Hops and Hobos

What a long, strange trip it’s been. Looking back, it’s actually a struggle to remember the countless things I’ve crammed into these whirlwind few months in the great white North. What I have crammed, however, is a reckless amount of delicious foodstuffs, into my mouth with the apparent sole intention of clinical obesity by 26. It doesn’t help that the national dishes of Canada are poutine or mac and cheese, depending on who you speak to.

Yeah, that middle one is a CHIMICHANGA. If slow death by saturated fat wasn’t enough, I have also set a personal vendetta against my liver, who has been promoted to a senior role with extra responsibility and zero benefits. He (of course my liver is a guy. Because women have no filter) was woefully unprepared for the abuse I’ve been putting him through. Vancouver has an amazing craft beer scene, and I have become a craft beer scene kid.

Each glass represents a food group

Each glass represents a food group

Unfortunately my personal quest to sample as many craft brews as I can has caused my liver to break out of my ribcage and go into hiding, probably somewhere tropical.
Said Gandhi, “If I stop drinking all at once, I’m afraid the cumulative hangover will kill me.” It doesn’t help that I’ve been working in a liquor store.

Oh yeah! I got a job. I’ve been charming locals and demonstrating complete lack of knowledge at a bottle-o near downtown for next to minimum wage (which is about half of Perth minimum wage). The fact that it is located smack bang in the middle of Gaytown, with many of the roads painted a vibrant pink and pride flags slapped onto most storefronts, has been the source of many of my tips (hahahahaha). It is, in short, gayer than a purse full of rainbows, and it’s been an endless source of entertainment. It’s significantly better to have customers who break into your house to redecorate it as opposed to just stealing your TV.

Friendship is magic!

Friendship is magic!

Apart from educating myself on local breweries and the difference between Trappist ales and triple IPAs, I also discovered the website ratebeer.com, where you swipe right if you fancy a particular brew (not really, you just rate them out of 100). The local beer guru, a charming gentleman with a beard that would stop a small truck and about 3,500 different beer tastings under his belt, told me he’d never seen a beer rated below 10/100 before. So of course, my first search query was the glorious redcan of ages. To the surprise of no one at all, Emu Export scores a 3/100. Fancy that, I thought. I then took it upon myself to find a beer that was so abysmal it would receive a single point out of 100. It took many hours, an emotional rollercoaster of blood, sweat and tears. But, finally, I found what I sought. Like Indy and the Holy Grail, I found the world’s worst beer. Can you guess what it is?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s Carlton. Fucking. Dry. 1/100. I could not make this up.

AND I'VE ALWAYS HATED IT

AND I'VE ALWAYS HATED IT

Not all the customers are upstanding individuals though. As I may have mentioned, homelessness is a major problem here, mostly because the city did a bunch of reno it couldn’t afford for the Olympics and promptly abandoned it shortly afterwards. And I’ve accidentally stumbled into the hive nest. Many times now, in fact. And you know what? I’ve been accosted a grand total of zero times. I get harassed more walking down the street back home than I do in the most run down parts of Vancouver.

Thanks Vancouver Sun because I am too scared to take pictures of the east side

Thanks Vancouver Sun because I am too scared to take pictures of the east side

My first foray into hobo town began innocently enough. I was strolling through Gastown, the local epicentre of culture, cafes, tattoo parlours and tacky gift shops. Right next door, I moved on to Chinatown, where the signs are all in Chinese and there’s a faint smell of dim sum. However, strolling on, without warning the scenery changed to run down alleys littered with syringes, multi coloured sleeping bags, people living out of shopping carts (sorry. trolleys) and a smell like fermenting trash bags. You know, aside from standing in a line at a soup kitchen, it’s sometimes hard to tell if someone is homeless here if you can’t smell them directly, because people like to dress like they’re homeless. That is, lots of layers and plaid chic. Huh, maybe that’s why they leave me alone. There was one woman who yelled at me and some friends to "go back to where we came from", but all that did was warm my heart and remind me of Australia.

