I Need a Sign or Some Funny Birds

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Tofino, British Columbia, Canada

In my final month in Vancouver, I spent a lot of time bird watching. Perhaps bird watching is an extravagant term for what I was doing. I was looking for was a sign. I was on the edge of some big decisions and sought reassurance that the risk I was taking – leaving a marketing program in Vancouver for the unknown in Melbourne – was justified. Messages in bottles are hard to come by; I looked for funny birds.

Long have I had a tempestuous relationship with birds. It all began when some lunatic put a gigantic parrot on my shoulder in front of The Rainforest Café in Niagara Falls. I was ten years old. My velour boatneck peasant top did nothing to protect me from the talons of the giant bird. Oddly enough, Niagara Falls was completely infested by a particular species of ladybug at that time yet I have no qualms about flying beetles.

At the start of my first summer in Vancouver, I was attacked by a crow at the corner of 8th and Heather. A crow that was sized more like a raven dove for my head and touched down. I felt talons, feathers and fear like never before. As I ran from the swooping crow a dude who was coasting by on his bike asked, “Were you just attacked by a bird?!” “Yes, I was!” I shouted, still running away in terror. “Crazy!” he said before speeding away down the hill. I was as traumatized by his callousness as I was by the bird attack.

I have been shat on by a bird thrice in the last year. It’s supposed to bring luck, say those who have completely normal relationships to birds. I say, Come back to me when you show up to a meeting with visible avifauna feces on your coat.

Anyway, back to looking for a sign. I already knew what I wanted to do; what I needed was reassurance that my preferred course of action wasn’t going to turn my life to ruin. I started to look for arbitrary signs. A funny looking bird meant I was making the right choice. A humourless bird — an ordinary pigeon or worse, a road kill seagull — meant I was making the wrong choice. After a few days of seeing birds that were certifiable unlaughs, I came across this image:

 funny looking bird meme
My spirit animal

I was inspired. I was reassured. I made like Donald Duck and took off my pants. No, that didn’t happen. I’d like to say the funny looking bird inspirited me to the extent that I left Vancouver with complete confidence. In reality, I went along my path of choice with some doubts, sure, but with far better humour. After all, if I can’t laugh about a week spent ogling pigeons and seagulls, what can I laugh about?

Song of the Day: Bounce by Logic

New Year, New Me

Yarra River sunset
Yarra River, Melbourne, Australia

I won’t listen to the noise of

Gyms

Juiceries

Lingerie stores

That tell me about the changes

I must make

To live my best life

 

I won’t take advice

Written in gold font

Hashtagged wanderlust

Posted on Instagram by people who call themselves

Influencers

 

I won’t meditate

Just because it’s

Trendy

And a hundred magazines

Tell me to

palm tree, Waikiki, Oahu
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii

I will explore

The world abroad

And in my own backyard

For my own joy and not

Just for the social media posts

 

But sometimes for the social media posts too

 

I will incorporate the elements

That fit my vision of

My best life

Whether they are

Hikes and green juice

Dance parties and pilsner

 

I will love myself on the days when

I run fast and work hard

And when

I skip the gym for mojitos and tacos

 

I will love myself even when

I drink too much

And don’t return texts

And cry for hours and hours

 

I will meditate

Because it makes me feel

More human

More whole

 

Or I won’t meditate

Because last time I did

I called the meditation leader

A turd nugget

(It was through an app

I don’t feel bad)

 

I will love the people around me

And support them as they

Grow, develop and change

Even if these changes are spurred

By the arbitrary delineation of

The calendar year

Or accompanied by

#lifeofyourdreams

 

I will make the changes

I want for myself

Anytime I damn well please

And when I do

 

I won’t regurgitate

Clichéd words of wisdom

And turn myself into

A duck-billed platitude

beach, sunset, Vancouver
English Bay Beach, Vancouver British Columbia

Song of the Day: Malibu by Hole

One Week As a Rabbit Sitter

Pet rabbit

I have never been a great babysitter. This is owing to my general inexperience caring for young children and my preferred topics of conversation: NBA trades and Kendrick Lamar’s discography. A great babysitter I am not but a great pet sitter I am. When my friend and coworker Beth told me she was in need of someone to look after her rabbit Mochiko, I enthusiastically volunteered. After all, how hard can it be to look after a rabbit?

Very hard, it proved to be. To start, Mochiko is no ordinary rabbit. She is two feet long when she extends to her full length. She hardly befits the diminutive ‘bunny.’ It was only after extensive research that I concluded she was not, in fact, a full-blown hare. On top of that, Mochi is no ordinary pet. Beth and her partner Drevs found her a few weeks prior, hiding under a car with an injured paw. They tried to find her owner but had no luck. They tried to contact a humane society but no organization was willing to take a rabbit. Their attempt at a good deed turned them into owners of a rogue rabbit.

Mochiko arrived at my place in a cage that could fit a small human. Beth provided me with a litter box, a bag of hay and a list of foods that a rabbit can and cannot eat. I waved goodbye to her foster owners, tossed a few sprigs of basil into the giant cage and thought about easy rabbit sitting was going to be.

Mochi hopped around the apartment with relative ease until dinner. She followed me to the kitchen as I prepared herbs for pasta and moved around my ankles looking for handouts. Keeping her out of the fridge was not without its difficulties but I managed to appease her with some mint. The mealtime complexities increased when I realized Mochi’s interest in food was not limited to what I voluntarily shared. She desperately wanted what was in my bowl. She sniffed around my feet while I ate, and then began to reach for my chair. The problem with a two-foot long rabbit is that there are few places she cannot reach. Chair reaching led to chair jumping. Mochi was on my lap, scrambling for my bowl. I was in shorts, holding my bowl aloft and wondering when her nails had last been cut. It was only after I laid down a buffet of greens that I could finish my meal in peace.

Pet rabbit

After the small chaos of dinner, Mochi and I settled down for the evening. She munched hay in her cage while I wrote. Before long, she was sniffing around my bed. I invited her up with little reservation. She has taken previous interest in a corner of my bed but I trusted that she was a litter box-trained rabbit. At eleven at night, I realized she was not adverse to the possibility of a litter box but she much preferred an immediate release. This is to say, she peed on my bed. The linens came off, the rabbit was banished to her cage. I settled into my stripped bed to the sound of rabbit munching.

I awoke at six in the morning to the sound of Mochi’s plyometrics, which only halted when I got out of bed to prepare our breakfast. I planned to get some writing done but I instead spent the morning lifting Mochi from my bed and onto the floor. Now that my linens were clean, I didn’t want to risk another urinating or defecating episode. Mochiko was not Pavlov’s rabbit. I picked her up off the bed ten times in as many minutes but she could not be conditioned to learn that jumping on the bed would be followed by the pick up she detested. Exhausted by my morning of rabbit chasing, I put her in the cage and left for work.

The days that followed proceeded in much the same way. If I ate a banana, Mochi was on my lap and in my face trying to eat it too. If I opened the fridge, she would practically hop into the produce drawer. The last straw was the cord chewing episode. In one morning, Mochi chewed through earbud cords, an iPhone charger and a laptop charger. Luckily, the laptop charger survived, but the episode resulted in a long, silent bus ride to work that afternoon.

After a full week together, Mochiko went back to her foster home. While she was an undeniably beautiful animal, I don’t miss her rabbit runs and the daily stress of wondering if she had shit on the bed. Despite my hopes, we didn’t make great companions and I didn’t make for a great rabbit sitter. Perhaps I can’t be blamed. After Mochi left, my friend Mitch articulately said, “Rabbits are thing destroyers. By thing, I mean anything.” Destructive tendencies are hard to accept in even the furriest house guests. Anyway, I tried my best. I don’t often offer conciliatory mint leaves to guests who urinate on the furniture.

Song of the Day: Rabbit Run by City Calm Down

The Third Date

Grandview Lanes Bowling Alley

Even as I was going into it, I had a feeling our third date was going to be our last. Our interactions became more markedly awkward as time passed. I responded to his boisterous extroversion in near whispers. “The whole bar doesn’t need to hear our conversation,” I said quietly, as he banged on the table to keep time with his story. It’s not that his bold personality silenced me; I wanted him to dial down the volume so other patrons wouldn’t look around to find the shouting man and his embarrassed companion, trying to retreat under the table. I’m comfortable with a spotlight when I command it, not when it is thrust upon me by my date’s gesticulations.

I agreed to the third date as a way of bringing our time together to a conclusion. He suggested bowling. I love The Big Lebowski  but I hate bowling. I tend to make three strikes in a row and gutterball the rest. By the time I’ve had a few beers, I’m practically tossing bowling balls down the lane. I agreed to go bowling, even though I anticipated that it would only exacerbate the awkwardness of our dynamic.

We had a few beers before we went over to the bowling alley. The night was off to a bad start. He was frustrated by the attention I had payed to the Lakers game on TV, I was annoyed by his over-apologizing. On top of that, my hair was mainly dry shampoo and I wore leggings for pants. As we got our bowling shoes, my date addressed the attendant like he was Steve Buscemi addressing his fellow kids . “A size eleven, please, brother. Thanks, duder.” I asked for my shoes and a can of beer without a single diminutive.

Between turns, I drank my beer and observed my date as he made his bowls. I had a lot of time to think about the direction in which the evening was going. I had made two strikes and three spares before my luck ran out. My date thought it best to encourage me. This was embarrassing but endearing while we had the section to ourselves. It became mortifying when couples on a double date arrived beside us to bowl and bear witness to our mounting mutual discomfort. We started our second round. After my first ball landed with a loud thud and rolled into the gutter, I squared up with my second ball and tried to get into the motion of rolling rather than tossing. Then, to the whole bowling alley, he exclaimed, “GO COURTNEY! YOU CAN DO IT!” I was aghast. Rolling motions be damn, I tossed the ball under what felt like the watch of everyone in the alley. The ball went immediately off course and rolled with a clatter into the gutter. I returned to our seats. “I appreciate your enthusiasm,” I said delicately to my date, “but not everyone here need to know how I’m bowling.” He looked crushed. “I was trying to be supportive.” “And I appreciate that, but I would appreciate even more if you supported me a little more quietly.”

