Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Adventures in motoring

On Boxing Day I drove up to Red Deer to pick up C., Terri's sister. On the return trip, the van seemed to behave strangely. It appeared to run just fine, but shuddered a bit, I pulled over to check a few of the basics, but back on the road it seemed the whole rear end was shaking. I figured it was transmission or linkage-related, but couldn't get it in until yesterday, at which point the shaking was much worse, and the transmission refused to switch from first to second without a great deal of complaining.

They did a diagnostic at National Transmission, and yes, the transmission was confused as to what gear to be in, but it was because the engine was misfiring... on ALL cylindars!

When I heard over the phone,

"All your cylindars have dropped",

I had visions of an engine rebuild... remember, I'm a sound guy, not a mechanic, and what I heard SOUNDED bad! I just about ordered another beer! (I was sitting in at the Beagle next door!)

He said, "Well, at least it's not expensive transmission work, but you could need a new ignition kit."

National wasn't set up to do such a repair, but made a couple calls for me and got me booked in at another garage... for January 2nd. Hmm... not great, after all, we have work on Wednesday night! BUT... at least it was relatively minor. I've done ignition kits in almost every vehicle I've owned... anything over 160K probably DESERVES an ignition kit.

I called my regular mechanic, Brian, who I knew was away in Mexico for the season, but was pretty sure his shop guy was kicking around. Sure enough, he answered the phone. OK, now for the million dollar question:

"Are you guys super busy, or can you take an ignition kit job?"

"Naw, we're actually pretty slow after I get this last truck done..."

"I'll be by in 20 minutes!"

I didn't have time to line up a ride home, but I really didn't care. These guys are good, and aren't $100+ per hour for shop time.

I was told they could get to my van in a couple hours, and it would be about an hour for the job. So, I walked home... from 16th. Avenue (the Transcanada Highway) and Edmonton Trail... a healthy hour, anyway. Of course, I stopped for a Tims along the way... two blocks shy of Starbucks, but really...

I was out for dinner with my friends Nique and Sharon from Elementary school days - Sharon was in town for Christmas from Vancouver - when my phone rang, about 8PM. My truck was ready, and all it was was a completely decintigrated rotor. I needed, indeed, an igniton kit, distributor cap and rotor.

Good news.

I did, however, get the voicemail when I called just now, so it could be a while before I get my van back... but it's fixed!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Celebrating 22 Years

Today is my company's 22nd. birthday. It was on this day back in 1986 that we did our first event for actual dollars!

To celebrate, my friends Mark and Jennifer and I went to Zoolights tonight. It was chilly at -27C., but a pause for hot chocolate and periodically at the various fire pits, we kept relatively warm.

Mark and Jennifer clutching hot chocolate!

Me and Mark under the tunnel of lights to the Dorothy Harvey Gardens

With a quick pause by home for a shower and a change of clothes, I'm off to my friend Rick's Eggnog Open House.
Rick and I have been friends since 1986 as well, so it's a wonderful day full of celebrations! I was by this afternoon to drop off some light for the garage mirror ball to find everything in order by 5:30 - a record in the history of the Eggnog Open House.

Here Rick sets up a shot of the two ladies largely responsible for bringing the house to order for the event.

Rick has this pump organ on display in his dining room... and it works!

Gotta run - more about Eggnog and such soon!


Monday, December 15, 2008

"Turn it into something you love." - TG, December 2008

Last week I said something to a friend of mine that didn't really soak in until yesterday... for me.

My friend Lori and I were having coffee as we do on occasion - sampling the seasonal specials at Starbucks. I don't often go in for the fancy, expensive, foo-foo drinks but decided to give it a shot.

As we sat over our steaming chocolate-coffee-something-or-others, our conversation was of well being, fitness and healthy eating... go figure!

As of late, I've been extremely pleased with my success at the yoga studio. I've finally found something that is not only doable, but enjoyable as well. I believe it to be in large part due to the non-competitive nature of yoga. It's also been a vehicle for me to discover that doing "a little a lot" accomplishes far more than doing "a lot, a little". In very simple terms, I love it.

Lori's been going to the gym, and was concerned that it wasn't all that easy for her to keep it up - thus, she wasn't all that happy with her progress. I asked her if she loved it. I cannot remember her exact words, but the essence of her response was 'no'. It seemed it was something she HAD to do to lose weight and feel good. She didn't say anything about enjoying the process, and that's what prompted me to say,

"Turn it into something you love."

I explained WHY I love yoga, and that because I've been able to set it up to be exactly what I want, I keep at it with enthusiasm.

I was reminded of my own words yesterday when I was feeling kinda down about things in general.

The day started with contemplating whether or not to attend church. even though I was curious to see what had transpired since last week, I felt really agitated. I was feeling a wreck, so I decided that I've spent enough energy on it. I'll share the story in time, but for now I need to take a step back.

So, to make a conscious effort to change modes, I went about doing things that I love. I went for a Nellie's breakfast in Marda Loop with a friend and followed it up with a trip to the pottery studio.

I woke up early this morning thinking some more about my oh-so-profound words,

"Turn it into something you love."

It's on my agenda this week to apply the theory to some other area. It works with yoga because I can do it on my own terms. Perhaps it's time to tackle the paperwork in the office, or apply it to... sales. *shudder*

OK, maybe I should start with something I LIKE and see how it goes.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 08, 2008

When does descretion become censorship? - Part one of ???

It's a question that's been rolling around in my mind for the last twenty hours or so.

Yesterday I went to church.

I grew up in this church, and up until very recently I've been for the most part, content.

Although I'm not what you might consider a 'regular' church goer, I've found a great deal of sociablility and family love here; the people are great. One of my closest friends whose belief is in science (if he can prove it, he'll believe it) said something to the effect, "...what I like about your church is that it's not really... 'churchy'. There's a great sense of community here."

What makes it less 'churchy', I suppose, is a relatively easy-going sense about the people. Typically they haven't been hung up on church dogma and a rigid sense of right and wrong. There has always been a humanness about each and every person I've known.

I have to laugh when I think about the fact that some folks from other churches do something of a double take when they hear that we host pub nights twice a year. Of course, it's more about the singing of old English pub tunes and less about the consumption of pub beverages... depending on who you talk to, of course. Their sound guy has been known to be bribed with a bottle of home made wine in exchange for some stage lighting and a handful of microphones. ;)

What happened on Sunday, with respect to the events of the last six weeks or so, has me seriously questioning the actions of a few that may have a vital impact on the many.

At the end of the service, the congrigation was presented with an announcement from the Wardens informing the parish of the Rector's resignation. There was a bit of a hush and a sigh in the half-filled church. No problem, people resign all the time, right?

