Monday, August 30, 2010

I Am So Proud of You: working with rescued animals in British Columbia PT. 5

8/23 - 8/30

I've been sick with whatever Chuck had for most of this week, some kind of flu I imagine. There were times when I felt comfortable getting up and walking around, but I pushed it too far when I went for a 30 mile bike ride across the countryside and through the city. I spent the next day completely bed-ridden and miserable... but now after some rest I'm starting to feel better.
I've been riding my bike as much as I can since I've been here, and I've seen deer almost everyday. The route I usually ride takes me through a southern part of town near the lumbermill. It smells terribly of rotting wood and chemicals, but to cross into Nanaimo there's no other way around it. There's a small community that I pass immediately afterward that is eerily quiet, yet there's always people meandering about in the roads that I have to weave around. It reminds me so much of this short story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by one of my favorite authors H.P. Lovecraft. In the story, Innsmouth is a small and rarely visited town in New England where everything about the citizens and the architecture is detestable in an indiscriminate and unspoken way. Because of local legends travelers avoid it all costs, though one man chooses to visit despite the warnings of others and slowly pieces together a story of a fishing tycoon that makes a deal with demons one night on the reef that surrounds the town. The traveler gets trapped there and all kinds of crazy stuff starts happening... I won't ruin it for you, but I just thought it would maybe paint a better picture of this area. Anyway, I rode through there one night and immediately after I entered the neighborhood I regretted getting started on my ride home so late. Once through I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Maybe I'm just being silly.

I've been bonding with our 2 cats Ron and Ginny Weasley quite a bit. They both finally worked up the courage to come down from the loft on the crazy box staircase I made for them (which in it's own way must be scary enough to climb down on). Ronald came down for a visit this morning and was loving all over me while I slept. I also saw him kneading Chuck's blanket-covered head and was amazed that she didn't wake up. Though she rose to get the phone a little bit later and Ron, almost being crushed, panicked and jumped straight into the chest at the end of the bed!* I am so excited that they're starting to feel more comfortable here, as anti-social as they are I felt like we were keeping them locked up in a prison. They are both the sweetest, cutest little potatoes ever and it would be so lonely here in the cabin without them.

Stanley is doing better now, his hair is starting to grow back and his wound from the jacket is healing up nicely. We went by the other day and it was incredibly infected, so we sprayed him with some iodine and it's helped quite a bit. Hopefully it will heal up completely and not leave a scar, but only time will tell on that one.

Yesterday evening I was feeling a bit peckish, and with little food at the house I decided to head to the grocery store. My bike was in the back of Chuck's truck while she was at work, so my best option was to hitchhike the 13 miles into town. With the sun setting and remembering how few cars drive by on our road, especially on a Sunday, I was starting to worry that I wasn't going to make it before the sun went down and I would most likely have to walk through the pitch black woods to get back. Consequently I made it in 3 rides, and riding in the back of a pickup truck staring up at the sun setting behind the trees made me feel pretty glad that my bike was locked away and I was afforded this rare opportunity. I managed to get to my destination before the sun set, and while in line at the store another piece of good fortune was thrown my way. As I was paying for my food (surprised?) I was unable to afford 2 or 3 items and had to set them aside. I had got the truck back from Chuck, and as I was about to drive away I saw a young womyn running across the parking lot at me. My first instinct was to run, and then I thought maybe I just dropped some money. Well when I rolled the window down she had those 3 items in her hands, so she put them on the passenger side seat, stared at me for a minute and then said "Have a good night!" and took off running. I could barely yelp out a thank you amidst all the confusion, but left that night feeling pretty psyched on life.

Making tentative plans to ride my bike back to Vancouver, but things are so back and forth here that every time I plan on leaving something else comes up. Anyway, I have about 2 weeks left here in Canada and I'm going to try and make the best of them. Hope you're all doing well!

Love Always,
Mike XVX

*Don't worry, he's ok!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Am So Proud of You: working with rescued animals in British Columbia PT. 4

8/16 - 8/22

The mayor of Nanaimo and myself.
I asked him to pretend like I was someone really famous for the photo. no big deal. Also, you know someone's a good mayor when they ask you what "chick" you're trying to impress right after you get your picture with him.

