Wednesday, May 11, 2016

An Open Letter to the New Crop

Hi there, all you newbie Whistler folks!

First of all, welcome to town. This is an awesome place with some awesome people.

Now, while I don't want to single anyone out, I do actually have to talk to a specific group of you. The ones trying to get their Whistler job as a server or bartender - the Front of House, Front Lines collective.

Of course, you have experience. As with any job requiring a skill set, it's folly to think that you can walk in to one of the many restaurants in such an esteemed resort without having so much as carried a tray or poured a Coke. But, and this is important to remember: Whistler doesn't work like other towns. In real estate terms, it's known as a buyer's market. We're spoiled for choice.

So drop your fucking attitude.

I understand that a certain amount of confidence is required in the job; perhaps even a little cockiness. But if the manager speaking to you offers you a job bussing, or hostessing, how fucking dare you turn up your nose at the offer.  You may have been King Shit in Barrie, Brighton, or Brisbane, but to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, that don't amount to a hill of beans in this bubble. 2 years experience is quite literally laughable in this town, largely because those two years cannot have prepared you for the May Long Weekend, Canada Day Weekend, or the ten-day mountain biking juggernaut known only by a single name: Crankworx.

I think I can count on my digits (without taking my socks off) the number of bartenders I know that walked into their job fresh off the bus - and you'd better be sure it wasn't because they said they were good. The the word of a politician that tells you he's the most honest has to have his source questioned. Their resumés had point after point of either well known or easily researched venues, and that certain charisma that you cannot teach (whereas I contend that you can teach any moron how to make a Manhattan, provided - and this is important - s/he doesn't talk to the customers).

The reason they have offered you this "lowly" position is simple: the hospitality business in Whistler is what makes it thrive, so it's important that you understand the guts of the beast. Where to go to make more coffee. What the busiest times of the day are. Jesus, even to make sure you get along with your potential fellow staff members. It's not a dig at your skill set; it's an invitation into that hallowed world of the Whistler Restaurant Family.

Like I said, the restaurant or bar has its pick of the litter. So arrogance is not high on the list of desirable traits, and if we see someone with only 18 months of experience, plus a year at a coffee shop, but they're also *gasp* a pleasant person to talk to, guess who I'm hoping they hire?

I won't pretend to be an expert, but I have been through the machine. I started as a bar back in a club, and made connections and gained a reputation as a hard worker. It's the old adage of not being what you know, but whom. So yes, I got my current job without putting in my dues there, but rest assured I have paid them in full. (Side note: another part of taking the support role is that you gain another aspect to your employment. I embarrassingly still have to check the floor plan to double check where a couple of tables are.)

So I say again: drop the attitude that you are entitled to that job, or Whistler will drop you even faster.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

We Need to Talk about Whistler... #RealApresSki

A few months ago, I was walking through the village and saw a woman that looked rather... out of place, I think would be the best way to say it. Where most of us had shorts, t-shirts, and toques (yeah, I don't get it) for the early summer months, she was wearing a silk scarf, shiny black pants that Aritzia sold to every woman in her 20s that I've ever met, and 4 inch heels.
My very first thought - and this is not a comedic exaggeration - was " Oh, so that's what a hooker looks like!" I was surprised to see a streetwalker (stroll-walker?) so flagrantly showing herself in the daylight, I had to see who would be the John.
As it turned out, she walked back and forth across the stroll in front of Araxi. It was only after a few minutes of sitting on a patio that I saw the cameras and lightboxes.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and the Dumpster Fire Full of Used Diapers known as "Aprés Ski" is playing on Bravo. It's apparently a show about some people from Los Angeles trying to tell rich folks what the best things to do in "their" town. Lynsey Dyer is in it, and she doesn't count. I love what she's done for her sport, but take this crap back to Idaho. I watched the trailer when it first hit social media, and vowed never to watch a full episode. I have a laptop, you see, and it's surprisingly easy to throw through a living room window once the red mist takes over my vision.
This post isn't just about bad television (although it easily could be). It's a slap in the face to the ski industry as we know it.
I've hit 10 years living in this little town, and I'm nowhere near the longest resident. I mean, my last residence saw me living next to Ornulf Johnsen, Whistler's first ski school director. Since this became a ski resort, we've seen naked people at Toad Hall, aprés revelers hanging from the rafters (sometimes naked), drank to excess, hid from the judging eyes of society in our little valley... and now it's cool to aprés, because Gibbons Life says so.

