Russell Stover Cookie Dough Confection

Russell Stover Cookie Dough Confection

This is the first of an eight-part weekly series that I am going to try out unusual foods and review them.

This weeks item is from Russel Stover Cookie Dough in Milk Chocolate. It was about a dollar from Giant Tiger. It consists of one 28g piece of candy. Nutritionally it was (past tense since I have already eaten it 😉)130 calories, has 5g fat, 17g sugar, 3g other carbs, 1g protein, and 2g other.

As I open the package the item is a weird shaped glob without the pre-told story of the packaging is not anything corresponding with Christmas beside reindeer guano.

It was nice and soft to bite into but the glob of cookie dough became overwhelming and hard to finish.

I would not recommend this flavour, I would suggest solid chocolate or marshmallow varieties. As it is a marshmallow world at Christmas time.

Drywall Flying Off a Trailer is Still a Sign

Drywall Flying Off a Trailer is Still a Sign

Planning for this trip started months ago, it was planned as the best available excuse to visit Brampton Civic Hospital to determine what was real and what was not. I had already sacrificed a day from this mini vacation for my day visiting the Anthem of the Seas and had Friday to Tuesday for a road trip to Brampton. “Coincidence” (with air quotes) would prevail that it was also during Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest.

As the weekend approached, I was starting to have second thoughts about this trip and a feeling that it was not the most financially planned decision to make. It was literally the Friday morning that I was going to go. The plan was Montreal on Friday, Brampton/Kitchener on Saturday, Niagara Falls on Sunday, back to Kitchener on Monday for the parade and then drive home.

As I was leaving Saint John and just passing Spruce Lake. Out of nowhere a sheet of drywall flew in the air just metres in front of me and luckily there was none beside me and I switched lanes to avoid disaster. As soon as that happened, I had this dreadful feeling that this trip was a mistake. I continued on anyway. I crossed the boarder, with fairly little trouble and for once wasn’t searched.

I drove the airline to Bangor and stopped for lunch at Dysart’s just outside Bangor. I grabbed a sandwich, dessert, and bottle of juice. The sit down area was really busy. Since I knew that I could go just over 625km on a tank of gas, I went as far as Newport ME to fill up. It was after this fill up that you experience one of the most amazing drives. The road towards Lac Magantic that follows a river and passes the mountains with the changing leaves of fall is breathtaking. It was taking this route that I came across another broken sheet of drywall in the middle of the road.

As I passed through Sherbrooke, QC I needed to get some cash to go out that night in Montreal and while their, I had a rest stop at Tim Hortons. One of the thing I absolutely love about the Tim Hortons mobile ordering is that I no longer need to know enough French to order coffee and a donut.

As I arrived in Montreal, I shut off the GPS telling where to go. Mainly because it made no sense. I circled a whole lot of blocks and there was a parking lot but it was $30 and I thought that that was stupid crazy expensive. I eventually found a free on street spot on Rue de Bullion. Although there was a mentally disturbed person pacing the street that scared me a little so I waited for him to go down the street and I got out placed my stuff in the trunk and walked quickly to dinner.

My main goal was to get the La Belle Province for a smoked meat poutine. I have to say that it was the best poutine I had in as long as since last time I was in Montreal on my way back from Oktoberfest in 2015. As with all things nostalgia, it was disappointing from my memory of it. The meat was more fried and smaller bits than before. After dinner, I strolled the streets a bit and settled on going to Ste. Elisabeth, which is still my favourite little pub. The crowd was good and listening to other people’s conversations, or at least the few that were in English was a great evening. I spent a good two hours there before heading back to the car to find a truck stop.

As, I left Montreal I quickly ended up in Ontario. As you cost the boarder there is an excessive number of law signs, one after the other for almost 2 kilometres. I spent the night at the ONroute in Bainsville. It was a rough night and I didn’t sleep very well but I tried anyway. My plan was to get to Brampton by 1pm.

After waking up I went to go to the Irving to refuel, but ended up not finding it and went to a Petro-Canada followed by Tim’s and off to Toronto I go. Along the way I saw a sign advertising the first railway tunnel in the country in Brockville and detours to see it. It was closed so I took a photo and moved on.

Until I seen the sign for the Big Apple, and I thought it would be a cool place to get a photo in front of the sign and move on. Oh boy was I mistaken, as I drove by I saw that it was packed and thought that it was just a rural market type thing. As I got out of the car the first thing I noticed was the petting zoo and dog park. When inside the building centres around a giant glass walled bakery that was rapidly making apple and pumpkin pies. It was so cute to see the little children knocking on the glass and waiving to the cooks and the smiles as the cooks waived back. To the left there was a craft brewery and cider house that made a wide variety of tasty beverages and a gift shop the sold local goods mixed amongst the typical gift shop wares. Notable amongst the local made items was wine and hundreds of types of chewy candies.

To the right was a large bakery shop that is typical to a farmers market with more baked goods than you could possibly ever eat. In the by the slice case there were over 20 types of apple pie and tarts to choose from. Also, there was a smokehouse to get the freshest ribs, chickens and, brisket. Outside there were rides, a Beavertails mini golf, and an activities area.

After I left there I was on the road again, it was light raining and overcast. As I approached Toronto the 401 gradually split into a stupid number of lanes, and unnoticed until too late a stupid number of cars going very slow. Magically swiping lanes and the merging nightmare of going back and forth between the 401 and 401 Express. My anxiety was also at a stupid level of stressed that if I could have figured out how to change nine plus lanes I would have taken the side roads. Also it was getting close to 2pm at this point and I didn’t want to get to Brampton too late. Thus not getting to Kitchener too late.

As I first glanced the hospital, I noticed the white church that my mother talked about. The inside of the building didn’t at all look as so had imagined and seemed quite advanced at parts. Hearing the announcement voices were far mor terrifying than the 401. In my mind there would be a person at the desk that I could tell my story to and complete the quest. What I ended up with was a desk with two options, “Pod 1” or “Pod 2” and on the wall above it, was a red clock of terror.

