Ahead By A Century

It was a cool, dreary Tuesday evening in late April of 1996. Slowly, I was preparing for my weekly Scouts meeting. Button by button, my shirt was being meticulously fastened with the radio playing in the background. Suddenly, I stopped halfway up my shirt as something intriguing started to play. Within two guitar chords I had changed from bustling along to get out the door to being stuck frozen in that very moment. The song continued, and as the lyrics began, I sat at the head of my bed facing towards the window. Listening to where the song was going, I peered through the window staring at the church across the street knowing that was where I needed to be but was, seemingly being overtaken by the poetry of the music. A few minutes passed and it was halfway through the next song that I had realised that the song that had so entranced me was over. As I came to, I took notice of the time that glared back at me from the same device that had put a spell on me. I was going to be late for Scouts.

It was in this very moment that I became a Tragically Hip fan. The song, Ahead By A Century.

As a lot of other people, the most popular band to come out of Kingston, Ontario strikes a chord within my very being, my very soul. Especially the album that the aforementioned song resides on, Trouble At The Henhouse, track #6. Over the years, I have owned multiple copies of this album for multiple reasons. The first copy, which I had received the Christmas of 1996, was stolen from my desk at school in June of 1998. It had been taken, along with the rest of the CDs in a 20 slot envelope case which was blue with a silver zipper. The rest of the prank involved emptying a bottle of red paint within my Five Star zipper binder. As I had no friends at the time, this left me feeling more alone than usual. The second copy was replaced due to an abundance of love and listening. Frequent use and travels had left its mark in small, but eventually damaging scratches throughout the reflective surface. The third copy was misuse by a friend in 2006 as I had lent it to them for their travels away from the building course we were completing together. They left for mushroom picking in BC for three weeks, and upon their return, handed me back the album. I proceeded to survey the returned item and became quietly infuriated as this copy was in a condition far worse than that of the second copy. Deeply scored and even slightly cracked, they had no explanation other than a feigned apology. The fourth was lost carelessly in a move. I still have the fifth copy in my possession nestled carefully between 1994’s “Day for Night” and 1997’s “Live Between Us”.

They say that music can calm the savage beast. It may not work for all, but it certainly works on this beast and there is no quicker way to put me into a dulled silence, eyes closed, travelling to a place elsewhere than “Ahead By A Century”. Within seconds of the metronomic ticking at the beginning of the song, in private or public, I halt all I’m doing. I have used it to calm myself, soothe myself from angry or painful thoughts. Even when in a humourous or grandiosely happy mood, it can transport me into an absolutely euphoric state. The first time I heard it live was my first time finally seeing the band live was in our communal hometown of Kingston at a benefit concert on the grounds of the Royal Military Concert; Across The Causeway. It was a warm September Sunday in 2004, and I got to the venue at six in the morning to lineup even though the first act did not appear on stage for another six hours. I wanted to be as close to the front as possible and had arrived with a backpack filled only with water, some food, and the entire discography at that time hoping that within a slight chance I might be able to steal a moment of the band’s time for autographs. It was a very long, gruelling day but was entirely worth it. I was completely happy in that exact place, exact time. The evening was coming to a close as they ended their second encore. However, sadness started to set in as my favourite song was not played. I slowly made my way away from the stage towards the exit, leaving the crowd behind me. Then, as I was within feet of the exit, a familiar sound started to play in the distance behind me. I thought to myself, “The band wasn’t one stage for a third encore, were they?” I rushed back across the field and as I crested the hill, before my eyes was a stage lit up with five shadowy bodies taking grasp of the instruments once more. And that familiar sound? It was that very metronomic ticking that I had loved so dearly that made me a fan in the first place. I fell to my knees with tears starting to stream down my face as the moment completely washed over my entire being.

I have seen them live eight times since in other outdoor settings, arenas including the opening of the brand new K-Rock Centre in 2009, and a very special intimate free show in Toronto in 2012 to promote their newest release “Now For Plan A” where I had finished my night shift, hopped on a bus, and arrived at the venue with suitcase in tow. I was lucky enough to be early in the lineup, received my bracelet, and continued inside after a wait to realise that, not only was I front row, but was within reach of the band as they played. It was a very small three song set but included something special. Something that I had been close to, but failed at, every time since 2004, meeting, autographs, and photos with the band. I nervously moved through the queue, getting closer and closer. Then, the moment was upon me, I was meeting one of my heroes. I trembled as I handed the album over to be signed. The CD was taken from my hand by a dapper gentleman and replaced with his hand. He thanked me for coming out, asked my name, and commented on my straw hat as it was one of the merchandise items from a project outside of this band. I was shaking hands and talking with Gord Downie. I proceeded through the band, greeting them, having light conversation as each one signed the cover of the album and was even able to work up the courage to ask in a mumble guitarist Rob Baker for a photograph with him.

