Wednesday, 6 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Jan, Ste & Gary's Bogus Journey 1992/3

In July 1992 after being completely disillusioned with work I quit my job and headed out to Canada with two friends, Jan & Ste, to embark on what was suppose to be the first leg of a World tour. As things turned out that World tour didn’t get much further than the North American continent and a year later I was back home doing the very same job that I’d quit. Today, some 14 years later, I am still stuck in the same bloody job!

I recently found in my loft the diary I’d kept whilst on that journey and reading through it made me laugh, so I’ve decided to reproduce it here for posterity. I expect most people will find this very boring and even banal as it’s not so much what I wrote that amused me so much as the memories it brought flooding back. It's certainly not in the same league as Che Guevara's The Motorcycle Diaries and much less anticipated than The Blair Diaries but it's probably a lot more honest than The Hitler Diaries.

To be honest I did a pretty poor job of keeping a diary as I couldn’t really be that arsed with it and so weeks would go by between entries - most of which were written whilst drunk after coming in from a night out or during the morning after whilst lying in bed nursing a hangover. Consequently a good deal of what I wrote was just about nights out getting pissed, who with and where. Looking back there is so much more interesting stuff that I should have written about but I was a lot younger then and my priorities were mostly all about just having a good time.

I’ve reproduced the journal exactly as it was written with only the odd spelling correction etc. I thought if I was to do this then there would be no point doing it unless it was complete and faithful. Being a diary it is also home to a lot of personal thoughts and feelings that get written down just to get them off your chest and to help sort things out in your own mind, so there were times when I wrote some quite unpleasant things about people who otherwise were and still are very good friends. I’m sure they won’t mind but if they do then tough shit they probably deserved it at the time anyway. There’s also a lot of very personal thoughts about my love life or lack of, it was all a long time ago now so I don’t really care. I’ll admit to leaving out one sentence but it’s not about anything you could possibly imagine. There is so much more in here that will embarrass me but leaving in this one rather innocuous sentence could destroy what little street cred I may have left at the end of it.

As the diary turned out to be mostly the hurried scribblings of a drunkard I have decided to annotate it to fill in the gaps, explain things in more detail or just to comment on how stupid I was in hindsight.

Jan has asked to add some comments about the trip – his additions are in this blue.

I really enjoyed reading this… there were a few minor points and additions that I wanted to add. Just a few little points that I think were worthy of a little more attention.



There's a Who's Who at the end of the page if you get confused as to who I'm talking about.

The story begins in Canada, we decided to start there as Jan holds dual nationality and so is able to work there legally but Ste and I would have to try to find work illegally - we bought a great book before going called Work Your Way Around the World which was full of handy hints on getting jobs and avoiding immigration officials etc. Jan and Ste had gone out a few weeks before me as I had to work my notice and I’d arranged to meet them in Toronto.

Tuesday 21 July 9:15 AM
Driving through downtown Winnipeg.

Winnipeg!? Wha…

Fuck, you cannot write in the car.

Wednesday 22 July 7:30 AM
In a truck stop outside Calgary

Well, so much for Toronto. No sooner had I got off my flight than I was abducted, dumped into the back of a Pontiac Firefly and driven across the continent. Toronto looked nice, suppose I’ll never know.

I’ve just spent 20 hours of a 29-hour day and two full 25-hour days traveling (that’s 70 hours). I am knackered and I was, up until a few minutes ago, also very smelly.

The journey across Canada has been very uneventful, first there were mountains and lakes occasionally interrupted by some small hovel, then we had miles upon miles of the flattest most boring land in the world. Our highlight of the journey was Jan getting stopped for speeding (doing 106 in a 90 zone.) The cop just slapped our hands and told us not to do it again.

All I want right now is a good nights sleep and a beer.

I didn’t get to see much of Toronto, Jan and Ste had had enough of it by the time I arrived and decided we’d be better off heading out West to look for work and adventure. The first I knew of it was when I arrived in Toronto and they were waiting for me at the airport with a car that had to be delivered to Calgary in five days time. The idea was to drive it there as quickly as possible so we still had use of it for a couple of days (to help get around looking for work) in Calgary before having to drop it off.

Wednesday 22 July 11:15 PM
Bunk 4, Room 105, Calgary Youth Hostel

Spent the day looking for work whilst we still had the Firefly to get around in, no hope. Went to an agency who had vacancies for data entry personnel, they weren’t very impressed with our attire and we all failed their speed tests.

Ste and I had to lie about our SI numbers and our Canadian nationality, don’t think she believed us. Also applied for a post in an imitation British pub, they were so inundated in applications that they just weren’t interested. Again they queried our lack of SI number, I think perhaps we should start using fake numbers.

I should get my first descent nights sleep tonight, although we’re sharing the room with a group of Germans.

Don’t know what we’ll do tomorrow, the car goes back. We may give Banff a go – better job prospects.

Everyone legally able to work in Canada has an SI number (much like our National Insurance number) that you need to give to employers. Jan had one but Ste and I made up some bullshit about whilst being able to work in Canada we were still waiting for our numbers to come through. This obviously doesn’t wash with anyone and after a few weeks in the country wouldn’t really be a valid excuse. When we did find work (see next entry) I don’t think the boss, Jack, was concerned whether we had a number or not, he didn’t exactly do things by the book.

Later on when looking for work in Vancouver I would just give a made up number, so long as it was in the right format you’d probably get away with it. One digit referenced the province you were born in, another two the year of your birth and I’d expect, but am not sure, that the last digit would be a check digit. So for small employers that didn’t have sophisticated payroll systems you could get away with it. I got away with doing this for three employers in Vancouver; a small carpet cleaning business; a large company selling packages in the Canadian lottery to suckers in the US and an employment agency that got me one or two days work. You’d think the latter two might have cottoned on to it but they didn’t. I had one other job in Vancouver, which was working for The Hudson Bay Company, a large department store chain, for which this approach didn’t work. The number I was using was a corruption of someone else’s real number (I think I may have just changed the digit for the year of birth) but their computer wouldn’t accept it. So I returned the following day with the ‘real’ number saying “silly me, I got a digit wrong” which probably wasn’t very convincing as everyone in Canada knows their SIN by heart. The computer still wouldn’t accept the number probably because it didn’t now match up with my date of birth. I could hear two girls behind a partition trying to get the computer to accept the number and I think eventually one of them managed to manually override the validation checks. For a few moments there I was thinking about doing a runner (it wouldn’t have been the first time, more about that later) but Jan, who was also working there, had got me the job and if I’d run it wouldn’t have looked good on him.

Like I said I didn’t keep this up to date, some two or more weeks later …

Monday 10 August 4:45 PM
On the veranda above the shop, Pacific Rim

Well I haven’t been keeping this up-to-date have I? I’ll try harder from now on.

Job-hunting in Calgary didn’t go too well and then we found an ad on the youth hostel notice board. We phoned the man – Jack – and well here we are today.

We thought the jobs would be perfect but our illusions were soon shattered. Our accommodation we had to build ourselves, the restaurant where some of us expected to work we are still building ourselves and the hours can be horrendous. I worked 5 or 6 days of 13+ hours, at the moment I’m working the graveyard shift that isn’t too bad as the hours are quite short and you have the whole of the day free to sit on the beach. Talking of which, today I swam in the Pacific for the first time, fuck it was cold and the waves were huge – must try and get hold of a surfboard.

Jan is working in the shop and Ste is currently doing various jobs, mostly building the restaurant, which is already 10 days overdue and still nowhere near opening.

The trip here was quite interesting, a mix of hitching, buses and boats. It was two hard days but the scenery, especially the Rockies, was beautiful. This sort of brings things up to date but there is so much more that I have missed out, must be more vigilant in future.

It’s not made clear in the above but these jobs were working in a campsite near Tofino on Vancouver Island. When we spoke to Jack on the phone he made it sound like such a great place and the jobs sounded ideal. It was on the beach in a beautiful location with accommodation provided. Alarm bells should have been ringing when he as good as offered us the jobs over the phone without ever having met him and the fact that he was advertising these jobs in Calgary, some 1250km away.

The journey there took us a couple of days of hitchhiking, coach trips and a ferry. The last leg of the journey we hitched with a local Native American who knew of Jack and his campsite and didn’t have very many nice things to say about the man. We’d later learn that Jack was quite infamous and not at all liked with the locals. This blokes car wasn’t big, the boot was full and he had a huge speaker on the back seat. I don’t know how we squeezed in because as well as having a large rucksack each, Jan and I, where also dragging around a full dive kit (minus tanks and weights) each with us.

When we arrived at Jack’s it was the middle of the night and after his dog barked at us for ages Jack eventually made it out of bed to greet us. He escorted us to a barn to camp down for the night in our sleeping bags. It wasn’t until the morning that we discovered that this ‘barn’ was completely open on one side, was full of horse manure and was over run with the largest slugs I’ve ever seen – each one was the size of a banana!

When we talked with Jack on the phone from Calgary we weren’t really that sure what exactly we’d be doing on the site but there was a lot of talk from him about the restaurant he was opening. Well, when we got there the restaurant didn’t exist; it was just an empty shell in a disused room next to the shop. Our first job was to start work on building it, which I think Jack expected to be completed in about a week. I don’t know why as he wasn’t employing anybody with the proper skills so consequently it took ages – it was a huge job too. Other than us, Tom and Mack (the two main men on site) would do the occasional task that required a modicum of skill. We needed to make a hole in the wall for a window and after a lot planning and talk from Jack Mack turned up and just sliced a square out of the wall with his chainsaw. That was the way things got done.

After about a week I was taken off the restaurant and given the job of “cleaning cans” or cleaning the toilet blocks to you and I. This wasn’t a pleasant job as there wasn’t really enough toilets for the numbers on site and because corners were cut when they were built the sewage pipes were to narrow and so consequently the toilets would block and before you knew where you were they’d all be over flowing.

I was soon shifted onto the graveyard shift which started at about 9PM doing security on the front gate for a couple of hours before going on to clean all the toilet blocks. This turned out to be quite a cushy number. You could squeeze in a couple of beers before going on duty to get in the mode and then rather than going straight from the gate to cleaning you could squeeze in another beer or two first. This also had the added benefit of the campsite all having gone to bed before you started on the toilets that meant you could really blitz them. You also had the whole day free then to do whatever you liked.

Wednesday 19 August 4:30 PM
Still at Pacific Grim

Another humdrum day in Pacific Rims checkered history, half the staff have left, either fired or of their own accord. Just so long as Jack doesn’t expect us to fill in.

Got totally smashed out of my brain last night in a bar in Tofino, I had great fun. Made a change to cleaning cans. I rang work whilst I was pissed, that was funny, I spoke to so many people.

Jack wants us to write a computer system for him but only if he pays us big bucks. I’m not going to do ought for him that I don’t have to.

I wonder just how long we’ll be here?

OK, so in the week or so between those last two entries what went so wrong as to warrant such a change in mood? Where to start, there’s so much…

The campsite was called the “Pacific Rim Resort” but all the locals knew it as “Pacific Grim, the Last Resort”! The reasons for this are many, when it was new it was probably a very good site but over the years it had been run down with no proper investment. I got the impression this was because the place was financed to the hilt and it wasn’t generating enough income for all the creditors. It was a large site with many pitches so the maintenance should have been high but the main season was so short. So every possible corner was cut and Jack had to employ people like us who he felt he could walk all over.

He obviously was trying to make an effort (I suppose the creditors needed to see something proactive going on). For example he was opening the restaurant that we spent weeks building only for the whole thing to be scrapped as it was obvious it wasn’t going to be ready for weeks by which time the main tourist season would have been over.

He’d spent money building new staff quarters above the shop but because he couldn’t get a fire certificate for them no one was allowed to use them. Consequently we had to sleep on mattresses on the floor in the room adjacent to these new quarters (I still don’t quite understand the logic in this as presumably that room also wouldn’t have a fire certificate). This room wasn’t being used before we turned up and so we had to clear it of junk before we could bunk down and all the walls had been stripped of their plasterboard to use in other building projects.

The one thing this room had going for it was ‘the telephone’ which was a pay phone but Tom (the electrician and main maintenance man on site) had rewired so you didn’t have to pay. Consequently it was used by everyone all of the time and as most of the staff came from places as far off as Europe and New Zealand the bill would have been astronomical. As it turns out, Tom had just wired it into a phone line used in a private cabin on the site. One day they must have received their bill as the telephone company turned up looking for the phone, of course everyone denied any knowledge of where the phone was and so eventually it just got cut off. It was good whilst it lasted though.