I picked up a free mountain bike from a craigslist ad, and one that assured me that it still had some salvageable parts on it, only to find that every component was rusted nearly all the way through. Not having much else to do with it, I traveled to the steepest hill in the city (which is about a mile long and pretty freakin steep) and launched it ceremoniously at 3 am after I picked up Chuck from work. Ready to jump back in the car to follow it down, it made it about 20 ft and took a hard right into someones yard. Needless to say I was disappointed.
That next morning Chuck had her appointment with her psychic, and woke me up at about 9 am with a call right afterward. What I can remember of the conversation was a flurry of excitement on her end, talking about how her psychic knew all about her family situation and that she's making the right decisions etc. with me adding a sleepy and muffled "mmhmm" and "ya" in between. The conversation ended as quickly (and loudly) as it had begun and later I wondered if I had dreamt any of it. Incidentally I did not, but now Chuck is pretty certain that moving to the United States is the right decision for her. Whether this came about from her psychic reading, or maybe a combination of something else I do not know, but I'm glad that she's figured out what she wants and is taking steps to make it happen. It's good to finally be able to spend time with someone who's driven and self motivated, you know?

Drove down to Victoria a couple days ago and visited with a friend. We stopped by a pretty rad art gallery, had some decent vegan chinese food, spent way too much money at the local infoshop, and then bought a vegan gluten free pizza (with daiya cheese!) for the drive back up. Chuck has been really sick with throat ulcers, a fever and an incredibly sore back, but we still had a pretty rad day. I haven't spent much time in Victoria since I've been here and I'm looking forward to going back pretty soon for a show that I'm playing, maybe even riding the 80 miles from here to there.

The liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who's running for Prime Minister, visited our town to give a talk and have lunch at a local french restaurant downtown. Michael Ignatieff is a big supporter of the Canadian seal hunt, so we organized a demo to hopefully have a discussion with him and raise awareness about the issue. He consistently uses the argument that the seal hunt supports First Nations people, and that opposition to the commercial hunt is a threat to their way of life. In reality, the commercial seal hunt is owned and run by white, male Norwegians, Newfoundlanders, Nova Scotians, and Quebecois; it has no correlation with any traditional indigenous hunt. Though we were getting media attention at first, we weren't sure Ignatieff was paying much attention to us protesting outside at all. We only had 10 or so people, but we still managed to be loud enough to disturb the proceedings inside. Eventually he had his PR person come out and guarantee us that he would answer some of our questions once he was finished inside looking like an idiot and kissing everyone's ass (my words, not hers). But, immediately afterward she asked us: "you guys aren't going to like, throw red paint on him are you?" we all had a really good laugh at that, so she responded with "well that's just what I heard some animal rights people do" hahaha. Here is the discussion once he came outside:

Last night I shaved off my beard, cut my hair and went for a 30 mile bike ride across 4 towns. Rode from our cabin to Chuck's work, treated myself to dinner, rode back to Chuck's work again, and then rode the last 13 miles back to the cabin at 10:15 (on a saturday night*). Riding across each town was fine, but once I got into the forest the moon went behind some clouds and I was left with only my 2 small bike lights to keep me safe on that windy rode. 8 miles of terrified biking, riding as fast as I could thinking that I'm being chased by Skinwalkers, bears, aliens or drunk drivers trying to run me down. Your mind tells you some crazy things when you're scared, and riding all alone on that stretch of road in the middle of the night was as nerve-racking as it gets. Because of how horrifying most of the ride had been I made it back in about 40 minutes from when I had left Chuck's work. Maybe I'll start doing velodrome and have Sasquatch chase me across the track.
Currently still dealing with family drama here and there, and our visit to the farm this morning was as shocking as it gets. Stanley (the ex-racehorse) had been wearing a fly jacket when we arrived and was kicking and shaking his head in a bizarre way. When Chuck removed the jacket she noticed that the chord had left an incredibly painful looking rope burn across his chest, and in seeing it immediately burst into tears. It was incredibly gruesome, and we spent some time afterward putting ointment on his cut and feeding him blackberries. Apparently his jacket had been on for several days, and Keres blames Chuck for "not taking care" of her horses, even though as of recently we've only been designated (and allowed) to come to the farm 3 days of the week. Set aside the fact that Keres was the one who put the jacket on him, which serves nearly no purpose.

