Because I'm So Far Away, and You Never Call Anyway.

Location: London, United Kingdom

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Reflections at the Edge of 33

So here I am, at the edge of 33, sitting in a house in London. I've spent birthdays in Toronto, Vancouver, New York - let's not forget Hamilton! Now London. I can't help being a bit boastful about my adventures - I live a pretty great life, and I'm the architect of the design, shaping a life that I love and feel proud of. There's something powerful in accomplishing the things you set out to do and sometimes I think back to the struggles I've had, the trials and pain I struggled through and it makes it all the more wonderful that I'm where I am -- who I am -- today.

This has been a good year. It started out with dinner and drinks with some of my closest friends in Vancouver and will end with a different set of friends I've made here in London. This time last year London was a plan in my future; something I was saving for and preparing for and talking about with excitement. Now I'm nearing the end of this trip, making new plans to come home. My next adventure? Time with Mom. A trip to visit Lori. Finding a new place in Vancouver; one with hardwood floors and lots of sunlight and maybe even a view. And, maybe in the not so distant future, the purchase of my first home! Wow, that seems so grown up and big. I feel like I'm moving into a new phase in my life, one of stability and possiblity.

Here are some of the highlights from 32:

- I've been to Toronto/Hamilton (twice!), Fort McMurray (twice!), Seattle, San Francisco (twice!), London, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Rome (twice!), Calabria and Sicily.

-I've been to Keighley. I've taken my Grandfather home. I've connected to my past.

-I saved many thousands of dollars, a first for me. I spent many thousands of dollars much faster than I'd prepared to.

-I restored my credit. This is huge for me, becuase it's plagued me for so many years.

-I feel like I've become closer to my family. That's amazing to me, because we're already incredibly close. But ironically, I feel that being so far away has brought us closer together. We talk nearly every day! I've got to spend lots of time with them, too. Two visits to Lori, one all-family visit in Hamilton.

-I was bored and frustrated with my life in Vancouver. I'd stagnated in my work, feeling like I needed a change. I was fortunate enough to be given a year's leave of absence in order to take this trip, uncertain of what would come of it. But the great thing is that being here, working at a job where I have no input, no voice, I've realized how lucky I am to have the job I do in Vancouver, and that in August it will be mine again. I've realized how integral I was to that team, how much of a contribution I've made and how much respect I was given. Not only that, but the commute! Oy vey, the commute. Public transit is killing me! I remenber living in Toronto and taking the subway to work every morning and how much that affected my day. The rudeness, the standing, packed in like a sardine, setting the tone for my day. It's the same here. No, it's worse. And it's extortionately expensive! In Vancouver, however, I walked to work. An easy 11 minutes (and that's if the lights aren't in sync). Not only was I able to save an hour of my day for myself, but I saved money, and frustration. And, in the distance mountaintops peeked out from behind the buildings, and the beach was two blocks from my home. How great is that? I can afford to live in Vancouver, downtown, in an apartment of my own for less than I pay to share a house with 3 others (4 if you count one flatmates' boyfriend who is *always* here), miles from the centre of town, miles from my work. So this trip has shown me what I had - what I have, rather. I'm going home to Canada, armed with a fresh perspective and renewed energy and excitement for my life there. I feel like I've been able to take a holiday from the realities of my life - put it all on hold - then I go back, press "play" and resume life, only with more excitement than I had at "pause".

So what's next? I still have two months left here, and I'm going to fill it up with as many adventures as I can. I've got a trip to Dublin planned in two weeks, and a trip to Oslo, Norway at Easter, just before I leave. Then I get to spend lots of time with Mom, then off to Vancouver to resume life as usual - the new usual! I get to feel the excitement of moving into a new place, I get to see my kitties again (Hi Dolce! Hi Gabby!) I get to reconnect with my many friends that I miss so much. I hand't realized how many dear friends I'd left behind, how many close relationships I'd developed in my 7 years in Vancouver. I'll get to have drinks with Sheena, get to see Melissa & Dave's new baby who will be nearly 1 by the time I get home. I'll get to watch mounds of reality TV with Ken and get together with Jenn and Chris and do singalongs. I may even get involved in a new show, or join a choir. I'll definitely keep travelling - in fact, when I go home for Christmas this year, I'm doing a side-trip to NYC with Marni to ring in the New Year, and have been invited to do a roadtrip up the west coast with Marni and her mom to LA and Palm Springs before I start back to work. I'd love to do a holiday with my family at some point, to a resort or a sunny destination.

32 has been good. I feel like the older I get, the more possibilities open to me. I'm a little wiser, a little more worldly, maybe a bit more cynical but a lot more happy with my life, a lot more appreciative of the things I have. There's a song by Indigo Girls called "Watershed" that I love with a line that says "every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh". I do that; reflect back to where I've been, where I am and what my future can hold. I do laugh at myself - some of my decisions, what I thought I knew, what I know I don't know now. I'll do it again in another couple of years, laughing at what I think I know now and how much more I have to learn. But for now, I'm content with who I am and what I have in front of me.

Here's to thirty-three!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Did You Miss Me?

No, not getting that job didn't send me into a great depression, and no, I haven't been curled up in the fetal position calling out for my mommy all this time. In fact, sadly, I've been so busy since my last post that I've been a very neglectful blogger. My apologies for disappearing; I've been meaning to post for ages, but the longer you wait, the harder it gets ("where do I start?" "so much to say!") blah blah blah. Anyway, I've been doing well, and will try to give the Coles Notes version of the last 2.5 months.