Maybe a little homeless

Maybe a little homeless

Really, though, the only vaguely unsettling thing happened after a gig one night. I witnessed a guy barrel through the bus line and push his way on. “YO, DRIVER! THIS GUY IS CHASING ME, MAN, HE’S CRAZY, MAN, PLEASE HELP ME!” he screamed, eyes and tongue darting around like Barty Crouch Jr. The driver looked nonplussed and pretended to receive a text on his phone.
Rampaging after this guy was a friendly bald gentlemen who looked like he was on a steady diet of twinkies and methamphetamine. He said, and no word of a lie, I quote.
 “COME OUT HERE YOU LITTLE TUTTI FRUTTI. I DON’T WANT TO HURT YOU. I JUST WANT TO TALK.” 

I still giggle when I think of this

I still giggle when I think of this

The guy stormed onto the bus, walked straight past his victim who was doing his best impression of an inanimate seat warmer, and promptly stormed off again, slapping the windows on the way out. We heard glass smashing and his yelling fade away as the bus slowly departed, and the guy who was being chased broke down sobbing. The rest of us shared looks somewhere between bemused and terrified.
But that’s, like, a casual Tuesday on the Armadale line.

Board Games

Procrastinating life, a job and the now routine day to day of life in Vancouver, I have now made three trips to the fabled land known as Whistler. It’s one of the best ski resorts in the world, 2 hours north of Van, which boasts 2 massive mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, over 200 runs, and 8, 171 acres of terrain. I don’t have much to compare it to, but next to the hulking giant that is Whistler Blackcomb, Niseko is a tiny baby hill.

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I was taken aback by the sheer magnitude of it; the rolling mountains stretching on for miles covered in a whimsical baking powder. It looks like that fairy snow track from Diddy Kong Racing. If Christmas was a place, it would be Whistler. The lights, the cute little snowtopped townhouses, the friendly loca-
“OI FUCKIN' DAWG LET’S GET US A BEVVY MOYT!”
I was snapped out of my reverie by shrill notes piercing the air. Ah, I thought. That’s right. This place is overrun with Aussies. Whistla, they call it. I’m serious. The village offers the authentic Australian experience, with an abundance of meat pies, vegemite, and gonorrhea.

Christmas and bogans. I wasn't kidding, this is the gonorrhea capital of BC

Christmas and bogans. I wasn't kidding, this is the gonorrhea capital of BC

I’m not sure what it is about snow resorts that attract us so much. Maybe it’s because we don’t really get them in this scale back home. Maybe we’re just paid too damn much and are therefore in the fortunate position to travel. Maybe the pasty white complexion of the United Kingdom’s convict descendants make us super susceptible to the sun, and so we long to escape its cosmic death rays. (Seriously, 44 degrees? Did anyone else see that chick who literally BAKED CUPCAKES on her windshield? It might be better collectively for WA to pack up and move to the surface of Mercury).

What a magical place, though. Meet up with mates, engage in a long bender of partying, snowboarding, snowboarding while regretting partying, bussing around, eating, snowboarding and partying. I got a good deal on a hostel that was honestly one of the nicest I’ve ever stayed in, but the catch was that it was a 20 minute bus ride to the mountain. Liveable, yes, but it’s not super pleasant sitting in a bus for so long with all your gear nursing a hangover that would slay a gorilla.

But it's worth it for views like this

But it's worth it for views like this

The flipside of being so damn pretty is that this place is now incredibly popular and commodified. My third visit was during a holiday weekend, and so that added an extra 3 hours to the transit/gondola wait times. It was, to borrow my favourite Canadian expression, a rampaging gong-show. There is a god damn KFC and a cinema here. It’s basically a city. The mountain even has WiFi, with a Whistler app showing you your top speed, runs, altitude and live camera feeds of the roads and lifts. My current snowboard level is probably "not totally ass sucking".

