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My name is Benjamin A. Vazquez, U.E. The U.E. stands for Union of Empire, and was granted in perpetuity to the descendents of all Loyalists who left America for points-still-British following the revolution. I'm actually only 1/64th Loyalist (the Buchners fled New Jersey for the Niagra Peninsula), but I'll use the title when I'm feeling funky because I'm deeply proud of my family history, on all sides, and on some petty level it seems to put me in touch with the great flow of world history. Beyond the Buchners I can trace my roots to some of the first European settlers in the Lucan, Ontario area (the Stanleys), to significant fortunes in Victorian Montreal, Toronto, and London (of which only the faintest traces remain)(the Buchners and the Gallaghers), to war heros in the Spanish Civil War (the Vazquezes), to Holacuast victims (the Wisburns), and to some of the first Jewish settlers in Isreal (the Wisburns). Ethnically I can point to English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Norman, Saxon, Spanish, and German-Jewish blood. I've wanted for some time to say I have no Native blood in me. Not that I'd be averse to having Native blood, but being able to say so for certain would mean having traced back every one of my direct ancestors to at least 1492. Which would be very cool indeed. A project for another day, though.
But who am I? After all, my ancestors in 1492 are quite likley all dead, and aren't likley to be sleeping on anybody's couch. My name is Benjamin. At least that's what I'm trying to convince people of, but most of them still call me Ben. I don't like Ben, but it works, and I'll answer to it. My favorite English Teacher, Mr. Pereira, called me Fuzzy, but only a select collection of people are allowed to follow him in that path. He named me thus because of the vast, uncontrolable beard which occupies much of my face, and after his earlier nickname, first-born (I'm the eldest of four sons), failed to stick. It was really quite awkward, so I can't say I'm disapointed. I've also been called Monoply Man, also by a dear old friend, and again, only a limited number of people are allowed to follow her down that path.
I was born into an upper-middle class family in London, Ontario. My great-grandfather had been something of a pillar of local society, and my grandfather continues to be active in various groups of societies throughout the London area, and played a series of significant roles at city hall until his retirment. My immediate upbringing, however, was rather different, as my mother felt it inappropriate to raise children in the city (I don't agree), while my father was (and is) an entrepeneur who got restless the instant one of his buisness seemed to mature. Accordingly, I grew up in a sort of rural isolation. Because my parents felt a half-hour to school and a half-hour back every day was excessive, they homeschooled me, and it wasn't until high school that I began to have any kind of meaningful relationships with my peers. It's a good thing and a bad thing. I'm still terribly awkward in many kinds of social situations, but at the same time mass movements have always washed over me like the tide, and I must say I'm glad to be free of their influence. Flaming Pop Trash and the Televiscious.
The reasonable man adopts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists to adopt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man. - George Bernard Shaw
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with every-growing insistence. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. - Daniel Hudson Burnham
Why I’m on Couchsurfing
HOW I PARTICIPATE IN COUCHSURFING
I've surfed a great deal and I'm looking foward to hoasting now.
I've surfed with some amazing people in a number of different states. I've also chatted with loads of CSers in various places about various things. It's been a trip.
I have a habit of obsessing over my interests, and as such I've often come to points in my life when I know an incredible amount about some relitively obscure topic. Though I'm certain the phenomenon predates the Triassic, sitting here today the furthest I can carry it back is to my childhood interest in dinosaurs. The terrible lizards fascinated me. I talked about them day and night with anyone who would listen. I poured over books clearly meant for people whose bedtimes were no longer dictated by their parents. My mother has fond memories of me correcting the tour guides at the Royal Ontario Museum. I knew my stuff. While my peers interest in dinosaurs was limited to "scary" and "rawwarr", I was reading about nesting habits, diets, pre-historic geography, and extinction theories. My dinosaur moments haven't left me all that terribly knowledgable about dinosaurs today, unfortunately. It's been a decade and a half since I took the Mezoic truly seriously, and I'm good and rusty. I still remember odd things. I'm sure I know more than most, even now. But I couldn't talk half so intelligentl, and my days of correcting tour guides are probably over. Most significantly, all my vocabularu has vanished. So that for much of what I do remember I'm reduced to talking about "the, uh, big one, you know, big snout, stood upright ... oh damn".
