“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
– Steve Jobs
Note: Please forgive the lengthy delay. I blame my misadventures and a mild case of writer’s block as of late.
It was late in afternoon when the ferry arrived in Victoria. Long lines of people gather before customs and having checked in my luggage, I crossed my fingers and answered the questions honestly. My purpose is to visit Seattle and Portland – it wasn’t a lie to withhold the truth of my journey, the actual scale and purpose of my venture. I was a student but plan to enroll again when I returned. I have the resources, legitimate. I am a Canadian citizen.
The passengers flood the gates by order of their tickets and the space is cramped almost immediately. Outside, the weather remained cold and constant, with wafts of gray clouds being the only remaining traces of the week-long drizzle. Some locals gather to wave from past the chain fence yet I recognized no one. Above the terminal, the Canadian flag flew proudly against the wind. At around five o’clock, March 17th, I left Victoria and, with it, my home.
From high overhead the approaching dusk loomed past the clear blue skies and with one triumphant blast of its horn, the ferry boat departed and I stood watching as I left the Garden City behind. The terminal faded into a dot against the horizon, the buildings too disappeared with it, and for some time I stood against the freezing wind in contemplation.
Had I truly made it this far on my own? Were all of my previous encounters, surreal and dreamlike in quality, merely the product of coincidence? How long before reality would shatter and lift these visceral encounters? If so, could such fantastical experiences be relived, not in memory, but by devotion and dedication?
I felt cold – not from the wind, but from the realizations that had occurred to me then. It is true that in the continent beyond, the climate and atmosphere would be rife with significantly different attitudes, caused by both the recession and the groups of people within. There would be increasing prejudice between the cities I come across and as much as I had optimism, there too must be room for vigilance. My experiences, no doubt, would vary in places where such lifestyles could very well be grounds for physical harm or, in the worst case, even death.
In the face of such potential difficulties, the only solution would be courage and strength that stems from such courage. I had in all likelihood set out without thought of future consequences, rushing to leave behind my present concerns; with time, there came the awareness of the monumental task at hand, the expectations that would come from the people who supported my trek. Even as I write this entry down, I feel a constant gap in my emotions – the familiar feeling of homesickness, the need for company despite my affinity for solitude.
Before I left Victoria, I had promised my charitable hosts and the friends I made to return safely – something which I intend to uphold, the uncertainty of the future aside. I wondered, how long before I would return? What changes might occur in my absence and, more immediately, back at home? I shut out these questions, distracted by the cold wind, the ferocity of the rocky waves that afternoon.
Retreating inside, I am briefly extorted by the extortionate extortionists that provide the most fucking ludicrous ‘lunch’ menu on the ferry line. The hard lump of dry fish I chew on that these people refer to as salmon is washed down by cold water and dry raisins. I am reminded of the Maritime Museum exhibit and the old diet of sailors way back when, which is more than enough to keep me from venting about the quality of food.
As pictured above, the dessert cookies leaves me wondering if Old Man Pepperidge had been stalking me even as I left the city.
Nearby I glance at a fellow passenger and it is here that I am very pleased to introduce to you, Miss Brock of Victoria. She is a pleasant woman to talk to, the kind of person with whom one can encounter on transit and not be met with nonsensical conversation.
Edit: Miss Brock, please do not stab or sue me, should I misquote you. I am, in fact, a time traveler.
I am firstly introduced to her when I inquire about the customs crossing, namely my luggage and possessions. Miss Brock is courteous, polite, leaving me to immediately to conclude that she is in fact a local from Victoria. “They shouldn’t give you a hard time,” She tells me politely. “That is unless you’re carrying any firearms or weapons.” No, Ma’am, I do not. “Well then, they shouldn’t be giving you any trouble about that then.”
“The customs are strange between Canada and the US nowadays.” Miss Brock declines my offer of dried raisins. “Here in Canada, they are mostly concerned with alcohol and firearms which means we tend to be much more strict on vehicle inspections. In the US, they’re very strict on drugs and threats to their security.”
“I’ve come across Americans who are unaware of our laws from time to time, for example this one time – I had met this woman aboard this ferry who asked if they would confiscate her pocket pistol. Well, of course I said, and she immediately leaves it behind here at the American customs. She asks me then, “What about my pepper spray?” I reply, “That counts as a weapon!” The woman then adds, “But I can’t leave my mace behind, I’ll get mugged!” So I politely tell her that Canadians are very unlikely to mug you.” Common sense, Miss Brock. She repeats, nodding in agreement, “Common sense.”
