Accosted

May. 7th, 2010 04:39 pm
garran: (Default)
Yesterday I turned in my application to teach my class, a day early for luck. I'm not sure what I'll do if it gets turned down after all this work.

(Edit: At the request of the commentariat, I'll clarify that the rest of this entry has nothing to do with transgressive sexuality in science fiction.)

On my way home I was climbing up this back lane which is one of the ways up the hill to my house, and a boy emerged from the bushes ahead of me, holding a hollow stick about the right size to be his sword. He was nine or ten, white, blond. He said something like, "Hold it!", but I wasn't sure whether he was talking to me; he might just be playing. As I got closer, though, he watched me, reaching back with his other hand to pick up another stick of similar length, and moved to block my path.

"Are you challenging me?" I asked, as I drew level with him. "Yes!" he said. So I took the stick he was holding out closest to me and went vaguely en garde.

I had reach, a little bit of decade-old fencing training, and quickly claimed the higher ground. He was bolder, more reckless, and willing to hit at my stick harder and more often. He knocked the tip off of it early, showing me that I couldn't just play defensively and expect my weapon to survive for long. I don't know what would have happened if things had gone steadily against me; he might have been willing to accept my surrender, or I may have had to run for it. In the event, though, I got in a lucky blow and shortened his stick by half, forcing him to close, and shortly thereafter I saw an opening and was able to jab him decisively in the belly.

He made a sound of pain, and we put up. "Are you all right?" I said.

"No," he said, in a voice reflective and resigned. "I'm dead."

I nodded, shrugged. "You were a worthy opponent," I said, since it seemed like the thing to say. Then I cast my weapon aside, turned, and hurried up the hill, because I really needed to go to the bathroom.
garran: (Default)
At the Cambie B-line stop today there was a man shouting in to the new skytrain station, probably, I thought, at the transit cops checking people's fare there. "There is no law in December!" he shouted. Was it a prophecy? It's not December yet, but I'll post my novels anyway.
CJ Cherryh, Precursor
CJ Cherryh, Defender
Elizabeth Bear, All the Windwracked Stars
CJ Cherryh, Explorer
I like the way that the focal and heroic action of the Foreigner series is diplomatic negotiation rather than violent conflict.

There was a talkative, raspy-voiced homeless woman on another of my buses to whom the other passengers seemed more hostile than is normal in that situation. That character is usually male in my experience, so I wonder if it was a gender thing? (Another hypothesis: the Olympics are exacerbating class tension. (Is it still legal to say that on the internet? TOPICAL HUMOUR.) But that's been going on for a while.) At any rate, I felt bad for her. There were these three teenagers in particular (though it wasn't just them) who started loudly making jokes about her presumed drug habit; they also spent a while imitating a broad Indian accent, which I think was unrelated. Stay classy, male teenagers.

Those Koodo gingerbread person ads progressed really quickly to autocannibalism! It's kind of the obvious place to go, but I wasn't really sure they would.

I got distracted while I was composing this, so then it became December after all.

P.S. I turned 26! A while ago, I mean. Now I must continue writing one million papers.
garran: (Default)
Today on the bus I was sitting between two people who, on noticing one another, started a conversation over my head. The topic of discussion made its way around to a mutual friend who had recently had a wild birthday party, and the difficulties she'd had functioning the next day, and one of them was reminded of a thing that had troubled him. He said something like, "Yeah, I was thinking about that the other day. Like, the day after [our friend's] birthday is really the first day she's 22... And there's the day after New Year's... Every time you start a new year, you're hung over. It almost doesn't make sense!"

It was that 'almost' that made me want to write it down. He was trying so hard to question his paradigm, but he just couldn't quite get removed enough to manage it! So it is so often with us all.

In February I read:
Cory Doctorow, Little Brother
garran: (Default)
Coming home from UBC, I took the 99 to Broadway [edit: Broadway and Granville, that is] and then the 17 downtown (which isn't as weird as it might seem, since the 99 is fast enough that I caught a significantly earlier 17 than I would have if I'd taken it from school in the first place). On the 17 I sat next to a slim black woman in her forties; on her other side, sitting forward, instead of sideways like us, because he was at the very back of the bus, was a young asian man with 80s rock star hair, and on our way downtown the two of them had a conversation. These are only excerpts, as filtered through my imperfect recollection.

He was from China; he had been here in Vancouver about a month. She had been here for seventeen years, but he didn't hear her say so, because he was carrying on one of his own thoughts from before at the same time. He had recently graduated from high school, and was here, apparently, preparing to go to UBC.

"Do you like your country?" she asked. "What?" "Do you... Do you like China? Is China good?" "Oh. Yes!" "Ha ha, that's good. Are you -- " "China is cool!"

"How long have you been here?" he said, because he had not heard her before. "Oh, a long time," she said. "Twenty years?" "No, no. Seventeen years!" "Ahh. Where are you from?" "Ethiopia." "Ethi...?" "Ethiopia. East Africa. You know, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt..." "Ahh. Ethiopia. Like, in the Olympics!" "Yes, yes, that's right." "Africa." "Yes. Not West Africa, though! That's, that's Africa. Afro-America. No. I am from East Africa."

