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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.

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The Life of the Party Must Be At The Party

On the spur of the moment I came up with a wild goal of getting to my work Christmas party on January 21st. I then told my Physio and OT that this was going to be my goal right after the Christmas holiday.

Step 1: The Car Transfer

Up to this point , I was barely able to slide on a varnished board but I gave it my everything to be able to do that. However, in doing that my muscles started to build more rapidly and I was moving on to being able to stand using a two-wheel walker, and walking a little with it with a physiotherapist. We had arranged an afternoon with my step-father that had a higher vehicle to get into to try with Physio to get the okay to go. The day I picked turned out to be a quite warm day for January and in one try I was able to get in and place myself in the sea. I couldn’t get my own seat belt on myself but it looked promising.

Step 2: Arrange tickets

My coworkers were visiting me in the hospital regularly and I got them to arrange to get me a ticket and my parents a ticket as well, and it was to be kept a very tight secret which is almost impossible to do with the closeness of the people I work with.

Step 3: Not arrive naked

Up to this point , I had not needed any clothes so I was just wearing Johnnies and pyjama pants most days. I had to arrange for my sister to bring me clothes. She got me everything I needed. I had also been working for weeks trying to be able to move enough to pull it off.

It was really funny the nurse helping me with the buttons as my fingers were still very week. I was nervous of having to use the bathroom while out.

Step 4: Arrange for my parents to bring me

This should have been the easy part but my anxiety made it the hardest part. Fortunately , they were on board and I arranged for them to be able to go as well, which they enthusiastically agreed to do.

Operation a success!

It then became the night of the party. I arranged to get picked up after dinner as it was the best time to have the nurses get me ready to go out with the limited help I still needed. I was just starting with a walker a bit in therapy, but the most part I was wheelchair bound. With the help of my mother , I made my way down to the waiting car. It was pretty cold and the temperature hit me as I had left the hospital for the first time since September (almost 4 months).

At this point , my tentative release date was just a few weeks away and this was a real challenge to see my progress. We drove around for a bit as I had about 2 hours to kill before the party. So many things had looked different but quite the same. I was so happy to at least be home. If I had stayed in Brampton, or even if I was transferred to rehab at the Stan Cassidy Centre in Fredericton I don’t think I would have been as motivated for this as I was and it was a goal that pushed me forward and gives hope that more was possible.

Me at the Party

I waited fashionably late to arrive, almost a half hour after the doors opened. Mainly to have more people there to get a bigger welcoming. Much of what I do is plotted for maximum effect. The ramp was in the back door and the key people in on the secret met me and I transferred out of the car and into the wheelchair and I entered the legion hall.

So many people came up to me to see how I was doing it was incredible! The buffet began and I waited in line. My mother helped me, and everyone tried to help me. I really wanted to try and see what I could do but no one was letting that happen.

Eventually, I did manage to ditch everyone and made a solo run to the buffet. I had lots of trouble with the nachos and squeezing thongs.

I danced as much as I could in my chair and had a great time. I eventually needed to use the washroom and managed on my own. I wheeled up to the urinal and stood up on my own grabbing the pipe for support, and it took everything I had to do it. I really wasn’t ready but my brain was determined that there must be a way. As I left the washroom I found the handicapped washroom that would have been safer and easier. It was too late for that. I danced a lot more, said some goodbyes and left.

I wanted to let go and fly down the ramp but nobody was going to let that happen. I got frustrated that no one was letting me try things myself. When I got back to the hospital, I wanted to wheel myself back to the room but my mother wouldn’t let me do that and we got into an argument again. I was just so frustrated that so was not being considerate as I should have been. I wanted nothing more than to be independent.

I made it back and the nurse helped me back to bed and after some meds, I fell soundly asleep.

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And It Peaked…

“Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true. When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?” –Billy Joel

This is truly a special city. One does not really understand Europe without Vienna. This was the first of the several cities that were new to me on the Contiki tour. I was starting to feel like I was more the tour guide in some of the previous cities and they started to seem ordinary. Not, Vienna.

Monument on a building


It is September 16th, about 10 days to go until the fateful day and the greatest day ever. When we arrived in Vienna we checked into the a&t Holiday Hostel Vienna then dressed up for a night out. The night started with a concert with a quartet, opera singers, and ballroom dancers. Of course there was an intermission with wine. After this we went to Kern & Waldmann amusement park for dinner. I think the restaurant was called Schweizerhaus. The beer and the food was amazing. 

While here others in the group went on rides as I watched. I was getting more and more depressed by the minute. I was really convinced if I went on a ride, that was it. A scene from the Final Destination movie was about to happen. After the rides a few people decided to go back. I went with them not wanting to have to rely on a taxi to get home.

Amusement Park Ride

At the subway station, I got a 24 hour ticket and got on the train helping a few others find the right train. On the train I realized our tour manager was wrong about the trains ending and I wanted to tell people at the bar. This and I had no excuse for transportation that I stood up half way back to the hotel and decided tonight would be a “Fuck It” night, even with a bit of a sore throat, and ran off the train and switched to a train going back.