This year, a new album “Man Machine Poem” was announced with two singles already released. However, the news also comes with sadness as news of Gord Downie’s health was released days before the concert tour dates. When I first read the news, I uncontrollably gasped and started to weep. My next thought was that I was going to do everything in my power to attend the final show, which would mostly and actually is, in Kingston. When tickets went on sale, I was lucky enough to be able to take time aside at work to try to purchase some online. Right at ten in the morning, I was on the site and in queue for them. A few minutes passed but the page was still loading. I needed to return to work, so I admitted defeat returning the phone to my pocket and soldiered on at the task at hand. Reading articles later that day about the sale of the tickets brought several emotions to the surface. Anger, disgust, sadness, hurt. I had long knew that some people will take advantage of a situation they should not, only for monetary gain but thought maybe this one time that it would not occur as the band meant so much to so many. As usual however, I was proven wrong as tickets had been bought up by those with sophisticated computing programs only to be sold once more for absolutely outrageous prices. Everything has a price, but these were ridiculous.

So, I sit here listening to The Tragically Hip empty-handed, having come to terms with the realisation that I won’t do everything in my power to see them one last time. I am fully, completely content with this however because my cloud was tilted on that cool, dreary evening of late April of 1996 and my life has had a soundtrack ever since.

#KielXCA: A Reflection of Vancouver

I know it’s been a long time since my trip, and I have been meaning to write about it, but life has been busy on my end. During the trip, I had planned on doing a lot of posting to various social media platform, but got caught up in everything that was happening. Well, that, and the fact that reliable wifi was hard to come by after leaving Vancouver. So, without further ado, I shall try my best to recollect my travels and share my experiences with you now.


I am extremely glad I was able to start my travels here. I have for a long time wanted to travel to the West Coast of Canada and it surely did not disappoint. My second week was busy working the whole time at a recycling sorting plant. I had a lot of fun there and worked my behind off, as you should with employment. They were sad to see me go and said that if I hadn’t been leaving town, they would’ve hired me. Vancouver is such a gorgeous city with so much to offer. The Friday of my second week, I walked out of the hostel to head downtown for dinner and to wander the city. I only ended up a couple of blocks from the where I started because I ran into the Chinatown Night Market.

What an experience! It only runs a few blocks, but I ended up losing my whole night here viewing all the vendors. My favourite booth though had to be a place called Laser Cutter Cafe. They had won an Awesome Vancouver grant to open a cafe where you could use a laser cutting printer to create nearly whatever your heart desired. Their services were designs of 8.5″ x 11″ or smaller for $5. I decided to create two designs within the limits. I designed what I was wishing for, and they put a sheet of wood into the printer, input the info, and clicked print. Then, the best part, watching it print. Yes, I’m a total geek. Sadly, they are closed now, but are looking for a new space. Follow them on Twitter @LaserCutterCafe to keep updated with their happenings.

At the same booth, I ran into a really interesting family. Their 11 year old son Liam is a food blogger who is aspiring to be a chef when he is older. They’ve lived all over Canada, and had quite a nice conversation with them on eats we had both been to, and recommended places to each other for future cities. You can check him out at http://thelittlelocavore.blogspot.com, and on Twitter @littlelocavore.

My final weekend, I was able to couch surf with a really fun couple who welcomed me, not only into their home, but into their lives as well. Matt and Caroline were big board gamers, so I was able to try out some games that I hadn’t tried before such as Smallworld. It took a bit to catch on to, but after a couple of games, was right into it. Saturday, Matt was competing in a Redbull relay race on Grouse Mountain, which is in North Vancouver. He invited to come with him and explore the mountain for the day while he was competing. I jumped at this opportunity because I had really wanted to make it to the mountain for a hike that was suggested to me by a friend. Called Grouse Grind, it’s a 2.9 kilometre hike up the face of the mountain. From base to the top, you end up climbing 1,700ft in elevation. It was a cooler day and it had rained the day before (Rain in Vancouver? I never would have thought it’d happen), but was decently clear. I started my climb around 11:00 and was off to a brisk pace. Shortly though, partly due to the crowds and in part to my eagerness, I slowed down a little. There really isn’t a good spot to stop and take a break on the trail, for it’s all climb, all the time. I persevered and made my way up, until there was nowhere to go but down, the top. I was exhausted, but was also going through a rush of adrenaline that was making me want to run 10 kilometres. Suffice to say, I didn’t. I had bought a time card at the bottom to track my time, and once inside the building at the top, looked for my name. I was surprised when I found it, for it had my time at 1:16:48. I had thought I’d easily been more than 1:30:00, the average time listed on their website for first time hikes. Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. It does make me better than average, as per usual. However, I’m nowhere near the Grind’s record of 23:48. After completing the hike, the only way I figure this can be the record is if this guy had a fire cracker installed on his back and lit it, only touching his feet down for control and stability.

