Posts Tagged ‘dallas’

I woke up staring down another Christmas on the road, just weeks away. Trish and I have had our Christmas’ in some fairly exotic places. Bangkok Thailand ranks right up there. Luckily we can buy a fuzzy Chinese faux tree and glitzy decorations next door at an American owned grocery chain store. In the past I’ve packed a fold up tree in my suitcase to have a proper Canadian Christmas where ever in the world we found ourselves.

Today’s modern technology makes it a lot easier to communicate back home. Not like the old days where a traveler had to find a post office with a long distance call box and wait between crackling sentences as voices echoed thousands of miles back and forth down a rubbery trunk line. You don’t have to send your gifts home by sea six months in advance anymore. In many countries the happy holiday was a bit anti-climactic when there was nothing resembling western culture for thousands of miles in any direction. Today’s travelers have it easy.

The Thai people have embraced Christmas as a shopping/commercial opportunity. They love everything western, so Christmas trappings are ‘exotic’ and ‘modern’ , like nonsensical English words  and slogans on T-Shirts and hand bags. People love the giant Christmas tree’s standing outside the mall entrances and can’t get enough cheesecake pictures. They do a decent job of decorating. This years theme at the mall closest us is ‘Snoopy in Space’ all in white and silver. I’m fairly sure something has been lost in translation, and there’s no reference to Baby Jesus, but…it gives us travelers a bit of Christmas cheer and nostalgia for days gone by.

The huge growth in backpacker tourism and telecommunications has initiated more awareness of Western Culture in diverse countries. There aren’t many destinations you won’t find at least a hotel bar with sparkly lights and tinsel. I’m listening to Christmas songs on my favorite Texas radio station online, 95.3 The Range. I spent my last two Christmases in Texas and the fine music got under my skin. I guess while I’m at it  I’ll admit to having a soft spot for Christmas. No matter where we find ourselves on December 25th….we celebrate Christmas…and remember why.

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What a world of contradictions we live in. My own self administered paradox is incomprehensible, even to me sometimes. “How can you live like that?” an engineer we met in Dallas asked in astonishment when Trish and I  explained that we hadn’t been ‘home’ more than a few weeks in the preceding few years. In fact we’d lived in the Hyatt Las Colinas in Dallas for almost three years running when we bumped into him at the poolside BBQ one afternoon.

He’d just bought a house in his native country, the Slovak Republic, it was his goal to have security and a sanctuary. The mindset of our engineering friend is common, it just isn’t for us. “I don’t know”, I replied. “Things just have a way of working out”….and they really have. Our recent and free week long stay at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap Cambodia is an example of how ‘things’ can ‘work out’ if you’re organized and travel savvy.

Some people envy us, they covet what we have, but have no understanding of how we came to be the nomads we are. I wouldn’t describe what we have done as sacrifice, we just want different things. As a friend of mine once quipped, “You have to be very organized to be as lazy as I am”. That sums up our lifestyle succinctly, though not entirely accurately.

Trish and I have foregone many things. We don’t have a long term mortgage, own a boat or a car lease. We haven’t renovated the house and stuffed it with material goods. We have never been consumers of ‘stuff’, instead we collect experiences. Our life is personalized, we do only what we choose, and yet we have achieved a level of success by enjoying the banquet and the open bar, but never eating the worm.

What a fiasco, what an embarrassment for the employees of American Airlines. Management should be immediately replaced over the mass cancellations of flights in and around Dallas Fort Worth Airport. Less than an inch of snow and these incompetents stranded tens of thousands of travelers for days.  While management dithered over cancelled flights for days at a time all other responsible airlines were in the air and landing at DFW on the same day American went on vacation.

The official response from American was that the ice storm was at fault…but we all know that was not the reason behind the slow moving operations tangle that stranded so many people…. it  was incompetence. I suggest they hire some Canadian or European managers who don’t freak out at the first sign of snow. After all European airlines and Canadian airlines fly in the cold weather all the time…hell I taught my wife to drive in worse weather than we saw at DFW…..there is no excuse for the incompetence shown by American Airlines management.

Our flight out of Vancouver to Dallas has been cancelled for the fourth day running. As American Airlines tries to reschedule it’s massive network of flights and clear up the back log of stranded passengers, Vancouver is an after thought for the schedulers right now. Even though other international flights are beginning to land at DFW after the massive ice storm …flights from Vancouver are getting the rump treatment….think of that next time you try and fly out of this place if there has been a disaster…..Vancouver is the last place that flights will start up again…as our experience has shown us. My advice..be prepared for a long stay…and remember…hotels, car rentals and restaurants are hyper expensive in Vancouver. The airlines do not give you vouchers for weather delay and the entire cost of being stranded will be borne by the stranded.

We’re not aware of YVR giving any comfort to stranded passengers during the three day delays. In Dallas they have given out thousands of cots, toys and food vouchers…Vancouver has given the hundreds of stranded passengers nothing that I saw while there. YVR, for those of you who know it, is one of the least comfortable airports and most disorganized or welcoming  on the planet. There are no suitable stations or special areas ( like Singapore has for ex) where passengers with long stopovers can make themselves comfortable. YVR is cavernous and barn like. It’s just one long cold hallway with no comfortable chairs or suitable areas for children or passengers in distress.

