dance party weekend accomplished

I have slightly trashed knees. Turns out I’ve been hyperextending them for years! So now I have a slight cartilage issue in that they hurt when I use them too much. I’m forty four and have a long time to live in this body so this is of slight concern. Enter the collagen and the joint supplements and lot of care when I walk.

But right now I’m really feeling my knees because I actually went out two nights this weekend! I went to Vortex with Paul on Friday and then went to an 80s dance night at the local music hall with a mom’s group I joined on Facebook and aside from my stupid knees grinding when I was trying to do squats this morning in BodyPump class, I actually feel like myself more than I have since we left NYC six months ago.

Not only did I go out, but I spent time with new friends! I went for a long hike and pho yesterday and then a shorter walk and a chat over coffee with another friend today and I am starting to actually settle in here and make connections, which feels okay. Like I did it! I moved somewhere and didn’t need a chance encounter at a grocery store to plug into a friend group right when it was forming!

I admit, I did need a lot of Internet. I have met a lot of friends through a Facebook moms’ friend making group. I mean, the loneliness epidemic is real when you have two thousand women signed up for a Facebook group as a solution to dealing with their sense of isolation. And I’ve become more deeply entrenched in two sub-groups of that Facebook group: my speculative fiction book club, and a Moms of Teens spinoff. And through those sub-groups, I feel like I’m making actual small connections every time I meet up with them. Which is how these things are supposed to work, right?

It was that latter group, the Moms of Teens, that I coordinated to go out to the Ardmore Music Hall for 80s night last night, although I had a couple members of the book club show up too. I am a relentless promoter of parties when I’m socializing, and I sold that New Wave night through hard. And even though the DJ was MUCH too young and also did not manage to curate the waves of requests being thrown at him by drunk middle age people (Tiffany is not New Wave), everyone still seemed to have a fantastic time. We all left our houses at least, and went out with other people, and genuinely enjoyed ourselves dancing as a group, knees be damned.

So I have a lot of gratitude and a small amount of pride in how I’ve handled this challenge. I didn’t have my original Los Angeles crew to lean on. I didn’t have Brooklyn Scouts to help me find like-minded parents to connect with. And I still managed to go out and make new friends and coordinate a night out to an 80s dance party less than six months after landing on the Main Line. I still managed to make solid enough connections with people to spend hours in their presence on a regular basis.

And most importantly, I went out dancing two nights in a row this weekend, and I have stamps from two different clubs on my hand still, and I am proud of myself for that. Yes, I am feeling going out today. Yes, going out two nights in a row at 44 is very different than it was at 26. But I did go out two nights in a row to dance parties, and I’m so happy I’m at this point in a whole new city. This transition wasn’t ever going to be easy, but I can at least try to make it more fun.

sixteen years later

I am far too fond of visualizing a cut-over and a “[x] years later” overlay as a visual of my life. I’ve had to move and reboot so many times that I lack continuity. It’s hard sometimes even for me to piece together my own narrative. And lately, the cut-over I’ve been visualizing is a hot take from January of 2007 to January of 2023. This is because the common thread from my twenties is that I have to make new friends based on my own merits, as opposed to just having a kid born in 2008.

This is the weird thing about making friends as an adult who chooses to reproduce. You have a period of time where you make your own friends in your 20s, based on your college circles, or based on the people you meet randomly in your life if you move away from your college circle. Then you reproduce and suddenly, all your friends are people who had a baby around the same time you did. Then your kid becomes a teen, and suddently is an independent person, and you’re making new friends based on your own merits for the first time in decades because your identity is less about your status as a parent. Your life phase governs your identity, and your identity governs where and how you bond with other adult humans.

This is where I, and a lot of people my age, happen to be at this point in our social journeys. We’ve got teens who are their own persons. And we may have our fellow parent friends, but after a decade and a half, we may also have lost those friends to moves or personal differences or other changes that happen with time. We may have our pre-parent era friends, but similarly, they may have been lost as we went through our own life changes. So here we are, having to meet people who have to associate with us based on more factors than just their kid’s birth year. It’s terrifying.