While at the top, I took in the sights, and to my delight, found a little piece of home. My face lit up with excitement when I found a Beavertails booth. I went and bought a Maple Butter, and continued to wander, because nothing says healthy eating to refuel energy after a nice hike like a Beavertail. There were signs posted around of a grizzly exhibit. It was a fenced off area that was fairly big, but sadly, no grizzlies to be seen. Maybe they were in Memphis? Walking around was bit a treacherous though, because with how cool it was, the fog was causing visibility issues. You could only see about 50 ft in front of you, and there was lots of snow around. June and snow usually don’t go together, but I was not complaining in the least. I even made a mini snowman. After a couple of hours touring the peak, it was time to head back down. They don’t allow to hike down the mountain because of how steep it is, but they do provide a gondola. I was able to get a seat at the front of the gondola and had a fantastic view for the descent. At the bottom, I started to walk down towards the Capilano Suspension Bridge seeing that it was fairly close to the Grind. Apparently though, I zoned out on my walk to it, and didn’t realize I had passed it until I was over 1.5 kilometres away. Figuring that I had walked uphill enough that day, I continued to walk towards Vancouver while I waited for Matt to finish his activities. I walked, and walked, and walked, right into the heart of downtown Vancouver, close to 12 kilometres from the start of my walk. Matt met me downtown, and we went back to his place, cleaned up, and went to pick Caroline up for dinner. The following day, they took me on a tour of suburban Vancouver as I had been invited to tag along to their friend’s birthday party, which was a board game party.

The next day, I thank them for their hospitality, and went on my way towards downtown to hang out in a cafe all day, while waiting to leave for the airport early in the morning. Thank goodness for wifi and Netflix. I hung out there until around 04:00, and left to take the first SkyTrain to the airport to fly out the next stop on #KielXCA, Calgary.

I bet you are tired from reading this long, and I congratulate you for making it this far, so I shall leave you here, and post soon on my travels through Alberta, the land of cowboys and oil.

Till we meet again my friends, I smile.

The Happiness Triangle: Love

I’ve been somewhat avoiding this post for the series given recent events in my life, but it’s time I get it done. Love is the hardest of the three points of the Happiness Triangle to right about because feelings are usually the hardest to describe. There isn’t any true way to share feelings, only you will know them fully. It’s also the hardest point of the triangle to write about because love can be very obtusive to the other things in your life. Sometimes, it can become your only focus, getting caught up in the acuteness of it all, completely forgetting about how it is affecting those around you. But before we even begin talking about how to share your love with others, we must tangent onto a couple of other points.

Love Yourself

Most importantly, you must be able to love yourself before you will be able to truly love others. This can be extremely hard considering that, by human nature, we are our own worst critics. Being comfortable in our own skin can be difficult given the consistent images and messaging from advertisers and the media at large for how we are supposed to look or feel. It really does not matter what others think of you, only what you think of yourself. Turn off all the messaging, look into the mirror and find fives things that you like about yourself. This exercise isn’t about finding five physical things, but rather being able to look yourself in the eye and say these fives things aloud. By doing so, we will not be able to lie. At least, that’s the way I feel when I look someone in the eye. Do this for a week, not repeating attributes, and before you know it, you’ve nailed down 35 things that you love about yourself. None of us are perfect however, and there are always things to improve on. This is not a bad thing at all. If we have goals or aspirations to look towards, it gives us a sense of accomplishment when we reach them, putting a smile on our faces and expanding our hearts and minds.

It has been a long process to get to where I am today. It may be hard to think that there was a time that there existed a version of me that wasn’t cheery, happy-go-lucky. I didn’t have a horrible childhood but any means. I grew up surrounded by love from my parents and family members, but for some reason, I fought that and made my life more difficult because of it. I was bullied a lot, most not my own fault, but the way I acted/reacted certainly didn’t help the situation. There was even a time in my life where I thought about ending my own life. I’ve also been in counselling, and when I was, fought that process like the plague. Now though, when I look back on it, I realize that even in that fighting, I picked up some key coping skills that help me focus and make me the person I am today. I would not be here if it weren’t for those skills and the love that I was surrounded by.

Loving Others

Second only to loving yourself, surrounding yourself with others who will love you for you, and nothing else is important. This also means that these people are ones that will not be afraid to be critical of what we say or do. If we are to surround ourselves with only those who will tell us what we want to hear, we will not learn or grow. We need to have those in our lives who will challenge our thoughts, and give advice when wanted or needed. The difficult part of this however, is finding those who will fit this balance. It is equally unhealthy to include those in our lives who are going to be consistently negative. I’m a very easy-going person, but have let some friendships go over the years because of this. They work for the time being, but in the long run, the friendships were not meant to be, and we move on from them.

Part of the way I’ve been able to accomplish this was with a change during the darker times in my childhood. I was fortunate enough to be able to move from the toxic setting into a new setting. It was like getting a clean slate to start my life on. I knew no one at my new school, well almost no one. It turns out that someone I had gone to elementary school with was at my new high school as well. What they ended up writing in my yearbook when we graduated was very thoughtful and touching. It was a partial certification that I had truly changed for the better. After graduating high school, I moved again, to Ottawa, for post secondary. What transpired that summer though, I never saw coming. With the help of social media before the term was coined, a few people from the new setting reached out to me once I left. This was a new experience for me, for even in the new setting, I was still a bit of a shut-in. I never really hung out with anyone outside of the school setting.These people have ended up becoming my best friends, and more so, family. I cherish their friendship like nothing else.

