A Lone Journey to China

The long, halogen lights hang at odd angles like the miscellaneous items in a horder’s house. A child in red plaid screams about “APPLES!” and attempts a jump kick. My face feels like it has cried forever. My eyes are currently dry. My head feels like the lights, without order. It’s been an hour since I have seen Ruby. An hour since I held her in my arms and she held me in her arms. An hour into ten plus months away from her, from my family, from everything I know.

I feel empty. I don’t want to leave. “Are you excited?” “No.”

To clarify what is going on, for those in the not know, my partner and I had planned to go to China, to teach, to live together in Jiaxing, a city with a lego factory, some famous candy and 30 minutes from Shanghai. But my partner, Ruby, realized that teaching isn’t her passion. Why waste a year doing something that doesn’t fulfill you? Working towards where don’t necessarily want to be, doing something that doesn’t ignite your soul? And so, with a lot of thought put into it, as she always does, she decided not to come. I am happy for her. I am so happy she has found a great job. A place to live. I do not resent her decision at all. She is so brave, in her actions and her words. Meticulous in constructing her thoughts into sentences. She is so strong. She inspires and teaches me and tells me, to take an extra second, think.

I am in constant, unfiltered awe of her. I could go on, but that is a different, more personal (and infinitely more smooshy) letter.

So I am here, alone, at the Vancouver Airport awaiting a flight to Hong Kong, then Shanghai and then a car ride to Jiaxing. My reasoning for going is because, well, it was too late not to go. I am a certified teacher who landed a great job at British Columbian Offshore High School. Kids who graduate from this school graduate with a Dogwood Diploma, a B.C. recognized secondary degree. If I didn’t show up, they wouldn’t be able to replace me. They tried. They really tried. B.C. is having a teacher renaissance and there are numerous positions opening up in Vancouver and beyond. So why go to China to teach? Why suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Visa stipulations and being stared at and photographed without your permission, when you can teach in beautiful B.C., with sit down toilets aplenty and foods from all over the planet. Oh yeah, and the whole nature and clean air thing. So yeah, no one able to fill my vacancy.


I could still have just not gone. Sorry folks, but I can’t come. Here’s a lesson for you kiddies, it’s called abandonment. Like I have just done, the world will do to you time and time again. Get use to it. It will be the greatest lesson you could ever learn and this is the best way to teach you it…. So I could have bit my thumb and jumped ship. That means 4 classes full of English students do not graduate on time. As an educator, as a human, as a creature with a beating heart, I could not do that. I could not leave them hanging. I could not abandon them. They need me. And if it’s bad, I leave. If it’s bad, I come home. If this feeling of ache, of internal avalanches and a mind full of doom and gloom and Charlie Brown adult voices accompanied by the mournful, humming of Tom Wait doesn’t pass, I don’t ask, I don’t plead, I leave. My sanity is more important than any job. My emotional well-being is essential to my teaching, to my personal hygiene and to my will power that forces me every morning to put on pants and not slip into a rat onesie. If I am not stable, am not a rock, do not eat three meals a day and drink the right amount of liquids, I am sporadic, I am despicable, I am sputtering and rambling, I am climbing unsafe ladders and eating unrefrigerated meats.

Where is the rhyme and reason behind all this? Behind this journey? Behind a piece of luggage that is a few kilograms over? Behind these random tubes of light? I hope to find out or at least convince myself of some form of divine reason, which would involve first convincing myself that there is a divine anything.

I am now in Hong Kong airport, the random bulbs have been replaced with a domed ceiling comprised of grey, nacho chip, shaped tiles. I am hungry. I have an hour until I board my final flight to Shanghai. None of my items are lost yet. My only travel damage is a cracked computer that seems to still be functioning. Superficial damage. I have superficial damages and I still function as well. My CPU is overheating and could use some more RAM, but it’s still puttering onwards. The setting sun through Hong Kong’s haze looks like the helicopter scene in Apocalypse Now. Instead of war machines, 747s and mountains.


My new, Ruby designed, art.

My new, Ruby designed, art. Oh and my Tinea Versicolor.

I love you all. I will keep you updated with words.

Thank you to all of you who saw me before I left. You are all so special to me.

If you are ever in the neighborhood, don’t be shy, come on by!