So, I didn't get that job I was really wanting. That really stung, and meant that I needed to get my ass in gear and start hitting the pavement again, which in my overconfidence about that job, I'd completely stopped doing. I decided that I'd give the retailers a second chance, and re-posted a more tailored CV with one of the really big stores here. Not five minutes later, I received a text on my mobile inviting me in for an interview. Well, to make a long story short, I went for the interview, got the job, and worked there over the Christmas period. I worked in their signature department, schlepping overpriced tourist dreck to annoying foreign visitors, desperate for anything with their label on it, and of course, a carrier bag for every single item! The experience was fun overall, except for the fact that the many, many managers (save one) were all completely useless micromanagers that stood around doing nothing, talking to people like they were five years old and on a special-needs work program. Needless to say, that doesn't work so well for me, especially considering a) I've been a manager myself for the last five years, b) I have a functioning brain and c) I'm not good with people micromanaging me, especially when they're useless cunts.

Fortunately, I didn't have to bear that too long, because two weeks after beginning there full-time, I received a call from a recruitment agency I registered with at the same time I found out I didn't get the job with the University, inviting me to interview for a senior administrator's position with a housing association (I'm not sure if you recall my post from some months ago where I was quite frustrated with the recruitment agencies I'd attempted to register with, only to be given a less than enthusiastic welcome, and the general runaround. Well, the agency I did end up using, was closer to my home and treated me like gold when I went in. They were great.) Anyway, I ended up getting the job, and I've been working for this organization for nearly two months now. The job is highly administrative and I have far less input into operations and procedures, but it pays the equivalent of what I was making in Vancouver, and is much closer to my home, as well as being outside the city centre, so I avoid the annoyance of overcrowded tube rides. The job has had its (very) frustrating moments, but my manager is amazingly responsive to the issues I've raised about the sheer amount of work and the gross inefficiencies of the systems and is doing much to make the job more manageable. So things are improving there, and the money's good enough that I'm actually able to do "stuff".

I've been a sad git for most of my time here; up until late December I was supremely broke, and hence couldn't do anything. So I stayed home, drinking really cheap beer and surfing on my computer. Not only was I broke, but I was working shifts at the retail job, and being on my feet for 9 hours a day was a very difficult thing to get used to, and hence I was really tired most of the time. Additionally, I'd decided that I'd keep the retail job on weekends over the holidays to make some extra cash, and so for the month of December I worked seven days a week. I was completely and utterly knackered. But fortunately, I have my weekends back, and even better, I have cash to do stuff and actually experience some of London. After Christmas, a good friend of mine from Vancouver came and visited for 10 days, and as she's a fanatical lover of this city, and generally a touristy person, I actually had the opportunity to see some of London. We went on some cool walking tours, went to see Wicked again (her birthday present from me), Frost/Nixon (a play about the David Frost interviews with Richard Nixon) and a musical called Caroline, or Change from Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner. Since then, I've actually been getting out to the clubs a bit, doing things I shouldn't be doing, and experiencing too many hangovers.

Most importantly, I'm doing (or making plans to do) what I came here to do: travel! I have two very exciting trips planned. The first is to go to Dublin at the end of February for four days. I've been really wanting to go there, and the perfect excuse to book the trip is an Indigo Girls concert that's occurring on February 25 in Dublin (for those of you that know me, you'll know that Indigo Girls is my favourite band in the universe) and so I decided I'd see them there, as well as here at Shepherd's Bush on Feb 15 (my birthday present to myself!!) I'm completely stoked that Indigo Girls are touring the UK for the first time in years when I happen to be here. They must have sensed that their Biggest Fan is here! Anyway, I digress. So I'm really looking forward to Dublin. The second trip is to Oslo at Easter, with one of my flatmates. I'm generally not a fan of the blonde, nordic type, but I am quite certain that will all fly out the window, and I'll end up with a tattoo of the name "Thor" on my ass by the end of that trip. Can't wait!

So that's what I've been up to. I have to say that I'm liking London more than I was -- having the money to do things makes a huge difference -- but I've also decided that London isn't the city for me. It's hard to deal with the commute every day on public transit, having had the luxury of walking to work every day for the last nearly seven years. And I've also realized how fortunate I was to have the job I had, and how respected I was and how much of a contribution I made there. Luckily, that job is waiting for me and August 15 this year I will return to my role as Event Planner. But the other thing is how much I miss my family and friends. Oddly, since I've been here, I've become way closer to my family - talking daily to them - and I've decided that I'm going to leave here in April, after my trip to Oslo, and spend a couple of months at home with my mom, drinking a stupid amount of tea, relaxing and enjoying a few months of being a momma's boy before I resume adult life as a contributing member of society. I'm also toying with the idea of buying an investment property in the city I grew up in (real estate is disgustingly cheap there, but property values are improving) as I've been priced out of the Vancouver real estate market. I'd really like to own a home, and I figure a place in a city where my mom can manage the property for me will work well, and give me an investment to get me on the property ladder.

So, I'm really glad to have come to London, this little adventure of mine. It's given me an amazing opportunity to take a break from my life, experience a different way of life, and give me a fresh perspective on my life in Canada. I'm looking foward to being able to walk to work again, live a couple of blocks from the beach, and reconnect with the many friends I miss terribly. I know now how fortunate I am to have such a great life, amazing friends and family, good health. Life is great. The only thing that I will be disappointed with was my goal to visit 10 countries while I'm here. Dublin and Oslo will make it 7, and I'm trying to squeeze in Prague somewhere, somehow. Maybe I'll go there in March. But that will leave me two short. Ah well, 8 countries in 6 months isn't bad, is it? I can't really complain...

