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Where were we?

Oh right….en route to Moab!

Clearly I have not been holding up my end of the bargain here. This was meant to be a forum of sorts, albeit a proprietary one, owned by me, used solely at my discretion… so really not a forum at all but more of a self aggrandizing soap box from which I am free to spout whatever nonsense I so choose.

In all seriousness though, this was meant to be a way for me to share my experiences of the last year and a bit and keep those of you who are interested, up to date on my health and hopefully, provide a little entertainment or a little splash of hope or inspiration or at the very least a vague interest in what I have been up to. I fear I have failed in just about every aspect therein and I offer my sincere apologies for that.

Truth be told, for a while, I was just tired of talking about myself. Strange I know, as that is usually my favourite subject, however, in this capacity, using this particular medium, based on the fact that this all started due to my cancer prognosis, every new entry is, in a way, an introspective on my pending mortality. That shit can be emotionally exhausting y’all!

That said, this is not a pity party. Not by a long shot! So I says to myself: “Self! Pull up your socks!”, “Get back to work!” yada yada yada, a sprinkle of misappropriated, out of context, self empowering quotes and…OFF WE GO!!!

Before moving on to my adventures in Moab, because I know you are ALL chomping at the bit in anticipation…(wink). A quick update on what has happened in the last 8 (shameful cringe) months since my last post.

First of all, as of this month I have officially doubled the best case scenario given to me by my Dr. vis-a-vis life expectancy. Quite pleased with that one.

The lump (tumour) on my hand was removed in December, leaving me with 8 fingers rather than the de rigueur 10 everyone seems to be so fond of. I figured that evolution was taking it’s sweet time so I decided to surgically jump the line. A gesture of good faith for our future alien overlords…?

Had another lump removed from the back of my neck…turned out to be benign but anything poking out where it shouldn’t these days goes straight on the chopping block!

I finally got my real estate license after putting that process on hold last year. (Tell all your friends!…Seriously! I need all the help I can get.)

I adopted the first law of thermodynamics as a spiritual belief and…

last but not least…

For better or worse, introspectively or overtly expressed my gratitude for every single day on this wild ride we call life. Yay Life!!!

Here is a link to the last travel entry that I never actually posted: http://wp.me/p3c70Z-jL  (you may have to cut & paste to view)

Just to provide a little more context and perhaps help smooth out the seriously disjointed chronology of this blog.

Glad we had this a chance to catch up!

Much love to all of you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Overdue

Who knew I would ever be so ecstatic to be this close to middle aged!!!! Certainly not me and yet, here we are.

A little over 8 months ago, I was told that I likely had 6-8 months to live. Now, with the 8 month mark come and gone I am celebrating a birthday that was, based on my prognosis, never meant to be. Well, I’m still kicking!

Not only am I still kicking, I am doing bloody handstands and somersaults!!! Or at least I could if I chose to and I still might. Maybe after my birthday run or my birthday massage that my beautiful, wonderful, caring and kind girlfriend has set up for me today.

This would be an opportune time to address something that I have been a little (shamefully) nonchalant about up until now.

Carine, my amazing girlfriend of almost 5 years now has been and still is the driving force behind my ongoing battle and I have no doubt that I would likely not be here to share this with all of you if it weren’t for her love and support and sacrifice throughout this journey. She has been unwavering in her support and determination to help me move past, through, around, up and over this somewhat persistent life obstacle. If she ever had any doubts, she has never let on and that in itself is a testament to her character and strength in the face of these…let’s say, grim statistical odds.

In my occasional moments of frustration and self-pity I have resorted to some poor logic and self indulgent metaphors such as “I am the one in the ring taking the punches, you are the coach in my corner etc…”. I am thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed to have resorted to this kind of selfish martyrdom and I could not be more wrong. The truth is, I am quite often the one on the sidelines, watching and hiding and scared while she is the one getting battered and bloody, trying to keep me from taking any further punishment.

Carine has selflessly and enthusiastically sacrificed more than any one man deserves and I count myself beyond lucky to have such an amazing and loving partner. Not in my corner, not on the sidelines cheering me on. She is right in the thick of it! Blow for blow.