Brampton Civic Clock
Brampton Civic Clock

I had frozen and broke down completely, I don’t like calling people, let alone to a pod that I had no idea what was the right one. I just stood there for almost 20 minutes trying to come up with what to say. Also what to say and not sound crazy. I ultimately walked out and went back out to the front doors. I was so devastated that the quest was a disaster.

As I was starting there there was a doctor giving bad news to a woman who was in reality more devastated than I was about how their loved one was progressing and had not much longer. Not because, I didn’t make it but because, I couldn’t hold myself together. As I got to the door, I pulled myself together and convinced myself that I have to go back and try.

As I get back to the phone, I pull together and dial to “Pod 1” then a voice answers and asks what I wanted. I cam up with “Hi I was here 2 years ago on my way back from Rome, and I wanted to see what the Pod I was in looked like.” They then buzzed me in and I took 5 steps and had no idea where to go, then alarms started going off around the corned and I couldn’t breath and had to get out of there.

As I reached the elevator the woman from earlier also got in. I decided to attempt to say something and I told her that 2 years ago they said I was going to probably dead, and I will never forget her response. “You look pretty not dead”.

As I went to pay for my parking, I paid on the terminal, as another woman who was having difficulty paying let me go first. So I offered to help her with the machine and paid her $6 parking pass. She didn’t expect it and was shocked and didn’t want to accept it and tried to pay me back but I told her to help someone else.

After, I took the back way to Kitchener, avoiding all the highways and pumped up the music. Trying to reflect on the calamity of the day that just happened. It was at this point that I had no motivation to go see anything else and I just wanted to be home and not stuck with a 20 hour drive back.

This is getting 1600 words long so the smashing and booming finale will have to wait for the next post.

IG: Food Instagrams

IG: Food Instagrams

This is a collection of Instagram posts over the last 5 years involving food.

Remember?! (Part 1)

Remember?! (Part 1)

It is a beautiful early summer morning on a Maple tree covered cemetery and the lake morning sun streaming partially through the leaves. The winds were calm with gust enough movement to make the light twinkle through the leaves. Amongst the tombstones, there is a body lying as motionless and at pease as those in the soil a mere few centimetres below. Then Fred awakens, as he rises the reality of the situation hits him like a cement truck. He is feeling envy that the souls below don’t have to suffer the terrible feeling from the over exuberance of the night before that he has forgotten.

It was quite obvious that he had been drinking and he was missing pieces of clothing like his left sock, it was nowhere to be found. Fred had woken up hugging a small headstone.

Fred is stunned as he realizes where he is this time as he sees a group of headstones before seeing the with “Fred Useless” engraved. Fred exclaims “Damn… Not again… Damn!”

Fred rises to his feet and staggers holding his head while entering a pathway noticing Phil lying hunched over a tree with a few beer bottles around him.

“Phil? Is that you, man?”, shouted Fred. “Phil, dude, wake up.”

Fred hoping that Phil is still alive, kicks Phil’s leg. (Several times) Phil awakens with some disorientation as he suffers from a nasty hangover, and really pissed off that someone not gust woke him up but made his body suffer blows of unexpected pain by kicking him.

“What a night…” squeaked Phil as he stretched and welcomed the morning light. Phil can barely see Fred standing over hims as the sun irritates his eyes. “Oh, hey Fred. How the night treat you?” Phil rises to his feet as Fred pokes fun at Phil’s physical state.

“Apparently, not as good as yours.”, replied Fred

Phil suggests that they go get breakfast and Fred agrees. Phil gets up and starts to walk away with Fred but stops when they here a voice in the woods.

“Phil!?”, a mysterious long and very sweet sounding voice bellows.

“Oh, Wait one second.”, says Phil. Phil runs back and finds Bekka (Looks perfect) from hiding behind the tree.

“I’m sorry I forgot you.”, apologized Phil.

“It’s ok, but I’m hungry.”, Bekka replied.

“That’s ok sweaty, Fred just stopped by to bring us for breakfast.”, explained Phil.

“You’re the best!”, Bekka replied, followed with a passionate kiss that made Phil really happy.

Fred rolled his eyes and wanted to puke a little bit, and not just from the hangover.

The three of them start waking out of the woods.

“Out drinking alone, eh?”, Fred asks Phil. Since remembering that Phil had blew him off last night that he was going to have a quiet night at home with his bottle of scotch.

“That was the plan…”, says Phil as he looks into Bekka’s eyes and then Phil kisses Bekka as they are all walking out of the woods.

Fred is scratching his head and thinks as aloud, “I think I am forgetting something important?”

Back at the “Fred Useless” headstone, it stands bare as RIta’s head appears

from behind it, her hair is in complete disarray, makeup smeared and clothes loose-fitting and unfashionable.

“Mmm… Fred”, Rita says in confusion. Rita notices the headstone and jumps away startled. “What the hell? Fred!” Rita wonders aimlessly. Hoping desperately that she is not alone, she continues to shout, “Fred! Fred!”

This effort is to be in vain as yes indeed Rita is alone.

(More to come in Part 2)

The preceding is an adaptation of a screenplay for a short film of the same name, portions of this story were enhanced with suggestions from Tony Tompkins. It has been formatted from the original to fit the blog format.

My Day on the Anthem of the Seas

My Day on the Anthem of the Seas

This tale begins about a month ago. I received a marketing email from my favourite travel company Maritime Travel. It offered a talk about the offerings by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, lunch, and a tour of the Anthem of the Seas when it was in port on September 13th. I had never received one of these invitations before but was in envy of those who did. I was kind of in an when I showed it to a colleague, her eyes lit up and said: “I’m your plus one right?”

So, I replied back that I was interested and quickly go a reply back that I was on the list.

About a week before the trip, I received an email with the details that basically confirmed the times.

Meet at the “Port of Saint John” by 9:30 am. There were no specifics. Let’s face it, if I can find a ship in San Juan, Saint John would be a walk in the park. I mean how could you miss it on a beautiful sunny day.

When we got to the terminal the commissioner let us into the terminal and gave us directions to go to the furthest door. We passed through the “Fundy Cruise Market”, which carried all the typical local wares. (Including Maple Syrup). Once in the terminal, it was a flutter of activity with people being directed to their excursions or tours to see the city. Once at the far gate as directed we were then pointed to the group of people sitting at the near door. I then proceeded to the guy checking off names from the list.