None of these people are Canadian

None of these people are Canadian

So all in all, I was having a joyous time in WhisVegas when on the second last day of my first visit, I decided to hit the mountain solo yolo. It was a grand adventure, carving the fresh (boom boom) pow while listening to post-rock. No other experience quite like that. (Other noteworthy experiences include: Giving yourself a facial! Which happens when the pow is so fresh it flies up into and around your face. It’s violating)

Pic unrelated

Pic unrelated

Anyway, unlike most other ski resorts, Whistler shuts its lifts down at 3pm, because due to the sheer size of the mountains it’s impossible to police and monitor the place after dark, so they round up the stragglers around then. It was 2:45 when I decided to attempt one last run, a blue on the far left side of Whistler I hadn’t done before. I started the descent and regret my decision almost immediately: there was a flat expanse before a small ravine that was entirely chopped up and mogulled on my side. I attempted to cross before losing all of my speed and pitifully sliding into the snow about 1/5 of the way across, sinking like a slice of bread in the ocean.

Everything is fine

Everything is fine

Starting to realize the magnitude of my fuck up and that I had inadvertently taken on a black diamond, I unclipped my bindings and attempted to walk up the other side of this ravine. The powder was so deep, though, that my foot went straight in yet refused to come up the same way again, resulting in a twisted ankle and a stream of profanities.

Seeing as I was now in pain, thoroughly pissed off and determined to finish this run, I attempted to lean over the side of the lip and bind up quickly enough that the momentum would see me through to the other side. I started to bind, accidentally pressed on my sore ankle, and slipped. The tiniest slip, ever so slightly, and for a fraction of a second, the board left my fingertips.

Then it was gone, riderless and free from my ineptitude. It saw its chance and dove off the side of a precipice like a tiny neon rocket.

I blinked.

Then, I leaned over to see where it had gone.

Nothing. Nothing but the branches, swaying in its wake, and trees, for miles and miles.

“…shit.”

I decided to follow it, and so began a 45 minute long journey of a foolish, foolish man hobbling down an incline that would make Sly Stallone proud, hopelessly lost and highly concerned my refugee board was going to decapitate some poor ski child. Surely, it will be at the bottom. Or lodged firmly inside a tree. Or some hibernating bear had been woken by it, and charitably handed it in the nearest gondola station. As time went on, I stopped wondering if I would find my board, and instead began to wonder if I was going to have to try and survive on this mountain like Liam Neeson in The Grey.

Pretty much. I mean it was filmed in basically the same place

Pretty much. I mean it was filmed in basically the same place

Eventually, ski patrol picked me up, and I had to endure a snowmobile ride of shame to the bottom. “Where the hell is your board?” my mates asked, in disbelief. Hanging my head, I raised a single finger to the mountain behind me.

And that’s the story of how I lost my snowboard in Whistler. Some say that on a quiet day, you can still hear it on the mountain, zooming off cliffs like the Sleepy Hollow Horseman.

Idiot

Idiot

Livin' La Vida Local

I can’t feel my face when I’m with you, ‘cause it’s -5 degrees and I’m poorly dressed. For some reason, I expected that people here would just know, somehow, that I wasn’t from around here. Like I had a giant floating sign following me around like that shitty insurance ad saying FOB. But for the most part, nobody bats an eye. I mean, it’s a huge city, and there’s plenty of international tourists here. It’s like some guy walking around back home with an Irish accent; nobody cares.

Unless you're being a god damn obnoxious tourist

Unless you're being a god damn obnoxious tourist

Maybe it’s because everybody in Canada is high as shit. Oh boy, do Canadians love to get baked. It’s a testament to the progressiveness of this place, with a dispensary and some kind of kale-infused organic goji berry latté available at a vintage cafe at least on every block. God damn hippies. For all your greenery needs, however, all you need is certification from a medical professional. This is offered in house at many of these dispensaries, which generally sport hilarious names such as “Budzilla” and “MEDPOTNOW”. $10 for a Skype call in a shady back room with mood lighting, and congratulations! You can now buy legal weed. Indica, Sativa, edibles, oils, pre-rolled joints and shower gels. It’s ridiculous. Bertie Botts Every Flavour Greens.

