The eccentric ramblings of a traveller

The world through my eyes, as I make my way around the globe.

Stampede

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As the haze ascends, and the Stampede dust settles here Calgary, many people are attempting to piece together the last 10 days of their lives, I am one of them, and I am struggling. It was my first Stampede, and I do not hope it is my last, although my soul, and liver would say otherwise. Its hard to believe heading downtown today that just two days ago, the biggest rodeo on earth was in full swing, thousands of people causing havoc in this Albertan city.

Weeks before the shenanigans started, I was told by my peers that I was bound to get a slap or two over the festivities…mainly because of how I dress. I cannot help it if Canadians have no fashion sense. Also when you have been blessed with such majestic legs, it would be utterly ridiculous to hide them away, the shorter the better, I say!

I have to admit, that I was sceptical about Stampede. Country music hurts my soul, and the thought of it ricocheting throughout my entire being for almost two weeks wasn’t all that appealing. However, Stampede has this allure that tricks the sceptics into trying out the two step in Nashville North, or shouting ‘Yee-haw’. Although, it could be the vast amount of alcohol, and hormones that are flowing through each individual there. Before I entered the Stampede grounds the first time, I made a silent pact with myself that I would be a respectful guest to this great show. I would conduct myself in a professional courteous manner, yes, thats what I would do. It didn’t work.

The inevitable happened, I got shitfaced. So unbelievably shitfaced that I was transported back in time, when Neanderthals roamed the Albertan plains. There are many Stampede stories I wish I could tell, but due to my inability to recall them due to either too much booze, or they are so haunting I have repressed them, only to come out years down the line when I am paying a middle aged woman to sit and listen to my train wreck of a life, we will see. However I do recall a moment from my adventures, the drunken obnoxious arsehole in me finds it simply hilarious, the young professional in me, also finds is bloody funny. I was kicked out of a ‘family friendly dog show – Superdogs’.

From the start I knew we were in for disaster, after a nervous bag search by security we entered the grounds, tequila still in tow! God bless hiking bags and their copious amounts of pockets. After purchasing a sprite iced beverage, we diverted to the toilets to liven our drinks up. Half a bottle of tequila each. The sun was shining, the buzz was taking over, we felt good. Real fucking good. The super dog show was a first come first serve deal. I was stoked for it, who doesn’t want to see dogs jumping through hoops, and walking on their back legs?! And when you’re pretty drunk, well…the experience was heightened. We had a hour to spare before it all kicked off…beer tent.

The hour passed by in an instant, and so did my morales and dignity. An extremely inebriated Joe stumbled into the Super dog tent, and was instantly confronted by my first morale dilemma of the occasion. A young lad of about 3 was trying to get on to the dog course, but his efforts were being thwarted by the tyrants that call themselves ‘Super dog marshals’. What should I do? Should I walk on by and let the child learn simple life lessons such as ‘boundaries’ and ‘self control’? Nope. I saw my window of opportunity, and scooped the infant up, side stepped the staff members and entered the arena. We made our way to centre stage and I placed the young chap on the podium, he was psyched, I was psyched. Looking around at all these Stampede-goers, I can only relate it to how it must have felt like being in the Amphitheatre in Rome. Fuck yeah, I was a gladiator. Me and the child fist pumped, and I took him back to his parents, who were also pretty impressed with our endeavours. The staff were not. I shied away to the back of the stands, promising that I would behave…I was confronted by my second dilemma.

About three rows in front of me, there sat a young attractive lady. Her auburn hair shimmered in the Calgarian sun, her skin, looked as soft as my freshly conditioned beard. I was in love. That was until I saw her six foot something boyfriend. Bugger. She was wearing a Shania Twain t-shirt on, an opportunity to make contact. Instead of doing what any normal individual would do and attempt to make small talk, I took it upon myself to belt out a Shania classic, ‘Man I feel like a woman’ and serenade this lovely lady. All I managed to achieve was a wry smile from this cheeky, a look of hatred from her fella, and a scornful gaze from the staff. I reeled myself in once again.
Conundrum three then presented itself. My buddy passed me the sambuca we had also smuggled in, after my sing song I was in festival mode. I sat there in open sight drinking sambuca from the bottle, whilst trying to engage a family of three into conversation. The look of horror I received could only be rivalled by that of, Luke Skywalker, when he finds out Darth Vadar is his papa. How the hell was I going to get out of this sticky situation? Impromptu Mexican wave.