We waited there for about a half hour before proceeding up to the ship. This was an incredible people-watching opportunity to see the different types of tourist from the ship and to judge them. Especially the “I’m wearing the T-shirt from my last port” guy.

We were then led up in the group to the security gate, after checking ID they gave us a ship pass and then we were directed to the security gate. The first sign this was not an NCL ship was the lack of “Washie Washie Happy Happy” although there were hand sanitizer stations everywhere. The metal detector part went really fast. I am really good at that even at airports.

The ship itself is like I giant beautiful mall and hotel at sea. There are so many things to do and things to see. It is also well suited for winter in New York(ish) as most of the pools have the ability to be glassed in and there are incredible pools on the front solarium where you can get incredible views.

There are also tons of exercise options from basketball, running, soccer, free falling, wall climbing, roller skating dance hall, and gym.

There are also enough bars that you probably never have to use the same one twice. Although there is even a self-serve bar that has a robot make the drinks for you.

After the tour, we were seated for dinner and there was a mini menu of some of the best dishes on the ship. I ordered the Swordfish which I never knew I would love.

The main discount was pretty much just access to the on-ship Next Cruise desk what had some deals. After we wandered the ship a bit more and took some more photos.

If the economics worked out I would like to travel on this ship or another RCL ship sometime. This ship is incredible. The elevators even have a floor pattern that tells you what day of the week it is. The ship speaker music in common areas was really pleasant and diverse.

The Irish Finale

The Irish Finale

I departed the Enterprise starving, and in pain a bit from the ridiculous amount of walking in Belfast. I went down the stairs to the tram station and the Google Transit app said there were no more trains but there was a dot-matrix display showing next tram in 7 minutes with a group of at least 15 people waiting for the tram. Then a local said to the group no more trams tonight and the screen was for the next station down the line.

A vocal man with an American accent convinced the group of people that the local was wrong. I looked at the sign and noticed it said “Busáras” and the blank one said “Connolly”. Since I can also read perfect Gaelic I recognized that Busáras means Bus Station and Connolly was the name of the train station. I decided the local was right and since I didn’t know where the Bus Station stop was, I just followed the track and it was not even a block away.

My plan for the night was to go to an Irish Pub and grab dinner there, but once I got off the Luas (what Dublin calls trams/streetcars) near my hotel most I just had a craving to go back to the Burrito place and have a large Fajita. It was so good.

Then I went back to drop off my stuff at the hostel locker and ended up at the bar in the hostel. I was breaking my rule of local beer and ordered a Tuborg. That is some of the best cheap beer money can by in Europe, especially the draft version. I had a great conversation with the bartender and the conversation lead to making TV shows and then he reviled that he worked on Vikings and Game of Thrones. I will refer to him as Viking Bartender.

As I was coming to the end of using up my cash this guy started talking like a beer snob on the intricacies of Guinness and what it is the greatest beer in the world. To which I countered that Guinness is only to its best potential when paired with a fine Irish Whiskey, and then explodes with flavour. That leads to a round or Guinness and Jameson’s Caskmates Stout for the group in that part of the bar.

At some point, a gorgeous Irish lass comes up to the bar to order a round of beers for her friends listening to the acoustic singer-songwriter in the other side of the bar. She orders a couple of Coronas. I didn’t actually she was Irish at this point. I said, “I would make fun of you for drinking Mexican beer in Ireland, but I just had a burrito for dinner.” She smiles and in a strong Irish accent smiling “While I guess you can’t then can you.” This is the point that I kick myself for not having anything further to say. Then she left.

Then later the other bartender started making drinks and as he cleaned the glasses kept spraying me with a little water. The second time I joked that he got me again. After the third time, he joked that if I stayed there I would just have to accept that I would keep getting “a little wet”. The bartender then began making a pair of Jäger-bombs and as he dropped the shot glasses into the larger glass, he shattered one of the glasses and the liquor soaked my shirt, shorts, arm, and leg. He also got some glass lodged in the skin of my arm. I then said, “This is a little wet?”. He then half horrified and half laughing was like “No I’m so sorry, you know the next drink is on me.”

By this point in the night, I’ve had a good 3 times more drinks than I planned on. I was just going to order another beer, but the Viking Bartender came over and said: “I know you been drinking the cheap beer and whiskey all night but since this one is on us let’s go for a special whiskey.”

I ended up with a special edition 200 bottle Jameson’s that was the most amazingly smooth flavour I’ve ever had. After finishing up, I called it a night as the next morning was a travel day back home to Canada.

For a country I was not excited about before going, I was one that I was sad to leave.

The next morning, I got up and shaved, washed, and packed up my stuff and left the hostel. The morning did not start well as I crushed my headphones in the locker door. As I had some time to kill I went to Costa and had my morning coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I caught up on some news, Reddit, and updated my phone to try to use up my remaining data. At this point, I went a block away and got the shuttle bus to the airport. Since I was trying to use up data, I live streamed the video to YouTube from the bus.

Until which point, I needed to conserve battery life since my boarding pass was on the phone. Once I arrived at the airport the Departures section looks amazing and modern and so not the back hallway looks of the Arrivals area. I checked my bag and placed everything in it so I could easily get through security and enter the duty-free shopping area.

I made the first stop at the Guinness store and bought an Irish Flute kit with sheet music, and a hard Guinness Wallet for holding cards. The second shop was an electronics store, there was no way I was going to use cheap headphones for a 7.5 hours transatlantic flight so I bought a good duty-free pair.

On the flight back, the meal was pretty good. There was this cool pickled cucumber salad side, a bottle of wine, I picked the Chicken and pasta dinner. After the meal I listened to music and podcasts as we flew, I liked to keep the entertainment system on the navigation channel to see where we were.

As we flew over Quebec, I had some land data and Facebook Live posted a bit, then took some long time-lapse videos. Coming back to Toronto there was a long line so I didn’t the “cripple limp” and the navigator pointed me to the fast line for disabled and airline staff. Score! After you go through customs, you end up on the outside and there is an out of the way door that most people don’t notice because the signs point them the other way. It is to the far left wall on the Departures floor.