When one is determined to survive a “terminal” illness, it’s often not enough to just say “I want to live” you have to know “WHY” you want to live. There has to be substance and purpose behind your desire and the greatest reason I have is Carine.

Thank you baby! You have my heart, my soul, my faith, my love, my inspiration and my resolve to keep up the fight till my last breath.

I love you

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Let’s try that again…

Ok. So apparently the link I tried pasting to my last post does not work (thanks Mom!). I’m sure there is a technical solution to that but rather than spend my time trying to figure it out, I am just going to post it!

Et voila!!!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Indecision?….Should I…. Ummmmm…. What if I…..?

Well rested and back on the road after my slightly paranoid sleep in Rock Springs. I managed to put together a basic plan of attack for the day which, if all went according to plan (I believe this is what they call, foreshadowing) would result in me arriving in Boulder, Colorado for one last night of civilized bed-rest before, finally, arriving in Moab.

Although I had been looking forward to Yellowstone and Grand Teton and everything else in between. There was a sense that being in that place I had seen in so many pictures and movies, with the canyons and red sandstone cliffs and Native American lore would wrap me up and plug me in to the cosmos somehow. Where the merciless yet nurturing hand of Mother Nature would somehow guide me towards all the answers. The duality of man, my purpose in life, the soul of the earth and the simple yet, infinite and unknowable meaning of life, all revealed through epiphany or absorbed through osmosis in this ancient and mystical place.

I mention this now because, as I stated in my previous post, it was a toss up between heading towards Salt Lake City or Denver. Moab lies south and somewhat in between the two and either route requires some backtracking. I had at this point, decided that I was going to skip Rocky Mountain National Park which is just outside of Denver for pretty much the same reasons that I blew through Grand Teton. Not to mention that all of these places, up to this point, sit anywhere between 6000-9000 ft in elevation and it gets colder than a witches teet once the sun goes down. Climbing further up into the mountains to pitch a tent was almost less appealing than climbing into the potentially bug infested motel bed. Almost. However, the decision was made and I was heading south east.

Back to the task at hand, I had decided to head to Boulder because, in my infinite…I won’t dare say wisdom but perhaps, romanticism? I had decided, for no particular or informed reason, that it would be more quaint than Denver.
Three things of note here:
1. Smaller does not always mean more quaint.
2. Never under estimate the size of American cities.
3. I have drastically underestimated the value of a GPS device.

(In hindsight, it would have cost me less to buy a GPS device rather than use my phone due to the archaic and borderline criminal mobile roaming charges that we deal with in Canada…just sayin. What’s up CRTC?)

I had already checked online for hotel deals in Boulder but one thing that I have learned this far into the trip is that no matter what sort of deal you may find online, if you are budget travelling, there is almost always a better deal to be had through local motels that don’t bother with advertising or online promotions.

With that in mind, in addition to feeling a little defeated for not being able to just breeze into an unfamiliar town and sort myself out within an hour, I decided, fully conscious of the hypocrisy of my previous statement regarding hotel deals, to look at what was being advertised online. So as soon as I caught site of that familiar Starbucks logo (mermaid? green lady with stink lines?)  I pulled over for some coffee and wifi.

According to various online reviewer people, who I would later find out have no sense of direction whatsoever or at the very least, have a very different sense of proximity than I do, suggested a number of appealing lodging options at reasonable rates in Golden, Colorado just a few miles down the road from Boulder. I decided to give up on Boulder altogether and make a little headway in the direction of my planned trajectory.

Well, Golden is indeed a great little town on the south west cusp of Denver with a beautiful, old town, historic look and feel. An old mining town essentially appropriated by Denver as it gradually expanded over the years and the home of Coors beer. Unlike Boulder, you can drive through and around Golden in a matter of minutes and I still couldn’t find any of these places I saw advertised online. Bear in mind, that the sense of direction I was once upon a time, quite confident in and proud of was not only shaken but shattered and limping around in a state of furious confusion at this point.
Another point of note: If you park your car close enough to a Starbucks, you can leech off their wifi signal without having to go in and buy anything. Shhhhhhhh

With that, I checked online again because I felt that I might go into nervous overload/shutdown if I drank another coffee due to the fact that I’ve been on the road now for many, many hours. (I drink a lot of coffee)
All the street names matched based on the address of these online hotels and the ones I’m seeing in town. The hotel is on 10th st, I am on 10th st but the road dead ends well before the address number is even close to what I am looking for. So when I type in the address of one of my possible destinations and it tells me that I have to hop back on the highway and drive 10 miles east I am convinced there is a glitch somewhere. As history has shown us, human error is more often than not, the leading cause of things gone wrong and, in my opinion, this qualifies. This applies to both my lack of planning as well as the misinformation posted online. I’d hate to take all the credit for this little debacle.