The next announcement to come was that the parish secretary had also submitted her resignation.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

As the story steeps...

It's a real doozie - not something to be taken lightly, nor blogged on a whim. I'm seriously prepping for this post, the events of which continue to unfold, morph and change, but the underlying issue remains the same.

Involved are integrety, intent, spirituality and human relations. I know this sounds a might cryptic, but stay with me - I'll be asking for your opinion.

More later on this same station.

Turtle out.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Blog Post Brewing

Recent events have my blood boiling. I'd best not write now, but will be posting very soon about the true meaning of Christmas.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Life is pretty darn good.

Yup. Lots going on here - back to pottery, made a really cool piece today, but I won't disclose its particulars until it's complete. One beautiful and universal truth about pottery is that you should never attach yourself emotionally to any of your pieces since at any time they could either become something else, or bust... which I guess, in a way, is something else!

Yoga's proving to be beneficial. Last Thursday, the chiropractor asked what I'd been up to.

"Welcome to our place of healing"

was quickly followed by

"You need some Active Release, but your adjustments are very minor today."

He wasn't at all surprised when I told him what I'd been up to yoga-wise.

"Keep up the yoga!"

Yes sir. No problem. You see, I found the 'high' - that sense of euphoria that people who do sports feel when they're on their game. Yoga does it for me - a high, even on a bad day. If you want in on my sort-of-yoga-log, sometimes simply comments on the yoga world in general, go to The Ashtanga Turtle.

Did I tell you I bought a guitar? No?

I bought a guitar. It's even USB ready, and you can tune it electronically on line. Cool, eh?

Work moves along swiftly - not a lot to tell, it's pretty status quo, but doing what it's supposed to. All I can say about what stands out are the guys who work for me - they're amazing... always stepping up to the plate when the bell rings.

I've had a devil of a time getting my house in order... my real house - the place where I hang my hat. I'll try to post pictures soon, but we recently installed a new tub with shower surround and new overhead rain shower head. Some parts are still on back order, so it's not quite ready, and the bathroom is due for a fresh coat of paint, but moving forward nicely.

Sir William is right at home, taking to sleeping on the bed these days too. I think he's warming up to me and his new surroundings rather nicely.

Still miss Tiki though... she ran away back in July... *sigh*

More later,

Turtle out.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

To my friend on her second birthday

This from 365 Tao - today's meditation.


A course sieve catches little.
A fine mesh catches more.
If you want the subtle, be refined,
But prepare to deal with the coarse.

The irony of spiritual living is that you become more sensitive and more subtle. Therefore, you become intolerant of the coarse. There is not much choice in this. If you want to catch the subtle things in life, then you must become refined yourself. But the coarser things will then accumulate all the more quickly. A coarse sieve in a rushing stream will hold back only debris and large rocks. A fine mesh will catch smaller things, but it will also retain the large.

Some people attempt to cope with this by becoming multilayerd. They set up a series of screens to their personalities, from the coarse to the subtle so that they can deal with all that life has to offer. This is quite laudable from an ordinary point of view, but from the point of view of Tao, it is a great deal of bother.

What do we do? If we remain coarse, then only the coarse comes to us. If we become subtle, then we gain the refined, but are plagued with the coarse as well. If we become multilayered, then we create a complexity that isolates us from Tao.

The solution lies in floating on the current of Tao, uniting with it. That way we no longer seek to hold or to reject.

Meditation for November 27
365 Tao
Deng Ming-Dao
Harper Collins

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things I do when I'm tired

Messing up is one of them, and today it led me to some wise words and questions to ponder - rhetorical or otherwise. Fairly regularly I read from a book called "365 Tao". It's a collection of Taoist meditations - one for each day of the year. The reading guide in the back of the book suggests an order in which to read these. It's listed for both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Sometimes it's easy to look up the date and inadvertently read the meditation for the South, but today brought a unique kind of mishap: Somehow I chose a meditation for July... dunno how, but it happened, and the words were uniquely appropriate for me, today. Whether this means that I, myself, am out of sync with the seasons and possibly my own sense of Tao, I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure I was somehow meant to read these words today:


When washing your face, can you see your true self?

When urinating, can you remember true purity?

When eating, can you remember the cycle of all things?

When walking, can you feel the rotation of heaven?

When working, are you happy with what you do?

When speaking, are your words without guile?

When you shop, are you aware of your needs?

When you meet the suffering, do you help?

When confronted with death, are you unafraid and lucid?

When you meet conflict, do you work toward harmony?

When with your family, do you express benevolence?

When raising children, are you tender but firm?

When facing problems, are you far-seeing and tenacious?

When you are finished with work, do you take time to rest?

When preparing for rest, do you know how to settle your mind?

When sleeping, do you slip into absolute void?

Meditation for July 12
365 Tao
Deng Ming-Dao
Harper Collins

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Early morning ponderings

Things here seem to be levelling out for the most part. Although the ideas for blog posts seem to be mounting, (I have literally four or five things I'd like to document)one in particular came to mind as I woke up this morning. It may be an ages-old story, I'm not sure, but I'd heard it a couple weeks ago and it's been sitting in the back of my mind burbling away.

It's the story of the University professor who is prepared for a talk in front of his students. In front of him is a tall glass jar filled with golf balls and two glasses of wine. The question he poses to his students is this:

"Is the jar full?"

The students all nod in agreement; of course it's full... of golf balls.

The professor then produces a container of small stones. He pours the stones over top the golf balls and they begin to fill in the spaces between the balls.

"Is it full now?"

The students look at each other, some laugh; of course, we hadn't thought of that.

The professor smiles and brings out a container of sand. Sure enough, the sand filters through all the remaining cracks between the small stones.

"Is it full NOW?"

Of course, they agree, the glass jar is finally full. The professor asks,

"Now, what's the point of all this?"

They're not really sure.

"I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favourite passions; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else; the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first", he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the good things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18 holes. Do one more run down the ski slope. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first; the things that really matter. Set your priorities.

The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the two glasses of wine represented.

The professor smiled, took the two glasses of wine and poured the contents of both into the jar over the golf balls, stones and sand.

"No matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of glasses of wine with a friend."

Sunday, November 02, 2008


On Wednesday last week I took a trip to Vulcan to seek out my grandparent's burial plots. I arrived at the Town Office in the morning to fetch a map of the cemetery. I was surprised to note that the names of those buried there were actually all listed on the map. I must have given the clerk a look of bewilderment when I looked down to see not two, but four plots for "Hoskyn". For a split second I thought,

"Was Dad supposed to be buried here?"

It would appear that Grandpa Charles must have purchased a 'family plot'.