Love, appreciating moments, your China bound friend/lover/family member…

Ira J Cooper

Just Words – Professing Bikedom

There are many options to get from point A to B in our lives and various factors that impact our mode of transportation choice. While the bicycle offers a healthier, more eco-friendly method, the downsides of traveling via two wheels seem to outweigh the benefits, as most commuters choose alternative ways. The convenience of a car, the consistency of a skytrain, the viability of the bus make these ideal options. Each one of them, has a dry, warm interior and each one of them will speedily get you to your destination, with very little effort. These modes promise immediate results, which is perfect in a society with fast internet, faster food, one day delivery, carpool lanes. Yet this immediacy seems at odds with our innate, built in need to plan for the future, consider how what we do now effects our future selves. We don’t think about the long term effects of which mode of transportation we choose to use. Cars are time effective, getting you to the literal doorstep of your destination. Though there is a ridiculousness in their ease. A 5 minute walk, a chance to commune with fresh air, stretch atrophied, office limbs, is transformed into a minute car ride. We hit people with them, we drink and crash into inanimate objects with them, we relinquish the positive, upbeat moral citizens we are outside their realms, to become demons of speed, road rage and car envy. We rely on heavy machines, we trust them, put our faith in them to work, to go, to make it. We don’t appreciate the journey, the kilometers, the unstopped, flagrant flowers. Bullets. We want to see how fast we can make it there. We want industry, industry. Oil oil! No more truffula trees. And yet, we point towards China. We point towards governments. We are just homogeneous cogs. Patches in a social fabric. We cannot make a change. It isn’t about global change. It’s about self change. It’s about self empowerment. It’s about adrenaline over coffee.

In there a message in this? Is this simply a rant that comes out of an institution-sickened mind, where even if you don’t wish to conform, you are conforming to something? Well, I think we should inspire to conform to something a bit more agreeable, as incrementally small as it is. This isn’t a preacher’s door sermon. This is a challenge. A challenge to appreciate the way there. A challenge of organization, of mapping your time, of personal strength, of will power. This is a challenge to embrace time, not spar with it. A challenge to guzzle less and breath more. If your uncomfortable with the road, with the four wheeled charging minotaurs of the road, ride with me. Call me up, text me, email me, carrier pigeon me, message in a bottle me, I will receive it and you will receive me, at your door, two wheel pride gleaming. Let’s do it, let’s explore! Start with once a week. See how it fits. Maybe it won’t fit. Maybe you’ll hate me for it. Well, I will accept your hate, as long as you attempt to garner it from me. All over the place, I wrote this all over the place. In class, in bed, in my head, in a random notebook. Here it is. Now. Unedited. Spin out of control. Imagine two wheels, two wheels, the sound of nature instead of automobile infused nurture.

Back in the Saddle – 180 KM to Pemberton



Spontaneity and preparation seem to be two polar opposite lifestyles that people abide by and adhere to. Golden rules, or unruly gold. If a spontaneous person is meant to prepare or vice versa, there is a possibility of the person feeling overwhelmed with the stress or anxious due to the uncertainty. I am usually spontaneous, leaving my known world on a simple fancy or trifle, living from day to day, on bit of cheese, bread and insider’s treats. I bicycle everyday. It’s a routine I have come to not think about, but just see as the only viable option to make it from point A to B. This is by no means preparation for a 170 kilometer slog through the mountains to the Pemberton Music Festival. This is where ill preparation could seem detrimental. I see it as a challenging thrill, a sickly pleasure to see if, and it’s really a BIG if many a times, if I will make it to my final destination, scathed or unscathed. 90km is never 90km. There is always about a 10km error. 170 then is really 180.


The day started 2 and a half hours later than expected. Not only was I ill prepared when it came to training for this ride, I was ill prepared when it came to packing appropriately. Possibly it was the concept of appropriateness that I felt uncomfortable with to pack as such. Possibly that last sentence sets precedence as how terrible I am at on the spot excuses. Spoiler alert: after spending considerable time deciding my attire for the 5 day festival, I ended up sporting my “Got Hummus” crop top the entire time. To paint a better picture galemptness (Yiddish for uselessness), I’d like to quickly note that I had only recently purchased clipless pedals and shoes and had only decided to adjust and test them that morning. Thank the bike deities, I was able to remember how they worked and how to unclip without impaling myself in some fashion. Anyways, it was what it was, I had what I had, and I hadn’t what I hadn’t and at 8:30am, after deciding which, between my three pairs of functional sunglasses I should sport on the ride up, I left my front door, pedaled down Nanaimo Street, through the traffic peanut butter and jammed streets of Downtown, across the Lion’s Gate Bridge to North Vancouver, stopping once, in the centre, to take in the incredible view of the inlet and Stanley Park, before getting a tad lost, finding my way and zooming along the coast towards Horseshoe Bay. Horseshoe Bay, for those who don’t know, is one of the gateway ferry terminals to the islands that speckle the British Columbian coast. I paused for a moment to stare down upon the Queen of Surrey slowly distorting the deep black blue ocean on it’s way to the island, munched on a No Name Rice K rispy Square, before crossing an overpass and entering onto the Sea to Sky Highway.


