Before the entrance test for our high school’s grade 10 English challenge class, we went to friends in the year above for tips. The one bit of hushed advice, as though revealing great secrets from the beyond, was to know what an allusion was.
“An illusion?” we’d ask.
“A-llusion. With an a.”
It was mystifying, this word that began with an a. “Have you heard about allusion-with-an-a?” It almost became a brag we would boast to each other in the weeks leading up to the test.
I was buzzing in my seat as I sat down to take the test, fully armed.
It came up in maybe one essay question—it might even have been optional. Explain the allusion in XX poem.
Of course, it’s a word scattered everywhere: online essays on TV culture, Instagram captions, daily chatter over ramen.
The final Fridays and Saturdays before The Sundowner closed found line-ups and a bouncer at the door to the neighbourhood pub. It was a little ridiculous, but I can’t claim to have had the same affinity for the place as many locals did. It was just somewhere I thought I could make into my local haunt once I turned of age—partly ironic, partly genuine, but, okay, mostly ironic.
After it shut down, a strange pang of emptiness would follow a glimpse of the sign thanking Delta for its years of service.
Absurdly soon, though, new owners took over.
I’ve visited maybe twice since its reopening, and it’s true, I find great sadness in the loss of the popcorn machine and Saturday karaoke nights (where a man once told me—straight faced, sadly shaking head—that my attempt at Shaggy’s classic “Wasn’t Me” was “not good”), but the most upsetting change is in its illumination. No more are there dim corners of dark wooded panels; the space has been painted a soft cement grey, unabashedly bright with proper lighting. Everything is fully exposed.
It’s funny how everything eventually loses its magic.
Like any good millennial who appreciates the occasional surefire ‘gram, I enjoy some good winter sunlight. But my fondness for the low-hanging sun—harsh and unforgiving and gone too soon—began before I began posting photos for the Likes.
Though only just—I think it was the winter of grade 12, the year I was working at Esquires, the coffee shop tucked behind the 7-Eleven, its parking lot accessible only by slightly treacherous turns noticed too late. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never think to stop by, especially when there were not one but two Starbucks in the open and easily manoeuvrable Safeway complex across the street. This meant that Esquires traffic was slow, only really frequented by regulars who typically spent their weekend morning settling in with their almond lattes or single shot espresso, or friends who knew you had a shift.
On Sundays, from seven in the morning until early afternoon I would tamp espresso, refill whipped cream canisters, slurp the leftovers when I’d accidentally overfilled frappuccinos, keeping an eye on the sun as it never rose past a certain point in the sky, blanching the walls. Behind the counter, the air stuffy and the smells of coffee beans ever present—though fading from my notice a few hours in—I was usually finishing (or beginning) homework in the corner.
I would watch the sun as the day went on through the southeasterly windows. In the morning, I would unlock the café in the dark, and close up shop in time to make it home in the last glow of the afternoon. It felt like the day had never quite begun, and yet somehow it was already over.
First day of the New Year. Woke up at 7am, and after failing to fall back asleep, decided to go through notebooks from the year and type up all the scribbled points. Books and music to check out, musings on how to self-improve, episode ideas for that TV show I’ll never write, overheard quotes, some things I can’t remember the context of or to what it’s referring, and a lot of incomplete thoughts.
I sometimes wonder the use in jotting down these notes. They’re fleeting, disposable, one might say—and so I present them alongside these disposable camera shots. ~~seGuE*`
So maybe enjoy this curated 2016 alongside San Francisco snaps.
You can never do something fully ironically. Writing a Short Film by Cooper and Dancyger
Genuinity: don’t pretend to understand things when you don’t. React. Don’t react if you don’t feel anything. Dial back the self-deprication—(humbly) acknowledge accomplishments I’m proud of.
Coming of age stories feel universal. Does that mean that all humans go through a similarly themed life? What’s the point in us repeating and relearning the same lessons over and over? [On an individual level. Does it better society in general?]
5589 Victoria Dr. – amazing sushi
“The Invisible Girl”
You will never be the only one. It’s a notion both comforting and disheartening.
“We are not sure we are alive.”
Loyalty is different from obligation.