Monday, November 13, 2006


I didn't get the job.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Ugh. Drank too much last night. One of my flatmates turns 30 tomorrow and was celebrating his birthday last night with a party which began at 3pm and ended at 6am. Probably wasn't a good idea to drink from the beginning to the end, or partake in some of the "party favours" least that would be the message my brain is pounding into my head right now. Feels like someone's stepping on me noggin!

It was a fun party, and nice to socialize with the roomies and their friends. My Canadian accent is quite the hit over here! A guest at the party said he loved listening to me talk so much he wanted to lick my tongue. An odd compliment you might say, but I'm just chalking it up to him being French and that sounding better prior to translation. But hey, a compliment's a compliment, right? Oh, and I'm pretty certain one of my flatmates was hitting on me, which was a little weird. Probably not a good idea to shag him; that could be messy. It would've just ended up in my big book of "Why the fuck did I do that?" For once I actually used some discretion, and in a drunken state to boot! Aren't you proud of me?

I know you're dying to hear whether I've gotten that job I interviewed for this week. I still haven't heard, and am being forced to learn patience... not a strong attribute of mine. I reallyreallyreally hope I hear tomorrow before I completely lose my mind. I know you're hoping for that as well so I'll stop bloody talking about it!

Must. go. find. ibuprofen. bye.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I had my interview on Tuesday. Spent the entire weekend in typical Mike-fashion obsessively researching the company, pouring over possible interview questions, recalling a time when I had a great team experience, or figuring out what my former boss thinks of as my challenges. I'm really glad I did, because the interview included many of the questions I'd pondered and prepared responses for.

The interview went really well, I think; the two women interviewing me seemed quite nice, and more importantly seemed to like what I had to say, if the emphatic nods were any indication. I certainly have the experience they're looking for, so what it comes down to is the "fit", which is something I have no control over. I felt at ease (relatively speaking) throughout the interview, and have been told that they should have an answer for me by Friday. Going on past experiences, this means next week, but it would so great to not have to suffer through the weekend wondering if I have the job or not.

The job itself sounds great. It's not the mega job I applied for, but it's in line with what I was doing back home; pays roughly the same, and would give me 6.5 weeks holiday per year! More importantly, getting this job means I can relax and start living in this city. I've been holding back for fear of clearing out my savings, and that has meant a lot of evenings at home.

So, I'll keep my fingers crossed, and keep on applying for other jobs until I hear. If you hear the pop of a champagne cork all the way across the pond, you'll know it's me, celebrating my gainful employment. Or you could just read my blog, 'cause I'll post the news here, too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"I'll take 'People Who Played Doctors on Television Who Came Out' of the Closet' for $500, Alex!"

Doogie's gay!

That's right, Neil Patrick Harris, known to the world as Doogie Howser, MD has confirmed that he is, indeed, "of that persuasion." He follows TR Knight, who plays a doctor on Gray's Anatomy, who came out last month, to no scandal whatsoever. Methinks the tide is turning. Of course, I believe that things come in threes, so who will be next? How about Goran Visnjic or John Stamos on ER? Keep 'em coming boys!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

They Like Me, They Really...

...Well, we'll see.

I have a job interview this Tuesday. Finally! I've been mildly freaking out, wondering why no one was calling me. I have a good CV, lots of experience and seemingly fit the person specifications for the jobs I've been applying for. So, thankfully, one of the Universities I've applied to has called me in for an interview. Yay for me!

The job pays well, has great benefits, and is very much in line with the event management work I did in Vancouver. So I've spent a fun-filled weekend researching the organization and brushing up on my interview skills, as it's been a number of years since I've been on the other side of the table. It's hard trying to remember "a time when you had a communication breakdown" or the answer to "what would your boss say challenges you the most". I'll try not to respond to that one with "Stupid Cunts" or anything like that. Wish me luck folks!

Monday, October 30, 2006


I had a long conversation with one of my roommate's boyfriends this weekend about life's struggles and how difficult surviving and being happy can be sometimes. He'd had a particularly hard day at work, fed up with being treated like cattle and working for minimum wage and working 7 days a week just to survive. I've learned that the Brits can be pretty hard on migrant workers, and he being from Poland, with a heavy accent, he's experienced quite a bit of this third-class treatment.

During our conversation, we got into the issues of trust, friendship, love... you know, the light, fluffy stuff. Seems my friend has had a rough go of it in relationships as well, and let's just say there are some issues to be worked out there. He also has a very black and white view of certain things, which he knew would be problems in his new relationship. I offered up some of my own experiences to the chat, and explained to him that often, our happiness comes down to choice. I know it's a simplistic statement, and it's easier said than done. But I gave the example of finding out my hiv status seven years ago (Oct 25 was the anniversary... wow) and how I made a choice in that instant; that choice was to take control, always be in control of my health, my stress levels, my happiness. I knew that I could take the "downward spiral" route I've seen others take (drugs, carelessness, a "fuck-you" attitude), but that didn't register as a real option for me. I knew that if I was going to be well, I needed to take control. And today, I have a great life; terrific health, amazing family and friends, and I'm able to do a lot of the things I want to do. This is not to say that my life is *perfect*, or that things couldn't be better, but that I can honestly say I live well, and I'm very happy. Well, except when I try to open a bank account in London. That doesn't make me happy, but I digress.

