A note to my friends

[Ed. Note: This message was never originally sent out. It first appeared on the web six months after it was written.]

By the time you read this, I will already have done the most horrible thing I’ve ever done in my life. Without warning, I’ve left Allison to go find myself.

Yes, this sounds quite dumb — isn’t the whole “finding one’s self” a tired topic by this day and age? Normally, I’d say yes. But in this case, I beg to differ. I lost myself two years ago in a relationship I’ve never really been happy with. I need to rediscover who I’m meant to be.

For roughly two years, I’ve been in an abusive relationship. This is something that has taken me over two months to understand. I’ve been through a lot of pain and mental anguish. Though Allison never laid a finger on me in anger (save for one incident, where she was in severe pain from illness, and lashed out at the nearest person — me), she was a surgeon with her words. They cut deep and never let me heal. More times than I can remember, she took me down, took me apart, and laid me in utter ruins.

Having been through this so many times, it got to the point where it was normal, and I believed I was happy. This is what psychology refers to as the “cycle of abuse”. It’s one of the most misunderstood issues in psychology, and one of the hardest to treat. Generally, the victim only gets better when they realize that there’s something wrong, and they’re not willing to take it any more. Typically, the victim will leave their abuser.

It’s not a simple case for me, however. Outside of my friends from work, I know no-one else in the Lower Mainland. All of my friends are Allison’s, and as soon as I leave her, they will turn against me. That much is certain. Within hours, my name will be mud in the Lower Mainland.

That is why I’m leaving Vancouver.

Where I’m going is up for debate. Some of you know where I’m going, and for now that is the way it will remain. I’ll open up a little more in the not-too-distant future, but for now I’m keeping low and staying quiet. It’s nothing personal, folks, I just want to be alone for a while.

This is mostly a heads-up. Don’t try to call me in Vancouver — I’m not there. Don’t try to call me at Radical — I quit. Don’t try to find me — you won’t. Don’t worry, though — I’ll be in good hands.

Take care, and I’ll be talking to you soon.

Visiting Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, Chinese Porcelain

We’ve been blessed with a good winter this year — it hasn’t rained much. (Of course, I would be writing this on a rainy day.) In fact, we’ve had a lot of sun, though it has been fairly chilly. Yes, I realize that chilly here is warm compared to the rest of Canada right now. What can I say — I’m a wimp.

But even with all that good weather, Vancouver can get a little boring, especially if you don’t get out a lot. This was our problem — we hadn’t really gone anywhere except for the island in the past three months. So Allison and I decided it was time to visit Seattle again. A good road trip was just what we needed.

We got up relatively early on Saturday (which for me, is before 9:00am) and got ready to leave. By 9:09, we were fuelled up and heading south on Burrard for our adventure of the day. We arrived at the border in short time, and breezed through, as usual. It was a good thing we weren’t coming from Seattle to Vancouver, though — the lineup looked about an hour in length.

It was a good day for the drive — the sun was bright and the sky was (mostly) clear. We could see Mt. Baker quite easily. It’s a very imposing mountain, especially when you know that it’s two hours away, and the ones just across the Burrard Inlet look the same height. It’s huge … just like its sister mountain, Mt. Rainier. Both are dormant volcanos … just like Mount St. Helen’s was dormant.

We found ourselves in downtown Seattle just after 12:00, just in time for lunch. We drove around attempting to find inexpensive parking (by inexpensive, we were looking for anything that charged less than US$7 an hour. Seattle is expensive.

We eventually ended up at the lot Allison and her friend had once used when visiting Seattle. It has a US$5 special that lets you park for up to 10 hours. It’s not the most convenient location, but considering that there’s no lot attendant, no pavement, and nothing really nearby, it’s fairly reasonable.

Actually, there is one thing nearby — an elevator. It takes you up to what used to be a causeway from “upper” Seattle to the piers on the waterfront. When the piers closed down, the causeway was mostly destroyed. Part of it remained, and the city (assumedly it was them) put in an elevator to let you down to the harbourfront. At the top, it let you out two blocks from Pike Place Market. Convenient, non?

The first order of business was lunch. We had seen a mexican restaurant while searching for parking, but we were interested in a chili place at the south end of the market. It took a while to get there (about half the population of Washington State was crammed into the three blocks that make up the market area), and we were disappointed when we arrived. It seems that the owner/operator had been made an Honorary Member of the Coronary Bypass Association, and was enjoying an extended stay in the Swedish Hospital.

Yeah, you’re probably thinking what we thought — he was in Sweden, the reason he wasn’t here to run the store, right? Well, it wasn’t until our little attempt to get lost in Seattle that we found the Swedish Hospital. It’s one of the hospitals in Seattle. Why “Swedish”? It was started in Seattle by a pair of Swedes back at the turn of the century. It’s now one of the largest hospitals in the state.

Anyway, back to the story…

Finding there would be no chili that day, we went out in search of our mysterious Mexican restaurant. Luckily, it wasn’t hard — Taco Del Mar. It was a kind of fancy Taco Bell, without all the choices. But I was in the mood for a burrito, and that seemed to be their speciality. I got the jumbo spicy beef (which was their smallest burrito — I don’t know why they called it “jumbo”). Allison got the super burrito (the same as the jumbo, except it had guacamole).

