adventure #26 – the journey home

checking in at the airport
unfortunate lettering
me and my mother
the artworks
joe and coffee shop friends
aly's wedding
me and aly - the blushing bride
a church fit for robocop
the arlington
what next
the journey home (to edmonton) started friday night after work in a freshly pressed black suit and light-blue shirt and DKNY tie that would serve as the wardrobe for a whirlwind two-night adventure (no luggage, just a light carry-on) in my home town to celebrate the marriage of my friend aly to her fiancé, adam. edmonton was almost exactly as i left it, except maybe a little larger and more expensive. one of the most humiliating indicators of edmonton’s lack of international sense is the misspelled french welcome at the arrivals area. every time i see it, i cringe with secret shame.

my mother was well – my father was in germany for the weekend to celebrate the birthday of his sister/my aunt. it was my first trip back in over a year. the last time i went home, i was emotionally distraught and miserable, so it was much much better to enjoy my brief time in town, rather than being obsessed with something else. as i said, edmonton was very much the way i remembered it, especially since i imagined that it would have changed so very much over the past year with the ongoing oil boom. my favourite flower/art shop was still there, and my friend joe was still there, hanging around the downtown coffee shops, as we had for seemingly forever. i randomly bumped into a few acquaintances saturday morning who remembered me and chatted with me, and those little meetings did unspeakably wonderful things for my soul. i think that in the end, all things need roots and connectedness. even i.

the wedding was held on the third floor, open air amphitheatre of the citadel theatre. it was attended by 100 – 150 of adam and aly’s friends, and if you look closely (click on the photo), you will observe the most beautiful woman on the planet, who grew up in airdrie of all places! it was my special honour and privilege to chat with her (and her boyfriend) at the reception dinner. the ceremony was lovely, and i was lucky enough to find ONE person who i knew in aly’s vast circle of friends to sit with and converse.

the reception, as i’ve already mentioned, was full of unexpected delights, but i left early to let the kids have their fun and to visit a friend of my mother’s who was eager to meet with me. i failed to meet up with my party animal friends, so there was an unfortunate lack of saturday night fever for me in oiltown.

i did manage to drive around the city a few times before my sunday afternoon departure to try and discover what had changed around town. i drove to my old neighbourhood where i grew up to see my old home and the places that i would go to think; i drove to my old high school and whyte avenue where i would become the person i am today; i went to the west end and all around the downtown to see where i had come from – the whole odyssey  took about three hours. i was happy though to spend a good deal of time with my old friend wally and his family… i’d ignored him for far too long.

but then i went to the arlington. it had always (in my lifetime) been something of a dive, but it had undeniable character and spirit – due in no small part to its age and the resonance of all the lives and drama that had passed through it. it burned down a couple of years ago, but it still remains in the core of downtown, gutted on the inside but shining and proud on the outside. i thought about how that was a little how i felt at this point of my life. so much of my joyful, passionate, romantic moments have exploded and immolated in the heat of the moment, but there still remains a facade of potential on the outside while the reality of the interior is far more dangerous and precarious.   but that’s another blog entry.

my trip to edmonton could have been a simple trip home to visit some friends and family, but instead, it was very much an existential shift for me. i’ve always felt that i was someone from edmonton merely travelling around the world until i came back to my home. this was the first time i’d ever felt that i was someone from somewhere else travelling to edmonton as an outsider. both realities suit me just fine.

– g


adventure #25 – toronto (relay) marathon

(From my email to the company, announcing our results)

This weekend, imason's Toronto Marathon team made a glorious return to the 13th annual event, representing in the only way we know how – by overcoming impossible odds and unrealistic expectations to place 37th out of 97 corporate relay contestants, with a total time of 3:41:37.1.  Not bad for a team that had virtually no formal training and composed of a pair of supermodels, a clubbing, day-trading playboy, a former clubbing playboy, an expecting father, a hockey thug, a senior citizen from Edmonton, and well… a marketing guy.

Here are some other ways of interpreting our performance:

  • we soundly demolished one of the two Mercer teams (the one that placed dead last);
  • we beat both the Johnson & Johnson (89) and PWC IT (81) teams who had very pretty and young girls picking up their race packages Friday morning;
  • our average pace per kilometre was 5:16, which is pretty good, considering that i run fairly regularly and typically clock between 5:15 – 5:30/km… so non-runners, hold your heads up high!!!