Anyway, when I told him this, he was shocked, and very sad for me. He said to me that knowing what my problems are, that his pale in comparison. He said he knew that I had it way worse off than him, and that his problems were nothing, which completely missed my point. I actually said to him that I felt the complete opposite. Because at the end of the day, I went to bed happy, and that I truly do love my life; I don't live in despair, or fear; not trusting, or letting people love me. Those things, to me, were far worse than this disease I've been able to manage for myself. He said that he didn't know how that could be. I told him it was all in your perspective.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I'm back, and I need a drink

Hello possums. I'm back from my fantastically great European Vacation, sans Chevy Chase. I love Europe, highlights being Paris and Barcelona. I won't bore you with the 7 pages of blow-by-blow, as no one will care about what I thought of the architecture of Gaudi's Barcelona. Suffice it to say it was a magical experience, and reason alone to trek all the way to London.

So I'm back in L-town, settling into my new digs and enjoying the company of all three of my roommates. One is from Australia, one from New Zealand and one is from Spain. They've made me feel quite welcome, and I like the house a lot. It's also cool to live outside the city centre and still be a 10 minute walk from an H&M store! Not that I can afford anything now, that is until I find a job. Which leads me to my lastest observations, as follows:

Wow is London a frustrating, bureaucratic craphole! *EVERYTHING* is a stupid bloody process. Allow me to rant for a moment, then I'll be much better.

I called the National Insurance line to set up an appointment to receive - you guessed it - my National Insurance Number. This is the UK equivalent of the SIN in Canada. So, I called to set up my appointment. They asked me a number of questions to determine whether in fact I was eligible to receive one, and if I really, truly needed one. I explained to them that I was new to the UK on an Ancestry Visa. Checkmark to #1. Then they asked me if I had a job, yet. Nope. Are you actively looking for work? Yes. Okay, they would need to have verification that I was actively looking for, or had a job. The verification would need to be letters from employers stating that I did or didn't get a job. The woman on the phone explained that most people applying for the NI already had a job, but needed the number. I don't know about you, but doesn't that sound backwards to you? Get the job, THEN get the number? She explained that it's completely legal to work without the number, but they will tax you at a higher rate until you get the NIN, and refund you once the number was processed and allocated. Doesn't that sound like a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy, cutting cheques, refunds, etc when they could just give you the bloody number to begin with? Then she explained that I would need verification of my residence in the UK as well. A utility bill, or bank statement. Sounds reasonable enough, but read on...

THE BANK. Or as I like to refer to them all, the people I hate most in this world.

I went to open a bank account today. What fun, you say! Oh, I know, it beats picnics and hugs and lottery winnings, it's true. But today, it wasn't the most pleasant experience. You see, I was informed that before I got a bank account, I would need to have a job, to verify that I had income to put into said bank account. I'll get back to that little tidbit in a moment, so bookmark that issue in your mind, kids, because we'll be repeating it soon enough. The bloke also informed me that I had to have a verification of my address. For example, a utility bill, or another UK bank account statement (um, yeah, I know you see the problem there), or a driver's license with my current address on it (which he misinformed me was easy to get, and nope! gotta have the same stuff you need to get a bank account to get a driver's license!!!). When I explained that I live with flatmates who all have the utilities in their names, he helpfully suggested that one of them transfer the account into my name. Uh-huh. I've lived here for 1 week and let's all move the phone service into New Guy's name! Not to mention the fact that the utilities, I'm almost positive, require you to have a bank account in order to activate your service....

Have a headache yet? Well, pass around the aspirin, because I have more fun for you!

Remember how I said that you have to have a job in order to get a bank account? Well, the funny closing of this circle, and I mean that in the most appropriate way; the catch-22 vicious circle of chicken and egg. (What comes first? The bank account, or the job? Or the NI#? I know, it's the whiskey, followed by a beer chaser.) I went to Starbucks to apply for a job yesterday. And guess what they told me? They won't hire me until - you guessed it - I have a bank account!!!!! Oh the pure, unadulterated joy.

I know what they're trying to do. They've conspired with my mom to make things so difficult I'll come running home to Hamilton, teddy bear and psychiatrist in tow. That is, however, if they can pull me out of the fetal position from under the bed in my new flat.

So just to recap, I need a job, but I need a bank account to get the job, and I need the job to get the bank account. And before I NI#, I've got to have a job. And a bank account. Or a utility, that will also require me to have a bank account and a job.

I shouldn't be so negative, I know. But it's like they want to suck whatever joy you have out of your soul with a straw. And I don't like the soul-stealing-straw-suckers at all.

But I won't let them beat me. By George I will get myself a bank account and a job and an NIN! and a nice, refreshing beer. And there's a job I'm so desperately attached to that I'm applying for at one of the Uni's here, and it pays gobs of money. Cross your fingers, toes, eyes, pubes... whatever you gotta do. Pray to whatever Gods or False Idols you pray to for me, I beg you. I need, and want, and can totally do this job. Thank you, love you, good night.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hola from Barcelona

I'm in Barcelona, the third stop on my Euro-travels. I'm sorry I've been silent for so long and promise to blog soon, but I'm off right now to see some more sights before heading to Rome.

I'm having a great time. The last couple of weeks have been full of sightseeing, as well as a personal pilgrimage to where my family began, and I'll write about that soon as well. In the meantime, here's a picture taken of me and Salvatore in front of the Sissy-Boy Homeland store in Amsterdam. Sissy-boy. Isn't gay great?

xo Mike

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Someday, My Prince Will Come Along...