Knowing full well that Dad had made his burial request years ago, there should be no need to panic.

So, off to the cemetery I went.

Relatively in the centre of the yard is the Field of Honour, dedicated to the soldiers of the First and Second World War. I decided to use it as a reference point against the map. I was very quickly lost because this section sits 90 degrees out from the drawing on the map. Once I discovered this, however, Grandma and Grandpa Hoskyn's plots were easily visible from the dirt road that runs around the perimeter of the cemetery yard.

I took this journey (a little over two months after having taken Dad down for his birthday in August) mostly for me, but in a way for him too. I placed Dad's urn by the stones that stand for his parents, Laura and Charles. Regardless of what you may believe, I think it was something of a family reunion, on a spiritual level anyway.

I spent some time reflecting about Dad and the stories he used to tell about his folks. He'd lost his Mom when he was three or four and his Dad when he was twenty-five. I'm thankful that I was blessed with him for much longer, especially since my parents didn't start a family until they were in their fourties.

Charles, Frank and Connie Hoskyn c. 1929 (?)

Connie, Frank and Bill the Cat

Frank and Connie c. 1928

I took a tour of Vulcan including a drive by the Hoskyn house. If you look at the railing and lattice in the above photo, you'll see that not much has changed. I did notice that the house has received a coat of paint since our trip in August.

For Dad's birthday on August 19th., we road tripped to Vulcan to visit Dad's high school friend, Henry Hansen, who spoke about their 69-year friendship at Dad's service in September.

Dad with Henry Hansen c. 2004 ?

We attended the 50th. Anniversary celebration dinner and dance for St. Andrew's Anglican Church on Friday, September 12. Dad got in on a photo of the founding members of the parish. He looks positively happy.

The founding members of St. Andrew's Anglican Church - Calgary September 12, 2008
Frank stands second from the left, back row ; Margery is on the right hand side, front row

Dad's interment service was held on Saturday, November 1, 2008 at Mountain View Memorial Gardens. I had the honour of placing Dad's urn in the niche and although it provided for much closure for all of us, I have to admit it will likely be some time before life, for me, returns to normal.

HOSKYN _ Frank William
August 19, 1924 - September 14, 2008

Frank William Hoskyn, beloved husband of Margery of Calgary, passed away on Sunday, September 14, 2008 at the age of 84 years. Frank was born and grew up in Vulcan, AB. After attending Normal School, he began his teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse in Dorothy at age nineteen. He trained as a navigator/bomber in the Royal Canadian Air Force and then earned a B.Ed. from the University of Alberta. Frank continued his teaching career in Calgary where, over the years, he was teacher, Reading Consultant, Elementary School Principal and Resource Teacher. He was also active in the Canadian Teachers' Federation and the Alberta Teachers' Association. He was President of the Provincial Alberta Teachers' Association in 1966/1967. Frank retired in 1986. As an active Anglican, Frank was a member of the Cathedral choir and played an important role in establishing St. Andrew's parish where he participated as a member of the Choir, Treasurer and Vestry member. He also cared for the gardens and grounds at the church. After retirement, Frank continued to be active in the community. He was Chairman of the Calgary branch of Save the Children Canada and was involved in the establishment of the Nose Hill Branch of the Calgary Public Library. He also enjoyed the personal pursuits of gardening, reading, classical music and travelling. Frank was predeceased by his father, Charles, and mother, Laura, of Vulcan and sister, Connie, of Calgary. He is survived by his wife of forty-two years, Margery, children Laura May (Doug), David and three grandchildren. Funeral Services will be held at St. Andrew's Anglican Church (1611 St. Andrew's Place N.W.) today, September 19, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. Forward condolences through www.mcinnisandholloway.com . If friends so desire, memorial tributes may be made directly to Save the Children Canada, 4141 Yonge Street, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario M2P 2A8 (Toll Free 1-800-668-5036. Email sccan@savethechildren.ca) or St. Andrew's Anglican Church, Calgary, 1611 St. Andrew's Place N.W. (Telephone 403-282-3234). In living memory of Frank Hoskyn, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Crowfoot Chapel, 82 CROWFOOT CIRCLE N.W. Telephone: 403-241-0044. Published in the Calgary Herald from 9/17/2008 - 9/19/2008

Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honored among wagons I was prince of the appletowns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, and lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying stable
On the fields of praise.

And honored among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house-high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky-blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow-thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Pterygoidal Torturist

Her name is Allison.

She is my massage therapist.

The other day she introduced me to muscles above and along my jaw that I had no idea existed. I'm sure that the Pterygoid's sole purpose is to provide an outlet for inflicting pain. You can find it if you place your index finger behind your earlobe and against your cheek. The outter Pterygoidal muscle runs along your jaw. I've never known such excruciating pain in my life as for the several minutes Allison spent working on my jaw.

Everyone carries stress in different parts of their body. It would appear that I've found where my stress is harboured!

At chiro, Dr. Mike suggested a few simple stretches, and THESE are ones I rarely forget to do!

Turns out that the world is indeed a small place. Allison's Mom is living in the same extended care facility as my Mom -- and, they know each other.

Yesterday's massage therapy was cancelled because Allison had a conference to attend.

Ah, spared...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The system of things

This in by email - thought it was pretty amusing:

A Christian Democrat:
You have two cows. You keep one and give one to your neighbor. Then you covet it.

A Socialist (or a Canadian New Democrat):
You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor. You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his.

A Republican (or a Canadian Conservative):
You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So what?

A Democrat (or a Canadian Liberal):
You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. You vote people into office who tax your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.

A Communist:
You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk. You wait in line for hours to get it. It is expensive and sour.

A Fascist:
You have two cows. The government seizes both and sells you the milk. You join the underground and start a campaign of sabotage, which ultimately blows up the cows.

Democracy, American Style:
You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point you have to sell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow, which was a gift from your government.

Capitalism, American Style:
You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

Bureaucracy, American Style:
You have two cows. The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, then pours the milk down the drain.

An American Corporation:
You have two cows. You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one. You force the 2 cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to the analysts that you have reduced your expenses. Your stock goes up.

A French Corporation:
You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows. You go to lunch. Life is good.

A Japanese Corporation:
You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains. Most are at the top of their class at cow school.

A German Corporation:
You have two cows. You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.
You have two cows. You reengineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour. Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.

An Italian Corporation:
You have two cows but you don't know where they are. While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman. You break for lunch. Life is good.

A Russian Corporation:
You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You have some more vodka. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka. You produce your 10th, 5-year plan in the last 3 months. The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.