A Loving Relationship

And finally, we have come to the last point on the love triangle. For a truly, long-lasting relationship, it must be based out of friendship first. I’m certainly not an expert in this, but it is what I have learned through trial and error. Oh, the errors.I’ve been known to be one to use dating sites in the past, and have met some interesting people because of it. I’ve also been on some intriguing dates. One, after the first date, started stalking my IM use during a busy time in my life, and created a secondary account to hide behind to talk to me. Obviously, this would not have been a healthy relationship to get into.

My most recent one, however, is the one that I was most blindsided by and happily so. We started hanging out with no intentions or games, just interested purely in getting to know the other person better. This included an all night conversation that I will never forget. Never before had I found conversation so easy with someone. We got together around 2000 on a Sunday evening after I had returned from an Easter weekend with the family. Neither one of us thought about looking at the time again for a while. When we did though, we were shocked find that it was 0300. We looked at each other astonished and started talking about calling a night, and before we knew it what felt like 30 minutes had turned into three and a half hours. At this point, I offered to make breakfast and it was 0930 by the time she left. We continued to hang out when it fit our schedules, and we became really good friends. Then, without trying or even thinking about it, we ended up dating and being in a relationship that lasted a year.

Yes, it was painful that it ended, but it was not meant to be. I did learn a great deal from it though, about myself and also about who I am in a relationship that last longer than a fling. This was my first experience with love. It’s not that I hadn’t tried before, and that was part of the issue, trying. But, the situation had never presented itself before. Thankfully, because of starting from a basis of friendship, we are still close and I consider her a welcome addition to my family. As with any family member, and for most friendships for that matter, all I wish upon others is that they are happy with themselves and their surroundings. If there is anything I can do to help with this, I am always there and will do anything in my power to help.

Sharing Love

And this is where I shall leave you. I hope by sharing my experiences and wisdom that you can learn from them as well. As School House Rock has taught me, knowledge is power. If we all share our experiences with each other, then we will all become better people and be able to have love all around us.

I hope you have enjoyed The Happiness Triangle series and send my ultimate thanks again to my friend Asad for asking me to participate in PiP and inspiring me to write this.

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Van City, Exploration of Time and Space

I’ve been in Vancouver for a week now and have been throughly enjoying myself. It is such a beautiful city and have been learning many things along the way. After landing at the airport, I proceeded by SkyTrain to the hostel to check-in, drop my bags off, and explore. If I weren’t so attached to my Eastern Ontario roots, Vancouver would probably be near, if not ,the top of the list of cities to move to. Sadly though, I’m too sweet to handle this much rain. I will melt here faster than an ice cube in July.

After exploring for a while, I came back to the hostel to grab my dance shoes, because of course, it was time to break down faster than you could say Little L. The first thing that threw me off though was that, while walking to the dance studio, there was a hockey game on bar TVs as I passed. It wasn’t the game that surprised me, but who was playing at 2000. It was the LA/SJ game that night. Never having travelled outside of the Eastern time zone before, this was an interesting revelation. Getting to dance West Coast Swing, on the West Coast was fun. I could’ve gone again tonight, but then you wouldn’t be getting this update.

I’ve also found that Vancouver is a very walkable city in the downtown core. It’s hard to get lost. So easily walkable, that on Sunday, I decided to venture out with my laptop, camera, and a container of juice in my bag. I walked from the hostel which is on Main Street to Canada Place, which is in the waterfront area. Made it there with no issues, took some pictures and was enjoying some wifi outside with the mountains as my backdrop. I think I could write a whole post on just how beautifully amazing the mountains are, and I haven’t even been up to them yet. But I digress, with the wifi not being perfect and needing power, I pack up to head to the washroom and off to a coffee shop. On my way to the washroom, I feel a drip on my leg, and I look down to see liquid dripping out of my bag. I hurriedly stop, open my bag, and remove the contents. The computer only saw a tiny portion of the spill, and the camera was safe thankfully. My bag, and it’s paper contents however, soaked. I turn my bag upside down to pour it out and carry everything into the washroom with me to dry it off. The computer still turns on and everything seem to be alright. I get to the coffee shop and plug in, only to find that the computer won’t charge. So, I pack up once more and head off to the closest Apple Store to see if the Geniuses can fix it, because obviously I am not one for thinking it was alright to have electronics and liquids in the same bag. SKILL LEARNED: Fluid Dynamics.

I arrive at the Apple Store and see that there is quite the crowd, but I am attended to quite quickly. A Genius takes a look at George (Yes, I’ve named my computer. Why you ask, and why George? Computers tend to act up every now and then and seem to have personalities all their own, so I thought it only fitting that it have a name. I chose George because of my love for Bugs Bunny.) and I am told that the liquid has corroded the Mag Port and the Logic Board.