Only they say it tragically wrong. To say that "aprés" is dining in the Peak to Peak, for example, is a luxury that a minute percentage of customers will be able to afford and enjoy. Meanwhile, all us sweaty ski dogs are having a damn good time with less money. Happiness is a barbecue, not a palatial feast.

Oh yeah, and there's another fun little facet to this story. People have been speaking out on Facebook (rightly so) about the quality of the series, only to be private messaged by people who work for the company. All of the responses are the same, and almost verbatim repeated: "Say what you want about the show. It will bring more guests to the resort, which means more tips in your pocket, you slovenly bartender peon."

(I may have paraphrased.)

First of all, the people you're trying to attract are rich. Rich people didn't get that way by giving their money away, so I've found less wealthy customers that are willing to tip more, than stingy bastards who drop 10% for exceptional service and expect me to be grateful. (And yes - exceptional. Service staff always get the heads up that a customer is a VIP.)

Secondly, no it won't. There's already been one family who saw this show and cancelled their annual trip to Whistler, choosing instead to visit Banff. These people - families - shell out tens of thousands just for a week of skiing, and there are more of those customers than the elite spenders. That's why they're referred to as the One Goddamn Percent.

Finally, I welcome the messages from people in the Gibbons Company to send me that same tired message. At the end of the day, this is Canada, a progressive country with freedom of speech. I am fully allowed and even encouraged to speak about things on my mind, and I'm allowed to say that "Aprés Ski" can chow down on a Hefty bag of dicks, just like Bravo, Gibbons, and anyone else is free to shit in their own hat if they don't like my opinion.

With that in mind, I'm spearheading a hashtag movement. #RealApresSki is the name of the game, and I want to see it all over the Social Media. Having fun with your friends after the hill? Aprés going on longer than expected but not in a bad way? I salute you, you glorious motherfucker. Naked in the snow? You magnificent bastard. Show me. Better yet, show them what Aprés really is.

As an advanced thanks, here is a photo of a me and a couple of friends during an epic 13 hour aprés we named "Doublé Aprés":

May you be ever inspired.

My thoughts and prayers are with the PR team for this excuse of a television show.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hope and Change, Revisited

The vote heard round the world.

It's always tempting to imagine the best possible outcome. Yet, I remember in 2006, the election that brought Stephen Harper to power, and how easy it is to be disappointed. Never in my years have I seen such a wildfire election. BC was the last to release their election numbers, but by then the decision had been made - Canada is a Liberal country once again, Baron von Harper stepped down, and the Jays put on a blistering performance. It was a hell of a night, that had gathered momentum over the last few weeks to a crescendo. Even Last Week Tonight got in on it, and as always it was razor sharp and funny as hell.

I won't pretend that I am a particularly political man, but as I wake up today, 10 years to the day after moving to Whistler, something feels better. Hopeful? I don't know. I feel 22 again. I have Mr. Trudeau's acceptance speech on as I write this, and, honestly, it's filling me with such patriotic pride I feel like I'm welling up.

Even the weather is showing off: a crisp, sunny day that contrasts yesterday's rainy overcast sky.  It's a perfect day to celebrate.

I had been prepared to make the most of my 10 year Whistler "re-birthday", even if Stevie had carried on his term. Now though, I hope everyone is as happy as I am. This day just got a thick coating of icing and sprinkles.

Sorry this one is so brief, but I have a country to honour, in a town I love.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Shots of the Alpine, with Basic Camera Work

The dynamic of familiarity often means that the longer you are exposed to something, the less likely you are to see its beauty. After 10 years in Whistler, I can safely say that this is not the case, for myself or for many of my friends. Maybe that’s why we keep sticking around.  All it takes is a ride up the gondola to see some of the impressive geological features that surround us to remember that we’re not in Ontario anymore, Toto.  That feeling of “holy s***, we live here” never really goes away. 

I'm lucky: working at the GLC gives me unlimited hiking and sightseeing for the summer. But now there's a pass that's totally worth the money. For under $70, that's less than 2 daytrips onto the mountains, you can buy a PEAK 2 PEAK 360 pass. That means exploring the hiking world has never been easier. That also means the mountaintop barbecues on the weekends will cost you only the ticket to eat, not the cost of uploading.