I quickly cleared customs and went to my gate and waited around for about an hour as my flight was running a bit late. The flight was a success, unlike the Titanic, and I arrived home at the Saint John airport to my mother and stepfather waiting for me. It was the first time ever I arrived to people waiting for me.

That concludes my 5th Eurotrip.

If at First You Don’t Succeed… Build a Museum

If at First You Don’t Succeed… Build a Museum

Shall we continue where we left off, attempting to sleep—

Update at 2:24am #1 stoped snoring and #4 and #6 are sharing #6 and double “bean flicking” #FML

Facebook Post

After the above comment to the Facebook post in my last post, I passed out with exhaustion regardless of the hostel situation.

Buzz!!! Buzz!!! Buzz!!!… it’s 5:45am!

That meant it was time to get up. For once I was prepared with my go bag and clothes for what I needed for the day. Went to the shared washroom, brushed my teeth, and ran (hobbled quickly with only one ankle) to the tram stop a few blocks down. It was a brisk and crispy morning as the sun was already rising over the buildings in the square. I arrived several (23) minutes before the first train. (or so I thought) to the train.

After determining that I had time, I went to Costa to get coffee. (Sorry, Closed) The coffee shop across the street.  (Sorry, Closed) The literally 15ish coffee shops in this college/young urban district of town. (Sorry, Closed) Needless to say, I was going to get on this tram coffeeless.

The tram arrived and I got on several stops and I was at the train station. Up the escalator and I was in the hall. The station is not the fanciest in Europe but the crowds flow efficiently and you get to get on trains. Although, I ran out of time to get coffee.

It is now time to seek out new life and new civilizations aboard the Starship Enterprise. (err… Seek out new adventures and an old civilization on the train service “Enterprise”.)

Okay, let’s level with you all. The only reason I’m on this train going to this particular city over Waterford, Limerick or Cork is the train was the “Enterprise”.

So I am on the train and my name is on the LCD display above the seat, this is so unlike the paper slips I am used to on Via Rail and Amtrak trains. The train is on its way and I am off to country 34, Northern Ireland to see the city of Belfast. I slept most of the way there.

Now you are probably asking why Belfast, there must be other cool things in Northern Ireland. Which is very true the original plan after taking the Enterprise was that Belfast would be boring and I love the catchy song “Daytrip to  Bangor” so I would connect to the train that goes to Bangor for the day and get a picture. As I looked at the train map, I saw the second stop was named Titanic Quarter. Then looking at the map I found that there was a Titanic Museum and that was the death of Bangor.

At the train station, there are signs that it is free to get on a city bus to transfer to City Hall square in downtown where the bus hub, main tourist bureau, and coffee shops are. At the square, the bus stopped in front of the coffee shop so that was stop number one. Then I picked up a day bus pass and got on the bus to the Titanic Museum.

The museum is a huge and beautiful building on the waterfront with lots of crowds like you would expect to see at any tourist area/trap. One highlight was the Contiki Bus driving by, I think there is a picture from my 2016 tour on the side of the bus.

The museum is quite pricey but there is a lot to see and it is a very interactive experience. It starts with the history of Ireland, then the history of Belfast, the history of shipbuilding, then the Harland & Wolff company, about Ocean-liners, then the White Star Line.

After that multimedia exhibit then it goes into the design and construction of the ships, and more specifically the Titanic. It then leads up to a big window that overlooks the slipway where the Titanic and Olympia where built. Then you enter a room with a virtual experience on all walls flying through the ship. Then a history on how Marconi operated the telegraph system on ships, filled by the Titanic’s sea trials.

After this, it was about how people, interacted and stayed on board the ocean liners and the whole class system. Then it was followed by the maiden voyage where for the first time you learn, the ship doesn’t make it and sinks after hitting the iceberg.

Then it goes into more exhibits on the rescue, and how the Titanic is misunderstood by popular culture. The final exhibit is about the underwater drones that found the wreckage of the Titanic. At this point, it was getting later in the afternoon and was disappointed by the gift shop. After I exited, there was a perfect moment, there was a young musician whose parents were recording her playing the Titanic Song on the Theremin in front of the Titanic sign.

Upon going back to city centre, I just walked around in pain and exhaustion taking as many pictures of things in the Tourist map that I could before running out of time and getting a bus and barely making it back to the train station.

On the way back, I admired the beautiful views and mainly wrote the first post in this series of post on this trip.

As we now end this I have just arrived back to Dublin for the most memorable night of the trip.

Europe 2018 #33 – Part 3

Europe 2018 #33 – Part 3

After a well rested night, it is now my birthday. I slept a bit late and left the hostel to wander around Dublin. The most important first stop was the local Costa Coffee shop across the plaza, and to pump up some energy for the day, and to Facebook creep what was going on in the world.

After coffee, I went to the waterfront (river the passed through the city) and walked towards the area that the hostel said was where all the tour tickets could be brought about a 25-minute walk away. I took a lot longer taking photos and resting due to my limitations every couple of blocks.

It was at this point that it hit me that, I was near no one I knew, in a place I knew nothing really about. This got me really sad. The first bridge I came across I thought was the famous (according to my map) Ha’penny Bridge. I Facebook Live posted a video going across it. (Which had no viewers.)

Then as I continued on to the next bridge it had a sign that it was the Ha’penny Bridge. It looked cooler but yet less impressive and had about a half dozen homeless sleeping on it. I decided not to cross it. I then noticed a little shop that sold souvenirs and I dropped in and picked up a little Leprechaun and a t-shirt. This shop also sold passes to the hop on buses so I picked one up here.

Outside the shop, I was waiting for the bus with two guys who were waiting for their wives to finish shopping and picking up tickets to a dinner show. The guy warned his wife that they were going to miss their bus. (Which they did.)

Although I wanted to see the ladies reaction when they got back, I got on the bus. It only went one stop and then we were told we had to get off and could get on the bus waiting in front. Now that first bus had a recorded audio tour, the second bus had a live audio tour and the guy was hilarious.