Monday 31 August 9:00 PM
Still at Pacific Rim, but not for long

So, so, so much to write – but I can’t be arsed, so here’s a quick synopsis.

Everybody has left because they’re all fucked off with Jack (the boss). Last night we had a major party, fun and good times were had by all – you know the sort of thing – loud music, beer, wine, BBQ salmon etc. Jack didn’t seem to mind even when he saw Tom.

Another damn good party was had a few days ago on Ste’s birthday. It was a good piss-up in the Sandbar, which ended with Harry doing cartwheels across the bar and then being carried out to be dumped in the sea. Luckily for him he never reached the sea. Jan stole Harry’s girl and Tom showed us yet another way to smoke large quantities of dope.

Went to Ucluelet today, bought my first Chinese in 7 weeks, I was very disappointed.

Going diving tomorrow – yeah! - I can’t wait. Went on a free whale-watching trip the other day, glad it was free – we saw one solitary grey whale heading out to sea, not very spectacular – I expected more. The bald eagles we saw were more impressive.

Wednesday 2 September 8:45 PM
Our last night at Pacific Rim. Hooray!

Went diving yesterday – amazing. There was just so much to see. Lots of life and colour and everything was huge. On the first dive we saw what we were told could have been something that sounded like “capperson” (probably spelt incorrectly). It was almost 1M long and had a huge head; it let us come right up close to it. It didn’t even swim away whilst Jan and I argued over which one of us should try and knife it for the bbq. The second dive was even better, it had everything the first dive had plus a mammoth sea lion swimming circles around us, it was great.

The group we dived with are from Edmonton; Jack (the man who owns the dive shop) has offered to give us a place to crash out if ever we’re in the area.

Went out to the Sandbar last night, totally smashed (how come that always happens) met Tom & Harry and had a good time. Whilst out we decided to leave today, Jack wasn’t very happy when we gave him about 10 minutes notice of our intentions to go. So after a bit of uhming and arhing we are now going to leave tomorrow morning, probably for the best.

Monday 7 September, Labour Day 7 PM
Vancouver Youth Hostel

We’ve finally escaped that black hole called Tofino. After having no luck trying to hitch from outside the Pacific Rim we headed down to Tinwis and spent a couple of days there waiting for a ride from the Edmonton divers. They left on Saturday evening with us as extra baggage (a bit reluctantly I think.) They did well, gave us a lift all the way to the hostel doors and tried helping us no end in other ways. Am very grateful.

Spent yesterday with Martin and Katrin looking around downtown and Stanley Park. The zoo was lousy (I read somewhere it was one of the best, you can’t believe everything you read.) Today was shopping day – I bought a hat.

Friday 11 September 9:30 PM
Whistler Youth Hostel

The last few days have been quite fun and exciting (and expensive.) Tuesday night we (us 3, Martin, Kim, Karin, someone else, Katrin, Catherine, Tanya, Danielle, Lorraine) went out to a small bar called The Fringe – one of those hippy sort of places. Martin had told Catherine that I fancied her and she did seem to spend a lot of time paying attention to me, I might very probably give her a call next time we’re in Vancouver, she’s an alright girl. [In hindsight I really don’t know what I was thinking. I usually wrote in the journal after a few drinks so the world was seen through rose tinted glasses.] The bar had a “name that tune” contest and I won a pint for guessing a Pixies track, that was fortunate.

Earlier that day Jan and I were picked up off the streets by a lady from the Church of Scientology and had us do a personality profile test. I did abysmally; if the results are anything to go by then I’m totally fucked (probably didn’t really need a test to find that out.) It might be a blessing that I’ve lost the results, they told a very sad tale. It wasn’t a nice experience; they really try to exploit your weaknesses in an attempt to convert you to their way of thinking.

Wednesday and Thursday nights we spent at Tanya, Daniel and Lorraine’s. Tanya took us to Science World and Central Park. The six of us went to a bar and a club Thursday night, damn good fun, didn’t get to sleep until 4:30, earlier then some mind you.

Sunday 13 September 9:15 PM
Whistler Youth Hostel

Fuck, do I feel bad! Another one of those really terrible colds that tend to last for ages – been having a lot of them lately. Friday wasn’t the best day of days to arrive looking for work as all the “job centres” are closed for the weekend. The one that was open just told us to come back on Tue 26th when they have a job fair. They also sounded quite serious about visa’s etc. Most of the ski season jobs don’t start until late November so I’ve no idea what we are going to do until then. Apparently there are plenty of jobs in construction but if the stories we’ve heard are anything to go by then the risk of immigration catching us may be too high.

Fuck this cold is bad! Last nights sleep in a tent didn’t help matters much either.

Friday 18 September 11 AM
Kim’s Place, Kitsilano

Job hunting in Whistler didn’t go to well, I was full of a cold and had very little enthusiasm. Ste had even less enthusiasm than I. I did get one interview (booked for this morning, but I got up too late to catch the bus to Whistler so I’ve called to reschedule it) with Whistler Mountain Ski Co. But it would be only the first of two and they interview everyone (thousands) who fills in an application form. I think I’d prefer to stay in Vancouver and look for work here, we’ll have to see.

Ste and I came back to Vancouver on Wednesday, Jan stayed in Whistler – he has interviews and is really keen to get a job there. I came back to Vancouver hoping to stay with Catherine for a couple of days but after I arrived and eventually got through to her she didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with me, I was really put out. [again, I really do not know what I was thinking]

A crowd of us (Kim, Martin, Karin, Katrin, Mark) went to a vegetarian restaurant called “Naam” on 4th Ave. The food was actually very nice, I had a really nice green bean curry. Aerosmith were sat on the table next to us which made for quite an entertaining night (Steve Tyler’s an ugly fucker.)

Last night was Mark’s last night before heading home after two years traveling. We all went around to Katrin’s, she and Mark cooked a seafood lasagne, stuffed mushrooms and salad. A fun night, they (I’ve forgotten their names) had a pet ferret which was quite unusual. Didn’t get there until 9:30 (2 hours late). Met this really nice girl called Karen, originally from Basingstoke, I’m sat waiting for her to return my call right now.

Sunday 20 September 1PM
Kim’s Place, Kits’

Well Karen rang back and I’m fucking glad, she is one crazy, wild woman. We met downtown, spent a few hours there, I vowed not to spend any money but when I saw that Tom Waits had a new album out I just had top buy it. Then headed over to Karen’s place in North Van’, Karen almost died when she saw that her mother was home (she was meant to be away until Monday) so I was bunged upstairs to Jeff’s place and had to hang out with him for a while until Karen’s mother left. I was surprised to find that Jeff’s not quite the twat he looks. Karen had a bit of a party that night, it was all 17-19 year olds and the girls outnumbered the boys 5:1. All the girls were gorgeous and when they heard my British accent some were all over me. One girl in particular, Heather, was coming onto me quite strong and every time she did Karen would tell her to get lost. It was so funny, I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. Heather was actually a really nice girl but I think she was a bit fucked up in the head. All in all it was a really good night, definitely one of the craziest, most strange nights I’ve had in a long while. Right now I can’t get Karen out of my head, I just can’t stop thinking about her, which is really bad news.

Got back to Kim’s place yesterday afternoon, everyone’s gone camping. I was so bored I couldn’t get hold of anyone, in the end I just had an early night, god knows I needed the sleep.

Just how stupid was I? A cute fit girl shows me the slightest bit of interest and I blow it all out of proportion. This is a pattern that just keeps repeating itself.

Wednesday 30 September 10:30PM
My room! Our apartment! 6895 Fleming St, Van’

Girls can be bitches at times. Karen wouldn’t return my calls, was very short & sharp when I did manage to talk to her and always had something better to do. Someone called her a slut and I’m inclined to agree with him now. She just used me and discarded me. It makes me so angry. Gary, I don’t think you ever learn from your mistakes.

After a bit of a humdrum day looking at employment prospects, Ste & I decided to resurrect Draig Printers, of course it wouldn’t have been called that but the same concept anyway. We started out with so much enthusiasm and energy, we ran around for days costing things and really looking into its feasibility. I even phoned Jez (collect of course) and got him to send over all the software we’d need (and a modem into the bargain). We really thought it could work and I still think it could have but a number of factors involved mean it won’t. Martin isn’t convinced it would work and so doesn’t won’t anything to do with it, we needed him for PR/sales. (Truth is he’s just a lazy git.) Ste has no money which means I would be footing all the start up costs (a big risk if things fail) but most importantly I’m not sure how long I’m going to be in Vancouver. If certain things go well I hope to be in Australia fairly soon.

After talking with Karin last Friday night I realised I didn’t leave Britain and give up so much so I could squander away all my money in my first port of call. I left home with goals and dreams too fulfil and I’m damn well going to do them, even if that means I have to do it alone. It’d be nice to be in Aus for Christmas. [I can’t remember what the catalyst for that was, I was obviously feeling bogged down and disillusioned with my lot in Vancouver. Jan was doing his own thing in Whistler, Ste was just not doing anything and I think I just needed an escape to do my own thing on my own terms without having to answer to anyone.]

I had an interview today with Concorde Security, I really hope I get the job – I’ll find out tomorrow. The pay might be lousy at 7 bucks/hour and the hours even worse – I’d be on the graveyard shift – but fuck I need the cash. If I don’t get this job then I think I should start devoting a lot more time towards finding work. God knows I’ve wasted enough time/money already.

Martin, Ste & I moved into our new apartment today so I’m committed to staying in Vancouver for at least a month. Martin is temporarily out of pocket until next week and Ste ‘Mr Good Financial Sense’ miscalculated how much cash he really had and can’t afford to pay, so after a lot of toing and froing I ended up footing the rent. Believe me, I would not hesitate in selling all of Ste’s belongings if that’s what it takes to recuperate my money.

It’s a nice apartment, very big with 3 bedrooms. It feels so good to have some space of my own – nobody else’s, just mine. Although I think I got the rum deal with the bedrooms, it’s the smallest and not so much a bedroom but more an annex to the living room. It just doesn’t seam fair when after all I’m the only person to have paid the rent.

Haven’t seen or heard from Jan for two weeks now. We sent him a postcard c/o Whistler Youth Hostel but there’s no way of saying whether he received it or not. I really must get in touch soon, I think Julie might be coming out this weekend?

Thursday 1 October 10PM
My Room

Bloody hell! A second entry in as many days – truth is I’m bored.

Spent today helping Karen & Dave move house, what we thought would only take a couple of hours ended up taking all day which really inconvenienced me as I had to ring Concorde Security to see whether I got the job. I rang twice but on both occasions couldn’t speak to Sean Kelly, so I’m still in the dark. Kim brought up a good point that if they’re going to employee me for security then surely they’d run some security checks on me first. I hope not, it could be my downfall.

The moving took all day because the driver went away for a half hour that lasted 3 hours, never mind, we got a sofa, chair & ghetto blaster off Karen & Dave and the geezer who did the moving reckons he could probably furnish our apartment for us (free I think) which is good of him.

Saturday 3 October 11:15AM
My Room, Hung Over

Rang Concorde Security yesterday, Sean said ‘Yeah, we’ve got some work for you, come down and pick up your uniform and fill out the paper work.’ The job was the graveyard shift at the Harbour Centre, one of Vancouver’s most prominent downtown buildings. It was more than just a security job; I’d have been responsible for checking on the guards at various other sites and despatching supervisors where there were problems. It all sounded great fun. I was really excited then Sean sat me at a desk and asked me just to fill in some paperwork. The paperwork consisted of forms that went to The Ministry of the Attorney General so that they could license and check up on me. Another form went to the RCMP – who also had to fingerprint me. I just sat there and thought ‘Oh shit!’ What could I do?

I got up and calmly walked out of the office. I was nervous and on edge all day, still am to some extent, I just hope they don’t come looking for me.

We had a Mexican night last night, Dave & Karen and Katie & Ellen came around. Kim & Karin popped in for a bit. Dave made some nachos and Ste a chili. Quite a fun evening, god knows I needed to unwind.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared in my life than when I was sat in front of those forms wondering what to do. Luckily they didn’t have my address as I’d applied for the job before we got the apartment. Sean Kelly did leave a number of messages on the phone number he had for me asking me to please contact him to explain what was wrong but of course I never returned the calls. When I left the building I jumped straight onto the first bus to Kits’ to get away from there ASAP. I was heading to the Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society as I thought Karin was working there and I desperately needed to talk to someone. When I got there she’d already left and all I remember is standing in their garden with my head spinning whilst someone was enthusiastically explaining his different composting techniques to me. I’m sure I must have come across as being even ruder than usual.

Sunday 11 October 3:45PM Thanksgiving Weekend
My Room (after repatriation)

I started the week with lots of enthusiasm and energy for finding a job. On Monday I went to the public library in an attempt to find CQCS/DG users in the Vancouver area. It was a bit of a fruitless task that didn’t bring up anything of relevance. On Tuesday I went to the job centre, I found a lot of jobs that I could do and followed some of them up but most just wanted to see your resume – which I don’t have – I’m going to have to get one ASAP. I’m still hopeful that a couple of the leads might be productive. On Wednesday I decided to ring around some employment agencies, again most just wanted to see your CV so they could put you on file, they didn’t sound to hopeful either. I used Karin’s phone to ring around the agencies and when I’d finished I got roped into helping her with her decorating, which I then spent Thursday & Friday doing.

Jan turned up Sunday and Julie flew in Monday morning. It didn’t take them long to chuck me out of my room and for them to take it over completely. I didn’t mind at first but they soon took it for granted that I didn’t mind not having a place of my own and that they could stay in there as long as they liked. I made a stand last night and they slept in the living room but it’s still not my room as all their things are just strewn all over the place and there’s no room for any of my stuff. A lot of things have been making me very irritable lately.

Went to Katie & Ellen’s last night, they cooked a chicken stir fry and we watched The Commitments before going to The Fringe and the Soft Rock CafĂ©. It was quite a good night but I had a headache.

Sunday 18 October 1PM
Our House

Last Monday was Thanksgiving Day, we celebrated at Kim’s (me, Ste, Martin & Kim). We did the traditional thing – turkey dinner (chicken) and wine etc and generally just mellowed out listening to music. It was nice to celebrate it, I’ve never done it before and no doubt I’ll never do it again.

Again this week was suppose to be a week of serious job hunting, it wasn’t that successful but I suppose I didn’t try as hard as I could have. I’ve got a job doing door-to-door canvassing/fundraising for Greenpeace if I want it. After the first two weeks ‘training period’ your pay is based entirely on commission and you have to bring in at least $110 a night if you’re going to stay the course. I don’t have the right personality/aptitude for this type of ‘sales’ work but I think I might just give it a go – just for the first two weeks pay and the experience. You never know I might enjoy it and I might even be able to do it.

Kate & Ellen came around Thursday night (as did Jan & Julie very briefly) we played Pictionary which turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. After getting our arses kicked in the first game, Ste & I wiped the floor with the girls in the following two games.

Friday I did some volunteer work for the Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society. It was pretty boring work labeling and stamping envelopes but it gave me something to do.

Last night was party night. Everybody came around here, we all got smashed, and played Pictionary again and generally had a riotous time.

Sunday 25 October 11:30AM
Our House

Again I wasted so much time this week when I should have been concentrating my efforts on finding a job. This week is going to crucial and I’m going to have to put a lot of effort into my job search. I gave up on Greenpeace, I obviously misunderstood Annie when she told me to go away and decide whether I wanted the job. I took it to mean that the job was mine if I wanted it. But when I rang back I could never get to speak with her, she never returned my calls and no one ever seamed at all interested. So I thought fuck ‘em.

Thursday night was Club 1040 night at Graceland. A large group of us (me, Ste, Kim, Katie, Dave, Karen, Rhian) went and had a really good time. I don’t remember when I’ve danced so much – my legs are still aching now. Before we got to Graceland we were all being driven around downtown in a huge stretch limo with leather upholstery, a bar, TV etc. I never before realised that eight people could have a party in the back of a car. The cost of the car/beer was supposedly less than the cost of the same amount of beer in a bar and it was a hell of a lot more fun.

Yesterday after meeting Kim at work so we could do some CV’s we (me, Ste, Kim, Martin) went out to a few bars. We were supposed to go to the movies, Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Night on Earth’ is playing. Tonight’s the last night and I must see it. But we ended up watching the Blue Jays and the Braves in the World Series final. The atmosphere was electric and when the Jay’s finally won the whole bar (as well as the whole of Canada) went absolutely crazy. I didn’t understand all the intricacies of the game but I really enjoyed it nevertheless. We eventually (after being dragged all over town by Kim) arrived at a rough biker hangout, a real dive, I loved it – we’ll have to make it our local.

We had a family of raccoons playing in our garden when we got home, which was quite a surprise.

Thursday 29 October 11AM

I got a job!! I responded to an advert in the Vancouver Sun and was told to come in for an interview. The ad was very vague as to what the work actually was, as was the man on the phone. It wasn’t until I arrived for the interview that I found out it was telesales.

The man who interviewed me was a bit of a smooth talker who fed me a lot of bullshit. I knew it for what it was as he contradicted himself on countless occasions and since actually starting work I now know that even more of it was bullshit than I thought. So consequently I was very wary but I thought ‘what the fuck’ I need a job.

I started work that very day (Tue). The idea of working on a commission only bases didn’t appeal to me that much but after two days work 4:45-8:35PM I have already made over $180 which equates to more than $10/hour. I don’t know whether I could keep up that rate, a lot of people had less and some had none. I can very easily see it being quite easy not to make any money for days. What I’ve made so far is about what I need to average if it’s going to be worth my while. I can still look for other jobs and I suppose some income is better than no income at all. Right now I’m even enjoying myself, the work may be shit but the people in the office are all really great – if I could only remember their names.

The job was telesales work selling carpet and upholstery cleaning services. I was told there would be no cold calling it was all existing clients but all but two in the office were given pages from a numerically ordered phone book to plough through. This kind of sales work is just so, so boring, it is completely mind numbing with no job satisfaction at all. But beggars can’t be choosers. They were crafty with the pay; they started you off on a commission only basis but if you were doing well they’d move you onto an hourly rate and then if you started doing bad they’d put you back on commission. I had a bit of beginners luck and got put onto an hourly rate just before the sales started to dry up a little later.

The other staff were nice, it was mainly young girls who just took the piss because I couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand me. Shortly after I started an ex-army soldier from Florida began working there and he kind of befriended me. I was having to live a lie about my work credentials, the story being that of Jan’s, i.e. that I had dual nationality and so was able to work in Canada. His wife was in the same situation with regards dual nationality and so he thought there was common ground there. It was around this time that the Vancouver winter started to take hold and he felt sorry for me turning up to work well under dressed for the conditions and so he gave me some of his old army clothes to keep me warm!

Tuesday 3 November 1:10AM

Work isn’t going too well at the moment, I haven’t really made any sales so it’s just as well I’ve not been on commission.

Last Thursday & Friday were Club 1040 nights at Graceland & 86 Street respectively. Thursday was strange, Dave & I did some mushrooms and they had the wildest affect on Dave whereas I just got a bit mellow, not really worth 5 bucks. Dave was in a crazy state, he drove us home even after he admitted himself that he wasn’t really capable of it. I’ve never been more scared in a car in my life. [I remember sitting in the back, Karen was sat in the front with Dave arguing as he should not have been driving. This argument started before we got in the car. Dave was speeding down a dual carriageway and just to shut Karen up he decided to pull a handbrake turn, spinning the car 360 degrees before continuing back down the road! I was so glad when we got out.] 86 Street on Friday was really good but I wasn’t really in the mood.

Saturday I did volunteer work for the Canadian Marine Life Conference, for just a few minutes work I got lots of coffee and a horrible vegan curry – it had banana in it!! Phil Nuyett of Can-Dive Ltd was the guest speaker during dinner and was very interesting. There were a few famous people there including Virginia McKenna & Bill Travis. After the conference we all went out, Karin came with Brent. I told Karin what I really thought of her and she told me the same, but things were complicated as Karin had come with Brent. I went around to see Karin this evening and everything was OK between us. As I was leaving she sort of said I could crash there if I liked, but I passed up the offer. I can’t help but wonder whether she meant that … oh, never mind.

Sunday 8 November 10:40PM

Wednesday was U2 night, the concert was stunning, the set/stage was amazing – you’d have to see it to believe it. It was damn good but I do have a few gripes. The location sucked, BC Place stadium is basically one huge balloon and acoustically shit. The echo/reverberation ruined the sound, it was like putting Quelch’s DSP on ‘church’ setting and adjusting all the parameters to their maximum – something you’d never do if you wanted to comprehend what you were listening to. The support acts were the Sugar Cubes and Public Enemy, I was looking forward to seeing the Cubes but not knowing the songs they played it was just too difficult to listen to them with the less than ideal acoustics. Public Enemy were just one long drawn out noise and not in the least bit enjoyable – but U2 were cool.

On Thursday I went into Olsten Temp Agency with Jan to show him how to use WordPerfect. Whilst I was there he persuaded me to register, so I did so, filling out the forms with made up numbers etc. I didn’t expect much to come of it but to my surprise it got me a days work Saturday for 6 hours at 7 bucks/hour - was better than nothing. The work was at Simon Fraser Uni cleaning up after a fire in the library. It was a bit of a farce really, there were six of us and all we had to do was dust soot off a few rows of books, there was so little soot it was unbelievable (about 2-3 specks per book.) We were probably doing more damage in ‘sponging’ the books than the soot itself was causing. But do I care? No. Whilst there Jan and I checked out the PC lab and found I could quite easily install my software on their network without them knowing. I think I might seriously make use of it.

Saturday night I was suppose to go out with Karin but she phoned to call it off, although she did invite me to come down to her place instead. I was more than a bit pissed off so after encouragement from Ste I went out with him, Maaria and Mina – one of her friends. I really went out with the intentions of having a good time, but I didn’t. We went to another one of those imitation British pubs that just never seam to work. Maaria & Mina bumped into a couple of lads they knew and then spent all night talking with them. They were nice enough people but you just couldn’t get a word in edgeways. After a couple of hours of this I rang Karin and then went over to her place. I’m glad I did. Karin is one of the nicest people I know and I’m glad to able to call her a friend. I crashed out at her place and it was the first time in almost 4 months that I’ve slept in a proper bed with proper sheets etc. it felt so good.

Sunday 15 November 11PM

It’s been a strange sort of week. Tensions at home have been a bit high, we haven’t all been getting on quite as well as we were. There are many reasons for that which I can’t be arsed to go into at this time but things came to a head this week when Ste & I had a talk and we both let it be known that we didn’t want to travel together anymore, things seem to be better since, now that we all know were we stand. I’ve spent most of the week helping Karin decorate her knew home. I’ve been helping for a couple for reasons, firstly, just to get out the house and away from Ste & Martin but more so because I enjoy Karin’s company and just feel good being with her. We both know how we feel about each other and I thought we’d agreed that it would be foolish for us to be anything other than good friends but on Friday evening I went over to see her and we shared a bottle of rum and as usual when drink is involved one thing leads to another to another etc. I don’t regret what happened, I only regret having drunk too much. The following morning we again agreed that it would be foolish to get involved and be anything more than good friends. Right now I’m pretty mixed up and confused about the whole situation. Karin is a great girl and I’d hate to do anything to threaten our friendship.

Work’s been getting me down recently; the hours are shit and the pay’s shit. Think I’ll find something else.

Went out with Jan & Julie yesterday, it was good, Jan is probably my best friend but I just haven’t spoken much to him recently. It was a good night, first watched Man Utd v Aston Villa which was great for the bit of it that I saw. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve seen a decent game of English football. Then we watched a couple of hours of ST before going out. Met Mark in the Jolly Taxpayer but some wanker bar man wouldn’t serve us because Julie hadn’t brought her ID. After wandering around for ages looking for a decent bar Jan went home and the other 3 of us eventually found a place on Robson, only stayed for one drink. It was an odd bar in that all the tables were covered in paper and they gave us crayons to scribble with!

Monday 23 November 1:15PM

Last week started slowly, basically just plodding along trying to exist and getting more and more pissed off with my job. I did try and get out to find some other work but the Job Centres weren’t too helpful and there was nothing in the papers, but then again I didn’t try that hard. Because I hadn’t been making many sales I was put back on commission and as I still haven’t made many sales I’ve been earning fuck all. I get paid today, assuming they haven’t fucked things up again I should get enough to allow me to live until the end of December, so I’ve decided to quit, if not tonight then tomorrow.