Actually, he did. Yesterday, in fact. I was walking from Paddington Station, looking for a nearby Starbucks to check my messages (it's comforting to know that I can walk a few minutes in any direction and hit one - at least here and at least downtown). Only two or so blocks from the station, and I realize that there's a barricade up ahead - no foot or motor traffic can move in any direction. My first thought was that there was an accident, or worse some sort of "incident", so I asked one of the many people stopped at the barricade. She replied "Prince William is in there", and I looked up at the sign and it was St. Mary's hospital. Was he sick? Visiting a sick aunt in hosptial? Or perhaps taking up one of his mother's famous missions to help the needy?
Suddenly one of the officers controlling the scene motions for everyone to move back, and a motorcade exits from the hospital. First two police escorts at front, then a very british black car, which incites a flurry of picture taking on the opposite side of the street. I look in to see a man waving at the onlookers - and could easily surmise that this was the Prince himself. I recognize that hair!
So there you have it. My first brush with royalty. Well, I enounter lots of queens at the bars, but they only *think* they're regal. This one's the real deal!
It's interesting over here. Everything is about celebrity. The locals are obsessed with stars and the royal family - even the newspapers all read as tabloids. It's all about the stars who are too thin right now, and which of the Spice Girls really rocked the town last night (FYI: Posh is hotter than Ginger, who were both seen out on the scene the night before last. Whoop de bloody do!) But the people here really eat it up. I can't be arsed to open a newspaper because it all feels so... un-newsworthy.
So off I went, on my way. Some people behind me were griping about how Prince William had held them up, I just sort of found it amusing that I happened upon one of the most famous people in the world, probably in hospital on some really mundane visit. But I should check the news today - I'm sure there's some fascinating coverage of it in there: "Prince William visits Proctologist. Is His Rear Up to Snuff?" The news that really matters.
Oh, and you'll be happy to know I found a Starbucks not 3 minutes further ahead. Just another day in London!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thank you, Whiteleys

I was walking towards my nearest Starbucks today (that's where I get my internet access) and decided to check out the one in a local mall called Whiteleys. I for some reason thought Whiteleys was a department store, with a mall attached, but it turns out it's just a regular old mall. It has in it, however, some stores which have made me feel much better about the cost of things. You see, I've been feeling a little overwhelmed at the prices of every day items (see my rant about tea at Starbucks), and was certain that there was no way I was going to have an even remotely livable existence here.

But fortunately, Whiteleys had several stores, restaurants and a movie theatre with prices significantly below what I was seeing elsewhere. For example, the big movie theatre in Leicester Square is £11 - 12, which is nearly $25 just to see a movie! I thought my movie-going days were over. And you know how much I love my movies.. but the cinema in this mall has rates between £6-8, which is far more reasonable. I had an urge to go see a movie, just 'cuz it was cheaper! Anyway, this makes a difference to me. Not just the movies, but that I found some cute restaurants and a housewares store that had reasonable prices as well. I can actually buy things again! Hooray for commerce!

I knew it would be expensive here.;I prepared myself for that. But it would be nice to be able to enjoy my tea without thinking of how much it's costing me - I've been lucky enough to enjoy a reasonable quality of life in Vancouver and I'd like to retain even a semblance of that here.

So, now I know to shop at Whiteleys. And go to Compton's on Monday nights for their £1.50 pints (and hot bartenders!). And I can get in free at G-A-Y with certain flyers, or reduced entrance.

On another note, I went to see Billy Elliot on Saturday. It was absolutely briliant! It was translated beautifully from the movie, and the choreography was amazing. I loved it. I love the theatre - I just feel so energized when I see a good show. I can see myself in certain roles, thinking "that song is in my range", or "I could probably do that choreography". It makes me long for that feeling that I have when I'm on stage. I'm going to check out the community theatre here and see what's on.

I've seen a couple of flats so far. Unfortunately, none of them have really been suitable, but I'm still holding out hope. I have a couple more to see this week before I head off on my travels and they look nice, although further from the centre of London. I'll keep you posted.

I'm heading up north on Monday to visit where my grandfather was born, and also to take his ashes and bury/scatter them. It's quite an honour to be able to return my grandfather to his home - I just hope I don't leave him on the bus! (He took the bus a lot, so I don't think he'd be too mad, but the rest of my family, well...

Next Wednesday I fly to Berlin to meet up with two of my friends from Vancouver. I'm so excited to be travelling - that was one of the biggest reasons why I came to London, the proximity to so many countries I've wanted to visit. So it's Amsterdam, then Paris, Barcelona, and finally a week in the south of Italy. All told, I'll be gone for over three weeks. I can't wait! I'll take lots of pics, and be sure to send postcards. (could you please email me your full addresses so I get them to you?)

In closing, I'll share with you one rant:

-Sink faucets over here are usually separated by hot and cold. The hot is scorchingly hot, and impossible to wash with. This makes washing my hands exceedingly difficult. I just don't feel like I've properly washed my hands using cold water, you know? And not washing is just gross. Secondly, the pressure of the taps in my hostel are ludicrous. You push down on the tap and it gives you a very forceful gush of water, then shuts itself off. I've literally soaked myself with boiling hot water a number of times. And the showers - they work on the same mechanism and shut off after about 5-10 seconds (it's never the same two times in a row). So you have to push the button 4 times just to get fully wet. Then the lights are on a timer, and so halfway through my shower, the lights go out, so I have to open the shower door to reactivate the light, then the water's gone off again, so I've got to push the button to get the water going again! Oh, and I forgot to mention that I have to push the button five to six times just to get the water temperature warm enough to shower in, before I get in. My morning shower ritual would look hilarious if ever videotaped. To me it's just annoying.