Explorers who would forage/I get mad envy/Call me MADgellan
Maybe Judd Apatow’s world is the uncensored version of ours. Or maybe we’re a censored version.
When I’m easily swayed by other people’s opinions, I like to think it’s because I’m empathetic, that I’m just trying to see things from their perspective, rather than me just being spineless.
We need racial diversity in roles because my voice teacher once told me I’d better learn some Miss Saigon songs.
I do stupid things like asking people the last time they’ve cried.
Pickier with friends than lovers.
Don’t let other people tell you what’s important.
Not to brag, but I have a lot of experience as a third wheel.
It’s not a great quality, but I have begun to lose the shame of taking selfies in public.
That day singed into my skin, along my shoulders, taking weeks to fade.
I’ve only just realized there’s a difference between being yourself and allowing your id to run the show.
chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/verse or chorus
I kind of forgot people could lie.
Last night’s dream: Parents have to decide if daughter turns into a tree or a book.
Is guilt narcissism with a conscience?
It’s not about crafting this immaculate image of yourself—it’s important to try things and grow. [There is no end goal.]
My Sunday eyes.
I want to be crisp sounds: ts and ks and ps. But I can’t focus and all I can give are fs and shs and rs with only mumbles of us for vowels.
(make a picture book!)
We can only tell stories, not facts.
June 27. I feel at peace. Things are happening, life is moving. It moves at a pace that 7 billion other people move at, so I can too. It’s a bit of a relief to not only feel happy while super hopped up on coffee or surrounded by others or any other external forces. To just be on your own and doing great. Though, of course, life going well helps.
I wake up on weekends and don’t want to fall back asleep. Sometimes it’s 9 o’clock, sometimes 6:30 a.m.—even if the very moment I open my eyes they’re already sinking back, retreating into their sockets like someone pulling the sheets back over their head against the morning light—I just, to quote Steven Tyler, don’t want to miss a thing.
And it always backfires. Because no matter how many pots of tea or mugs of coffee I sip throughout the day, by early evening my body is already dragging, my mind winding down, eyelids heavy once more. And I’ve missed out on time where I could be doing.
There’s just so much to do. There are some people who accomplish more than I could ever fathom—and they have just as much, and likely more, going on than I. I always feel like there’s not enough time in the day to do some things, and so, very often, end up doing nothing at all. But not nothing in the sense that I put down whatever device or magazine I’m holding and just breathe or blink; I do nothing in the sense of scrolling, watching, skimming. I see these as distractions, and they feel more harmful than truly doing nothing; the only time I ever let my mind meander, unfocused, is occasionally on the bus or when walking home or at lunch—maybe I’ll even pull out my ear buds, silencing a podcast or Hamilton.
This worry of not accomplishing anything goes further than ticking off tasks or TV shows. It’s part of the reason that I hold onto things for so long; my dresser is crowded with empty boxes or sometimes wilted flowers, my floor with crisped fallen petals. I don’t want to think that I’ll have missed the opportunity to make use of them.
During a work trip to California, the man-dude running a flower stand at the Sacramento Farmers’ Market told me to take a bouquet of his sunflowers. I declined in high-pitched babbling, unable to find the simple words explaining that I would be on the road for the next few days, that they would be kind of inconvenient, but I do appreciate the offer and they’re beautiful and thanks for letting me take photos of your roses okay bye now. Finally, after joking that he’d chase me down with them if I didn’t just take them, I shut up and accepted, returning to my group and looking like a fool who thought it would be cute to buy flowers at a farmers’ market #forthegram. I carted the bunch from city to city, careful not to pile my luggage on them in the van, immediately placing them in a half-full water bottle near my hotel window. I held on to them until the moment I checked out in San Francisco, though not until I added a filtered Boomerang onto my Instagram story.
I had one day to myself in San Francisco. After scrolling through Google Maps, I saw a site marked Sutro Baths at the westernmost tip of the city where things were named Land’s End and Cliff House, if that gives you an idea of how far out this is from my hotel by Union Square. Now in ruins, this circa 1896, expansive public bathhouse once held seven saltwater swimming pools. Sweet, sign me up. I also wanted to visit Samovar Tea Bar in The Mission. And I decided to walk the entire way, because it was a beautiful day, I love to walk, and am insane, I suppose, because the whole trip from my hotel to Samovar to the Sutro Baths would total about three hours. But like I said, I like to walk—though I shouldn’t say I’m insane. I just tend to make poor decisions.