Kinda bland, not nearly as tasty as the burritos we had at some rinky-dinky little taco stand in Anaheim, but filling. At least we wouldn’t starve for the rest of the day. And the service was outstandingly pleasant for a fast-food joint. A definite thumbs up, if just for the service alone.

Afterwards, we opted to try something we hadn’t done before — go to the Seattle Art Museum. Allison had been craving some intellectual input lately, and I thought a visit to the museum would be a good idea. The last time we were in Seattle, they were exhibiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs. This time, it was the History of Porcelain. Okay, maybe not the most riveting of subjects, but interesting nonetheless.

The Chinese first started producing the fine porcelain we all know in the 10th Century CE (AD, for those of you not familiar with the Common Era system). However, they had developed the materials and techniques around 3200 BCE … a lot earlier than most people would have thought. In fact, the only thing that kept them from making good porcelain back then was a lack of heat. Porcelain needs temperatures of about 1,300 C to become porcelain … otherwise, you just get earthenware. Not as strong, and not as nice.

There were some amazing specimens. Utterly beautiful in design, completely perfect in shape and colour. The designs on them intricate and delicate. Then you read the tag, and find that the bowl, or plate, or water jug you are looking at predates Chris Columbus’ little sojourn to North America by a hundred years.

The exhibit was arranged so that you walked in a loop, starting with the “birth” of porcelain, and ending with its “end”. (No, we haven’t disposed of porcelain, just that porcelain is now a pottery technique, not a commodity considered more valuable than precious metals.) The exhibit tells how until the 17th and 18th centuries, most of the porcelain came from China. But after a couple of wars, the technique finally leaked to Japan and Korea, and the supply increased. It wasn’t until the 17th century that Europe began to tinker with the techniques and come up with its own porcelain.

After our tour of expensive pottery, we ventured to an exhibit of native art. A lot of it was Australian, and actually fairly difficult to look at (the pictures were a bit on the psychedelic side). We didn’t stay long, and opted for the more typical parts of an art museum: Ancient Mediterranean (e.g. Roman, Greek, Egyptian), the 17th century masters, 18th century art, 19th century Americana, and 20th century moderne, including photographs and a set of prints by Liechtenstein.

We returned to the market, and walked through it again in the opposite direction. (This was when we learned the fate of the chili shop’s owner.) Like Vancouver’s Granville Island, the contents of Pike Place Market change fairly regularly, which makes finding some things fairly difficult. All depends on your needs, I guess. Anyway, we wandered around a bit before ending up at a small park overlooking the harbour. There, we sat on the grass, warmed ourselves in the sun, and watched the world walk by.

After a while, we hit upon the idea of touring around Seattle. While Allison had been through other portions of the city before, I had only been in the downtown core. I wanted to see the rest of it. We returned to the car, and drove our way into the heart of the city … after I missed a turn and ended up in a different area. We were attempting to find Capitol Hill on our own. There were no signs, no hints, and we had no map. It makes for an interesting adventure.

We drove around in seemingly endless loops (you have to understand that we weren’t really heading in any particular direction), eventually finding ourselves next to the convention centre. We headed east from there, soon finding ourselves at the Edward Nordstrom Medical Tower. This was when we found Seattle University and the Swedish Hospital. We headed south for a little ways until we opted to turn into one of the neighbourhoods — First Hill.

First Hill is so named because it was one of Seattle’s first neighbourhoods. Thus, it is also one of the oldest … and it certainly looks that way. Most of the homes are run-down and/or boarded up. The neighbourhood is mostly poor. It’s sad, really, because with a little money, most of the homes would look much better.

We soon found ourselves on 23rd Ave., turning north. We still didn’t know where Capitol Hill was, and it was time for us to find out. We popped into an AM/PM and picked up two Cokes and a map of Seattle. The map had all the information we wanted. Much to our surprise, we were not only in the right area, we weren’t far away from Capitol Hill. Another kilometre or so north on 23rd, and we were there.

Capitol Hill looks like the kind of neighbourhood you see in Hollywood movies — nice, large homes on moderately-sized lots in a very nice area. Basically, a rich area. We drove up and down Capitol Hill’s streets, gaping at the homes, very much wishing that we could afford one.

We soon left, on our second search of the day. Now, this quest definitely shows off our geekhood — we wanted to find Microsoft. I had a minor fascination with seeing what this company was actually like. One of the world’s most powerful companies, and all I’d ever actually seen was a small picture of one of its buildings (which, it turns out, is the recruiting building).

We headed north on 23rd Ave. (which turns into 24th), and looked for off-ramp for Highway 520 East. We missed it, and ended up heading directly into the University of Washington. I was reminded very soon after of the long debates on USENET about who should own the uw.* hierarchy — the University of Washington, or the University of Waterloo. Several other UW schools tried to get into the debate, but we shut them out pretty quickly.

The university is quite large, and has a nice campus. The buildings are old (or at least look old), much like the Ivy League schools back east. One of them is the Mary Gates building, named after Bill Gates’ late mother, who was also a schoolteacher, UW regent, and a chair of United Way International. I guess Billy gets his goodwill from his mom.

Finding our way to Highway 520, we headed for Redmond. We really had no exact idea where we were going, other than Redmond. We didn’t have directions, we didn’t know where in Redmond Microsoft lay, and our map didn’t show roads any smaller than the major highways.

