and then hit "load this weeks selection." Then click on the 6th item from the left (2nd documentary icon), drag to the player and click play. And you should hear it. After December 19th, it will be archived somewhere on the same site.
If you own a Mac, forget it. DNTO is not Mac compatable. I will post the file on my homepage (file sharing) as soon as I get up and running at home.
And speaking of the broken Powerbook -- the drive is dead, but I'm getting a new one under warranty. However, it may cost about $60 to recover the data. I'll try and get that discounted if I can.
Well, local news calls. The life of a freelancer on a Saturday night. Woo frickin' hoo!
PS: And check out the Christmas tree in the Estonian city of Narva -- on the Estonia-Russia border. We were there drinking beer this summer....
Friday, December 12, 2003
Not having internet access sucks. Really sucks.
Other than that, things are swell. The Pandy radio piece FINALLY airs on CBC Radio 1's Definitely Not The Opera -- tomorrow, Sat Dec 13 -- around 3-4pm LOCAL time anywhere in Canada. Except The Rock.
I will record it an paste a link eventually.
Work continues. Recorded another CBC Radio interview this morning. At CTV tonight. Tuesday I am meeting with Caffe Barney, a cool place to eat and hang on Granville Street. The purpose is to try and get my photos in there. That could be as early as January. I have many that are framed, and I might as well start selling them!
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
I can hear you asking that. Well, I have been in computer hell.
This is nothing new, of course. I have been in and out of computer hell since I owned a VIC20. But now, my youthful Powerbook seems to be on the fritz. More specificially, the hard drive seems like its either a) really corrupted or b) really frigged.
Luckily I have an external drive and I've been able to get the computer up and running with that. But, I might have lost everything on my internal drive -- photos, emails, music, porn. The whole gamut. Luckily, I backed most of this stuff up at the end of October, so its not a total loss. But still, I've downloaded a lot of porn in the past 30+ days. Most of my footage, webstuff and other bits of data were backed up on another drive. Whew.
But there is still a lot that could go poof! Like all my programs. The results of this failure will be revealed here in the coming days. Cross those toes.
On a positive note, my friends at CTV called me in for two extra days this week. This means a grand total of 6 this week. Can you say overtime?
The BC Ferry workers are on strike... bastards. Today they've shut the entire system down. Gee, who pays the price for that? Management? No. The poor folks that have to deal with a rotten ferry system in the first place. When will unions realize that they get absolutely no support when they screw over the public?
On that note, I'm off to get some Christmas cards... what a life!
Friday, December 05, 2003
Tonight is the annual Vancouver television media's blooper party. Basically, all the new folks from the television stations get together for dinner and drinks -- and to watch each other's blooper tapes. It is a really cool event -- because it is the one time of the year that everyone can get together and laugh at themselves. And others. Last year, there were also police spokespeople and others in attendance. We'll see who has the best bloopers...
It's another rainy and gray day. I spent much of the morning in Turk's revising the Hockey in Belize story for the Straight. Next I have to write about the Great Baltic Border Expedition. I hope to have both put to bed by the middle of next week. I will need too, as I begin a long stretch of days at CTV News.
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the CTV Christmas Party -- though for politically correct reasons, it is called something like the Holiday Festive Season Party. Whatever. I have to work all day, but the bash is basically across the street from the station, so it will be easy to get to.
Getting home will be a little more difficult. Although we are being provided with taxi chits, it is often impossible to get a cab at this time of year. The City of Vancouver has a finite number of cab licenses and on rainy nights, the holiday season, and whenever there is a big event downtown (like a hockey game) -- cabs become scarce as brains in George Bush.
I'm sure that the cab companies love the artificial demand created by the limit on the number of cabs. But when you're trying to hail one, hammered, in the rain, in December -- it sucks!
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
It started at 6:30am. Due to self-imposed delays, I was feeling the pressure to get my CBC Radio piece on Hockey in Belize finished. I planned to sit back, laptop on lap, and cut away all morning. Simple, right?
The Gods had different plans.
First, I had lots of weird things happen in the editor -- Final Cut Pro. These are new, and methinks they are due to upgrading to Mac's new OS: Panther. Growl!
After Jaguar, I was hoping for Cougar. Suppose that's next, and it'll be kind of attractive after a couple of beers.
Anyway, after the software weirdness, I was able to get to the point of dumping the edited story to disk. Except my CD writing software will not even load up. More OS problems with Fluffy. After much grumpiness, I was able to find a way around the problem -- but the CD burn wasn't a sound file -- it was a data file.
Next attempt was an actual sound file, but in mono. Ugh!
Finally I was able to output the damn story and then, as a reward, I went for a feed of Salmon Sashimi at Sushi Garden, in beautiful Burnaby, BC.
Later, I had to go to CBC to drop off the disk, and then run up to CTV to get my tickets for the Christmas party. On the way, (it's only a 6 block walk), I happened upon an odd scene. In front of the telephone company building, an older man with a cane and a younger man in a nice coat were screaming at each other. A small group had gathered to watch the show.
In short order, the screaming turned into wrestling. And then into blows being exchanged. And then, finally, the old guy started whacking the younger guy with the cane. The scene was quickly going from amusing to scary.
All of a sudden the old guy whacks the other guy in the head with the cane. He delivered the blow with such force that the cane (a big thick wooden model), broke. It's a wonder the young guy's head didn't also break. But talk about blood. It was a truly festive scene, all this red stuff on the sidewalk. A little cotton, and it would have looked like a chalk drawing of Santa.
Several people called 9-1-1 and I continued my odyssey to CTV, thinking about the two free drink tickets I was about to snag.
On the way back, the old guy was on the ground, handcuffed by one of several officers now taking statements from witnesses. Paramedics were attending to the younger guy.
I have no idea what the whole scene was about, but it made me thankful that the worst thing in my life this day were the frustrations with my computer. I certainly didn't have anyone whacking me with a cane.
The evening ended with a Night Of Artists meeting. We sat around planning our big show this summer, and discussing potential sponsors for the event. There were 3 dogs and lots of snacks and wine. And no canes.
Monday, December 01, 2003
But back to where we were a paragraph ago. It is December 1st, and that means that I have suddenly become aware of the Canada Post deadlines to mail cards to foreign lands. And we're not talking about Bremerton! We're talking Denmark, Australia, and Abbostford.
So, I decided that it was time to run off and get some cards, in the hopes of getting them in the mail today, and thus hoping to gave them delivered before Chaunaka Harry's dreidel deliveries. (I am attempting to be inclusive and diverse).
I went to Urban Empire, a funky store on Commercial Drive that sells all kinds of goofy stuff and really cool cards. And while I was there, I experienced one of the funniest things this month: the owner was ordering new stock. She was on the phone to her supplier and her conversation went something like this:
"Yes... that's 6 Jesus. Or Jesusi. Or is it Jesuses?"
"And a dozen pig catapults."
"A dozen Bendy Hindus."
"And only 2 penis cake forms. Just 2. They're not selling that well."
Needless to say I laughed my ass off...
Sunday, November 30, 2003
This is the view after hiking "The Chief" near Squamish, BC in the fall. Those are my feet, and that is the view. More to come!