“Where are you from?” Vancouver, BC. “Oh, I’ve been there before. I live in Victoria.” How long have you lived there? “Since I was very young. How did you find it?” Very pleasant. I especially found the people there to be exceptionally friendly even the homeless group. “What brings you out there? Just visiting?” You could say that. I’m on a walkabout, writing about the people I meet, reflecting on my experiences and maybe share that with anybody who may be interested. “That’s wonderful. I take it Victoria is your first stop?” It is, Miss Brock.
For a few minutes, I recount to her about the Captain and Paul, to which I am pleasantly surprised by the story she tells in return. “When I was still a little girl, my parents both raised me to be very cautious like any good parent; I have my reasons for sparing time to talk to the homeless, if only because of a man that saved my life, the Professor.” The Professor? “Yes, he was an actual professor that fell into hard times, very intelligent and could manage to hold a conversation for long periods of time. He lost his work due to alcohol abuse following family problems.” Therefore being cast out on the streets. “Precisely. Anyways, while I was out with my friend, a man with a knife accosted the two of us.”
“Out of nowhere, the Professor steps in and he knew how to disarm a man, which he did. Pinned the man down with little effort and warned him, that should he ever so much as even touch a hair on our heads, he would answer to him. The Professor, being an intellectual, was known amongst the homeless population as a man of his word. They had a hierarchy, for men of power and influence, and the Professor very much had supporters behind him. The two of us became close friends.”
“When my parents and I walked around Victoria, they remained absolutely paranoid of the homeless that lived there and mind you, this would be in the 70’s and 80’s, at a time where drugs and liberal culture was prevalent.” She continues, occasionally glancing out at the passing islands. “They were shocked to learn that I knew some of them by name. My father berated me about that but I was quick to correct him, pointing out the Professor and telling him what had happened. The two of them never spoke a word about it since.”
People have reason to be wary especially in this day and age. “Of course,” She replies, nodding. I tell that aside from being polite and having a quick wit, I had little resources to support my venture. “Don’t get me wrong,” Miss Brock interjects, “I used to work in an elder care facility which meant that I dealt with the more aggressive residents, mostly because I was one of the younger nurses. In particular, I dealt with one of the more notorious of clients, who was an elderly woman in her later years. When I tried to sponge bath her, she threw me out of the room with a fit and remarked about how I should sooner turn to whiskey than attempt to clean her. I replied, wouldn’t it be better with scotch instead?”
“My quick remark immediately earned her friendship and to the surprise of the other nurses, namely the one who intentionally set me up with her in the first place, she and I became friends.” I tap the side of my head, gesturing the cranium. She laughs, nodding in agreement. “Common sense and quick thinking are important.”
I tell Miss Brock a bit more about my own background, notably my family and the purpose of my leaving. The Asian culture has a tendency to be very reliant on the exterior image for peers. “One of my girlfriends, a Japanese woman, told me the exact same thing.” Miss Brock adds, never breaking eye contact. “Its one of the leading causes for suicide in Japan, whenever young adults fail to live up to the expectations of their family.” There’s a difference between biological and chosen family. “Oh, I agree. Nevertheless young people need to use their heads more often as much as it is important to abide to family wisdom.” She laughs quietly, adding, “After having told you about my childhood, you can understand.”
“My girlfriend married a Canadian man, white, and for years her family tried to shut him out and ignore his very existence. She tried to make them see, naturally, and her husband treated her nothing short of respect – not for the sake of approval, but because he frankly loved her. After a few years, he confronted her father and said something along the lines of how he wished he wanted him to see how happy and protected she was.”
“In time her father did see and what he said to the husband was simply that he would never replace him, that ten Japanese men could not account for his respectful dedication to his daughter, and that he came to accept him as his own son.” Miss Brock smiles, a very tender expression. “The culture should never weigh so much on what a person does, no matter who it comes from.”
I smile in turn, touched by the moral of her stories. If a person is happy doing what they want, I tell her, can that really be so preposterous? Miss Brock shakes her head. Well, I suppose then you can imagine how my own family feels about my venture, not that I care very much at this point what anybody thinks.
“If you’re happy doing what you’re doing, go for it.” She says, waiting in her seat as the other passengers disembark. “Be safe and good luck on your journey!” Its been an incredible pleasure speaking with you, Miss Brock, take care. “You as well.”
Next Update: Entering America