A Mexican Corporation:
You think you have two cows, but you don't know what a cow looks like. You take a nap.

A Swiss Corporation:
You have 5000 cows, none of which belongs to you. You charge for storing them for others. If they give milk, you tell no one.

A Brazilian Corporation:
You have two cows. You enter into a partnership with an American corporation. Soon you have 1000 cows and the American corporation declares bankruptcy.

An Indian Corporation:
You have two cows. You worship them.

A Taliban Corporation:
You have all the cows in Afghanistan, which is two. You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature's private parts. At night when no one is looking, you milk both of them. Then you kill them and claim a US bomb blew them up while they were in the hospital.

A Polish Corporation:
You have two bulls. Several people are killed while attempting to milk them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

All the questions come at 5:00 in the morning

...like, "Why the hell am I up... now???" It doesn't matter what the answer is, as long as it satisfies the question:

*Your Dad died and you're clearly not at peace with it.

*Your relationship fell apart, and all you can come up with right now are more questions, not answers.

*In a purely reactive move, you layed a whole bunch of stress on a good friend and now you wish you could press rewind... or apologize, or put that shell to good use.

*You're struggling to find the balance between what to share and what to keep to yourself.

or likely,

*You drank too much coffee yesterday, dummy...

...speaking of coffee, my Mom called yesterday. She invited me down for coffee and cookies. The coffee they serve at Mom's is exceptionally average, so on the way I stopped at the neighbourhood coffee shop for some Cochrane Coffee Traders coffee... it truly gives Timmies a run... and the best part? It too, is Canadian.

We talked about Dad, his absence, his presence, his love and his grace. We talked about who he is - not as a result of his Dementia, not as a result of the worldly factors of stress and social pressure that change or stifle who you really are, but exactly that: who he really is.

The other day I shared with a friend a spiritual experience I had a while back in which Dad's spirit - the essence of who he is - was with me. It was one of those life experiences that would likely have one committed if the details were leaked too freely. Simply put, my Dad and I spent some quality time together. He was free of all the encumbrances of the world, and it has me thinking what life might be like if we all strived to live free while we're here. There seem to be so many petty things that become major life intrusions that, after consulting with Dad (the part that could have me committed, yes?) has me re-prioritising a few important bits.

Sir William has just arrived to remind me that feeding the cat is good stewardship... of the cat. Therefore, I shall tend to Sir William and will write more later.

Turtle out.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cats are good therapy

As I make my way through this rather exhaustive week, I'm acutely aware of how I'm feeling emotionally, physically and intellectually.

The most obvious of all is my physical being. I'm a wreck. All that work I've done with yoga, chiro and massage seems to have been for not this week... or is that "knot"? (sorry, bad massage humour!) I was saying to a friend today that I really must get on the physical fitness bandwagon big-time, because look at what a few simple downturns has done to me! His response?

"Dave, there are four things that are rated the top most stressful events in a person's life: A breakup or divorce, loss of a loved one, moving and changing jobs. You've had three of these in the last two months... you're entitled to be a wreck for a while!"

Doesn't change the fact that I feel "less-than" physically right now, and a little focus on my well-being is certainly in order. I'm also spending less time with my business these days: putting in half-days, not covering all bases, and in general looking for ways to get other people to do the work. OK, that last part is a fundamental of business in general, but for a guy who's "done it all" most of his working career, it provides for a dynamic shift in daily ops.

Emotionally, I'm a lot more stable than I had anticipated. Over the last number of years I've chosen to look at what I have rather than what I do not, and what's really great rather than what's going wrong. I think that this shift has been paramount in my ability to deal with all of life's little stresses as of late.

Intellectually, well, I'm surveying the whole thing in my mind a lot more than perhaps is necessary, but also looking at all of this with an open mind and a view to a learning experience like no other. It's no secret that things like a death in the family or a breakup will bring friends and family closer together, and indeed it has. In the last two weeks I've spent more time socializing with my closest friends and family than I have in a long, long time. That's something, considering I'm a pretty social guy on a regular day anyway!

So time will pass, pain will diminish and life will carry on.

I was working away on the sound system at the church the other day, and as is my custom, I throw in a cd to have on in the background while I'm there. My copy of Compadres "Buddy Where You Been?" has taken up residence in the sound rack there, and as I was listening away (while drilling holes in the pulpit... who gets to do THAT and get away with it, I ask you!?) these words caught my ear:

Mother and Father are both now gone;
Brothers and Sisters they are carrying on:
Try their ores in different waters,
Looking out for their sons and daughters.

It's all about carrying on, really.

What does this have to do with cats? Nothing. As the title of this post suggests, they are indeed, good therapy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Blog Therapy

I haven't blogged seriously in ages, mostly because I've been so busy with life as it happens that there's been no time to document it.

Over the last six or eight weeks, the stressors in my life have been mounting. Each on its own is completely handleable, but as they continue to add up in a seemingly short period of time, I'm noticing a physical change in my body, lowered energy levels and an emotional unwellness akin to lonliness, heartache and depression.

The biggies are:
Tiki went out in a rainstorm back in July and hasn't returned.
My Dad passed away on September 14.
Nathalie returned to Quebec on September 26.

Each of these probably deserves a novel of a post each, but suffice it to say I'm really not up for that, and it's probably best to keep most of it out of the public realm.

As the last four or five days have gone, my sleep pattern has evolved into something of an 11PM to 5AM cycle with a frenzied sense of "I gotta do it all, and now!" in between.

Today, however, I slept in to the point of missing my 7:30 Chiropractic appointment. Two hours later, I was in his office, ready for a much-needed adjustment.

I then found myself in Chapters killing time before an eye exam at 11:40, wandering around aimlessly looking at books for no apparent reason, sucking back a half-coffee-half-whole cream pick-me-up. Then it was off to COSTCO for some kitty liter because...

I returned home to find a new resident feline in the window:

Meet Sir William. He hails from the Hanna SPCA, and he's the sweetest guy!
(the orange paper in the window is to keep the birds from cracking their wee beaks... Sir William would be happy about that, I'm sure!)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Something light

I found this highly amusing, and the timing was perfect - I needed a little 'light' in my day...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

To My Dear Father

Frank Hoskyn
August 19, 1924 - September 14, 2008

Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honored among wagons I was prince of the appletowns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, and lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying stable
On the fields of praise.

And honored among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house-high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky-blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow-thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.


Friday, August 29, 2008

For Mollie & Elle

One of the first blogs I ever started to read was IPODMAMA, now IPM. I haven't been around in ages, but dropped in today to this post to discover lost love at 16.

I've always believed that music is a way to express and to cope.

Maybe this'll help...