And even though a picture says a thousand words, that photo won’t say squat if it’s washed out to all hell. On our only day off together this week, my brother Jules (whom some of you may know) went tourist mode and went up on the mountain to go sightseeing. The glaciers in the distance were a great subject, both because of their impressive presence on the horizon, and the contrast between the ice and the earth, as well as within the layers of snow.  

The easiest trail for us, given that we didn't get up first thing in the morning, was the Harmony Loop - it's right by the Roundhouse and it's a great hike for families in that it's not too intense. We saw a ton of kids while we wandered, and Harmony Lake at the bottom, while smaller than usual thanks to our warmer than average year, was still good to skip stones across.  Maybe took about an hour.

A couple of years ago, I also hiked Decker Lake Loop - in inappropriate footwear. Definitely worth doing, as long as you're wearing hiking shoes. Total time: 3-4 hours.

A word of warning: So-called “point and shoot” cameras like the Olympus we were using are misnamed. It should be “point, focus, shoot”. It’s a basic step, but half-pressing the shutter button makes it automatically focus. No point having a memory card full of blurry memories.

L-R: Automatic, Landscape, Snowscape, Beach/Snow.

These settings are great to play around with when you're in no rush to get going. As you can see, each photo has its own merits, and it's important to compare each to the Automatic. Sometimes, Auto will be the best option but it's always worth taking a look see.

Now for the iPhone. Something really worth doing, especially in foreground/background shots, is to turn on HDR, or High Dynamic Range. This neat trick takes 3 exposures of the same shot, focusing on the brights, the mids and the lows and meshing it together to create a photo better than the original. It makes your photo pop that little bit more, and turns you into a little better of a cameraman. This is especially useful when shooting things like sunsets, so the light doesn't wash out the earth to blackness. Below, you'll see HDR off (left) and on (right). 

I deliberately chose this scene because you can clearly see the difference in the valley, and the trees nearest me - particularly the one on the right side of each. Where it blends into the darkness in the first shot, the branches light up in the second, giving an added depth to the photo.

I can't pretend to be a great photographer - my talent lies with words. But it's useful when people ask what really keeps me hanging around for so long, especially when I can say "It looks so much better in real life."

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to hike the High Note trail. (Total hike time: 5 hours with lunch at the top of Flute Bowl).

Seriously the best part. I felt like a 5 year old.

PEAK2PEAK 360 passes can be bought here.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Soda Train!

"I only drink to celebrate, commiserate, or to make something happen."

It's been a hell of a week. For whatever reasons, one or two turned into three or four after work, and it happened almost every night. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't fun. Canada Day, a post-softball party with work, an old friend visiting town - three excellent reasons to sink a couple. Last night, we finally opened our outdoor bar at work, and it was the perfect spot to sit with others who had finished for the day.

At the end of it all, though, I'm the guy that brought up the fact that Whistler citizens in the hospitality industry imbibe too much. Jesus, I was even on the news.

Well, here I am, eating my words.

It has to stop.  But consider: I don't bike, I don't drive, I don't skateboard... How the hell am I supposed to meet strangers apart from at a bar?

So I'm on the 2 week soda train. A fellow bartender recently did this, and it's a great idea. I can drink soda water anyway, and more often than not, it's free. 

I guess that's it for now. I'm forcing myself to get more writing done. Maybe some of it will make it to this site.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Scent Trunk Review

I'm so glad I'm a guy.

That may as well be my mantra. Women have to do so much to get ready before facing the public - make-up, hair straightened or curled (the grass is always greener, it seems), some semblance of fashion sense, heels that sacrifice comfort for shape, and so on. Never mind pregnancy, periods and pay.
Guys (guys like me anyway), all we have to do is clean up and smell good. Even shaving is up to me! I thank James Dean every day I can go for the white T-shirt/blue jeans option. Simple, and effective.

Which is why smelling good is important. It's a first impression, a powerful memory trigger, and it's one of the only ways a man can really make a personal touch to his overall personality. But there are so many kinds out there, and as a guy that shops based on need vs want, I don't have the energy to look for something that smells nice. For years I was using Calvin Klein's Be, something simple, not sweet, kind of spicy. The last few years, I've had, through an astounding coincidence, the same aftershave as the very first bottle I got for Christmas - Stetson's Preferred Stock (I'm not a fancy man).

This, though, is intriguing. Scent Trunk lets you fill out a survey of your preferred smells - grass over flowers, citrus over ocean, etc. It then logs your results, and sends you some sample size bottles in the mail.