The Sea to Sky Highway and I have history. My father and I spun off of it once into a snow bank ravine, luckily, undamaged. A childhood friend of mine also left that same road almost 20 years ago, at excessive speeds, crashing through an impenetrable guardrail, the trauma of the experience, evident in the lasting image of her patched body, a beautiful, sullied woman, now a ragdoll, that was on display at her Ismaeli funeral, that is patched into my memory forever. The road terrifies me, a night terror that hinders your sleep, but until you face it, it runs you, orders you, enslaves you. And so, fear and adrenaline pushing me in opposite directions to places I don’t want to go and places I didn’t want to return to just yet, I swallow and I face the roar of traffic and missing, at times, shoulder of careening paved landscape. The road swerves, switchbacks, climbs and dips. On my side of it, a sheer rock face clips my right shoulder. Across the divided street, the ocean, trees and the wind, race passed me and I race passed. Each town is a small blip, like starting to say something and having nothing really to say, so abruptly ending to speak mid-sentence, that there is no meaning, or effect. Lions Bay, bled into Brunswick Beach, small little, wealthy communities, with one or two food options, marinas and stunning houses, hidden amidst properties brimming with evergreens and shrubbery. For some reason, in the town of Furry Creek, I stopped to take in the awesome name, the awesome patch of grass I found, near the town sign and a full package of awesome Whoppers that I scarfed down. Seriously, Furry Creek, I will be back to check out your museum. I am intrigued. The sign said Discover Furry Creek. I feel like standing on that singular patch of green life, between two parallel roads, was a good vantage point to see most of what the area had in the way of offerings.


Onwards, and after a nosh of maple and bacon poutine at the Squamish Micky Ds, it was literally upwards, constantly. The hills come mountains, soared into the heavens and the shlog became more intense with each pedal. Sweat pooled and beaded in every crevice and strained part of my facial expression. Breaks became more frequent. I was running out of No Name Rice Krispies. WTF WTF WTF was the running monologue in my head. The end was not in sight, unless it was my end. Nature was spilling onto the road. Trees became churches that I silently prayed to. What made it worse, was the lack of discernable landmarks to determine where I was on the planet. I was in a void, a blank nowhereness, heading somewhere, hopefully. The shlog was heightened by the sound of an impending storm. Clouds transformed the sky into a granite wall, a taunting ringleader, the cracking sound of the whip, was actually the sky unzipping it’s cloudy drawers and pissing all over me. Cold piss. Soul drenching piss. Everything was frozen, yet the wheels kept spinning, and I kept moving through the hellish drizzle. For a moment, I hid under an information sign about the Squamish Native People and ate Israeli chocolate spread and shmooshed bread, that had a hole in every piece of the loaf, due to a failed attempt to stash a pipe in it (ended up hiding the pipe in the tent and drugs in my deodorant). I didn’t even bother with utensils or cleanliness. I looked like a beast, cowering bellow the wooden awning, looking out as a few tourists approached, then were quickly dissuaded by my presence. Shuffled on, like a psychiatric pill line.


Finally, around Whistler, the rain stopped and so did I, for a bite at the Amsterdam Café in the middle of the village. An okay burger and some okay fries semi-filled the gap where my stomach should be.. I made the necessary calls, telling my mom and cousin where I was and that I was among the living. That is something I owe to mother, that no matter wherever the hell I am, I tell her I am alive and not disabled in anyway. I could hear the maternal sigh on the other end of the line and I knew I had done the right thing by calling. I scarfed down the last bite of burger and met up with my cousin, who was waiting for a burger at another place in town. Standing outside of the establishment, loaded tank leaning precariously on some railing, as her carmates sat inside, looking out at me, a twang of sympathy changed their tones from not wanting to help carry some of my load up, to carrying everything for the rest of the ride to the festival. The stubborn voice in my head said don’t do it, you have already made it most of the way fully loaded…but fuck that guy and his voice, so I gladly handed over all my possessions to be petrol powered up the rest of way.


The rest of the ride was mostly downhill, over turquoise streams, and by turquoise lakes, only once climbing over a steep ridge, known as Suicide Switchback, the route’s last attempt to murder me. Unsuccessful, it relented and I rushed into Pemberton, passed the large welcome sign, 12 hours after I had set forth from my front door. I met up with my cousin and the car crew and loaded my stuff and some of their stuff onto the bike to roll it, through the struggling masses, who were dragging their camp stuff and coolers along the rocky, dusty path towards the festival campgrounds, some 40 minutes away. Score one for the bike came late that evening, as I whizzed passed all these poor bent over souls on my two wheels. A satisfaction creepily welled inside of me, like a Vincent Price cackle. I had made it. 180k on two wheels. A new personal record. Swag.

The video is on it’s way TONIGHT!