Apples, Xanax and Days Old Shit

*8:30 pm at the campsite*

There are Amish children sitting behind me watching me drink Maple Shack Cream Ale.

We spent about twenty minutes trying to open the beer with our shitty bottle opener, before we realized that they were twist offs.

“There’s a metaphor in that,” Ben comments. “Big time metaphor in that.”

It’s been a day!

We spent the night at a little campsite in the suburbs that is basically in someone’s backyard.

And then today we headed to the city of Vancouver, Canada.

I’ve been waiting to get to this city for a long time. It’s always had an appeal to me, for no real reason. Just vibes.

And today’s assessment of the city had no real direction either, just vibes.

But the vibes were good.

We read the wikipedia pages about the different parts of Vancouver, trying to figure out where to go. The main drag, SoMa, advertised on its Wikipedia page “relaxed gentrification.”

We decided to go to Gastown, the slightly rougher part of town, that had resisted gentrification and was known for its riots and protests.

I woke up this morning with a racing heart and a restless mind after attempting to sleep for twelve hours. Eating breakfast and planning our day, I decided I had had enough of this shit. I hadn’t really felt anxiety this whole trip, even with all of the shit we had been through.

“No one ever said this trip was going to be a joyride.”

I wasn’t going to wrestle with it today.

The fortune on my teabag said, “The relaxed mind is the creative mind.”

Once we got to the city I popped a xanax, and started to feel really, really good.

So good that I didn’t really give a shit about finding wifi. I didn’t give a shit about writing a blog post. I didn’t give a shit about reading and staying up to date on the news. I didn’t give a shit about where we were going to stay the next night. I didn’t give a shit about the to do list I had painstakingly laid out the night before. I didn’t give a shit about anything. And it was beautiful. And new.

Vancouver is a calm, relaxed, quaint big city. Definite European vibes, and I felt at home. Cars stop for pedestrians, and drivers point their hands out the window to the spot they are taking in front of you on the road. European style tight pants and trendy jackets. Dark and earthy tones. Artsy political graffiti.

I found a nice little park in the center of the city, snagged a seat under the shade of a tree, and settled in to journal for myself, and read my everything book for inspiration. Breeze blowing over me. Fearless and free travelers to my left and right. Backpacks, beards and bandannas.

I cut my hair last night. In the campsite bathroom, without a mirror. I still don’t know what the back of my head looks like. I think it might look alright, though. Everyone thought I was a Vancouver local today. And everyone here has great hair.

I’m becoming part of the world again. Not becoming it, but adding my piece to it.

There was a little old man playing flute on the opposite end of the park, and there was a woman spilling water on the ground to help the thirsty Canadian geese populating the area.

A farmer’s market is popping up on my right, and there is a little old woman demanding information about the farmer’s market from me.

“I don’t know. I’m just here for the day,” I explain, languidly looking up from my journal.

She thinks I’m keeping things from her, though. And stares into my eyes, repeating her question again and again.

I take a drink of the free coffee I acquired at the campsite this morning, and smile at her. “I really don’t know.”

People are so strong. I write in my journal in my zen state. High heels at a farmer’s market? WHY? Nobody’s watching me. And if they are, you’re welcome. I write as I begin to lounge on the bench and make it my home.

I want to move to Vancouver. It’s like Europe, but not quite as far away. Beautiful old European style downtown with the majestic haze of major mountains as a backdrop.

Buzz cut except for the bun atop his head, baggy hippie clothes with a peace oriented necklace and a smile to break your silence or die trying. I notice him down the road, and as I walk past him, he’s walking straight into me.

“I’m going to rap for you, okay?” He asks as he twirls his handlebar mustache.

He reminds me exactly of my friend Izzy. Same outgoing, artistic, wicked intelligent and go with the flow style.

“Okay…” I think, wondering what kind of story this will make…

*I realize now that writing is quite possibly the only way that I can convince myself to engage in real life situations. Confrontations with strangers don’t seem as terrifying when I can use it for writing later, right?

“I can sense some hesitation and embarrassment. Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine,” he reassures me with his smile. My face is definitely bright red and it’s not changing color anytime soon. I watch the other passers by on the sidewalk, they’re wondering what’s happening here as well, but not going to come and save me.