We're still in the process of finding Stanley a new home. After all he's been through he doesn't deserve to be mistreated and neglected any further then he already has. It's hard to imagine that this incident wasn't intentional, and while running into Chuck's mom again while leaving lead to another argument and literally no empathy on her end. Animals deserve love and respect, and Stanley is receiving neither of those from Keres. Oh, how laws protect animal abusers... if we only lived in a world where people could actually be held accountable for the way that they treat other sentient beings.

Love always,
Mike XVX

*I will high five you if you can name the band that wrote this song.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Am So Proud of You: working with rescued animals in British Columbia PT. 3

8/7 - 8/15

I don't know how this comes about, but often enough I'll be staying with a friend and manage to be there at some of their most vulnerable and life changing moments. Somehow my stays are queued in with some huge family drama, or to watch someone have to sacrifice what was once a huge part of their lives, or listen to elaborate and desperate plans to flee the country and start a new life, to realize later that they're convictions are sincere and they're actually going through with it. Not one, but all of these things have happened here in this past week, and it's going to take a minute to explain it all so try and be patient.

Chuck has lived on her family farm with her sister Keres* for the past few years, both of them together taking on the duties to care for the many animals they've rescued. Chuck being the oldest, and taking on most of the responsibilities, always felt that her sister lacked the drive and compassion to properly care for the animals she loves. There had been a lot of factors that slowly deteriorated their relationship and led Chuck to believe that the animals were no longer safe in Keres' care, but one incident in particular was enough for Chuck to feel she needed to re-home as many of the animals as she could. While away on a trip for the weekend, one of the chickens had developed an infection in it's cloaca**, and when Chuck returned she discovered that it had gone untreated by Keres even though she had full knowledge of the chicken's discomfort; her only suggestion was to just put the chicken down. What is the point of adopting a battery hen if you're just going to let it suffer and die from a treatable infection? It was at that point that Chuck made arrangements to move off of the farm and into the cabin on the beach where we both currently reside.

I thought that the space would help deescalate the growing tension between Chuck and Keres, but things only got worse from here....
There are 3 cats that live in the basement in isolation from the rest of the house (they have a peeing problem), "Dougie" and "Ron and Ginnie Weasley". Ron and Ginnie are brother and sister, and Ginnie absolutely refuses to associate with any humyns. She simply just wants to hang out up on her shelf and be left alone. But Keres always talked about how much she hated them and was trying to convince Chuck to re-home the Weasleys at the new cabin. Not wanting to take them away from Dougie, who they were very attached to, she intitially refused to break up their family since the three of them were all each other had. This didn't suit Keres, so she threw a temper tantrum where she threatened to report Chuck to the police and assured her she would "fuck her over so badly" if she didn't do as she said in regards to the cats. Keres was once a legit activist, so of course we were all taken aback by the way she handled that situation and the threat of legal action she made against a member of her own family. So (almost literally) with a gun in our backs we took the Weasley's away from Dougie and brought them to the new cabin where they are still getting adjusted. It was shitty enough to have to separate them, but having to see Dougie's reaction to it was a whole other level. We had no way to tell him it wasn't our fault that he had to live in the basement by himself and that Keres is just a fucking asshole.

The great finish to this is that Chuck's parents have sided with Keres in the disagreement, and fully support her in her own personal decision to ban Chuck from the farmhouse entirely (which probably means that I'm banned for associating with her as well). Their parents recognize Chuck as a very capable person, so they felt it necessary to support Keres regardless of the situation at hand. The only purpose Chuck has for visiting the farm now is feeding the animals that still live there and during this time is looking into new, safe homes for a few of them.

