Downtown Vancouver Library & Book Store Trip

Piling into a freezing bus at 9 am is not usually my ideal morning, but last Thursday, there was nothing I would rather do than drive downtown, skipping classes for the whole day and starting off my long weekend, not to mention that we were going to look at one of my favourite things: books!

 As you may have been able to guess, a primary objective on this trip was to buy or borrow books, but it wasn’t just that. I love to be surrounded by books, even if I don’t read them as often as I should. What’s more, the messy, disorganized chaos of literature made me feel right at home.

My learning intentions for this trip were fairly simple, and, honestly, not well thought out. My eminent person’s modest following does not exactly justify a book written about his life, and so I settled for reading books I would enjoy to hopefully increase my base skills in English to better write my speech, along with other components of the EP project. My word can tie into the idea of an authour writing a book rather nicely, as a novel is an easy way to take a glance into someone’s mind. A good novel is essentially a window through someone’s head to see their inner working, easily giving someone a feeling of eerie sonder. As an amateur writer, I know that many authours draw from experience to make their characters more realistic, and I know it’s always a strange feeling when you realize a character is going through the exact same thing as you are.

After a fairly boring trip there, I welcomed a change of view from the bus seat in front of me. Without much further ado, we were heading off to MacLeod’s Book Store,  a place I of such scale that I could never imagine.

Just the neighbourhood that the bookstore was in was interesting. A semi-vintage area with hipster shops everywhere, MacLeod’s didn’t seem any different. As we entered the store, I was shocked by the intoxicating smell of old pages, the small store packed to the brim with books, stacks on and off the shelves. I stood there for a moment, in total awe of the number of titles that could be fit in such a small store.

The shop seemed like more of a collection than a place where you could buy books, but there was a cash register at the cluttered counter, so I went ahead and started looking.

fraction of the mess/collection of books in MacLeod’s (and my back!)

I pulled out every title that interested me, and some that didn’t. I laughed thouroughly at a strange, 1920’s Avant Garde magazine, complete with awkward pictures of naked women forming the alphabet with their bodies, and image of addicts shooting up in black and white. I put the magazine away, and looked for something… less disturbing.

So of course my next find was an erotic guide to dating a vampire.

Few books can entertain an entire gossip of TALONS for a 45 minute bus-ride, but this book did the trick. Ryan K’s purchase was enjoyed by all, even if parts of it were even a little too disturbing for me. I eventually left the store after finding Queer Fear, a hilarious compilation of parody horror stories featuring gay vampires, zombies, and a homosexual version of the monster under your bed.

Another view of the book store – and my back (sidenote: the very location of the vampire book!)

I’d never been into a bookstore as packed as MacLeod’s and I felt very comfortable in the confined shelves and dead-end hallways. MacLeod’s was my highlight of the trip.

After taking a relieved breath in the outside that seemed like it stretched on infinitely (compared to MacLeod’s anyway), we headed towards the library. The walk was largely uneventful, the only thing I remember being the terrified eyes of Vancouver pedestrians as a blob of thirty teenagers lurched towards them – but isn’t that how it goes everywhere?

The next part of our day was the urban solo out front of the library. I wasn’t a huge fan of this, but I thought it was a good idea regardless. I found myself fascinated, and feeling sonder quite prominently. It’s fascinating to stumble across the idea that every suit with a cup of Starbucks actually has a life behind it. In a place as large, and as populated, as Vancouver, there are plenty of people to base your internal epiphany upon, and I couldn’t think of the idea of sonder enough.

Finally the library, which I, admittedly, didn’t enjoy as much as the book store. I have always like the artificial outdoor environment just out front of the VPL, and so I basked it in. There was some disappointment, like waiting half an hour for bubble-tea (that never came), or when the library didn’t have my book, but overall, I enjoyed the VPL well enough.

If I had to give our outing a theme, I think I would deem it as ‘accompanied isolation’ as I felt that we were really, alone together. It makes sense to me, anyway, since I feel a strange mixture of solitude and companionship with any good novel, regardless of whether I am around other people or not. And, since I was surrounded by literally hundreds of thousands books in just one day, I spent most of it in a mental silence, feeling muted (voluntarily) even when I was talking.