There are a few parameters that Scent Trunk goes by - my high scores were "green", "citrus", "woods", and to a certain extent "oriental". When my 3 showed up - Note Fragrances' "White Pepper Mandarin", Costume National's "Scent Intense", and Billy Jealousy's "Illicit" - they came with a card each that displayed a brief overview, a break down of top, middle, and bass notes (the scents you smell at first, midway, and longest lasting), whether they're a day and/or night smell, how long they last, and sillage (how strongly the scent diffuses around the wearer). It gives you a good idea of what you're getting yourself into - apart from the actual smell of course.

With the help of a couple of female friends, I was able to find out that while all 3 are great, my personal favourite was Costume National, despite the trepidation I felt when seeing one of the descriptors was "patchouli", a hippie red flag. Meanwhile, the girls seemed to all like Billy Jealousy - bergamot, sandalwood, and tea.

But the best part of the site is the options for boxes. Not only is there a his and hers, but also a monthly vs seasonal. $15 per month gets you 3 scents per month, while the $20 Seasonal gets you 4 scents every 3 months - perfect for switching up your style along with your clothing (if you're into that sort of thing...).

This is a great service because it gives you a wider range to find out exactly what it is you like without having to shell out the money for a full bottle. Here's a fun fact: you know I talked about "notes" earlier? Well, when you're sampling the cologne in the store, you really only ever smell the "top notes", the smells that evaporate first.  So you could be buying an entire bottle of something that you don't even like after an hour of wear! With the sample bottles, you get an idea of what to buy. Incidentally, Scent trunk has just opened their online store where all of the colognes you could possibly receive in the mail are available to buy full-sized. There's a broad range, from $30 to $300, and you can check out additional info on each scent that catches your eye/nose. Yet another reason to try out small sizes - you could be getting a deal!

We don't have to do much as guys. The trick is to do those few necessary things, and do them well. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Hemingway Experience: The Final Days, and What I Learned

NOTE: I apologise for the massive delay in the update. Between getting things ready to pack up to leave, and hitting the ground running back home, it's been on the back burner for a while. This is a long post, but it's the rest of my stay in Panama.

Sunday, not a lot happened. Let's ignore it. I wandered. I searched for restaurants I had not yet found. Tried calling mom for Mother's Day, no answer. Monday is where the fun stuff begins. Plus, I think I deserve a day off. 

Monday, it hit me that this adventure is almost over. I was determined to take some pictures of the day to day life here. It was great looking at the city not through the eyes of a tourist, but as a man who could give directions confidently, both through Spanish and knowing the neighbourhood. I saw beautiful things in places I had walked past a dozen times or more.

I picked up a couple of souvenirs - not the things that just say PANAMA on them, gaudily. I got a small painting, and a mug from the coffee shop I had frequented so often. As I bought the art, the painter said he was having a rain sale, (3 paintings for $10) and pointed across the bay. Sure enough, the clouds loomed over the cityscape across the water, and he guessed the rain was about 5 minutes away. Well, I was too far away from the house to make it back in 5 but Finca del Mar was right around the corner. 
The first spots of rain began to fall as I stepped under their umbrellas, and I'm telling you - 5 minutes and maybe 10 seconds after his prediction, before the bartender had even greeted me, a storm came down of biblical proportions. Raindrops the size of bullets were ricocheting off every top surface and drowned out the conversation of the couple next to me. Soon, the outdoor patio floor was soaking, puddles making their way across even the floor under my feet. 20 minutes later, I ordered my second, and it was as if someone had turned the shower tap off and turned the light on. It seems I planned my visit perfectly, as the rain gets either longer or heavier with the passing of every day. 

I made my way back to the studio, the streets already steaming in the afternoon sun. Hot bricks and warm rain means within the hour, apart from the errant puddle, you'd never guess the plants had been watered. 

It was my father's birthday, so I skyped him and struggled through the patchy wifi. Promised to have a beer for him - I went and bought 6! 
On the way back, I saw Casco Bikes Peter. 

"You're still here! How have you been?"
"Yep, I leave Wednesday morning. It's been good man, I feel like this town has accepted me a little. I know way more Spanish than when I got here, I've written like crazy, and I feel like this has been the best holiday I've had in a while."
"That's great, I hope to see you again!"

"I hope so too bud."