When I declined his invitation to come over at the end of the night, he offered to walk me to the bus stop. We stood at the corner of Commercial and Broadway, our eyes on the street. I knew I had to end it then and there. I readied myself to tell him I wouldn’t see him again. Suddenly, a convoy of police cars came down Broadway with sirens screaming and stopped in the middle of the intersection. An officer in black ran out of the car and into the SkyTrain station behind us. Another officer followed him. A crowd of people at the bus stop stood at attention and watched as the police cars moved up the street. The first officer approached my companion and me, and asked if we had seen anyone running. I explained that the only running people I had seen were police officers. The officer looked distractedly to the road: “Someone was stabbed across the street from here, and we think the perpetrator went running into the train station.” Those gathered near us agreed that they hadn’t noticed anything unusual. The two officers took off in the opposite direction, leaving everyone to react to the news of the stabbing. “Oh my God,” said the young man in front of me to his female companion. “We have to get out of here. What if he goes on a shanking spree?” I was shocked. I was at a loss for words. It seemed tactless to break it off with my date while someone lay bleeding in a gutter and a madman was primed for a shanking spree. Then I saw my bus arrive. “That’s my bus,” I said. “Gotta go!” I called, as I literally ran away from my date. I would have had to wait ten to fifteen minutes for another bus. Anyway, I thought, I can always end it over text message.

Song of the Day: Like Soda by Violent Soho

Thought Process of Running

Kitsilano Point
Kitsilano Point, while I was running to Kate Tempest’s “The Beigeness”

Long have I had a love-hate relationship with running. I often go months without running, favouring other forms of exercise over a merciless pounding of pavement. Unexpectedly, the urge to run strikes me. Sometimes it is idealism that moves me. The sun is at the right angle and the breeze is a perfect temperature. I decide today will be a beautiful day for a run. Other times, I’m moved by an almost physical inclination. I wake up feeling that today will be a day I run. The problem with this physical inclination is that I’m mentally no more excited about running than I am on an ordinary day when stony-faced runners pass me on perfectly walkable sidewalks. In spite of my misgivings, I lace up my shoes. Anticipating a wedgie, I shift my spandex shorts to their correct place. I queue a double play of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” and I take off to Bruno Mars singing, “Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy.”

The first 400 m of my run is all down hill. I run like the wind. I’m the fastest woman alive. I hit flat ground and make a right. I doubt my choice and turn in the opposite direction. I pass six pedestrians and a toddler on a tricycle.  I make my way along the seawall as the bass drops on “Too Original” by Major Lazer I have run one kilometre. Running is wonderful.

I climb the stairs up to Cambie Bridge. I feel less excited about the stairs but I don’t let them put a damper on my enthusiasm. I don’t stop when I reach the top because I have endurance and I’m not thinking about how my left shoes is too tight and my ponytail is too loose, not at all.

I am on the other side of the seawall, right across from the park where I started my run. I’ll get there soon. I just have to run across another bridge. I can make it across another bridge, no problem. I pass under Granville Bridge and decide not to cross it because the heavy traffic and sidewalks without barriers scare me. I have to take a longer route to get home now and the bridge has planted a seed of doubt in my mind. I dodge pedestrians inconsiderately eating ice cream cones in my vicinity. Running is wonderful, I try to remind myself, as I side eye a couple eating burritos.

Granville Island
Granville Island on a more joyful run

I climb up the stairs to Burrard Bridge. I reach the top and try smile at a happy woman stretching before her run. Only half my mouth manages an upwards turn. The view from the bridge is beautiful but I’m only halfway through what has to be the longest bridge in the entire city. I make it off the bridge in a state of full loathing. I pass a row of car dealerships and a Canada goose staring at a gold car through the window of a Bentley dealership. (This isn’t a usual part of my run but I thought it was deserving of mention.) I’ve been running for hours. I pass Granville Island and I glare at tourists who have the nerve to walk the path along which I drag my suffering body. My right shoulder experiences pain out of proportion with its level of participation in the run. I will die on this path; I will know a young death. The happy woman from the top of Burrard Bridge passes me. How can a human move so quickly?!

I round a curve and know I’m approach the park where I started. “Blockbuster Night Part 1” by Run The Jewels pumps through my earbuds. I run up the hill like a bat out of hell. I hit flat ground and I stop. I breathe a sigh of relief and walk the final block home.

For the whole range of emotions I felt, I was gone for less than fifty minutes and I ran 7.5 kilometres.

Song of the Day: Happiness by Goldfrapp