Urban Renewal Saint John Update

I have received several posts on the book, and I don’t know how anyone can still get a copy, but for historical purposes, and that fact that my other post is one of the most popular sites here is some of the content from the former website for the book that is no longer on-line.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fundy Fringe Festival #5

This summer I volunteered with the Fundy Fringe Festival again. Giving my physical limitations I was really worried if I could actually do it. It has been the highlight of my summers for the past several years and I really didn’t want to miss out.

This story begins with the gathering on May 20th. At this point, I had just started to go back to work and was trying to get my life back to normal. I really wanted to go to this event as a way to get out and try to be a bit social. It was a great night and I had so much fun even if it was a struggle to get there.

I then filled out the volunteer application and was a bit unsure what I would be able to do so I applied for Captain again, and venue tech, and bartender, and I think HUB volunteer. I then didn’t hear much of anything until shortly before the festival, on NB Day. I was on a road-trip of the province and while as I was waiting in the line for the Magnetic Hill attraction, I had seen the post that the first orientation was at 7 pm that night.

I did the Magnetic Hill drive backwards in neutral thing. Which for $6 is the biggest waste of time and money ever! Then I went to Shediac to get a pic with the giant lobster. Following that, I was headed to Boisetown to get to the centre of NB monument but ran out of time as I really wanted to get to the orientation night.

It was a good-sized crowd and more exciting of a presentation from earlier years that had gotten monotonous from reading the handbook that hasn’t changed over the years. I found out that I was selected to venue captain (again… or “Once a Captain Always a Captain!) It was also here I learned that there was going to be recorded introductions of the sponsorship and the “buy a button” speech. My heart sank a bit as that was one of my favourite parts of Venue Captaining.

After the meeting and email went out that there were still a few shifts open, I took it as an invitation to try something else than captaining so I offered to tend bar for the Big Tease night after the volunteer BBQ. As the night of the big tease came, I was still unsure with my feet always uncomfortable with long-standing periods due to the numb feeling if standing for a long time was even possible. I went to Giant Tiger and bought myself a folding bar stool and brought it with me and that worked very well. I had so much fun that night, and my beer knowledge came in very handy.

The next night was my first Captain shift at the year’s newest venue, the balcony lobby of the Imperial Theatre. When I arrived, I sorted everything out and found out there wasn’t the prerecorded opening on site that night. I was so glad that it gave me the extra motivation to blow the socks off the moderate-sized crowd there that night. I had nailed it and got a great reaction from the crowd. The show was “Denial Is a Wonderful thing”, I spent most of this show dealing with a situation so I didn’t get to hear much of the show. What I did hear was pretty good.

The second show that night had a pretty good size crowd, MIDDLEhood. After this show started, I had overextended myself a bit and needed to get off my feet. I spend most of the show in the stairwell laying on the upper landing listening to the show, while Snapchat and instagram posting selfies. Occasionally, paying closer attention to the show like the description of a period.

The next day, I was at the BMO theatre for Crippled and Two Minds Into One. Since I had the option, I insisted on doing the pre-show announcement for these shows and again, I got the reaction I was looking for and was so worth it. After the shows, it was the Not-So-Family game night. This was a great night, I started with playing some Hungry Hippos but that got old fast and a game of Cards Against Humanity began and that was beyond fun, as more people joined in it just got better.

Thursday was my shortest day and I only had Crippled to captain. After that, I went to see some shows. The first show was I Want to Come Home. This show was beyond impressive. It was a mix of storytelling type, performance, and crowd interaction. I loved how the projector became a character in the play. After that, I stayed to see Illustrated Lady which was an ingenious version of storytelling and demonstrating how tattooing works.

On Friday, I had my last shift back at the Imperial Theatre for Escape the Ordinary and SMASHES. Both were really good. Bernard started out with a math demonstration that I was following along with seeing how this was too predictable to control the outcome, but then took it to simply, WOW!

On Saturday, I didn’t have any shifts but still had 3 passes to see shows so that is what I did. I didn’t have a lot of time to fit them in so there were so many I wanted to see but couldn’t. I saw A Century of Belly Dance and was really impressed, I didn’t go into it thinking it would be something for me but it was informative and entertaining at the same time. I then saw Two Minds Into One, like most people I love a good magic show. I can usually tell how something’s work but with the big finale I was beyond amazed. The last show I went to see because so many others people said it was a must-see for theatre fans.

I have to agree, it was great watching him show how theatre works in a one-man format, except the tech and an off-stage assistant become part of the storytelling as well, as a point that actors have to rely on the “non-talent” to make them “talent”. After this, I ran to the Imperial to see a non-Fringe show Jay and Silent Bob Get Old. This show was funny and entertaining and lasted about two hours.