Notable moments/statistics:

  • Greatest positive increase in elevation – Angela ("I can run 5km straight uphill and still look good enough to marry royalty") J:  over 50m incline over 1 full km;
  • Greatest negative increase in elevation – Nariman ("There's nothing I can't do better than 97% of everyone with two day's notice") H:  almost 100m over the entire leg, yielding possibly the fastest section time (along with his superior physical strength and speed);
  • Longest-section – Jim ("I cannot be stopped by any force in nature or made by man") S: whose 7km leg was dishearteningly lengthened by having to run all the way around college park before he could reach the college park finish line;
  • Most stoic running warrior: Cosmin ("If the run is outdoors, then I can still legally smoke") O: in spite of only recently quitting smoking and having to lower his Coca-cola intake to three pre-race cans to avoid cascading myocardial explosion, dug deep into his highly-classified military training to deliver superb results;
  • Most disconcerting announcement: Noorez ("Why did no one think I had it in me") K:  who called me after his hand-off to Salma to inform me that he had dropped the ball by running his leg in like 23 minutes and that I would have to run my leg in under 20 to make up for it… i took 24 minutes.
  • Worst transition: Salma ("I can kick all your asses all up and down this town") N. to George ("Whadya mean I have to run now?") Pechtol at km-30:  where basically Salma had to smash into me to get me going because i was busy texting Jim that I would be starting soon;
  • Worst table service ever – Over Easy (208 Bloor St. W):  granted, they were busy, but we had no ketchup, no side plates for toast, had chipped glasses for juice, the saddest excuse for "home fries" ever, forgotten orders, but one celebrity sighting (sighted by me… apparently, no one else in the restaurant was concerned);
  • Highest number of group emails sent complaining about the difficulty of his section: Andrew ("If I complain enough, then when I make it look easy, everyone will think that I had to work hard") S, for sending no fewer than 39 emails (+/- 38 emails) complaining about the "hill" he had to run up, when in fact, Angela did.

A huge thanks to all of our courageous athletes for coming out on a brisk autumn morning to show team spirit and what they were made of.  And a huge thanks to imason for generously sponsoring the team and without whom I might never realize that I will never be able to (want badly enough to) actually run a full marathon.  Finally, thanks to our team captain, Jim, for all of his efforts to coordinate the team in spite of a constant work schedule and the fact that he has been 1,200km away with a broken laptop.

Way to go team!!!  Proving once again that even though we might be full of "unhandled exceptions" we can still "run"!!!

– g


adventure #24 – nuit blanche & run for the cure

nuit blanche
fight club-esque signage
the hit of the show
me and a whole lot of other people
the best new thing
i’m making a new resolution to make my blog entries a little more concise.  i’ve recently encountered long expositions that were really laborious and i don’t want to fall into the same trap.  we’ll see how it goes.

this weekend was fairly mad.  i took in nuit blanche this year, which is a festival that originated in paris, and has grown in popularity throughout europe and has spread to toronto last year.  i missed it last year, so i resolved not to miss it two years in a row.  it’s an all-night festival running from 7pm saturday evening to 7am sunday morning in arts districts to promote interest in local arts and galleries, and more than anything else, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy your home city and share in a truly social event in a safe and exciting environment.  there were many exciting public exhibits and the entire event was free thanks to corporate sponsorship by the scotiabank.  my favourite exhibit was a space that had a projection on its exterior windows that made it look like the entire interior of the building was being filled with water.  chairs and tables were slowly floated to the ceiling, and the effect was incredibly convincing (from across the street), until later on in the presentation, gigantic lobsters and goldfish were seen swimming into the scene turning a fabulous trompe l’oeil into a ridiculously enjoyable aquarium screen saver.  i had to end the evening early (1am) though because…