The last time I had to make friends based on my own merits as a person and as a human was in the mid-aughts. I was in my mid to late twenties in Los Angeles, far from my friend circle in Vancouver and my family in Victoria. I had gone to seek my fame and fortune in digital media buying. And after maybe ten days in the Westside, I ran into a girl in the grocery store who kindly passed forward her own good fortune in meeting people, and invited me to meet her friends…and the rest is history. I met new friends, introduced them to other friends, helped to make connections, and always, always had something going on. My blog from that time is a never-ending whirl of work, socializing, and anarchist bike rides…which it continued to be right up until I left the Westside in January of 2007 to move in with that guy I met at Bar Sinister out east of Vermont.

And here we are sixteen years later. If my time in NYC was all about being a parent (in probably one of the least practical cities to be a parent in), then my time in Pennsylvania is going to be about the transition back out of being a parent. Ben is large! He is as tall as I am and is becoming more independent every day. He’s going to be driving in less than two years. I’m no longer making friends with other parents I meet through his school or through Scouts. I’m making friends with other humans based on being my own person. I have not had to do that for the better part of two decades and it is a very terrifying thought.

If I have a point of consolation, it is that I was still learning how to be a human in my twenties (late learner, okay?) and had yet to develop the empathy and social skills I worked on more consistently in my thirties. I have more faith in myself to be a less self-centered and insecure person now. In my twenties, I worked on blind ego (“of course people like me!”) combined with then crushing despair when I wasn’t to everyone’s taste (“there’s something wrong with me”). In my forties, I am trying to work based on self-confidence (“I am a great person to be friends with because I am kind and considerate and try my best to truly hear the people around me”) and rational consolation (“not everyone has to be my BFF and that’s okay!”) This doesn’t always mean I’m going to function without insecurity as years of exclusion and bullying are always going to be embedded in my foundations. But it does mean I’m able to identify my own insecurities and try to move past them as much as possible.

The other motivation I have to make friends is that I need to set an example for my kiddo. Just because I’m not socializing entirely based on being a parent does not mean that being a parent is no longer a factor at all. I have to demonstrate to Ben that friendships are built a block at a time. This does require the core friendship skillset I learned in my twenties in L.A., which is:

  1. establish contact and common ground
  2. ask if that person would like to hang out sometime
  3. get that person’s contact info
  4. follow-up with hang out details
  5. if hangout goes well, send follow-up note expressing how you enjoyed getting to know them
  6. repeat steps 4 and 5
  7. (optional) include that person in other aspects of your life, like double dating or bigger get togethers
  8. build friend circle and throw monster house party (okay maybe replace this with “quiet adult cocktails and appetizers party”)

So here we go, with a cut to 2023. I have to reach back through time and lived experience and remember what it was like to connect with people in an authentic and genuine manner. Thankfully, I am good at the Internet so I’ve been able to use that as a springboard to make new friends so far. But it’s still a major shift and change in my life and one I have to commit to. As does Ben. Sixteen years later, I’m in a different place both in my mental health as well as my physical location and life phase. Lets see how many of these old social skills tactics still work.

where is my training montage?

Paul and I are officially in training for Wave Gothik Treffen! We have just 19 weeks until we go to the largest goth festival in the world, in Leipzig Germany. We’re celebrating our 15 year anniversary, and what better way to do it than to spend a long weekend immersed in the subculture that brought us together?

However, we’ve been assured that WGT is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Four days with 200 bands, meetups, picnics and marketplaces spread out across an entire town is going to be exhausting. It’s going to require actual physical training for us to not only get through the days, but also be able to stay up late to go to shows. And everyone knows that when you’re in training, you need a montage, right?

Now that we no longer live in NYC, my step count is down significantly from where it was, even post-COVID. Pre-COVID, I’d do 10,000 steps a day without thinking twice. To/from work via subway plus an errand or meetup after the workday always meant four or five miles of walking over one day. Here in Suburbia, I barely eke out three thousand steps, even with a walk outside and a huge (okay huge to me) house that I am always wandering around. My endurance is way down. Combine my physical fitness deterioration with generally Being Old And Unable To Stay Up Past Midnight, and it is a bad combination to be taking on four days with fellow Children Of The Night.

I have therefore embarked on a multi-part training regiment to get ready for WGT. This consists of:

  • 10K steps per day, either outside or on my new awesome “treadmill desk”
  • Going out to clubs and staying until 1am. Break out the caffeinated drinks!
  • Enrolling with Weight Watchers so I am no longer carrying the equivalent of a fully loaded backpack all the time
Behold the glory of the treadmill desk!