After this, I went back to the BMO for the Fringe dance party. This was so much fun, a lot of the performers and Volunteers were all there. I also danced as much as I could but that wasn’t as much as I wished I could.

All in this experience was still fun, emotionally challenging, and really highlighted my limitations.

Buying My First Car

As it was becoming clear that I needed to get motivated to go to work. It was also clear that getting up to catch a bus was not really physically possible given my state. I was going to need a car. I had set in my mind from two years earlier that I wanted a Mazda 3. That was going to be my car, but I wanted to test drive others first. Since I was not convinced of my abilities I wanted to take the first round to sit in the cars and then shortlist a few to test drive.

The car buying experience if not the most friendly for those that don’t know exactly what you want. The experience typically goes like this. You enter the dealership, you get greeted by the fastest moving sales guy. Then you blow at least a half hour as he gets your information, then starts suggesting features, and financing options before you even look at a car. Then you only get to look at what the sales guy wants you to look at. Then you realize the car is missing some of your must-haves, then the blow off that the must-have is not that important doesn’t work well anyway or, promises it can be added after-market when it really can’t. Then you find one you kind of like and they never end up telling you what it costs, only payment amounts that leave out a few key things that get added when you close the deal.

My main feature need was I didn’t want leather seats. I also needed an auto-dimming rearview mirror and automatic transmission for physical reasons.

The first stop was Saint John Hyundai, the sales rep was new and made it known that he was not on commission yet and was going to look out for me. He then showed me a Sonata, it was nice. However this is where I learned I had another physical limitation, I couldn’t have a pedal emergency brake.

Then I wanted to look at the Accent but the sales rep insisted on the Elantra first. The Elantra would have worked, but the lip by the door was too deep for my leg brace and I would have to go high-end to get the mirror I wanted. I did get to try the Accent that was more comfortable and my size but he in post talks kept pretending I didn’t and insisted the auto-dimming mirror could be added aftermarket after the company he called said it couldn’t.

The next stop was Port City Kia. This place was more friendly because I was familiar with the staff. I sat in the Forte and it was a great fit and mostly met my needs. I was thinking of a Rio when I did my research but never did sit in one. While they were figuring out numbers I sat in a few of the other ones but they were more car than I needed.

The third stop was Saint John Nissan. The staff was friendly, and the Sentra fit well, but I needed the sports model to get a colour I needed. The Micra was also nice but the saleswoman has no interest in selling it.

Stop four was Dobson Dodge Chrysler. I went in thinking maybe a Dodge Dart. However, they were having a promotion that a Chrysler representative was in town and I only got to see a Chrysler 300 that was, “the only car worth considering”. It didn’t have what I needed and was way outside my budget with other options I had seen.

Stop five was Saint John Toyota. I spent a good amount of time here as I was being shown cars. As the sales guy was distracted, I fell in love with the Toyota Corolla iM, it was blue which I really wanted. It was only missing the mirror and the sales guy insisted it could be put in once again after-market, but he could throw it in. They also started insisting that a lease was a better option as it makes it easier to replace every few years, and are taxed better.

The next day I went and visited more places.

The next stop was Fundy Honda, in this case, I tried the Civic and the Fit but none of them wouldn’t work out.

The Seventh place was Brett’s Buick GMC. None of the cars met my needs or budget and the sales guy I got had to constantly leave to work on other sales, and then got the service guy to come out that shot him down that an auto-dimming mirror couldn’t be added.

Stop eight was Downey Ford, who insisted that I would only like a car if it was white, black, or grey. They also couldn’t get anything in that was blue, even if I wanted to wait.

The ninth and last stop was King Mazda. I basically learned that my dream car didn’t meet my needs as the only one that did was the top end Mazda 3 and that was outside my budget considering my other options.

After the round of viewings, my short list was the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte and the Toyota Corolla iM.

At this point, I went back to all three with my friend Tony to re-sit in all 3 of the finalists and it was really then that I decided the Elantra was just not the best fit.

Later that week I went to test drive the cars, starting with the Kia Forte. They had a red one there, and I was very comfortable in it, and was comfortable with the feel of the controls. After the test drive, I was confident I had found the car. However, I wanted blue, and I wanted the mid-year update with Apple CarPlay. It took a few weeks for the car to arrive and was not the easiest process to find out for sure when I was arriving but they appeared to do their best at the dealer level.

On the day the car arrived, I went to the dealership to complete the sale. It was at this point that so learned how all the fees work, and all the service and warranty add-ons and what is actually covered and what is not.

I now have my 2017 Kia Forte EX and absolutely love it and am confident that I made the right choice.

