Tuesday, November 23, 2010


So you know those people who have absolutely no problem inviting themselves places? Like Aunt Marge, who hears you and your mates organising a weekend pub crawl and mentions she'll pencil it in after bridge? Or Merve from accounting who you said 'hi' to in the lift, and suddenly he's joining you and your girlfriends for a spa weekend. Some are a little weird, some kinda scary and most just super friendly...maybe overly friendly.
As self-inviters go I reckon James West pretty much takes the title.
The gist of the story is this dude, Mr West, started receiving email from random people, most with the last name Tran and, assuming it was spam, he ignored it for two whole years. Then sometime earlier this year, curiosity got the best of him and he opened a few of the emails todiscover they were meant for another James West, a relative of the Trans. Turns out email-stalking is a bit like Pringles - once you pop you can't stop - and his addiction led him to the revelation that the Trans were planning a great family Thanksgiving.

So now Mr West is on a virtual crusade to find the Trans before Thanksgiving so he can attend their family dinner. He's read all the emails, learnt about their likes and dislikes, know what each memeber is bringing to dinner and is even taking something himself - the canned corn! The only problem is, he's not officially invited. So he's set up this Youtube video to Track Down the Trans:

And he's keeping the public updated at new (or new emails in this case) comes to hand - you can check out the second vid here. He's also stated that if he doesn't hear from them tomorrow he's going to email them, and may well jump on a plane to Florida anyway and see if he can track them down for dinner - canned corn in hand of course.
The comments on youtube aren't overly kind. Many are suggesting he should have emailed the family immediately and set them straight on his identity, most are labeling him as some kind of creepy stalker, which West himself acknowledges is a resonable assumption. I must admit, I tended to agree at first. But then I started thinking about it. Here's this guy who suddenly starts getting random emails from people who he doesn't know from a bar of soap and he manages to ignore them for two years. I know there's no way I would have held out for that long. I know I would have also read at least a couple before deciding whether to set the record straight too. And in all honesty, (and here's the biggie), is this worse than facebook stalking which many of us won't admit to but I'm pretty sure all of us do?
The emails came to his inbox addressed to him by name, which gives him much more right to read them than we have to scroll through messages sent from a friend to their sister or brother, or trawling through strangers photos. Sure, he probably should have just shot an email back letting them know they had the wrong person, and he probably took it a bit too far, but at least he has the guts to admit it - to the whole world even.
Putting the issue of stalking aside, the thing I love most about this is that West has taken a situation that could well have been done and dusted with a simple return email and turned it into an epic adventure. From a case of mistaken identity he's created an opportunity to travel to the other side of the world and make a whole bunch of new friends.
I think it's kinda cool. What about you? Creepy stalker or crazy Adventurer?

Friday, November 19, 2010

A fortunate event?

Yesterday marked one year since I tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in my right knee for the second time. A year ago today I was grimacing through the pain as I underwent scans, x-rays, poking and prodding. Last year on this day I spent most of the afternoon in tears, trying to convince myself it wasn't so bad, but knowing in the pit of my stomach that one wrong step would cause months of frustration and anguish.
I wasn't too far wrong. The damage had been done at work - a shoe sales job I'd had for a total of two weeks - but my claim for compensation was rejected on the grounds that the task I was doing - walking from the selling floor to the stock room - wasn't closely enough related to work. I was up for close to $8000 in medical bills and was now jobless.
After seeing a specialist I was immeidately booked in for surgery - I'd not only torn the ACL but severely damaged the cartilage around it. The whole area was already weak from a previous tear to the same ligament twelve years prior, meaning that would also have to be cleaned up and my recovery would likely be slower than average.
Twelve months later and my knee, while stronger than it's been in years, still aches on cold nights, or twinges if I move it at a funny angle. When it does, I remember how much heartache I've been through because of it, and the stress and frustration at having such a small thing cause so much havoc to my life financially, socially, physically, and emotionally. But I've also been thinking lately that maybe, even with all the tears it caused, this whole thing wasn't such a catastrophe after all.
I spent the morning setting up for a gala dinner for 1000 people. A lot of it was hard, hot work - moving tables, setting out chairs, folding napkins, and carting crates of cuttlery, crockery and glasses to and fro. But in the midst of all this, in fact while lugging 10kg of silverware from one end of the room to the other, I realised I was living my dream.
Ok, so not my complete dream. I'd much prefer to not be covered in sweat and dust, and maybe also to be in charge of the event rather than just part of the staff of extras, but the essence of the dream is there. I was part of the process. My hand was involved in creating this thing, this event that, for those attending tomorrow night, will hopefully be something more than just a dinner.
There's this overwhelming craziness that comes from seeing a decrepit cattle pavillion transformed from an empty hall into a 5-star ballroom, and knowing that you were responsible (even in a small way) for that. As odd as it sounds, it's almost like the birth of a temporary artwork, the creation of something for others to share. And pulling something off successfully gives me this incredible rush of ecstasy that I can ride for days!
Sure, there's bits that aren't so fun - the mountains of paperwork, insurances and licenses for a start - but every job has its downfalls, and the good stuff far outweighs the bad stuff.
The good stuff: playing with themes and ideas, creating the most outrageous things you can come up with, transporting people from the normal to the amazing, hearing someone talk about something you helped create months (or even years) later, improvising, imagining and innovating.
This time last year I'd been two weeks in a job I already hated. I was a recent uni graduate with no savings, no decent job prospects and far too much debt. I felt defeated, frustrated and lost. Now? I still have no savings, another year of study to get through and far too much debt. And I've still got a dodgy knee and a lot of things that frustate me. But I've also got a direction, and I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't be going in the same one had I not torn my ACL, and been forced to up-end my whole life and reconsider where I was heading. I don't want to give my knee too much credit, but maybe someday I can say this little drama is responsible for helping me become the Aussie version of Colin Cowie, creator of stuff like this: 

A Wedding in Cabo San Lucas