Posts Tagged ‘cars’

Argghhh… I flew into Vancouver Canada last night and guess what….pouring rain and freezing cold…. as always. I knew what I would be getting into…after the Texas sunshine this dreary berg seems like hell on earth. We woke up this morning to dark grey skies and pounding rain on the windows….definatley not sexy. Luckily I only have to stay here 12 days. I regret leaving Dallas… this is the best time of year for weather ( under 100 degrees is better for pool time believe it or not) …and the skies are pristine blue.

Landing in Vancouver, if you have to rent a car, it’s like a soviet nightmare from fifty years ago. The facilities at YVR are  antiquated, disorganized and unfriendly . Luggage carts seem to have been banished from the arrivals facility. There is no car rental kiosks inside the airport, you have to take your luggage and walk down a dark exit ramp with sketchy sidewalks in the rain…and there are no signs btw. The city itself feels loathsome and creepy. People present themselves as anal and self-conscious.

Our Texan suntans attracted jealous glares rather than smiles. Our rental rep in Vancouver, once we found them underneath a parking garage some ways away,  accused Dallas of being ‘focused on customer service’…as part of his explanation as to why the service was so poor…as if that were a dirty trick played on Vancouver’s argumentative and ‘a-hole’ style of receiving guests. There is no comparison between the service we get at DFW compared to YVR….night and day…..apples and rotten fruit.

OK…Texans are overly polite as a culture…I get that. In fact they are so friendly, welcoming, receptive and complimentary that a Vancouverite is shocked by the initial experience of open handed civility. Coming from the critical and covetous culture of Vancouver…the friendliness and high level of customer service in Texas is at first overwhelming. Having to fly into Vancouver on business is like getting a rectal exam….you want to get it over with and get out.

Wayne 2

I’m living in one of the most under appreciated and most vilified places by foreign ( non Texan) media  the United States and loving it. Most days  we feel as if we have the place to ourselves and couldn’t be happier. The number of tourists in some  global hotspots has depreciated the quality of  traveling there….. not so in Texas.  There is so much to do here , spread out over such a huge area that crowds ( except for sports venues) are rare. The cost of living is extremely low compared to most other places I have been in the developed world and that really takes the bite out of world class travel.

We chose Fort Worth for today’s day trip. It was back in the spring when we were there last. The streets, shops, venues and bars are much more lively now that the sun is shining every day. We added the Amon Carter Museum of American Art to our list of free public facilities to our list. And guess what…the parking is also free and we didn’t have to make any advance reservations or take transit to get there!!!  ! Ft. Worth has it’s roots in the cattle industry, being the end of the Chisholm Trail of Old West fame.

On the way, we stopped at a road side diner for a traditional Sunday lunch of Southern home style cooking…   fried cat fish filets, fried okra, pecan pie and sweet tea. The catfish was excellent, spicy hot, the way it should be. Did I forget the corn bread biscuits and sweet bread rolls with honey and butter…..shame on me. Once down 26th Street in downtown Ft Worth….also known as The Stockyards… we were treated to an antique car show…many groups of street performers…and we stopped into the very famous ( if you’re a cowboy) White Elephant Saloon for a drink and some quality time holding up the bar with the locals. WARNING… MEN WEAR HATS. People have been drinking beer and playing pool to the sound of some of country musics most famous performers for decades. Sure… it’s smoky and stinks like sour beer….but the people are super friendly and you know you’re in one of the most famous Cowboy Churches in the country.

I’ve lived in a lot of places around the world…. but my travelers eye has spied Texas as one of the best destinations for  the unexpected.

IMG_3973-Optimized

IMG_3985-Optimized

IMG_3972-Optimized

IMG_4002-Optimized

IMG_3991-Optimized

IMG_3987-Optimized

IMG_4022-Optimized

IMG_4014-Optimized

IMG_4026-Optimized

IMG_4020-Optimized

IMG_4024-Optimized

IMG_4028-Optimized

IMG_4015-Optimized

IMG_4006-Optimized

IMG_4007-Optimized

IMG_3988-Optimized

Trish and I are celebrating our one year anniversary in Dallas….but this is just the latest stop in a long line of stopovers. As Canadians, we are considered an anomaly. Most people in my country tend to hunker down, build a nest and stay in that one place for life, in the same job, short term vacation, paint the house every five years, have 1.2 children, put a different car in the driveway, buy a house they can’t afford, spend thirty five years trying to pay it off, divorce at least twice…. and never leave their comfort zone until  taken out in a box. Canadians in general are sedentary unimaginative and predictable people. The banks and government love them for acting like sitting ducks.