I was headed back to the club Prater DOME and there were no regrets. When I got there the amusement park was dying down for the night, but the club was rocking. This place was one that gives you a card and you cover the tab on the way out. I went to the bar and got a drink, and another, and another, and another.

Amusement Park Nightclub


Then I got to the dancing point of the night. The music kept me going and going. I was on top of the world and the depressed me was too drunk to care. That is until I was too drunk to go to the bar and order more. This place had evil bottled alcohol vending machines. So a few more drinks later… it is close to 3:30am and I call it quits, mostly because one of the women on the tour is too drunk to stay and needs help getting back, more so someone to help her get back safe. So I bring her on the subway, and then guessing based on a bad map find the way back. I drank lots of water and slept well for a few hours.

The next day was great but more quiet for obvious reasons. We started with a sightseeing tour of the area around the Royal Palace, and made our way to the Swarovski crystal “museum” that was really just a pay to look at shiny things in a store that you can buy if you a super rich. There was literally 5 things under 10€ to spend the 5€ for a free gift. The breakfast at the hotel really didn’t cut it so the group of us headed to McDonald’s. I had a coffee since Austria is well know for their coffee.

Austrian Coffee


I then wandered around and saw lots of cool things on a “Not the typical tourist traps you would see on a Vienna tour” tour. It included highlights like the cement benches that the locals consider the ugliest, a mural of a cow playing backgammon, the little know lookout for St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the tiniest alley in Vienna.

Cow Playing Backgammon Mural


After this I had some time to kill and tried finding the movie museum that I ran by earlier but never did find it. Instead I found a museum about the history of stage performance and how Vienna as a centre of music and culture for hundreds of years was ahead of everyone and developed almost every stage technique used today. For stage fans this place is second only the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. (technically Southwark)

Theatre Museum Display


Still not feeling the greatest I went to ride the Metro for a bit and see a weird shaped building. Then it was off to the see the Schnapps museum (shop). It was good and interesting how the company was run and then ended. 

Vienna Group Photo at the Royal Palace
Schnapps Museum


We then went to see the Summer Royal Palace, and had a classic Vienna dinner. Since we were practically forbidden to “go big” that night it turned into a quite rest night.

The next day we would be off to the death camps.

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The Two Festive Items So Wrong It Could Ruin Christmas.

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Why yes folks now that Hallowe’en is over and Remembrance Day is soon to be forgotten, it is now the season that is supposed to bring the sparkle in every little child’s eye. Like most good things that are once good and holy bring out the worst in those that try to modernize and monetize classics.

In this post I am going to focus on food items that are not only symbolic to the festive season, but flavours that you would not think could go wrong. Let’s start with the first item egg nog. This is my favourite holiday drink and each year the shelves are filled with thick, over sweetened, dairy goodness. That has its own still enjoyable light alternative. Warmed with rum and nutmeg makes a nice snack on the early winter night. If you think that they could not ruin that you would be very very wrong.

This is where Earth’s Own comes to town with their Almond Fresh Nöel Nog. This festive joy comes in at 100 calories per 250mL serving. That assumes that you can actually stomach this. This tastes like almond milk with the hint of sweetness and nog  spices but is thin and there is not even a think of some type of egg substitute. For this the makers all deserve a lump of coal in their stockings.

Then comes the next item. What one item is unmistakably the cookie of Christmas? It would be the Gingerbread Man or any other gingerbread cookie item or piece of house, etc. How could anyone ruin this you say? While let’s leave that feat to Nabisco and their gingerbread flavour Oreo cookies. This could have been good but the gingerbread filling was overpowered by the vanilla cookies leaving only a wee pit of festive flavour left. This could have been so much better with a gingerbread cookie and white mint filling. Therefore Nabisco a lump of coal goes to your stocking too.

Leave a comment, what do you think is the worst commercialization of a food/drink for the holidays this season?

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Santa as Blackmail

In the sprit of the holiday season I would like to make this rant about the blatant misuse of Father Christmas by millions of parents world wide.

Throughout this highly commercialized world of Christmas. The sweet jolly old man has gone from the symbol of joy and happiness, to be the evil judge of goodness that has in recent years has never cut any kid off that I know of. Face it people you don’t really need it! Hasn’t our generation learned yet from Disney’s The Little Mermaid that things don’t matter as much as experiences.

Then again, experiences are the reason that every parent will get most kids anything they want. You may deny it but for the same reason that you all use Santa to blackmail the kids in the first place you buy them anything. You are self-centered! Using Santa as an incentive to behave provided you benefit. As much so a joy on their faces Christmas morning.

So in closing, happy holidays, and get over yourself. Stop being self-centered you are not as important as me.

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2008 Saint John Santa Claus Parade

Update: The show was cancelled due to the weather. Night-Rain-Fog-TV Cameras don’t mix well.

Believe it or not the Santa Claus Parade is one my my favourite shows to work on each year. I also like seeing whatg is new each year and really enjoy coming home later to actually watch it. As a bonus for my readers I have the float list for this year’s parade.

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