Moving in Winter: Reason #3

Now, moving to a new place in the middle of winter largely sucks. You should avoid it, trust me; I've done it twice now. Am doing it for the second time, since we're not quite done. Monday marks the end of our lease at the old place, so that's pretty much our drop-dead deadline to get things out and the old place cleaned and patched.

Moving while trying to not take any time off from a full-time job is a pain under the best of circumstances. Hauling heavy objects in bitter wind over snow and ice on cold days and through mud on not-so-cold days. Dealing with two! count them, two! expensive natural gas bills from two different domiciles if you have lease overlap.

And then there are friends who worriedly ask how the move is going and tut-tut that you're not done yet -- but these people, of course, haven't once offered to help. And if you suggest you could use some help, they cough delicately into their hands or rub their backs, saying "It's the cold. It plays hell with my system. Sorry, can't."

Thanks, bud. We appreciate it.

How does that joke go? Ah, yes: "Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies." Apparently Transitional Man is our only local friend; I haven't had a corpse for him to help with yet, but the way I've been feeling these days about Life, The Universe, and Everything, it may only be a matter of time before he gets presented with that little litmus test.

I'm digressing, aren't I? Oopsie.

Back to the point: why the hell are we moving in the middle of winter?

Reason #1: that's when we were able to buy the house we're moving into. Buying the house is a story unto itself, and I won't go into it here.

Reason #2: our apartment was expensive and falling apart. We moved into this apartment because our previous apartment got a roof leak that, left untreated by management, turned into a ceiling collapse. Because of my then-unemployment, we couldn't move someplace nicer. I see the signs in the ceiling worsening every day. Time to get out.

Reason #3: a drug dealer moved into the apartment townhouse three doors down from us.

Now, okay, since I haven't myself purchased illegals from him, all my evidence is pretty circumstantial. But there has been an awful lot of short-term traffic in and out of his apartment.

Case in point: Braunbeck was outside taking a 5-minute smoke break. In that time, three cars pulled up to the other apartment, and people got out, ran inside, ran back to their cars and peeled away. If they had passengers, the passengers noticed Braunbeck standing there and promptly covered their faces with their jacket collars or hands.

Yeah. He's selling Girl Scout Cookies in there.

Now, I'm not all about the War on Drugs. I think there are better ways of handling it. I think history pretty clearly lays out that prohibition is expensive, leads to police action that restricts civil liberties across the board (oh, how I love peeing in cups just to get a job!), and ultimately fails to keep people from abusing psychoactive chemicals.

But.

Since this guy moved in, the character of our end of the complex has gone from old hippies and immigrant po' folk to some fairly shady characters hanging out at all hours. I am frankly afraid to be in my apartment alone after dark.

(Side note: Braunbeck just read this and told me that at one point a few weeks back he saw two guys, one of whom appeared to have a gun in his waistband, peeking in our back patio window. He opted not to tell me this because it would freak me out and we could do nothing about it. Consider me freaked out now.)

And there's a reason they call it drug "traffic". Our apartment is usually empty, and the apartment next to it has been empty since late summer. Four months ago we'd have seven or eight spaces open in the lot, four in front of our apartment and the one next door. Now? The lot is packed full after sundown, with strange cars in every space and every paved gap that might look like a space.

You know how hard it is to move furniture when you can't find a place to park near your own apartment? And when there's a nigh-constant stream of cars through the areas that aren't parked up? Very hard. And I know that none of the people taking the spaces in front of our place are actual rent-paying tenants of our complex.

Time to explore my feelings. What's that I'm feeling? Oh yes: burning homocidal rage. Every time I see the fucker's car.

Thank God we're almost done, else Transitional Man would be getting his litmus test.

The last you guys heard from me, I was headed into the field for a 5 day camping trip, Canadian Infantry style. I was soooo not looking forward to it. Definitely one of the few times when I'm glad that I'm wrong about something. For the most part it was pretty fun. Mind you, there were parts that sucked really bad, but my brain seems to be erasing those bits from my memory as we speak.

Monday, we loaded up the bus at around 06:30, and headed out to the Farnham Training Center. Once there, we got tobaggans, and loaded them up with our tents, stoves, lanterns, etc. After practicing setting up the tents a few times, we threw on our rucksacks (countaining about 20 kg of supplies for the week) and hiked in to our camp site, about 3km in, dragging the toboggans behind us.

The other three platoons doing the same course as us also hiked in, but they had their rucksacks driven in on the truck, and unloaded once they got there. Just one of the many examples of my platoon's Directing Staff working us harder than any of their Directing Staff does. This is quite fine by us, because we really are better for all the extra work.

After setting up, the rest of Monday was lessons, which are not pleasant outdoors. Either standing, or sitting on ice cold bleachers, at -10° C, as the wind cuts through your combat jacket, and all the sweat that you built up hiking in chills instantly. Not fun.

When we're back at base, for the most part, our nights are our own time. Not so much out in the field. The first priority is security. In our case, for training we were required to have at least 4 sentries on watch at all times. Otherwise the Sarge might sneak into the campsite and steal our rifles from us. Any time that we weren't in the campsite, we had to have a hand on it, or have it slung all the time. Let me tell you something, carrying that thing for a week is such a pain in the ass.

But anyways, sentry duty and the cold added up to very little sleep. Surprisingly, we only got woken up by our Directing Staff once in the middle of the night, for a fire drill. That was rather chilly, especially since one of the guys in my tent grabbed one of my boots instead of his, and I couldn't find his.

Tuesday was lessons in the morning, and combat training in the afternoon. Various formations to adopt when you come into contact with the enemy, practice throwing on your gas mask (which means if you wear glasses like myself, no seeing for you), and firing shots off at the Sarge (blanks of course).

At night, they gave us an exercise where we were given clues to our position, ie "You are in the NW Corner" or "You are 1 position right and 1 ahead of this guy" and we had to arrange ourselves accordingly. During this, the Directing Staff was joking around with us, singing silly little french songs, and basically distracting us. But they were having fun, and we were having fun, and we heard the whistle of incoming artillery fire, and hit the deck before the big boom.

Another simulated attack, running around in the dark with explosions going on all around us. Unfortunately some people lost some stuff in the confusion, so they decided to hold and impromptu inspection to ensure that we've got all our stuff on us, attached correctly, and in the right place. While getting ready for this, one of the guys left his rifle on the ground just long enough for the Sarge to snatch it, and unload the magazine on automatic. Man, was he pissed.

We got the whole "We can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way, and I guess you guys chose the hard way" speech, and then he took us for a walk. And by walk, I mean he walked, looking like he was putting in no effort, at a pace that most of the rest of us had to jog to keep up. After about 1km of that, we got sent to bed, dripping with sweat. Dear lord, was it ever cold that night.

That was the low point of the week, The next day was topography. Map, compass. You are here, go here. It was fun, tromping around in the woods, both for the afternoon, and at night from about 18:00 to 23:30. Much harder in the dark. I managed to have one of my magazines fall out of my rifle, and when we realized it, we weren't able to find it, even after trying to backtrack. I'm still not sure how much trouble I'm going to get into for that, but they don't seem too pissed off about it.

Thursday was awesome. We had a little competition against one of the other platoons. We had to navigate to a place, build a frame to lift a barrel, move to another place, build a rope bridge, move on, set up a tent, and then get back to the campsite.

Remember all that extra work we've been doing that I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it's paying off. We didn't just beat them, we trounced them. At the first task, we got there at about the same time. Our platoon was done in 10-15 minutes. They however, made 2 failed attempts to complete the task, before they eventually just copied our design. We had our rope bridge up before they showed up to start building it, and that's as far as they ended up getting. We finished on time, and they were 1 modular tent and about 4 km of hiking behind us.