Therefore, in the interest of Training for Treffen, we will be going out tomorrow night to a club in East Passayunk. Of course I am actually in an office tomorrow and will not be coming home between work and socializing, so this means I will have to wear an outfit suitable for the office that also works for the club. Which means that I’m going to have to look a little more authentic tomorrow at work. And while I have not exactly hidden my goth side from this set of co-workers (my corporate headshot is fairly Wednesday Addams down to the bat shaped circle pin on my collar) it still surprises people a bit when I show up in person in anything that goes beyond CorpGoth. But I keep getting messages to be more authentic when I read my Tarot cards, so authentic I shall plan to be authentic and just maybe keep the bat shaped necklace in my purse to put on during the train ride home.

It’s that need for authenticity that is really motivating me to become more comfortable bringing a more honest version of myself to multiple situations. It takes a little bit more vulnerability on my part to remain myself, instead of changing who I am to the environment. But one of the lessons I learned in NYC was that everyone is actually a little bit weird in their own way, and the city especially attracted people who had that extra-weird and often creative dimension. So even out here in the suburbs, I have to start acknowledging the potential for weirdness in others by being a bit more vulnerable and exposing my more quirky goth side.

Finally, I know this is the right track for me, not just because it keeps my sense of self intact, but because my subconscious keeps telling me so in the form of Tarot cards. When I did the full moon reading suggested by my Daily Tarot Planner, the final question was “What new approach can I take to support my emotional well-being”. The card I got for this? The Devil. Some people may choose to interpret this card with its usual meaning: hedonism, lack of restraint, short term pleasure at the expense of long term pain. I choose to interpret it as be more goth. It has a whole slew of the symbols that show up in goth culture: bat wings, pentagrams, performative fetish displays. The Devil card looks like it’s the inspiration for how filmmakers depict the “bad club” in every movie or TV show, including Quagmire’s in “San Junipero“. And the “evil club” always manages to look like Bar Sinister.

Ergo, the Devil card? Be more goth. Wear more bats and pentagrams. Lean into all that electro-industrial and post-punk and goth rock. And make that part of how I train for Treffen.

oh hai there 2023 i can has future?

My brother in law said last night, we’re at the point now where all the years look weird and science fiction-y. 2023 is no exception. The years now seem like they should be in science fiction, probably because we grew up on the mid-20th century sci-fi where this century was science fiction. It isn’t that 2023 is that far from 1993 or even 1983, it’s that 2023 was so far from 1953, when so much of the sci-fi that would define the genre was created. It’s given us the perspective that 2023 should be the future, and yet it feels like we’re still stuck in the past in more ways than I like to think about.

Take, for example, where I am now, the Main Line of Philadelphia. I’m starting 2023 in a new home, in a suburb not that unlike where I grew up. Yet this area is mired in the past in completely non-functional ways. Instead of moving into the future of non-vehicular transportation, it lacks sidewalks, bike lanes or direct routes to shopping and stores. The trains only run once per hour into Philadelphia from here, even though the SEPTA line is perfectly serviceable. Coming from New York City, it feels like I’ve moved into the post white-flight suburbs of 1973, a place designed to give every little traditional family unit their own Pennsylvania stone house, surrounded by exactly 0.27 acres of yard, with a shared driveway in which to park their individually owned vehicles. It’s a very twentieth century vision. It doesn’t feel 2023 here.

Living here has, however, given me an entirely new hobby. In many women moving to the suburbs, this would be baking or gardening or crafting, hobbies that take advantage of the space differential between an apartment and a full sized house. My new hobby is instead just complaining about the suburbs. It’s not necessarily a productive hobby, but it does seem to be getting me through the first few months of this very different existence. I’ve spent the last twenty years since leaving UBC campus living in cities that acknowledged the existence of the future, even if they didn’t fully embrace the change that will be needed to meet it. Cities are places of ideas, after all – they exist to provide a physical space for abstract concepts like trade or art. I do not feel like the suburbs – especially these well established and well heeled suburbs I live in now – acknowledge a future. Instead, these townships would very much prefer to keep everything as much the same as possible, on behalf of the same people who have benefited from that sameness for the past century, and I will complain endlessly about feeling like I’m locked in the past.

The move to the Main Line has made my life easier though. There’s a dozen little ways every day that I find myself marveling at the sheer ease of existence. This house feels huge to start with, big enough that we were able to host my sister and her family and it was still comfortable for seven people to be here. We can park in our own driveway so we can use the car consistently to grocery shop. We don’t have to hear noise from outside our own home, with the exception of a rare truck or low flying plane (no more cars with jacked up sound systems! no more cars with ringing phones hooked up to those sound systems blasting the T-Mobile ring jingle at 3am!). The house has all these storage spaces so I never open a closet to have five things fall down on me. The house is only 72 years young, not over a century old, so the pipes allow for a “garburator”. I have my own washer dryer in the basement along with a second fridge. The list goes on and on.

I therefore have this fantastic opportunity to shift all this extra energy into actual hobbies and self development, instead of just using it to complain and mope. So I shall consider what I actually want to get out of 2023, and how I want my first full year in this new existence to go. I know I want my life here to be more authentic, to start with. I want to build off the sense of self I’ve been working on for the past decade, and go into this change with that intact. I was so insecure when I moved to NYC and kept feeling like I needed to change myself to fit in with other “grownups”, and now I’m realizing that being myself is what makes people want to engage with me (whole other post, I know). So how do I extend that concept of “being myself” into this whole new existence and lifestyle?

And how do I apply all the time and energy that is no longer going into just living in NYC? Before COVID, I looked outside my home for my day to day existence. Now, I actually live in a place which is designed for me to look inward. Combined with my permanent work from home status, I’m in a completely different mental and physical place and will need to adjust for that.

This is what I am kind of working through, these first couple days of 2023 and last couple days before I resume work full time again. Does a re-assessment of how I engage with my existence include writing and resuming this blog, for example? I haven’t been terribly regular here since 2007, back when I had this whole thing on the Livejournal platform. It’s been a while. But hey, I live in the future now. Maybe using this platform to sort out my thoughts is a step in looking forward.

home is where the heart is

So I was writing this for a slack internal discussion and then realized it was a blog post…

I empathize so deeply with this topic and with the concept of “home”. My story is the reverse in that I am a :flag-ca: living in :usa: and have been since I left BC almost two decades ago. For the first seven years, I was in L.A., but even after I met some of my best friends, found my husband and had our kiddo there, neither my husband nor I considered L.A. “home” because we had no intention of staying there long term. By contrast, when we lived in Brooklyn for ten years, I was considering that “home” because I had built so much of my adult life up in NYC. I invested real emotional energy in building a local social network and building my career and I spent hours reading up on NYC history and the mechanics of the city so I could understand it. Calling NYC “home” was a deliberate choice because I expected to live the rest of my life there and I wanted an emotional connection to the place equivalent to the connection I had with Vancouver. (Also, I’m the fourth generation of my family to live in NYC so it was easy to construct a narrative with an established connection)

And then my husband got a job outside Philly and we had to up and move to the suburbs here and I am honestly too old and exhausted to re-invest the kind of energy into calling it “home” like I did with Brooklyn. I’m unlikely intertwine my sense of place and identity here the way I did with Vancouver or with Brooklyn and life is unlikely to take me back to NYC (especially now that it is literally the world’s most expensive city).

But I’m aware that even as much as I LOVED NYC, I do not say I’m going “home” when I go up there to visit. The only place I have consistently said I’m going “home” to is the greater Salish Sea area (which is the Straits between Vancouver Island and the US and Canadian mainland), and I still feel a sense of relief just flood through me every time I get back to Sea-Tac or YVR and see all the pointy trees and mountains and images of salmon in the airport art. Then I’m “home”. My sister, her family and my mom moved back last year to BC from Toronto, so my family are there. My son is talking about going to my alma mater, UBC Vancouver. My husband and I are discussing retiring in Washington State near the Canadian border, which a year ago, I wouldn’t have even considered as a path because I had planned to be one of those eccentric New York retired women who wear feather boas to the grocery store.

I suppose the point of all this is that some of us may have a sense of place or a sense of “home” already, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. I believe it’s possible to invest the emotional and intellectual energy in a new place to craft a sense of home and a sense of belonging that creates that inner peace. It just can be risky because it’s one more place to be homesick for.

leaving new york never easy

I was back in NYC this week and it was breaking my heart.

I’ve been so comfortable in my new Philadelphia suburban existence that I became a little complacent about my grieving process. I have been so enamoured with how easy life became when we left that I forgot that I lived in NYC for one reason, and one only: I loved it. That was why we stayed after COVID and why we never even considered leaving when I committed to full time remote work. I loved the city and the life I had built in it, and chose to stay.

So I came in Wednesday night on Amtrak to have dinner with a dear old friend. First though, we went to the Museum at FIT, one of my favorite random museums in the city for seeing the most couture outside of the Met exhibits. And we had dinner, and I hsd two glasses of wine, and then rolled myself “home” to the apartment I still own. And it was then, walking back the last few blocks from the Q, a walk I’ve done hundreds of times, that I really fell apart. While walking around Manhattan, I had been merely wistful for the years when I ran around Midtown after work, for a time when walking across the city was a commonplace part of my week. But coming back to Brooklyn, I longed for my old life living in Prospect Heights. I longed to go back to living in that apartment with an intensity that shocked me. It hit me, all over again, how very muculh I truly miss my life in Prospect Heights.

And then I couldn’t sleep Wednesday nighy and chose to sleep in Thursday morning and missed one of my last chances for a walk in Prospect Park on a gorgeous fall morning. I am deeply disappointed in those circumstances, but also slightly grateful. I almost didn’t go back out to Brooklyn to crash on Wednesday night because I knew this attachment would re-form, that I would arrive in the neighborhood I spent eight years in, and be reminded of how very much I loved it. A walk in the park yesterday morning would have been too much immersion in one of my favorite places and then I really wouldn’t have been able to leave.

I dragged myself out of the city yesterday instead, zoned out on pain from dental surgery, aimlessly wandering across Midtown again from Times Square to GCT. I walked through Bryant Park and past the library, down into Grand Central and it’s extravagantly beautiful ceiling. I got on a Metro North train and traveled to Poughkeepsie, and spent the night in a very weird AirBNB. Today, I traveled the last little bit of the way to Rhinebeck and to the Omega Center, which is where I am now, wrapping this blog post and waiting for Cheryl Strayed to come address an audience of several hundred white women as part of a “Wild Awakenings” writing workshop. And I’m trying not to long too much for the city….

…but when I walked across the Walkway Over The Hudson this morning, I looked south, and all I could think was, “at the end of this river, is New York City, and shouldn’t that have been enough?”

Eventually this river passes by Brooklyn.

for bringing me here, for showing me home

Tonight, in the car, riding back from Vesuvius Beach with my family, I realized my brother in law listens almost exclusively to 100.3 The Q, The Island’s Rock….which means my nieces can sing the Thrifty Foods jingle on command (The smile’s in the bag for you….at Thrifty Foods!). These same nieces, along with their big teenage American cousin, spent an hour at the beach tonight pushing lumber mill driftwood logs into the water and then wading out to play on the barely buoyant wood, as the sun went down over the perfectly smooth Salish Sea. These kids are literally living the childhood my sister and I shared, a very specific Pacific Northwest existence, in the magical days of summer when the sun just never seems to go down. My sister has somehow managed to move her children back and then give them a way to create memories similar to our best recollections of childhood.

My gratitude for being here, so close to home, is off the scale. I’m so glad my sister actually did decide to move back here. After all, I’ve been Off Island since 1998. That’s more than half my lifetime out in the Wider World. And yet, I still come back consistently to the Salish Sea, and feel something in me release every time I do so. I felt myself breathe more when I drove out to the ferry at Tsawassen today, like something around my heart had loosened a bit. I am out there taking on the world and all its uncertainties every single day, but when I get back to Victoria or the Gulf Islands or the Lower Mainland, it’s still the place I’ve always known. The certainty of being able to come home to BC because my family re-settled out here resonates deeply with me, and the relief of getting here is indescribable.

Even after almost eighteen years in L.A. and NYC, I still respond with this flood of relief when I get to the Pacific Northwest every year. One year, I burst into tears seeing the metal salmon set in the floor of Seattle-Tacoma airport, because I was back in a region where people understand the importance of a salmon stream. This year, I started crying with joy and sheer relief when I got to the end of the Tsawassen causeway and pulled into the ferry lane, knowing I was going to make it onto the next sailing and that I had finally almost completed my journey back to an island.

It isn’t as if I’m fleeing my existence in NYC or Philadelphia exactly though. It’s more that somebody told me this is the place where everything’s better and everything’s safe. When I get to the Northwest, I feel like I have a respite from the fears I have living in the wider world. My son and I are here, safe and loved, in a place I know by heart. Being here means I can put down the mental defenses I have to keep up every day to survive in the Wider World, and just lean into a place where everything feels familiar and comfortable. I’m so grateful to my sister that we get to come back to the home she’s created out here and that my son and nieces are able to experience the best parts of our childhood as a result.

do you know where you are now?

Do you know where you are now?
Do you know if you’ve been found?
Do you know how long you’ve been away?

54-40 remain the soundtrack of my years in Canada. Not because I necessarily sought out 54-40, but because that band was everywhere in my existence. 100.3 The Q (The Island’s Rock) played 54-40 incessantly in the 1990s. 54-40 played Arts County Fair so much that they asked for an honorary degree at ACF 12 (the year I stocked their hospitality suite with granola bars). Still, it’s these lines from “Miss You” that I keep hearing, especially the last one. Do you know how long you’ve been away?

I do know how long I’ve been away. It’s been eighteen years and counting since I left the Salish Sea in my Saturn. And over half of those years have been spent in New York City, which is where I am sitting now, in my apartment, which we technically still own. The difference is that I am now passing through New York City. I do not live in New York City. I live on the Main Line, outside Philadelphia, in an affluent suburb not unlike the one where I grew up.

It’s strange to think of the familiarity of Brooklyn or Manhattan and then recognize that I actually no longer have any claim to the city. It was strange to be riding in an Uber back to Brooklyn this evening, looking out at Midtown across the necropolis of Queens, a vista so familiar and yet no longer one I’m connected to. I had to unsubscribe to Gothamist today because I would read about a new restaurant, or development, or Mayor Adams policy, and it would slot immediately within my brain into the familiar context of the city, in the knowledge base I worked so hard to build over the last decade. And then I would realize, the thing that I was reading about would have no effect on me whatsoever, that I was no longer part of New York City, and the thought would send a physical pain through me.

New York City was my birthright, the place my ancestors came to a century and change ago. My grandparents lived within two miles of my co-op, in Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, before they even met. My mother was born in Queens. When I log onto US government websites, it says my birthplace is New York (it was assigned to me because I’m a US citizen born abroad but still). Most of all though, New York City was the place where I spent a decade, more time than I’ve lived anywhere else since I was growing up in Victoria. I dream of the cities on the Salish Sea but New York has also become a place I know by heart. I can walk this city and know that I have a memory for the majority of the blocks of Manhattan below Central Park and that I knew the chunk of Brooklyn from Wallabout Bay to Green-Wood, from DUMBO to Crown Heights, as well as anyone. I came here a young mother in a new-ish marriage, and really learned how to be a parent and a partner here. I built my career here. I had some of my dearest friends in the city with me. I made my life here thinking I’d always be part of this city. Sure, my apartment was small and narrow and weirdly laid out, but outside this apartment is New York City and really, isn’t that enough?

I know exactly how long I’ve been away. It’s only been a month since I officially declared my moving date and changed all my social media to say I live in Wynnewood PA but it feels like so much longer. Doesn’t time always move more slowly when one grieves? And that’s honestly what I need to do right now. I feel like my heart is breaking, like I need to mourn my relationship with New York City. I feel the same sorrow I do in a breakup, knowing I’ve lost a presence in my life. Perhaps I need a new Sorrow Mix, because the last one was made when I was in Los Angeles and mourning Vancouver.

los angeles, 2005

Maybe if I made a new Sorrow Mix, and gave myself the space to grieve, I would be a little more prepared to reconcile myself to a life in which I do not live in NYC. In the next few decades I have allocated to me, I will live in Philadelphia or back in the Northwest, but I will never again really be part of this city the way I have been for the past decade. I am moving on to a new phase in Philadelphia, and I’m excited for that, but I still need to process this loss. Miss you, indeed.

where is my robot assistant?

Since the 2020s in general have been so utterly terrible, I like to focus on the smaller disappointments, like the fact that I do not have a robot assistant. At this point in the future, should I not have AI that can assist me in handling my day to day? I want a virtual assistant that will not only tell me my agenda for the day, but will also tell me what I need to prepare for each meeting. There are many current trajectories that tell me I’m living in the wrong timeline entirely, that history has gone off its rails since the hopeful decade of the 1990s. Today, however, I’m choosing to focus on the lack of actual helpful AI assistance as the proof that this is a wrong tomorrow.

I find myself instead imitating what I think my own robot assistant would sound like sometimes, a weird idiosyncrasy that helps me externalize my priorities and my thinking. What would an AI assistant tell me my priorities were? If I am overwhelmed by everything happening around me, how would an external rational program help me identify what I really need to know for a day?

This is why I sometimes talk to myself in the shower while on business trips, especially at times like these when I have been through five states in three weeks (Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, New York and today, Florida) and need to remember which corporate hotel I am staying in, and why. I’ll start reciting to myself, in a virtual assistant voice sometimes, as if I am trying to add very concrete rationality to what could otherwise spin into a series of existential questions:

Good morning JILLIAN. Today is AUGUST 10TH, 2022. You are in JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA. The weather today is VERY HOT AND MUGGY. You have meetings with [CLIENT NAME REDACTED] AT 10:30AM. Your top prioriy tomorrow is to GET YOUR SLIDES DONE BEFORE THE 8AM MEETING WITH THE GROUP IN THE LOBBY. Your next flight is to CHICAGO AT 4:52PM AND YOU NEED TO BE AT THE AIRPORT BY 3PM AS IT DOES NOT HAVE CLEAR. Your top priority today is to REVIEW THE MATERIAL FOR THE NEXT PITCH. Your next priority is to PREPARE FOR MEETINGS IN CHICAGO.

There’s a very structured rationality to how I imagine an AI assistant would give me information, which I lack in my day to day. If I was giving myself information, I’d immediately get sidetracked by a zillion details. Did I book the dog’s daycare? Did I reply to a Scout email? Have I texted my friends to make vacation plans? Do I have time to get my nails done? I’d go down rabbit holes of tasks that aren’t time sensitive or aren’t important. Whereas when I imagine an AI assistant giving me information in the morning, I assume that program is set up to only give me information that is in the upper left quadrant of the Eisenhower matrix.

Also, sometimes, I just think it would be cool to have a robot me that could help me prioritize and sort through my thoughts. It’s very Black Mirror, the idea that I could have an artificial intelligence so close to my own, that it could know and understand all of the thoughts and resulting to-do items that flit through my brain. In the interim, pretending to be my own robot alter ego sometimes serves as a useful thought exercise. Maybe that’s a self-help book idea to be published. Maybe it’s just me being tired at the end of a long day, in JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA.

ferry follies

I spent Friday back in my hometown of Victoria, in the downtown core, revisiting the Royal BC Museum and it’s soon to be defunct BC Human History 3rd floor exhibits (The museum is going to screw this up, but I digress). While there, I noticed a catamaran in the harbour below the old Royal Steamship terminal (formerly home to the Royal London Wax Museum) and assumed it was the Victoria Clipper parked in the wrong spot.

Catamaran behind the tree to the left but also, look how pretty my hometown is.

From a better vantage point, however, I realized the catamaran in question was not the Clipper but was rather the “V2V” Victoria 2 Vancouver catamaran:

Upon further research I found out that this is a ferry owned by an Australian company who bought the catamaran as a secondhand boat from a route in Quebec and re-wrapped it with a Coast Salish design. I very much doubt that any actual Indigenous creators were paid or accredited for this work, especially since the boat itself is named the Empress. I cannot sometimes with the exploitative colonial mindset of my homeland.

I also discovered via the Times-Colonist (actual name of local newspaper still) that the V2V service had become defunct before COVIDin January 2020. The surprise of the parent company also made me suspect that the Australian owners had not checked in or spoken to any locals in Victoria prior to launching the service. Had they done so, they would have learned of the prior failed attempt to create a similar service, the Royal Sealink, in the 1990s, which met with a tragic and disastrous end in 1993, becoming a Victoria local disaster tale on a par with the Great Blizzard of 1996.

Before I get to the Royal Vancouver catamaran though, let us take a few steps back and understand why people keep trying to create new maritime links to the mainand. Victoria is a former Britiah colony on the traditional land of the Lkwungen (now known as the Esquimalt and Songhees) peoples. It was originally a Hudson’s Bay Company town at its inception in 1843. Victoria was made the capital of British Columbia in 1866, but its future was sealed as a secondary city to Vancouver after the railroad was completed. Victoria, after all, is on an island, and cannot not be connected to the mainland by physical roads or rails.

Physical connections, however, are no longer needed to connect with the outside world. Now technology and the internet make it viable to work from the Island, andmy hometown has evolved from being a quaint tourist destination and government town, to being a small, modern city that both locals and tourists alike would like to be able to travel to and from.

The isolated aspect of my hometown surprises Americans. The idea of a modern city, with a population of almost 400,000 people, being unreachable by highway, is hard to grasp. There are car ferries that are part of the highway system (or used to be, before privatization), each carrying hundreds of cars and up to two thousand people. There are commercial flights in and out of Victoria International (YYJ). There are seaplanes and helicopters for those people who want to get to the mainland quickly and can pay the premium for the experience. And this is why every few years, a businessperson with no ties to the Island or to our ferry-based culture will decide that what wealthy people really want to travel on is a luxury fast ferry that will take them from downtown Victoria to downtown Vancouver.

Let’s start by defining fast ferry. The S-class BC Ferries (aka “Spirit class vessels”) that run from the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria to the Tsawwassen peninsula south of Vancouver run at about 20 knots or 22mph. They go faster in the open Salish Sea east of the Gulf Islands than they do through Active Pass, but that is their overall speed.

Spirit Class vessel, launched for the Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 1994. Also this is what I mean when I make jokes about large cars being a vessel class.

Catamarans fast ferries, by contrast, run at speeds over 35 knots, or 40+MPH. These are passenger only ferries that are much smaller and lighter than the huge barge-like car ferries.

The Victoria Clipper, a fast ferry catamaran running between Victoria and Seattle. The Clipper runs at between 30 and 50mph depending on wake limitations for habitation.

The Victoria Clipper service has run between Victoria and Vancouver since 1986. It’s a fast ferry that goes from downtown to downtown, making what would be a 5 hour car trip via ferries at Tsawwassen or Anacortes or Port Angeles into a two hours and change ferry ride. It’s always been billed as a luxury service. Not real luxury, because actual wealthy people recognize that time is money and the seaplanes between the two cities are a better investment in that time. But the Clipper is an affordable ferry upgrade that also provides some fantastic views along Puget Sound for people who either do not wish to pay for, or just do not like flying in a tiny plane.

It’s very likely the success and longevity of the Clipper service that makes non-Island business people think that a similar service to Vancouver is a good idea. However, these are people who probably cannot read maps. The route from downtown Seattle to downtown Victoria is fairly direct, up through Puget Sound and across what used to be the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Those boats enter Victoria’s harbour on the southwest corner of Vancouver Island. But because the harbour entrance is on the southwest side of Victoria, and Vancouver is to the northeast, the Vancouver route has to go around Victoria before they can get through the Gulf Islands and the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver

Map of the Salish Sea. Paul is shown where we are today on Saltspring Island

Because of the loop around the lower Island, it takes three and a half hours to get from Victoria to Vancouver — a full hour longer than it does to Seattle, which is further away. It also requires the boat to travel through some of the most open areas of the Salish Sea, which at high speeds, can cause seasickness.

It was the added time and the nausea inducing nature of the journey that spelled out DOOM for the Royal Sealink thirty years ago. Well that, and the fact that the Royal Vancouver smashed head-on into a Queen-class BC Ferry in Active Pass in 1993injuring two dozen people and smashing in the snout of the catamaran so it looked like a Volvo in a crash test commercial. (The BC Ferry, for the record, was slightly dinged up)

This led me down an entire Google hole yesterday of reviewing what exactly happened to this first failed fast ferry fiasco, and I actually found the original incident report which I have now read with glee. Let me tell you, if it is possible for a maritime incident report to throw shade, this report does so. It is both factual and judgmental in all the best ways, thoroughly blaming the Royal Vancouver fast ferry crew for serving drinks when they should have been on the bridge, and calling out the ship master and first mate for being out of practice on the high seas. As my sister put it, “you done f**ked up, Royal Vancouver!”

I suppose V2V, had they even recognized that a prior similar service had failed, would have rationalized their atSo tempt regardless. The new Empress ferry was supposed to have stabilizers that would enable people to carry drinks to their seats without spilling. I also sincerely hope they had crew who had gone through Active Pass more than ten times before attempting to do so in the fog. But no amount of correction for the past’s most egregious mistakes could make up for the fact that there are not enough tourists to cover the costs of a fast ferry service year round — and while 80% of locals say they would take a fast ferry that went directly to Vancouver’s harbor, very few will do so at 15x the cost of a BC Ferry walk-on foot passenger ticket.

So there you have it: my commentary on why memory is important. Had the new Riverside Maritime Group surveyed Victorians my age and older, they would have known, there is no demand for a fast luxury ferry to Vancouver. It is not something that was asked for or needed, and only served to add one more very loud ship into the aural mix around the endangered Southern orca population. Victoria is a unique place with a long memory. I am surprised when lessons from those memories are forgotten so quickly