So after all this, Chuck realized there wasn't a whole lot here for her anymore now that she's been blacklisted from the family farm and far past a point of making a compromise with Keres. (But, if I were Chuck I wouldn't have compromised with her either... the day a fellow activist threatens to call the cops on you over a petty disagreement is the day that relationship is over in my mind.) Now Chuck is looking into plans to move off of the island, and potentially could be coming back with me to the states if she's able to get a work permit in the next few months. Her strength and convictions are a big inspiration to me, I don't know how many people I know that could handle the immense anxiety and loss that she's felt. It's hard enough to watch this all from the side, I can't comprehend how hard it must be to have to separate and say goodbye to so many loving and brave animals that had been in her care.

During this time we've been filling our days with snorkeling at the river and beach, reading, hanging out in town and attempting to make the Weasleys a little more comfortable in their new home. Days have been passing regularly here, and though I've felt I've gotten to know Chuck incredibly well, I feel these past 3 weeks have blown by with hardly a notice. Trying my hardest to keep my spirits up and stay positive for Chuck, though things have been pretty rough around here. I am very thankful to have her as a friend, and I hope I can be as strong a person as she has been for herself and for her animals.

Snitches get stitches,
Mike XVX

*Keres is a female greek name meaning "evil spirits". I chose a fake name for this womyn that I felt suited her actions very well, as you will read later.

**meaning chicken bum. Yes, chickens lay eggs out of the same whole they defecate from and humyns eat them. disgusting.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I Am So Proud of You: working with rescued animals in British Columbia PT. 2

7/31 - 8/6

A lots been happening this week and I haven't had much time for updates, so I'll sum up everything the best I can. I may talk about things out of chronological order and I apologize if it's confusing. This is just how my brain works most of the time.

Been spending some time with the animals on the farm, getting to know all of them and connecting with Stanley, the ex-racehorse, in particular. Stanley was kept out of races because of his crooked legs and was rescued by Chuck a few years ago. Since then he's been living on the farm with the other two horses, Timber and Romeo, and terrorizing the neighbor horses in the next yard. Apparently he would climb up their fence, grab one of the show horses from next door by their jackets, and lift them up off the ground bum first. So funny! The neighbors had a fit about it and eventually installed an electric fence to keep him away. He's such a badass.
Anyway, recently I wrote a song about Stanley... I have yet to record it but I'll post the lyrics here so you can check it out:

"the first horse i'd ever had the chance to get to know
you are gentle, you are strong and you are brave
and even if your scars are cut so deep they always show
you're a warrior, my friend, and now you're safe

stanley, stanley
you deserved a better life, it's true
stanley, stanley
I can't believe the things they did to you

they burned 6 numbers in your skin
and those numbers still remain
how could animals ever trust us again?
they would have run you to your death
a forced march till your dying day
humyns must look like nazis to them

stanley, stanley
the racetrack burned a number in your neck
stanley, stanley
a symbol that we'll never forget

sadistic gambling perverts, drunk and screaming in their seats
the scum of the earth in my eyes
horses forced to run until their heart ceases to beat
but it's all just torture in disguise

our anger begs for action
though I know you never would
we're just thankful that you are ok
we love to see you happy
there's every reason that we should
your presence just brightens our day

stanley, stanley
you deserved a better life, it's true
stanley stanley
we are all so very proud of you
yes, we are all so very proud of you"

On Justin and Shawna's last day with us we went to a flea market where Chuck was sexually harassed by an older guy asking her if she wanted to play "doctor and nurse". Fuck that fool. After Chuck embarrassed him in front of a bunch of his customers he complained to one of them that he "had no trouble with the lasses" when he was a "young lad". Yeah, maybe if you had some fucking respect for other people they would show you an equal amount. Either way, Chuck is a maniac and would have knocked him out. For some reason a lot of liberal/left-ish people in the US glorify Canada and paint this picture of a tolerant, respectful, open-minded place with socialized healthcare and low murder rates. After nearly 2 weeks here I've almost got into 3 fist fights with people for calling them out on their shitty behavior, so pardon me for not agreeing with that sentiment. One of the times was at Chuck's bar when a drunk asshole was making racist and homophobic comments. He was upset that I wasn't laughing along with him when he talked about how satisfying it was to have "a little black guy making you drinks" on the beach in the Caribbean. Our conversation:

"So, uh, what DO YOU think is funny then, eh?"
"Um, jokes that aren't racist and homophobic"
"whoa whoa, I'm not homophobic! what about comedians? they say racist and homophobic things all the time and you laugh at them!"
"I don't fucking laugh at racist jokes!"
"Well I know a lot of gay guys that make homophobic jokes all the time and I don't see you yelling at them!"
"Maybe they have the right to laugh about it because they have to deal with homophobia on a daily basis!"

and from there the yelling became so incoherent on his end that I eventually gave up and just sat there quietly. A womyn he was with tried to get him to apologize to me on his way out the door, and I just stared at him and didn't react. So he threw his hands up in the air and yelled that he didn't have to be friends with everyone and stormed out. This entire time Chuck standing behind the bar with the most awkward look on her face. Sorry homie. Comically, another patron commented that they must be American; and that would explain their behavior. Chuck shot me a look and I snickered. Sorry to break it to everyone: racism, sexism, heterosexism and specieism are everywhere. Challenge it every chance you get!

A couple days later, Chuck and I got to work big time on clearing everything out of her old room on the farm and moving it out to the new cabin a few miles away. The process was painstaking, labor intensive, and it was pretty freakin hot out that day but we got it all done in pretty decent time. Her new place is absolutely unbelievable, a tiny one room log cabin overlooking the ocean set in a small, quiet community. It looked totally wrecked when we first started moving all her stuff in, but now it's super quaint and cozy - wood burning stove and all. (I'm staying with Chuck now full time here instead of at the farm which has been seriously amazing!) The only downside to this house is that the tap water is absolutely DISGUSTING! NO EXAGGERATION! The water comes from a local well, and apparently this is the worst time of year for it because the water is so low that it smells horribly of sulfur. Literally EVERY TIME we turn on the tap it stinks up the whole cabin! I refuse to shower in it; the ocean is a 5 minute walk away. enough said.

Did some chores for one of Chuck's neighbors to make some extra money while I'm here, and got to spend some time with her listening to music and chatting. Listened to her stories about how she rescued her dog from a beach in Mexico and loving her undying hatred for the police. According to her, she gives them the finger every time she heads into town. I published a zine about my tour across Europe recently and I gave her one of those, I think she liked it. Well, I hope she liked it.

Initially I was only going to stay in Canada till mid/late August, but things have been going so well here for me that I want to extend my trip as long as I can. For those of you that don't know, I was arrested at an animal rights demo a few weeks ago and our first court date is in September. I had to have special permission from the court to come to Canada, and they allowed me to stay for a month. As I was preparing to call them I was becoming increasingly nervous about what I was going to say, how I would say it and their answer. This was my conversation with the release officer:

"Hey, this is Michael ****. I originally requested a month's stay in Canada? Anyway I wanted to stay longer because I've been offered a ride down and I won't have to do a bike tour back to Portland and.....
"Whoa, whoa, does it conflict with your court dates?"
"No, it doesn't"
"Then I don't care"

Score one for Mike!

Yesterday Chuck hid me in the back of her pickup so I wouldn't have to pay for the ferry across to Vancouver, BC. I laid huddled in the backseat with a blanket draped over me while we went through the gates. There was an incredibly hilarious story to follow (ask me about it sometime!) that I'm a little too embarrassed to write about here... but I assure you it's a good one, haha. Later that day we attended a demonstration against a fur shop, leafletted, and then had a delicious meal at an all Vegan Buddhist Chinese restaurant here in town. It was super super good, but some of the names of the dishes made my stomach turn. In fact, Chuck ordered me "Crispy Baby Pig" that had no indication that it was Vegan other than it was being served in a Vegan restaurant. Little bit gross, not gunna lie.

Ran some errands today and tried to relax as much as I could. A bunch of people went down south to a benefit for Sea Shepherd ( so I'm kicking it by myself tonight at a friend's place here on the mainland. Heading back to the island tomorrow and have some awesome plans that include: video montages of the farm animals, first-time-since-in-Canada movie watching, and Thai food. Tomorrows going to be a good day!

Love always,
Mike XVX

P.S. this morning I had the best tofu scramble OF MY LIFE! Check out my friend Tara's website and food blog: