Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Funny Things I've Noticed Since Arriving

First, I want to inform you that the blog is not dead. I meant it when I said that I would not update as often as I used to in my old location. After all, I have priorities called a doctoral thesis and a novel. However, I've been gathering material for my writing and slowly decorating my apartment. Its formerly bare walls now sport a somewhat generic and very classic greyscale-coloured Bob Dylan poster above my writing desk in the bedroom. Young Bob stands in front of an amp plucking at a bass guitar, lips pursed in concentration and irritation. I find this image inspiring during my blocked periods at the keyboard. Next to that is a small black and white Fleet Foxes poster that came with their album that I bought a few weeks ago.

Next to my kitchen hangs a Barack Obama poster, a reproduction of the Shepard Fairey image of Obama in red white and blue. The displayed word is my favourite of Obama's campaign – hope. If he wins the election, this image I think will become a classic piece of Americana. As for my even bleaker office on campus, I bought a giant Big Lebowski poster to go next to my desk there, though the stucco-like wall surfaces are not exactly friendly to tape. I'll have to get creative to stick this up.

And perhaps inspired by Lebowski, I might also buy a rug. It could really tie my living room together.
As for the material I've been gathering for my writing, I want to focus on some idiosyncratic details that I think would make funny observational points, or interesting character humour at some point. A quirk of downtown Hamilton geography is that Hess Village, the skank magnet every weekend night, is also the home of several respectable doctors' offices. And it's right next to the Freemasons' castle and lodge house. Yes, the Masons have a genuine castle here, and it's right behind my house. I pass it every day on the way to the bus stop.

There is no common space in bars here. Almost all the floor space, aside from a small area around the actual bar just big enough for people to stand in to order drinks, is taken up by tables and chairs. So when groups arrive at a bar, they sit at a table, likely are handled by a waiter, and do not interact with any other groups, because they are centred around different tables. So groups are very alienated from each other by the geography of bars in this city, with no common space where strangers can bump into each other, stand around, and interact. I've seen this in Toronto too, so it seems to be an Ontario thing. This is probably the only culture shock since I moved here – that the very geography of meeting places prevent people from meeting.

Some details related to public transit. The other day, I was waiting at the bus stop and a woman crossed the street to stand next to me. She was rather buxom, and wearing a jacket and tank top. She carried her iPod nestled in her cleavage. Describing this to my friends at the philosophy department led into a conversation about how women's clothes are made with no convenient pockets. I conclude this to be the implicit sexism of the garment industry (in addition to all the explicit sexism).

Also, there are indentations in the pavement in front of my usual bus stop caused by the constant pressure of bus after bus, tire-shaped dents in the solid asphalt road from the weight of so many buses.

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