Why is it that our American friends seem to think that terrorists flow only from Canada south and only migrants and drugs flow north from Mexico? And why is it, where the border is porous with Mexico, that the wagging finger is not wagged at Mexico (It's your fault we've got fat kids because of all those Taco Bells). Yet Canadians are continually blamed for the porousness of the northern gateway to America.
Here's a story on plugging holes down south:
Imagine the outcry if we used wrecked cars as a security barrier along the 49th!
Saturday, November 29, 2003
After another monsoon, it is bright and sunny. There is a 90% chance of bongo drummers today.
I work at 2, Lorne is here to go get breakfast... so this will be short. Sorry "C."
Friday, November 28, 2003
I've had a few days off from the CTV news grind -- which has given me time to look in horror at my bills and watch lots of DVDs. I've also been poking away at other stories which I still have to deliver.
The CBC called yesterday and today I meet with them regarding freelance work in their newsroom. This is another positive event in a week of positive events. If this keeps up, my bills will become less horrible and I'll likely be able to justify traveling to Europe again this summer.
Monday, November 24, 2003
Today they decided that they are moving forward with a small story on borders for the April 2004 issue of the magazine. And one of my photos will be used. This is a very good turn of events.
Locally, CTV offered more work -- another few days next month, and possibly the remainder of this week. Suddenly the work is raining again.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Saturday, November 22, 2003
Game #1: Vintage Edmonton vs. Vintage Montreal outdoors in Edmonton (-21!)
Game #2: Edmonton vs. Montreal -- official game also outdoors
Game #3: Vancouver vs. Toronto in Vancouver. Vancouver lost :(
After 9 hours of hockey, its time for sleep...
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Thanks to the CTV promotion department, I am going to be attending Hopscotch this Friday night. Hopscotch is a micro-brew beer and high-end Scotch tasting festival. I've been before, and it is a wonderful thing to be able to sample dram after dram after dram of $100 Scotch. Tickets are $50, but for me, free!!
CTV has offered 4 more days of newswriting next week. The pouring continues. Luckily the shifts are night, so I can work on my radio and print stuff during the day.
And that is about all for now....
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
The highlight? Eugene Levy's performance as Mitch. Or, the Folksmen covering "Start Me Up." Plus many other great moments.
It was an odd mix of real life & acting & live music. Loved it.
Friday, November 07, 2003
This applies to many things: monsoons, bills, and freelance work. Yesterday was a good day in the world of freelance. I spoke with CBC Radio regarding two stories -- the piece on one one of the few remaining local shortwave stations in Canada and a new one. We've decided it will be a nostalgic piece about shortwave radio listening. There will be two main "scenes": one at the CKZU transmitter, talking with the engineer there... and one speaking with people who used to/still listen to SW broadcasts. There is a really cool museum called SPARC that is all about the history of radio sets. I'll be calling them today.
I also have tentative approval for a story on film restoration too.
And, on top of that, I opened the Georgia Straight to see one of my pictures in there... $ $ $!
And today I am spending the day getting my application together for a freelance producing gig with Vision. Details to come.
Here's some fun stuff for today:
A fine place for an Austrian holiday starts with "F."!
Or, try this Michigan town!
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Stasiland by Anna Funder.
Overnight, the garden hose on my deck burst, creating a fine spray of water. The water landed on some plants on the deck, creating a little ice storm. One tree was thickly coated in ice, and was gleaming in the morning sun. If I had a digital camera, you'd be seeing photos. But I don't. (Please! Someone buy me a digital camera!).
Ted Schredd came over this morning to return my East German border guard uniform. He used it on Hallowe'en, while I worked at CTV. We've planned to go on some goofy photo safaris in the next week or so. Ted is the right brains behind Discover Fun. Check it out, and buy stuff! Especially his books!
Working later today, so I am spending the morning making calls and catching up with bills. I can't put into words how much of a relief it is to have money coming in. I have at least 8 days more lined up -- not including a couple of weeks over Christmas and New Years. So cross your fingers that there is more to come. And buy me something!
Here's a funny Microsoft story!
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Following mayhem day, I went to see the film "American Splendor." BRILLIANT film on the life of Harvey Pekar starring the brilliant Paul Giamatti. The film wove the real Pekar and his real friends, family and co-workers with the actors playing those same people. The best scene was of the real Pekar and his real friend Toby Radloff discussing jellybeans while the actor playing Radloff and Giamatti (as Pekar) are in the background laughing their heads off at the people they're playing. Wonderful stuff.
So mayhem gave way to creativity. Phew!
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Lots of things suddenly on the go: tons more work at CTV, which means that my debt to earning ratio has changed dramatically.
But, even more important, the Grandmaster CD arrived, hot off the presses from Stonetree Records. It is AMAZING. I have listened to it over and over and over again. Details on release dates will be posted here, of course.
Brent shot the video in Belize this past weekend... and how I wished I was there. We came up with the concept over several rum and mango drinks...
Today is a (suddenly) rare day off... so I gotta work the phones.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Here I sit, in the place I used to work, working again. This time in the news department. This time for less money. This time at night and on the weekend and not because of any career aspirations. Nope, I'm here to earn. And as Martha would say, it's a good thing.
More frustrations with the CBC regarding doing tv items for them. I'm thinking that I need to concentrate more on radio and print than tv. The Straight has picked up piece number three... this time an article on the border expedition! Finally.
Well, news calls...
Thursday, October 23, 2003
I have secured some work in the newsroom at CTV... mostly writing. Variable hours. But, work is a good thing!
Some big changes in the works for StockPhotosOnline.com -- more details on Monday.
It finally stopped raining!
Ordered a borderguard outfit from eBay. Got hosed with brokerage fees, taxes and duties. Methinks there is an economic Berlin Wall at the 49th parallel. And the Canadians built the bleeding thing.
My annual Parade of Lost Souls bash is only 2 days away. Hopefully someone will bring a digital camera. I'd buy one, but I'm saving my pennies for an iPod. :)
Blah blah blah!
Sunday, October 19, 2003
Today I return to the newsroom of CTV Vancouver (ex-VTV) for the first time since last winter. Today is but a 4 hour "training" shift... and for some reason, I'm Mr. Anxiety. I suppose its just going back into the pressure cooker... and I'm also sure that at 6:31pm I'll being going "I stressed for this?!"
1:15 minutes remain before I have to be there, so I best start heading. Tales of survival to come!
Friday, October 17, 2003
What is with the rain?! I guess mother nature has been saving it up all summer. For days it has been raining -- and hard. Near record setting amounts daily -- like 85mm, which is something like 3.5 inches. A DAY!
Here's the CTV story.
The forecast calls for much more of the same. Personally, I like the rain. I love the sound of it, the freshness of it, and how it chases away the bongo players. I have all the windows open, and the sound of rain hitting the fallen leaves is like natures little concerto. Love it.
People ask me: "How can you stand all the rain?" And I answer: I'd rather be a little wet with the windows open than dealing with blizzards. In the winter, all I need is a fleece and maybe a raincoat. Yeah, it's pretty tough.
I see the iPod now can be fitted with a little microphone... sweet! I think I will be getting one of those babies soon!