Thinking of you both.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bonding over a wheelbarrow

Something I've known all along came to light the other day. It's one of those things that often is taken for granted. I'm not sure how many of you can look back on your life and shake hands with those who have been a part of it for a quarter century or more, but that's a reality for me.

I interact regularly with long-time friends, but what I thought about the other day was the great number of those with whom I share a lengthy history and more specifically, those who aren't always in my 'daily' life. I have these people in my life who seem to be off doing their 'thing' and we rarely spend any time together. When we do, we each appear not to have missed a heartbeat: we pick up where we left off as if no time had passed whatsoever.

It's a great feeling and it gives me every reason to continue to make more friends.

Today I spent some quality time with my new neighbour, also Dave but no relation. We did what neighbours do - talked about neighbourhood goings-on, and he borrowed a wheelbarrow. Is this another quarter-century friend in the making? Only time will tell, but for now it's a great feeling meeting a new, great neighbour.

What's your wheelbarrow doing these days?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Along the road of life..

...there are

OK, I thought it was funny...

I was cruising around on Facebook and noticed that one of my friends had recently returned from England. She'd taken that photo, along with this one...


It would appear that I am living vicariously through other, more seasoned travellers! These were good for a chuckle, but seeing the other photos brought back some fond memories of our visit in 1982.

Life moves along here - not so much full of places I've travelled to, but rather, times had with good friends.

Speaking of priceless...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Got any ideas?

The question I pose here is directed toward those in my home town of Calgary since the answer lies locally.

Can you recommend a good yoga studio?

Frankly, I miss yoga. Well, not so much yoga as much as the structured classes. I do some yoga at home and when I'm out and about -- like camping at Radium a couple weeks back. Trouble with yoga is that it seems it's so "trendy" these days, and picking the right studio and the right instructor is as important as one's focus on the yoga itself. I'm a pretty easy-going guy and for the most part, pretty accepting of most everyone, but when it comes to my own health care, I require a gentle-natured soul to help me along. That goes for MDs, massage therapists and yoga instructors.

I did one of those Bio-feedback tests at the chiropractor's office about a month ago, too. It suggested (and I'm not exactly sure how it came to the conclusion) that I am "overworked".

Essentially they hooked me up to a computer and took readings of all kinds to compare against a battery of data. It highlighted a number of things that I was already aware of, as well as a bunch of stuff that I was unaware of.

It was on the recommendation of the technician and my chiropractor that I do the cleanse, and that in and of itself brought a new meaning to the word "exhausted".

Today was my last day of the 15-day herbal programme, and I'm honestly looking forward to regaining my energy levels. Literally, I've felt zapped for over two weeks. It's raising my stress levels simply because I have no energy reserves. The energy I normally use to simply operate day-to-day seems to have been robbed by these little purple pills and herbal extract that taste strongly of cloves.

I've cleaned out the body - it's time now for the mind and the soul.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Checking in after...

...I was going to say "the weekend", but it's been a couple weeks since my last post.

Life is moving along here - the highlights of which have been two camping trips. One to the family cabin at Bragg Creek (followed vary closely by our monthly Monday Night Scotch), and most recently an overnight to Radium Hot Springs.

On the health front, I'm seven days into a parasite cleanse - the affects of which have kinda snuck up on me. I was told before I started that I could expect to be tired, nauseous and at worst experience vomiting and flu-like symptoms. All this last week I've felt tired, but thought not-a-lot of it.

Then it hit me last night at supper. I'd felt a headache coming on all afternoon, but figured it was lack of water and possibly food. All of a sudden I had this incredible hot-flash-like experience. Then I felt nauseous... then, it went away.

I decided to go for a nap, woke up several hours later as it was getting dark. I remembered to take my three pills and one-ounce of herbal extract which tastes like cloves but contains an arsenal of herbal extracts. I went back to bed. I couldn't sleep - tossing and turning, and the headache became much worse. I moved to the living room for an hour or so, drank lots of water and tried to sleep.

Sparing you the details, I've had the flu since early this morning.


I didn't realize that "cleanse" meant from the tummy up. I'll have to check the instructions... do I continue? Is this actually NORMAL? Another 8 days of THIS might cleanse me, alright!

Turtle out.
(at least for now)

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Naked Plumber - a true story

This just in by email, it made me laugh sooo hard!

You'll remember my friend Utah from a couple posts back, "when's the next train?" - turns out Utah is an accomplished plumber... by life experience rather than by trade.

I don’t write diaries even though people have been telling me on several occasions that I should write a book. Tonight to prevent a sudden nervous breakdown I will write down this one. Note: this is a true story! A story for my best friends.....

I had an absolutely wonderful weekend. Friday evening I walked the Bowness / Bowmont sunset walk with a friend. Later that evening I was invited to watch the fireworks with another friend. Saturday I went out and enjoyed the day in Banff with another friend. Saturday evening I got myself a pizza and just took some time to be home alone and although I thought about cleaning I didn’t. Sunday I went to the stampede with another friend for the day. Sunday evening I walked the Douglas Fir Trail with a friend and went to dinner at Red Lobster. I also talked to my three best friends throughout the weekend. All I could think was what a great weekend and I realized how many great friends I had in my life. Everyone is so completely different but truly amazing people.

So I come home and check facebook of course. Get the usual updates from my friends via telephone. Then I am off to the shower to just feel clean and relaxed after a long hot day. What a way to end this weekend !

I adjust the setting of my water. Get in and turn on the shower. Just as I am starting to get my hair wet the hot water tap that I have fixed (you know all about my frigin shower taps) blew off / brass fitting and all and hit me in the ass. The water was shooting across the tub and up the wall and over the shower curtain. It was like a fountain in a north westerly wind. I ran my naked little self down the stairs from the second floor into the basement to shut off the water line. I ran back upstairs so I could put the tap back together. At this point my bathroom was very flooded. I complain about having over 50 bath towels… Well I used almost every one of them to soak up the mess. As I'm crawling along the floor laying out towels I discover that both my electric toothbrush and blower dryer were plugged in and laying in the flood water. I safely got them out of "my" harms way. All I can picture as I'm crying is someone finding my electo-cuded naked body on the bathroom floor in a pile of wet towels with vice grips in my hand and the bathroom was a mess cause I still didn't finish cleaning the house.

I put the tap back together and got everything cleaned up. Time to turn the water back on. I run downstairs (still naked) to turn it back on and discover that the flooding bathroom has now leaked down two floors into my basement. As I pick my crying naked self back up off the floor after I had a moment. I went back upstairs. Adjusted the small leak and took my shower as if nothing happened. I have safely gotten everything back to normal although I think I’ll let my hair air dry tonight.