He starts to spit lyrics, slapping his chest with one hand and his leg with the other. He’s pretty great. And I don’t want to be conned into buying a CD on the street, but I am conned into it. I give him five bucks, and I receive twelve tracks of great hip hop lyrics that I listen to on the way home.

“You’re from Vancouver, huh?” he asks me after he finishes his lyrics. I tell him I’m actually from Kansas.

“No way. I play at the Riot Room all the tiiiiiiiimmmme.”

The Riot Room is a music venue/bar in Westport in Kansas City. Turns out this guy is from Arkansas, from a town just three hours away from KC. He’s living in Seattle now, and tells me to call this number on his card. “You can stay for 1-5 days at my place in Seattle, just let me know. I live in Chinatown.”

I tell him that he can stay at my place in Kansas City next time he plays a show there, and he tells me that would be very helpful.

He asks what I do, and I tell him I’m a writer. I’m traveling for some material.

He tells me that’s what he’s up to, as well. And have you ever talked to prostitutes before? He drove a prostitute around in his car for months, built a character study on her. She turned out to be his good friend.

“How do you go about that? How do you rap/write about people you know and care about?”

“That’s where character art comes in. You make them into new people. You take what you’ve learned, and you give them a new face and form.”

He holds his hand up for a high five, but then goes in for a hug.

What a hippie.

This entire interaction lasted only about three minutes, but was fascinating and colorful and one of those moments when you feel truly alive. And you’re rolling your eyes at it a bit, but you’re also enjoying the fuck out of it.

I tell my brother later in the car, “I should have just bought him a beer in exchange for the CD, and heard his story out. I need to learn to be more courageous.”

“That’s what all your stories are about though, Anne. Running away. You are good at letting things die.”

Back in the park as I’m zenning out, a man and woman walk through. The man is yelling at the woman, and she is just taking it. In my xanax state, I write in my journal with frustration.

No man or woman or person is ever going to yell at me, or talk to me like that. I know how to Run. I haven’t got it all figured out yet, but I know how to Run. Making it up as I go. On vibes and strength. On fear and intrigue. Opportunity.

I want to go to Morocco.

Later, I’m walking further into Gastown. A man in a t-shirt picturing cats riding atop horses. Many women in corsets showing off bodies of tattoos. Many people huddled on street corners hiding what they are doing with their hands and face.

It’s an international city. Malleable. French Canadian family sitting next to me and a British server at the Italian restaurant. Salad, bread, pasta, coffee, spumoni.

In contrast, people begging on the streets with stories and communities.

There’s this style of roughing it in Vancouver, along with European classy ease.

“So you’re saying playing D&D has the same efficacy and value as reading up on anarchy?” my brother asks, a bit too loudly.

“Value is meaningless. Let’s just eat the gelato.”

“It’s all fantasy?”

“Ideals.”

Hodgepodge.

Want to explore it more.

Monday night after I left the cafe in Seattle, I went back to the car to grab some food.

A few guys drive past, “You going to move the car?”

“No, sorry.”

And then, just as I’m about to leave, this man wanders past on foot.

“You going to move your car anytime soon?”

“No, sorry, man.”

“Oh, that’s okay.” He walks away.

Then he walks back.

“I’ve got car wash material in this bag. If I cleaned your window, would you be able to give me two dollars for bus fare?”

I tell him my window doesn’t need washed, but how much is the bus fare?

He says thank you, and then proceeds to compliment my hair.

“I just LOOOooVE your hair. I used to be a hairdresser. Went to school for it.” He’s very flamboyant, and continues to talk to me about hairstyles as I slowly walk away.

My hands are full of soap, toothpaste and toothbrush. I walk into the Amtrack station to use their bathroom as a free mini shower, and am greeted by security.

“Are you an Amtrack customer?”
“No.” I admit, owning the fact that I have a toothbrush and a bar of soap in hand.

“Okay. They’re really big sticklers about that here…”

“That’s fine… I’ll just go…” I say. I can find another bathroom somewhere else, easy.

The security guard has blood red eyes, and an accent I can’t place.