Although technically still in Golden ( I would like to see the urban plan/city limits details on this one) the hotels in questions were in fact 10 or so miles back towards Denver and located in, what I think most people would agree, no mans land. One was next to a truck stop off the highway, the other was just across the street from a sprawling, light industrial maze of nothing interesting. I decided to press on.

I won’t go into too much detail but I kept with the theme of the day and continued to wander in every possible direction but the right one. In the end, without quite realizing how I got there, I was driving through downtown Denver. I tried a few hotels and motels and they were all booked solid for the foreseeable future.

Finally I found a room at the Quality Inn downtown, very nice, close to everything, more than I wanted to pay but there was no way I was doing any more driving at this point. By the time I had grabbed all my essentials from the car and made it to my room, it was midnight. Thank you very much! Hellooo Denver! Hallelujah! Goodnight!

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Yellowstone to Utah

Hello again,

I know I’m not keeping up as much as I should but the good news is that I have been busy and thoroughly enjoying myself. Hopefully that counts for something. Also, I have not been eaten by a bear, mountain lion, wolf or snake which, in my humble opinion is great news too.

After 3 days and nights in Yellowstone, I had planned on staying a few days in Grand Teton national park. They are connected by a series of roads and for all intents and purposes, they are the same park. It just takes half a day to drive from one end to the other. As I was driving through, I noticed that Grand Teton had a number of very appealing bike paths and excursions (damn you bike thieves!) but at that time, rather than my feet it was my hand that was acting up and it makes holding a steering wheel very uncomfortable much less handle bars on bumpy terrain. So that put a damper on my plans. Then, as I continued through, I realized that it reminded me of B.C. Canada, just with smaller, less majestic mountains. It is a spectacular place none the less, but it’s like going to Epcot Centre when you live in Disney World. Sorry, that’s a bit of a weak analogy but the only other one I could think of was; it’s like going to Grand Teton when you live in B.C. Either way I think I’ve made my point.
I think the brain juices have dried up a little in the relentless, sadistic heat down here.
Point being, I decided to press on through GT and head towards Arches National Park in Utah.

Point of note: Up to this point, I had only really planned out my trip as far as Yellowstone/Grand Teton. After that, it was either aim for Salt Lake City or Denver and that call was about as firm as a coin toss. Heads won so I was Denver bound. Keep in mind that this is a day and half away if one is not prone to unshakable bouts of indecision.

By the time I drove through GT the better half of the day was done so I just kept heading south with no particular plan and followed signs directing me to Jackson, Wyoming. A few people I spoke to along the way had mentioned that Jackson was a nice little town etc… so it seemed fitting that I should pop in and perhaps find some lodging for the night. What I did not realize at the time was that Jackson was in fact Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
In my life, other than soccer, the only two sports/activities that i ever really got into were skateboarding and skiing and to a lesser extent, snowboarding.

Being a ski fanatic when I was in my teens, I watched a lot of Warren Miller movies. If that rings a bell, congratulations!!! If not, I’m not sure that they would be of much interest to you at this point but they were the hottest skiing, sports documentaries at the time and they just made you want to jump through the TV screen and ride that mountain and be in that moment with those guys.
Well, Jackson Hole was featured more than once in those films so, for me, it was a real treat and surprise to realize that I was in Jackson Hole and that that mystical mountain of my youth (although green and completely devoid of snow) was front and centre. Towering over this strange, little, beehive town.
It’s amazing how much retail space you can squeeze into a few small town blocks!

Again, being tourist season and me, being one, completely lost and apparently clueless, based on various reactions from various people, I was ill-prepared. The reality of the situation was made swift and clear. Not a room to be had in town unless you want to stay on the outskirts and really, at this point, if I’m going to stay in a motel, I’m not really interested unless I can walk out the door and be in the thick of it or unless I’ve been driving all day and I have to find a place to sleep before I drive off the road.