The end, for now. Look at me blogging again so soon after my last one! You're welcome.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

London Calling!

I have been in London for one week now. I’m happy to say that I’m getting on with relative ease, though have found it difficult to adjust to the time difference – my body does not want to go to bed at 3pm Vancouver time! Luckily I had those two weeks in Ontario to move my internal clock a couple of hours ahead.

I know you’re wondering what I’ve done since I’ve been in the city. Surprisingly, I haven’t spent a lot of time sightseeing, as I’ve been spending a lot of time online searching for a flat, updating my CV (look at me being all Britishy!) and viewing online job vacancies. No luck yet on either a flat or a job, but I think that will all solidify when I return from my travels in late October.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time wandering around the West End/Soho area. The West End is where most of the theatres are, and Old Compton Street in Soho is the equivalent of Church Street in Toronto or Davie Street in Vancouver. I wasn’t sure that there would be any real “gay area” in London as I’d heard that bars and such were very spread out. It is true that the discos and pubs spread out over a very large area, Compton Street has many pubs, shops and restaurants catering to a gay crowd. Nearly every night I’ve headed over to The Compton, one of the busiest pubs I’ve ever seen. The only reason I even stopped in the first place was that there was a huge mass of people (a discerning eye quickly noted all of them were gay) standing outside, enjoying a pint. It was odd to see people with full glasses of beer right out there on the street! Doesn’t happen in Canada.

Anyway, I’ve also checked out G-A-Y, one of the discos, on their Friday “Camp Attack” night – 70’s & 80’s retro plays on an enormous, packed dancefloor. It was a weird mix of danceable retro tunes, and other not-so-danceable pop hits from the same time period. G-A-Y wasn’t my first pick as I’d wanted to go to Heaven (don’t we all?) instead, but Heaven, where they were playing commercial dance tunes, had a line so long and unmoving that I decided to leave it for another day. And Heaven was worth the wait (make whatever theological argument you wish to now). I ventured out on a Monday night, and danced to some of the best dance music ever. The place was packed full – a massive warehouse space, and was chockers (that’s chock-a-block) full of scorchingly hot men. Waaaaay too many straight people making out and showing their heterosity (We get it, you’re straight. Now piss off you sad twat!) But seriously, it was a hotfest from beginning to end. I’ll be back there next Monday!

I'm also beyond thrilled to discover that I was so very wrong about the men here. See, I thought they'd all be, well, snaggle-toothed pasty white boys. Boy was I mistaken! There are hotties galore here... pin-striped suits, trendy boys, sport kit lads... a type for everyone (and I'll take one of each!) Absolutely delightful eye candy. And apparently they've embraced the North American body image obsession full on. Buff bodies abound.

I of course haven’t mentioned my first night! I went to the opening preview night of Wicked, starring Idina Menzel (Maureen from RENT, Elphaba from the original Broadway production of Wicked). The show was amazing, and the audience was the most enthusiastic I’ve ever seen at any show, full stop. It was like the six year olds at the Britney Spears show I saw many years ago, only in a theatre. Anyway, the production was fantastic and it’s so great to see a show where everyone is so into it. I’m sure it was an amazing way for them to kick off their London run.

Speaking of theatre, I have a ticket to see Billy Elliot (based on the movie) this afternoon. Really looking forward to that as it’s been very well reviewed. Will & Grace flew all the way to London just to see it (don’t you remember? That’s when she meets up with her ex-husband and has the quicky that leads to her having a baby and eventually reuniting with him? Thus affecting her relationship with Will, only to reunite with him later when their children meet at college and fall in love? But I digress.)

Today, I went to an open recruiting session for front-of-house staff at the Palace Theatre, which will be housing the upcoming production of Spamalot. Unfortunately, they open right when I’m off on my Euro-travels and they needed people that could start now. They did however encourage me to call when I return (I have the number for the stage door entrance now!) to see if there is anything available. It would’ve been kind of cool to work there, as Spamalot is a huge hit on Broadway and will be a big deal for London theatre. I figure it could also lead to meeting some stars, as they all show up to the premieres, etc. Ah well.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of London. I went to see a flat in Lambeth (Me & My Girl, anyone?) yesterday (didn’t work out), but on the way back across the Thames I had the most magnificent view of Parliament and Big Ben. The sun was setting and I mentally took some photos, which I hope to actually take with my camera soon. The buildings here are unbelieveable – so much character! I love the feel of London’s architecture. I promise to post some of the pictures I take when I upload them.

In spite of the fact that I am currently living 2 blocks from Hyde Park, I will choose to make this my Speaker’s Corner and rant about a few things:

- People and their Mobiles: I have had the urge to bitch-slap the phones right out of many people’s hands. It is a common occurrence to walk behind some wanker texting on their mobile, not watching where they’re going. London streets are insanely busy, and getting on is hard enough as it is. Get off yer mobiles you silly cows!