Sunday, October 12, 2003
Saturday, October 11, 2003
Just thought I'd share that.
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
I say this because today I remembered perspective. The day began as usual at 6am, after a fitful night of sleep. The reasons are many and are unimportant. It basically comes down to the negative side of being self-employed.
By 6:45, I was at the local coffee shop, pumping caffeine into my veins. Before me sat some of the images from the Great Baltic Border Expedition. I was looking over 5 rolls of the 19 I had developed yesterday. The first thing that stuck me was how lucky I am. I've said this before, usually after returning from the third world. But this time, I mention it because of all the places I've managed to visit -- and the interesting people I've had the chance to meet. Pretty cool thing to be doing at this stage in life.
Then I went to the "Dog Beach" on the western side of the city (near Vanier Park!). I was their with my friend Joan and her dog Ella. Sitting there on a warm October day, with the mountains, the city and the sea all competing with the dogs for my attention. Stunning.
And now, its barely Noon. There is a long list of stuff to do. And this is the payment for being to lead such a free life. Not necessarily freedom from crap -- there's still lots of that (my lack of sleep is but one example) -- but the freedom to enjoy life a little more.
Joan was thinking that maybe she made a mistake quitting her full-time job. Often I have though that myself, until I open my eyes and just enjoy. After all, if you can't find enjoyment in what you're doing, then why do it?
Like I said: it's all about perspective!
Or it's the sushi I'm about to feast on...
Monday, October 06, 2003
Check out my website www.homepage.mac.com/dougmurray for the best of the latest 19 rolls. They'll be posted over the next week.
I also think its time to create a real web presence for my pics. If you're a web expert, email me!
More less-than-glowing reviews of the new Toronto television station Toronto One. Read this one from the Globe and Mail's John Doyle.
Saturday, October 04, 2003
There was some positive fiscal news last week: I sold items to both the Georgia Straight (Hockey NIght in Belize) and a feature on Ice Climbing to CBC Television. Hammer, hammer, hammer!
There was some sad news for hockey fans today: The closure of a wood hockey stick factory. Children's entertainer Fred Penner, known for his rendition of the song "The Cat Came Back," has his cat stolen! Have you ever read the lyrics? Not very nice!
It's bad enough that sea-doos & jet-skis (personal water craft) have managed to turn a nice day on the lake/sea to something akin to sticking one's head in a beehive -- now there is another threat to the calmness of the open water: The Jet Board.
Friday, October 03, 2003
Thursday, October 02, 2003
The Craig family have just launched a new local station in Toronto. I get it on satellite, and it looks very much like a cross between Entertainment Tonight and Toronto's existing "hip" channel, Citytv. But "Toronto 1" isn't getting rave reviews. In fact, they're pretty bad. This will do wonders for morale!
In other news, my Belizean music pal Ivan Duran made it into the New York Times today. Read it here!
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Now, I have never been to Finland. But I know a Finn. And I have been to Estonia, which might be like Finland, but having never been, I can't say for sure. The languages are definitely similar. So, I had this odd sensation of being on another border expedition with a group of Finns to some remote international frontier.
The next film on my agenda is "Ford Transit" a Palestinian film. It looks really interesting.
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Now, I am home and watching the 10pm news.. and the top story is Hurricane Juan slamming into my old home of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The power is out, and there isn't a lot of live coverage, though CBC Radio Halifax is streaming. If you have ExpressVu, flip to channel 958 -- which is also CBC Radio 1 Halifax. Currently at 11:13pm Pacific (3:13am Atlantic), CBC radio is live with special coverage. Over in TV land, the pictures from a few hours ago look nasty. I hope all is well.
It's funny that I know many of the people that are being interviewed: Margaret Murphy from the power company, John O'Brien from the city.
UPDATE: If you are reading this around Sept 29th, you can see the hurricane as it heads towards PEI. This link is to a live video feed from the Confederation Bridge, which links New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island.
I just got back from the morning ritual of having a double Americano with steamed milk at Turk's. Chatted with some people about Finnish films. Love the kookiness of the Drive.
In searching for a link to Turk's, I found one that features a VR image. The cool thing is, if you start at the coffee shop, and then rotate the image 180 degrees, you see a bunch of trees behind which sits my home! Another angle is here (it starts in the direction of my home).
Ain't technology wonderful?
Saturday, September 27, 2003
And check this site out... cool tunes, cooler images! Karen is a part of Night of Artists as well. Some of my stuff is on their site too.
A friend of mine, producer Wendy Hyman, and her film partner were featured in the Sept 27th edition of the Globe and Mail. Their film "On The Corner" premiered at the Toronto Film Fest and is showing at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Plus: a great story on Moldova. And if you're still looking for something to read, check this out: More on David Blaine, the wanker suspended in a box above the Thames.
Turning to local news, due to the summer like weather, I went with 3 friends (Steve, Steve, Lorne) to La Casa Gelato. Visit the site for the opening montage alone. They have 198 different flavours of Gelato on sale... the worst? Pear, Gorgonzola & Blue Cheese. I am not kidding! I went with "Death By Mango." Not bad at all.
Friday, September 26, 2003
There is something decadent about going to a movie at 10:30 in the morning. A latte and a film! Life is good.
Power Trip is a film about an American company trying to bring unterrupted power to Tbilisi, Georgia. Georgia, as in the former Soviet Socialist Republic. It follows a cast of characters (government officials, company officials, and the people of Tbilisi) in their struggle for affordable and continuous electricity.
Imagine if you were suddenly faced with a huge power bill and crippling blackouts -- how would you deal with it?
Imagine if you were denied power -- even though you paid your bill -- because the government was diverting power to factories that had not paid their bill in years.
Imagine deciding to cut the power to the army, due to non-payment.
Imagine trying to hook up to a 6000 volt feeder transformer and making a mistake. You'd only do it once.
Now, set this scene in a country where everything has gone in the toilet since the Georgia declared independence. High unemployment. Corruption. Lost hope.
That is what Power Trip is about.
I loved it... it was a bit long, but the characters were interesting, the American company was not evil, and I was inspired by people living through such crap. Obviously, it is a place I want to visit. Surprise!
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Today is the first day -- it goes until the Oct 10th. Two weeks of great foreign fare. The only problem is how to see all the movies that you want to see. Many run concurrently and are shown only a few times -- and that means that the film festival runs your life. Which, as I mentioned is a blessing -- if work is scarce.
This morning I took in a Polish film called "Day of the Wacko." It was dark, sad, funny, challenging, and made me think about my life. The tale focuses on a 49 year old teacher who has become obsessive compulsive and basically nuts. Great film!
Further updates tomorrow!
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Not much to add today. Did the rounds of the local stations today, still trying to confirm the broadcast of the Pandy documentary on CBC -- and confirm the Hockey Night in Belize item as well. Details soon, I hope.
I finally got all the bank hell straightened out with regards to my business. I tell you, sometimes I wonder who is the customer and who is the owner. Pretty pathetic the way Canada's big banks treat people. But, they haven't asked for me to pay off my line of credit, so they aren't totally evil.