Arriving in Redmond about 30 minutes later, we proceeded to search. Redmond has two things: Industrial parks populated almost entirely by high-tech companies, and townhouses. There are a few actual houses, but the domicile of preference seems to be the higher-density models. It fits with the youngish population, I suppose.

We drove around the city, covering the north, east, and west sides before finally stopping at a gas station for assistance. The clerk gave me a strange look, and with a straight face provided me directions. She probably added “geek” or “weirdo” as I left.

Microsoft probably moved to Redmond because it needed space. A lot of space. A huge amount of space. The campus (and it really is a campus) is larger than most (if not all) Canadian universities. It’s not just huge, it’s freakin’ huge. There are at least 50 buildings scattered about the area, covering every portion of the company. It’s impressive.

The scary part is that there is no construction going on at Microsoft. All the buildings are complete. And full. This includes a conference centre, dormitories (large ones, about 20 storeys each), research labs, and separate offices for the Internet portions of the company. It’s frightening, just plain frightening. You actually have to wonder why the FTC hasn’t broken the company up yet.

After our little tour, we returned to the highway, and headed our way home. The trip back was as uneventful as the trip down, and without the sun blinding our every movement. A couple of hours later, we arrived at the Cloverdale Truck crossing, and made our way back into Canada. Then we were off to find dinner.

Originally, we were heading for the Langley crossing, which would have put us near the Sammy J. Peppers in Langley (or Surrey … one of the two). But we were a fair distance from it. So instead, we went to find the Sammy J. Peppers in Coquitlam. Along with the rest of the Lower Mainland.

Luckily, we got there as the crowd was beginning to die down. We indulged ourselves in a nice meal, and prepared to retire to home with a good movie — Steve Martin’s “Bowfinger”.

Sunday was our lazy day. We got up late, we didn’t move fast or far. Although we did for a long walk, eventually ending up at Urban Fare to get fixin’s for dinner. A fairly relaxing day.

I’m glad we took the time to do all this — this week is going to be rough. I’ve got a small mountain of work that should probably kick into full gear by mid-afternoon today. Then I get to lock myself away until Friday, when the drafts are due. All supposed to be done by Tuesday. That’s my drop-dead date.

I hate deadlines.

Leaving my girlfriend

[Ed. Note: This entry actually spans two weeks and is a composite of several private entries that were never mailed out. They first appeared on the web six months after they were written.]

I feel like I’m in a nightmare, or at least a bad dream. The kind of dream where no matter how fast you can run, you can’t run fast enough. The kind where you’re not sure if you’re certain you’re not awake, but you can’t tell if you’re dreaming. It’s where the world is hazy and you’re a minute or two behind the world.

I hate myself for what I’m going to do, and I haven’t even done it yet. I’m going to leave Allison. But I’m not letting her know. Not until after it’s done. I can’t bear the thought of having to tell her. I can’t bear to look on her face as I tell her. I’d actually be able to see exactly when her heart shatters into a million pieces, and her world crumbles to dust. And I would be utterly responsible for it.

On Tuesday the 29th, Allison has a night class in French. My brilliant plan [insert scathing sarcasm here] is to drop her off at class, and then empty my stuff from out apartment into a U-Haul truck, and leave the Lower Mainland forever. This is not what I would call an ideal solution. But there isn’t one available. I don’t want to leave her high and dry, abandoning her like this, but I need my sanity.

By leaving her like this, I become a coward. I’m too afraid to see what I do to her. I’m too frightened to bear the knowledge of destroying a person’s life. You’ll note, of course, that I don’t use the adjective “innocent”. Allison is as far from innocent as I can imagine.

It started when I arrived in Vancouver two years ago. I came here, hoping that the relationship Allison and I had started might blossom into something wonderful. Instead, it went sour almost immediately. Allison started manipulating me right from the start. We’d get into a massive fight where I’d be blamed for doing something wrong that I didn’t even know I did. The fight would get to the point where I was furious, and I’d yell. Allison would then cringe away from me, begging me not to hurt her. I’d walk away, convinced that this was not going to work. A phone call later, everything was dandy, and we continued.

And so the noose started to form around my neck. I let myself be drawn in by Allison’s ability to convince me that she needed me, and I needed her. I let myself take the full brunt of her pains — if she was unhappy, I was made unhappy. I had to make her be happy so I could be happy. Her moods were never private — if she was upset, she would make sure I knew. Even if it was something as simple as sighing loudly in bed ever few seconds, I always knew when she was dissatisfied with something.

My upbringing was always of concern. Because I was not brought up by Allison’s mother, I seemed to be inferior. I couldn’t cook like Allison, I didn’t clean like Allison, I didn’t eat like Allison, and I certainly didn’t watch my money like Allison.

In fact, money was a massive problem with us. I spent a lot of money getting myself up and running here. I moved into an apartment with virtually nothing. I needed things so I could cook and eat. And for that, I got in trouble. A lot of it. I got bawled out. How could I consciably spend over $500 in items for my apartment? What gave me the right to do that? Did I know that Allison’s entire family didn’t have that kind of money to spend? Did I not care that they were in unions? Did I not care that my debt was killing her? I let her make me feel like dirt.