I’ve been giving Karin a wide berth this week. I went over to see her on Thursday intending to talk to her about so many things but never really got the opportunity to and I really didn’t feel too easy. I’m going to keep my distance until I’ve got things sorted out in my own mind.

The big news of the week has to be Ste’s announcement that he’ll be flying home November 30th. This doesn’t really change my travel plans as we’ve already agreed to part company in January. Of course it means that I definitely won’t be driving to Palm Springs now but the big question it raises is what’s going to happen about Decembers accommodation and also what is Martin going to do now? It’s certainly made me take a harder look at my own plans/goals. Do I really want to travel with Jan/Julie?

This being Ste’s last week he’s decided to make it a good one which means party, party, party!

Jan, Ste & I met in downtown on Saturday afternoon, didn’t do much, just bought Ste’s ticket and had coffee at the Second Cup but we had good fun nevertheless – reminiscing about old times etc. I went back with Jan to eat and watch a bit of TV before returning home. I was there for about 2 hours and although Julie was in I didn’t see or speak to her, she’d locked herself in the bedroom and wasn’t coming out! Needless to say Jan & Julie didn’t make it to the party. But Maaria, Andrew, Karen, Dave, Rhian, Kim & Martin did and it was a pretty good time, certainly a late night.

Last night Ste, Jeff (a friend of Maaria & Andrew) and I went to a Sick & Twisted festival of animation but when we got there it was sold out. So instead we went for a couple of drinks, first to a pub that sold lots of imported draught beers. I had my first decent pint of Guinness in a long, long time. We then went onto the No 5 Orange, a strip bar. It was quite an interesting ‘American’ experience, it’s funny to see the waitress who just served you strip off and do contortions around the stage.

That was my first time ever in a strip bar and it was a bit intimidating at first but once you get past the novelty of it and realise that the girls are just there to draw in the punters and the beers were no more expensive than other bars then it doesn't really feel that strange. Went back a couple of times afterwards just for a game of pool and the girls were just eye candy to watch between shots.

What’s all that about driving to Palm Springs? We saw an advert in the paper for a lady who wanted someone to drive her car down to Palm Springs in January. Martin, Ste and I went to see her and she agreed to let us do it, I think we would even have got expenses! It would have been perfect as our visas ran out then and it would give us a direction to go in. She wasn’t happy when we had to back out.

Thursday 3 December 4:30PM
Jan & Julie’s (and mine now) Place

How many days since I last wrote?! So much has happened since then! So much in fact that I probably can’t recall all of it. I’m getting too settled, just living a ‘normal’ life doesn’t really inspire you to pick up a pencil and write in your journal.

Ste has gone home, he left Sunday night/Monday morning. The follow up to his leaving was a series of parties/nights out. The first of which was at Graceland last Thursday night, everybody (almost) that we know came. The 20+ of us probably outnumbered everyone else in the place. It was a good night but I left early – I had to get up at 8AM to start my new job and also a couple of things got me pissed off (more about that later). Friday saw a party at Karin/Kim/Mark’s house, again I had to leave early to get up for work. And then Saturday saw a bit of a bash at our place.

See what happens when you don’t write in regularly, you just skip over all the details and only give the very basic facts.

On Wednesday Martin picked up a couple of Aussies (Bruce & Leith) whilst on the bus. They were looking for the youth hostel but Martin said they could crash at our house. They stayed there until Monday and then went to stay at Karin’s. I’m not sure whether they’re still there or not. It was nice to have them around, Australians are so much more like us Brit’s than these damned Americans.

I spent Thursday afternoon doing volunteer work for NWPS at Granville Market. I had to look after a stall they had there for the week. There wasn’t much to do, only a couple of people approached the stall but I enjoyed myself nevertheless. I didn’t sell anything except for some posters that we were practically giving away.

It was odd moving in with Jan & Julie as I think Julie really resented me being there in her little love nest. It was a small apartment with only one bedroom and I was given a tiny space behind the sofa to put down my sleeping bag and call my own – very Harry Potteresque. Considering it was such a small place, days could go by without me seeing Julie as she’d keep locking herself away in the bedroom in a mood.

Sunday 6 December 8:45PM

Got distracted and didn’t finish what I was saying. For 3 Days?!

I started a new job last Friday (a week last Friday that is.) It’s at EMS – where Julie used to work – I’m doing telesales again, this time selling lottery packages to dumb Americans. The work is a lot more ‘high pressure’ sales than at Qualico but the pay and hours are better. I think I may even be enjoying it a bit more though I don’t expect to be there long, certainly not into the new year.

They must have a really high turnover of staff, there’s an orientation day every Friday in which x number of people are trained, but the sales force never seems to grow. The atmosphere is totally different to that at Qualico where you could say what you like, work unsupervised and even set you own sales prices. In EMS you are watched constantly, your calls are listened to, every word you say is scripted and everything is so clinical and regimented. So why do I enjoy it more? Actually I don’t think ‘enjoy’ is the correct word to use, ‘tolerate’ would be more apt.

I moved into Jan & Julie’s place on Monday. I couldn’t stay in our place. First, I just wouldn’t be able to afford it with just me and Martin staying there. Second, living alone in the same house as Martin is more than any sane person could possibly take for more than a day or two. Third, I’ll probably enjoy myself more here.

We didn’t tell Tomy (our landlord) that we were going, we just packed up and left. He must have gone crazy when he found out, never mind, he got to keep our damage deposit.

We tried organising a little bit of a party last night but nobody wanted to come, so Jan, Julie & I got smashed/stoned at home before going out for a while. We went to Penny Lane on Robson, only had one wine and some fries – was hardly worth it!

Working at the same place where Julie worked turned out to be quite a nightmare. Julie also couldn’t legally work in Canada and so was using Jan’s SI number and name, so the people she worked with thought her name was Jan not Julie. She obviously couldn’t tell her friends in work that her boyfriend was Jan as that would look weird so she told everyone her boyfriend was called Gary! And so when I started working there a few people thought I was ‘Jan’s’ (Julie’s) boyfriend. I was happy to go along with this pretence as Julie had left to go work elsewhere but she had remained in touch with a girl whose boyfriend did still worked there. This girl’s boyfriend didn’t talk to me much but would make the effort if we were both on a break at the same time as I was after all suppose to be his girlfriends friends boyfriend and I don’t think they really knew many people or had many friends. As Julie got friendlier with this girl she decided she had to come clean and tell her the truth. I nearly died when I got back home one evening and they were all in our lounge and Julie had spilled the beans. I can’t believe she’d do that whilst I was still working there illegally, afterwards I couldn’t look this chap in the face anymore.

Tuesday 15 December 10PM

Last Tuesday I went to the Town Pump in Gastown. The Northern Pixies were playing. They’re a really good band and they must have played for over two hours. Before I went I’d never heard of them but since I’ve heard them on the radio, read about them in the papers and even seen their video on ‘Much Music’. Seeing them with no preconceived idea of what they should sound like probably made me enjoy them so much more, they were good.

Karin, Mark, Bruce & Leith went and when I arrived only Karin was there. It was good to spend an hour or so talking with her before the rest arrived, there had been a bit of friction between us for the previous couple of weeks and it was good to clear the air.

I received a copy of ‘Fanmail’ last Thursday, it’s yet another Nuaire newsletter – how often do they change them? Well I was reading through it, thoroughly enjoying it when I spot the headline ‘Gary Goes Walkabout’. My eyes almost popped out my head. It was an article about me! And it was all bullshit, I counted ten untruths/errors. [I recently re-read that article and only counted five, not sure where the ten came from – over enthusiasm no doubt] I’ve reread it over and over and each time I’ve laughed out loud. I’ll have to write to them with an update and feed them more bullshit to print.

Went out Saturday night to The Fringe (Martin, Karin, Bruce, Kari, Kim, Maaria & someone else came) I enjoyed myself. They were serving Shaftsbury Christmas Ale which was a gorgeous 9.7% vol, I certainly new about it in the morning. I think we got thrown out after Kari threw up everywhere. She apparently threw up again on the bus later on and got everyone thrown off that as well. I asked Kari to do some diving with us and she said she’d like to, I hope she does. The xmas ale went to my head and like beer always does it made me say and do a few things that perhaps I shouldn’t have done. Never mind, I didn’t say anything to regret and certainly nothing I didn’t mean.

Last night we did an AYCE at Pizza Hut, everyone arrived at staggered intervals so some of us were already full to bursting before some had even began. Jan & Julie arrived first, followed by me, then Bruce, then Dave and then Karin and Leith. Jan & Julie left early because Julie had to wash her hair, most of us found that very funny. Dave had to ask her if she was being serious and Karin bitched about it for a while afterwards. I was so stuffed, but it was nice pizza.

My Nightmare

Hello may I speak to …… …… ? Hi, my name is Gary Lynch and I’m calling from EMS in Vancouver, Canada. How are you today?

The reason I am calling is to let you know about EMS – we are a lottery service company and we specialise in helping our American neighbours play and win our terrific Canadian lotteries, and our US players are definitely winning.

Since last December we’ve hit two Lotto jackpots. One for 2.65 million dollars and another for 5.55 million dollars. That’s 8.2 million dollars that our American customers won playing through our club. And now we’re going after a third jackpot for our players with a brand new game – actually it’s a whole new idea!

We know that the economy is slow right now so we are introducing our own ‘recession fighter’, it’s called Jackpot Plus. It’s totally unique because it lets you ‘play right now and pay later.’

Here’s how it works – we’re putting together a group with 100 shares in it and this group is going to play more than 1500 tickets in two of Canada’s biggest and best lotteries.

First you get 84 tickets in six consecutive draws, that’s a total of 504 tickets in Canada’s famous lotto 6/49. The jackpots in this game are at least 2 million dollars and quite often grow to 5 or 10 million and even more. If your group hit’s the 10 million dollar jackpot then your share could be $100,000!

And second you also get 168 tickets in each of another 6 consecutive draws, that’s 1008 tickets in a new lotto BC49. It has a jackpot of one million dollars each and every draw. Both these lotteries pay all your winnings in one lump sum, so you don’t have to wait 20 years to collect it all. And there’s no Canadian tax taken out.

So altogether you get 1512 chances in 12 draws over 3 weeks for total jackpot money that will average 27 million dollars. And we are going to use our special top pick computer program to select your ticket combinations. This is the same method that we used for our players who hit those 2 jackpots for more than 8.2 million dollars.

Now because you are playing in a group the cost for all this is only $59. But here’s the best part – with this game you ‘play right now and pay later.’ We do not bill you for the $59 until your group wins a prize or your game ends, whichever comes first. Now you just can’t beat a deal like that!

So lets start playing Jackpot Plus – all it takes to join is a small one time only processing fee of $15 just to cover our initial startup costs. We will immediately send you a complete confirmation package, it will contain all the game details, a print out of your ticket combinations, our hotline phone numbers and your membership certificate. And remember, we will not bill the $59 until your group hits a prize or your game ends, whichever comes first.

So take advantage of this ‘recession fighter’ – ‘play right now and pay later’. We’ve got a game starting on …. …… and all it takes is a standard credit card – Visa, MasterCard or American Express – to cover the $15 processing fee. So which card would you like to use to start playing?

That was the script I had to read dozens of times a day. It was such a mouthful that it would take a couple of minutes to get through and you had to get it all out sounding as natural as possible before you could let the person on the over end of the phone get a word in. Quite often they would have hung up after a couple of sentences but you wouldn’t know until you didn’t get a response at the end.

They were so secretive about their scripts, so much so that people were searched leaving the premises to make sure nobody was smuggling one off site to give to a competitor. But the thing is everyone had read it so many times that we all knew it parrot fashion and could easily reproduce it if anyone wanted.

Sunday 20 December 9:45PM
Home

Went tobogganing on Cypress Mountain with Dave and Jan today. It was one of the best laughs that I’ve had in a long while. I’ve never seen so much snow in my entire life. It was too deep to walk through, you had to crawl along on all fours or dig your way through. I stepped into what I thought was not very deep snow and sank into it up to my neck and there was still plenty of snow below me. I thought I was going to disappear under and never be seen again or at least not until spring! The tobogganing itself was fast and wild, and great fun. Jan and I wore our wetsuits under our clothes and that was probably very wise as we got absolutely soaked and most of the time looked more like snowmen than we did human.