sunday, i did my first run in toronto, a 5km run for the cibc run for the cure.  this summer has been so busy that i haven’t had much time (or willpower?) to keep up my training, so i was pretty worried about how i would hold up for the duration of the run.  so i was all nerves and excitement when i arrived an hour early for the race.  i hadn’t picked up my race kit or registration or t-shirt, so i had all that to do before i could hang out with my running mates.  in fact, i wrapped all the administrative stuff with only 5 minutes until race start.  i then had to wend my way through about 25,000 other participants to the starting line.  at 10am, the race started, but everyone was creeping along the track, and i finally realized that i had lodged myself in with the walking group – so i had to push and shove my way past strollers, dogs, elderly people and people in motorized chairs until i got out into the back of the running pack.  i double-timed it as much as i could through the runners, and finally managed to catch up to some of my running mates.  but by then it was the last kilometer, and i had to pour it on (because that’s what you’re supposed to do).  the clock said that i came in at 32:31, but i’m pretty sure that if i had been where i was supposed to be, my time would have improved by at least six minutes, so i feel pretty pleased.

my team went for brunch nearby at eggspectations, which is hopelessly close to the apple store in eaton centre.  i’d been itching to go there to “examine” the new iPod Touch, so that i could see how i really didn’t need to get one, and move on with my life.  i went in and played with it for a couple of minutes, gliding the interface around elegantly with the swipe or a pat of a fingertip, and i thought to myself, “yeah, that’s pretty cool…”  i was extremely proud of myself for walking out of the store and convincing (conning) myself that i didn’t need to look at it again.  i walked towards the subway station for about 35 seconds and then headed straight back to the store and bought the maxed-out 16GB version with a heady and delicious mixture of joy and guilt!!  all the way home, it was all i could do to keep from tearing the box open and stroking its glossy surfaces!  but then, once i got home, i discovered that over the course of the afternoon, i had somehow LOST my former iPod, my much beloved iPod nano.  it had been my running partner and iPod of choice for almost two years, and a gift from someone dear, and it bruised me dearly to realize that it was gone.  even the thrill of the new iPod couldn’t assuage my pain at having lost so precious a device.  now it has to be replaced (so that i can continue to use the iPod+nike sport kit) unless you are the person who has found my nano and have looked through the contacts list to see who i am.  please return my nano – there’s a reward in it for you – maybe a new iPod nano.  what do you say?

– g

adventure cost:
pledges raised for breast cancer research: $165.00
brunch at eggspectations: $17.00
iPod Touch (16G) (with tax): $511.86


adventure #23 – canada’s wonderland

canada's Wonderland! this adventure goes out to my homeboy, wally, who told me back in springtime that all of my adventures were too introspective and "inside my head" and that i needed to go out and do something fun. he said, "isn't canada's wonderland or something near toronto? you should go do that." this is an odd thing for wally to tell me, because as far as i know, he hates carnivals and that kind of thing. and i'm not terriibly thrilled by them myself. so i was pretty excited when Ale and Kimi suggested to the company that we have a wonderland day on labour day weekend. it would be an adventure, since i've not been to a new theme park or exhibition for almost 20 years!!!

top gun - u know it!
the next set of victims
the first ride that we went on was a venerable favourite – Top Gun, named after that celluloid classic starring tom cruise and … everyone. the ride is cool because you get your torso strapped into a chair, and your feet are left dangling… for that "oh my god, the bottom of my jet's cockpit has just blown out" feeling, i suppose. you are pulled up an incline and then shot along sharp turns and corkscrews and loops that flip you and your dangling feet upside down at rocketing speed. it was a fantastic first ride and i was feeling like i was really taking this theme park bull by the horns!! however, we had just waited in line for almost an hour to go on a forty second ride… it was looking like it would be a long day!

oh yeah! TOMB RAIDER!!!
the rig made for flying
slingshot turns

because paramout pictures own the park, they are able to attach themes and branding from its creative assets to the rides, and for the next ride, that was just fine by me! we went to a new ride dedicated to my favourite leggy, busty, impossible-to-impress, pony-tailed archaeologist/adventurer heroine, lara croft, the tomb raider. in fact, the ride was doubly apt for me, because the car is designed so that you are actually lying flat with your arms out, so that it's pretty much like flying superman-style along the track! even more corkscrews and slingshot turns than top gun (i think) and being the superman nut that i am, i had to do them with my hands free in front of me… it was… a BLAST!