The cost of repairs: $700 including parts, labour and taxes. My heart sinks, but George is too important to leave behind in BC. So, I agree to the repairs and return a couple of days later to pick him up. When I talk to a Genius, I’m informed that new parts were not needed. The current parts just needed to be cleaned and left to dry before reinstalling. I’m very ecstatic about this news, and leave the store hugging George like the abominable snowman would be hugging his bunny rabbit. With further walking though, I feel as if something is a bit off. I’m waddling a bit, and think I should go see my own doctor because of the horse that is lodged up my rear end.

As for the rest of my time, I’m eaten and explored which will be shared in later posts, but I have also been working. I’ve found some temporary work through a placement agency which has me sorting recycling. I thought it was a bit humourous, but very fitting. It’s nice to be working again, for I was getting a bit antsy. After all, I am a workaholic at heart. The first day of training was fun, but a little stressful as well. Lots of trucks come in and drop their loads off, after which I have to pick out the things that are not cardboard. Then, other times, I’m standing at a conveyor belt feeling like Lucy and Ethel, picking out the non-paper products before they pass me.

Other than that, I’d be ruining other posts for you if I divulged anymore. So, I shall leave you for now, hope that you all are well.

Sending hugs and smiles your way

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Leaving On A Jet Plane…

I’ve now flown into Vancouver, and boy, are my arms ever tired *drum roll*. The flight was one of the most exciting parts of this adventure because I’d never flown before. But, before flying, there’s check-in and security. Because this was my first big excursion, I didn’t own any luggage that was suitable for the trip. So, off I went to research prices on the internet. I was surprised to find it was nearly as expensive as I was expecting. For $130, I was able to purchase a three-piece set that included one 25″, one 20″, and one carry-on duffel bag. Luggage: Check.

Next, was packing all my needed items into all this luggage. I’m got most of my wardrobe, steel toe boots, four pairs of footwear, dancing shoes (must not forget these), all the needed hygiene necessities, and all the required tech gadgets. With out the gadgets, it would be very difficult to catalogue and share this wonderful experience with you. We wouldn’t want that now, would we? It’s a good thing I’m good at Tetris, because somehow, I was able to get everything to fit, including some food for the 5 hour flight that awaited. Because of the time of the flight, 0700, I decided to stay up the night of May 27th. I’m not much of a morning person, so given that I had to be up at 0345 to start heading to the bus on time to arrive at the airport with ample time, getting only two hours sleep at that point would have just made me grumpy and groggy.

All that for six weeks? I must be crazy!

All that for six weeks? I must be crazy!

I arrive at Pearson International Airport and try to locate where to go. Thankfully, I got off the bus at the right terminal or else that would have been one very long walk with all my luggage. With a huge grin on my face (i must have looked like a complete dolt), I ride the elevator up to the Westjet section on of terminal and proceed to check in at get my baggage tag. For fun, I weighed all of my luggage and found out I was carrying close to 90 lbs. Just under the limits on all of them. Win. Next I proceed to security with my boarding pass in hand. Well, on my phone at least. It’s great that everything is digital now, saves all the paper and possibly losing documents. I think I ended up showing my pass around 5 times before getting to the security check, at least it felt that way with trailing all the remaining luggage. This is where the real fun begins. As with any security check, I had to empty my pockets and remove any metal. I’m sure glad I don’t have a Prince Albert because that could be awkward. I even had to remove my footwear because of the top eyelets. My carry on hd lots of items that had metal components. George (Yes, I’ve named m MacBook), my camera (yet to have a name, but I’ve been leaning towards Iris), the required cords, my satchel and it’s items which I would find out still had a butter knife and fork in it (Oops). I also had other items in there such as some food and a sealed bottle of orange juice. I was allowed to keep everything except the knife and the orange juice. The knife they take, but not the fork? Dylan was right, the tines, they are a changin’. Plus, the orange juice? I guess I Vitamin C the danger in it. If anyone on the flight later reported a sudden boost in energy and the lack of ability to spread the cold virus, I swear it wasn’t me! I threw the OJ out! Check-in: Check.

After packaging up everything post-scan, I proceeded to my Gate. I now only had a little over an hour to kill before boarding began. What to do with this time when it’s your first time awaiting such travel. Take photos of course. I took photos of the Gate, the terminal, some of the stores, and even the treadmill like walkway. Because I’m odd, the first thing that popped into my head when taking a photo of the walkway was Feist’s “My Moon, My Man”. I was starting to get a little tired considering that I’d been up for close to 24 hours now. So, I sat down, plugged my phone in and relaxed. Finally, boarding was upon us, and I joined the cue to proceed onto the plane. I put my carry on in the storage above me and my personal bag under the seat in front of me. I’d been able to get a window seat near the rear of the plane which was great. I got an exellent view and was situated very close to the flight attendant’s station. Another win. We were asked to buckle in and off we were. The plane taxied down the runway, seemingly making a full circle in the Pearson’s property. Then, the engines roared, our speed increased, and all of a sudden, we were in the air. OH MAN! FLYING IS SO COOL! Take off: Check