- Drivers and crossing streets: I was informed (only after getting nearly run over – and I mean it – I came so close to being hit I was nearly inside the car when it passed by) that drivers have the right-of-way here. And boy, do they take it! Drivers do not give a bleedin’ piss if you’re in their way or not – your presence only makes the drive more interesting. That, combined with the fact that I haven’t completely adjusted to the left-side driving lane, are sure to cause me no end of grief for the next while.

- Tea at Starbucks is ludicrously expensive. Now, don’t go arguing that London is just a more expensive place, because I get that. However, many things are still in line with North American prices, or maybe just a little bit more. But not Starbucks tea. A venti tea is £1.75, which converts to $3.76 Canadian. Bite me if you think that’s reasonable, because I will never be okay with that price. Especially considering IT’S LONDON!!! THE BRITISH AND THEIR TEA, RIGHT? If my latte can be within the same price once converted (£2.84 vs $4.82, not so bad), then why is my tea, which come on, has to be like 2p for them, so bloody expensive? I just don’t get it. This upsets me more than anything. I need my tea. And while I'm on it, what's with the "eat-in" charge? Why does it cost me 50p more to eat a muffin in side (thus bringing the cost to $4.00, thank you very much) just because you put it on a plate? I don't get charged a drink-in fee on my tea, so why do I have to pay more for the accompanying pastry? All's I'm sayin, is I just don't get it.

- People can smoke in bars, cafes, train depots and the like. I wasn’t expecting that, and it’s hard to adjust to someone lighting up in a café next to you. Thankfully Starbucks doesn’t allow smoking in their stores, so I’m safe there. But everywhere else it’s a different story. Luckily, that’s all supposed to change next year.

- City planning here is an oxymoron. While quaint in a certain way (like all the nooks and small side streets), it’s incredibly confusing sometimes to get around. Compounding that is that streets can have nearly identical names, so you have gto be especially careful when walking. You might think you’re on the correct street, but it turns out you’re on Craven Terrace instead of Craven Mews, or Craven Road. Or Craven Hill. All in the very same area.

- Not a rant, but an observation: There are people employed to hold up large plackards, advertising a particular store or service nearby. They look like picketers, only with tall signs with arrows on them. These people litter the busier streets letting us know that an internet café nearby charges only £1 per hour in that direction. Or that this particular restaurant is only £5.95 for their lunch special. More interesting to me are the people employed to handle this task, who bring a new level of apathy to the daily grind. They are usually leaning on the sign poles, chatting with another signholder, smoking a cigarette, or staring off dead-eyed in no particular direction. Not that I blame them; I couldn’t imagine having a job where I stood holding a sign all day, advising people of where they can have the hair removed from their asses. No thanks!

- Another observation is that barkeeps in pubs don’t get tipped. I was so surprised by that, because I know so many bartenders who make amazing livings by the tips they make. Apparently they receive a higher wage, but still, I can’t imagine it’s anything like what they’d make if tipping were employed.

- Oh, and possibly the funniest thing ever: I was sitting at dinner with my roommate and some of the others in the hostel. My roommate was boasting that he’d gotten to shake David Hasselhoff’s hand at Virgin Records today, and several of them (all about the same age of 21) were going on like this was the greatest thing in the world. They were talking about how he was one of their idols and Knight Rider was the shit to them as recently as 5 years ago – who knew? David Hasselhoff must *love* it over here. Hi-larious.

Well, that’s about enough of that. I’ve posted enough to keep your eyes blurry for one day, and promise to try to post more regularly. I miss you all terribly and hope you’re doing well.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Spring for.... Oh Just Kill Me.

I've been organizing the Vancouver component of a national AIDS fundraising and awareness campaign which is nearing its completion. This I've been planning in addition to my full-time Event Planning job; it's become a full-time job of its own. I'm proud to say we raised 250% more than they did last year (with another coordinator organizing the event), and that we made our target. But fuck, was it a lot of work! I'm so incredibly exhausted and still playing catch-up at my regular job. Still, I feel a sense of accomplishment; this was my first independent event planning contract I've taken on, and I feel that I did a really good job. I even got press! Check out this link for some local coverage we received. They want me to organize the event next year as well, but I'll be living in a cardboard box in London at the time. At least they want me!

Other than S4L, nothing is new. I haven't had time for anything else, and am really looking forward to a much-needed and richly deserved holiday to San Francisco next weekend. As my friends often note, I am quite good at finding great travel deals on the web. So, 4 nights hotel, airfare, and parking at the airport is costing each of us $388USD. Not bad! I plan to drink a ridiculous amount, sleep in every day, and cruise as many hot Amurrican boys as possible. Did I mention drinking?

Speaking of drinking, my brother will be visiting in a couple of weeks, although we were initially going to meet up in New York. It's his 30th birthday on the 29th, and he's decided he'd rather visit me here than spend the money on hotels in NYC. Seeing as it's his 30th and not mine, I figured it made sense to do what he wanted to do, so here I stay. I'll take him somewhere heterosexual, I suppose, for his birthday, and get him liquored up enough that he likely won't remember a goddamned detail. I miss him since he moved back home, and it'll be nice to have him back, if only for a week. Who knew two people who hated each other so intensely for their entire childhoods could become so close?

Sadly, there's not too much else to write about. I'm still single and sexless, busy as hell and looking forward to London. The official last day at work is August 31, then it's off to Jolly Old England! My friends are going to meet me in London shortly after I settle, and we're going to visit Prague, Berlin, Vienna and Barcelona. Looks like I've got some hotel job prospects, and I should be gainfully employed by October. Still in touch with the lad I met at Hallowe'en, and look forward to seeing how things go when we actually live in the same city. A very good friend of mine is planning to visit at New Year's, and we're hoping to ring it in under the Eiffel Tower, or perhaps near the Coliseum in Rome... I can't believe that I'll actually have a European address, at least for a while. Thankfully, I've got a home for my cats while I'm gone (thanks Mom). That's another post, one I may write when I can take the time to delve into the last 17 years of my life.