There has been no movement on the Grandmaster project. But, Brent and I have decided that we will throw a friends, family and colleagues pitch. Donate some money or facilities or tape stock, get a mention in the credits. Can it be that hard to raise an $8000 budget -- for a one hour doc that will be the darling of the film festival circuit? Buttered up??
Allercards continues in the development stage. The designer is picked. The sales person is ready. Now, its just a matter of finalizing designs and getting some mock-ups made. And dealing with the business of business. IE: Incorporation.
I had three more Great Baltic Border Expedition rolls developed. Not bad, but I only got contact sheets, which suck. There has got to be a cheap way of developing and printing and scanning... I have 27 more rolls to go. At $20 a piece... well, forget it! At least the contact sheets work in a pinch, I suppose.
And that is enough of a test for now.
Saturday, September 20, 2003
However, today was one of those wonderful days when I feel like I live in the coolest neighbourhood on the planet.
Reward number one was walking into one of the many markets (one I had always passed by) and discovering Jumex Mango Nectar (and a low sugar variety of same!). What does this mean? Well, Jumex is a huge Mexican juice company... and I came to love their Mango Nectar while visiting Central America, where it is as plentiful as Pepsi. I could never find a similar (or cheap) version here... until today. First it was the discovery of Yugoslavian water, then Indian cookies, and now Mexican juice.
I'm sure that my favourite hot sauce -- which comes from Belize -- is sitting on a shelf somewhere nearby...
And then as I strolled around killing time, I ran into Ed McCurdy! This is a guy who I met when we launched Vancouver Television in 1997. He basically talked his way into a job on the Breakfast Show. And, he is porbably the most interesting person I know. We walked around with his daughter (2ish) and talked about his trips to Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala. He told me what Livingston was like 15 years ago. He asked if I had ever been to a cool little island called Caye Caulker. Er... yes!
And guess what he does for a living? He's got a good union gig, working in the SAFE INJECTION SITE! He basically helps users find their way inside, sort of like a Walmart greeter for heroin addicts.
Then I stopped in at the Celluloid Pharmacy and picked up a documentary on Fidel before grabbing some rumballs at the Chinese shop.
I felt like I've been traveling, though I only strolled around the neighbourhood...
That's not to say I've been doing nothing. In fact, I have been continuing to work on my little business for my secret product. Heh heh! World domination is in sight.
And as much as I would like to use my airline points for some spur of the moment jaunts to places like Calgary or Nova Scotia, I must remain planted and start hammering that debt. One does not spend nearly 3 months out of the country without incuring the odd visa imprint!
Good news about my laptop which suffered near-catastophe in Denmark: it will be repaired under warranty! In the battle of Apple vs. Gravity, I won!
The weather in Vancouver has been decidedly fall-like. Little rain, but cool. Nice, actually. In fact, today I shall go for my first bike ride since returning home. And with the short days, it doesn't leave a lot of time to get out today, before the sun drops. Which today is 7:17pm (not including mountain blockage!).
Fellow traveling fools Bernee, Blake and baby Max return home tomorrow after 4 months in such exotic locals as Spain, Greece and Ontario! I look forward to hearing what it is like to travel with a baby who is only 8 months old or so. Good on 'em!
That will conclude today's entry. I must run and throw raw chicken parts and the bongo players in the park. They have won: I will have to move over the winter as I cannot take the noise. Any day that is nice is filled with the sounds of bad drumming. It is sad when the folks who leach off society (homeless youth) have more rights to make noise than I, a tax payer, have to peace and quiet. Come to Vancouver! Live in a city park! We'll reward you for it!
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Ah, home. It was a great weekend re-connecting with friends. Hit a funky place called the Latin Quarter on Saturday night -- great food (Baked Eggplant! Mango Quesadillas!), and great LIVE latin music. Not to mention out-of-this-world sangria, and the fact that it is but footsteps from my home.
The Bongo-assholes were in full force today -- drove me to the cinema. And, when I came home at 9, they were still playing. Bunch of homeless shitheads. No respect for anyone but themselves.
On a happier note, I have posted a whole bunch of pictures on my personal homepage. Just click HERE to start, and then choose from the menu at the top of the page...
Thursday, September 11, 2003
So this is my home. I've been wondering if I had one anymore!
The flight arrived late last night and I was able to enjoy a nice long silent sleep, topped off with a double Americano for breakfast (at Turks).
Now, I sit here creating a long list of things to do, bills to pay, and people to see. After being so busy, I want to keep the momentum. Of course, I refer to the monentum of drinking rum and mango!
How strange it is to feel denim on my legs. I think this is the first time that I have worn pants in a month. And the cool air here is a reminder that while summer continues down south, it is wrapping up here.
My head is full of fragmented thoughts, so I best collect them (aided with rum and mango) before writing much more.
As much as I love travel, sometimes, it's good to be home!
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
At 5:25am this morning, I could be found floating in the Caribbean sea as the sun rose. Quite a surreal way to end yet another visit to Caye Caulker. I am sad to leave, not because I fear I won't be back again -- but because the rest of the world seems to be on to the secret of this place. Everywhere I look, there are signs of a coming tourist wave. New guest houses and eateries going up, more "foreigners," and higher prices. It's funny how you graduate from the Loney Planet crowd and become the seeker of private spots to call your own. This is definitely mine. And I hope it isn't a carbon copy of Playa del Carmen, Mexico when I return...
There isn't a lot of time before I hop on the water taxi to Belize City and my last full day here in Belize. So, some random thoughts and events that I write more to remember when I get home than as interesting reading:
-- I shall miss sitting in the dark under an almond tree, rum and mango drink in one hand, gazing at the moonlit sea as a healthy breeze cools the hot night air... and thin Europeans saunter by...
-- The strange scene of hottubs in the jungle...
-- Chef Dieter spraying his kitchen with bug dope -- just so we can get one shot.
-- Only an hour ago, sitting with my feet in the sea. Millions of wee fish brushing past my feet. And other fish that look like characters from "Finding Nemo" poking about my toes.
-- A staredown with a big mother of an iguana at the Lazy Lizard bar at "The Split." And noticing the erosion. Whoops! The iguana won!!
-- Being picked up at the airport by the Belize Film commissioner...
-- Looking forward to being dropped off at the airport tomorrow, also by the Belize film commissioner!
-- The dogs of Brent's neighbourhood, who delight in their all-night canine serenades.
-- Ossifer the cat, Roh the girlfriend, Miss Nell the landlord...
-- But not Miss Nell's 8 or 9 dogs, one of whom surely is Satan in disguise!
-- Hockey night in Belize.
-- The horse drawn wood saw.
-- The simplicity of the more traditional Mennonites. And their humour.
-- The green/blue sea, the palm trees, the white sand, the blue skies, the creole accents, the rice and beans, the fry-jacks...
-- The Chinese food at Canton...
-- Blackie the helpful spranghead...
and much much more.
But now it is time to grab the boat.
Sunday, September 07, 2003
Another day in paradise: sun, sand, rum & mango. How long can this go on? One more full day! And then one night in Belize City before coming home Wednesday.
And it looks like I will be back in Oct to work on another doc! Details soon!