I spent the next 3 hours going around Dublin on that bus not wanting to hop off because I loved that driver. My plan was to get off at the Guinness Brewery but opted not to, to stay on the bus. I would also point out that the brewery has the strong burnt popcorn smell. As I approached the hostel, I got off the bus and recharged my phone and rested for a half hour.

After the rest , I went next door to the Jameson’s Distillery. This is one of the best alcohol attractions I have ever seen, on Heineken in Amsterdam was better. It does the typical, here’s the history, here’s how it’s made, here’s how each ingredient and process matters, here’s why we’re best, here’s the gift shop and finally the grand finale, here’s the bar. I still considered going to Guinness but met so cool Belgians and wanted to try more whiskey.

Closing in now on the late afternoon, I was stumbling out of the distillery. (Let’s pretend it was because of my bad ankle.) I then walked across the bridge and towards the Viking castle area and then was intending to make it to the Temple bar area. However, I needed to drain from the distillery and came across a restaurant/pub with an “Authentic Irish” menu and decided it was a fitting place for my birthday dinner.

After dinner, I was looking for the bus stop that was on the map and only after it was too late that I was on the wrong parallel street. So I walked along the river, crossed at the Ha’penny bridge, and then retired to the hostel, had another Guinness at the bar, and then “called it a night.”

The quotes on that last part are because it was an interesting night. I had an early morning to catch the train to Belfast. I posted this to Facebook at about 12:30 am:

Picture this situation, 4 bunk bed sets, two on each wall, numbered 1-8. I’m in #8 and the world record holder for loudest snorer is in #1 (90% sure it is a she). #3 and #5 are taking up the sofas in the lobby. #7 is about to lose his anger management chip.

MoCo Downtown– The Best Italian Style Restaurant in New Brunswick

MoCo Downtown– The Best Italian Style Restaurant in New Brunswick

The following is a repost of my review for MoCo Downtown that appears on TripAdvisor.

I was there for the first time on Saturday and I was floored by how wonderful this gem of a place was. I ordered the Sussex Sausage Risotto and for a side paired it with the Sliced Brussel Sprout with Prosciutto and Pine Nut side.

It was so creamy and spicy and flavourful that it blew me away. The Brussel Sprouts we very salty, but that is exactly what you would get in Italy. Unlike many Italian restaurants that simply mimics what you would get in various parts of Italy, this place cooks like a Tuscan or Venetian chef would with access and highlighting of New Brunswick ingredients.

The food was so good but I would not want to not mention how friendly the wait staff was and how efficiently the kitchen was putting out plates. Definitely going to go back and explore more of this menu.

An Election is in the Air

An Election is in the Air

As the fall approaches, it is time for another round of provincial elections. The province is in a tough but still hopeful situation, people throwing around money and making promises that will make them look popular and ruthlessly attacking their opponents.

I’m going to make a list of items that I consider a priority for the next government.

1) Remove the ban from walking down the street with open liquor. There is no real public safety impact here, and littering would be of little impact as the empties will quickly be retrieved.

2) Rename the Saint John River the “Saint John / Wolastoq River”, it would only cost 50ish signs and would make everyone happy. Also, please the indigenous peoples in the area.

3) Within 5 years, eliminate 10 schools. Even if you have to build new modern 20th century buildings.

4) Change legislation to ensure there are no more than 6 levels of management between the minister and the front line staff in every department and agency.

5) Change the way we do municipalities. Naming streets, municipal planning, recreation, transportation, by-laws etc are what makes a community and councils should be limited to those things. Protective services should not be at the municipal level. There should be large regional elected service boards that run protective/regional services.

6) Reduce 10 municipalities. There are too many for the size of the Province.

7) Modernization of the delivery of government services. It is completely ridiculous that you still have to play phone tag with the receptionist to get appointments at the hospital and be called by 3 different departments for the same procedure. Also that your medical information is in silos that don’t allow your doctor to know the whole story, and allow electronic filing of prescriptions so you are not given conflicting drugs, and reduce the addictions.

8) Be ambitious and strive to have Bilingualism as a requirement of Graduation for all students of New Brunswick. “switching between two or more languages gives the brain a dexterousness and improves our attention, planning, memory and problem-solving skills.” (Irish Times, 27 March 2018)

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy

It has been a while since I have done any writing and there was no real good reason other that I wasn’t myself on the pills.

The tale started shortly after I had gotten out of the hospital. I was really hoping on a more abridged and unrealistic timeline for my recovery. I was in the City Market when I got the initial call for the referral, I had an appointment for my EMG so I procrastinated starting.

Then as I got closer to the start of Physio the first roadblock came up. I was booked for the wrong type of physiotherapist. I needed a Neuro one. Then the one I had been rebooked to left. I received a call that perhaps St. Joseph’s hospital had a shorter list. Once again it was the wrong type at first, but that was resolved early.

As we started, she gave me a few exercises as we met a few times I week and I was starting to see results and was really happy. During these sessions, my mobility improved and I could start raising my right arm over my head again. In the middle of these sessions, I finally had my hand surgery and needed a few weeks to heal.

Once things resumed, my sessions not long after ended and I was given exercises to work on which I did for a while.

Around this time I also started taking the anti-anxiety pills and stopped wearing my orthotic. The aftermath of this actually helped me get more active and stronger as at first I was motivated to do more and not be limited by the pain of the AFO.

Europe 2018… #33 – Part 2

Europe 2018… #33 – Part 2

So even though I have not posted the last post while I am writing this, I’ve decided to split this into a second post. I wrote the last post on the flight to Dublin and it was how I was feeling at the time. I’m presently at 40,000 feet, travelling at 499mph with 377 miles to Toronto. (Note please Air Canada! give us an option of metric flight information.)

On the way to Dublin, I rested well and the new “chicken” meal was quite good. The loaf for breakfast was disappointing. As we deplaned, it was like a Hurd of cattle being shouted at due to very poor signage and renovations. “Europeans Right! Everyone else left and against the wall!”.