The Path to Freedom

After the Christmas party, I was pumped and the goal wasn’t to just walk but to get out. The next weekend I went to a movie with a friend. The main goal that I needed to go home was to go up my front steps and to transfer onto a shower bench. After lots of practice, I was managing a few steps of various height with the hospital physiotherapist.

The next step was going home for a home visit to see what was needed for me to go home. When I arrived at the house that I hadn’t seen for months, it felt familiar but didn’t seem like home. I couldn’t even see half of it. Waking up the steps into my house was the hard part. My rails were too low to give support.

When I got in the house, I tried sitting on my couch and it was still too low to get up from without help. I also needed a walker still to get around. The walker also didn’t fit well through doors. That night my sister brought me to the Dolan Rd Irving and then went back to the hospital.

The next weekend was my trial overnight. I was really looking forward to it but once home reality kicked in. There was little I could do without help, and I didn’t really have much help. The worst part was at night, my bed was so uncomfortable and I couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom to even pee in the dark. Putting on the ankle brace was hard. The next day I returned to the hospital distressed that the weekend didn’t go that well.

At that point, my hospital release was extended about a month, and I had an idea of what I needed to work on. Unfortunately, being in isolation was impeding the process. It was that week that I ran into infection control checking to see if the sign was on my door while I was having my lunch. They were two very nice ladies. I made it clear to them that the isolation was impending my care and was stupid since I was researching the procedures of other hospitals in dealing with ESBL and that I was probably cured two months earlier.

Later that day, they came back and the Director decided to retest and then maybe decide what could be done. Having no choice I agreed and urinated in a cup and had a swab taken from my but. After two more tests a week apart, the results came back and I was cleared! Since I could solo walk with a walker by this point I did a victory lap.

Up to this point, I had two Physio and one OT session every weekday. The staffing became a bit short and my exercises Physio session was going to be cut. I asked if I could come to the gym and do them solo. (I was motivated at this point.) They agreed so I started doing them myself and then gradually tried doing the harder version that was on the sheet and was excited each time things got better.

Finally, after 5 months and 3 days at the hospital, I was released on March 1st.

Twenty-Four Thousand Four Hundred And Fifty-Five

This is not a random number, it is a big one, but not random. I woke up on the morning of September 2nd, 2016 full of energy and excited as hell. I was about to embark on the most epic trip to date. I thought to myself this is one trip that I will never forget. I remember it was a sunny day. I got up early and walked to McAllister Place and caught the bus uptown to start the day off by doing the same thing I have done for almost 3 years of Saturdays, I went to Billy’s Seafood for breakfast. I remember that I had my favourite menu item the Smoked Salmon Omelette and lots of coffee. Billy’s I always tell people is like dinner theatre the staff especially Billy the owner are a hoot.

For most people, they would have already done the packing rather than go out for breakfast, but that is not my style. After breakfast, I went home and had 90 minutes to get ready for 28 days of travelling. So at this point, you would think I would pack right? Nope! I shaved and took a shower (for 60 minutes.) After 20 minutes of running around to not forget anything, I have my bag packed! Then to weigh it 33kg. Repack 28kg. Repack 27kg. Repack 25kg. Repack 24kg. Repack 26kg!!!! Repack 23kg (cue fireworks!)

I then called a Simonds Taxi and to the airport, I was off! I arrived an hour early for my flight checked in and relaxed there was no turning back. As the plane arrived, I took lots of close photos and emailed them to myself. You never know when and air accident investigator will need them. This was part of the feeling of impending doom that was in the back of my mind from my mother begging me not to go.

I got on the plane and it was a rather unremarkable journey to Montreal. Once at Montreal’s Trudeau International, I went to find my gate, and then to find Starbucks for coffee.

I then got on my flight to London’s Heathrow airport. On the flight, I ordered the beef meal. That was a mistake, the bean salad is to die for, as in your will die. I spent the whole night with the worst gas since the last time I had the bean salad in 2013 on the same flight. It was the overnight flight but I got very little sleep.

We land in London and the first experience with “British Unholy Queueing” happened at the customs halls. This is where people use the seatbelt ropes, and keep changing them so you have no clue how long it is going to take and as you get close… nope, the line has changed again.

After I cleared the UK Border control, I went to the main lobby and picked up my Lebara SIM card so I didn’t pay the ridiculous rates Canadian cell phone companies charge. One of the perks of an unlocked phone.

Since I didn’t want to pay for luggage on my plane to Copenhagen, I decided to drop off my main suitcase at the Contiki basement. So I bought an Oyster Card and hopped on the tube.

“Please stand clear of the doors. Let customers off the train first please.”