Once in the air, the attendants proceeded to explain the emergency features and procedures. This is where I cracked into silent laughter in my seat. I had seen re-enactments of this in multiple cartoons and comedy sketches but had always thought they were over exaggerated. Boy, was I wrong. They were almost spot on. Hands and arms flying and pointing in controlled synchronization. Sadly, it was raining during take off, and was fairly cloudy for the entire flight, but it was still an amazing view nonetheless. I did get a small window of clearing over Saskatchewan, which was of course, flat. Once arriving in Vancouver, it appeared to be drizzling, which came as a HUGE shock. I’d never expect to experience rain in Vancouver. I got up and thanked the flight staff, including the Captain, for a great experience. After waiting a few minutes by the baggage carousel, my luggage appeared, all in one piece. I found my way to the SkyTrain, and checked in at the hostel. Arrive in Vancouver: Check.

Till the next post, remember to smile, you will make someone’s day.

Let the adventure begin!

Let the adventure begin!

#KielXCA Has Begun

Last I left you, I was saying goodbye to Kingston. Now, I sit one week into #KielXCA: @Ecogeek13‘s cross country adventure. Why you ask this is such a monumental event? Why so big? Well, there’s a story behind that.

I moved back to Kingston to become debt free with a timeline goal of two years. We all know that life likes to throw timelines some wrenches to kink up the works. It ended up being two years and five months. Still a great achievement in that time frame if you ask me. Then, for the first time in a while, I was able to have a stable savings, so I decided that it was time to leave Kingston and started to plan for a move to Toronto for May 1.

Again, life threw another wrench in, and plans changed once again. I got a craving for some travel and considering I’d never traveled before I wanted make it a big, exciting experience. My first idea was to fly to Vancouver. Exciting on multiple levels because I’d never flown or been to Vancouver before. Both were on my bucket list. Then, after finding out that a return flight from Toronto to Vancouver was only around $700, I decided for shoots and giggles to research the cost of visiting the other Western cities and end up in Montreal. Again, astonished by how inexpensive it was, only $1000, I decided this would be my adventure choice. Then, to make it even more exciting, I added buses in Alberta, and trains in Quebec. Because I was booking so early, I was able to book the buses for only $85, and the trains for only $105. Add on medical insurance, and I had everything but accommodation covered for roughly $1300. An amazing steal.


Farewell Kingston! We shall meet again soon.

The first leg of the trip was traveling from Kingston to Toronto via train. I arrived in Toronto early in the morning on Saturday, May 25, 2013. I had arrived just in time to partake in Doors Open, which a great way to explore, see and learn new things about a city which are normally closed to the public or cost a nominal fee. So, I dropped my bags off at my accommodations and off I went. First on the list was I visit to the TTC Lower Bay Station, usually closed to the public. It was originally built as a pilot project to see which transferring option would be better for the Yonge and Bloor Lines, two separate level platforms or one level platform with both trains pulling in on the same tracks. Lower Bay is the latter, and after six months of each, it was decided that the formal would be used. However, transfers are no longer done at Bay Station, but at Yonge/Bloor, St. George/Bloor, and Spadina/Bloor. Lower Bay is still in use for others things however, such as filmmaking.


TTC Lower Bay Street Station looking as if it was in operation

Next, was a visit to Queen’s Park. A must for any political junkie. Then again, Toronto may have seen it’s share of alleged junkies relating to politics lately. Sadly, my camera battery gave out on me, so I wasn’t able to take many photos. It would end up being a huge loss, not just because Queen’s Park and the Ontario Legislative Building are great in themselves, but for Doors Open they also had the Lieutenant (that’s lef-TEN-ant)-Governor’s suite available to view. Such a decorated part of the building, which many interesting features.

Once done with Queen’s Park, I continued my adventure to Fort York, the original British settlement in the area. Built as an establishment to defend against American attacks, it now sits as a protected historical monument. The fort was a key battle during the War of 1812, and one of the few American victories. The burning of the fort during the War is what led the British/Canadian forces to burn the White House in retaliation.

No adventure of mine though would not be complete unless it included some dancing, and dance I did. It was Frankie Manning Tribute Weekend, which meant Gordon Webster was in town to play the social dances. Saturdays in Toronto, swing is found at Dovercourt House, which has four floors of wooden surfaces to break out a Shorty George on. And to my surprise and luck, it ended up being a Queen’s Swing Club reunion with many current and former members in attendance. The Weekend only had three of the four floors booked however, because there was a birthday party on the top floor. This made transferring between floors a lot of fun because some of the children that were attending the birthday party would sit on the stairs and give us high fives as we passed. The bottom floor, the best in my opinion when no live music was going, was the best because it was for BLUES. Mmmm….blues dancing. Now, I make it sound dirty and creepy, but it really isn’t. It’s just on a different level and a totally different experience then dancing lindy hop. I left the night feeling great, having my dancing fix filled for the time being.