It took over an hour to get clear of the customs hall. The customs guard asked me why I was going to Ireland. I answered “Vacation” then he asked me what I planned on seeing. I must have been like “deer in headlights” because I didn’t have any plans and totally blanked on anything that was in Ireland. I eventually responded with Castles and Churches. Then he asked what I did for work, which no one ever gets on the first try, and this guy was particularly dumb. I had to resort to “When the phone company rips you off and you call a guy and yell at him? I’m the guy.” [Even though I do more than that and the phone company doesn’t rip people off… ever 😉 ]

At the airport I picked up a Vodafone SIM card with 5GB of data and a bunch of other things for only 25€, also I got the round trip bus ticket for the 747 service for 12€. I then took the bus to downtown Dublin and to my Hostel at the Generator. I have a soft spot for public art, especially if it is stupid ridiculous. Dublin has this steel needle on the Northside that is stupid tall. It is apparently to represent ambition or something, my first thought was “If you try to step on Ireland/Dublin you are getting a giant nail up your foot.”

I stayed at the Generator Dublin in the Smithfield neighbourhood. It was a great hostel. Nice, clean, safe, and a great bar. The only downside is it is a 25-minute normal person walk to most of the attractions that are grouped and a very small portion of Dublin. After checking in I took a bit of a time to recharge my phone and look over the map of things to see. I then took a walk around Smithfield and see what was around. My feet were sore from the customs hall and walking so I didn’t go too far. I also picked up a burrito for supper. This thing was no ordinary burrito it was a massive roll (super donair size) of awesome goodness.

I had 20€ of cash on hand but didn’t need to use it the entire trip. They take tap everywhere. After the burrito, I went to the bar in the hostel and got the from Ireland Guinness. It does taste different and to me, not in a good way I really didn’t enjoy it.

After hanging around the bar, I called it a night.

Europe 2018… #33

Europe 2018… #33

As I begin to write this, I’ll have you know I am viewing the beautiful sunset over what I guess is the St. Laurent river on my way to connect flights in Toronto (YYZ) for this trip and the last 2 cruises, the places are not ones that are on my want to go list and I have been travelling just to get new places on the list. In 2 days from now, I will turn 36 and officially age out of the possibility of a 5th Contiki.

So where am I off to? Dublin, Ireland. Why? Because it had a cheap flight and hotel (err hostel). Most of the good places are too cost prohibitive to travel solo and life has as always left me solo. If I were to be asked what is left in Europe that I really want to see, the list would be in order Luxembourg, Romania, San Marino, Ukraine, Norway, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Spain, Malta, Iceland, Andorra, and then Ireland. (Maybe even Moldova and Serbia outshine Ireland.)

I’m, however, still going to attempt to make the best of it and see if I can like it. I had low hopes for Copenhagen in 2016 but that city really won me over. I have a list of places to see, but in reality, I will probably just get lost and see what speaks to me.

Anti-Anxiety

Anti-Anxiety

Back in June, I was in a position that I was struggling with motivation to do anything. There was constant nervousness about falling and not able to get up on my own and I was doing very little.

After talking with my doctor, based on online research, I read that it was a common side-effect of Gabapentin. A common reoccurring solution was to also take a mild dose of Sertraline.

Once I started taking the Sertraline, things improved a lot. I started doing more and focusing on my exercises. I also stopped crying myself to sleep every night.

Now fast forward to early this year, I was taken off the Gabapentin. It was causing weight gain and as I learned, most of the remaining pain was a side-effect of it. Which left me with just the Sertraline.

As I soul searched it really wasn’t making me feel any less lonely, or even helping with dating. In fact, it made me less motivated to go out and meet people. I went to a dance for a friend, but couldn’t bring myself to go in. My friend was having a special night and the Arcade Bar, and I struggled with motivations to go. I’ve been really tired a lot. I couldn’t even go to comedy shows that I loved.

I would make it to the parking lot and then give up. Staying in a cloud of loneliness. I haven’t been even able to write these posts. So now my prescription is over and I have stopped taking it.

Today I even waxed my car today that I lacked the motivation to do.

Starting the Getaway

Starting the Getaway

The second day of the trip started on a beautiful sunny day. Everyone was talking about how cold it was from a cold front and it was still shorts weather for me. I woke up at 7 and went downstairs for coffee in the lobby and a Guava Cheese Danish that was to die for. I returned to my room and watched the best of Sunday morning TV. It was one of the cooking shows where I learned that the Agave syrup I like in my tea at David’s Tea is the same plant that is used to make Tequila.

I had booked the early embarking at 10 AM online in the check-in to the cruise-ship. However, when I got to the hotel 12 noon was the only shuttle time left. Since the shuttle was the cheapest option, I reserved it. The hotel also had a noon checkout time, so I took a long shower and relaxed until 11:30 when I went downstairs and got on the shuttle.

Miami looked not much different from San Juan, and I was not wowed to want to spend more time there. When we arrived at the port, I dropped of my bag to the longshoremen who stated adamantly and more forcefully then San Juan or Charleston the “A tip is expected for this!” Therefore, I gave him $1.

I walked to the door to the terminal and after about a 4-minute queue I entered the main hall. I was asked if I needed a wheelchair but I declined and limped into the hall. I filled out the health form and then went to the handicap line where you can sit down and wait. It took about 15 minutes to get checked in and I got my ship key card proceeded up the escalator and had my photo taken (that wasn’t available at the photo shop on the ship.)

Then I boarded the ship, after my first encounter with the NCL “Washy Washy” team. I was hungry and the rooms were not ready yet so I went to the buffet and sampled a bit of as much as possible. I sat on the side watching Miami Beach and had a great view while joining another couple for lunch.

As I finished lunch the room was ready so I went down to settle in and get off my feet for about an hour. Then it was time for the safety drill. My spot was A5 in the main theatre since it was down steps the crew said I could sit with the A11 people at the top. It was hilarious all the people being told they couldn’t bring their drinks into the safety demonstration. It went by in less than half the time as Carnival’s demonstrations.

After the safety drill, I did some exploring of the ship and then made it to the Mojito bar where it just happened the Single/Solo cruiser group was meeting. After talking to some people, a group of 6 of us ditched the Solo group and went to dinner at Taste. The service that night was the slowest of the entire cruise we arrived at 6:30pm-ish and finished the third course after 9 pm.