Trust was a problem. I trusted her too much, and she never trusted me. Even after she moved in with me in Burnaby, there was no trust. In early August, this got to the point where Allison told me that I would never be fully trusted until there was a ring on her finger. Before me, Allison had claimed she never wanted to get married. I never did — I didn’t see any benefit, or any point for that matter. But trust was what I wanted the most, and I was willing to sacrifice my beliefs for her — I proposed.

Things were great for about a month, until Allison decided to quit her job for another one. The new company pulled a fast one on her, and suddenly Allison was without a job. Most people would shrug their shoulders, and find a new job. But not Allison. Her black-and-white view of right-and-wrong dictated that she get even with the company — get what she was owed. So I became embroiled in a rather nasty fight for money Allison never earned. It was on a contract that she signed, but had never worked for. She spent months working at making this company pay.

Allison took them to small claims court. This also meant she had to serve the company (specifically the two people she fingered) with court notices. But Allison didn’t want to — she made me do it. I panicked (I didn’t want to get into all this in the first place), and didn’t hand deliver one of the notices. Allison freaked. On me. It took me down like collapsing brick wall. She made me go back and attempt to make sure that the letter was actually delivered. Before I knew it, we were calling the police and claiming theft.

Then winter set in. Allison, who had to constantly look for work (in order to show to the court that she was actively trying to recover from the situation) became depressed. Things hit bottom in early February of ’99. We got into an argument. Over what specifically, I don’t remember. It took only a few minutes for Allison to reduce me to a bubbling mass of tear-filled nerves. I was an utter wreck.

I had been very upset for a while, not sure of what I was doing. I didn’t have the clarity of mind to know what I needed to do, or what I should do. I wish now that I had called *somebody* and been able to tell them what happened. But I didn’t, and when Allison laid into me that evening, she completely broke me.

Allison then excused herself, saying she was leaving. She got up, but her jacket on, said “goodbye” and left the apartment. I was so distraut I didn’t know what I was doing. Before I could even lock the door, it burst open again, and Allison started yelling at me — “Are you just going to let me leave?!” “What’s wrong with you?”

Then she asked me if I wanted to see her die. She told me I could watch her slit her wrists and watch the blood flow out of her. I couldn’t have been any more upset. Then she lowered the boom on me: “Will you die with me?”

I never recovered from that. I still wake up with nightmares. I still shake at the thought.

And I stayed. I have no idea why.

As a result, I don’t remember much else from last year. I know I was still mistreated, as I am now. The constant orders (not requests — she seldom asks, and hardly even says the word “Please”), using me as a slave (she rarely offers to get things from the store, and even when I’m sick she doesn’t want to do anything), and making me a part of all her misery. Even the simple things degrade me. She holds out her arms (as when preparing to hug someone) when I’m sitting in a different chair. She doesn’t get up and come over to me, but gives me hurt and pained looks when I don’t come to her. I’ve been reduced to Pavlov’s Dog.

She exercised control over my life that I only describe as near-totalitarian. She nitpicks everything I do — makes comments about my Observer’s Logs to everyone I know. If I don’t make the corrections, I get in trouble. And in the kitchen, Geoff can do no right. I’m not fast enough, I’m not attentive enough, I’m not good enough. I make a mistake, and I never hear the end of it — Allison makes a mistake, and I let it slide. Why? Because it’s not worth getting worked up about. It’s really not worth it!

Then there’s my personal time. Allison’s always on my case about taking courses and meeting new friends. But if I decide I’m going to stay late with people I work with and have fun, people I already know and could get to know better, I get yelled at. Oh, and if I forget to call and let her know when I’m coming back, I’d better be prepared for a good skinning, because that’s just what I’ll get. Heaven forbid I should be late — especially around dinner time.

And then there’s money. I already told you about the time I went to IKEA to get some things so I could live. Well, there’s the issue of Allison’s obessiveness with debt — she won’t do it, under any circumstanes. Allison never wants to be poor — it’s some hang-up from when she was a kid. So of course, she wants to show how she isn’t poor by living a good lifestyle. She wants all the fine things so she can show off to her friends how well off she is. But if she forgets to pay her credit card by one day, she complete freaks, convinced that her perfect credit rating will crumble instantly.

I’ve since stopped telling Allison what my credit card bills look like. I’ve spent so much money trying to keep her happy, I’m actually ill. I’ve wasted money on all sorts of things, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of trying to make her happy. I’m tired of not having money to do the things I want to do, and the time to do them.

With all this, you’d think that I’d have left long ago. But I haven’t. It wasn’t until I spent an evening talking with Allison’s best friend that I realized that things were wrong. About two weeks later, I made my decision to leave. Now I’m just waiting to go. And the waiting is killing me.

24 February 2000

T minus five days and counting.

On Tuesday, I started preparations. I moved several boxes down to the storage locker, and made sure I cound find everything I wanted. Some parts of the apartment I will not need to look at ever again. I know that what I want isn’t there. I’m abandoning a lot of things. I consider it making room to allow myself and my sanity to return.

I’ve had a minor problem crop up — Stuart can’t come to help. His company put him on a high-pressue, short-deadline contract that will keep him in Calgary (and likely his office) until March 8th. It basically prevents him from coming here.