I am happy to be back to normal. I cried hysterically a few times until I looked in the mirror and realized I was still naked. Then I laughed until I cried again…. And cried until I looked in the mirror again… and then laughed and you get the picture. If my loan was in I would have called a plumber to fix this right now.

I hope you enjoyed your weekend as much as I did.


Friday, July 11, 2008

It's Stampede Week, and I'm a tired Turtle.

Yes, sir. Many days of early mornings and late nights filled in with settling in to a new vie avec Nathalie has made Tortue a tired boy.

A couple days ago I was up far before the birds because by the time the birds were to be up, I had to be on site at a pancake breakfast to provide sound for a group of perhaps-not-so-enthusiastic corporate types.

As I was in my pre-first-coffee daze - around about 6:30 AM - I came across a well-known classic country tune that, as it was playing, reminded me of that age-old question,

"If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would that be?"

The song in question was Country Roads by John Denver.

Why this man, you ask?

The answer is simple.

And that, too, is the answer: His unique simplicity.

I truly believe that most artists - be they painters, poets, authors or musicians to name a few, express themselves and quite often the truest sense of themselves through their art.

There I was, in my far-too-early-in-the-morning-to-be-here daze, unable to do anything but that which was ingrained in me through sheer repetition of the years. Somehow, the lyrics and music and genuin-ness of the man came through clear as chrystal.

This is a guy I'd love to know.

Of course, John Denver has passed away, but isn't it wonderful that he's left a few pieces of that which fed his soul and inspired other humans along the way.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

This space reserved for...

...a really long story!

Of course, the story grows longer as the days pass by, so I should do my due by not putting it off any longer.

I told you recently of a lifestyle change I've been preparing for.

A big one.

It involved, but has not be limited to, a whirlwind tour by truck round-trip to Quebec City.

And yes, AC, it had everything to do with a girl.

Meet Nathalie. She made the decision to move back to Calgary from Quebec City back in May, and I've been excited, not to mention a little nervous ever since.

We took this picture of us in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City on April 5th. I think it's a delightful shot.

I'll give you all a fully-detailed account of the trip soon, but duty calls and I must now move some furniture out to make some room... she's off to buy a kitten she found at the pet store.... won't Tiki be pleased! Now our household is up to two dogs, two cats and a rabbit... not to mention four humans.


Oh, yes, more on my visit with AC as well...

A bientoi!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

When's the next train?

OK, you all know I love trains, rail lines... pretty much anything to do with railways in general. My friend Utah and I went walking in Edworthy Park yesterday.

The CPR tracks run east/west along the south end of the park, and as we walked the Douglas Fir Trail, we came to an opening that exposed the railway.

Honestly, I'm not in the habit of tying girls to train tracks... this one volunteered all on her own!

It was a beautiful evening for photos all around... this one of Calgary's downtown core demonstrates why so many people were upset at the height of the Petro Canada Buiding; what's Calgary's skyscape without the Calgary Tower?

Last week a complete stranger told me I had a genuinely good aura about me. Looking at this photo, I tend to agree.

It can't hurt to pray

I've never really considered myself an overly "religious" sort. I think it comes from an experience I had in my mid-teens when I found myself going to church and watching all these people "going through the motions", as I saw it at the time. They would recite similar passages every week, and you could tell those who were simply rambling on from memory when a slightly different text was introduced. You know, they read the following sentence as they had the week before, only the selected version of the text was only slightly different enough to be just that. While those who were reading continued on by the text, those who were reciting from memory were caught not paying attention, and it was painfully obvious. This was only one example of the number of people I saw "going through the motions". Sometimes I felt that the clergy would do much of the same, with the same inflections on the same words, verbatim from last week. They were reading what seemed to me to be sacred words, words to be honoured and respected, not rambled off.

You often hear the story of the parishoner who dozes off during a lengthy and sometimes boring sermon, well... that happened too.

I've had a lot on my mind over the last week or so, and as I sit here in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, my thoughts have turned to prayer. I think sometimes quite seriously about my own spirituality and my approach to living life. Sometimes I wonder if I'm that very parishoner who, instead of blindly reciting words of worship, am blindly making my way through life. Sure, I'm aware of a lot of things around me, and some would agree that I'm among some of those more "self-aware".

I'm preparing for a rather dramatic change in my lifestyle right now, and it has me thinking of such things as how I conduct my life - most specifically my daily practices.

Am I paying them all the attention they so richly deserve?

I speak specifically about daily habits like domestics - quite literally, keeping house. I'm not always the most organized fellow, and every so often it causes me enough grief that I sit up and take notice.

Also, things like keeping my health. Last year at this time I remember being almost hyper-focused on it. I was on top of my regular chiropractic programme, massage therapy treatments each week and yoga. By the end of November last year I'd let a number of those things slide - like the parishoner who goes through the motions. Sure, I was "religious" about visiting the chiropractor, but all the supporting activities became very hit-and-miss.

I cleaned the inside of my van yesterday and found myself, quite literally, not satisfied. Everything was wiped down, the floor and seats vacuumed, but I started to flip out because now that it was "mostly clean", the few specks that remained stuck in the carpet, or the stains left behind from a beverage spilled were driving me completely bonkers.

Then it hit me.

Am I becoming a perfectionist?

I thought about it.


I remember when I first started working with sound systems and electronics. I, at 16 or 18 years of age, had the best sounding stuff. I was so fixated on the quality of gear I used that nothing else mattered. I was a perfectionist at 18, only I didn't have enough energy nor interest to carry it through all aspects of my life. It took so very much personal energy to maintain perfection in my area of interest that I found it impossible to be that way in the areas of tidiness, wardrobe (and that's a biggie for me right now - people who dress like they're "put together" impress me, whereas I, for as long as I can remember, have been quite satisfied with much less), academic study and so forth.

So here I sit, thinking about all the areas in which I've been "going through the motions". Maybe with a little more focus and some genuine prayer, starting from the inside working out, it will all come together.

Step One, back to bed for some much-needed sleep.

Turtle out - sans spell-chek

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Camping in Charlevoix

I went camping last week. In Charlevoix. It's beautiful country on the St. Lawrence. Here's an idea of the landscape:

A lot of the old houses were made of stone

One of my favourite photos. I love trains and rail lines!

A bit of an "artistic" shot here

The weather was a bit rainy and wet, making the fire a bit smokey... no, a lot smokey.

Lots of plastic, a good thing too!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"How are you?" "Tired and cranky, thanks...." "Well, at least you're aware of it."