Things I have learned: There is a certain glare or glaze that comes over peoples faces when you try to explain that you had no real, prior plan on being here but now that you are here, you need a place to stay. It’s a mix of disbelief, incredulity and sometimes… sympathy. I’m sure this applies most of the time but during high tourist season there seems to be an added sense or attitude of amazement. Like the kid who shows up for the first day of school with no pen or pencil or notebook.
– I’d love to help you but…really!? What were you thinking?! I’m afraid there is no cure for idiocy….. are you sure you’re supposed to be in this class?
– I’m not sure I’m in the right school….. can you help a guy out anyway?
And so on….

It appears Jackson Hole is quite a popular place in the summer as well as winter. Who knew?
I was able to walk around town for the afternoon, watched a street performance of an old west style shootout/hanging in town square and somehow managed to order an iced Americano coffee at a local Italian coffee house.
I would like to state for the record that I would never, EVER, deliberately order an iced Americano or any other iced coffee variation or derivative. This was a gross misunderstanding or perhaps they were just used to people ordering iced coffees and they were just running on auto-pilot?
Either way, I gave it a try. Abomination!!!
This just adds fuel to my argument that there should be a coffee only line in coffee shops. If you need more than 3 ingredients or any additional machinery, like an ice crusher/blender for your “coffee” or if it takes you more than 10 seconds to place your order, you should have your very own, VIP line where you can feel free to confuse the hell out of your barista with a laundry list of obscenely detailed specifications and proudly wait in the VIP room at the far end of the counter for an additional 5-10 minutes where your name is called out loud for all to hear and receive your colossally convoluted beverage with your name and a smiley face written on the cup.
Meanwhile, those of us just looking for a proper coffee can go about our day without having to hear “low fat”, “chai”, “soy”, “half squirt of….” or any other such none sense.

How’s that for a tangent? Sorry.

Slightly dejected, I decided to move on but was quickly reminded, by myself, that there was a whole, crazy, awesome adventure ahead, so without too much reluctance, I drove as far south as I could before going cross eyed. Goodbye Jackson Hole, hello Rock Springs, Wyoming!!!!!

The drive from Jackson to Rock Springs, I have to say, might be one of the most beautiful I have seen in my life. I can’t do it justice with words and my camera was equally incapable of translating the immense, majestic and jaw dropping landscape. I was literally talking to myself and exclaiming out loud and giggling at the fact that I could barely believe what I was seeing. This went on for hours until the sun disappeared and the distant, dark silhouettes drew their curtains and prepared for the following days matinee performance.

At this point I have been camping in a tent for the better part of a week and the idea of a bed is pretty appealing but wouldn’t you know….as soon as I got into my room at the Days Inn in Rock Springs, I’m checking for bed bugs and other nasties that I never considered while sleeping on the ground…in the forest…where all manner of creature are encouraged to thrive and are provided every opportunity to do so. This seems, to me, much less disagreeable than sleeping on a bed where who knows what has sloughed off of who knows who over however many years…I don’t think I need to go into any more detail here. Suffice it to say that I am, in this current state of travel, more comfortable sleeping on the bank of a river surrounded by bustling fire ant colonies and strange “What the hell is that thing!!!” creatures than a dodgy roadside motel bed.
Although things appeared to be clean enough, I chose to sleep fully clothed and on top of the covers and have maintained this habit for the most part throughout this trip.

Stay tuned for the next leg. Denver to Arches National Park.

Tah tah for now!

Although there is an obvious delay in my posts, for various reasons but mostly because I have chosen to visit some of the more remote areas of the US which usually means there is little to no internet access. I would like you to know that I thank you all every single day for making this trip possible and I hope that you, as I am, are overwhelmed with gratitude every day for everyone and everything in my life. Thank you! I love you! It’s a great day to be alive!!!!