and at this point in my blog, i have to acknowledge the reason why it took me an extra week to write all of this down… perhaps it's something that wally (and everyone else in the world) knew all along. there's a difference between things that you like and things that are pure fun. i like to do things that are meaningful – in the sense of having all kinds of layers and levels of enjoyment – complex webs of interrelationship and all that… going to a theme park and going on a ride is just sheer thrill and simple fun. it doesn't matter what the ride is called, what intellectual property its leveraging, or anything at all. it's pure moment, pure immediacy, pure, unmitigated fun. that purity of moment is something ineffable, and accordingly, is quite the antithesis of something one can blog. but pretentious joker that i am… here i am blogging the unbloggability of a theme park!!! sometimes, i astonish myself with my own ridiculousness.

the psyclone! this next colossal ride was incredible. the psyclone i think it was. it was a giant ring of seats that held some 40 people at a time. then, it gently swung back and forth like a pendulum, while the ring spun around this way and then the other… it doesn't seem to move that quickly or to go that high… until you are inside of it! it's like looking at a large jumbo jet taking off or landing – you think … that plane's not going very fast, totally ignoring how large it is… i wanted to do this one twice.
marketing in overdrive but there were too many rides (and the line-ups were too long)… so on we went to the next co-branded ride… the italian job. this was probably the silliest of the rides… the cars were like a trio of mini coopers that rode around a mock los angeles, complete with mock police car shootouts, mock factories, mock helicopter, and a mock spillway. but the coolest part was when it entered this pitch black tunnel and continued on spinning and lurching in the dark so that you had no idea what was coming next, until you burst through a hole in a sign… that was pretty wicked.
condiment disaster! alas, into every sunny day, a little rain must fall… and so it was when we took a break for a snack (we'd been waiting in line and doing rides for about 3 – 4 hours at this point). i grabbed a hot dog from the worst appointed hot dog place… ever. they had run out of everything except foot long dogs, the condiment stand looked like the worst toilet in scotland, and it was bereft of everything but ketchup. when i asked the cook, the cashier, and then the manager, no one seemed to know what to do about it… i felt so bad for them… the end of the summer and still no clue how to do their jobs. how sad.

these next two rides we can describe together. shockwave was like a giant pinwheel with six seats per arm. the ride lifts the pinwheel up and spins it around, tossing the seats upside down and around and around. you would think that this would be nothing but stomach churning, and watching it from the lineup, i marvelled that there weren't streams of vomit shooting out from it at all times. but once you get into it, the whole effect is simply thrilling! i totally wanted to ride that one again.

nightmares, a rather obvious name for the giant centrifuge, was also fun. i'd seen rides like this that spin you around and then wobble around a little bit – but this ride went straight up and down – totally perpendicular – testing everyone's faith in their angular momentum calculations from hgh school physics! while i wasn't tumbled around inside the cage, i think i would have felt a little more secure if it were going just a little bit faster, just to have a little bit more force keeping me at the top of my cage at the top of its spin.

kimi and ale wanted to do the 3d simulator theatre, even though the film was from spongebob squarepants. i had to explain the story of spongebob to them, explain about bikini bottom, patrick starfish, and of course squidward. the ride was pretty weak but it was fun to be reacquainted with my old sea-bottom buddies from a few years ago.
funnelcake babies
happy times!

by this point, it was late and dark, and the park was getting ready to close down. but there was one canada's wonderland experience of which i had not yet partaken, and that was the "funnel cakes". funnel cakes are neither funnel-shaped, nor particularly cakey. they are drizzles of dough, deep-fried like a donut. they have the rather unfortunate look of aborted chicken embryos when they are in their raw form (there are times when i wish i didn't have that biological sciences background), but they are then clumped together on a plate with icing sugar, topped with soft-serve ice cream and strawberry filling. i guess it was okay… but it was hardly something i could not have done without.

this was one of my favourite adventures. partly because it was one of the most fun. partly because it was something that i probably would never have chosen to do of my own accord. and mostly because i did it with lovely friends.