Those were the words I shared with my chiropractor this afternoon as I lay head-down on the adjusting table. I don't really like being in a grumpy mood, but sometimes it's just the way it is, and today was one of those days. Dr. Mike had some interesting input. He said that adjustments to the neck often affect positively one's "mood", almost instantly because allowing the endorphins to flow through the neuro-transmitters create for us that "feel-good" feeling. All very well and fine - I generally feel better after an adjustment any time, but honestly, it's just a bit of a down day for me.

I won't get into the details here, but I'm facing - by choice - some events over the next month or so that will be significantly, and quickly, life-changing. Those of you who are closest know what I'm talking about, however I'm not quite ready to make it public knowledge, except to say it's taken a great deal of my personal energy lately.

I came home from a bit of a camping get-away to some sad news. John Pilling passed away while I was out of town. He was the rector at our church during my early teens and twenties. Also, the current rector at the church announced that he and his wife are separating.

Need a nap.

Turtle out.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

...we interrupt this broadcast to bring you...

OK, almost a week afterward, (It's Friday now) I've got some time and inspiration to write about the Mother's Day 5K race (if you'd call it that) I ran on Sunday last. To Mollie and Janice, thanks for your pre-text comments on the post and I hope this answers your questions!

I started running in December or January (It's all a big blur, really...) and along the way had a little help picking and paying for the correct shoes. Pretty much everyone in this circle of bloggers knows Sarah, and after having watched her go from blown-out knees to marathon-runner, I was concerned about what running could potentially do to me. After all, it's no wussy sport! Running is hard on things like ankles, knees, hips, spines and heads (physically if you land on it, and emotionally if you let setbacks get the best of you) To be honest, I've never really even liked running. I've never done it well, felt really clunky at it and as a result, never really put my heart into it - let alone my soul... or come to think of it, my sole, too!!

I consulted my chiropractor who, by the way, was instrumental in getting Sarah back on her feet, so I felt confident in honest words from a man who also is a runner and all-round athletic type. He said to me,

"That's great - do it, absolutely! But... start slowly. If you work into it starting now, you'll run the full 5K. If you over do it off the top, you'll be walking it, or may not do it at all."

That was enough for me. So in my true Turtle style, I dogged it. I mean, I started SLOWLY! I checked out the web for this thing they call a "walk-run" programme. The fist one I came to suggested a ratio of 90 seconds walking to 30 seconds running. Very well. I did it. There's a bike and walking path by my house, a portion of which was ideal for my training. It took me down some hill, up some hill and had some flat spots too. I discovered very quickly, though, that the cold winter air - not to mention the icy patches on the path - set me back. I couldn't seem to run when it was chilly out, let alone windy. Overall, I had a very on-again-off-again training thing going on for months. Those of you who live in the Calgary area or know people who do, know that our weather patterns here can be and are rather erratic. This year particularly has been all over the map weather-wise. Needless to say, I hadn't done a lot of running just prior to Race Day, so it was going to be an interesting challenge!

As if I didn't have enough challenges already, I had work in Banff on the Saturday night prior to the race. I crawled in the door at something like 2:30 AM, the race was to commence at 9:00 AM.

I met my sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew on the C-train platform at the University and we rode down together. (along with SO MANY other enthusiastic runners!)

My sister, Laura May, sporting her green walkers bib.

Here we see Doug and Julia. Julia walked the course with Laura May, Doug warmed up with the Mother's Day 5K then headed for his long-run, an additional 20-some-K in training for the full-marathon in July.

Here's Daniel - he and Doug paced together, starting out at the 8-minute-per-kilometre mark.

Nicole ran with me, requesting that we back ourselves up a bit to the 9-minute-per-kilometre start position. I wasn't going to let on, but I'm kinda glad we did, considering my state of sleep deprivation!

Eyes-front to the main stage and start line

My attempt at an artistic shot of our start position, showing the Calgary Tower. 9th. Avenue is a one-way east, however for the race we faced west."

Looking forward to the 8-minute-per-kilometre position. Can you spot Doug and Daniel?

Along the way, heading north on 4th Street, I spotted this, a gourmet hot dog joint. I've never been to Le Chien Chaud being a proud supporter of Tubby Dog on 17th Avenue, but I will one day venture back to check it out.

The race completed at Olympic Plaza, but not before passing in front of City Hall on MacLeod Trail. Here we are (Doug played photographer with my phone) after the race.

All tolled, it was a great day. I wouldn't say it qualified in my mind as a "race" more than simply a "fun-run". The course was flat, which was a pleasant surprise since the majority of my running had been on one piece of pathway with lots of hills. Wouldn't you know it though, as we rounded the corner of 10th Avenue and headed up MacLeod Trail in front of City Hall toward the finish line, there was this grade. Not much, but just enough to frustrate a newbie-runner. Here you can TASTE the finish line, and all of a sudden there's this wee challenge of a grade! It makes me laugh to think about it!

Oh, and only one little frustration during the run: I discovered a little over half-way that my timing chip had broken free of my shoe. I was clocked in at the start line, but never clocked out at the finish. I checked the stats on the website, and my name doesn't even appear as "not completed" - I simply don't exist. It kinda choked me since I'd worked toward this, my first-ever-race, for months. Ah well, I have photos and witnesses, and best of all I have the memory of a race well run.

Friday, April 18, 2008

QUEBEC - Chapter One: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

So back on April 2nd I flew to Quebec. I felt the 'everyday' simply closing in and 'routine' was getting the best of me. I was looking for something new to do, and figured I'd found it. I got up early and went about my day which included going to my Histoiographic Metafiction class. I slipped out early in order to have the extra time before my 1:00 AM flight. Terri and Emarie gave me a lift to the airport at 10:00, and I was off.

The adventure began when we were all seated on the plane, ready to go. The captain introduced himself and informed us that we would be delayed because of a change to our flight plan that required us to take on 600 litres more fuel. Also, with the weather conditions the way they were, if we departed on time we would be early into Montreal. Montreal, apparently, has a noise bylaw that does not permit landing at Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport prior to 7:00 AM. So, my adventure began by, in essence, not beginning at all. We were delayed 20 minutes.

I was amazed at how efficient and easy to navigate the Montreal terminal was. I stepped off the plane, went directly to the luggage carousel and claimed my bag - no waiting! I as much as turn around to head for the nearest exit, and what do I see?

You got it! The highlight of my breakfast was the hottest cup of coffee I've EVER had at any coffee shop! I could barely hang on to the cup! Oh, that and I was greeted at the counter bilingually with "Bonjour, hello..."

While sitting at breakfast I eyed an Internet kiosk so I decided to send a quick email to Terri to let her know I'd arrived safely. Those kiosks are coin- or credit card-operated at 10 cents per minute. The crazy keyboards are anything but standard, with hammer-touch buttons spread so far apart you cannot possibly 10-finger type. Talk about slow. There's gotta be a money-making angle there!