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musings

Aug 11, 2013

Sitting here watching the Colorado river running past me at sunset. Ten, mostly vertical yards away, surrounded by towering, red, sandstone cliffs.
Like chocolate milk with a dash of orange cream and it runs as thick.
I find my eyes darting when I try to stare at the ripples and patterns in the flow. Like trying to keep your eye on a faint star. It disappears in front of your eyes, then you catch it in your peripheral and then it’s gone again. Elusive yet persistent.
It almost seems like parts of it run slower than others and the more voluminous or energetic water builds up and climbs over the slower moving water and it all moves in different directions with conflicting velocities. The impression is very frantic when you really stare at it for a while.

Then you fix your eye on a point on the distant shore and hold it.
Suddenly the chaos is tamed. Gentle and slow. Following the path of least resistance.
A perpetual struggle for balance.
The water just wants to be level. It’s in it’s nature.
.

Holy shit!!! In the canyon enjoying a meteor shower. Man I write slow! I started this at dusk, 13 lines not including this one….
Note to self: pick up the pace!!!!!!

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On the Road

I have never actually read the book. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a single line by Kerouac. It only dawned on me just now that “On the Road” is by far the most appropriate title for any kind of road trip story which leads me to believe that Kerouac may have been a little lazy when it came time to give his work a title. Or….perhaps it was just too apt not to use it? Maybe I should read the book before criticizing a revered author and his nearly ubiquitous novel? Probably.

That is really not the point here. The point is that I was going to try to keep things in chronological order, as far as my travels over the past 2-3 months, however, it appears that I travel faster than I write. So in the interest of keeping things fresh and in the ‘here and now’…. I am currently (as of 8:47pm, local time, Aug 11, 2013) in Moab, Utah. I will elaborate on Moab in due time.

I have been on the road (there it is again) for just under 2 weeks now. Seems like just a few days but when I count backwards, it all makes sense. Please bear in mind that a good number of days have been travel days and getting lost days and portions of days lost to indecision.
Despite the time spent on nonsense, it has been incredible so far, so here is the first little bit:

First stop from Vancouver: Coeur D’Alene (Idaho?). Such a beautiful town. Just outside of Spokane, Washington (to give you a reference point?). Not knowing what to expect, I booked a hotel before leaving. By the time I arrived, it had only been 8 hours, give or take, since I had discovered that my bike had been stolen. Right off the front porch of my house in Vancouver!!!!!

Side note:
There is a special place in the afterlife for thieves, where I would like to someday (no time soon if I can help it) be waiting to welcome them. As they all queue up to enter wherever that place is (Insert denominational reference here ________ ) , I will be there to smash their thumbs with a hammer. One by one.
“Welcome, may I see your hand please?” SMASH!!!! “That’s for being a shit sipping turd of a thief while you were alive!!!!!. Peace be with you! Namaste! You suck!!!”

Needless to say, I was and still am very upset about it. A fair bit less now but I was furious for quite some time and would only briefly get distracted from my daydreaming rage and fantasies of revenge by the incredible scenery as I made my way through previously uncharted territory.

I ended up staying an extra day in Coeur D’Alene for a few reasons. One, I needed to stock up on food and various other supplies. Two, the hotel was a big, beautiful, old converted house with two grande fireplaces in the main foyer, local artists had their work hung all over, the rooms were all individually detailed and the kitchen, that was essentially free to use for all guests, had everything you could ask for including breakfast all laid out in morning for guests and staff to meet and mingle. I did so in my jammys and it was great.
It was just such a lovely place that I figured it was a great way to set the tempo for the rest of the trip and acclimatize myself to being….. ugh… On The Road. I just can’t get away from it! You win Kerouac! I get it now! I need to read that damned book.

If you get a chance, check it out. Coeur D’Alene that is. If you live in Alberta, it’s pretty much a straight shot south.

Anyway, my bike theft rage had subsided substantially after a couple of days and it was time to hit my first target: Yellowstone National Park.
It took a fair bit longer to get there than I had anticipated (travel day) but I was rewarded with herds of dear and elk and a bison all within the first 30 minutes of driving through the park on my way to my campsite. I arrived at my pre-booked campsite just in time to set up my tent in the dark and then rummage around in the woods looking for firewood and finding, not wood, but a swamp. I should say my feet found it first but we’re all on the same team so yes, I stumbled into a swamp.