On the 25th, a Monday, I decided to tour Toronto by foot and walk aimlessly without a destination. It was a great experience, and made me fall in love with Toronto even more. Then, on a whim, I decided it was time for a change. Off I went to a barber for a hot towel shave. I went from looking like a wolfman to looking a newborn. As I stated to the staff there, I went from *howl* *scratch* to *catcall* *wink*. The receptionist was amazed it was the same person in front of her, two different people she said. Finally, I ended the night off with meeting up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and attending some great karaoke. Sadly, I could not convince her to get up and sing, but on somewhat of a dare, I was convinced to do “Sweet Transvestite” from Rock Horror Picture Show. I didn’t just amazing the crowd but myself with my rendition. Who knew I had an inner Tim Curry? Once I returned to my seat, one of the patrons came up to me thank me for singing it and what a wonderful job I had done. After talking to him for a bit, and hearing the excitement in his voice, he proceeded to pull up his shirt to reveal a tattoo of the lips that are featured at the beginning of the film. If someone who was this much of a fan was saying it was great, then I must have done a great job. “Sweet Transvestite”, added to my repertoire. I guess it only makes sense that I would be fantastic at this, it’s not the first time I’ve channelled Tim Curry.


Very sexy

I headed to the airport shortly after leaving karaoke, but that is a story for another day. For now, know that this cross country adventure includes stops in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Calgary, Banff, and Edmonton, Alberta, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Montreal and Quebec City, Quebec, and ending in the city which feels most like home to me, Ottawa, Ontario.

That’s right Ottawa, I’m returning to you. Are you ready?

You can follow along with my posts here, my Foursquare, my Flickr and Twitter using #KielXCA.

Till tomorrow, don’t forget to smile.

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Farewell #ygk

It has come to that point in my story where I take off for new adventures in new, exciting places. When I first moved back to Kingston after 10 years away, I did it reluctantly. Only moving because, at the time, it was what was needed to be done. But, I would come to learn that it wasn’t only needed, but would want to be here as well. I have met many splendid people, and learned many new life skills that I will take with me to my next new place.

I’ve also grown to love Kingston as a city. Yes, there may not be the supercity hustle and bustle that I enjoy and feed off of so much, but there is there an electricity found here that can be found nowhere else. There is so much more to do now than when I was growing up. Part of that is age and being able to go out to the bars, but I could be wrong, but there just seems to be more going on. From Febfest in the winter to all the different summer festivals, Kingston has grown into a city that makes me smile.

I am partly sad leaving, but also now that it is time. The original goal of moving here has been achieved and also some goals/things happened that I never thought would. Kingston not only taught me how to love while I was here, but also help me find it. So, for this, I thank you.

So, till I come back to visit, I shall say farewell.

No matter what you are doing though, don’t forget to smile though Kingston.

The Happiness Triangle: Imagination

Last post, I started to explain what happiness meant to me. I see it as three points of a triangle: humour, imagination, and love. Humour is the easiest of the three to explain because you can see it’s effect. If you find something funny, you smile, chuckle, snicker, or laugh. If you like me though, you do all that plus shake, shimmy, fall to the ground. Imagination is something that is harder to describe than humour. It’s all in your head and hard to share without an effort to make it tangible for others to see. It’s like jumping into a bin of LEGO. There’s all these pieces and ideas, but by themselves they do not do much. Then you pick up a piece and connect it with another, and another, and another. Before you know it, you have built something.It can be touched, it’s no longer just a passing thought.

I’ve always said that I’m ideas man, sometimes too much of one. It can make it hard to focus with a whole bunch of different ramblings bouncing around in your head trying to compete for space. I’ve learned though that the best way to deal with it though is to write them down. There are very few times that you can find me without a pen and a notebook or a folded up piece of paper. Some ideas are better than others, and some take some more planning than others. Most though tend to be a bit different from most other people’s thoughts. I’ve always liked the expression of “Think/ing outside of the box” but like to think that my mind goes a few steps further to “Outside the city that box is in”. It can lead to some extremely crazy ideas, but in general, is fairly useful. I love to sit in on and participate in group brainstorming sessions to collaborate with others to solve important problems with creative ideas. The looks I see on people’s faces that I see can be really entertaining. Plus, it also tends to ground me a bit and help bring my ideas to fruition when others find them apeeling (pun intended).

Sometimes though, even with the best of planning and coordination, ideas fail which is alright as well. Nothing is a complete failure, because even from that “failure” was a learning experience that you can use to move forward with something else that is going on now, or new skills learned to use with a new project later. There are those out there though who will try to consistently shout you down and be negative towards your ideas for reasons that are only known to them. This is when you just have to smile, and surround yourself with positive people who can help you. Those ideas that are meant to be will, with hard work and determination, work out. Even if it isn’t what you expected to be when you started, it was meant to turn out the way it did. One of my favourite quotes exemplifies this:

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Douglas Adams

And with that I shall leave you for now, but do know that if you have any ideas floating around, share them. There will always be someone out there who loves it and wants to help. The only dumb question or idea is one not shared.