I shoot myself up from my seat, arms (and sambuca) in the air, scream WHEEEEY, expecting for others to follow suit! Nope. You could have heard the crickets. I did however hear the staff coming up the stairs, by their feverish steps, they sounded pissed. So I took it upon myself to do the sensible thing, possibly the only sensible thing I did that day, and run the other way, out into the three pm sunshine, out into freedom.

The rest of the evening is a bleary mess of attempting to do the two step, my short shorts getting ripped as I busted out the splits (and nailing them), spending $40 on corn dogs, and attempting to throw my shorts out of the C train window on the way home.

Stampede 1 – 0 Joe. Bravo Stampede, bravo.

(the lovely photo above is myself the morning after. Fit)

Life Drawing

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The beauty of being human is that we have the ability to converse in social interaction many different ways. Some soft and subtle, like holding eye contact with an individual as you’re engulfed in a comfortable silence. Some primitive, like two bucks clashing antlers vying for the females attention. Which can be likened to two red blooded males squabbling over a damsel in your local Wetherspoons. Recently I was fortunate enough to partake in a form of social interaction through the medium of art, to be more specific, through life drawing.

It all came about as I visited my good friend down in London town, we had spent the day perusing though the copious amounts of museums the capital had to offer, and as evening drew near we pondered on our night time activity choices. We stopped off at a local convenience store and picked up a couple bottles of wine, as we all know the greatest decisions are always made with a bold, full bodied shiraz flowing through your system.

We were not mistaken, as we sipped on our elixir of happiness, and wonder the vision came to us, as vivid as the burning bush came to Moses, as clear as the old colonial gentleman was to me in Amsterdam after I chewed on one too many mushrooms. Life drawing. After a quick internet search, we were on our way to a local community centre in Brixton, where the charcoal, and inspiration awaited us.

I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed when I first arrived. I had imagined to walk through a haze of incense, met by a beautiful host, given a silk rope so my artistic flare wasn’t constricted by the material of my clothes. Hindsight, that image might have been magnified by the couple bottles of wine in my system. What I was met by was a plate of digestive biscuits, and a fella called Richard asking from a tenner off me.

I did not let my disappointment hold me back, in art you have to open yourself up, heighten the senses, and try not to get biscuit crumbs in your beard…I managed two out of the three. We took our seats, and the run of play was read out to us. There were two models, an older gentleman, and a younger woman. We had three ‘sets’ (two fifteen minutes, and one thirty minute) to transfer from what we felt and saw from our heart, retinas, and souls, onto paper. Lets do this.

The models entered, they did a lap of the circle of budding artists, the gentleman stood square on in front of me, hands on his hips, looking off into the middle distance. All I could think was, strong pose. The first set had begun, at this time it dawned on me that I hadn’t attempted to draw something other than a penis is many moons. Shit. I was about to be found out as a fraudster, merely here to check out some boobs, and eat digestives. I dug deep, looked into my soul, locked eyes with the gentleman and let my hands take over. The first set went by relatively quickly, taking a few glances round, there was some fantastic artists in the room. The majority of the second set was spent formulating a plan in my mind on how I was going to steal someone else’s work from under their nose. Some real oceans eleven stuff.

Before the third and final set there was a break, it gave me chance to stock up on biscuits, complain about the quality of my charcoal, which obviously meant that my drawings were not up to my usual best, and try make small talk with these arty folk. When this failed, I snuck outside to have a cigarette. This is when I met Julia, the greatest women of the evening, whom gave me some sound advice heading into the final set.

“Its art, if you can pull some bullshit explanation why you did what you did, people will buy into it.”

With these words burning into my soul, I entered the room with a newly found confidence, if I couldn’t impress these people with my drawings, I would bamboozle them with my words. The final set dragged on a bit, the buzz from my wine had died off, but we made it through! I had completed my first life drawing class.

The picture above this post is the ‘masterpiece’ I created in the final thirty minute set, when asked after my a group of classmates to explain it, I took Julia’s advice and said;
‘I was more focussing on the energy of the room, rather than the individual, to me the atmosphere was tense, and sharp. Which was portrayed in the models ridged pose, to me it looked like he was holding a lot of emotion back, thats why there isn’t any facial features. Just darkness.’

In reality what I should have said was – ‘I can’t draw, I’m still slightly drunk, can I have another biscuit’. However, the artists of the group seemed to be satisfied with my answer, nodded their head with agreement, and maybe a little satisfaction. I had made it! I was accepted by them!