Last night I went to a party at Dorothy’s in Kit’s. Kim, Kari and Bruce were there, Karin turned up later with some man friend of hers – I’ve forgotten his name – after the party we went to ‘Earls’ with him (Karin went home – had to be up for work) I think I had a good time, don’t remember after drinking a jimmy of rum.

We had the first snowfall of the season in the city on Friday night. We had 17cm and it caused havoc on the roads Saturday morning, still is in lots of places.

Monday 28 December 10PM

Christmas was very pleasant this year. Went over to Karin and Kim’s on Christmas Eve, it was a nice enough evening, a bit quite. The only drama was provided by Jan and Julie fighting again. Julie is beginning to piss me off big time, she’s a nice enough girl but everything she say’s and everything she does is beginning to grate on my nerves. She can be so petty, dumb, naive, thoughtless, week, childish, selfish and immature. They’re not very nice things to say but she really can be that bad, I’m surprised Jan hasn’t packed her bags – he must really want the sex!

But I digress, as I was saying, xmas eve was a fairly mellow night. Things got late and I ended up crashing the night there. As I was spending xmas day with them anyway it was very convenient. Christmas day was most enjoyable, we just ate, drank, got high and generally just had a happy, laid back, relaxed day. I can’t remember when – if ever – I’ve enjoyed xmas more, once again I ended up crashing the night.

Boxing day I went home and finally got around to ringing Mum. She was pleased to hear from me, but – I know this sounds heartless – apart from getting an update on bits of news I really wasn’t pleased to hear from her. She was the same usual self that always annoys me. I spent Boxing Day evening with Jan & Julie, we just got drunk/stoned and watched TV.

Yesterday – Sunday – I went up to Grouse Mountain and walked down the Capilano Valley. There are some very beautiful walks through the forest along the canyon that the river flows down, I went up there with J&J but luckily managed to give them the slip.

Tuesday 14 January 4:30PM

I lost my job today for not making enough sales, which is quite ironic as I actually made 75% of the total sales for the floor today. I was going to quit at the end of next week anyway so it’s not too bad, but I will miss over a weeks pay at a time when I really need the cash. I’ve never been fired from a job before. I’m going to try and get another weeks work somewhere even though I’m leaving in two weeks.

Julie flew home on Tuesday, she didn’t even say goodbye and I think as far as she knew I was unaware of it until after she’d left. I can’t say I’m sorry to see her go because I’m not.

Wow! This is the first entry for over two weeks, so what’s been happening? Err – nothing.

Spent New Years Eve at the Lamplighter pub in Gastown. It was an alright evening but I wasn’t pissed or in a fun mood. Ha, I wonder why?! Jan, Julie, Bruce & Mark where there also.

Tuesday 26 January 11PM

Right now we are very busy preparing to leave on Sunday. We have a thousand things to do, the most important of which is finding a vehicle before the weekend. We had our hearts set on this terrific campervan but that seems to have fallen through today at the eleventh hour. It is going to be tough finding something else at such a short notice, especially as we are both working.

I’ve been working last week and this in The Bay doing a stock take. I had a few problems when I started because the computer in human resources refused to accept my SIN saying it wasn’t a valid number. So embarrassed I bluffed my way out if it and returned the following day with my ‘correct’ number, but still there were problems, I think probably because the number was being cross referenced with my date of birth and the two didn’t match. I don’t know what they did but eventually they got the computer to accept my number. It was a very nerve racking occasion. Things seem to be OK now but hopefully I’ll be long gone before they realise that things are wrong.

Went to a Canucks game, they lost 5-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. We bought tickets of scalpers midway through the first period and were stood right at the very back, not the best of views but I enjoyed it nevertheless. Was disappointed in the lack of fighting.

It was the Chinese New Year on the weekend, we went down to Chinatown to see the parades but the rain was so bad they had to retreat indoors. The ‘dragons’ still put on their ‘dance’; it was very impressive to watch. I didn’t understand all the nuances to the celebrations, especially the bit with the exploding cabbage but the mystery just added to the sense of adventure. You don’t see dancing dragons in Llandeilo, not even on a Saturday night.

My visa expired at the end of January so from 1st February I’d be an illegal alien, if technically I wasn’t already due to my working habits. So I had to leave Canada but it was also the right time to go anyway. We didn’t have much of a plan; we wanted to get to New Orleans for Mardi Gras which was three weeks away and so had a rough itinerary sketched out which would take as down the West coast and then across the South stopping off at a number of must see tourist attractions. After that the plan was to head down to Florida for some much needed sun after a winter in Vancouver and try to find work there.

Jan: I’d been working in the Hudson ‘Bay’ company, in the warehouse, moving stock around quite happily for months and it was quite a cushy job. I’d noticed an easy way to make a bit more money on the side, not exactly legal mind you. The Bay would refund cash if you brought back some of their own brand goods, even without a receipt. I recall once or twice dropping sheet sets out of a window into an alley way at a predetermined time to be picked up by Gary. I’m pretty certain that Gary went to claim the refund, I don’t remember doing it. We only did this once or twice. [Yes, I returned a set of bed linen and I got some odd looks when everything in the set was a different size!]

Julie? what can I say, I don’t remember. It was 15 years ago. We were both quite young and went our separate ways

Thursday 4 February 6:30PM (My Birthday)
Waiting for photos – Bay Shore Mall, Eureka CA

As with every other time I’ve written in this journal I’ve left things too late and thus have more than likely forgotten most, but here goes anyway.

After giving up on the camper van we bought an ’81 Ford Fairmont 4DR SL. It was the only car we looked at and seemed a good deal at $500 so we didn’t hesitate. It’s comfortable and has a loud stereo, those are the good points. The bad points – it’s sky blue (yuck!), has automatic transmission and what looks like a timing problem but could be something much worse, it really struggles on hills. Oh, it also has a dent in the front wing.

We had a poor turnout for our leaving party (Dave, Karen, Maaria, Ian & Bruce) I’m surprised Karin didn’t come, I should have said goodbye to her. We had a good time nevertheless, Dave brought his hi-fi around which was very loud. The landlady came ‘round 3 times to complain, didn’t get to bed until 4AM and then got up again at 8AM!

We meant to leave that afternoon but the landlady wasn’t in to give us the damage deposit so we hung around, caught up on sleep and left early Monday morning.

US immigration was no trouble – he gave me 6 months. [visa that is] The officer asked if we were carrying any weapons and when we innocently denied that we were he warned us stay out of the rough parts of town then!

Our first stop was Seattle where we spent the day, didn’t do much just wandered around downtown and visited Pike Place Market. We left town before dark to spend the night in Snoqualmie. We slept in the car at the Salish Lodge on Snoqualmie Falls (the Great Northern Hotel of Twin Peaks fame) we were so bored after dark that we almost went to a town meeting just for something to do. One of the strangest sights we saw in town the following morning was the Snoqualmie Police Dept VW Beetle, a real cop car complete with lights, shotgun, radio etc.

Back on the road again (Tuesday now) we made a brief stop at Olympia the state capitol and visited the legislative building.

The drive down through Washington was quite spectacular, you had snow covered mountains all the way (Mt Baker, Mt Rainier, Mt St Helens, Mt Hood) we stopped at the Mt St Helens visitor centre. We then drove non-stop to Corvallis, Oregon hoping to see Mark McCabe but he’d returned to New Zealand weeks ago. The Kiwi’s we did speak to showed us where some Brit’s lived and suggested we knock and introduce ourselves. It was funny going to a complete strangers door and saying ‘Hello, I’m English’, I’m glad we did, they fed us, we had showers and shaves (well needed!), gave us beds for the night and took us to a pub. And what a strange pub it was. It looked like a log cabin inside and the local clientele weren’t your average person (perhaps your average American but not your average person), the atmosphere was good, they played the whole of Tom Waits’ Bone Machine and the beer was cheap ($4.50 for a pitcher). We were sat by the pool tables and boy do these Americans take their pool seriously. It was probably my first ‘real’ exposure to American culture even though I’ve been here for seven months, Canada is just so different.

The following day we drove along the Oregon coast stopping for the night at Crescent City just inside California. The drive was beautiful but it took so long as we were stopping every 5 miles to take a look at/photograph the amazing coastline. At one particular stop I almost lost my camera and my life when I slipped and fell on some slime. I managed to stop myself and throw the camera to safety just before falling of the edge into the ‘Devils Churn’ a deep crevice filled with gushing, swirling water. My camera was knocked a bit senseless by the fall and began behaving strange, it seems to be fine now though - fingers crossed.

We spent the night in the Crescent City visitors centre car park. I had breakfast in Denny’s, they had a special on where your meal is free if you can prove it’s your birthday. So while Jan sat outside eating his apple I feasted on egg, bacon, sausage, toast, waffles and lots of coffee - the best I’ve ate for days. [It’s amazing the things you’ll do when you’re hungry, obviously they expected you to bring paying friends with you and not eat on your own for free] All day today we drove through Redwood National Park, it is easily one of the most beautiful/spectacular sights of my life. The trees are so big and I mean huge, over 300ft tall and some 70ft circumference. We walked a few trails through the trees, one was at the top of a very big hill which the car did not like at all, it seriously overheated on the way up and over exerted the brakes on the way down and now the gears are playing up also. I’m half expecting the heap of shit to completely pack in on us at any moment.

We passed a field full of elk and so in complete disregarded of all the signs warning us to keep out (honestly we didn’t see them) we went into the field for a closer look. This resulted in our first run in with US police. The cop just gave me an ear bashing for 5 minutes and warned me to watch myself.

Tuesday 9 February 10AM
Waiting for the road to open, Baker CA

Left eureka heading south for Sacramento where we intended to make a surprise visit on Glyn, a friend of Jan’s from university. The drive was pretty uninteresting, the first 30 miles or so we left the main freeway and drove down the ‘avenue of giants’, old highway 101, which drove through even more redwoods. Was nice but after spending the whole of the previous day looking at redwoods it was nothing to write home about.

We got to Sacramento, a pretty boring city much like all the other state capitols i.e. an administrative and business centre and fuck all else. We phoned Glyn and our worst fears were realised, he’d gone to San Francisco for the weekend to play in a squash tournament. After a bit of oh’ing and ah’ing and ‘oh no what shall we do now’ we rang back Glyn’s place and gave his house mates a sob story of how we are lost in a strange town, in need of guidance and showers. Well anyway, to cut a long story short, we went ‘round and showered and slept the night there. Paul – one of Glyn’s housemates – was very kind to us; he made us breakfast and showed us where the liquor store was etc. That’s twice now we’ve approached complete strangers and they’ve been very helpful and hospitable. We left Sacramento Saturday morning but not before having a quick look around downtown, not very interesting, the highlight was an orange tree that we found in the capitol building garden. The oranges were the sweetest, juiciest I’ve ever tasted. Needless to say we helped ourselves to a few, half of which got stolen by some down and out.

[Jan: What do you mean, ‘half of which were stolen by some down and out’?, they were ALL stolen by some down and out.. just half of them were stolen by some other down and out! The Capitol park was full of suited and very important looking people and we looked like a couple of tramps. After a short debate, I climbed the tree, fully expecting to be shouted at. I then threw down as many oranges as Gary could hold and jumped down. Then some other, fellow tramp approached us and asked for a share, which we gave to him.]

We got into San Francisco and headed straight for the San Francisco Bay Club where Glyn was playing, wasn’t he surprised to see us! [we turned up half way through one of his games which he proceeded to lose] After he’d finished at the club the 3 of us went down to Fisherman’s Wharf, a tourist trap if ever there was one, we had pizza and beer, saw some sea lions and Alcatraz. We then left downtown in search of a parking spot for the night, which wasn’t that easy as most of downtown was cut off for a huge Chinese New Year parade. Eventually we parked the car in the park at the Academy of Science/Museum. Went into downtown for the evening which wasn’t very successful as I had a God awful headache and we had a bitch of a time looking for a bar.

[Jan: Having found a perfect dark, secluded spot late at night, we went to sleep. As usual, we awoke very early because of the light streaming in through the windows and the car beginning to warm up. I looked out the window, squinting in the bright light. We were surrounded by literally thousands of Chinese people doing early morning yoga and standing with their arms outstretched. Thankfully they were all ignoring us, but we had quite a fright. Got the car started and quietly tried to slip away.]