On our excursion, I think I learned a few things, so I’ll list them off in no particular order, along with the source of my newfound knowledge:

  • How to efficiently use flashbacks in fiction to provide more information on relationships (Children of Men from the VPL)
  • Occasionally forget structure and just explore (MacLeod’s)
  • Occasionally accept structure and just explore (VPL)
  • Come into situations with a decent idea of what you want, but don’t expect that idea to stay the same (The whole day)
  • How to make it work with a vampire (I’m sure you can guess)

Overall, I really enjoyed our trip downtown. With internet, video games, and NetFlix basically ruling my life, I read maybe one book every two months, which is unfortunate given how much I enjoy reading (if the power’s out). I’m glad I came to this trip, and I honestly feel like my already dangerously high hipster level has been raised at least twelve points.

At the the end of this ‘field study’, I leave you with this surprisingly beautiful photo of some concrete, glass, and a primary colour (taken by the talented Mr. Jackson).

Eminent Person – Jimmy Wong

For the Eminent Person project, I have chosen YouTube musician and actor James Wong, better known as Jimmy Wong. Initially, I was considering doing other musicians, such as Thomas Bangalter (One half of the French techno-house group Daft Punk), or even his brother Freddie Wong, a filmmaker, actor, and special effects technician who also operates primarily on YouTube. But in the end, I decided on Jimmy.

YouTube musician and actor, Jimmy Wong

On his main account, Wong does covers of popular music, as well as some original songs. He plays guitar, bass, drums, piano, and can sing acapella, allowing him to record tracks separately and then layer them together, effectively becoming a one man band for his solo covers. A good example of his skill is this video of an acapella performance of the Super Mario theme.

I picked Jimmy Wong not only because of his talent, but also because of his fundamentals and morals. Last year, he responded to a racist UCLA student complaining about Aisans in an ironic, sarcastic love song going out to the all-American girl. Where many would have surged into self-righteous anger, Jimmy simply made a joke of it, not stooping to her level. In 2011, Wong addressed the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. At the end of several of his music  videos (most having several hundred thousand views), he encouraged anyone to donate money on the Mario Bros. video seen above, a song which he performed solely to raise awareness, and funds.  He is a supporter of the LGBT community, accepting of all races, and, unlike many YouTube stars, is accessible. Despite having over two hundred thousand subscribers, Wong responds to many, if not all comments on his videos. Having actually spoken to him online, I have selected partially because I am confident that I can secure an interview with him.

I feel that choosing Jimmy as my eminent person relates to my word, sonder, because often, when an indivual is famous enough, they seem to be almost another species, like some sort of super-human so high above you that they seem completely unaccessible. Jimmy Wong remains humble despite his online following, and responds to most comments. It can be hard to remember that celebrities are still human (even if some are more plastic than flesh), that they have their own lives, obstacles. With Jimmy, however, I feel sonder, because his real life is so visible, and his videos are a window into his life, which is shockingly more like mine, than I ever would have thought.

Over the course of the next month or so, I’m looking forward to the project, no matter what the grade 10’s say!

My Word – Sonder

To start, my chosen word isn’t technically a word at all. Sonder, while well on it’s way to be in the official dictionary due to it’s widespread viral status on the Internet, currently resides as an unofficial word on I believe that this ‘outcast status’ is just as important and symbolic as the actual definition.

The definition of Sonder is something that revealed to me how alike everyone’s brains are. Before I came across the dictionary, I thought that the idea that Sonder defines was one that was exclusive to me, something only I thought about late at night. Read the definition, and you may find yourself nodding your head in recognition as you read along.
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
As I walk to school with my headphones in, or sit on a bus, staring mistily eyed out into space, I realize that every person is not there to serve meSometimes I think that when I am out of sight, my friends, family, even just the anonymous blur that is the public, walk off the set-piece that is my life, or perhaps head to the charging receptacles and power down for the evening.
And so it is consistently such a shock when I realize that the sweaty man with a disgruntled dog  has a rough thirty years of anecdotes, heartbreak, and struggles, or that the faithful gas station worker has no idea how he’ll continue paying for university, or, even my own friends, who I know better than most of my family, has secrets that he has never even spoken aloud.
For all these reasons and more, Sonder, while perhaps not a real word (yet) is the most important one in my life.