Needless to say, we were pleased with our performance, our Directing Staff was pleased with our performance, and their Directing Staff was really freakin' pissed off. We were told to eat supper, clean our rifles, and then head to bed. Oh, and don't worry about a sentry, the other platoon will be covering that for you tonight. After they have about 4 hours of running around practicing doing the stuff they fucked up earlier in the day. Try not to let the explosions keep you awake. Man, that was a great day.

Anyways, Friday was a bunch of practice exercises, mostly going over proper procedure for planning tasks and giving orders. Definitely something we'll need to know once we get our commission and all. And then, we hiked back out and headed back to base.

All I can really say, is that first shower was one of the best EVER. It's quite good to be back to actual food now. While I do believe the claims that the Canadian Forces' ration packs are the best in the world, as they were rather tasty for food that is meant to keep indefinitely, they were definitely not good for the bowels and such. That's about as much detail as I'll go into about that.

It certainly wasn't all fun and games. For a lot of it, we were quite miserable, and on Wednesday, one of our guys injured his back after falling while carrying a rucksack. Due to missing too much time in the field, he'll have to be recoursed, which entails starting over again at week 1. That itself isn't too bad, but unfortunately, there isn't another Basic Officer Training course starting up again until May. Until then, he'll be stuck doing odd jobs around the base. Poor guy.

But yeah, I'd say the one thing killin' me the most here is the limited net access. I miss you guys, and thanks for all the support. Gotta run!


Palpz's Basic Training Adventure!

Farewell, Bronchitis, Inspections, Montreal, Tear Gas, and Guns, Camping, Canadian Infantry Style, Broken Teeth, A Brand New Tooth, A Fall From Grace, and Redemption

"5:00 PM"

OK, learn from my mistakes.

5:00 PM, so commonly joked about as the time at which it is acceptable to start drinking.

Tempted as you may be, humans have deemed this time acceptable for a reason. Do not test the its 5 O'clock somewhere theory.

Today, in true college-style, I returned from class to curl up with my favorite videogame and a beer or five.

I was not without goal. Due to a scheduling issue, Xenosaga would need to be beaten by 10:00pm, when my girlfriend would pick me up to make a trip home to each of our parent's places. I did not want to be stewing over the convoluted story over the weekend, nor lose my train of thought on it.

So we have our scenario: 2:00 pm, pre-occupied with a game, and swilling beer. Sounds like a winning combination?

at 5:00pm my roommate got home. He prefers harder alcohol, and I had blown through nearly a six-pack without even knowing it. Without moving from my gaming throne, I had him mix me my preferred drink. This was a bad idea.

Beer before liquor, you've never been sicker!
Liquor before beer, you're in the clear!

As I let some time pass to fully punctuate my descent into a true state of being shithoused, let me explain that these are not simply frat-sayings to help hard partiers live through the night. The sayings are rooted in scientific fact.

The simple explanation for this lies within exactly how hangovers work. Basically, your body has enzymes in your liver that are used to break down what you drink. The tannins in alcohol eat up these enzymes. Two things effectively happen:

  • Your enzymes are absorbed by your first, and weaker drinks, causing your "sheilds to be lowered" and the harder stuff to hit you where it hurts.
  • Your judgement becomes impaired, and you feel you are invincible, and think you have a higher tolerance than you actually do.
For a full in-depth article on how hangovers work check out howstuffworks.com, or I will be posting a node in the near future. Also, for a more eclectic gathering of information, check out the node "hangover"

Hours passed. The game was beaten. Our minds were blown. We were shithoused. It felt like 5:00 AM (the time at which our circle of friends is usually in wind-down mode.) By this time in actuality, it was only 8:00 PM.

Then the alcohol kicked in with its depressant effect. I became very relaxed. Its that feeling you get at five in the morning after a really hard night of partying.... only it was nine at night.

But at this point, I was drunk, so I knew how to fix it (So I could be alert to keep my girlfriend company on the ride home) NoDoze. The way I saw it, its like having one cup of coffee; people use a cup of coffee to sober up all the time.

Now, do the math. We left the house at 11pm to make the trip home, I was sufficiently drunk by 3pm. 8 hours had passed.