– g


adventure cost:
day pass from mac's + some bottled water: $45.38
parking at wonderland: $10.00
1 blt sub from the in-park subway: $9.50
1 lemonade drink from a vending machine: $2.50
1 foot-long hot dog with ketchup only: $6.50
1 funnel cake for the three of us: $11.39
1 iced tea for the drive home: $3.07

adventure #22 – FANeXPO 2007

faxEXpo 2007
the lineup at the entrance
the teeming hoardes
millions and millions of comics
thousands and thousands of things
number one
my favourite rue morgue denizens

if i sub-titled these adventure blogs, i would sub-title this one "death of a fanboy". i went to the toronto fan expo 2007, canada's largest convention for comic/sci-fi/anime/game/horror fans, and it was at this event that i discovered that i have no patience whatsoever for a bunch of new things i didn't previously realize for which i had no patience. therefore, i have to begrudgingly proclaim this the worst adventure this year.

as a relatively new torontonian, i've come to accept that things worth doing here are worth doing for a large – very large – number of other torontonians. accordingly, they all come with large queues of people all waiting to take in the great spectacle of … whatever. this event was no exception. once again, i grossly underestimated the appeal of this event, or at least, the vast number of people who might find it interesting given that there are 50x as many people living within driving distance as in edmonton and underestimated the effort required JUST TO GET INTO THE EVENT. there were literally a thousand people waiting to BUY TICKETS to this thing – which compelled me for the first time in my life to buy tickets from a kid scalping his day pass. i guess that saved me about half an hour of irreplaceable life for the lowly additional cost of five bucks – all around an equitable arrangement.

i have fond recollections of the last comic convention i went to. i was twelve years old and with $20, i was able to fill in some gaps in my New Teen Titans collection that had been giving me some problems. this convention was like an acid flashback to that afternoon at the renford inn on whyte. there were fucking millions of comics at this thing – in fact, SO many fucking millions of comics that i was utterly discouraged from looking for a SINGLE one. i suppose that part of the blame rests with me for having left my comic collection at home (it weighs about 300lbs, which, when you are moving back and forth across the country, gets rather unwiedy) and not coming with a list of "need-its". but come on! if i need it that badly, i'll get the damn thing on ebay, right? so the comics were a bust for me.

they had other shit at this con too. there were collectibles for anime (re: perverse japanimation of schoolgirls with the skirts blown up so that you can see their white panties – who are invariably shooting at giant robots, while fending off the sexual attacks of demon-hoardes), sci-fi (for overweight guys who would have a heart attack if they had to run to catch the bus), horror (just about the only cool lot in the bunch, but altogether too leery for my tastes), and gaming (spindly-armed adolescent boys who must spend literally thousands of hours smacking down grumps like myself in online multiplayer environments). yes – you can see from the stream of bile issuing forth that i was rather surprisingly NOT in my element.

there were celebrities though – like number one, jonathan frakes here. poor jonathan frakes. he's tried so hard to rise above the star trek stereotype, and done better than most. however, here, people still want him to sign autographs of him as will riker and talk about the TNG days. hayden christensen couldn't be bothered to show up for the darth vader reunion, even though he lives in goddamn toronto. and i missed natasha eloi's autograph signing by scant minutes.

the one thing that did make me happy was seeing my favourite horror-lovin' friends and one of my very favourite couples in toronto, nicole and gary at the festival of fear booth for rue morgue. i also discovered that i can't get excited about comic illustrators anymore, being a pretty fair illustrator myself. but gary's really really good, and he's made a commitment to being an artist that i could never follow through on, so i bought one of his prints. it's actually really fantastic.

so, now i have a year to strategize whether i should plan properly, get a deluxe pass and show up to the con dressed as superman or the master chief or something, or whether i should put this whole fan-boy crap behind me. can you guess from this posting's tone which it will be?

– g


adventure cost:
scalped admission ticket: $30.00
"superman returns" logo t-shirt i've been craving for over a year: $29.00
macabre but fabulously-cool print by gary pullin: $20.00
doing what i really wanted to do – see Harry Potter V in 3D IMAX!!: $14.95
a large popcorn and bottle of water for HPV: $9.50
large chicken burrito at burrito boyz (plus tip): $9.00
renting 2 xbox360 games because i want to play too: $20.50