But if my dinosaur knowledge has served me poorly, the pattern it set is still well and truly in place. No subect stands alone. Dinosaurs were the end goal, but in order to properly get at them I had to delve into geography, plate tectonics, animal behavior and intelligence, biology, evolution, botany, life cycles, archaeology and preservation methods, and the trials and triumphs of scholarship on what is, after all, very meagre evidence.* I took that and passed it along to my next obsession, one I recieved from my grandfather: railways.
I adored railawys. These spectaculaur networks, lacing whole continents in iron and steel. As with dinosaurs, I thought of nothing else for years. And as with dinosaurs, the spin-offs were endless. If I wanted to know anything about trains, I had to know something about history, or at least history since the 1850's or so. If I wanted to understand why they ran where they ran, I had to delve into the wonderful worlds of cartography (I can still spend more time happily staring at maps than anyone else I know) and economics. I set into model railroading with a passion that at times overshaddowed my interest in the real thing. That came with its own sub elements. A model railway is its own contained little world, and everything from the scenery to the operation can be planned out in excruciating detail.
I still know a great deal about railways - certainly more than I do about dinosaurs - but the transitional link to the worlds I inhabit now was railway stations. I set into a study of small town stations and rapidly moved on to an interest in larger and more complex structures. I still can recognise images of most of North America's great railway terminals at a glance. My love affair with Detroit started with the great hulk of the Michigan Central Station. And railway stations and the city of Detroit converged upon each other to produce an obsession with architecture.
And this is what it comes down to now: architecture. I know my buildings, at least aesthetically speaking. Oddly enough, I'm extremly weak on my technical aspects, but I know the art of the thing, and the history. I've come to know a great deal about history, particulaurly European history and art history.. I'm growing increasingly interested in the history of my own continent as well, and this could yet grow into a new obsession.
Work in progress.... We apologise for the interuption.
* Some species are extremly well documented, but even that only means a few hundred complete skeletons. And in other cases all we know about a particulaur kind of dinosaur is represented by a leg bone, half a skull, and some preserved footprints. And it's only guesswork to say that the three artifacts DO in fact belong together.
Music, Movies, and Books
Musically my tastes are rather diverse, although given a choice they tend towards the purely instrumental. I have a great love for classical music, instrumental jazz, and good electronica, although there's a lot of bad electronica out there. As a general rule, music of that last sort which has been designed strictly for dancing can be sub-par. I've also got a Leonard Cohen thing, a Lorena McKennet thing, and a Chris de Burgh thing.
As far as drama goes, I love musicals. Both on the screen and on the stage. My personal favorite by quite some margin is the Phantom of the Opera, but there a dozens of others I've seen that are aproaching that level of coolness. I also enjoy Shakespere. I understand Shakespere's language, which apparently other people don't. It is just english, after all. I can sit down to several hours of early-modern English and comprehend every word, while my companions don't understand a thing. I suspect it comes from exposure to the King James Bible from an early age. That's early-modern English as well.
I read voraciously. Anything and everything I can get my hands on, but mostly non-fiction. A great deal of history and a great deal of urban studies. Jane Jacobs is my hero.
When I do sit down to fiction, it tends to be by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or Borghes.
One Amazing Thing I’ve Done
I used to fill this slot with my long distance biking, but sometimes things start to feel more mundane once you do them more often. It seemed perfectly reasonable to fill the slot with my bike trip around Lake Erie, but now that I've biked all through Upstate New York and the New England Coast it seems much more commonplace, just another way to get around. Either way, I'm not doing that anymore, as I simply don't have the time to dedicate to biking these days. We'll see what else we can fill the slot with. I've been thinking about writing a series of children's books, ostensibly for my cousins, but potentially to publish as well if they get good enough. We'll see.
Teach, Learn, Share
I'd be willing to teach any number of things, from European history to Architectural appreciation to Urban studies. None of them I'd be in any way the best candidate for, though.
Countries I’ve Visited
Canada, United States
Countries I’ve Lived In
Canada, United States