My personal favourite Canadian hipster offering are the legendary growlers. Now, the locals I’ve met here think I’m making an overly big deal out of this, but the growler concept is easily the most amazing thing since sliced gluten-free bread. It’s a 32 or 64 oz bottle you can buy from a brewery, and you basically bring it back whenever you like for cheap refills of the craft beer of your choice. Cheaper and tastier than a six pack, and they even give you free tastings.

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For all the progressiveness though, homelessness seems to be a pretty serious problem here. The housing market is all kinds of fucked, with anything remotely near downtown costing upwards of $1 mil. Majestic Point eat your heart out. I’d like to think that maybe that’s why I was conned so magnificently I would have been better off buying snake oil from a brake light fluid specialist.

Some friendly neighbourhood emo gang tagging

Some friendly neighbourhood emo gang tagging

I came out of the bathroom of an A&W when a black dude wearing sweatpants and a single fabulous earring came up to me and asked if I supported local music. If it was anything else, I think now… if he was championing some other cause, like starving children, I probably would have excused myself and jogged on my merry way. But local music! I know how tough it can be in the music scene, how hard it is for struggling artists to make it in the industry. Man, CJ left Thy Art like two weeks ago. So I gave this guy the benefit of the doubt.

“Hey, man, I would really appreciate it if you bought my mixtape,” he continued, looking at me with an expression I can only describe as ”World Vision”.
“You know, so I can keep producing music and… so people can hear my art, you know what I’m saying?” A single tear ran down his cheek.

Those of you playing at home can spot this hustle a mile away, and even my own overly gullible mind starting to question this sob story. So I started asking him questions: how did he produce it, what he used to mix and master, how long he spent in the studio. He had an answer for every single one. Fuck it, I thought. “I know how tough it is out there, dude.” I handed him crisp Canadian currency before saying proudly, “I’ll always help local music.”

“Man, this will help me so much. Now I can finish school. Thanks so much, bro!” he exclaimed through fervent nods, before patting me on the back and sprinting away.

And that’s the story of how I spent $30 on 3 blank CDs with “MC HYPE” scrawled on them in Sharpie. 

Sorry eh

Well, I’ve spent just over a week now in Vancouver and I’ve got to say: it’s a beautiful city. Situated on the waterfront with its own personal mountain range serving as a backdrop, Van will charm you faster than you can say “oh God it’s cold, I can’t feel my nipples”. It’s nice having so long here, so I can relax and do decidedly untouristy, unfun things like join a gym and apply for phone plans. Day 9: At first glance, locals still do not realize I'm not one of them. Speaking of locals, I decided to abuse blood privilege and stay with my cousin, who after five years is now officially living Canadian. No car, no microwave, only fresh food and drip coffee; it’s basically the life of a Leederville hipster. The novel part is that if you live anywhere near close to the city, you don’t need any of these things. Van is laid out in such a way that everything is gridded – you use blocks and intersections by way of measurement, and public transport goes everywhere. I still have no idea how far 15 blocks is, but I do know that a bus will take me there and it won't smell like urine. (TransPiss!)


As most of my travelling has been done in Asian countries, I received none of the culture shock visiting Canada; all in all, it’s not too different from back home. DON’T BE FOOLED. You get lulled into a false sense of security, then say something supremely Australian like “arvo” or “goon bag” which is promptly met with an expression like they’ve just seen a yeti for the first time. To aid future travellers in my position, I’ve created a short handy guide between the land down under and the land somewhere near the top.

No town is truly progressive without a Whole Foods

No town is truly progressive without a Whole Foods

First of all, TIP. Tipping isn’t actually required by law, but it’s required to not be a raging douchebag. However, the conventions for tipping are a little complex; you only tip places providing a service, not simply working a counter. Bars, restaurants, cafés, etc, all require 10 – 25% depending on how generous you are, how good the service was, and how attracted you are to the person serving you.  My first week, I accidentally forgot to tip a waitress and I still see the look of utter disappointment on her face when I close my eyes. I’ll take it to the grave.