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The Happiness Triangle: Humour

Back in the fall, I was asked by a friend Asad (You should really know him) to be a speaker at a event he was organizing called PIP Conference. It’s along the same idea as the TED Talks, but only one topic. This year, the topic was to be Happiness, and the event was being held as the same week as International Happiness Day. I thought this was a great idea, and gladly agreed to speak. I’m certainly no expert on happiness, but this wasn’t the point. The conference was all about different perspectives of happiness. For some, it was taught by their parents love and joy. Others, viewed happiness to be similar to a kaleidoscope.

For me though, happiness stems from a triangle of humour, imagination, and love. Each is great on its own, but is fully realized when supported by the other two pillars. It’s like a fire for me, if I only have two of the ingredients, I’m not fully happy. However, if all three ingredients are present, then happiness can spread like a wildfire from within.


Growing up, I was a victim of bullying. Some was brought on by my own volition, but most of it not. Slowly, I was able to learn to use humour as a defence mechanism, which in itself isn’t such a great situation, but it was what was able to clear my way to being happy. I was lucky enough to move away from the bullying and make a new start in a new place. A clean slate where no one knew me, and I could just be myself without fear of prosecution. This not only helped me use humour in a positive environment, but learn to build self-confidence. Because of this, I have been able to welcome many wonderful people into my life. I noticed the change when I moved from Kingston to Ottawa for post secondary right after graduating high school. I never really hung out with people from school outside of the four walls of education, but thanks to ICQ (Yes, my social media use is BFB: Before Facebook. I’m that old) I had a few people from high school reach out and want to build friendships past high school. This was a new experience for me and glad I went through it, these people have gone from being friends to being family.

Humour can be a positive as a defence mechanism as well. It can be used to deal with a difficult situation. It’s one of the reasons why I’m able to stay happy while dealing with my Crohn’s. I can make myself, and others, laugh about my pain. When I was first diagnosed, I went to see a specialist for closer examination. Boy, was it ever a lot closer than I thought it’d be. I walked out of the appointment feeling a bit violated, waddling like a duck. After a few sessions, I started to get a better picture of what was happening with my body without having to “turn and cough”. I was prescribed some drugs to help with the inflammation in my intestines, but it continued to grow. It got to a point where it was decided that I would need to remove the infected area. Part of the prep for the surgery included having a stent placed between my kidney and bladder. After it was put in place, the doctor came into my hospital room to see how I was doing. As soon as he walked in, I asked him if he was here to give me a “stenting ovation”. This made him want to instantly turn around, while at the same time laugh and was glad to see me in good spirits. Then, the major part of the surgery came, removing 6″ of my small intestine where it meets my large intestine. I was a bit woozy after, but was still happy (morphine is funny that way). After the drugs had worn off a bit and I could be with it, the doctor came by for another visit and asked me how I felt. I responded by telling him that it felt like I had been on “Wheel of Fortune”. With a puzzled look, he inquired further as to why this was. It was because I had won a new bowel and they’re hopefully be no more constipations.

This is why I always seem fairly happy. I try to make the best of every situation and see the positive side of it. It helps to release and avoid stress, which can in turn, affect your health. Given the chronic illness that I deal with, this is very important to me. Staying healthy means that I can stay happy and be out in the world doing the things I love, spreading smiles, one face at a time.

Soon, I shall follow this up with a post on the other pillars of happiness, imagination and love. Till then though, I hope I’ve been able to make you smile and bring some positive energy to you.

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What Does Organic Mean To You?

I’ve recently started to volunteer for the Organic Council of Ontario and one of the questions I’ve been asked is “Why do I choose organics?” It has got me thinking about why do I exactly choose to eat organically? So, I sat down one day and started to make a list of reasons why.

The majority of my working life has been spent in kitchens and/or food preparation. So, spending a spare day in the kitchen experimenting with a recipe is a real joy for me. By doing so, I have learned to have a relationship with my food. Eating organically gives me the knowledge of what I am putting into my body because I learn how it was grown and where it comes from. It is also a choice of sustainability. If I know that it is being grown without harmful substances, I know where it was grown will continue to be a fertile ground for continuous growth. I also try to eat as locally as possible, and I am thankful that I live in an area of the world that provide me with all the food sources I need, right at my doorstep.

By doing so, I am supporting the local economy and providing jobs within my community. Growing up in a small town, I learned how important farming is. So, by choosing to eat as locally as possible I’m also building a relationship with my food and the vendors, whether that be the store or the farmer themselves. I get to learn where my food comes from and what it was fed. The vendors get to learn more about me and my needs and how to best supply them. I also get to support someone, who like myself, is a steward of the Earth.

Finally, organics may be important, but certified organics are even more so. My body is my vehicle through life and food the fuel that keeps it well maintained and healthy. There are a lot of products that claim to be organic, but aren’t tested with set standards. If I drove a car, I wouldn’t want to take it to someone who wasn’t educated as a mechanic, so why would I want to eat food that was grown in an environment that was help up to strict standards.

As you can see, each reason is related to each other, as it should be. If they weren’t you would be able to remove one of the factors and not have it affect the others. Eating locally and supporting the local economy are important to me in my choice to be sustainable.

This is why I choose organics. What does organic mean to you?