We spent Sunday at the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown and Union Square before heading out of town.

Drove as far as Galeiota, north of Santa Barbara, parked in a state campground and were ravished all night by gale force storms.

LA yesterday wasn’t very successful, it didn’t stop raining most of the time we were there and I spent an hour running around downtown in the pouring rain looking for the information centre. I’d get to one building and they said no it’s at such and such a building, I’d get there and they’d send me elsewhere. Eventually I ended up on the 56th floor of some skyscraper, as I was heading up the turbo lift it occurred to me that the tourist information centre wouldn’t be anywhere so inaccessible. It turned out to be the visitor centre administrative HQ and they didn’t have any pamphlets. I got pissed off in the end and never did find the place.

Saw Venice Beach which was empty and most of it was washed away by the previous nights storms. Beverly Hills and Hollywood were nothing, went to Mann’s Chinese theatre and saw the hand/footprints in the pavement.

Spent last night in a rest area in the Mojave Dessert. We are now in Baker doing laundry because the road to Death Valley is closed due to flooding. Can you believe that the road to the hottest/driest place in the Western hemisphere is closed due to flooding!

Friday 12 February 10:20AM
Lake Mead Overlook, Nevada

Death Valley was very impressive. It was real desert, hot, desolate, tumbleweed, rocky hills and sand dunes. We saw some pretty impressive dunes in the distance and so in an attempt to get closer we took our all terrain Ford Fairmont down a dirt track. Just before reaching the dunes our path was blocked by a river swollen with flood water – way too much to take the car across but not enough to stop Jan wading across. Of course when he reached the other side he had no footwear with him so all he could do was wade back again.

We had to take the car through some fairly long mountain passes which it did not like at all. We managed to coast down the other side for over 10 miles out of gear!

We stopped at Badwater the lowest point in the Western hemisphere -282ft/-86M and then detoured down another dirt track to see a natural bridge. The bridge itself wasn’t that interesting but the canyon it was in certainly was. We walked about a mile through the canyon then decided to climb the side up to one of the mountain peaks. The climb was a lot longer than it looked from the base of the canyon. We climbed without much care and attention until we had an encounter with a rather nasty looking scorpion, we proceeded with a bit more caution after that, luckily we were on the way down and near the bottom. [Jan: What Gary fails to mention is that he was higher up on the slope than me. When he noticed the scorpion very close to his foot, his natural instinct was kick out at it. It sailed through the air and bounced off me before we both ran away screaming like girls. I wasn’t too amused at him launching the poisonous little blighter directly at me though!]

We climbed some more hills later and the view was amazing. It was getting late and there were no cars for miles around and the air was perfectly still. Jan and I were on opposite sides of the valley about 100M apart but we could still talk clearly to each other without raising our voices.

Las Vegas was fun to say the least. We got into town Wednesday morning and parked in the Mirage car park. Most of the day was spent on The Strip looking in awe at all the casinos that were pretty extravagant and over the top. The Mirage had a coral reef with sharks; white tigers and a 60ft volcano that erupts with flames and pina-colada scented smoke. Caesars Palace had a water fountain in which the statues came to life and put on a show. It was an impressive show of light, sound, lasers and animatronics. Circus Circus had circus acts and 75 cent Heinekens!

Went to The Metz nightclub got back very late, we decided to sleep in the car in the Mirage car park but some shits who claimed to be hotel security but were really just Vigilante Guardian Angels kept pestering us to move on even though we’d been drinking. Eventually we gave in to them and moved to a car park across the street where they said it’d be OK but we soon got moved on from there by other security guards. Eventually at about 4:30AM we found a parking spot in the suburbs and got some sleep, but not much.

The following morning we had a buffet breakfast at Circus Circus for $2.29. We stacked out plates so high, it was the most we’d ate for a very, very long time. We spent the rest of the morning at Vegas World where we both had $50 worth of free gambling, we came out with $23. The rest of the day was spent downtown where we entered a free slot tournament. We both got to the final, Jan won a t-shirt and I won a buffet dinner for 2. So for a second time that day we stuffed ourselves so full that we couldn’t move.

Left town that night and came here to Lake Mead.

Monday 15 February 5:30PM Presidents Day
Picnic Area, Sudan, Texas

Stopped at the Hoover Dam, was nothing special, pretty damn big, but nothing special. Spent the rest of Friday traveling to the Grand Canyon where we spent the night. The top of the canyon is about 6500ft above sea level and there was snow piled up all over, this came as bit of a shock after 3 or 4 days spent in the hot Mojave Desert. The car froze inside and out, was a very chilly nights sleep.

We spent most of Saturday enjoying the canyons very impressive vistas, not much you can really say about it.

A lot of the towns we passed through in Arizona and New Mexico were on the old route 66 and boy did they make a big deal out of it - gift shops, ‘historic R66’ signs all over. I don’t see what all the fuss is about, it’s only a bloody road. After leaving Grand Canyon we drove non-stop to the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest where we spent the night.

The weather the next day was abysmal, rained hard and unforgiving, sort of put a downer on our visit. It was hard to wander around the park enjoying the trees/desert when you are getting rained on hard and freezing wind is blowing. Never mind, it was interesting nevertheless. Afterwards we drove pretty much non-stop again to Santa Rosa, New Mexico and spent the night there.

When we awoke the car was buried in snow that wasn’t there when we fell asleep. Santa Rosa has got the Blue Hole, one of the Southwest’s most popular diving sites. It’s an artesian well 25M deep and a constant 16 degrees year round. The altitude is an incredible 1400M (+5M depth) Of course we couldn’t leave without diving it. We hired tanks/weights at the adjacent dive shop. The lady was very good about us not having the (stupid) city diving permit. [one of those annoying stealth taxes, it was a Sunday and we couldn’t buy a permit and she wasn’t going to turn away business was she] We only did one dive, the water was warm (didn’t wear jackets) but the air was bitterly cold – we had snow on the ground. This isn’t the New Mexico you see in the movies. The dive was to 20M (25 adjusted for altitude) for 23 minutes, not mush to see, a few pretty fish, the vis was good at about 20M.

We then drove south to Fort Sumner and the grave of Billy The Kid; the sun had come out by then. The grave and gravestone were both in cages (one inside the other) because people kept on stealing the tombstone. And the plot itself was covered in concrete.

Wednesday 17 February 10:30PM
Picnic Area, near Longhew, East Texas

Went to Dallas today, wasn’t much to see. The highlight being the Texas Schoolbook Depository the scene of JFK’s assassination, it was quite interesting to see first hand the place that has been shown on TV more times than probably any other (it’s actually Texas’ most photographed place and of course we took a few more to keep it up there.) We spent most of the time speculating and imagining what really happened on that November day back in ’63. We couldn’t help but notice the presence of more than one suspicious, shady (CIA type) men with dark glasses hanging around watching people! Very odd, but I suppose it’s a place visited by all those subversive conspiracy theorists which the CIA like to keep tabs on.

I shaved today for the first time in two weeks! Boy it felt good. The YMCA in Tyler allowed us to use their showers (for free) more than the YMCA in Las Vegas would; they wanted $10!

Wednesday 24 February 4:15PM
St Elmo, Grand Bay, Alabama

After leaving Dallas we intended to drive down to New Orleans pretty much [I keep saying ‘pretty much’ it’s annoying me now, I have actually edited quite a few occurrences of it out] without a stop but on the Thursday we spent a few unscheduled hours at Ville Platte, Louisiana. Jan was driving and we were low on gas, we passed lots of gas stations with pretty [again!] cheap gas but Jan said ‘No lets go on’ even though he knew the next exit was 13 miles away, I warned him but would he listen - would he fuck.

Well anyway, we got to the next exit and there were no gas stations so we had to carry on. We ran out of gas 25 miles after having warned him and still 10 miles from the closest town. So Jan hitched into town (Ville Platte) whist I stayed in the car. He got a lift straight away and the bloke even brought him back again. After filling up with gas we went into town and to a bar called the Red Baron, like most bars around here it was very dark and everyone looks at you like you’ve just stepped out of a spaceship. All beers were a buck each so we got some bottles of Miller GD and were very taken aback when they came in 7oz bottles, we quickly polished them of and ordered Bud (proper 12oz bottles).

We left the bar then drove for an hour or two before finding a quiet side road to park for the night. It was very dark and secluded and looked ideal. [in hindsight I think it may have been a private track to someone’s ranch.] At about midnight we were rudely awoken by two hick town cops. They asked to see our passports, vehicle registration etc and ran us through their computer. When we told them that we’d driven down from Vancouver they said ‘ah yes Cuba’, it’s no wonder they could find no record of us on their computer. They asked to search the boot but soon gave up once they saw just how much junk was in there. They kept asking repeatedly if we had any weapons or drugs. I think they thought we were Cuban drug/gun runners. They told us we couldn’t spend the night there and escorted us to a near by truck stop.

[It was actually a bit more confusing than that for the cops, not only did they think we were Cubans but when they radioed in the license plate and saw it was from British Columbia they thought we were Cubans who’d driven up from Columbia! They asked to see our driving licenses which were bilingual in English and Welsh and of course in their stupidity they only read the Welsh side and one cop said to the other ‘Oh yeah, I had one of those Columbian driving licenses the other week and couldn’t understand a word of it.’ At this point I was stood out side the car in just my boxer shorts with my sleeping bag wrapped around me thinking, ‘oh shit, we’re going to go to jail.’]

Friday we drove as far as Houma, a smallish town south west of New Orleans and decide to spend the night there to join in their Mardi Gras celebrations. We had a few beers then went out into the streets. There were so many people out and all of them were drinking. We had stayed in the car secretly drinking as we were worried about drinking outside as normally it’s illegal but apparently it’s allowed during Mardi Gras!

Needing a piss we went ‘round to a car park and pissed behind a truck and some bushes. A couple of girls then went behind the bushes to piss and we had to stand guard hiding them, they were mental. I spent the rest of the parade with them meeting so many people none of whom believed I was English until I produced my passport. [It was the kind of small town where you don’t see strangers] [Jan: Do you remember? ‘Aw, I’ve never seen a passport before... can I show it to my cousin, Eddie?’. You agreed and she ran off through the thronging crowd and we thought ‘Oh shit, that’s the last we’ll see of that.’ But they did come back with it. The other thing that Gary fails to mention about these three girls that whisked him off to their party – they were the ugliest, biggest women in Louisianna. That’s why I didn’t go to the party, I was afraid of them!] When the parade was over I tagged along with the girls to a bar in Valkerie, about an hour’s drive north in the middle of the swamps. It was $6 to get in as a popular local rock band was playing but I managed to blag my way in without paying. The bar was one of the seediest places I’ve ever seen but the music was good and the atmosphere even better. I was too tired to really enjoy myself. After the bar we all went to someone’s house out in the swamps where I crashed on a sofa bed and was later woken by a screaming girl looking for a gun to shoot an alligator that was hanging around outside.

When I got back to the car in Houma in the morning Jan was looking decidedly hung over and busily clearing up his puke from inside the car.

Saturday we got to New Orleans and no sooner had we parked the car than a parade was starting just down the road. So we watched that parade then just messed around for a few hours before the evening’s parade began. We spent ages looking for some beer and eventually bought a 6 pack for $8! Later discovered that I could get the same beer around the corner at 99 cents for 2. That night’s parade (Krewe of Endymoin) was quite spectacular. Steven Siegel was on one of the floats, the crowd went wild and Jan caught some beads that were thrown by Steven himself.

We drove out of town to sleep and eventually found a spot after a lot of toing and froing. We weren’t going to stay in town, it’s a very rough place. Someone we told we were going to New Orleans warned us to be very careful and after seeing some of the black neighbourhoods I can understand why.

Sunday we did pretty much the same thing but also went into the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, the place is wild, a human zoo. A black guy posing as a shoe shine bet me that he could name the place that I ‘got’ my shoes! We drank a 75cl bottle of 20/20 each before going out in the evening and we were well pissed. We kept climbing on the roof of a bus stop to get a better view of the parades but the cops kept throwing us off.

We spent Monday in the swamps looking for gators, didn’t find any but saw plenty of swamp. Spent the night in a National Park car park and were surrounded by fireflies throughout the night.