The only attached hotel starts at $240 per night if you need a shower. Arrivals are chaotic and there is no visible information for the first time traveler to know where the transportation access points are. The few signs there are tell the traveler nothing about which buses to take or where the teensy train goes. Frankly the train looks like a model left over from a tourist attraction. Oh..and YVR…thanks for letting the newly arrived traveler have to be greeted by the smokers at the front exit…..nice welcome…not.

This is a typical experience for anyone coming to Canada. It’s all smiles until there’s an issue..then they turn on you…and you realize that you don’t matter. Thats the true face of the Canadian experience.

I arrived in Vancouver last night. From the air the city reminds me of a weeping fistula. When I see the glass towers I am reminded of anal warts. I am constantly reminded of the millions of gallons of raw untreated sewage and toxic hospital waste that spills out into the polluted waters. It’s as if a little piece of hell broke through and now sits festering on the surface between the ocean and circling mountain. I know closer up I will see the thousands of homeless, addicts and mentally ill people who control the streets below. Between the drug fueled gangland violence ruling the nightclub scene and the unchecked police shootings of innocent citizens the inner city is no place I want to be these days.

Propaganda aside….this city is one sick puppy. people are miserable and it shows. There is no friendliness or compliments, the people I pass look suspicious and sullen. Are they jealous we’ve escaped and do they envy us our travel? I listen to passing conversations and I’m reminded of growling dogs. I know there’s an enforced hierarchy here, the rich civil servants and the poor working class. Is grinding personal poverty at the root of Vancouver’s cranky masses? After all, credit debt has reached the astronomical level of 170% of disposable income. Housing takes an average of 84% of a workers wage….are these people hungry? I know that child poverty rates are skyrocketing. People who live in million dollar homes are sending their children to school hungry and without food. Is this why crimes of violence are so common here?

Describing the US as  violent and gun crazed  is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The differance is that more legal gun ownership is the case in the US and in Canada the same number of guns are in the hands of violent criminals. Knives, hammers and hands are the weapons of choice among the rolls of offenders in Vancouver’s courts. The crimes are ugly and personal. Vancouver is a much more violent place per capita than Dallas…for example. Theres no doubt that Vancouver has an extreme incident count of rape and stands as the road rage capital of the planet.

We exist on a reputation that is long since passed. The propaganda machine of the elites who run things spends billions advertising on the back of a corpse. The cities civil service royals spend millions on planning pleasant bike lanes through public places when children , seniors and the under privileged shiver and starve. Vancouver they say in the ads…is the best place on earth,  except nowhere outside the reach of the tightly controlled local media machine will you ever hear this nonsense repeated. It takes only minutes after landing at YVR to realize that the myth of a friendly, welcoming, inclusive Canada doesn’t exist.

Step off the plane and  I am reminded of a death camp, there are no greetings or signals of welcome. Of course there is no car rental kiosk in the airport, we’re forced out into the rain and onto a dark causeway to find our way without signs. Once there, the service is abysmal. I can speak with some authority. I have been to the worst and most dangerous countries on the planet and have never witnessed as horrendous level of customer service as we do when we arrive in Vancouver.

Stay in Vancouver and you quickly see that the second myth of inclusive multiculturalism is a joke. Vancouver is a network of ethnic ghettos where interaction is impossible and not welcomed….people don’t mix…there is no common bond or integration…it’s everyone for themselves.  Ethnic divisions are strictly regulated by the elite politicians who farm the ghetto’s for votes. Government employment and welfare is  meted out by ethnicity…never by merit. Indian hates white, Chinese hate Indian, Mainland Chinese and Cantonese share no love for one another and will not tolerate the physical presence of the other. Muslim, Hindu and the other various odd ball sects avoid contact with anyone who doesn’t share the cult of slavery they impose upon one another . Vancouver is more like an old whore in bad light than a fresh faced princess. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

Trish and I have a thing for open markets. We’ve visited them all over the world, from folksy parking lot affairs in Finland, the famous Chatachak Market in Bangkok to what is probably the largest open air weekend market on the planet. The cooler fall weather has brought an enormous number of people out to sell their household overflow and sideline business items. Today there are over 4000 vendors on the massive site over one square mile at Traders Village, Grand Prairie Texas…..located about 14 miles outside Dallas. You really have to wear comfortable shoes for this adventure.

Everything from used clothing and toys to tires, mattresses,  Santeria magic concoctions  and live animals are for sale somewhere on the site. This is a primarily Mexican influenced market. People assume you speak Spanish if you’re here. The atmosphere is friendly, familial and raucous. Music blasts from car stereos and DJ bars for sale almost every ten feet. The isles are crowded with children in strollers as the average family appears to have at least six children per unit. Young moms all have a second baby muffin top spilling over their jeans.

If I was to guess I would say that there was at least 350,000 to 500,000 people at the peak of the afternoon . Unlike many city markets most goods are $1.00. I wonder who would buy so many used children’s clothing items and junk stereo equipment but it’s obvious people are packing items into trolly carts and winding through the crowds towards a vehicle. Tools of every kind can be had here…if you want saws , wrenches or landscaping equipment , this is the place to come. If you want to see the Mexican American influence in Texas you simply have to come here.

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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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