The rumors are true, Canadians are polite as shit. Until you do something blasphemous, like jay walk. Sweet tapdancing Jesus, do not jay walk. The sanctity of pedestrian crossings is a staple part of Canadian culture, and if you disrupt the natural order of things you are likely to receive a passive aggressive frown and a slight shake of the head. Which is basically Canadian for “fuck you, c*nt”. SIMILARLY – I have had a super hard time adjusting to cars coming from the opposite direction. I dunno, man, my internal compass is way off here. Maybe we really are upside down. Anyway, Canadian drivers, much like Perth drivers, are perplexed by the concept of a roundabout. Treat them like Russian roulette and anticipate everybody panicking and swerving wildly

That man just narrowly escaped certain death

That man just narrowly escaped certain death

ALSO. PRICES ARE A DIRTY LIE. For some ungodly reason, Canadians don’t add tax until you go to pay for an item, which means the exact change you spent 5 minutes counting out is now completely incorrect. I found this out on my first day, when I accused the Foot Locker attendee of trying to scam me $15. “Woah, like, do you not, like, understand how tax works, bro?” It turns out bro, I did not.

They say English is a universal language, but if you want to convince Canadians that you are a visiting alien from an alternate universe, here are some handy Australian words that will induce terror and ridicule. Use at your own risk.

Beanie – It’s a tuque. Yes, really.

Singlet – Wifebeater, or “tank”

Bogans - Skids

Thongs – Flip flops

EFTPOS – Interact – but you have to specify Visa or Debit.

Capsicum – Peppers

Shitc*nt - Hoser

Jumper – Mexican immigrant (not really, it’s a sweater.)
 

Australians, like ants, can be found in large numbers in most of the developed world

Australians, like ants, can be found in large numbers in most of the developed world

They Call Me Itinerary Man

So due to a minor technical setback involving 24 hour time and basic reading comprehension, I arrived at the airport for my flight to Canada only 168 hours too late. After gruelling through a week of relentless mockery, I was unashamedly proud when I managed to successfully board the plane this time. I set off for Hong Kong next to a very young Japanese girl who decided it was appropriate to immediately fall asleep on my arm with the plane still on the tarmac. Evidently the mother thought this was cute and decided not to wake her. Undeterred, I began writing this entry in order to kill some of the 8+ hours I was going to spend in initial transit. Did you know some planes now have cameras underneath them so you can stare at static in the middle of the sky? I did not. I was also both baffled and pleasantly surprised by Cathay Pacific's selection of "Western Rock" which had Damien Rice, Five Finger Death Punch and about 25 other similarly unrelated albums. I put on some of my own music and started a fun game I invented where I watch the tiny CGI plane crawl across the planet and count down every single kilometre. I did this for several hours, occasionally utilizing my Rain Man-like ability of identifying the post code of every rural town we flew over and patting myself on the back when I got it right. No, ladies, of course I’m not single.

the current weather in Hong Kong is camera phone

the current weather in Hong Kong is camera phone

Just when I thought I could not possibly handle any more fun, we arrived in Hong Kong and the little Japanese girl promptly wet herself on the descent. Could be worse, I figured, that could have happened several hours ago. At least this time her mother decided to intervene with various nods and apologies. It’s okay, lady, I’m pretty sure that’s why they give out free blankets. I almost ran through the gates before looking for somewhere to settle for seven hours. Ugh, 7 hours. Who planned this trip? Me. I did. Twice, in fact. Damn though, you can tell HK was settled by the British, because those fuckers know how to queue. They don’t even need signs and rails, it’s something to behold. Hong Kong proved dearer than I remember, with a BBQ pork ramen setting me back about $16 AUD which quite honestly tasted like a Fantastic beef noodle cup with a boiled egg I think was laid sometime last year. Disappointment aside, my phone and tablet were in dire need of power so I set off in search of charge terminals. I found them. But for some unholy reason, they are on islands with no chairs. Who the hell is going to stand next to a table for an hour waiting for his devices to charge? This guy. I mean, the next flight is 11 hours, I might as well get all of my standing out of the way. I have now set myself up in the corner of a café with my tablet and Warcraft III, so I don’t foresee anything interesting happening before I board. Goodbye GMT+8!

greedisgood 9999

greedisgood 9999