*          *          *

My last full day in town. I decided to hunt down a final couple of places in my list. 
I grew up with ice cream. It was a big part of our town's history. Some of the best ice cream in Canada was made in our town, and my grandparents or my dad would take us regularly enough that, in this day and age, might be considered child endangerment. (I'm not complaining!) So when I heard that Casco had its own French style gelato, I knew I had to check it out. 
Trouble was, I couldn't find it. I had the address, but it seemed to elude me.
Then I walked across the street. Turns out I had walked past it almost every day, but you don't see the sign when you're walking literally right next to the wall - these sidewalks make it impossible to pass someone without stepping into the street. 

So yeah, I had ice cream for breakfast. Technically it was sorbet: mango and passionfruit, because you can't be in the tropics and order strawberry.  In a way, I'm glad I found this place on my last day. I was hooked. I'd be a fat kid for sure by the end of the trip. 
Next, Las Clementinas - finally! A surprisingly classy place, considering it's right on the line of sketchy el Chorrillo.  A final ceviche and it was worth the wait. With a passionfruit sauce, it was so tart. Incredible. And yes I had a blended drink - in my defence the menu didn't say it was blended. 

Ginger mint lemonade with Citrus vodka. Fuck it. Holiday! 

Back to Granclement - I told you I like ice cream, motherfucker - for their After 8 scoop. Good lord, so minty I'd swear I brushed my teeth. My breath was still cold 4 blocks after I finished.

As the heat of the afternoon got into full tilt, I drifted off. Awoke around 5 and took in the town for the last time from my balcony. I would certainly miss this little world of insanity, and I was just getting used to the heat. Pro tip: don't wear underwear. As if to underline my reflection, a funeral march passed right down my street. There had to have been 500 people - and a full marching band. 

By the time I was ready to head out, it was cool enough to sit outside for dinner. The air conditioning seems to always be cranked, and it's almost a shock every time you step into a building. On the way out, it's like suddenly breathing through a blanket. Puerte del Tierra has a patio right in plaza Herrera, and my last dinner in town should be more than a pizza and a beer. Steak and a pisco sour on a calm night was a great way to say goodbye to this town. 

I had found a copy of Mountain Life in my bag so I gave it to the guys at Mojitos, and met two American guys. It's amazing that, despite heavy Spanish populations in their original places, Miami and Texas, one of them didn't know a word of Spanish; the other had learned as a child but forgotten almost all of it. I knew way more Spanish than them, so I was the frigging translator!
They wanted to party, and they wanted hot bartenders. So I took them to Finca. Both of the women were working, and after only a couple of drinks, one guy went from happy drunk to "I want this pineapple" drunk. Seriously, he took the pineapple. The owner said it was ok, but I feel like that was just to keep the tourists happy. They got a taxi, I made it very clear that it didn't know them, and went back to Mojitos. It wasn't even 10pm! To be fair, they said they had been drinking all evening.
A few drinks later, and knowing I had an early morning the next day, I said my goodbyes. That's what I love about being a bartender: you have brothers and sisters all over the world. I would love to come back, and Mauricio has some big plans for the place in the next couple of years. So if I can save up, I told him I'd invest in whatever his next project is. I can't do this forever.

*          *          *

I called Alexis, my driver from the weekend, and he picked me up at the American Trade Hotel to take me to the airport. It was different this time - he asked about my family, I asked about his (he's a 49 year old grandfather!). It was like a friend was driving me to the airport, and my biggest regret of the trip was that I forgot to get a picture with him when he dropped me off until he was long gone. 

Travelling home was an experience all unto itself. My modus operandi when I fly is to fall asleep before the safety announcements come on. That way, I'm vaguely aware of us taking off but it doesn't phase me, and when I wake we're already a portion into the flight. So I took my nap, and awoke... on the tarmac still.  A mechanical failure had kept us grounded for over 90 minutes. We landed in Houston, literally at the same moment my connecting flight was taking off to Vancouver.

By this time I had made casual friends with another Canadian, headed to Victoria after Vancouver. We waited for each other at the various fuckeries of airports - baggage, customs, etc. - and they put us up in the same hotel for the night, as the next Vancouver flight was 9.15am the following morning. That was the one good thing about the delay: up until then, I was scheduled to arrive at 12.30am, with the bus leaving to Whistler at 9am. This holdup in Houston meant I at least had a safe place to sleep and shower, instead of the relatively hostile floor of an international arrivals lounge. 