Some pictures: http://homepage.mac.com/dougmurray/PhotoAlbum31.html
Monday, September 01, 2003
Belize City, Belize
Just back in town after 3 days on the road shooting Taste Belize… we visited several high end resorts and shot cooking segments with the house chefs. One resort, Blancaneaux (sp) is owned by Francis Ford Coppola. It is an amazing spot, tucked in the middle of nowhere. The highlight: tasting some of Coppola’s estate wines and the actual ceiling fan from the beginning of Apocalypse Now. Cool!
Another highlight came on the weekend. A longer version will follow, but, here’s the shorthand version:
It’s Saturday night in Spanish Creek, Belize. It is hot and the humidity is high. In the middle of a field several large klieg lights are illuminating a large patch of concrete. Time for a soccer game? No! It’s Hockey Night in Belize.
A crowd of about 150 people are watching the second game of the final series – the Blues versus the Whites. The players are all Mennonites and are equipped with standard gear. But instead of ice skates, they are wearing roller blades.
They’ve been playing hockey for a few years here, but now things are getting more serious. The players are honing their skills by watching NHL games on the TV (Dallas seems to be the #1 team here), The ref learned the rules of the game by playing hockey videogames.
The rink is official size, and the boards even feature advertising for the local John Deere dealers. I recorded the events for a CBC radio documentary as well.
On Sunday, we spent the night with record producer Ivan Duran and stayed up until 2am drinking cheap rum and listening to some amazing music. More on this soon.
We are back in Belize City tonight, then off to shoot another resort before coming back for one more night here. Then we’re heading to Ambergris Caye for a couple of days – shooting more cooking segments. And then on Friday it will be time to return to Caye Caulker before flying home on Wednesday Sept 10th.
Certainly lots going on… and I will update when I can.
Friday, August 29, 2003
Friday Aug 29, 2003
Last night alleged arsonists ran wild in Caulker. There were two over night fires. One destroyed a palapa hut near the Lazy Lizard bar at the split -- fortunately the bar survived. The other fire was more serious: it destroyed a rather large place called the seaside Cabanas. A number of cabanas, a bar (where I had a pint yesterday), the office, and basically the entire operation was completely levelled.
And I slept through it, waking only when the power went off, and then falling back to sleep.
Heather, at the place I'm staying, told me about the fire this morning. I wandered down to see the smoking, black remains of what had been a very nice place. Barb, the ex-pat Canadian manager, looked stunned. Her job, and the jobs of at least six others, evaporated overnight. The fire must have been huge, as the cabanas filled a city block.
Today I am heading back to Belize City (at noon) and then Brent and I will head to San Ignacio.
More from there...
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Another day of doing less than nothing. I finished one book and have just begun another, Pete McCarthy's "The Road To McCarthy." He is a very funny Brit writer...
This is the last full day here. The to-do list is blank. I think I will sweat, wander the beach, drink mango juice, and read. Tough life.
Tomorrow, I head back to Belize City and then in the evening, Brent and I will head west to San Ignacio. We will be staying up that way for a couple of nights. It will be another chance to see Pandy and Ivan and Katia. Plus work on Brent's cooking show.
There is little exciting news from home, though it looks like Canada Post has delivered some money. That will make the creditors happy!
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Caught the 1:30pm boat over yesterday. Took a room at a joint run by an ex-pat Vancouverite. I spent the day doing very little, other than grocery shopping. Went down to the Split Bar to watch the sun set. Hit the sack around 10. Overnight there were several storms... and around 7am all hell broke loose. There was a lightening strike very close by, perhaps the telephone tower. It was close enough to make the room shake like a bowl of jello.
While the rain poured, I found the classic Cheech and Chong film "Up in Smoke" on one of the satellite movie channels found on the TV in my room. It was a good way to pass the time, laughing at Sgt. Stedanko and the heavens rained down.
The itinerary today: nothing. I went for breakfast (I feel like I live here, as this is my third visit) and now I will do a little emailing before heading to my hammock to read all day. Tough life!
Until the next report... go slow!
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
A lazy Tuesday morning. I've been working on some business stuff from home -- going to need work when I get back -- but I'm finding that the energy level is low.
I'm planning to change my return date today, although that will mean extending the audio gear rental (damn!). However, it should be free to change the flight, so the extra costs will be minimal.
This afternoon I head to Caye Caulker for a couple of days. This will give Brent and Roh a chance to hang out together and me a chance to read in a hammock. Life is tough.
Next report from Caulker!
Monday, August 25, 2003
Belize City, Belize
Just arrived back in “The City Without Pity” this morning.
The film workshop I attended as a teacher/soundperson/shooter… it was great to work with a group of young Belizean’s who were, for the most part, totally into making their own films. The group was a microcosm of Belize: Latinos, Caribs, Garifuna, and white folks. The leader of the workshop, Katia, is Quebecois.
The workshop started before we arrived – the groups worked on theory and creating their scripts from Wednesday through Friday. Brent and I arrived Friday night and I stayed with Katia and her husband, record producer Ivan Duran.
On Saturday, the attendees were split into 2 groups, and each went off to shoot their films. Brent went with one group, I went with the other.
We shot a drama about suicide with 2 actresses and a small crew. Locations included a cemetery and Katia & Ivan’s house. It was a hot day, and a long one too. We finished around suppertime, confident that we had captured some great images and performances. The students made some mistakes in lighting, but for the most part we guided them.
Sunday was edit day. Brent edited our project, The Last Call. We started at 9am and were finished about 12 hours later. There were some minor problems, including one student who did not contribute – but we had a young woman who more than made up for him. Luwana will be a big force in Belize one day. She is well beyond the maturity level of your average 16 year old.
The film looked great and we were quite happy. I spent the day checking the progress of the edit and shooting behind the scenes footage and testimonial interviews with the participants. We were holed up at a local hotel and it was quite comfortable.
Downstairs in the other edit room, things were going badly for the other group. Their film was about a little boy selling oranges… and the trials and tribulations of a free market economy. However, the editing went slowly due to an editor that lacked skill in cutting drama. Katia had to jump in to re-cut the entire project. While we were wrapped at 9, they continued until after midnight and ended up with only a rough first cut.
It was a great experience working on “our” short film: it was inspiring to see people “get” the medium, and have the desire to tell their story. There is a lot of hidden talent in this country and it was great to be a part of discovering it. Another workshop will be held next year (#2) and I would love to be back for it. I will attempt to post a streaming copy of the film (5:30 long) when I return to Vancouver. IF I return!!
Brent has to work this week, and I have the luxury of my first break since arriving here on the 12th. I am pooped! Tomorrow I will hop on the water taxi and hit Caye Caulker armed with only a book and a few Hawaiian shirts.
Friday night we head to the Cayo district to shoot Brent’s cooking DVD…
Some pictures at www.homepage.mac.com/dougmurray then select "Belize Aug 2003" page!
Friday, August 22, 2003
Belize City, Belize
Just a short entry today: we've finished the Mennonite project -- principal shooting -- now. Drove up from the south of the country after 2 days in Placencia. Amazing place -- sooo tropical. We met some resort owners and stayed at Brent's boss's seaside house. Very nice.