On a normal night of drinking, you (or me as the case may be) are sufficiently drunk by 3am, and by 11am, you feel like hell. Only, at times when you wake up like that you've had some rest (albiet not very good) in you, and you haven't thrown your stomache into a torment with NoDoze.

Result: I had a horrible, horrible hangover the entire ride home. I had a morning hangover at midnight, shakes and all.

The 5:00 pm standard is there not because its rude to begin drinking without someone but because it is smart to do so. When lethargy hits you at midnight, you are less likely to simply pop a NoDoze and push on.

An Unusual Day in Niagara Falls

I am in Niagara Falls. No one knows where I am. It is relaxing. There is a freedom to it.

I can't totally explain why I had to lie to almost everyone I know and tell them that I am on a business trip in Ottawa this weekend. Really, I just had to get away.

I went for drinks in the Toronto suburbs with the two girls from work yesterday. We talked for hours - one of them was having a confusing time with a guy giving her mixed signals. I mentioned some helpful pointers... for her to integrate other things in her life, like volunteer work at the hospital. It would help her focus less on the careless things he was doing.

After that we gossiped and ranked the people we work with according how much they irritate us (haha). I'm their team lead, and these two girls drive me crazy sometimes... but I really care for them and we all get along. One asked me how my weekend would be, and I lied:

"fine, but uneventful."

In truth I had my best suitcase in the back of my car and was going to a 4-star hotel in Niagara Falls. Not for an affair, but for an escape. To everyone else, it was a different lie. It was:

"I am on a business trip in Ottawa." I lied verbally and in writing so many times. I just didn't want anyone to join me or bother me. I can't totally explain why I had to escape this weekend, I just had to come here.

I got in to the hotel at about 11:00 pm. There were a bunch of police cars around. I got into the lobby. Two overweight but well-groomed men and two beautiful, flashy women were talking their way out of something to three police officers. I felt scared and tried to be invisible.

"It is not my problem," one with a nicely-shaped-mustache kept repeating. I was happy when the attendent told me that I was at the wrong hotel and gave me directions to the right one. I guess I didn't read the sign correctly. I heard the two beautiful women laughing at the company name on my laptop case as I left. Who cares. I drove to the correct hotel and there was nothing criminal. It was more normal with a bunch of happy gamblers ramping up for a weekend of entertainment.

This morning, I went running up and down the boardwalk beside the falls. "The World's Greatest Wonder". The mist made it so warm. I looked over at New York for a while. The falls were interrupted by pillows of snow and ice. There were smiling honeymooners, taking pictures by the icy trees. The mist had fallen then frozen on them, making an effect that was quite magical - like tree-ice-sculptures. I came back, grabbed a burger and ate it in my room. Now I am just lying in the clean sheets with no clothes on - my school books spread out nicely on the other bed. It's relaxing...

An Unusual Day in Niagara Falls Last Year

Almost exactly a year ago, I went driving, and I ended up here. On the way, I got called by my current employer, saying:

"Congratulations! you have the job, you start in a week!" I kept driving, parked on the side of a road, looked at the falls crashing down and cried my eyes out as I wondered about the future. Suddenly, my brother from out East called out of the blue.

"Surprise, I'm here at the Toronto airport on a stopover! Can you pick me up?" Right away, I wiped my tears and drove back home. We then had some beers together. His wife told me she was pregnant - I was the first of our family to know. What an honor.

A year later, I am here in Niagara Falls again. Anonymous. Polite. Free. Life is so much better now - I'm not crying. I can't wait for the future - it is so bright... but no one is calling me home.

I know I should do my homework. I’ve had a full week to, but every time I sit down to do it I put on some music. I just want to listen to music. I also read. I read plenty of E.L. Docorow’s Ragtime, more than required already. And so that I don’t finish that I read some more of the first volume of Bob Dylan’s Chronicles. Of course I’ve also been reading some Thompson, and also some of Harvey Pekar’s comic book, American Splendor.

I typed up what I have of an essay, even wrote a couple more sentences. Whenever I am revived from my trance I start writing something but it’s always something like this.

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