Archive for October, 2013

You know you’ve been away too long when going home feels…weird. Trish and I have a home in Vancouver BC Canada, we go there sometimes, but not very often. You’d think we’d have a greater attachment to the place after so many years of struggling to pay for it ( Vancouver has the most expensive real estate on the planet) and raising a family there. Instead we left to recapture our lives. I feel a rare twinge of nostalgia and little remorse for having left that turbid and restricting world behind. My past is like a time capsule trailing  at the tail end of a drifting spidery thread. I guess old memories never die….they just stalk you.

Almost two years ago we moved from Bangkok to Dallas Texas. Our immersion in Thai culture was so deep and intense that leaving felt as if we were tearing ourselves away from something we loved completely. Now, after all this time in Texas we have been accepted as locals. Texas is a transient culture… everyone is welcomed here. It  feels like home. When we recently revisited Vancouver, it was a strange and distant land….nothing was familiar . Like Jim Morrison wrote, “people are strange, when you’re a stranger”.

I wrote a novel some years ago titled ‘The Revenant’, about a man who tries but fails to reconcile with his past as he spirals towards death with his last breath of life. There is an old saying that goes “you can’t go back’…and whoever coined that expression was speaking from experience. A revenant  is a person returning home to a population that gave him up as either lost or dead. I wondered about that this morning, not for the first time, ‘have I taken a step too far….have I moved beyond the point of no return’?  And BTW…Happy Halloween.

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I spent a week in what is in my opinion the most livable city in Canada, Victoria. Two hours of ferry riding  through a raft of broken islands and a short drive or twenty minutes by float plane and you’re in a different world. City fathers over generations have done a fantastic job of preserving the nineteenth century character of the provincial capital. Victoria is primarily a university city and seat of government, at the same time young and affluent with students and richly paid civic servants. Brick architecture reflects a British influence. Victoria is no secret but handles the tourist industry well. Restaurants and cafe’s are numerous. Friendly individually owned shops line the streets as opposed to the faceless chain stores of many cities. A very pleasant place, indeed.

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– a dancer practices for a performance in an open square.

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find clubs packed with young students partying.

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-lots of period architecture

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– Chinatown has  a lot of good restaurants and stores.

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– lots of cool little cafe’s to hang out in when it drizzles.

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– sights and sounds of an unhurried place.

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– really different street art found unexpectedly.

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– West Olson, photographer and my local guide through Fan Tan Alley.

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– he took me to some cool cafes….where the owners encourage you to stay and hang.

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– intimate shoppes hidden down shady alley ways.

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– fantastic natural light for a new head shot.

Texas has affected me in many ways, but most notably in the art of civility. Trish and were initially taken aback at how friendly and complimentary people were generally in Texas. Simple conversations between Texans begin with mutual compliments. Whatever the circumstance people will compliment your hairstyle, clothing, shoes, eye color, personal style or whatever as a way to begin a conversation or  transaction. It’s really endearing.

Coming back to Vancouver I realized I was doing the same as I would in Dallas….be overtly friendly with the people I encountered. The Texan culture is egalitarian. It doesn’t matter what your social position or employment status, people acknowledge one another with a compliment…”I like your hair”…or some similar greeting. And that’s where we made our discovery….that compliments are how Texans say hello. Whether Wallmart or a bank… people greet you on a personal level as equals….without the jealous or obvious envy and covetousness  we experience in uber materialistic  ‘futterneid’ ( German for the envy of another’s possessions)  Vancouver. I have noticed that by practicing this complimentary style I have shocked many Vancouverites out of their downcast closeted shell and they visibly brightened….. as if they haven’t had a kind word or compliment for a very long time. It’s obvious to me that people in Vancouver are starving for civility.

As I said, Texas is an egalitarian culture, perhaps because they have a history of overcoming common hardships. Perhaps it’s because people haven’t been suppressed into isolating and tension creating ethnic ghetto’s by short sighted political mavins as is the case in Vancouver. But this much is true…the mood among people in Texas is always polite and positive and living there is especially refreshing for a transplant Vancouverite accustomed to the surly rain soaked masses of the left coast. There is no doubt in my mind that the friendly relations people enjoy in Texas is a by-product of growing up in an atmosphere of common courtesy… ( it’s always Miss, Ma’am and Sir) Vancouver could learn a life lesson from Texas… and maybe someday lose the tag as being unfriendly and uncivil.

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