Francis Ford Coppola owns a couple of resorts in Belize, including one in Placencia -- the Turtle Inn. Very expensive ($500 US/nite) but very charming and beautiful. We toured the place with the Mennonite who built it (Eric Loewen) and even got to see where FFC's private villa. Sweet!
On the way back, we passed the landing strip, and guess who we saw in a loud Hawaiian shirt and a big grey beard? Mr. Coppola himself. There is a chance we might get to see him in 2 weeks when we visit his other resort.
All is going well, and it continues to be a great experience.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Belize City, Belize
Just made it back to Belize City after visiting several Mennonite communities in the north and west of the country. Things went well, and we are back in Belize for only one night before heading out again for another three nights and four days. We will be visiting more Mennonite communities in the west and south of the country.
So far, it’s been quit eye-opening: visiting colonies that range from strict (no rubber tires on tractors, no music, conservative dress, no electricity) to fully modern (long haired youth driving up and down the main drag on their motorcycles – doing wheelies the whole way).
We visited a small border crossing between Blue Creek Village, Belize and La Union, Mexico. This is a water crossing, and we visited it twice. The first night we stopped at the shack that is the Belize customs house… when no one took any notice of us, we continued a couple of hundred meters to the water’s edge. Once parked, we walked to the Hondo River and called out in the darkness for someone to come fetch us. From the Mexican side, someone yelled out and flashed a flashlight. Soon, a Mexican was paddling a small, long boat to our side to fetch us.
We hopped in, and a few seconds later, we were standing on Mexican soil. There was no Mexican immigration officials to be seen, although we’ve heard that during the day, you are asked for BZ$1 by a soldier. The boat is BZ$2 each way, but we arrange to pay when we return, which will be after about an hour of swilling Corona and eating real Mexican food.
The return trip goes without any problems, until we drive up to Belize customs. The customs guy and a cop are pissed off: they want to know why we didn’t check in. After a bunch of “yes sirs,” and “no sirs,” we are on our way.
The next night, we attempt the same crossing, and make sure our departure from Belize is noted. After more excellent beer and food, we return to Belize and are on our way. Pictures to be posted in Sept.
And that’s all for now… stay tuned!
Saturday, August 16, 2003
Belize City, Belize
Rain, lots of rain. After extreme (my definition) heat, the skies opened up last night and unleashed a torrent of the wet stuff. This has cooled things off and quieted things down. Nice.
We've spent the last couple of days visiting Mennonite communities for the documentary. One community, Spanish Lookout, was a carbon copy of small town Manitoba. And the more I get to know the Mennonities, the more I discover that they are unlike my preconceived notions. They are funny, down-to-earth and anything but a closed society. They're actually pretty cool.
Today we are heading up north to the Mexican border. There are more Mennonite communities there (Blue Creek) and we're planning to stay up there until Monday.
There are four of us: Brent the cameraman, Karla the researcher, Bruce the director, and me as the audio guy. A throwback to the old days! It's get fun getting one's hands dirty.
There will be no internet available in Blue Creek, so this will be my last dispatch until Monday. And, I must run off to the station to get ready to hit the road.
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Much to tell from yesterday, and I hope to have my Mennonite stories (!) posted tonight. Today I am heading to Channel 5 to meet with the rest of the production team for the documentary. It is hot and humid!
More to come!
Monday Aug 11, 2003
Vancouver, BC, Canada
It seems like I’ve been packing since I unpacked 2 weeks ago. Indeed, with Brent’s requests – can you say mule? – I have been running around a lot picking up this and that and the other thing. Add this to the special gear that I need for the shoot in Belize. At the same time, I have been lining up more work with the CBC and in the print world. Nothing confirmed, but lots of potential.
I slept in this morning, playing the “snooze” game with my alarm clock. And then enjoyed relative peace and quiet. Outside it was raining, inside, I was doing laundry. Got to get those 5 t-shirts ready for the tropics!
I had to pick up a few more things – a new journal being one. I dropped off a large box of stuff at the post office. More stuff for Brent. Popped into a travel store called the Travel Bug and chatted about travel. And I basically waited around.
Lorne offered to take me to the airport on the condition that we chow down at a new eatery on The Drive called Memphis Blues. Ribs, pulled pork, brisket: it is a heart attack haven. I chose a brisket sandwich, but it was huge. After eating sushi earlier and a large smoothie recently, I had no room left for cholesterol laden death grub.
At the airport, things went smoothly. But I almost left my passport behind when I stopped to fill out an American customs form. There is still a lot of time before my flight – nearly 2 hours, but I have to clear US customs as soon as I check in at the counter.
I explain to the US Customs guy that I am going to Belize to work on a documentary. He wishes me luck.
Security confiscates my zip-ties, saying that they could be used as handcuffs. Riiight.
The first of three flights is short. 50 minutes on a bumpy Dash 8 to Seattle. There is free beer and snacks, so the flight is nice.
In Seattle, I sit at the bar waiting for my next flight which is 2 hours away. On the TV is Wee Man from the Jackass show. He is hosting a silly effort called 54321. It’s another run of the mill extreme sports shows. But it fills the time nicely. The Sam Adams beer goes down nicely.
I am tired.
Midnight: Tuesday Aug 12, 2003
I am now on a Continental jet bound for Houston. Talk about no room. The seats are very narrow and there is little room for my arse. As the president of the airline spouts off on the TV monitors, I hope that his own furniture at home is arse binding like the plane seats. Worse, there is a loud gum-chewer beside me. But the combination of beer and the late hour allows me to fall asleep.
I wake up with leg cramps due to my crushed legs. The guy ahead of me has fully reclined, and my knees are firmly wedged into the seatback. Part of the problem is that I have stuffed the pocket the seatback with reading material. I shift and fall asleep again.
We’re approaching Houston now. This is great! I never sleep on flights, but I managed to make it through 90% of this one. The approach takes forever, and is quite bumpy. At 6:15am we are on the tarmac. There is a long wait to deplane, as the flight was completely full. In the terminal, I seek out coffee and a quiet spot to kill time before my next flight. I have to wait so long, that the next flight hasn’t even made the departure screens yet. Finally, it does, at 7:30am. I have 2 hours to go.
After a second venti dark roast and something approaching breakfast encased in grease from a joint called Bubba’s, I still have lots of time to wait. I have been to Bubba’s before – in April – and disappointed. Next time, I am going to try the lardy temptations of Harlon’s BBQ. It looks all bad, but it can’t be worse than Bubba’s. God love Texas! And that nice statue of the elder George Bush. Yuck… I waste more time fighting with an internet capable pay phone that doesn’t work very well.
In the duty free store I am tempted by the world’s best rum, but end up grabbing some Wild Turkey for Brent. Only US$19 for a litre.
Finally I am on the plane to Belize City. It is jammed and I swear the seats are getting smaller on each successive flight. There is no way my arse could be expanding at this rate! Thankfully, for my arse, there is only one meal served. A wee turkey bunwich and chips. And a packet of mayo that is actually bigger than the bunwich. Perhaps it is actually a mayo main with a side of bunwich.
I read as we fly roughly over Mexico. We decent and are told that we are on final approach. Again, this seems to take forever. When we land, we land hard.