After the dinner, I went to the Welcome Aboard show which was really good. Especially the comedian Dean Edwards, he was incredibly funny stereotyping the type of people on cruises.

After the show, I called it a night and had an amazing sleep.

A Return To My Happy Place

A Return To My Happy Place

For those of you that love my travel stories, this is the beginning of a new series of them.

Once again I visited a new travel agent and had no idea where I was headed. The only criteria were the most affordable cruise to where I can add the most new countries to my list. This resulted in the Norwegian Getaway going to Rotan, Honduras, Harvest Cay, Belize, Costa Maya México, and Cozumel México.

Checking in for the flight was different this time and in the end a lot easier. Online you need the address of the Hotel you are staying at, in the past this was only asked at the airport. The hotel I decided on was the Holiday Inn near the airport. I picked that based on price, that they had an airport shuttle, and they arrange shuttles to the port. Miami is very well organized as a home port town.

On Saturday (Dec 9th), I woke up really early and had to do laundry and pack. I had meant to do that on Thursday night but for no good reason, that just didn’t happen. My wonderful sister drove me to the airport, dropped me off, and took off to enjoy her vacation from me.

I used the mobile kiosk to print my boarding pass. I always prefer a paper pass over a mobile version as it is convenient for going through security and is a great place to stick your baggage tag stub. I then checked in my checked bag. I brought my medium sized one. Getting through security took about 90 seconds, the Saint John Airport is great for that. The airport is having renovations and now has a shop inside of security that offers duty-free on international flights.

Getting on the flight there was a cheap woman with her maximum allowed bag trying to fit it in the overhead bin. The plane was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 that has smaller upper bins. Let’s face it however you try to angle it, it is never going to fit. The maximum allowed size is for placing under the seat in front of you. Which is where she shoved the bag and grumbled all pissed off that she has none of the very little leg room left for the next just over two hours.

The flight was mainly uneventful, I took the orange juice on this flight. I was sat next to a young group of women off to Toronto for some “holiday retail therapy”.

Arrived at Pearson and very efficiently found the security for transfers to USA flights which is a very long string of people checking boarding passes and ID. After going through the scanners and kiosks it took me about an hour from arrival to passing security and US Immigration. The guard asked where I was going and scoffed that seeing Rotan is not real Honduras.

I had dinner at an Italian place until it was time for the flight. People at the airport do not care/respect the Zone boarding system as soon as there was an announcement that they were starting pre-boarding soon it was almost all 240 people in a line. My Zone was Zone 4 so I just sat until most of the line was gone.

They were checking bags and people were being forced to check and bag that had the “fat zipper” unzipped. I got through no problem and was seated next to a teenage anime artist travelling with his family to Miami. The Miami airport was very easy to find the baggage pickup. For the first time in 3 trips to the USA, my bag arrived with me. I was thrilled even if I was a nervous mess over it being one of the last bags to arrive.

Finding where the hotel shuttle was you get led by the way finders out the second level door to a curb. There is no marking where each hotels shuttle stops and you see them all go by and then you flag down your hotel’s vehicle. After an hour I was basically tired and went screw this, went downstairs to the taxi stand and for only $13 got a blue taxi. This was the best decision ever. You can pay with a card on the tablet screen on the back of the passenger seat.

When I arrived, I checked in and the gentleman was the friendliest person I have ever met and really seemed to enjoy his job. I found my room “507” and settled in for the night. The room was spacious and well laid out and clean.

I fell asleep and that concludes this part of the story.

“Full Out” Review

“Full Out” Review

To say that I would never watch a gymnastics movie, while that. Is simply not true. I loved the movie “Stick It” and must have seen that movie dozens of times. The movie I just saw was “Full Out”. This is based on the true story of Ariana Berlin. Early on in the movie, she gets into a car accident with her mother. After a period in a coma and severe injuries, she is faced with not initially walking and is in the hospital dealing with physiotherapy.

Having her whole dreams taken away and her meaning in life. She initially struggles to find meaning in life and where her new life will take her. This road leads to hip-hop dancing and eventually back to gymnastics with a warm and fuzzy ending.

Given what I have been through I can really relate to her struggles. Even before this I never really had big goals and was waiting for inspiration. Now I feel like I need to do something and want to find that something but many possibilities a beyond large rolling Austrian Alps, but a big rocky Swiss Alps now.

This movie is available on Netflix and worth a watch.

Mobile Ordering

Mobile Ordering

Today I visited the local coffee shop in the mall. The line was very long and the people started to appear frustrated or tired, but there was the pot of gold at the end of the line to make it all worthwhile. Correction, it was coffee, not gold but in the eyes of the patrons waiting it was more valuable than gold.

Meanwhile, I enter and walk past the line and pick up my coffee there waiting for me and leave to sit in the mall and watch the people and write this. The people watching began before I could even leave the restaurant. The scowl of disgust on their faces as I did not lime them join in the ancient, or present-day British, the tradition of fair queuing.

I participated in the modern “there’s an app for that” method of placing my order using my phone and picking it up. Although I used an app this is nothing really new. For all my life you could call up and arrange for pick-up of take-out restaurants.

Today’s purchase was at Tim Horton’s using their app. When it comes to ordering their app is pretty good. It is very straightforward and adding modifications is simple. The payment process and choosing a restaurant is also very intuitive. The downside of the app is that the specialty muffins are not in the app and some instructions like double toasting bagels are not there.

However, they are making lots of improvements and when I first used the app you could not have 1/2 sugar. There is a promotion now where you can get a free coffee (Regular, Dark, or Decaf) after 3 orders by the end of the year.

Another app I use regularly is the Cineplex app. This app is good for purchasing tickets, but the number of options to buy a ticket can be daunting. The perk, however, is not waiting in line for the kiosks and 50 bonus Scene points (1/20th of a movie).

The McDonald’s Canada app is of similar quality to Tim’s and is really straightforward to make a complex or simple order.

The final shopping app review has to be the Esso Speedpass+ app. This is really convenient as you do not have to stand outside and swipe your fuel savings card, then your points card, then choose a car wash option, then the on-screen payment. It is simply done on the app with very little effort.

Urban Renewal Saint John Update

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 online.

