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Seeking closure

September 4th, 2012 by Raj

There’s nothing particularly interesting about this photo. In fact you could argue, successfully I might add, that it’s a pretty boring one taken in poor conditions of a street corner that could be in pretty much any Westernised 1st world country on the planet. But it’s not just any street corner, it wouldn’t make a great deal of sense for me to be writing about a random street corner really, although, given the right frame of mind I’m sure I could make something up.

No, this street corner is one that nearly four years ago I went to get into a cab at around midnight and turned around to have a fist put into the same time/space position that my head occupied. This of course is against the laws of physics and rather than meld together the fist burst through my glasses, shattered them causing a laceration through my left eyelid and across the lens of my, fracturing the same eye’s orbital socket and breaking my nose until the fist was no longer in threat of disrupting the time continuum and need fear the wrath of Dr. Who and other time-lords. There was some further punching and kicking and a lot of blood but you get where I’m going with it and the likelihood is that you’ve heard versions of this story from myself before so lets not repeat ourselves shall we.

Now, four years gone, I find myself returning to the scene of the crime like some badly written macabre Hollywood thief whilst visiting Seattle once more. I knew when I booked this trip that I’d be venturing to the intersection of 1st Ave & Yesler Way, I couldn’t not go! Whether that be born out of sheer curiosity or perhaps cathartic self-healing I honestly didn’t know I just felt compelled.

On Saturday morning, the third day of my four day visit, I decided it was time. It was a beautiful day, warm, cloud-free and I had no appointments at the convention until later that day so there was time to kill. It turned out that the intersection was remarkably close to the hotel I was staying, a pure coincidence as I had to hunt through old paperwork from the hospital and ambulance service to figure out which intersection it actually was that morning! Three city blocks down, two to the left and there I would be.

Walking down the hill, Starbucks in hand – yes vomit now but when in Rome, I didn’t feel anything, I was numb to the whole exercise to the point I was beginning to think it frivolous. Last November I’d won the three year legal battle against my travel insurer TID and their medical cohorts Mondial Assistance to finally pay the lovely $US25k + legal fees I’d incurred from my week’s stay and coma care and that had truly allowed me to breath for the first time since it had all happened. Now, a city block away, I questioned what else I was possibly hoping to achieve.

Rounding the apex of a dog legged 1st Ave the small park came into distinctive view. It was my reference point. That night it had all happened it was the only thing my bloodied vision had been able to focus and hold on to. The look of hundreds of Halloween revellers passing through gardened archways to stare and scream at what unfurled directly opposite, over the road.

The park’s intersectional neighbours drew a complete blank, they may very well have been there four years ago they may not have, but today they were Starbucks, a small cafe and finally a toy store called “Magic Mouse Toys”, which sat on the corner I was attacked, decorated by two street bins, one of which for recycling that I remembered grasping at when I fell to the ground and was now crossing the road to inspect more closely.

I knew I’d stood in this exact position years before, I knew it to be where the horror of the past four years had been birthed but even at this point it felt numbly distant. Then, as if God himself had been sharing a joke with Freud the siren started. My head rose and stared Northwards down Yesler Way towards the drowning tones of an emergency vehicle. The noise from the siren continued to grow in volume until I spotted the distinctive boxed shape belonging to an American ambulance snaking its way through Saturday morning traffic towards me. I stopped breathing. The trees in the park wobbled in my vision as tears streamed down my face and distorted the light they reflected into my eyes. I could hear the people yelling and screaming from four years ago like I’d been sucked back in time like on some CSI/NCIS/Law & Order type TV show. The ambulance’s engine grew louder as its sirens pierced my thoughts and then… it drove straight by. It floored it through the green light of the intersection and continued on its way but it had done it’s job, for me anyway.

I retreated to the very same stone steps my assailants had launched their cowardly attack from and composed myself. The vision of yesterday’s world washed away and the odd looks I’d attracted from today’s bystanders were quickly dismissed as they went on with their lives, classifying somewhere between crazy and delusional but not of their concern or danger. I pulled out the notebook I’d been using for notes at convention interviews and began to sketch out the intersection in order to remember it better perhaps? Who knows? It served a purpose if only to allow me to rationalise me sitting on a cold stairway to a padlocked door.