They open doors at both ends of the plane, so for me, being stuck in the last row, this is a bonus. I am outside in the humid tropical air in no time. From the tarmac, I can see Brent waving to me from the viewing gallery. Wasn’t I just here?
Inside the terminal, I am one of the first at customs. I am asked my purpose (I wish I knew!) and I reply that I am working on a documentary co-production with Channel 5 here in Belize.
Just past the Customs man, there is a Latin fellow holding a sign that says “Douglas Murray.” After getting my stamp without any difficulty, I walk towards my name. A large white guy joins the Latin guy. It turns out the white guy is the Belize Film Commissioner, Emory King and the guy with holding my name is his driver. They welcome me and tell me that they are here to meet me and help me through the second customs post where my bags have to be examined. Once I claim my bags, we basically blow past customs. Outside, Brent is waiting, and then we all head to Belize’s best restaurant (Indian) for a big meal and slow service.
I get to know Emory – a jovial joke-teller who has been here since he cracked up his boat offshore about 50 years ago. He is 72 and full of tales. It is nice to be a VIP in this country. Emory even picks up the tab. For four, it is only BS$100.
Brent drops me at his house and I unpack and kick back. His girlfriend Roh gives me a call to make sure all is good. It is indeed. I hang out with the cat and watch pirated satellite television.
In the evening Roh makes soup. Brent and I watch our respective Pandy stories… then some bad television… and then… crash.
It has been a long journey!!
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
3:17pm local (8/12/03)
After flying all night to Belize City via Houston (nice statue of Geo Bush - barf!) and Seattle, I am here. I was welcomed at the airport by Brent and the Belize Film Commissioner. With his assistance, we were out of customs and into a great Indian resteraunt in no time. It's good to be a V.I.P.
Brent had to go back to work, so I am chilling at his place for a few hours. Nothing eventful to report so far. But we begin shooting the documentary tomorrow...
Monday, August 11, 2003
Sunday, August 10, 2003
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Somewhere in the Baltic Sea
Heading towards Poland
The alarm sings its horrible wake-up song. Beep-beep-beep! It is a sound that I don’t think I will ever get used to. Who is the demented human who devised the hell that is the alarm clock?
6:00am, the digital numbers cheerfully tell me. Our schedule has us pulling into the Polish port of Swinoujscie in just a few hours. The trip must have been uneventful, as I slept solidly throughout the night.
The shower is small and cramped, but the water is fresh and hot, so I can’t complain. It is an odd thing to be taking a shower on a boat. But this certainly beats what the poor folks who don’t have cabins are going through. Curled up on the floor in dark rooms, they save a few bucks by enduring a night of discomfort. True, many of them simply cannot afford cabins – but still, spending all night on the hard floor of a Polish ferry is not something that sounds like a good time.
I have brought my small travel radio with me, but I am able to pick up only static. This is probably due to being encased in the steel confines of the ship. For fun, I fire up my mobile phone. I was able to get service until I went to bed last night, but there is no service this morning. We are probably too far from land. Testing this theory, I glance out the porthole and see nothing but blue sky and water.
I feel the ferry rolling slowly from side to side now. It is almost comforting, and I am thankful that I have never had to deal with seasickness. Iron guts, I have. Once, in Nova Scotia, I was in the most God-awful storm off the coast. The little boat I was on was tossed like a garden salad. And while I thought I was going to die, my innards remained calm. It was then that I knew that I could take anything.
We all meet in the ferry restaurant and are treated to a wonderful breakfast buffet for only 50 Danish Kroner. As we chow down on the standard breakfast selection, Poland comes into view. And so does Germany. Swinoujscie is right on the German-Polish border, and from the ferry, our eagle border freak eyes can see the vista between the two countries.
Getting off the ferry is difficult. People trying to cut in front of each other and a back-up due to Polish customs and immigration. It is around 8am, and we were originally hoping to see the border between Poland and Germany up close. Unfortunately it looks like we may not be able to. We have to drive clear across Poland today, and the only way to get to the German border is to take a ferry across the harbour. The closest ferry is apparently for locals only. The other ferry is several kilometers away.
A bald, smiling officer greets us and stamps our passports in record time. As he is doing this, we are treated to the site of a couple of dogs humping away. It is made more entertaining because the humper is humping the humpee’s leg.
We drive to the local ferry in hopes that we can get aboard. And, we do! There are no signs saying that this is a local ferry, and no one seems to care. It is free as well. This border expedition is starting off in fine form.
When we arrive at the land border between Germany and Poland, we park in a rather large lot that is filled with many horses and horse trailers. There is a steady stream of folk crossing the border in both directions on foot. And a few crossing with bicycles. No cars. The border here features a wide vista made of raked sand. On either side of the vista – at least 10 metres across, there is a low fence. It is not very intimidating, nor should it be, considering that this border will all but disappear in a year or so. We are only about a kilometer from where the border enters the sea. I am hoping we get to see this, as it is a rare sight to see a beach divided.
There are the requisite frontier warning signs. We all take pictures of these. Since we’re ahead of schedule, we decide to make a quick dash to Germany. I slow things down because of my Polish visa. The papers are in order, but visas always tend to bog the proceedings. By the time I get into Germany, Anne and Mike have already crossed the street and are in the line to return to Poland. Behind me is a not very pleased crowd of Polish workers who are now queued up to get into Germany, thanks to the Canadian with his damn visa.
We immediately cross the road, and head back into Poland. We get in line quickly, heading off a large group of Germans that are rushing towards the passport control area. This popping in and out of Germany – for literally moments --must look very silly on the computer screens of the border officials. They say nothing. I wonder why they allow only bikes and people to cross here. There is a nice 2-lane road, and traffic could easily cross. I’m sure it will next year.
I have now pissed off a large group of Germans as my visa once again brings the line to a crawl. German officials stamp me out of Germany and then I have to wait at the Polish booth. There is a delay as they deal with the visa – a long delay. The line of angry Germans stretches as far as the eye can see – Holland, I think.
After finally crossing, I hear half the German nation sigh a breath of relief. Or was it disgust?
Back in Poland, I take some more pictures of the border installations as Peter, our driver, tries to get us all back in the van. This must be like being a father with 8 crazy and uncontrollable kids.
In the van there is dissention. Some of us want to check out the beach border (me), and some of us don’t. In situations like this, the only way to decide is by voting. And, using democracy, we change our itinerary to include a quick visit to the beach.
Peter drives in the general direction of the beach, following a road that parallels the border. When we near the water, the road we are on comes to an end in a large parking area, surrounded by woods. There are a couple of small campervans parked here. And, upon further investigation (namely, spotting a huge H painted on the pavement) we deduce this to be an old helicopter-landing pad.
We walk through the brush along sandy trails. This used to be the old Polish-East Germany border. I wonder what it looked like back then? How severe were the frontiers between former Warsaw Pact members?
The trail leads to a large sand dune, and suddenly, we are at the border. The sandy vista continues to back to where we crossed earlier and to the water’s edge. There are barbed wire fences on both sides of the vista, but they are more rusty than threatening. Polish and German border markers can be seen in both directions. Sitting on a sand dune only 20 meters away, are a pair of German border guards. They are watching us from their van, probably wondering what the hell we are doing. There are no Polish guards to be seen.