Luckily for me, I’ve got a backup. I took my friend Greg (one of my co-workers) out the other day, and told him what I was doing and the reasons why. I then asked him to help me. All I wanted was for him to give me a hand emptying the apartment. But he offered to help drive. By lucky chance, Stuart’s sudden inavailability was negated by my saviour.

The planning is mostly done. I need to change addresses on my bills. Some of them I’ll change when I get to Calgary — I don’t want anything leaking early. This means I won’t be putting Allison’s name on the bills until I’m safely out of the province.

Each and every morning and evening when I’m walking to or from work, I think about what I’ll do on Tuesday. I think about how I’m going to get the truck from U-Haul, how Greg (and whatever other helper I can get) will meet at our apartment and wait for me to leave with Allison, how they’ll get the keys to the apartment, how they’ll start while I’m dropping Allison off at her class, how we’ll load the truck as quickly as possible, how I’ll make sure there’s a taxi to pick Allison up (I’m not completely heartless), how I’m going to leave Allison a note (and what that note will say), how I’m going to mail Allison’s parents a note (because I really feel I owe it to them), and how much I want to get myself out of this mess.

And I think about what this will do to her.

I’m going to destroy her life. That much is certain. She’s based her entire view of the future around me. She expects me to be there for her any time of the day or night. She doesn’t see this coming, and it’s going to be the worst possible surprise she could ever imagine. If I’m lucky, she’ll just cry. If I’m unlucky, I’ll get to carry the knowledge that I drove her to suicide. I’d like to think I’m prepared for any eventuality, but I know that’s not possible. Reality is always far harsher than your best wishes.

Cathy has been so supportive through all this. Mind you, she’s been on my case for a while for me to leave. She knows I haven’t been happy for quite some time. It’s amazing how someone you hated as a child turns into your biggest supporter. My mother had always claimed that we would be each other’s best friend when we got older. We thought she was nuts. I guess “mom knows best” is right.

Mind you, I’ve found that most of the people I’ve talked to are supportive of me leaving, though the reason varies between people. For some, they know it’s because I’m not happy. For others, it’s because they know the reason I’m not happy.

I’m running out of time. There’s not enough to do everything I want to do before I leave. I need to finish documentation … I haven’t the information or the days to complete it. I want to finish overhauling the intranet … I simply can’t. I’m leaving so many loose strings, I’m actually embarassed. I had been hoping for a simple and straight-forward exit. But I’m not getting one.

In fact, I had hoped some time ago to stay here for several years. And by all appearances, that was entirely possible. It was one of the two reasons I felt like I didn’t want to leave Vancouver. I liked it at Radical. It was a good job, with good people. I was respected and well compensated for my time. But when I came realize I wanted to leave Allison, I knew that I had to leave Radical as well.

You see, I’m worried about what Allison will do. Based on her general habits, and her previous actions, I’m certain that I can’t simply walk away. She’ll come after me, either to just yell at me, or to physically hurt me. I don’t know which — possibly both, I guess. No matter how I look at it, I don’t want to be around here. It’s too uncomfortable.

Now for the other reason I kept not wanting to leave. Believe it or not, it was Allison’s family. Irony of ironies — I love the family, but can’t stand the woman I was to marry. From the moment I walked in the door, I was immediately accepted and trusted by her parents. (Well, except for the fact that they wouldn’t let us sleep in the same room for about a year.) I got along very well with both Randy and Jane (Allison’s brother and sister). I felt like I was part of the family.

They made it bearable for me to exist here. They made it so I had something to look forward to. And it hurt a lot to realize that I had to betray their trust when I leave Allison.

26 February 2000

T minus three days, one hour and 10 minutes.

I’m getting scared. I don’t know how this is all going to work. I’ve got some more help moving things out of the apartment, and I’m going to try for one more person. But it’s the truck I’m worried about. According to U-Haul, the only carrier who will do one-way trips to Calgary, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to get a truck on Tuesday. If not, I’m in deep trouble. I need a truck. I need the ability fork all my junk into one vehicle, and hit the road.

I haven’t slept well in days. I’m always tired. I’ve been living on Coca Cola for a week, and it’s causing me to have shaking of the hands … either that, or it’s the stress.

We watched “The Story of Us” last night. It’s about a marriage that’s breaking apart. I supposed to most people it would be a good movie (it actually is, at least I think so). But to me, it was like looking in a mirror, watching my relationship with Allison for the past two years. But my relationship won’t have the happy ending…

Well, I’d better get home. Allison’s expecting me. I shouldn’t be late.

28 February 2000

T minus 30 hours.

Yesterday I spent my last sunny day in Vancouver. I woke up late. We got up slowly, and moved with no intention of amounting to anything useful. The day, predicted as rainy, was in fact sunny and warm (it barely broke into the double-digits, admittedly, but it was still nice).

We played with “The Sims” for a while (a new game from Maxis, by the creator of SimCity), then decided that we needed to go out. Rather, *I* decided that we needed to go out. I wanted to experience one more good day in Vancouver.

We walked down to the seawall, and walked over to the False Creek Ferry depot. We walked within metres of where I’d first told my sister that I was leaving Allison. The sun was bright, the breeze scarcely blowing. The water was clear — we could easily see the starfish on the bottom. People were out walking, running, biking, wandering. It was a good day.