There was a point before I reached the water that a touch of panic (not merely the familiar frantic energy my body seems to run on daily) began to set in. I could see the hill drop off, so I knew my destination was nigh, but it occurred to me that maybe I’d been wasting my time. (I mean, there is no doubt that walking two-plus hours instead of taking a twenty minute bus was a waste of time.)
I had been so set on seeing everything; what if something exceptional had happened in Golden Gate Park? How would I know what I was missing if I didn’t walk the entire (freaking) thing? But I took a wrong turn, weaved in and out, and, yes, I had a nice moment requesting “Over the Rainbow” from saxophonist while munching on cookies and orange slices, but all for what? I enjoyed that moment, sure, but close on its heels was the reminder that I had a goal that I was not meeting: to reach the baths.
But, a few blocks past the point where my feet were finally tiring (which, really, is impressive considering my flat feet pounding the pavement in my well-worn Converse, thanks very much), I saw it. Murky stretching sand and crashing waves—the way Vancouver whitecaps just don’t gather and break. The beach.
I never really thought I was one who craved to be near the water. But maybe that’s because, living in a suburb rather than properly on the coast, I’ve always been in close enough proximity to get my fix but not notice its absence when I’m without. But what flooded me when the cool ocean breeze skimmed my skin was a combination of feeling at home and that awe that puts this dumb, slack-jawed smile on my face when I happen upon natural vistas like these. (Cloud-shrouded mountains and gradient sunrises and sets have lately had this effect on me.) Or maybe I was just overly relieved to finally have arrived at my destination, and maybe sit down for a moment.
I didn’t sit, of course—I don’t know how to stop moving; it’s why I miss most things. I did lean on the stone half-wall that opened onto the shores. To gather my thoughts, to figure out what to do next, but I also consciously made the effort to enjoy this moment. And maybe that’s the wrong way to go about it—to force yourself to carpe fucking diem, you anxious asshole—but I think that reminder is what I need. To grab myself by the collar before I dash off to the next thing, and just revel in all that’s happening in the present moment.
Of course, I took a shit ton of photos because three hours is a long way to walk and the Internet is going to going to have proof I made it all this way, goddammit.
Stray thoughts: It’s strange to see something that once belonged indoors exposed to the world. Like a decrepit infinity pool, the baths seemed to simultaneously drop off and extend into the gulf beyond. I keep walking, like a languid Forrest Gump, except I feel like I miss important events (I was known as Blitz in my first year of university) which has probably contributed to my trying to experience every little thing. This is peace.
I’d lost track of the days. It had become less about Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and more about Universal-day, Disneyland-day, California Adventures-day, Fly home-day. We’d packed the week to the brim, but hadn’t scheduled anything for the day of our flight. Our plane wouldn’t leave until seven in the evening, and the furthest we’d gotten in our plan was relax. Sarah suggested a beach; the rest of us had been so focused on squeezing everything out of California’s theme parks, we’d forgotten about its non- (or less) commercial entities.
We decided on Santa Monica. I’d been wanted to go for a few years now, drawn to the idea of an amusement park on the pier. (Though we’d seen Disney’s version merely the day before. It made the experience a little bittersweet and empty.) It was very The OC/So Little Time/the-only-two-Cali-set-TV-shows-I’d-ever-watched. Yellow sand, blue water, lifeguard huts, the strip of modern beach houses along the boardwalk.
As I stood thigh-deep in the rolling water—the waves skimming the loose threads of my shorts, the sun keeping me warm, if not a touch too hot—I thought something along the lines of, This is the freaking life. I thought about how, if I lived here, I’d come down to the shores every day, just to dip my legs in the ocean, or settle down on a thin blanket with a bottle of water and a book.
But then I thought, Maybe not. Maybe I’d just get stuck in the city—whether in traffic or just in my head—and never make it out as often as I’d like to. And maybe this is just a fantastic way to spend the first day of September.