Many people emigrate,  we are nor immigrants…. we wander by choice. We have zero intention to stay in one place, instead we float in a dish of cream. When the milk runs dry we will  be on our way. In the past ten years in particular, we have been ‘on the road’ so to speak, living in hotel rooms and long stay executive apartments. I particularily like countries that rent furnished apartments by the week, like Australia. It’s liberating to move from one great view to another. I do not want plants or animals tying me down. I have a beautiful wife …why would I need a little furry buddy to assuage my inner emptiness? Aside from Dallas we have lived/ worked in  Paris , Amsterdam, London, Bristol, Beijing, Singapore, San Francisco, Bangkok, Hong Kong, New York, Maui, Helsinki,Denpassar,  and visited many places in between…..prior to that..  long stints in  Fiji and Brisbane homeschooling our son on the beaches. For university prep we gave the boy a top boarding school education and he went on to spend six years living on the campus of a great university. He is very independent and we’re quite proud of that.

The travelers lifestyle got under my skin when very young. I suppose you develop a mindset after a while where ‘home’ becomes a concept rather than a place. Our circle of friends are living around the world rather than the house-frau and her balding husband across the cul de sac. I’m permanently tanned from too much time in the sun, whereas in Canada they’re sounding alarms against the idea of even 15 minutes exposure. My travel flesh is deep and dark. My rotator cuffs  joints in arms and hips are grinding like an old transmission from too much time spent in swimming pools and surf lines…my travel bones are worn. And still I have no want to return ‘home’ and begin collecting china or automobiles….or even worse….take up golf.  This a hell of a lifestyle…. but someone has to live creatively.

Canadians in particular are jealous to the extreme, they covet  and become angry when anyone has something they cannot. It’s a peculiarity of the culture. You’ll find  conversations with Canadians  begin with  identifiers ‘what do you do….where do you live, how much do you make.. where have you been on holiday’? It is a Canadian caste system that defines who you are financially compared to every one else. They’ll want to know if they’re ahead or behind so that they can either envy you or despise you. Vancouver , for example has been polled as being the loneliest, least friendly, and difficult to make new friends in as a city…. there is a large population of people reporting some form of depression and mental illness due to the social isolation. People there are so covetous of anything another might have that they can’t decide to ‘just be normal’.A visitor to Vancouver will notice a desperation to own real estate and a huge number of newly leased cars…. but no theater scene, no music scene, art scene, no cool neighborhoods…..just a lot of miserable people sitting around telling you how great their city is as justification for what they’re paying every month. In fact…it has to be the most miserable , covetous place I have ever been.

But I remind people that what you do in life is a choice. ‘Change your mind.. change your life’… is a phrase that popped into my head when I began my career as a traveler hitchhiking around North America and then branching off to spend decades wandering the world. It works for me…..and if you don’t like where you are…pack a suitcase and go somewhere you do. Hey…it works for us. I guess I’ll have to keep my crown as ….THE KING OF PAIN.

IMG_3182

You can’t help but love the small town culture. This week my choice was Carrollton TX. A town square lined with antique shops,  restaurants and anchored by a flag draped gazebo… really charming. An old style boardwalk allowed us to promenade under a shady awning to gawk and window shop while in the plaza a local auto club had brought out their best projects for the public to vote on. Yes, summer is in full swing… the temperatures are triple digits…but small town Texas is keeping us cool.

IMG_3399-Optimized

IMG_3428-Optimized

IMG_3426-Optimized

IMG_3422-Optimized

IMG_3418-Optimized

IMG_3415-Optimized

IMG_3410-Optimized

IMG_3420-Optimized

IMG_3407-Optimized

IMG_3406-Optimized

IMG_3396

 

IMG_3385

There are those times in your travels, whether you’re on an ex-pat rampage or a long walk about,  when you’ll experience a psychological ‘hypnic jerk’. You know….when you wake up in a strange place and not know where you are. Sometimes when you have been away for a long time you’ll experience a feeling of longing for the familiar…commonly called home sickness. It happens to everyone from what I have observed in regular increments……3 months…six months…one year…two years. Theres something about our minds that requires us to seek out our spawning ground. I had that feeling this week…. I have to remind myself that its OK to have a little fun….that the rat race is far behind….. that life in one place can be made just as comfortable as another.  So, when dreams of the past bleed over into your waking hours…and you think you should be somewhere else…think about why you left……enjoy yourself…..life is short.

I always liked that phrase. I have to tell you that I’m more than a little pissed that when I became an adult in the 1960’s I was told to to grow up and ‘take some responsibility for yourself”. That traditional farm community analog  is antiquated and belongs to another generation. In the middle ages children were expected to start working in single digits. In my parents generation people were getting married at sixteen and middle age at twenty nine. An unmarried women in 1957 was snickered at as being an umarriageable  ‘spinster’….a social misfit…a pariah…. barren…..strange, possibly a witch.