We took the Ferry over to Granville Island, and proceeded to head into the market. We had our favourite, perogies and cabbage rolls. Our server gave us more than the usual amount of perogies, which was fine because they are tasty. We ate outside, in the sun and fresh air, listening to a trumpeter busking in the courtyard of the market. It was a good day.

The market itself was full of people, all looking and buying. All we got was a container of cottage cheese and some strawberries.

By the time we got home, we were a bit chilled, but otherwise fine. The sun was beginning to set (we’d headed out late that afternoon), and the temperature began to drop. It was my last day in Vancouver. From there on in, all I would (or will) do is work, entertain Allison, eat, sleep, and pack.

I’m going to miss this city. I never went swimming at the Aquatic Centre. I never went to the Marine Museum, or to the Space Centre. I didn’t get to spent spring or summer in the West End. I didn’t get to play softball again. I never got to go skiing at any of the ski hills in the area. I never got to go to the Mining Museum. I never saw Molly’s Reach. I will never see Allison’s family again (yes, this is a regret). I’m going to miss Radical, and all my coworkers horribly.

Change is never easy.

Visiting Friends in Calgary, Deciding to Leave Vancouver

I get by with a little help from my friends.

In this case, it was Stuart and Therese, two of my oldest and closest friends. I ventured to the wilds of Calgary to say “Hi” and check out the sights. Well, at least so far as Calgary has sights…

The flight left Vancouver at 6:00pm. WestJet is not the most comfortable airline in Canada, but when you’re travelling a mere hour, comfort is a minor issue. However, when arriving just after 8:00pm (Calgary time), I was realizing just how much a comfortable seat makes a difference. Luckily, Stuart was there to pick me up and whisk me away to a comfortable car.

Calgary was cold. Really cold. About -20 C. Okay, so it’s like the rest of Canada right now — I live in BC. If it drops to 5 C people start to think the next Ice Age is coming. I’m beginning to be that way. I found Calgary quite cold, a little too cold as a matter of fact. My nose hairs froze almost instantly (leaving that rather awkward feeling in your nose), closely followed by my fingers and my feet.

Calgary was under a fair amount of snow. Not as much as they’d had earlier in the week, but still more than Vancouver had all last year. In a strange way, it was neat to see all that whiteness after so long of green … that feeling faded soon, however. White’s kinda … bland.

We arrived at Chez Therese and Stuart about a half hour after leaving the airport. I hadn’t seen Therese for over a year — six hours on New Year’s Eve 1998. That was it. It was nice to be reunited with old friends again. I was promptly fed a tasty meal of … actually, I don’t know what to call it except for hamburger casserole, but with ground turkey instead of beef. It was a good welcome.

[Ed. Note: What I did not originally write in the email was that I told Stuart and Therese that I was leaving Allison and Vancouver. They were the first ones to know (I had only made my mind up on the flight to Calgary). Therese, of course, had to be melodramatic and asked Stuart to pinch her. At first, I thought she was going to try and talk me out of it. I was very relieved when I found that they were not only happy, but excited to know I was getting out. There’s more on this in the next log entry.]

We talked continuously for what seemed like hours. Now that I think of it, it was hours — Therese and Stuart both had work the next day, and I had an interview with an Internet startup somewhere in Calgary the next morning. So it was off to bed.

But not off to sleep. Although I suspect Stuart and Therese slept well, I had a minor problem … Tao and Te, their Siamese cats. Siamese are genetically bred not to sleep when everyone does. And their favourite thing to do when other are sleeping is playing. With ping pong balls. All night.

The next morning, I showered and changed into my interview outfit. Therese and I would then hunker down for the 30 minute trip to the University via the Calgary Transit system. It was then I realized just how much I don’t like cold weather — it cut right through my business suit. My thighs froze almost instantly. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Luckily, it wasn’t long before the bus arrived.

My instructions were simple: Take the bus to the C-Train. (That wasn’t too hard to do, and I had Therese with me in case I got confused.) Take the C-Train to the Sunnyside stop. Walk west from the Sunnyside to 10th St., and turn left. Walk until I get to Kensington. Turn right, and walk until 14th. Look for the old Bre-X building. Of course, it’s only known as that by infamy. The sign on it now is “One Nineteen”. (Although there is a “Bro-X Minerals” in the first floor.)

I nearly froze to death getting there.

The interview was an offshoot of an interview I conducted some weeks ago for an article Allison and I worked on. The idea was, in theory, to get a job with an eCommerce company. The interview was a bit odd — the three guys at the table literally pulled me apart trying to find out what I knew. It was destined not to be a good lead. (And so I found out today, it didn’t pan out at all — I was rejected.)

No loss — it was, if anything, good experience for interview later on. Allison got a good lead on a job at her old company, which not only looked good, but should pay me more. I still haven’t heard anything from them, but at the very least, I’ll be better prepared when I go to see them.

After the interview, I went to track down Stuart’s office. It wasn’t quite as cold when I left, so I could at least get there without losing the feeling in my extremities. Finding the building (after having to call Therese to make sure I was at the right building), I found Stuart was still knee-deep in work. I hustled out and off to humour myself for an hour or so.

Calgary has built itself around its harsh weather — the malls cover almost the entire downtown, and you can get around without having to go outside (at least for any distance). Very convenient. This is particularly interesting around lunch, when all the business towers empty into the food courts. It’s quite strange to watch the flood of people … it’s almost like watching an anthill.