The following morning was an early one - the airport shuttle was at 7am. The hotel had a "breakfast" that consisted of waffles, bananas, coffee and juice. I wasn't in the mood for pastry at 6.30 so I had the "I'm late for work Special". As we're eating, a woman who had been staying there some nights started to cause a commotion at the front desk, then turned to the tired folk (who clearly didn't want to be there in the first place) and told us all that she had been bitten by bed bugs every night since she arrived.  *shudder* I'm just saying, if you find yourself in Houston, and are forced to stay at the America's Best Value near the airport, maybe sleep in the tub.  

We finally arrive in Vancouver, and all of our delays are made up for in YVR. From landing to walking through final customs took under 45 minutes - in fact, not much more than half an hour. I said goodbye to Josh, my travelling friend (a bartender who had to work that same night), and sat out by the terminal awaiting my bus to Whistler.

What is your favourite journey?
Going home.
William F. Buckley 

It's such a shame that all world adventures have to begin and end in airports. No matter how hard they try to be individual, it's just straight lines, white walls, and ugly carpets. It's like they're trying to actively stifle inspiration. Looking through my notebook, I began to read some of my earlier entries, the first being in the summer of 2011. I remember I got this book for my birthday from a woman who no longer speaks to me, the bliss of engagement to her current partner drowning out even the wake of any memories of her ski bum experience.
What I did find was the entry just before my first holiday writings. I don't know exactly when I wrote it, because  I am never sure whether to timestamp these things, but I'd estimate it at about 2 months ago.

I realised something today. I left the house really before I had to today, thanks to my brother and his girlfriend booking a romantic trip to Hawaii and being sickening with each other. I'm all for romance, but take it down a notch, you know?
I arrive in the village, and walk past dozens of vacant-eyed people, licking their ice cream cones and absentmindedly so. Walk past somewhere that is playing moronically sugar-sweet pop music - who pays bills and listens to that crap? And who wants to listen to it on their vacation?  Everything rubbed me in exactly the way I didn't want it to. The Universe was pissing me off. 
Suddenly, I wanted to be AWAY. Away from civilisation, squeaking automatic doors and status updates on weather reports. I wanted to be miles away from everything, and I had to settle for a small island of trees between a playground, a road, and a hospital.  I couldn't not look at one of these things. In my mind, I began to identify with the old dog, who, one morning and completely out of character, bites his owner. I wanted to harm these chewing cows. Call of the Wild, I suppose. 
Of course I didn't do anything, but the desire to break out of the spoon-fed lifestyle is still there. Call me ungrateful if you want, but when even your "nature" is manmade and contrived, it doesn't scratch the itch that makes you want to start a fire and dance around it. Not without getting a ticket from an officer.

You can't go through life and not learn anything - that would be an impressive feat. Learning is important all the way through your life, and not just finding out what you want out of it - what you don't want out of it as well. When I moved to Whistler almost 10 years ago, I didn't know what was next, but I knew I didn't want an office and Casual Fridays to be "next". 

So, what have I learned on this trip?

I've learned that it doesn't matter where I live, I'm far more physically and creatively productive when I'm not there.  I don't yet know why, but that just means I have to find more "homes".

I've learned to be truly alone for far longer than before, and that "being alone" is vastly different from "being lonely". (I've also learned that I talk to myself if I go for too long without speaking to others, but that's a story for another time.)

I've learned that sometimes, fortune and serendipity can exist from time to time. Sitting down at a bar next to amazing conversation, or choosing just the right cab at the right time.

I've learned that the brain (my brain anyway) craves conversation, in whatever form. I won't presume to say I'm trilingual but my brain has sponged up enough Spanish and retained enough French that I can speak for a short time with people from literally all over the world.

I've learned that good people can show up when you need them the most. 

I've learned (or rather, it has been confirmed to me) that travel is important, and I've been sacrificing it for too long because of my comfort in existing. I aim to change that.

I've learned that, while bricks and cobbles are nice, nothing can compare to grass, dirt, and sand under my feet. 

Most importantly, I've learned that shifting away your comforts, be they physical or geographical, forces you to look at what in life makes you happy, and what brings you down. Not to act on these things is doing a great disservice - but only to yourself.   It's true that while I was away, I found something in my life that is lacking. Unearthing this Great Sadness may take some more work, but it's important that I now know that it's there. 

*          *          *

And that's that. I hope you enjoyed reading this collection. Thanks to everyone that kept up with this craziness.  I started a few projects while I was in Panama City, so if any of them come to fruition, I assure you I'll post about them.