In the Canada of 2012 childhood has been extended to where most  don’t consider entering an occupation until they are in their thirties. I want some of that. I don’t want to grow up. I have set aside my profession, whatever it was, and  indulge my fantasies, whatever they are. The work ethic outside the First World economies is frightening. Few country cultures outside the G8 have any appreciation for what has been achieved by members of the western civilization. As the world gets smaller I fear that the lifestyle I enjoy today will be buried under the runaway success of people whose struggles to the top of the food chain have not included an appreciation of ‘lifestyle’ as a prerequisite.

I have an idea that this last few generations of western civilization may  at some point in the future be heralded by historians as a time of temporary and unsustainable decadence, a weak spark of light against the dark tapestry of time. I have decided to be one of the last inhabitants on Planet Earth to have achieved a state of grace, to live without  labor. I’ll be that solitary man standing  on the railway track of progress,  waving my rainbow peace flags  at the onrushing train of whats coming next.

I  have already been unofficially reclassified as a ‘dinosaur’ , statistics now count me as a visible minority in a land my great grandfather claimed from another race who’d seen better days…..such is the hard hand of evolution. I won’t go quietly into the twilight . I plan to run with scissors, crash into pedestrians barriers, navigate backwards down the one way streets of life’s highways…and just  piss people off while they’re on their way to work, to let them  know that I live to spite politically correct opinion, for no other reason than to prove that life is for living and not to walk a straight line of zombie-like responsibility between the womb and the grave.

Roaming troupes of clowns and troubadours used to do my job,  alleviating stress and providing welcome relief from daily drudgery, they sang songs and acted out; clowns didn’t have social media, the internet or gold credit cards. I want to drive my car until I run out of gas, use the rest of my cash to get off the continent, hitch-hike until I run out of road,  jump into the sea, swim for the horizon and discover a new land…..and find love everlasting until a new day dawns. “Rage, rage against the coming of the light”, said Oscar Wilde in his brutally honest way.

I don’t want to grow up…dammit….!  I’d like to think that at some future date parents will frighten their fussing children with stories about my life…..’Once upon a time…..there was a man….who wouldn’t conform……who slept out side….who walked among the stars as if they were hot coals under his feet’…..who never found a home his soul would claim…

‘Once upon a time there was this man who……..?’ Let the new creation myth begin.

Sunshine and swimming pools. It sounds like a phrase from a brochure doesn’t it? For most travelers, this is the reality of dealing with Dallas. When it is as hot as it is here these days, the strategy is to stay cool and out of the direct sunlight during the peak hours of the day. Fortunately, the humidity is relatively low right now.

We’re enjoying what you can call a ‘dry heat’. I have been to the desert elsewhere and I would describe this ‘dry heat’ phenomena as a scirrocco, the kind that desiccates the bodies of any who fall prey to the heat  leaving nothing but a shriveled mummified husk poking out of the sand.

Getting around here would be a challenge for anyone who hasn’t rented a car. Dallas has been designed around the automobile. If you were to look at a map of the city you would see that the city is criss crossed with freeways and off ramps accessing the various districts.

To be fair this is a typical urban design that one finds throughout the United States. Because of the distances traveled between points in the city and it’s ubiquitous suburbs, the car is a necessity of life. Public transportation outside the downtown core can not be relied on to be a viable alternative.

The car is king in Dallas. Having said that, it is a very well laid out city and very easy to find your way around on the freeway system. Every address is punctuated by the freeway exit it has proximity to. Literally everything is either on one side of the freeway or the other. Looking beyond the politics of urban transport, the car culture is very much a  part of the Texan lifestyle, distances around the state are enormous.

Texans, like most Americans, are highly mobile. People in the United States think nothing of traveling from state to state for lifestyle and employment. I have rarely met people here who have put down roots where they were themselves born and remain there for life, that’s not the American way. That’s a nice thing about American culture is that they feel a sense of belonging to the entire country and not just some regional and social alliance. As a Canadian I can attest to the fact that in Canada it is entirely the opposite. In Canada the national enforcement of multiculturalism has created a tapestry of ethnic ghetto’s from which few newcomers escape inside their generation.

The Texan culture is strong. People are extremely proud to be from Texas. People are undeniably happy here, friendly and amicable, as if hospitality is at the root of the Texan social structure. I have seldom experienced a place where people are so genuinely and consistently open and honest with the social fashion of greetings. I have to say that the Texas style of overt direct politeness is refreshing. It’s the way I remember Canada was when I was a child in the 1950’s, sadly no more.

(to be cont’d)