It's always interesting to read the blogs of my friends in Toronto - those with a much greater ability to engage through written word - and somehow makes me feel like I'm still in the fold. Rest assured that while I don't blog often, I'm always interested to read the updates on what is new in your world. Love and miss you all...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I knew I'd be bad at this

So I'm not gonna win "blogger of the year". Whatev. I'm busy, okay?

What's new, you ask? Well, I've started packing, for one. More like organzing to begin packing, but let's call it packing for short. I'm throwing out crap (wow, am I a packrat), and separating that which I wish to keep from that which I wish to sell. The "keep" pile is much, much smaller than the "sell" pile. This of course is due to the cost of shipping my Ikea-filled home all the way across the pond... I'll just buy new stuff there. I'm keeping the personal effects most dear to me, some clothes, and that's about it. And contrary to Eric's image of what my apartment looks like (which, I think, is limited to a twin mattress on a floor in a corner and a small table), I have accumulated a full-sized apartment of furniture and accessories since I moved in 4 years ago. I even own power tools!

I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my cats. I was going to take them with me initially, but thought that if I decided to come back in a year, that would be an unnecessary trauma to inflict. Then I thought my brother could look after them as they know him, but it appears he's staying with my mom for a while longer, and my step-father is less than keen to take in two cats. So now I'm back to taking them with me. The problem is that the process for "home quarantine" is six-months from the date the blood-work is sent to the lab in Wisconsin (or somewhere else like that), and that will delay my trip by two months. So, it looks like I could be in Vancouver for an additional two months.

Nevertheless, the process is underway! I received my grandfather's long-form birth certificate, as well as my own. My mom sent me hers a few years back, so I have all the documents I need to apply for my visa. I have to say that I freaked out a little bit when I got the documents, as it suddenly became real to me that I am leaving. Of course, I'm excited, but it is a little scary to be uprooting such a comfortable life here. Luckily I have a safety net with my leave of absence from my job, so if London sucks, or the cardboard box I'm certain I'll be living in rips, I can always come home. Got some excellent advice from Hamish, even if he does question the merit of moving to London. Thanks Hame!

Other exciting news: I bought an iPod nano. It is, without question, the sexiest little machine I've ever owned. It holds 716 songs of my choice and is with me wherever I go. Take that, possible boyfriends! Who needs ya?

I'm starting to train for the Vancouver SunRun. I'm excited, because this is the third time I'll have participated, and the second time I'll have run the entire course. Not bad for a fat fuck! Last year, I took it "slow & steady", but didn't walk any of the 10k. It was quite an accomplishment for me, as I hadn't trained for the race at all. This year, I'm hoping to run the course in 50minutes. That's still twice the time of the winner, but will mean a 15minute improvement of my time. Running is sooo much easier now that I have my nano; I'd been running with a disc player up until now, and even with 40-second skip protection, the fucker would still skip on me. With my beautiful nano, not only is it light, and holds 1/3 of my music collection, but it never skips! God bless digital technology.

Well, that's about it. I'll try to make my next post a little shorter, and a little sooner. I can't promise it will be any more interesting, but I think that could be said of most blogs I read. Oh, that reminds me, we had a blogger's convention at my facility this past week. I won't go into what that looked like, except to point out how strange it was to see 30 or so grown men doing yoga on the floor -- no mats, mind you -- with their laptops at their side. Fuckin weird.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hive, I'm Mike.

So here it is. My first post on my first blogsite. No fanfare, no "launch"... no subject, even. As with most people who blog, I'm guessing there's not a whole lot of shit anyone will want to read on here, but as all the cool kids are doing it (and let's face it, a lot of *uncool* kids too), I figured I'd join 'em.

So what should I talk about? I could talk about the movie Syriana, which I saw last night, or I could talk about the facial I had on Saturday, and the pain of blackhead removal... I know, I'll start with DeadPool. How exciting is it to try and predict the death of someone famous? And what if you're right, and they do kick the bucket? I imagine I'd feel a bit like the Grim Reaper, only with the chance at winning cash, too! Bet ol' GR would've liked a paycheque for his work.

My submissions are:

1. Jack Klugman, 83 (2 pts)
2. Rev. Jerry Falwell, 72 (5 pts)
3. Ashley Olsen, 19 (25 pts)
4. James Brown, 72 (5 pts)
5. Courtney Love, 41 (10 pts)
6. Nelson Mandela, 87 (2 pts)
7. Estelle Getty, 82 (2 pts)
8. Imelda Marcos, 76 (2 pts)
9. Pat Robertson, 75 (2 pts)
10. Marion "Suge" Knight, 41 (10 pts)

I had meant to put Mary-Kate instead of Ashley, but as I'd already submitted it to the Dead Pool World Governing Body (DPWGB), I won't bother to change it. Other considerations I believe deserve honourable mention:

Leona Helmsley, 85
Jack Palance, 86
Gerald Ford, 92
Zsa Zsa Gabor, 88
Billy Graham, 87

If it comes down to a tie, my Falwell nomination will surely win the Morally Dead distinction, hands down.

Do yo' thang, GR!