Chris' Arrival in Calgary, Living with my Best Friend

My time here in Calgary is finite. I’m not staying here forever. Don’t get me wrong, I like this city — but there’s more to this planet than a single settlement near the foot of the Canadian Rockies.

When I first arrived here in Calgary, most you all received a message from me letting you know what had just happened. One of the replies struck me with a fair bit of interest, partly because at that point I was a little bewildered with what I’d done, and my sensibilities were left behind in Vancouver, and partly because I was feeling quite a bit of exhilaration from being free. It went something like this:

“So. Now you have your life ahead of you. […] Let me extend the very sincere invitation to accompany me to go to Japan. Yes, I am being serious. […] Besides the fact that we are english speaking north americans [sic], we have computer skills too, which adds up to equal a […] load of money for us (and a lot of REALLY good stories to tell our friends). […] If I had to share a 4×4 shoebox with anybody, you would be a good choice.”

This was from my friend Chris, whom I’ve known since the first day in Mr. Gettsinger’s Grade 10 Math class. Stuart, Chris, and I had been mostly inseparable through high school (Stuart and I shared a locker for most of high school). Chris and I have the same birthday (we still haven’t figured out who’s actually the elder, though given the odds, it’s probably Chris — I was born towards the last quarter of the day). We share a mutual love of movies (as do several of our other friends), and a twisted sense of humour.

Now we share an apartment. This is part of our Master Plan. In a little over a year, the two of us are going to Japan. For Chris, this is to satisfy his obsession with all things Japanese. For me, this is to satisfy my curiosity. Sounds like a little much to go through for curiosity, doesn’t it? Don’t blame me — blame my grandmother.

Beatrice Sowrey travelled all around the world, visiting every continent (except Antarctica) before she died in late 1995. She seemed to have a gene that made her want to travel and see things. She passed that gene to my father, who with my mother, has been around quite a lot. That gene is now in my blood. Although I haven’t been to as many places as my predecessors, that doesn’t mean I don’t have the urge.

That’s what Chris being here is all about. This is Phase 1. We’re going to be here for a year, to pay bills and save money. Then we’re off to Japan. Calgary is a convenient location — cheap rent, reasonably good salaries, close proximity to Vancouver (the “Gateway to the Pacific”).

Phase 1 started Saturday, when I got up to watch cartoons. Okay, not right then, but shortly thereafter, when I got down to cleaning the apartment. Top to bottom — vacuumed, swept, mopped, and rearranged. Everything was ready for Chris’ arrival.

His plane landed around 5:45pm, about the time I got to the airport (his flight was early). Stuart and Therese were already there, ready to meet Chris with me. (In my later-than-planned arrival, I ended up calling Stuart on the cell phone trying to make sure I was in the right place, only to end up looking right at him while talking on the cell phone. Doh.)

After picking up his bags, I hauled him to his new home for a while. We would meet up with Therese and Stuart afterwards at Therese’s friend Janine’s, where she was holding a house-warming party for her new abode.

The party consisted of about 10 people, a little over half of whom I knew. It was a somewhat subdued affair, where we all sat around, ate and drank (some more than others). After a while, the younger ones in the crowd (of whom, I’m sorry to say, I ain’t one) spoke up, wanting to go out clubbing.

Janine’s place is not even a block from the club strip on 4th Street. It didn’t take long to find a place. Only that after a few minutes, we began to wonder if we’d all make it in. Chris and I, opting more for comfort than style, were wearing clothes that we suspected the bouncer would reject as not “trendy enough”. (Yeah, I know, this sounds really weird for Calgary … I guess it happens everywhere.)

Stop #2 was at Cherry, a club not far away. Small … really small. Somewhat claustrophobic. We wandered around a little and tried to talk above the “music”. It wasn’t long before most of us disappeared onto the dance floor. Stuart, Therese, and I opted to hang back in the upper decks, watching the crowd below.

That’s when things started to go wrong for me. I started feeling angry. Really angry. To the point where I was ready to beat something (or someone) into a pulp. It was unsettling, to say the least. I couldn’t stop it.

Luckily, I had my psychologist next to me, who promptly tried to help me through it. It didn’t help much. I was a little too unravelled at that moment to be coherent, let alone fully conscious of what was going on. I nearly broke down into tears. I hate mood swings.

The rest of the night, I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel right until late Sunday, when something finally clicked. I was lying in bed, trying to find the root of my anxieties. All weekend, since Chris arrived, I’d been feeling uptight, nervous, defensive. Like a light going on in the room, I suddenly knew why.

I’m cohabitating again.

All the pain that I’d been accumulating for the past two years was working it’s way back. I was thinking of Chris in the same way I’d thought of Allison. Bad … very, very bad. I actually had to remind myself that Chris is my roommate and one of my best friends. Not someone I had run away from.

I haven’t had a roommate since 1996. At least not one where I could go off and do my own thing, and no-one else cared. So I have some adjustments to make. They’ll come. Realizing what was wrong has certainly helped.

In the meantime, Chris and I are getting ourselves settled — Chris is getting a job, and I’m getting used to having someone else around all the time — and then we’ll start the arduous process of figuring out how the heck to get to the other side of the Pacific.

But we’ve got a year to figure that out.

In the meantime, I’m getting myself ready — I’m preparing for the inevitable culture shock, and getting my website overhauled.

The culture shock is the hard one. I watched “Ghost In The Shell” the other night — it’s a Japanese adult animated movie — a genre often referred to as “anime”. (I say “adult” because it’s not for kids — there’s swearing, violence, and yes, even some nudity. But it’s a good movie — Gene Siskel gave it “thumbs up”.)

Now, it’s not the best way to experience Japan (that’s why we’re going there), but if you let yourself sink into the environment of the movie (which isn’t too hard — there’s a few slow points), you can get even a partial idea of what you’re going to see.

That scared me.

I was actually frightened. I have no idea why. Usually these things get me excited. I think it’s because I’m not just going to a different country, I’m going to a different culture, a different language, and an entirely different alphabet. (Yeah, I know that sounds kinda dumb — the Soviet Union had a different alphabet, too, but at least it transferred to the phonetic alphabet without too much difficulty.)

The obvious question is — am I afraid to go to Japan? The answer is “no”. I think it’s just that I’m looking at a culture that, really, I know little about. In order to know a culture, you have to immerse yourself in it. That’s why I’m going. I think it’s the fear of being an outsider (which we’ll be — no amount of preparation will counter that) that gave me the jitters. Hopefully that’s something that will go away with time.

As for my website, well, that’s to be expected (me overhauling again, that is), isn’t it? I’m a ways from releasing it — there’s a lot of work to do before I can put it up. And it’s not all going to be done right away — I’m eventually putting the whole thing in a database, and that’ll take a while before it’s ready. Don’t worry — I’ll let you know when I release it.

In the meantime, you can look at another piece of my work. No, nothing I’ve done for Critical Mass (yet — I have to wait for those sites to be launched), but something I’ve done for a friend:

One of my Radical friends created a cool little application that captures images from web-based cameras and puts it on your desktop. You can even make little (or large) movies from it. Very slick little app.

There, that’s my commercial plug for the day. Hmm… maybe I should look for corporate sponsorship…