Speed Dating

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There is a lot of pressure on the humans of today, especially the younger generations. In a vastly competitive world, there are certain goals you are expected to hit, by a certain time to be accepted into the warm embrace of society. This post is going to touch on just one of these elusive achievements. Relationships.
Recently a friend of mine, who has been in a happy, loving relationship for numerous years came out with the line.

“You’re not getting any younger, isn’t it time you at least tried to find someone.”

Being a twenty-four year old happily single male, I was quite taken aback by this unintentional (hopefully) insult. First of all, I wasn’t aware that twenty-four meant that I was almost over the hill? and secondly, I am fortunate enough to have been blessed with a baby face, even if it is hidden under a vast forrest of facial hair. However, it seems that until I am in a committed relationship I can not unlock the achievement and advance socially.

I left my friend in a slightly pensive mood, thinking, would I be like Hugh Grant in Notting Hill? His friends trying to set me up with their work colleagues, or distant friends who, ‘You will simply love!’ Unfortunately I am not blessed with the divine, floppy hair, and endearing accent Mr Grant possess’, also I don’t trust my friends to let them set me up on a blind date.

So, with that in mind I took it upon myself to be a bit more proactive in the search for love, up until know I believed that you didn’t find love, love found you. However, with my impending expiry date I thought ‘bugger it’ love I am coming for you, and when I find you, I will wrestle you into a sweet submission, take you tenderly in my arms, and never let go. A bit like Rose and Jack in the Titanic.

I started to rack my brains on where I could potentially find the love of my life. The bar? A museum? A concert? Starbucks? All these places are viable options, but, whats the likelihood of running into numerous single ladies in a museum? And whats the likelihood of anyone wanting to converse in conversation with some stranger with cupid sat on his shoulder? I had to maximise my chances of finding ‘the one’. So.. I signed up to speed dating.

Having 15 four minute mini dates, sharing the uncomfortable realisation that in fact you were speed dating, fuck yeah! I’m down for that. Research was extensive..typing into Google; ‘speed dating venues near me.’ I was surprised to find a fair few hits, how did I not know about this apparent thriving community of singletons? I clicked on the first link, paid my fee to participate, thew on my best denim shirt, and unbelievably skinny jeans, wrote the address down, and headed out the door, ready to fall in love.

The event was at 7pm on the other side of London, I did not take into consideration that it was rush hour, and summer. Not knowing where I was going, I got off the tube two stops too early, which meant I had to run, ask for directions, and get very sweaty. Great start.
Arriving, rocking the ‘i’ve just been furiously masturbating’ sweaty look I had but a few minutes to compose myself before the leader/cult master of the evening gave us the run down on proceedings. Scanning the area, scoping out my potential life partner, an overwhelming urge to cause some mischief came over me. I was going to have some fun this evening.

I like to think that I possess some acting skills, and tonight I was going to put these skills into play. twenty-four is bloody young, I travel too much to hold down any kind of relationship, and I genuinely enjoy being single. How did I let my friend manipulate my mind like Derren Brown, the arse. Tonight, I wasn’t going to find love, tonight I was going to pull on the veil of my many different alter egos.

Heres how it went down…

Date 1:

Girl: “Hey, i’m (insert female name here) what do you do?
Boy: “Hello, I’m Joe. I’m a fortune cookie writer.
Girl: “ Oh..wow, like where do you do that?
Boy: “Well I usually work from home, but sometimes when they are low I head into the restaurants and work out in the back.”
Girl: “That’s so awesome! How did you get into that?
Boy: “2 year college diploma”

GONG. Next date.

Date 2:

Girl: “So what do you do?”
Boy: “I’m the youngest child surgeon here in London, i’ve actually just come from surgery now. I know its hard to believe, but it was dress down Friday at work, so thats why I am wearing my jeans.
Girl: “That’s a load of bullshit.”
Boy: “Well this is going to be an awkward 3 minutes.”

Throughout the course of the evening I played the roles of; Teacher, farmer, spirit medium, dog whisperer, and a social recluse who was forced here by his mother otherwise I wouldn’t get my inheritance.

At the end of the evening, you score your dates, and then tick a box indicating whether you would like to meet and converse where you aren’t limited to four minutes, or not. The results are sent to you in an email. I got 6 out 15. Not too bad if I don’t say so myself! The women who called me out on being a surgeon was, unfortunately, not one of them. Shame.

Even though I didn’t find love during my time speed dating, I would highly recommend it. It is a great way to meet people, have awkward four minute conversations, and you do get a free beer on entry. Great success.