Tuesday’s parades started early but didn’t finish until about 5PM, they were always stopping for one reason or another. After the parades we got a bottle of Thunderbird each and downed it before hitting Bourbon Street, it was mayhem. I was wearing some knickers on my head that I caught in the parade in Houma and I swapped them for some beads from a girl from Florida. She wouldn’t give me kiss in exchange for them but she gave me her address in Tampa and told us to look her up when we got there.

Most people in the street were shouting for beads from the people on the balconies. At one point I was standing on a newspaper machine trying to reach some pretty big beads but was told to get down by a cop. We crashed our way into a bar without paying but soon left.

Met two old ladies from England outside McDonalds (it was shut for 40 minutes whilst they cleaned up after a food fight!) and spent ages talking to them. They took our photo and are going to ring our Mum’s when they get home.

Oh yes, visited a NASA test site this morning.

From there we drove down to the Keys making a couple of stops in Florida on the way. And so ends the ‘road trip’ part of the journal, there’s not a lot to say about it really except we spent the best part of four weeks covering 10,000 kilometres with just a Ford Fairmont as a home. I think there were only two nights during the trip when we didn’t sleep in the car. It had an automatic gearbox with the gear stick off the steering column which meant there was one large front seat, just like the rear one. We thought this would be handy for sleeping arrangements but sleeping across the car gave you very little leg room and every morning I’d wake up with intense pain in my knees. On a few occasions when we were parked somewhere warm and off the beaten track I’d sleep with my feet hanging out the window.

[Jan: I remember thinking ‘what IS that smell in the car’. Then one day I was trying to sleep in the back and my hand had wandered under the passenger seat, I felt a familiar object. An open can of Tuna that had been there for over a week. There were things that were moving around the can and over my hand.. Maggots! Not nice. We also had a bonnet ornament, the skeleton of a horseshoe crab called ‘Crusty’, which was superglued to the bonnet.

We used to put the car into neutral to run downhill to save petrol. The shift stick went from Drive to Neutral to Park. I remember rolling down a hill with Gary lounging in the back, We were probably doing about 50mph and I meant to knock it back into Drive, but accidentally went the wrong way – Park. All four wheels locked and we were sliding along with a terrible screech of tyres. Gary was thrown forward. Thankfully I knocked it back into Drive very quickly, but another scary moment.

That car was great though, it did everything that we asked of it. In the end, we abandoned it in Key West. A sorry end to a noble car.]

On most days breakfast would be a chocolate milk and dinner would be the cheapest boloney on the cheapest bread that the supermarket would sell. Sometimes it’d be spiced up with some free ketchup from McDonalds. I don’t think we ever paid for ketchup because McDonalds had policy where they had to give you as many sachets as you asked for. I remember asking for “a large fries with 50 ketchups please.” [Jan: We both lost a lot of weight. Gary has always been able to beat me quite easily at Chess, but I noticed as the trip progressed that I won more and more games. I can only put this down to him not being able to concentrate properly and it must have effected me less. Once we started eating fresh food again, he quickly recovered and I lost my advantage.]

 

And so begins the Key West part of the trip. I didn’t write many entries from here on but it was such a strange and bizarre experience that I think I need to do it a bit more justice. What we didn’t know before arriving in Key West is that it’s one of the gay capitols of the world and Jan had the looks and physique that brought him a lot of attention! This as it turned out would be as much of a saving grace as it was a problem. There were however a few awkward moments where we had to pretend to be a ‘couple’ to avoid the unwelcome attentions from certain individuals.

Saturday 27 February 10:45AM
Key West, Florida

We drove pretty much non-stop down to the Keys and arrived yesterday afternoon. The weather was so hot all we wanted to do was park the car and jump into the water. It took us ages to do so though as there are only a handful of public beaches in the whole of the Keys and the beaches that are around are all very shallow and sandy. The Keys may be the ‘divers paradise’ that they say it is but only if you have a boat as all the dives are miles off shore. [We came to the Keys hoping to do loads of diving as we had after all carried our full dive kit half way around the world. In the end we only did a few dives.]

Right this very second Jan is busily trying to clean a window that he totally fucked up by spraying window tint onto it before it was properly cleaned.

Friday 5 March 9:30AM
Key West Public Library, FL

Haven’t done a great deal in the last week, the weather is just too hot to encourage any enthusiasm. We haven’t put a great deal of effort into finding a job either.

We contacted Seacamp on Big Pine Key but all the important people are away. They gave us some application forms which we’ll return in a few days when the ‘important’ people are back and hopefully we’ll get a chance to talk with them. The jobs don’t start until the end of May and we’re going to have to arrange it through BUNAC also, which could be a bitch. In the meantime we’ve tried half-heartedly to find other ways to make money.

We tried selling ice cold Cokes on the beach for less than the other traders but had no sales. We had to do it very discretely as it’s illegal and the beach is heavily patrolled by cops. Another idea we had was to collect coconuts – they grow all over the place – and sell them to tourists but thus far we have only got 4 coconuts, not many! We’re having a bit of trouble distinguishing between good/bad and ripe/raw nuts.

Whilst on the beach the other day we gave blood to the American Red Cross. They certainly treat you better than at home, we got pizza, Oreo’s and fresh orange juice.

We’ve spent most evenings first having a BBQ on Higgs beach (usually beans and wieners) and then going into town finding a parking spot for the night and then hanging out around Duval Street. But when you have no money to spend things aren’t that fun, in fact it’s becoming a bit boring. It’s Friday tonight so we may get some beers before hitting Duval, should make things more fun.

When we arrived in Key West it was the middle of ‘spring break’ – when all the universities break up for a few weeks and all the students head to the beach – and so the place was heaving with hotties and a real party town. This however wasn’t without its problems as all the best parking places for the night were taken and we were still living in the car. Having just come from Mardi Gras the car was decorated with the beads and other paraphernalia we’d collected there, it did look a bit camp and this drew a bit of unwelcome attention from amongst other people ‘Bob’.

Friday 12 March 12:40PM
Higgs Beach, Key West FL

We’ve spent pretty much all week just bumming around on the beach living simply and cheaply. Last Friday whilst here on the beach Jan was accosted by ‘Bob’ a 44 year old Italian American who we suspect is a little bit bent. He invited us ‘round to his place for some beers. So we went and whilst we were there he kept on trying to persuade us to stay at his place instead of in our car. As he only had the one room this did not appeal to us so we made our excuses and left.

We bumped into him again the next day and he invited us for Sunday dinner, we went just to get some good food for a change. Again he tried persuading us to stay and again we made excuses.

We also got chatting to ‘Mike’ another eccentric, he claims to be an inventor but if you ask me he’s just a raving loony. He spent one day with plastic bags filled with plant food wrapped around his feet and going without food to see whether he could live like a tree!

One of his inventions is a flying saucer, apparently he’s got a 14 foot model of it somewhere, but we only saw the 12 inch version which he hopes to manufacture and sell on the beach as Frisbees. But he’s a nice enough chap – he tuned our car for us.

Went out last night to a club called Voodoo. We learnt about it through an English lass who works there. For a $2 cover you get all you can drink draft beer from 10-11 and 2-3. Met a really nice Kiwi girl called Paula there. I spent a couple of hours dancing with her before she took me around some of the ‘local’ bars. By the end of the night I was fairly pissed up and we went cycling on her bike, me driving and her sat behind, it was impossible to ride. The cops on Duval Street were giving me some very nasty looks as I jumped red lights and drunkenly steered down the road, I hope I see her again, I should do.

Both Jan and I got jobs yesterday. Jan started today in a T-shirt shop. I start on Sunday waiting tables at an Italian restaurant, you can make big money in tips apparently.

A couple of days ago whilst snorkeling off the pier on Higgs beach Jan and I came across a stingray hiding in the sand. I’d been playing with these creatures for days chasing them, grabbing hold of them and generally just antagonising them. Well I dived down to grab this one and had hold of him in my hands a couple of times but he just kept on slipping out. He swam off and I chased him for about 30m, my hand just behind his tail all the way. I had to come up for air so Jan who’d been following on the surface dived down to continue the chase. As soon as Jan reached the creature it turned around and stuck a 2 inch spike into his wrist, needless to say Jan was in a lot of pain. We got to shore and a passing cop called an ambulance and the paramedics patched him up before I drove him to hospital. The pain was getting worse and worse all the way as the toxins took affect. To cut a long story short he’s fine now.

When we turned up at Bob’s for drinks I immediately recognised him as I’d seen him on many occasions cruising up and down the beach on his scooter looking for boys. He’d stopped to talk to me on one occasion but I was my usual gruff self and soon saw him off. I couldn’t believe that Jan had agreed to go around his place for beers.

On that first visit we didn’t go that far into the house but when we went around for Sunday dinner obviously we had to venture in a bit further. After dinner he invited us to watch a bit of TV but as he rented some rooms out the living room was a communal area meaning the TV was in his bedroom.

The bedroom was dominated by the largest water bed I’ve ever seen but fortunately there were a couple of seats to one side which looked like they’d been placed there especially for us. Jan and I used the seats, Mike who was also there sat in another corner of the room whilst Bob lorded it up in the middle of the water bed. After much pestering from Bob I tentatively sat on one edge of the bed just to keep him quiet. As if things couldn’t get any worse he put on a video which turned out to be the pornographic version of Caligula. After one of the most awkward hour or two of my life Jan and I managed to escape Bob and Mike and make it back to our car for a good nights sleep.

A couple of nights later Key West was hit by one of the worst storms on record. We didn’t get a minutes sleep the whole of the night whilst the car was bounced around the car park, lightening was hitting all around and stray coconuts flew dangerously close outside. This was enough for us to succumb to Bob’s offer and kip at his place for a few nights. [Jan: I don’t know how strong the wind was, but the car was really being rocked. The water was being squirted through the door seals by the wind, not just running down the door, but actually squirting through. We got soaked inside the car. Any minute we thought a coconut would smash a window and we really would be in trouble. I can imagine how our emaciated, terrified faces must have looked in the lightning – much like Munch’s ‘The Scream’, only two of us.]

Bob had squeezed a couple of camping beds into his room for us to sleep on but it was obvious his real intention was to get one of us to share his water bed. Each night he would say things like “are you sure you wouldn’t be more comfortable on the water bed, there’s plenty of room.” After a couple of nights it all got just too much and we moved back into the car.

One thing that Bob did was work occasionally in a soup kitchen for the down and outs at a local church. As Jan and I were poor and homeless Bob suggested we should go there to get a free meal if we needed it. Eventually we plucked up enough courage to go (this was before we got jobs and really were poor and hungry and living like down and outs ourselves). We’d be queuing up for a peanut butter sandwich, carton of orange juice and a few Oreo cookies with all the homeless tramps looking down their noses at us as they thought we were just a couple of the spring breakers on holiday from college bumming a free meal. I think this was one of the low points of my life.

Tuesday 23 March 1:20PM

Working at Clancy’s was certainly interesting. My boss, Margaret, was a real bitch, I didn’t get on with her at all. The work was pretty shity and I made next to no money at all – just tips and being the ‘trainee’ I served very few tables. Almost everyone who worked there was British or Irish which made things a bit of fun. Well anyway on Sunday she gave me a group of 8 Germans to serve none of who spoke English. As it happens this wasn’t one group of 8 Germans but two groups of 4 so they needed separate bills but Margaret insisted that they all pay together which of course was silly, they didn’t even know each over, they were sat on different tables and one table wanted to leave whilst the other was still eating. At the end of the night Margaret sacked me over the debacle even though the whole confusion was her fault. I didn’t like the job anyway.

Jan quit his T-shirt shop job after 4 hours and now he’s working with Mike for a rich gay couple and is making lots of money. They’ve let us sleep in their guest rooms for the last couple of nights and they’ve fed us, as well as given us more wine than we usually drink. We did stay at Bob’s for a few nights but it got just too much, he’d be constantly mothering us which was suffocating and Jan seams to think that he was coming on to him, as apparently Mike also has! It’s really very funny.

If ‘Killer Bob’ wasn’t bad enough then ‘Mad Mike’ (as the two of them became known to us) really took the biscuit. Mike seamed OK at first, if a little bit weird, but as it transpired was as much of a raging homosexual as Bob and the two of them were fighting over which one of them would make a move on Jan!