She was happy to be living here; she thought that he would like it, too. "It is nice here. Very, very beautiful. Friendly. Peace, peace, lots of peace." "The prisons are nice," he said. Prisons? Was he making fun of her? "Eh?" "The prisons are nice." But she took it in stride. "Yes, yes. Peace everywhere. It is good. Not so much of that war and fighting. In East Africa, Ethiopia sometimes, phwoo, oh my God!"

"Do you believe in Jesus?" "No," he said. "No? What do you believe in?" "I am... Not religious." "No? Oh my God, oh my God!" she laughed. "So you are just like, woo!" and she made an expansive gesture with her arms, as though indicating a person scattering in all directions. "Yes, that is me." "Here, here, I have something for you." She opened her purse, and removed some little cards with religious scenes printed on them. He took a couple. "Ah. Jesus," he said, cautiously identifying the main figure in the picture. "Yes. These are for you. Keep them with you. The story on the back of that one is very nice. It's good. Keep them in your purse."

"I like Korean food," she said. "You like Korean food?" he repeated. "Yes, I like Korean food, and Japan food. Chinese food, I have never tried that. No one ever takes me to it! But many of my friends are Korean." "I really like Japanese food," he said. "You do? I like it, too. I would like to try Chinese food. I hear that it is very hot. I like that." "Yes, I like Japanese food. But I love my country!"

Hunted

Jul. 4th, 2006 01:57 am
garran: (Default)
Since her birthday party (around the beginning of June), my sister has had a couple of helium balloons hanging around the ceiling of her bedroom. They're the sort that is a kind of flattened shape, rather than the more traditional rounded one, and both have happy face motifs; one has a whole crowd of faces, and the other, the one I'm concerned with today, has just one large one on each side, bordered by generic busy party colours. Until today, they've seemed quite content to stay there, mostly motionless, very slowly deflating.

Tonight I was heading back up to the kitchen after briefly being downstairs -- I was going back to prepare myself some iced cream, if you must know, since right now we have the unusual luxury of having both iced cream and waffle cones in the house -- and that balloon was there, hanging driftily about the living room landing, at right about my eye level. "That's kind of creepy," I said, but, since I wasn't expecting a reply and was expecting shortly to eat iced cream, continued upstairs without much further consideration.

Perhaps thirty seconds or a minute later, I glanced over in that direction and saw that it was climbing the stairs. Well, okay: to be accurate, it was drifting up the stairs. Slowly cresting the stairs; I could already see its eyes and all its smile. When I saw it on the landing I could have sworn that it wasn't perceptibly in much motion at all, but now it clearly had a firm momentum in my direction.

I hesitated, and went over, and grasped it by its tassle, and led it back down to my sister's room. It made no overtly hostile motions; its expression remained unperturbed. Her door was shut, and she hadn't noticed that it was gone. She says that it got out before, though, earlier today; the dog was barking at it.

I'm really not sure we can trust that balloon.
garran: (Default)
This keyboard is wrestling me for control; the button that turns on the katakana is very easy to hit in place of the space bar. Also, I cannot find the apostrophe, so I suppose that I will have to avoid contractions or possessives.

I have been in Kyoto, which for years has been at the top of my list of places to visit that I never yet had, for two full days now. I want to talk about that, but it is difficult to figure out how. There is so much that is just experience; I cannot break it down into words yet. It is, as prophesized, very likely the most beautiful place I have ever been.

Our temple schedule has been very intense. We visited something like six yesterday, and passed countless more as we walked between them. By the end of the day, our eyes were glazed and our legs sore (I personally was also dehydrated). Today we did less, and did more bussing than walking, but my legs were already primed to soreness. I did see the famous rock garden at Ryoanji, which surprised me by being beautiful, not in an abstract or intellectual way but in a very accessibly visceral one. It really does look like islands.

There are a lot of Japan-things, most of which are what you would expect. They have a mascot for everything, down to the garbage cans, which display proudly on the sides a pair of egg people whose greatest joy is apparently to sweep up litter. Schoolchildren, especially girls, wave and shout, Harro! and, See you! (I cannot find the quotation marks, either.) The vast majority of written or spoken warnings and advisories I cannot understand. English shows up in strange and whimsical ways, often grammatical, or almost so, but clearly constructed from the outside. When I hear it, I fall naturally back into my pattern of unconscious comprehension, before recalling with a shock that it is not normal here.