I returned to Stuart’s office at 1:00 for lunch. We disappeared to some weird place called “Burger Inn”. They serve, well, hamburgers. And ostrichburgers. Not to mention buffalo, emu, venison … basically any kind of meat you can get in the province. Good burgers, though…

Stuart then passed me off to Therese at the University so he could get back to work. Therese had work to finish, so I just hung around for a while until she was ready to go. Then it was back out into the cold to get to the C-Train again. (At this point, I was ready to flinch every time I went outdoors — that cold is just brutal. Of course, I’m probably just turning into your typical Vancouver wimp.)

That evening, we were going to go out with a group of Therese’s colleagues and friends to go see “Scream 3” and then go see a band called “Plastikman”. Therese’s car, which had been having a few problems, only made it a couple of kilometres before Stuart had to pull over. Therese had been telling Stuart for roughly that distance that there was something wrong with the car.

Although I don’t know exactly what happened, it looked like an electrical problem of some kind. Basically, there wasn’t enough power to keep the engine running … something that smells like a bad alternator. Either way, we weren’t going anywhere. While Stuart tried to get the car to start again, Therese and I attempted to get a hold of their friends and let them know we weren’t going to make it. We were less than successful.

About an hour after all this started, the CAA truck finally showed up. Because the cab was so small, only one person could fit in with the driver. That person was Stuart. This left Therese and I to hike to the nearest warm place (a Safeway) — about half a kilometre away. Through shin-deep snow. In the freezing cold. By the time we got there, neither of us could feel our feet, and my ears (now exposed to the cold due to my recent haircut) were about ready to fall off.

We were at the Safeway about 45 minutes before a cab finally showed up to whisk us away (Calgary seems to have a severe shortage of cabs in the winter). By that time Stuart had already returned from dropping the car off.

We returned to Therese and Stuart’s, where we decided to order pizza and watch a movie. This meant going outside again. And into a car that had no heater. I froze. (As you can tell, I’m not a huge fan of the cold anymore.)

We rented “The 13th Warrior”, a movie starring Antonio Banderas, filmed in BC, and based on the Old English epic poem “Beowulf”. Despite my degree in English, which involved Old English literature, I completely missed the references. That could also be because the movie sucked.

The next morning, we met Geoff (another one — it certainly makes for awkward conversations when trying to figure out which Geoff is the subject), Jeanine (this is a total guess on spelling, I probably have it wrong), and Sean for dim sum.

Dim sum is one of life’s little pleasures. It’s the sort of thing I’d love to do on a regular basis … except every time we try, we always end up not doing it. I don’t know why, it just seems to end up that way.

After dim sum, we traipsed through a local bakery for the dessert we didn’t get (the dessert cart mysteriously vanished during our repast), and then headed off to the Eaton’s Centre. (The Eaton’s is gone, obviously.) Apparently, it was a good day to buy clothes. Everything was on sale.

Not in a buying mood, I followed our little troupe around the mall, looking for anything that might pique my curiousity. Sadly, the only thing I found was a good deal on a CD I seem to have lost a few years ago. I guess I’m just not the clothes-buying type of person. But that’s just me, I guess. I suck at fashion (I need other people to dress me), and can’t buy decent-looking clothes to save my life.

On the bright side, I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes.

Returning home, Stuart, Therese, and I sat down to watch “The 13th Warrior”. Therese had passed out about 15 minutes into the movie the previous night, Stuart joining her about half-way through. So we watched the movie from near its start.

Then it was off to dinner and a movie. We went to Red Devil, a small chain that’s now in Calgary. It’s a barbeque joint, priding itself on hot sauces. Overall, pretty good food — really good calamari (and I’m not a fan of calamari). We were there for about two hours, laughing, drinking, and eating. It was almost like old times (except that we were missing a few others).

Then it was off to our entertainment for the evening. We opted to see Leo’s newest flick, “The Beach”. Yeah, I know, what possessed us to see that? Well, strange as it may seem, it’s actually not that bad a movie. First off, this was done by Danny Boyle, who brought us such cinematic gems as “Trainspotting”, “Life Less Ordinary”, and “Shallow Grave”. Unfortunately, this movie didn’t start getting interesting until Leo’s character started losing his mind.

Mind you, that was the point — it’s very similar to “Apocalypse Now”, and features many references to the movie. We were amazed at the number of people who really didn’t seem to get that point.

Heathens.

We started late the next day. Really late. It was Sunday, and darn it, we were sleeping in. When we finally got ourselves up and running, we went out for lunch to Arden’s. As in Jan Arden, the singer. She owns a restaurant in Calgary. It’s quite good, really, and showcases a lot of tasty fare. Best philly cheese steak sandwich I’ve had since the Copper Penny in Kingston. (Of course, there’s also Dix here in Vancouver, and it’s also really good.)

After lunch, Stuart and Therese dropped me off at my relatives, where I could have a chat (albeit a brief one) with my Aunt and Uncle. Sadly, Uncle Mike was off playing basketball, so I was only able to speak with my Aunt Brenda. Our meeting was short-lived, however, as I had to get to the airport to catch my plane. Therese and Stuart reappeared not long after.

