I stopped in at Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus in passing yesterday, just to see what it felt like. The neighbourhood was appealing: cafes, people with computers, bookshops, hole-in-the-wall eateries … there was an energy and an urgency that interested me.

Inside the building itself, though, the feeling was sterile. Businesslike. Not the fecund warmth i’d be looking for in a school, the hotbed of ideas. Possibly the mountaintop campus holds that atmosphere; the downtown campus was more like a business training centre — NOT what i’m looking for. Though i did take several classes there, years ago, in the Writing & Pub program, and enjoyed them.

Tonight, over daquiris, i talked to Devon, a friend of Rob’s who’s doing a masters in architecture at Dalhousie. Did it sound appealing? Not really. What i’m seeking is a riveting subject, i suppose. But i’m also pining for the university surroundings — the ideas, the sense of nascent becoming…. But i’m also suspicious of the arrogance and false sense of entitlement a university seems to encourage. As David Orr, environmental studies professor at Oberlin College , said some years ago:

“The product of a university degree is a population trained in hypocrisy.”

Off to University of BC tomorrow — the institution that lost my faith years ago, the day it sold its student body to Coca Cola, by way of the cafeteria and vending machines.

Going, going, gongshow

So after weeks of putzing and procrastination (or maybe just waiting on cosmic alignment) departure folds together in hours, like some clever kid’s toy.

  1. Late Friday, Helen’s daughter and son-in-law confirm they’ll arrive Sunday evening, so no more room at the inn (Helen’s floor).
  2. On Saturday, Henry tells me he’s heading back to Victoria tomorrow and will drop me off at the ferry if I like.
  3. Saturday afternoon I finally bestir myself down to the locker and rearrange, sort, salvage. Drag a car-load from Helen’s to locker, leaving a veritable snowdrift of my stuff across her living room floor. (Sorry, Hel, you’re a saint.)
  4. Sunday morning, pack my knapsack and throw what’s left into a conveniently leftover blue plastic tote. For the first time in weeks Helen’s floor is clear, the locker holds all my possessions … and the fact of departure is before me.


henry, driving by the sunning rocksRiding shotgun in Henry’s big black truck. Henry’s a talker, fortunately, so I can listen and not abuse my sore throat too much. I suck on cough drops like they are candy. (Yes, I know, they are.) The internal barometer is reading “indeterminate” — like it would be so poetically correct if I were to feel better with every passing mile, but so repulsively cliched too.

On the ferry, I sit at the back when the boat pulls away, thinking it’ll turn around and I’ll be at the front. But it’s the double-ended kind that doesn’t turn, so for a while I watch Vancouver Island, my home for the past ten years, slowly recede over the shiny-grey water. I do decide I’m feeling incrementally better, though. And reminding myself I won’t be going back for two whole months — or ever, maybe.

There are indications I’m out in the wide world. Two women behind me, one saying, “What is it with men and sunscreen? They never want to buy it, never remember to put it on.” Her companion says, “More men get melanomas than women.” Not a likely conversation on the west coast.

Later, in a different seat (this time at the real front), I’m reading photocopied excerpts from a book called The Religion of Technology (1998), in which author David Noble makes the case that, far from being diametrically opposed, our current technological fervour actually has its roots deep in religious feeling. In a nutshell, we are engaged in the project of returning ourselves to our state of perfection before the fall from grace. I’m sitting at the portside end of a long row of empty seats, and at the starboard end of the row a guy sits reading Wired magazine — pretty much the New, Improved Testament of tech boosterism.

To my left, on the outer deck, a man in a “wifebeater” undershirt and boxing gloves hammers one of the steel pillars. I take a clandestine picture, thinking, “I’m not in Kansas anymore, am I?”

Coming into Horseshoe Bay, the ferry stops engines not once but twice, giving the five-blast auditory finger to two motorboats that irresponsibly cross our bow. Welcome to traffic.

23:53 p.m.: Commercial Drive, fourth floor apt. — home of my eccentric, since-high-school artist friend Robert.

So far it feels … okay.

Vancouver is my oyster

dont tell em

Don’t, just don’t, tell ’em you’re going. Even if you tell ’em you’re going in three weeks, or you’re going when you feel like it. Because once they have linked the concepts “going” and “[your name]” in their whirling, preoccupied minds, you are going to hear, over and over again, these comments:

  1. Are you still here? I thought you left town!
  2. When are you going?

After a while you won’t enjoy it.