Mike really was mad. After a while David gave him the sack as he was clearly a loony and didn’t fit in with David’s lifestyle anyway. Mike resented this and felt that Jan had stolen his job and became increasingly hostile and crazy, you could probably say he was even stalking Jan. Thankfully I with my less appealing looks was mostly immune to all these shenanigans.

[Jan: Mike one day confessed to me that he was the first person to be prosecuted in Florida for new stalker Laws that had only been passed about a year previously. And yes, he was very mad..

I dispute that Gary didn’t have his admirers. I can’t remember their names, but there was a middle-aged couple (male and female, oddly for Key West) who tried very hard to get Gary to come to their house for an ‘evening’. [Yes, they probably had IT problems!]

Gary and I often had to pretend to be ‘together’, sometimes to stop the annoying attention of some overly-pushy Queen and sometimes out of self-preservation. I remember one evening when we’d been taken to a nightclub by David & Co, when some guy, was showing a little too much attention in me than was healthy. He was the classic ‘gay biker’ in black leather, big muscles, moustache, leather cap.. the works. He hadn’t taken the hints which I thought I was laying on quite thickly, and to say that he was ‘invading my personal space’ is to put it lightly. I really thought that I was going to have to punch him as hard as I could and run. Thankfully, I finally managed to talk my way out of his clutches by explaining that as much as I would love to do what-ever he had planned (and I shudder to think). I couldn’t upset my partner, Gary, who was watching (and unhelpfully grinning from ear to ear)]

Staying at David’s was an interesting experience; after living like bums for a couple of months moving in with David and Stephen was, to us, like living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. It was a large run-down house that they'd just bought which is why they needed people working on it. We really had landed on our feet, we ate their food, drank their wine, used the swimming pool etc. They would have a lot of parties and house guests and it wasn't long before Jan and I became well known with a lot of the locals. This wasn't always a good thing; whilst most of the people we met were all very nice, they were also mostly full on gay. Don't get me wrong, I don't have any prejudices but sometimes you had to question their motives for getting to know you. There was one old gentleman, Rex Roosevelt (the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt) that wouldn't leave me alone. He was always buying me drinks and offering me a job as a live in something-or-other - it was all highly embarrassing. He did however confirm that the speculation in the press that ex-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a closet lesbian was indeed true, apparently it had been a family secret for years.

David's partner Stephen was a nice chap but you got the feeling he was probably only with David for the lifestyle he could give him. He was actually quite fun to be with when David wasn't around, he always had a good supply of cannabis which he happily shared. He worked as a nurse and was constantly bringing home drugs that he'd stolen from work, he'd often take you to one side at one of the parties and offer you the new red ones which are quite good or something like that. There was one occasion he was wandering around looking a bit spaced out and when asked what's up he remarked he'd just come back from the vet's to pick up the dogs tranquillisers and was trying them out.

Wednesday 7 April 9:00PM (Over two weeks!)
Our Hut, 906 Johnson St, Key West

We’ve moved into the guest cottage behind David’s house. It was a bit primitive at first but now we’ve got a shower (with hot as well as cold!), bathroom, bunk beds, air conditioning, fridge, microwave, hi-fi, 2 TV’s with cable and it’s only costing us $5 each a night. With all the other extras like swimming pool, food/drink etc it’s probably the best deal in Key West.

I got a new job at the Chelsea House a guesthouse in town. I’m doing a bit of everything there, working in the garden/grounds, housekeeping, a bit of front desk – so far it’s $6.50 an hour tax free, but the hours can sometimes be a bit short. I’ve been filling in some of those extra hours doing work for David during the last couple of days, hopefully he’ll pay me $8 an hour.

David has a lot of house guests, only the other day he had his brother-in-law Italian mafia boss staying who tried to take over everything and kept talking about breaking knees, I just tried hard not to get on the wrong side of him! [Rickio really was proper mafia, he was an Italian-American with a large construction empire who's business partner was serving 20 years for tax evation (or something like that). As we were British, he told us about the only other Brit he'd had any dealings with, Peter Stringfellow (or Peter Strangefellow as he liked to refer to him). Apparently Peter had approached him to help finance his club but Rickio had turned him down because he don't like the man. A couple of years later I remember reading something in the newspaper that there were accusations that Stringfellow was somehow associated with organised crime and the New York Mafia financed his club there.]

A couple of his guests the weekend before last – Mack and Paul – were ok. Mack had a boat and took us out water skiing and diving, my first dive since getting here, it was quite beautiful – amazing corals and thousands of the most colourful fish I’ve ever seen, even saw a turtle. I dived with Mack who had trouble with his ears and was very unsure of himself so I got a little pissed off but it wasn’t going to ruin my dive.

On the Sunday they were here we all (all being me, Jan, David, Steve, Mack, Paul and Michelle – David’s niece and the mafia boss’ daughter) went to a ‘bar’ that turned out to be a gay bar, certainly a strange experience, fun but not to be repeated in a hurry. Most of us eventually made it back home were we sat poolside sipping cocktails and doing cocaine in the kitchen, which was another first and quite pleasant. The night ended with most people getting pushed into the pool including me fully clothed!

We eventually got some grass, not much but it seams like good stuff. One joint got us crazy and it lasted ages (or what seamed like ages.) We both got the munchies big time and ate so much.

That was my last entry, I really didn’t write a lot in the journal at this point, which is a shame as we had some great times in Key West. As you can tell from this entry we kind of landed on our feet, living quite a hedonistic lifestyle, after a shaky start resorting to eating with the local tramps in soup kitchens. This was all thanks to Jan’s good looks, if it wasn’t for the fact that David had a penchant for good looking young boys Jan wouldn’t have got the job with him and we wouldn’t have been invited to live with them.


Working at the Chelsea House was quite an experience. It was recently bought by Jim and Gary, and before they took it over it was an exclusively women only guest house and consequently most of the clientele were still well to do middle aged lesbians.

I did a few different jobs there; I started out working in the gardens doing a lot of landscaping and tidying up and then after a week or so moved on to doing some of the housekeeping jobs, cleaning rooms, doing the laundry etc. After a while I also got to do some of the front of house duties in the evenings. This involved greeting late arrivals, selling any remaining rooms and turning down the beds.

There was one evening when I was doing my rounds turning down the beds when I knocked on a door and got no reply and so let myself in. The sight that greeted me will stay with me for the rest of my life. The room was occupied by a lesbian couple both of whom were very obese women, both were naked, one was lying face down on the edge of the bed whilst the other was stood behind her wearing nothing but a big strap-on cock. I said, “Oh, excuse me” and exited.

 

Once all the work on David's house was complete it was time for him and Stephen to leave Key West and go up to their summer residence in Old Lyme, Connecticut. As they had two cars to drive up to Connecticut, Jan & I went up with them with Leila (their live-in maid) and 10 dogs as passengers. We couldn't stay in our little guest cottage at David's anyway as he was renting out the house for the summer. It was also a good time to leave as we'd been there quite a while and it was time to move on.

We left our Ford Fairmont parked in the car park of the Key Lime Sauce factory which was owned by some friends of David that we got to know. Our intention was to return for it after some time in Connecticut and drive it to Mexico where we planned to exchange it for a couple of motorcycles and drive down through Mexico and central America. As it happened this never came to fruition. In hindsight that's probably for the best, neither of us knew how to ride a bike but it didn't cross our minds that that might be a problem. Since then I have learnt to ride and I now know that if we had just bought bikes and jumped on them then we'd have probably killed ourselves fairly quickly.

The drive up the east coast was quite uneventful, we did Key West to Old Lyme only stopping for petrol and snacks. We had a litter of very valuable puppies on board and couldn't really hang around. The time spent in Connecticut was just a series of dinner parties with, funnily enough, the same people as went to the parties in Key West. After a couple of weeks we thought it would be a good idea to pop home to Wales for a couple of weeks before heading back down south to collect the car and then on to Mexico. Once home Jan and I a big argument over a girl (I'm glad to say Emma and I are still together today) and I decided not to return to the US with Jan and so the journey for me ended.

 

This isn't over yet there's still loads, loads more to write. I'll keep updating bits whenever I have the time and when I have the flashbacks that remind me.

 


Who's Who?

There are a lot of people mentioned throughout this document, many with the same or similar names. So I thought it might be useful to provide a bit of a who's who so that there's no confusion.
MeGary (me)
Needs no introduction
JanJan
SteSte
JulieJulie
Jan's girlfriend who he brought out after a few months just so he'd have regular sex. I wasn't very kind to Julie in my journal but once you get past her insecurities she's a nice girl.

Pacific Rim People

These are people we worked with in the Pacific Rim Resort in Tofino, Vancouver Island
JackJack
The owner of the Pacific Rim Resort
TomTom
Tom was one of the main men working at Pacific Rim and not to be messed with being an expert in a number of martial arts and having represented Canada in the Olympics. He was also a big pot-head and showed us many different ways of smoking cannabis.
Mack
Mack was one of the other main men and was one of the first to fall out with Jack and quit.
HarryHarry
Harry was a teacher who was working at the Pacific Rim during the summer break. He had a fondness for quoting ancient Greek philosophers.
MartinMartin
Martin was an English lad who turned up at the campsite and started working there. Ste and I later shared an apartment with him in Vancouver.
KatrinKatrin
Katrin was a hot German girl working at the campsite.
MarkMark
Mark was another English bloke who just turned up and worked there for a few weeks. He had a bit of a thing with Katrin.
Mark McCabe
Mark McCabe was a Kiwi working at the campsite. Jan and I later tried looking him up in Oregon but he'd left.

Vancouver People

These are the people we knew in Vancouver that get a mention, most of them we first met whilst they stayed at Pacific Rim and we later looked them up.
KimKim
We first met Kim when her and Karin visited the campsite and when Martin went to Vancouver he shacked up with her which is how we ended up crashing at her place for a while and becoming friends.
KarinKarin
Karin was Kim's friend who'd just moved to Vancouver and who I really fell for.
KarenDaveKaren & Dave
More people that I think we met first at the campsite. They were good friends, I think we probably partied with them every week.
Karen, N Van.
Karen was an English girl I met when we visited Katrin in North Vancouver one evening, she later used me and abused me.
MaariaMaaria & Andrew
We met Maaria whilst doing volunteer work for the Canadian Marine Life Conference, Ste had a bit of a thing for her. Andrew was her friend.
KatieEllenKatie & Ellen
We met Katie & Ellen whilst queuing to get into a bar.
MarkMark
Mark was a friend of Karin's who moved to Vancouver and stayed with Kim & Karin.
KariKari
was a friend of Kim's.
Catherine
another girl we'd met at the campsite and who I made a fool of myself over when I fancied her and stupidly convinced myself I was in with a chance.
Tanya, Daniel & Lorraine
more people we met at the campsite. We stayed with them for a couple of days after leaving the youth hostel before going to Whistler.
BruceLeithBruce & Leith
Two Aussies that Martin picked up on a bus who stayed with us for a bit and then moved in with Karin.
RhianRhian
A friend of Karen & Dave, she was always around whenever there was a party.
DorothyDorothy
another of Kim's friends.
IanIan
worked with Jan and I at the The Bay.

Key West People

DavidStephenDavid & Stephen
The couple we stayed with after Jan got a job working on David's house.
Bob
The scary bender who tried to get us to stay at his place for God only knows what purpose.
Mike
The nutter who was in cahoots with Bob who got Jan the job with David but later went stark raving bonkers.
MackPaulMack & Paul
Friends of David & Stephen who would often stay at David's.
JimGaryJim & Gary
Jim & Gary owned the Chelsea House where I worked.

1 comments:

Dawn Hullick said...

Gary I love your Journal! I chanced upon it whilst reminising about Tofino and My own experiences at Pacific Grim Resort. You were certainly right about Jack... he did nothing by the book! When he interviewed my husband and I to Run the Resort the summer after you left, he himself told us the Natives of Tofino pretty much considered him the devil incarnate. We took a chance though... because it did sound pretty incredible there.. and by March we were living in a tent trailer on the grounds and trying to prep the site for the season. Jack had been talking about going to the States at the end of the summer and leaving us to run it completly in his absense so we perservered through his horrendous way of being. Turns out he was right about being the devil himself........ and we did not stay past December of 93.Its a shame too in a way, we did a lot to get the resort re-recognized as a destination of choice. I took my kids there last summer to show them the place . It is totally closed off now, in more ruins than when you were there..........abandoned to the elements and CREEPY as HELL!

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