“This is a Piccadilly Line service to Cockfosters” (giggle)

“The next stop is Russel Square. Alight Here for the British Museum, please mind the gap between the station and the platform.”

I got to the Contiki Basement and dropped my bag off and then wandered Camden, headed to St. Pancreas train station for lunch and then walked to Russel Square, Then to Green Park where I was a bit tired and had some time to kill so I slept for two hours and then walked by Buckingham Palace to Victoria Station and got on my “National Express” bus to London Luton airport. (That is nowhere near London) It is literally like calling the Fredericton Airport the (Saint John-Fredericton Airport) and assuming it was anywhere close to Saint John.

After a two-hour bus journey, I make it to Luton and the bus stops at the front door. The airport is smaller than a lot of big city airports and was very under construction everywhere. However, in typical British fashion, there was no problem everything was fine. I was really early and hungry and the airport check-in for my flight wasn’t open yet. I asked the RyanAir agent where the food places were and they ended up being on the other side of security. I looked really disappointed. However, the agent early checked me in and I was off to get food.

It seemed like forever that we waited in line and the line was long and was mixed with another flight going to a place I never heard of. I kind of thought I wanted to go there instead for a while. I turned out to be some place in Romania.

As I got on the plane, I once again took photos of the plane and emailed them to myself. This plane was like nothing I have ever flown in. The seats were very basic, no seat pockets, advertising on the bins, no leg room at all, and very friendly flight attendants. (Flight Attendants are always nice.) As we flew we had very bad turbulence and I was scared to death that this was where my mother was right and this was going to be the end, but we landed safely.

I got off the plane and got my passport stamped for country 24, Denmark. This was big as it was a while since I added Turks and Caicos on my quest for 40 countries by 40.

The Copenhagen airport was massive and it was late at night (10:30 pm) I walked to the subway station and then got on the train to my hostel, The Generator. On the train, there was a very drunk man that got on with his big bottle of hard liquor and was rambling in what I assume was Danish. It was heavy raining that night, and I was wet and tired, so after check-in, I went straight to bed.

The step-count on my fitness tracker … 24,455.

It’s Showtime!

Now to continue the story. The biggest point of fear is the moment before doing something. However, I have at this point completely learned my part and it is showtime for the final full rehearsal and there are a limited number of media and a few other people in the audience. It makes this effectively the first show. I’m standing behind the curtain waiting for my cue, which was in the second part of the first act, and am trembling because although I’m not on stage yet, I have no way to escape out of doing this. After two months of faking it, pretending to be an actor, I step out on stage. I don’t remember much of that show I was in character and pulled it off.

The next day, the first day of paying guests, I trip on my way to work, rip open my knee and elbow, but the most tragic event happened. My coffee cup exploded all over the sidewalk and I lost it. A world without coffee is not a great world. That night I was faking it again and really was focused and didn’t even notice the audience. Each night after the show I got to meet some of the audience.The reason why the story started here was that after the Friday show, I invited my mother to travel with me to see London and Paris on the fateful trip when the story gets interesting.

I did absolutely love the acting and had auditioned again the next year but have never gotten a chance to do it again yet hopefully as I heal, I will get a part in the future. The following April I did perform with my friend Tony in a Shakespeare open mic a bit from Coriolanus. Unfortunately, he messed up his line. (sarcastic supportive emoji 🙄)

It was also at this point that I convinced myself that it was time for Contiki trip number 4. My friend Tony also wanted to join me for the Contiki and to do a post tour trip to visit Pompeii and Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. (Do I even need to state it is in Germany. Doesn’t everyone know Munich is in Germany?)

Later, my mother sent me a list of things she would find interesting like the Tower of London, the English Moores, Normandy, and where in Paris that Princess Diana was killed. (Moan, not Paris again…)

So the plan is to bring my mother for a few days, send her home. Meet Tony and then go on Contiki, then a post week of exploration.

Please Don’t End Me

Today, I was Googling myself to see what others were writing about me and one of the first things I read was the following tweet.

When I first read it I was a little afraid that my country had enough of me and were all out to get me. Then I read a little more on the issue. It was really shocking to me to learn that my initials are also the acronym for Child, Early and Forced Marriage. According to the Government of Canada the following stats are true:

  • Every year, it is estimated that 15 million girls—some as young as five years old—are forced into marriage.
  • Over 700 million women alive today were married as children.
  • One in every three girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18. One in nine marries before the age of 15.
  • Complications in childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in the developing world.

I really agree with the 10,000 tweets on the issue that this is something that everyone should know about and work towards putting an immediate end to. If you want to read more on the issue there are good links on the bottom of the government’s webpage on the issue (http://www.international.gc.ca/rights-droits/childmarriage-mariageenfants/index.aspx?lang=eng)