The Doldroms of 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

After an action-packed January including Vegas, Chicago, and Mexico, the rest of the winter was Canada as normal. Maybe a bit colder than normal, or so it seemed. There is little to report here because, first of all, as I write this it’s nearly a year later, and secondly, little of lasting interest (that I can remember) happened. I worked, probably went out a few times, saw some movies (what was even playing back then?) and so forth. All the while, Alabama Dan, aka Dan Fritts, a friend I’d travelled with in Singapore and Luang Prabang, was urging me to join his American Expedition, crisscrossing his homeland in search of adventure. I’m not going to tell you it wasn’t tempting, jealousy evoking, or any of that. I just couldn’t get away at that point. The latest request had been Hawaii, where he’d found a very cheap fare (from LA) and planned to do some volcano hiking and beach camping with Rich, his English travel buddy. Though I definitely couldn’t afford that, he floated the idea of going down to Guatemala for more of what I just described in Hawaii.

Even before I came back, I knew that my next trip – and one I’d like to do as soon as possible for age and life sorts of reasons – was going to be to Central and/or South America. When you travel you invariably run into people who have done cooler things than you in places you’ve never heard of. In Australia, that was Southeast Asia . And in Asia, it was South America. And to a lesser extent, Nepal, but let’s not get sidetracked here. The trip to Guatemala was very tempting indeed, except, again that I wanted to do more of the area than one country, but it was a way to perhaps go now. What stopped me from doing this was the prohibitive flight costs from Canada. The day before I would have left to meet Dan and Rich in Guatemala, I discovered that it hadn’t stopped a friend of mine. Megan and Brin, both of whom had also done Australia at the same time as me, were heading down to Guatemala for one month on precisely the day I would’ve been, having discovered a cheap flight. Talk about a small world.

As photos came back from Megan and Dan, I got a bit more excited to make my way into this part of the world. Not to mention that Larissa was working down there and fluent in Spanish, something I was very jealous of. Gears began to turn, but money meant I wouldn’t be able for some time. Luckily, I had picked up Warren Buffet’s biography on a whim and finished it in Mexico. As I read more related works (the Intelligent Investor and then Ben Graham’s Securities Analysis) through the dull winter, his philosophy seemed to crystallize in my mind. It was so clear, so patently obvious, and so at odds with the voodoo spouted by most in that business and I couldn’t put the books down. Moreover, the timing was perfect. The economy, according to all sources, was spiralling down endlessly, perhaps irretrievably. I think some people thought the world was going to end. Certainly, it wasn’t pretty. It’s now November and it’s still pretty shaky. But value is value and with a solid balance sheet and assets, an important company today should, when the smoke clears, be important tomorrow. By March, I’d found the companies I was to invest in – in fact, I found more that were so undervalued as to be almost risk free than I could afford. So I did what any brash and arrogant young man might do. I borrowed from the bank and invested in these gold mines (well, actually mostly copper mines) I’d found.

My selections were educated, my timing was simply plain lucky. As the stocks grew towards what their actual value, as I estimated it, was, the major hurdle to a southern sojourn was lifted. Which, it now occurs to me, is a funny expression because lifting a hurdle would make it harder to jump over. In the meantime, I did do other things besides working and reading company reports at home. A few live acts that came to town included Said the Whale, an excellent Vancouver band that I really love accompanied by The Zolas, whom I also thoroughly enjoyed and later discovered employed the pianist from Lotus Child. That was a great show. Xavier Rudd, Australian didgeridoo dynamo was in town and though he was excellent, the highlight may have been our bartender, Gavin Labelle, doing the worm across stage, telling the opening act (with long hair covering his eyes) to “Let his face be known”, and later recalling his antics at Athena. Jason Webley, a sort of one-man Gogol Bordello, and others came, left their marks, and left.

Winter eventually did the same, and spring quickly turned to summer, though a very windy and cloudy one. Meanwhile, I’d promised Dan I’d take a trip with him even as I knew that before the year was out, probably in September or October, I’d be beginning a trip to South America. As the summer months disappeared all too quickly in the heaps of activities, from golf to soccer to biking the river trails, time was running out and talk was of Alaska. That decided it. I would do Alaska because I’ve always wanted to get that far north, moreso in Canada, but Alaska would do. Plus I’d just watched a documentary on Denali and was very excited. As we researched it more, however, the costs were too great and we had to come up with an alternate. He was going to be on Vancouver Island anyway so that alternative didn’t take long to become apparent. We would journey together from Vancouver to Calgary, stopping at any and every interesting place along the way for hiking, photos, and we would do it as cheaply as possible. This was a plan I could get behind. As summer was threatening to disappear without ever having really come, I booked my flight to Vancouver for August 17. I would accompany Dan through most of the Canadian portion of his American expedition, crossing the mountains from Vancouver to Calgary. This was after my sisters and I packed up the car and drove out to Edmonton for two days and one night at West Ed, for good times, shopping, and waterslides. And it was after an as-always great Folkfest weekend with lots of volunteering, ouzo, and dancing. And, unfortunately, it was before our final soccer game, which I had to miss. But the Pylons went on and lost without my help and all the pieces were set for a great adventure across western Canada. And you'd better believe there are more posts to come on this topic.

Misc Summer Photos
Edmonton Photos
Folkfest Photos

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