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Monday, April 9, 2012

High Streets, Best Sellers, and All Night Parties

For those of you unaware, I am in England. I'm visiting family but there is definitely something that I had forgotten about. That is, the ubiquitous commercial shopping zone, or the "high street." Why ubiquitous? For starters, every town (almost every neighbourhood) has one, and it consists of the same businesses: a pharmacy (Boots), a coffee chain (though not Starbucks; the cafe du mode is Costa) and a smattering of interchangeable department stores (Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, and so forth) with a couple of 'greasy spoon' diner/cafeterias, usually named something agreeably twee like Auntie Mae's Kitchen (really, who has an aunt Mae except Spider-Man?), a dodgy-as-shit pub called The Old Shield or Broadmoors, and so forth. You could be dropped, blindfolded, out of a helicopter into the centre of one of these pedestrianised areas, and unless you had been there before, you would have no idea where in England you were without asking someone. It's cookie cutter
The reason I bring this up, besides the obvious globalisation/capitalist-ish nature (something that could be discussed at exceeding length), is the fact that these streets seem to attract the worst group of people in the country. The homeless, the crazy/misunderstood, teen gangs (active only at night) and trashy moms with 4 bratty kids in tow, another very much on the way, and a cigarette in her hand (this is something I actually witnessed this week). How does this apparent draw to the city centre become such a haven for the fringe groups of society? It's certainly not anywhere I would choose to be on certain nights, because I am fatally allergic to knives. (Just the pointy bit; I can still put peanut butter on toast.)
Why don't the chains do something - after all, it's their windows being graffitied and urinated on, their good name sullied by back-alley violence and drunken shenanigans (something I am sure you know I am not averse to, but come on!) Surely they could put up some money toward a countrywide task force, posted in these roads to deter the "problem citizens". I don't know. I just tend to forget about these things until I come back to England. (At least my mom has moved; at the old house, I would never leave because of our proximity to one of the roughest - and ugliest - boroughs in Portsmouth, which is really saying something!)

While I'm over here, I started reading the Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Yes, I started because the movies came out, no, I don't have any intention of seeing the movies until the books are completed. Yes I am a bandwagonner; no, I don't care. This is set to be the next big - no, HUGE thing to happen to the literary world, and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss out. I put so much stock in this and not, say, the Twilight "series", for one simple reason...

There is not enough space on the internet, nor time in my life to express my abject indifference to Stephanie Meyer's "contribution" to literature. Never mind that vampires don't "glitter" in the sun, they fucking die, according to - literally - every other pop culture reference, but Meyer (I know I spelled it wrong, and if that's the biggest inaccuracy you can find with MY writing, then read on) is apparently incapable of writing prose that is, for want of a better word, "good".
Exhibit A: this tumblr site chronicling so many, many things wrong with Twilight, from redundant narrative, to plot holes like the chick's "monthly gift" being tougher to deal with for a "vampire" than an actual injury on her, and so on. But how do I know that the Hunger Games Trilogy will be better? Because I've only read the first 20-odd pages (the free version on Kobo) and I already care about the characters and the story that has emerged. If you've read it, the inhabitants of District 12 are just getting to the Main Square in anticipation of the name draw for the Reaping. In that single sentence, I've admitted more knowledge about the plot than I even care about with Twilight, some love story analogy that falls at the first hurdle. I'm BUYING a Kindle to read the rest of the HG books.

Man, that felt good to get off my chest.

OH! And Telus Fest, possibly the last one ever, starts this Friday, the day after I return to Whistler. I might, maybe, possibly, have a press pass for the whole shebang (through MVRemix, the music website I write for). So if that happens, I'm gonna be one busy son of a bitch, the nights I'm not working. I'll be writing about the shows I can get to for them, but if I can get to the Fashion show, the Photographer's showdown and so forth, I'll do my best for you here. Check out the lineup here.

Because sleep is for May.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Signs the Future is Bright

Signs the future is Bright

Last week, I worked as a volunteer for a new annual Family Day for Whistler Blackcomb, sponsored by Nintendo. My station was the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association, and their event was a demonstration on how these highly intelligent dogs are able to find people buried in an avalanche faster than the most modern technology we as humans can use.
One lucky kid was picked from the audience and “buried” in one of 3 snow caves, with the help of a ski patroller (we’ll call him Andy). While Jen, the host, explained what was going on, answered questions, and distracted her dog from seeing where the kid was hidden, Andy buried him and came back to the group. Anyway, the dog found him, we all cheered, and Jen thanked everyone for coming to see the show. Just then, the child tapped Jen and said he had seen Andy drop $10 while he was digging, and could she give it back to him please?
Later that day, at work, 2 sisters came into my restaurant and sat at the bar. They were my only customers, the older about 13, the younger about 10 or 11, and I was able to carry on a distinguished conversation with them while Shrek played on the tv (I had actually put it on before the kids got there). While the younger didn’t talk much – I suspect she was just shy – I really enjoyed meeting these Portland kids, they restored my faith in the future of humanity. I bet they listen to Led Zeppelin.
Then last night, again at my restaurant, was a quiet one for service (as Mondays are wont to be) when a 13-top (that is, 13 people in the party) walked in – 6 adults, 7 kids, 0 reservation. At first I’ll confess I was filled with dread ; groups can be a hassle; that’s where the auto gratuity was borne of. There’s no [point running around for a big tables every whim only to get stiffed on a huge bill (this table’s was almost $450, and they didn’t even have dessert). Furthermore, kids can be bratty, and taking care of 7 of them no matter how temporarily, makes me feel like I need a teacher’s diploma.
Fortunately, they were all fantastic kids. The family was from Mexico and the kids spoke better English than I speak Spanish. Every time I filled their water glasses, brought them their pop or dinner I was greeted with 7 thank-yous. I even helped them with a game of Hangman – in English – when the girl didn’t know how to spell her word. They were even sitting at a separate table, something I think all three parties enjoyed (including myself). The adults were just as good, but you don’t get a gold star for doing what you’re supposed to.
Just makes me think that maybe this world won’t descend into anarchy when people still remember to say please and thank you.