“No. You’re fine. There’s no one in there. You can go.”

I do, but I feel uncomfortable doing it. There’s something about that guard.

Walking back out into the world, I’m greeted by “hairstyle” again, who is very sweet, but I don’t know this city. So I make sure that that conversation ends. This is a strange night.

I walk over to sit on the stairs, and make a phone call.

There’s a person who walks over and sits down to play guitar near me, and I walk away to continue my phone conversation in private.

That guitar player was the best goddamn thing in that city, though. Beautiful, calm music.

“You alright?” the security guard calls from the bottom of the stairs.

I’m talking on the phone, so I wave him away. He persists in calling after me until I say, “Yes. I’m fine, thank you.”

Must look really lost in this big North West city tonight.

We end up spending the night in Seattle with Regina, and then hit the road for Canada in the morning. Lisa and Regina gave us some splurge money, and we are eternally grateful to them for welcoming us into their lives. And can’t wait to see them and their friends again. x

Yesterday morning we got some laundry done in Seattle, snagged envelopes from a liquor store, went to a sandwich shop for lunch, then, feeling good, I decided to grab coffee for the road to Canada.

The baristas at the cafe I landed in were putting up with shit from the lady in line before me. She was really patronizing, and telling them to “Be nice!”

I’m smiling at the baristas from the line, because I realize what an asshole this woman is being. And what a good effort they’re putting in to be decent human beings to her. When I go to pay for my coffee, this charismatic boy and girl wave away my money. Free coffee and smiles for the road. “You’re good.”

I came back to the car to find my brother eating ice cream for breakfast. I start the car, scramble to organize myself, and then we pull out on I-5.

Driving into Canada yesterday, maddeningly peaceful. Trees trimmed, neighborhoods mellow, people quiet and unassuming, speed bumps every ten feet. We’re listening to Lady Gaga on a Victoria radio station.

“Liu ruined Canada for me,” I state as we drive past border patrol. “Fucking Lui…”

None of the old tricks worked yesterday. None of the smiles, not the reassuring tones of voice, none of the attempts at confident answers about my own life. Border security was stone cold. Unmovable. And not trusting us one bit.

We have to pull the car over and park it. We have to get out of the car and go inside. We have to be interrogated together, and then one by one.

Ben goes first, and then it’s my turn.

I go back to talk to Lui as he calls my name, another security guard standing on my right so I can’t make a dash for it.

He asks me about my drug history.

“You smoke marijuana?”

“No.”

“But you have in the past, right? Right?”

“Yeah, I have…”

“When was the last time? Five days ago? A week?”

“Not since college, man. Like three or four years ago.”

“You know we’re not just looking for a little bit of weed, right? We’re looking for these big shipments of hard drugs that go over the border. You don’t have anything besides weed, do you?”

“Nah, man,” I say, leaning on the table to my right.

“Please don’t lean on the table,” Liu states abruptly. “It makes me very uncomfortable.”

“Oh. Sorry, whatever, man.” I can’t help laughing a little bit. I feel like I’m about to be arrested internationally, and I can’t help but smile at the absurdity.

“Can I ask you why you’ve picked us to check up on in particular?” I say, looking around. What are they concerned about with us?

“The drug cartels. If you were in charge of a drug operation, you wouldn’t transport it yourself, would you? Who would you send?” Rui pauses for me to answer, and obviously not wanting to answer that question, I just look at him.

“Who would you send?” Lui asks again.

I don’t answer.

“How much longer do you think this is going to take?”

“You would send someone that looked like you, wouldn’t you? Someone who was without a job, who was just “going on a camping trip.”

Fucking LUI. I think.

“I’m going to go check your car now.”

Alright, you fucking go ahead, Lui, I think. Beginning to panic. He’s actually made me think that I have something to feel guilty about.

“How long do you think this is all going to take?”

“I’m not going to answer that question, am I? Because you’re going to get angry at me.”

In the end, they just had to throw out our apples.

*10 pm at night at the campsite at the end of this blog post.

They’re emptying their RV shit storm right by the picnic tables. I am appalled. I can’t finish my peanuts or my beer now.

“Goodnight! Dream of my days old shit!”

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