The flight back was a little more pleasant than the flight out, although I’m not sure why. Probably because I was returning to Vancouver. It’s always nice to return here. It’s a lovely view from 20,000 feet up.

I’m home again, and quite comfortable where I am. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and the only snow is a few hundred feet up a mountain.

I like it that way.

Why I Don’t Want to be a Technical Writer Anymore

It’s been a busy beginning to the year. I think it’s just a sign of things to come.

You’ve probably been wondering where I’ve been — didn’t I send all those logs during Christmas? Where are all the ones from January? Well, truth be known, I simply didn’t get around to them.

Like I said, it’s been a busy beginning to the year. Upon returning to the Lower Mainland, we had to take Allison to the hospital again. This time it was for a possible infection in her surgical wound, which we had noticed on New Year’s Day. Allison was also beginning to run a temperature, so the viral experts wanted to keep an eye on her. As it turns out, the panic was for not — she had the flu. A rather nasty case of it, too. Luckily, Lorna graciously came over and kept an eye on her (and cleaned our apartment stem to stern) while I went to work.

The following week, I started my night course. Once a week for two and a half hours, I go to SFU’s downtown campus for a class on “Concepts and Practices of Technical Communication”. Sound like a beginner’s level course? It is. My manager suggested it. I feel insulted. I slept for the first three classes, and it was only with the help of caffeine that I’ve made it through the others. I’m learning virtually nothing and I’m the youngest in the class.

Which brings me to my impending change in profession. Technical writing is … uh … technical, and … important … ah, who am I kidding? It’s boring me to tears. I can’t stand it anymore. I want out. Luckily for me, I’ve had side projects going to keep my skills up in the web. It seems like I’ve got the right skills at the right time.

I’m declaring to my manager today that I want out of technical writing. I’m hoping to become the new web guru ’round these here parts. We don’t have one, and as recent history seems to be indicating, we could use one. There’s only one issue — whether the company thinks this is a good idea.

If Radical chooses ‘no’, I’m in a little hot water. It basically means that I either stick to the old tried and true (i.e. what I’m doing now), or I bail out of the company and go somewhere else. Now, if you’re Radical, and you just denied me my change in career, how long do you think it’ll be before I leave? There’s a huge can of worms here just waiting to be opened. (And I just found out that my execution has been stayed ’til this afternoon, when my manager finally gets in.)

I’m not the only one looking for a change. Last Thursday, Jane dropped by for a brief visit … a visit with a purpose. She was hoping to talk with a company in North Vancouver about a Customer Service Representative position. The company is Hospitality Careers Online, and they provide a list of jobs in the hospitality industry across North America. Jane had already talked to them over the phone, but her current job called her in on the day she was supposed to clinch the position. So she came over to finish the job (no pun intended).

She called the company early the next morning, but couldn’t get an interview until 5:30 that evening. Allison and I would pick her up from North Vancouver and take her to the ferry so she could get back to Nanaimo to get to work the following day. Jane performed admirably at the interview, telling them exactly what she wanted and how she felt about moving to North Vancouver. Allison was a bit surprised that Jane had said she wanted to move to North Vancouver to be closer to a good snowboarding hill. No worries there — the company’s owner moved there for precisely the same reason. Saturday morning, we learned that Jane got the job.

Last week, Allison took her first night course of the year. She’s taking French lessons at the Francophone Institute on West 7th. First off, she wanted to take a course in something, so she had something to look forward to each week. Having the ability to improve her French was the sort of thing she wanted.

So three weeks ago, I took her over for an entrance exam, where one of the Institute’s staff asked her a few questions … in French. This, unfortunately, was Allison’s weak point — she has problems “hearing” French. She can read it and speak it quite well, but that wasn’t the test. As a result, she ended up a level lower than she should be, as was proved in her first class last week.

The amusing part was that prior to her class, Allison was very nervous about being out of her league, that she would be the worst in the class. She couldn’t have been further from the truth. She’s sticking it out though, mostly because it lets her practice speaking and listening to French in a comfortable atmosphere, and she’s already made friends.

Speaking of friends, Stuart appeared here two weeks ago. I got a call on the 28th where an all-too-familiar voice said: “Hi, I’d like to order a pizza.” It was Stuart, informing me that he was coming to Vancouver to take pictures at a private school. He was coming on a short-notice photo shoot for a client, which meant he was also coming alone — Therese was staying in Calgary.

We didn’t see Stuart until after 6pm on Sunday. I picked him up at the corner of Davie and Granville, so he wouldn’t get turned around on my directions (which I was having severe problems making simple, for some silly reason). We went to dinner and played video games at Playdium. It was almost like old times.

The next day we did lunch, prior to his return to Calgary. It was then I concluded that I was going to Calgary myself — I had to see my friends again. It’s been over a year since I last saw Therese, and I miss her dearly (as I do all my friends). I’m going on Thursday evening.

After a lot of debate, we finally bought a new computer. This was the first computer I bought (or at least had a part in buying) that didn’t come from the store I worked at. It was from a place called Addax in Richmond that Allison recommended. It was a good deal, and allows Allison to work a bit more efficiently than before. It also gave us a good reason to buy SimCity 3000. With luck, we’ll turn the old computer into a Linux server. That’s a project on my lengthy list of projects.

I guess that brings me right up to today. Not much else going on, although you can expect another log this time next week.

Until then…