No one else could’ve understood what this place meant to me, nor should they have. It was just so surreal for me to be in such a placid and infinitesimally insignificant place to all the people passing by yet mean so much to me. That said a lot of you reading this know exactly what this place means to me and I’m forever thankful to all of you. You know who you are, you all helped tremendously and I’m blessed with such amazing family and friends. Thank you.

The big question is did it actually *do* anything by going back there and the honest truth is I have no idea. I’m not a shrink, I still don’t really know why I wanted to visit it in the first place, but I did and I have and it’s done. I hear a lot of people talking about closure, generally when it comes to relationships mind you, and I think that’s what this was for me, perhaps my whole US trip was to a point? Regardless, the chapter has been undeniably closed.

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Bilbao: Chasing the Guggenheim

November 18th, 2010 by Raj

Not a city many would rank amongst Spain’s greats; a Barcelona or Madrid it is not and barring those of you whom are not architecture geeks I would happily wager you’re completely unaware of its existence. Hell, the Spanish news doesn’t even include it in it’s list of forecasted cities so who am I to expect you to have heard about it.

That said, it’s not a small place by any means, the population pushes upwards of 350,000 and hosts what is deemed to be one of Spain’s best universities, Duesto. Remnants of Bilbao’s shipping history line the central river, which acts as a natural division between the city’s historic hillside and its newly formed modern life.

The city’s division is personified by it’s uncontested crown jewel, the Gehry designed, Guggenheim museum which takes prize position upon the river’s banks in an almost directly opposite position to the original town hall.

Lonely Planet intro aside there is but one reason for someone to visit Bilbao and in case you hadn’t guessed already it’s for the giant-fuck-off-metal-distortion that is Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim. Old Gehry is one of my favourite architects and his work is admired by around the world. The last piece of his I visited was the Toronto art museum which opened whilst I was living there a couple of years ago and for anyone even remotely interested I highly suggest you watch one of Sidney Pollack’s last pieces of work, “Sketches of Frank Gehry”, a documentary of Gehry’s work.

There was another reason, beyond man-love, for me to see the Guggenheim; which is that simply I’ve never seen one… well not properly anyway. Each time (and it’s been three now) that I have been to visit the Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim in New York I’ve been greeted with no more than a scaffolding clad structure obscuring any chance of appreciating it’s external facade first hand.

So what if it meant an hour long flight to the complete opposite side of Spain that I had flown in to, to a place most people had never heard of, I was doing it (and I’d checked there was no scaffolding on this one).

Excluding a hail ridden thunder storm and hideous grey skies that consistently haunted each photograph this Guggenheim reconnaissance mission was a success. I suppose. I could have sat and stared at the building for hours (should the weather have allowed it), its contents and exhibiting pieces bored me to tears, mostly, but I got what I came for.

As for Bilbao, well if you Google “things to do in Bilbao” every list I came across basically had the museum at number one and then quickly turned in to a random list of bars and cafes. It has a nice shopping mall that seems nice but never has anyone in it and they’re building a giant sky-scraper that sticks out a bit.

Yeah. Unless you’re an architecture or art buff I can’t recommend this one, but if I was ever nearby again I’d be back to Bilbao in a heart beat.

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Hamilton, Ontario: A time lapse

November 10th, 2010 by Raj

Two reasons behind the video above. Number one, I hadn’t gotten my camera out of its bag once since leaving on my trip and I felt rather guilty about that. Two, I wanted to try out doing a time lapse series with the remote I’d borrowed from a friend (Thanks JP) and the neutral density filter (ND8) I’d bought before getting to Bilbao and seeing the Guggenheim, of which I plan on doing the same.

This is the last one from Canada folks, flying to Barcelona via Frankfurt now (well actually yesterday as I wrote this and forgot to post it before I left).

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I ate a Double Down and survived

November 5th, 2010 by Raj

KFC Canada have recently introduced what would at first glance appear to be one of the least healthiest products in fast food history. The KFC Double Down does away with all that pesky bread replacing it with two KFC coated slabs of chicken breast and filling the centre with bacon, pepper jack cheese and the Colonel’s own special mustard/mayo sauce. Naturally I had to try one whilst visiting and did so only a few days ago, a picture of the adventure below. I was, of course, filled with a mass of “Dirty-bird-regret” having consumed what I’d considered to be a heart stopping mass of cholesterol and spent the next 24 hours with a rather unusual churning sickly feeling in my stomach.

Needless to say this morning when I read an article headlined “Eggs worse than KFC Double Down” I was a little surprised. It turns out that KFC’s creation contains a mere 150mg of cholesterol whilst a single egg yolk gives you 200mg! Shock, awe, horror! I’d always known egg yolks weren’t particularly high on coronary specialist’s lists but for it to be worse than this monster I was flabbergasted!

Cholesterol aside the Double Down does contain a massive 1400mg of Sodium (around your daily recommended intake) and is still considered a dietary disaster by specialists worldwide so I can hardly recommend it in any way; nor would I from the after effects I suffered but if they had a t-shirt for eating one surviving I’d no doubt wear it proudly.

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Your mum loves Halloween

November 2nd, 2010 by Raj

Halloween is, as with most celebrated events today, an over-commercialized event where it gives the populous of western society another excuse to spend money for a tradition that is now devoid of any of its original meaning whilst having the distinguishing factor that it does not exist out of Christianity, ala Christmas & Easter.

This is not to say that Halloween isn’t fun, far from it, in the two I’ve had the ability to witness first hand in Northern America it seems that it’s to be celebrated (as an adult) in one of two ways, each requiring some form of personal humiliation/enjoyment by being dressed in an outfit deemed “appropriate”.

Version 1: You get wasted. The very important difference to this being any other party or weekend boozer is that you’re getting wasted, via the poison of your choice, in a costume. Sure you could probably do that any weekend of the year with the odd look or ride in the back of a police van but on Halloween anything goes, and I do mean *anything*. It would seem that for women Halloween is somewhat of a topsy-turvy world the likes of which I can only compare to a Valentines where it was traditionally the only day a woman could propose to a man, because on Halloweens it’s perfectly acceptable to dress as slutty as one might feel without fear and unfortunately self-conscious. It what could be a reoccurring nightmare or Playboy fantasy Halloween doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.

Version 2: You don’t get wasted. It may look like I’m saying one thing and it’s opposite but this little umbrella covers a few scenarios that I assure you have a little more to do with the title of the post. Unless of course you’d prefer to imagine your mother roaming city bars in a mini skirt and calling herself “Nemo“?
Walking around the suburbs of Hamilton, Ontario for a couple of hours last night (I got lost trying to find where I was staying) I passed home after home decked out in Halloween paraphernalia, some up to the nines complete with cobwebs, skeletons, tombstones, pumpkins and even giant snow domes filled with dancing scarecrows but what struck me was not so much the decorations and families walking the streets going house to house in search of “candy” but the people (majority of which were women) in these houses waiting longingly for the next round of children to run atop their stoops and scream “Trick or treat!”. For all the fanfare of parties and costumes it was seeing these people, proud of their homes’ spooky appearance, candy baskets at the ready beaming with smiles and open arms to hand out their wares that made the experience far more appealing to me, even if I was on the receiving end of an odd look from time to time as to why a grown man was walking around without costume or child in tow.

I remember being told years ago at Christmas that for the time between you’re a child until you have one of your own Christmas day is just that, another “day” and I guess you can easily apply the same logic to any child-centric event, Halloween example in point. So happy Halloween everyone and remember as I read on Twitter earlier today, Halloween is a day trannies call… Sunday.

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O Canada, A year ago today

May 24th, 2009 by Raj

`Twas a year ago today that I was celebrating the beginning of a new adventure half way around the world. What followed was one of the quickest years of my life, and now here I am, full circle to the bosom of Melbourne.

hee, hee… you said “bosom”

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The end of a Canadian Tale

February 22nd, 2009 by Raj

Well ladies and gentlemans of “teh internets” (and yes I meant to write “gentlemans; grammar nazis), I don’t think there is any way I can possibly continue to draw out the chapter of my life that is the “Canadian Tales“. The time has come, one pregnancy term later, to dog-ear the page and put down the book for a well deserved kip.

That’s not to say that I haven’t done absolutely everything within my almighty skinny frame’s power to squeeze every last juicy drop from one poor carcass of an orange that now remains. For instance just one week ago I was once again extending my “working” holiday to the further reaches of Australia’s north, spending five days basking in the glorious humidity of a monsoon season’s grey sky in Port Douglas, Queensland with a friend.

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas

I couldn’t have asked for a better wind-down than the Sea Temple Resort in little old Pee-Dee (Port Douglas). The holiday destination was borderline a ghost town being the rain season and my days were spent lounging around the pool and drinking. There’s something called the Great Barrier Reef up there somewhere, it didn’t come with a free breakfast buffet and mango cocktails though so I can’t say I got to it. I know, I know, sacrilegious, but another day.

This is all fine and dandy but I guess I should get down to the crux of it, which is the fact that my little soirée into the land of Canuck is over and it’s time to get back to the harsh realities of a real life, a new job and living in Melbourne to which I’ve just resigned to for the next 12 months having signed a new lease.

Obviously I’m asked quite frequently on my opinion of both Canada and my personal adventure and I must say excluding its abrupt ending and the ongoing battle I’m having with my travel insurance company (that’s another post altogether), I had an incredible time! Yes I missed everyone dearly and yes I was homesick on more occasions than I care to remember but it was an experience that I’d never take back, if anything it did nothing more than spur on my interest in doing it again!

For those of you that have seen me since my return I think you’d agree that something’s changed upstairs in the old noggin’. I feel free, unencumbered if you will and enjoying life in all its roller costing glory. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been contracting and not confining myself to an office 9 to 5, 5 days a week but I think it has far more to do with my own growth and a sense of achievement in knowing that I can survive out there in the big bad scary world; even if it was only Canada and everyone speaks English. But enough with excerpts from my upcoming novel “I went to Canada and I came back a self-help guru” let’s talk highlights!

Snow: Canada was just amazingly beautiful! I could list of a hundred different locations that were just so breath-taking but nothing compares to the first time I walked out of the office at 6pm and felt that first snow flake gently float through the sky to rest on my cheek. Sure I’ve been to snowfields before but this was just so different. You didn’t have to drive three hours up a mountain to find it all I had to do was go outside and there it was. I used to sit in my bedroom and stare out the window at downtown Toronto and just watch the wind carry and swirl the white dots as it pleased. It was just magical and I crave to see it again.

New York: Sure it’s not even in Canada but it was just a 20 minute flight across the border and boy does that city steal my heart! Having a couple of Lincoln lads there doesn’t do you in any disservice either. There aren’t words to describe the magnitude that is New York City. There isn’t anything you couldn’t find in the city and yet ironically you couldn’t not find anything to do. The architecture is what truly steals my heart though and with each visit I make the journey to “Top of the Rock” to breath in the enormity of the city’s beauty.

The Moose: Whilst it may not seem like a huge deal there’s a lengthy story to go along with it that I’ll now condense into one sentence. I saw a moose whilst simply driving down the road while my kayaking friends, rather desperate in their search for fauna, paddled their hearts out for six hours and saw squat! I win!

I had a truly wonderful time living on the other side of the world and to those who are thinking of going to Canada be it for holiday or work I couldn’t recommend it more. Now that I’m home I miss Toronto much more than I thought I would and I’m resolved to return (albeit most likely in a tourist capacity) to explore areas I didn’t have the opportunity to see such as Montreal and Quebec if not that then to see another NHL game!

Thank you Canada, or more specifically Toronto (and Hamilton) you were very good to me. And thus ends the Canadian Tales.

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The “Canadian Tales” continue… (in Australia)

January 4th, 2009 by Raj

For those of you whom aren’t in the know I have made the journey home to the land of golden soil and wealth for toil. You might think that would mean the ending of my “Canadian Tales” series but until I stop living out of a suitcase I think it’s fair to say I’m still not “home”, well that and the fact I don’t actually have a home to speak of, I’d call it more of a splattering of possessions that spans three different friend’s homes, a storage cage and an attic.

Arriving just before Christmas I spent a week in my old home town of Melbourne crashing in the spare room of good friends. Melbourne was a bit of a blur, every day seemed to be filled with drink and cheer, fitting the season perfectly really, but impeded greatly on the progress of some contract work I’d picked up to tide me over until my working life recommences next March.

Checking on the remainder of my post Ga-RAJ sale home-ware possessions that I’d stashed in the storage cages of my old building’s cafe (with permission from their owner of course, who had unfortunately passed whilst I was in Canada) I was filled with relief to find them still there under the cafe’s new ownership and even more so to find out there was no problem in keeping everything there until my return to Melbourne in 2009.

Life of storage secured and an exponential-increase-in-alcoholic-intake week later I was in Adelaide with family and more friends to celebrate Christmas. It was fantastic to see my family again, it may have only been seven months since I saw them last but with what I’d been through with the attack in Seattle I’ve wanted nothing more to see them all again. I was treated to a wonderful new lens for my SLR and many other great presents but as corny as it sounds being home to see everyone was present enough for me.

Two cities and one major holiday down the only place left to go for the holiday season was Port Lincoln (Plinkin’). My Mum is the only person who lives in Port Lincoln still, my home town, and whilst I saw her on Christmas day when she flew to Adelaide my brother’s Christmas present to her was to tile her house and seeing how I didn’t really have anything else to do until March I, along with my sister and my brother’s girlfriend had all volunteered to help.

Tiling

So that’s where my nomadic life is at the moment. I’ve rung in the new year Plinkin’ style at the local hot spot, my arms feel like lead weights that wont stop tingling from the four hours of jack hammering I had to do yesterday and where I sit in wait of figuring out exactly what it is I’m going to do and where I’m going to live?!?

Lastly for those I’ve not been able to get in touch with directly, a happy new year to you all. I hope you rang it in with style.

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Frank Gehry’s Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

December 12th, 2008 by Raj

How would you spend your last full day in Canada before returning to Australia? Ice skating in Nathan Phillips Square? Watching ice hockey in a local bar? Randomly selecting strangers and asking them if they “know what it’s all a-boot?“. All great suggestions and worthy activities to keep one occupied during their last hours in Canadia-land but no, no, not for me; instead I took it as my opportunity to visit the newly redeveloped Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Why you might ask, well that’s just how I roll bitches.

In fact the real reason I wanted to visit the AGO before leaving Toronto has absolutely nothing to do with the art within it’s glass curved walls but rather for the walls themselves. You see the new building was designed by none other than everyone’s favourite architectural doodler Frank Gehry.

Gehry, who was born in Toronto, is one of the world’s most famous living architects. His signature curves provide breath taking aesthetics utilizing natural light as an almost catalytic emphasis upon them. His most well known piece of work, the Guggenheim Museum “Bilbao” , is in great company including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dancing House and Seattle’s Experience Music Project, which I have also just recently visited.

Immediately upon entering the AGO’s foyer you’re greeted with signature Gehry, a curved-maze-like ramp providing an unique version of access for the disabled or merely adventurous, leading you to the counters of ticketing agents guarding the gallery’s true core via an CAD$18 toll.

Just yonder of the AGO’s ticketing smurfs is an area of open space that has to be experienced first hand to appreciate completely. It’s just sex in architecture, there’s no other way to describe the open hall almost church like area, so vacant with it’s sparse Gehry designed furniture and three story high ceilings yet so warmly immersive as if held by it’s beech coloured wooden floors, spiral staircase and echoing acoustics.

With such an amazing beginning I must admit the remainder of the gallery was rather disappointing. I presume there are only so many ways you can make one square room after another different and the contrasting flat walls are a necessity for the artworks most effective display. For me there was really only one other area that was true Gehry genius and that was the buildings street fronting glass atrium (as seen in the picture above).

Running the length of a city block the upper floor of the AGO’s curved face is a composite of hefty serpentine styled wooden beams and their conforming glass sheets. The internal area itself is home to only a few large pieces of art yet it’s emotive atmospheric warmth is undeniably comforting even whilst only exposed to the darkest of nights beyond it’s half domed enclosure.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I was taken aback by this building or perhaps more so the mind and work of Frank Gehry. I’m a little bit of an architectural nut I must admit but I don’t think you need to be to truly appreciate the beauty of this building and even if you don’t find the structure exciting there’s always plenty of art scattered about the place, or so I’m told!

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My Toronto – A Video Tour (with Audio Commentary)

December 3rd, 2008 by Raj

As I rapidly approach the final days of my Canadian experience it occurred to me that I’ve not really shared a great deal of the “real” day-to-day Toronto with my internet peoples. So in a rather weak attempt to introduce you all to the digs I’ve called home for that past six months, I present to you “My Toronto” – A Video Tour (with Audio Commentary).

Just in case there are any of you out there that think this is actually serious; it’s a joke.

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