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Author: Charles F-M

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.

Ireland Trip Photos

Ireland Trip Photos

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)