Last night a bunch of us went out for dinner at a restaurant with a vast menu full of tiny pictures that we could not really interpret. (Everyone but me was also going out drinking, but, surprisingly, I did not mind this. I have discovered that if I like someone, there is a good chance that I will enjoy their company even drunk. They get clumsier and inappropriately loud, and laugh at stupid things, and repeat their jokes in case you did not hear, so it is kind of like they all turn into me.) Some of our number had rudimentary or even complex Japanese, but this did not much help; we got into a series of strange and remarkable misunderstandings, which included accidentally ordering three dishes and spending about five minutes cycling through the same dialogue as we tried to indicate that crab was okay. They kept trading out for serving staff who were slightly better adept at English (after the first lady, who tried, just like anyone else dealing with a foreigner, shouting slowly at us in her native tongue); finally we ended up with a guy who asked where we were from.

Vancouver? He had been there. I like (he said) winter sports, and then he turned and did this strange illustrative bum-wiggle, and left. This, for me, was the last straw, and I laughed confused and helplessly for a very long time.

There were more misadventures, before the meal was over, but now I need to get off because a lot of people are waiting, and I have been on way too long. I will try to write more later.
garran: (Default)
The air is nice. It's spring.

Today I found myself in line at a Wendy's behind Kurt Preinsperg, one of the (stranger) philosophy professors at Langara. I suspected that he was himself as I listened to him order; when he turned around, I confirmed it, and so (seeing an answering recognition in his face) I smiled and raised my hand in greeting.

"Hi, how are you?" he said, and turned and walked away very quickly.
garran: (Default)
There was this fellow sitting on the bus this morning, perhaps in his late twenties, short-haired, sharp-faced, in a rumpled suit; I'm not very good at gauging these things by accent and complexion, but I think that he was somehow middle eastern. At one point he took out a large wad of money, and as he began to sort through it, a loonie fell to the ground. He picked it up, dropped it again, and leaned to pick it up again. At this point I guess I turned away for a while; somehow it followed that he managed to come to be sitting on the loonie, and unable to find it, until a woman sitting across from him helpfully pointed out that he might find it if he stood up.

He did so, and then, perhaps by way of embarrassed explanation, he tried to start a conversation with the woman. Unfortunately, she clearly found his accent impenetrable. The exchange went something like this:

"I am not from British Columbia. I am visitor here."

"Mm?"

"I am visitor to your city. [Something else that I couldn't quite make out]"

"What?"

"I am from capital of Canada. House of Commons, you understand that?"

"What?"

"House of Commons!"

And he scowled and turned pointedly away from her, just as though he were the one who had just been subjected to an obnoxious tourist. After a minute or two of sitting like that, twisted toward the front of the bus, he (checked his pockets suspiciously to make sure he had all his change and) went up and asked the bus driver if the latter could "let him off" at Burrard and Georgia (I think he also said something about an 'embassy', but I'm not sure what). The bus driver assured him that this would be in keeping with the general practise. Then the fellow came back up the aisle and paused to announce to all of us, in an expansive way,

"I am from capital of Canada! House of Commons!"

It was about this point that I began naturally to suspect that the man was actually some sort of fantastically inept spy, who had chosen for his cover story citizenship of a city whose name he actually didn't know. I listened with fascination as he proceeded to the back doors and began to talk loudly on his cell phone, but all I could gather was that he was talking about a plane trip he planned soon to take. Astonished murmurs regarding the fellow swelled between my fellow passengers; eventually, we reached Burrard, and he got off as promised.

The next stop was mine; as I got up to go to the door, I could have sworn I saw the woman he'd been talking to speaking, quietly, into her iPod. So I guess she was also a spy. I'll bet her side is winning.

The buses may or may not be shut down tomorrow, though at least one of my classes will be going ahead despite the prospective teachers' strike. I guess we'll see if I can go in.
garran: (Default)
The man sitting in front of me on the 240 had (a thoughtful demeanor and a bald spot and) an instructional pamphlet for voters in the upcoming provincial election; when I next looked ahead, he had replaced it with a farsi newspaper. I thought about bilingualism, and what it must be like to be able to just switch between systems of meaning that way. I wondered if he found one easier to read.

Later, the Main bus paused for a while next to where a young man was leaning up against a wall, in a very "disaffected youth" pose, sort of British punk rock, and archetypical enough that I wondered if he'd cultivated it. Standing close in front of him was a girl with red ponytails, and after I'd watched them talk for a little bit, there was an interplay: she reached out and gave him a gentle punch to the chest, clearly just an excuse to establish contact; and he brought his own hand up to rest on her upper arm; and she leaned slowly but inexorably forward to rest her head on his chest for a moment - just a moment, perhaps two seconds, before she came back up again, because it had awkwardly dislocated her baseball cap.

The Main bus stopped again later, this time at a stoplight, and a japanese girl on the street corner smiled hugely and waved apparently right at me. After a long moment, I smiled hesitantly back, although I can only assume that she was actually looking at someone else, seated nearby; she had an air of assumed familiarity, and I'd never seen her before. On the pole next to her was a flyer for a show featuring "the Hounds of Buskerville", and, from Nanaimo, "the Kiltlifters".

My Asian Mythology teacher told us a story about the turtles who live in the pond outside Langara, but all I ever see is ducks.

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Andy H.

February 2013

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