We wave to the German guards and follow the Polish fence as it undulates with the sand dunes. There is a bit of a turn in the direction of the vista when we get closer to the water. The beach is quite wide, and the fences bisect it and continue out to the water. There are frontier warning signs that we ignore. The fence is quite rusty, and probably won’t be here once Poland is part of the EU (and the Schengen “no borders” agreement).
The beach fence is pretty cool, and we all shoot plenty of film to capture this. Is it a strange sight because beaches are usually though of as happy fun places, and an ugly barbed wire fence is quite the juxtaposition. My photos of this fence will be placed online soon. But, for an example of such a border, check out Brian Rose’s Lost Iron Curtain site. Scroll down to the 10th picture on this page: Lost Border.
Back in the dunes, we strike up a conversation with the German border patrol. They are friendly, but will not let us take pictures of them (to hide their identity). They are friendly and walk right up to the Polish fence. They explain that most of their work involves stopping criminals from sneaking across. As we say goodbye, we hear the two stroke motorcycle engine of an approaching Polish guard. The Germans head back to their van, and we start heading towards the helicopter pad.
Back at the ferry crossing, we are stuck in a huge queue. It looks like we will not make the ferry being loaded, but the 2 boats seem to make the trip quickly. As we get closer to the front of the line, a ferry worker glances at our license plate and freaks. NO! He yells. Playing the role of stupid tourists we offer our confusion as to what he is saying “no” to, even though we know that this must really be a local ferry and he has discovered our foreignness. Playing dumb doesn’t work.
Pointing out that there are no signs saying locals only doesn’t work.
Pointing out that we came over on this ferry doesn’t work.
In fact, it appears that the only word he knows is “NO!” And he will not even enter into an argument.
We are kicked from the queue and are forced to drive 8km to an alternate ferry. Traffic is light, and we make good time. The alternate ferry is also free, so we fail to understand why one is for locals only. Pain in the ass policies left over from socialist times, no doubt.
We’re headed east on and stop in Swidwin for lunch at the Restauracja Bajka. Bajka is Polish for fairytale, and the food sure is! I order Ruskie pierogi, Cena (a black current drink) and tuck into my first real Polish meal on this 3rd visit to Poland.
Back on the road, we continue our long journey east to Kaliningrad, Russia. We pass the little red flats of Chojnice. There is some money here: new lights, roads, and cars. We are south of Gdansk, where Solidarity first took hold in the shipyards. This used to be Germany at one time, and Gdansk was called Danzig.
I am sitting in the front of the van and Hans Peter is driving. We engage in a great discussion of modern European history. He tells me that to learn about modern Europe, you must study events from one of two starting points. 1920 or back in the 1800’s. All the movement of peoples and the effects of wars and crumbling empires fascinate me. You’d think that none of this would ever happen again, yet, is the EU not just another empire? Is the US not engaging in imperialistic strategies? Think of the massive changes just since 1989. And not just in Europe. History is happening all the time, but always, it seems, in the background. Only when you look back do you see it.
We stop for a snack and coffee break in Czersk. I have no Zloty for the bathroom or for snacks. Dilemma: use the credit card for water and snacks? The amount would be so small. In the end, Hans Peter saves the day by putting my goodies on his card with the gas purchase. As we are not spending much time in Poland, there is little need for Zloty. The gas station has a cute bear logo, and a large stock of porn and booze for the trucking crowd.
Later, we are flying down the Ebling – Koenigsberg highway. Koenigsberg was the German name for Kaliningrad city, the capital of the Russian territory of Kaliningrad. More history is here: Kaliningrad - Wikipedia.
The highway was originally built by Hitler. More info is here: Elbing-K?nigsberg Autobahn. The highway has overpasses that are built for 4 lanes, even though the road is 2 lanes. We follow it as far as we can. We pass the last exit, but continue to head north to see where it will go. Old German Autobahn ends. We continue! There are new-looking destination signs that are crossed out. We think that maybe this highway to Russia will once again be re-opened at the border. We’re curious about the border too… and are determined to follow the road all the way to the frontier. Unfortunately, as we continue, the road conditions worsen. Then, only a few miles from the border, large piles of sand block the road. We can go no further. If time permitted, we might walk to the border, but it won’t happen today. This section of the highway is noted on some maps (but with a road closed symbol) but not others. My map book in Vancouver shows it as a functioning road on both sides of the border, but without a border crossing. If we had made it to the Russian border, this is what we would have seen.
We turn around and head back through a tiny village that sports a massive empty factory. One of dozens that we will see. The power lines dangle from pylons, the windows are broken, and it has been left to rot.
Further down the dirt track we are on, we come to a small river that has a dam and some sort of generating station. There is a car parked there, but the whole installation looks abandoned. It might have been a power station for the abandoned factory.
A small bridge crosses the river, and it has a very old warning sign that shows the symbol for “no tanks.” The weight of a tank would probably destroy the bridge. This reminds me of being in Bosnia in armoured personnel carriers – and crossing bridges that had a weight tolerance of less than half the APC weight. The Canadian military guys thought this to be hilarious.
We are in the Braniewo area, just south of the Russian border. And we’re lost. We find some friendly locals and ask them how to get out of here. They show us the way. On the way back to civilization, we pass a massive military installation (with numerous radar dishes). This would be Polish, and they must be keeping track of the Russians.
8:45PM. We’re at the Polish-Russia border. Again, this is the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, not Russia “proper.” It is still 100% Russian territory. We come to the divided village of Szczurkowo, Poland. The Russian half was flattened long ago. The houses are distinctly German in style. The road is terrible and there are no controls to be seen. A young boy heads in our direction, probably wondering what the hell we are doing. We wave at him… and explore the border fence. This is rather boring, so we drive off to the east, along a road that parallels the border. As we continue, we see that the Russian border markers (about 2 meters tall and red and green striped – with a lovely plaque attached) are coming closer to the road. There is no barrier fence and a visit to the Russian frontier is very tempting.
Despite the worries expressed by some of the group, Harry, Mike and I walk across a bit of scrubby field to the border. Nothing can be seen in Russia, other than the trees. I wonder if this is some sort of purpose or plan. So far, from the Polish side of the border, we have seen no signs of life on the Russian side.
The three of us get brave. There are Polish and Russian markers facing each other. I walk to the Polish one, and look to see if there are any Russians lurking about. Between the two border markers is a small white marker that denotes the actual border. I touch it with my finger. Then I run around it, effectively entering Russia illegally. The others do the same. We giggle like schoolgirls.
Back in the van, we are continuing our long journey across Poland. We’re tired and hungry. I have a hunk of kolbasa in a nameless village.
Many hours later we arrive at our destination: Augustow, Poland. The Hotel Warszawa is a nice place, and after checking in, we all take a beer in the pub. On the television is an English language movie. In Poland, rather than subtitling, they dub films. But they only use one voice for all the characters. It is brutal.
It is 2:22am by the time I pull the covers over my head. Another day of border chasing has come to a close.