My next stop was the Via Rail station. I grabbed a cab. The fellow who drove me preferred to speak in English which suited me just fine. He was puzzled why I'd requested a ride to the train station when there was one directly across the road from the cab stand. All I knew was that the agent who booked my flight and train had indicated that the train was "just downtown". There was no indication on my reservation which station I was to leave from, but when I told the fellow I was going to Quebec City, he figured it was the best bet. He didn't know if there were lockers big enough for my suitcase, but I had to ditch the thing if I was to spend the day in Montreal before my 5:55 PM train to Quebec. I entered the station, not quite sure what to expect. The budding was amazing, and my photos don't do it justice, but this is what I saw:

It looked to me to be something of "Grand Central Station" - even though I haven't been to New York. Funny... it's actually called the "Grande". I must have had something of a tourist look about me, sporting my bright red backpack, toting behind me my monster suitcase - clearly I'd over packed! A porter approached me and asked in English if I needed a hand. Perfect guy to ask where I could ditch the bag, I thought! He told me that I could pre-check my bag because the schedule I was on had a baggage car. Perfect. I approached the ticket counter to exchange my voucher. There was no baggage car on my schedule. Instead, I was told that I could leave my bag with a porter, give him a bit of a tip, and he would ensure that my bag would make it on to the luggage rack at the end of my car. Oh, and there would be a surcharge for overweight. I tracked down my porter friend who seemed surprised that there was no luggage car. He agreed to care for my bag, we weighed it and sure enough it was ten pounds over. He said, " Don't worry about it - I'll take care of it." Great! I asked him where I might change a large bill since I had only a $100.00 on me after breakfast and a rather expensive cab ride. "No problem, I'll change it for you." He took my bill and returned within, literally, seconds sporting an array of bills. I peeled the top few bills and handed him a healthy tip - more than the $5.00 the ticket vender suggested was customary, but less than the $30.00 overweight fee. I figured my porter friend made much of his living looking out for tourists with cash! He did me a great service, was efficient, and scored himself some coin. Win/win, I'd say.

My plan was to tour Montreal. The cab ride in from the airport had run me close to $50.00 after a modest tip, so I figured I needed an alternate way around. I started with a tour of this Grande station. It was full of bakeries, restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and gift boutiques. Literally, you could get lost it it all! The airport aside, I was to learn, Tim Hortons no longer ruled the roost. Here in Montreal, it's Second Cup. And the train station has a huge one - also sporting this...

I loaded my Tim's mug with some Second Cup coffee and headed off to buy a map, then outside to check out the streets...

The corner of University Drive and Rene Levesque Blvd.

After a bit of a tour on foot, I returned to the station to sit and relax. Pouring over my map, I discovered what would lead to the bulk of my adventure for the day. On the reverse side was a map of the Montreal Metro. A day pass is only $9.00, and what better way for a train buff to see Montreal than... by train?

My day pass and a Second Cup coffee cleverly disguised as a Tims!

What I didn't bank on was the number of stairs a fellow has to descend to reach the Metro level! 88 to be exact...

Here's a map of the system...

I figured it would be impossible to go topside at every station and still make my 5:55 PM train, so I decided the objective would be to visit the ends of each of the four lines, go upstairs, snap a photo and proceed.

I did just that, but I will spare you most of the photos as they all look pretty similar. Here, however, is one that I found unique, and I'll tell you why:

This is the one stop I made along the blue line. It is the Universite de Montreal. What's unique in my mind is the fact the the door on the right is the entrance to the station. The door on the left is the entrance to the University.

Here in Calgary, our Univerisity station is clear across campus from any building - a cost-saving measure the City invoked, apparently at the last minute since the original line was to run straight to our MacEwan Hall Student Centre.

Four neat things about the Metro trains:

They're fast - couldn't find the stats, but I felt like I was flying
They're frequent - no more than 2 minutes between trains
There are electronic signs in the trains that display the upcoming stop
(Of which I have a photo, but it wouldn't upload)
The trains run on rubber tires! (Our metal-disc C-train is still a smoother ride though)

I'd mentioned the stairs, but I haven't mentioned the people. I must have seen thousands of faces while visiting 68 stops on 41 kilometres of track. Two incidents remain quite vivid in my mind. At one turnstile, there was a tall Afro-American fellow ahead of me. He bought his ticket and proceeded through the gate. I showed my pass to the attendant and continued through. Half way down the steps I realize this fellow was behind me. Strange, I thought. As we approach the platform, he seems anxious. The train was just pulling away as we set foot on the platform. He squeezed past me, gave me a dirty look that I needed no translation for and uttered some mono-syllabic grunt as if to say, "Idiot... we missed the train!" Wow, I thought... does 90 seconds wreck your day, man? I suppose it didn't bother me since I wasn't on a schedule, really. That, and in Calgary I've been known to wait upwards of 30 minutes for a train in off-peak times. To wait 90 seconds at any given point in the day is downright silver-service to me! Oh, and the fellow made a point of stepping on to the car ahead of the one I did. He obviously wanted nothing to do with me!

The other occurrence of note was at the one stop where I cheated and took the escalator instead of the stairs. Ahead of me was a girl who smelled absolutely delicious. "Welcome to Montreal", I'm thinking to myself. I was in the habit of looking around and happened to glance backwards down the escalator. There was a couple not four or five steps behind me, making out as they rode up the escalator. Eyes front, better to take in the aroma than the sights, as I said to myself, "No pictures, Turtle, no pictures..."

By the time I returned to Bonaventure station on the orange line, it was 4:30 PM. I had experience the sardine-nesss of full-on rush hour on the Metro. It was time to return to the Via station and head for my train to Quebec.

I have this to say about Via Rail: the train was filthy. The outside coated in mud, the windows so dirty it made picture-taking useless. The inside was relatively clean, but old and worn. The service? Absolutely amazing. The fellow serving our section was friendly and prompt, and made everyone he served feel attended to.

From my seat on the train

On the platform at Quebec City

The train was on time at 8:50 PM, so to recount the previous 24 hours, I'd been to the University of Calgary, driven to the airport, flown to Montreal, driven to the train station, rode all over Montreal, visiting the University by train, then to Quebec City by train and picked up by car. A most impressive adventure inside 24 hours, I dare say!

Chapter 2 to follow... Quebec City in pictures!

About Me

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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
English student, Pottery enthusiast, Yoga novice and lover of all people. I make friends over a warm handshake and a beverage. I discover, every day, someone willing to help me along my path.