Another year and what’s it all come to? Even a know-it-all like me has to admit that a full year of travels and experiences must still amount to some measure of enlightenment. Here are the few pearls of wisdom I managed to glean from 2007 by keeping my eyes and ears open.
1. I’m allergic to Ground Zero.
During my recent trip to New York, I started to experience a severe allergic reaction to something. My nose was in agony, with a tickle deep in my sinuses, and my right eye was leaking like a tap. These symptoms dogged me for the better part of a day before finally fading in the evening. What had I done to bring this on? Well, I’d eaten a salmon omelet, driven in a New York cab, watched Fox News, visited Ground Zero, had a bag of vendor peanuts…
Wait, back up.
Watched Fox News. Hmmm.
No, forward a bit.
Visited Ground Zero.
Damn near everything I was interested in seeing was shut down thanks to various entertainment industry strikes. But at least one stage show was still packing in the crowds. The circus that is Ground Zero remains a vibrant tourist trap, filled with rich opportunities to gawk, grieve and buy tacky twin-towers souvenirs.
Or you could just try to sell your conspiracy-theory manifesto like this guy, who didn’t particularly care for me snapping his photo — obviously at the behest of a Black Ops death squad that has been monitoring his thoughts via satellite technology obtained from a crashed alien spacecraft in Area 52.
I considered my allergies might have been a reaction to the general filth of New York City, but the symptoms returned the next day when I traveled to the south end of town again. I really think it was Ground Zero. The ongoing construction continues to stir up who-knows-what toxic crap that still remains in the area. Conspiracy theorists are free to speculate what exactly that toxic crap may be. Personally, I expect it’s something rather mundane and boring. Like asbestos.
2. It takes a German.
Body Worlds 2 enjoyed sell-out crowds in Montreal this summer. This was the second in a series of shows that travel the world displaying human bodies prepared by plastination. Yes, we’re talking real dead people, skinned, preserved, and posed under glass to illustrate the wonders of our insides. The Body Worlds exhibits have been going on for years, but remain controversial because of their uncomfortable mix of science and art. Seeing what people’s muscles and organs look like as they perform common activities has value as a teaching tool. But some of the bodies — like the one that had been effectively turned into a chest of drawers, with different compartments left ajar in an oddly aesthetic cubist manner — seem to be the hapless victims of Hollywood’s next franchised serial killer. The creator of the show, Gunther von Hagens, makes sure everybody knows that all the bodies were obtained through detailed consent forms. If you have any doubt, you can grab one of the consent forms yourself. They’re readily available to anyone interested, and I couldn’t help but wonder who there was already eyeing my carcass for a future display. I don’t think I could qualify as the next “Basketball Player” or “Swimmer” body, but if they’re planning a “Television Watcher” display, I’m their corpse.
3. Fuck the Smithsonian.
A weekend trip to Knowlton in the Eastern Townships of Quebec brought me to a little rural museum run by the Brome County Historical Society. As we were driving into town, it was casually mentioned to me that the museum housed an actual World War I fighter plane that had been sitting inside since 1920. Being a bit goofy for WWI aviation history, I had to check it out. Sure enough, they have their very own Fokker D VII, the last of its kind in the world still with its original canvas skin. It was one of a few brought back to Ottawa as war trophies following Germany’s defeat. When the Brome County Historical Society wrote to the government asking for something — anything — from the war to put in their museum, they received a bunch of packages with an entire disassembled airplane. It took them a couple of years to construct a building to house it. Once it was done, they put the Fokker back together inside and its been sitting there ever since, perfectly preserved. Several years ago, a goon squad from the Smithsonian Institute dropped by to visit the museum’s prized possession. They were horrified to see it was in a wooden building with inadequate fire protection. They expressed their great interest in procuring the D VII for their own rather-more-famous museum. The Brome County Historical Society told them, in their polite Canadian way, to get bent. And they were absolutely right to do so. Sure, maybe this priceless war relic will burn to the ground one day when some smoker gets careless with a butt. But the Smithsonian has enough shit already, so fuck ’em.
4. Not everybody in Canada is an atheist yet.
I hadn’t been to Halifax in years — not since I took a sixteen-hour bus trip to visit friends in university and shared a single bed with a close friend for one uncomfortably close night. My travel experience this time around was rather more relaxed because I was flying there, staying in a beautiful oceanside house, and sharing a double bed with my wife. You’d be surprised how these little luxuries can improve the whole experience. When I wasn’t eating tremendous amounts of sea food, I was taking in the sites. Being mostly outside the city this time around, it struck me how much the locals wear their religion on their sleeve. I expect bible quotations on convenience store signs when I’m in Texas, but not so much when I’m anywhere in Canada. Maybe it’s because I’m from Quebec, a province that used to be run by the Catholic church until everyone collectively decided they’d had enough of that shit and abandoned religion in such numbers that there’s nothing left to do but turn all the churches and convents into condos. Faith remains alive and well in the maritimes it seems. I expect it has a lot to do with the fishing industry. The sea has a habit of eating sailors mercilessly and completely at random. I saw enough graveyards scattered throughout the area to remind me of this. I guess if your job is that dangerous, you’d better believe in something bigger than a retirement fund.
5. The Chinese are even smarter than I thought.
Why invade when you can just send your enemy lead-painted toys? America thinks they’re winning the cultural cold war with China by turning them into capitalists. But China is simply using the free market to further weaken the United States and turn it into a nation of retards by feeding its children a steady diet of brain-damaging heavy metals. The American feast of lead paint explains much about where they find themselves today — up to and including the Bush presidency. One more generation of this and they’ll be so stupid they’ll lose the ability to press the right combination of buttons to launch their vast nuclear arsenal. And by then, the landing crafts will be at their shores. Americans will be reduced to throwing their own poo at the invading red army, and they’ll go down in history as the first empire to fall through idiocy alone.
6. I don’t attend to my blog enough.
But you knew that already.
As the final hours of 2007 tick away, enjoy some more random snapshots from my digital photo album.
I had to go visit Peggy’s Cove again. Last time I was there it was a gale and all I saw was inky blackness and rain hitting my face.
Nova Scotia has no end of quaint fishing villages trying to unload all those damn lobsters.
What Nova Scotia vista would be complete without a washed-up lobster trap?
I have a fetish for aircraft of the Great War. I’d just never go up in one of those death traps.
I also have a fetish for the Chrysler Building — home of Q, the winged serpent.
This does absolutely nothing to stop insane New York drivers from honking constantly.
Ok New York, you win. You have the creepiest mannequins.
Does your city have a 3600-year-old obelisk? No? Then I guess your city just sucks.
Sometimes I take pictures because I think they’ll make a pretty desktop background.
The hippest hole in the ground in the world. Come visit before they fill it all in with buildings and parks and crap.
This tent-like structure just adds to the circus atmosphere.
But then again, the whole city is a big circus freakshow.
If you bought this bridge on eBay, please be advised the City of New York will not honour your purchase. I found this out the hard way and now my PayPal account is down fifty bucks.