StartUp Weekend Saint John

StartUp Weekend Saint John

As most of you know I have volunteered at ROGERS tv for going on 19 years. Bi-weekly there is a talk show that I work on called What Matters most. A few weeks ago the had someone on as a guest from the Momentum Group to talk about a then-upcoming event for a Startup Weekend. Long story short that episode didn’t make it to air and was instead put on YouTube. Therefore you can watch the following 13-minute interview to get the idea of what it is about.

Or not… I guess I can tell you what it is about.

The premise is that you pay money for a ticket and choose if you are a Developer (can code), Designer (can design stuff), or Other (smart person, marketing person, money person, et cetera). Then on Friday you show up raid the buffet spread, socialize, network, and assess the competition.

Then you get to listen to speeches, “The is is how the weekend is going to go down”, “we love business”, “entrepreneurs are awesome”, “there are so many services you have never probably heard of that you are going to get a taste of”, “your community needs you”, and lastly “who has an idea!”.

This is the first taste of the opportunity where you get to line up and present and possible idea, everyone claps for you presenting your idea, then you walk off to write your idea down on a big piece of paper and stick it on the wall. After all the ideas are presented comes the fun. Everyone in the room goes an puts a post-it note on the idea they like. Then the top several ideas get selected and then they get moved around the room that the idea person stood beside their idea and if you liked their idea you could join their idea team. If an idea had at least 3 people it was then a team.

We then spent a few hours planning out the idea. Then we went to socialize at a special after-hours gathering at the new Saint John Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club.

The next morning we arrived to have a light breakfast. Then go off to work. It was this portion of the day where we got to choose the local business people and entrepreneurs we would talk to in a type of speed-dating to understand our idea and it’s potential best future best. Of course, we then had an amazing lunch. Then back to work on the afternoon working on the business plan, the supporting market research, prototypes of ideas, and to build a blow-away presentation for the next day. Then a large supper arrived and it was back to work into the night.

The next morning involves a lot of fine-tuning the presentation, and practice of the presentation. Our group used Prezi for the presentation and there were a few points where we had to add a few seconds of fill to transition the topics for the visual animations that done well, nails the presentation and, not appearing to be filler.

Then we got to do a test presentation and got some great feedback from the event organizers. Using the feedback it just made the presentation stronger. Then lunch arrived I think this one was from Toro Tacos and it was a rice bowl that was incredible.

Then it was presentation time. This was the first time I ever used a presenter button (or TV term GPI) it is so much better than hitting the arrow keys on a laptop and makes it easier to present. After the presentation, I was relieved that that was it. Now to listen to the other presentations. There were nine teams in total with prizes for the first, second and third place teams.

When the third place team was announced, I was a little surprised. The criteria I thought of that would make a great idea was not what the judges looked for. There were great but impractical ideas in the pack, some that when it went from the idea Friday night took a turn for the worst. Then there was some that got a whole thot better after research. The thirds place idea was one of those and in reflection well deserved and was championed by someone truly invested in the limitless potential of their idea.

My team won second place and again I was in shock not because I didn’t believe our idea but because I had spent the last hour being won over by some of the other ideas.

Then when the first place was announced it was definitely the one I expected. I’ll link to a CBC interview on the winning idea.

After the awards it was a bit more, socializing, networking, and business talk on where the ideas can go from there.

There is going to be another one in Saint John hopefully in the Spring, and there is going to be one the first weekend of November in Fredericton.

Fundy Fringe Festival #5

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.

My First Heckler

My First Heckler

I love comedy and always have. Robin Williams and George Carlin are amongst my favourites. Over the past few years starting with the summer of trying things I have started going to see stand up comedy shows. Not to say I no longer love improv comedy, but there is just so much more stand-up lately in these parts.

One of the recurring shows is the No Jokes Barred put on monthly by Jon Forward at the R Bar. What I love about this show are the new performers. Back when I was rehearsing on A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Ken Bolton, he kept encouraging me to try stand-up. I never did however mainly due to my anxiety.

However this past June, Ken was going to be leaving town, and after the No Jokes Barred show, there was an open mic for the third anniversary post-show. I was considering doing it and was trying to think up some good material all day before the show. All of which I ran out of time to perfect and only used a bit as a preamble to my 2013 Amsterdam Trip story. (Which you will not find on this blog)

All during the show I was debating actually doing it. There was the option to do a Karaoke song, or comedy. They were giving past performers 6 minutes and other people 3 minutes. At this point, I was unsure about the comedy as 3 minutes was not enough time to tell my story. When the sign-up papers were placed on the table I grabbed one right away and wrote “Charles Frees-Melvin… Comedy”. I was still nervous and spoke to a few people and then, what the hell, gave Jon the piece of paper.

After a few others, my name got called and there was no turning back. From my 18 years of TV experience holding and talking into the mic was child’s play. I also love to story-tell as well so that was not an issue. The hard part was I had to make them laugh.

As it turned out my story was either really funny or the crowd was great because they were laughing a lot and in all the right places. Then the dreaded R Bar experience a heckler! That guy said something stupid and wrong and I made fun of him and moved on to finish the story. I don’t know how but the right words just came to me to shoot that guy down.

Obviously thrilled with myself I finished my beer and headed home.

Buying My First Car

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 Return to Work

The Return to Work

On my way out of the hospital I was so hurried to get out of there I got my prescription list and that was it. I was gone just after lunch. I probably should have asked questions about the follow-up but didn’t.

When I got home I spent a lot of time watching TV and occasionally taking the bus to town. Having to sit on several cushions was getting to be uncomfortable so I bought a new recliner chair from Wayfair. When the chair arrived I loved it and it made watching tv more comfortable. I did eventually get a call from the doctor for a follow-up EMG. It went as well as poking a needle and giving an electric shock can get. I also received a referral to a plastic surgeon to see if he could fix the Ulnar nerve. Later the next week I had that appointment and an MRI to see what happened to my shoulder.

After another month of doing nothing and clearing out the PVR. I was so bored that I made an appointment with my family doctor and got his permission to go back to work. So 2 days shy of 8 months later I returned to work.

The Path to Freedom

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 into 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.