Turns out, when I asked my neighbouring campers where they got their firewood they informed me that “naw buddy, it’s all been picked clean around here. You need to go find an area that’s been cleared by forest fire, plenty of good wood there”. Contrary to what I was told by the campsite registration lady: “Oh there’s plenty of wood all around, just walk into the woods a little and you’ll find some”. There was no mention of swamp.
At this point it was probably close to 10:30pm in a park that has literally millions of acres of available firewood (and the odd swamp). Lesson learned and not to be repeated. Be prepared!

Second side note:
I made the mistake of bringing only my iPad with me, which I said I would never do again after nearly tossing it out the window while In France out of frustration. It is not a good “tool” as far as computers go. I am currently trying to figure out how to add photos in a set (i.e. Yellowstone) but you have to be able to drag and drop items from one side of the screen to the other which is difficult with an iPad when the screen moves whenever you touch it. Like trying to pick a speck out of your drink. It keeps moving away from you. Very frustrating. I will figure it out but please be patient.

Ultimately, Yellowstone is an amazing place with far too many tourists. That is my only complaint really. Almost every photo I took, was strategically framed to cut out the tops of peoples heads or I had to wait for a family to clear out before I could take a decent picture.

I spent 3 nights, each in a different camp ground and saw just about all a person can see without having to do some serious hiking. The other sort of bonus is that Yellowstone is not a particularly bike friendly park so it didn’t sting as much as I thought it would not having my bike.
They even have T-shirts you can buy in West Yellowstone (the nearest town to the parks west entrance) that mock people who ride their bikes around the park as being bear bait. So, one point for me. Bike thieves…. you still suck!!!

Third side note:
An unfortunate side effect of the new meds is that I get these spontaneous and quite painful callouses on my feet that make it extremely painful to walk. Unfortunately, that particular side effect was in full swing while in Yellowstone so I did miss out on some things due to the required hike. However, the park is designed to accommodate back seat tourism. As in, you don’t really have to leave your car to see some really amazing stuff. This is ultimately, antithetical to my purpose on this trip but when it’s an option and my feet are in a bad state it is most welcome.

Ultimately, my time in Yellowstone is best described by the photos I did manage to get which will be up shortly, I hope.

What has been a common thread throughout this whole trip is that I have had time to be alone with my thoughts in some of the most beautiful, natural surroundings I have ever seen and I can’t even begin to explain the benefits I have felt.

The night before last, for example, I spent a good 4-5 hours sitting in my fold out chair on the bank of the Colorado river, staring at the crystal clear Milky Way and the innumerable shooting stars in complete silence. I couldn’t have been happier. Just staring at the sky and letting my mind wander every which way. I found myself spontaneously crying then laughing, pondering the meaning of life, the afterlife, where I’m going, what I’m doing, all the people I love and how much I love them and why…. on and on and it was…. priceless.

That’s all for this one!

Please remember, my dear friends, that every day is a gift and it is critical that you find at least one reason, EVERY day, to say that TODAY IS A GREAT DAY TO BE ALIVE!!!!!!!

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NOLA Cont’d

The wedding!

With all due respect to all of my married friends and compatriots, this was a tough one to beat. I’ve been to my fair share of weddings and I have to say, they really did an incredible job on this one.

Being in New Orleans, for one, really lends a touch of sultry romance to the whole affair. Not to mention that they spread it out over 3, impeccably planed and organized evenings, giving us a chance to experience a few things we would never have had the opportunity to see or do otherwise.

The first night was sort of a meet and greet for immediate family and friends. We all met at an amazing restaurant called….The Pelican? The Seagull…..Albatross? Clearly not my focus as far as that goes. Suffice it to say that it’s a lovely place with amazing food and we had a great time getting to know all the new names and faces. Top shelf people as far as I can tell. Considering there were over 200 guests at the wedding, with a good portion of them being immediate or extended family, intimate connections were a little hard to come by. When there are so many unfamiliar people, the whole affair turns into an extended reception line that just carries on and on and on. Sometimes with awkward results.
For example
– ” Hi, I’m Alistair, boyfriend of the grooms cousin….. nice to meet you. Congratulations!”
– “I’m the photographer…”
– “That explains the gear… carry on”

I’m sure you all get the picture.
That being said the few people that I was fortunate enough to have a proper conversation with were all, without exception, lovely. Including the photographer.

The following night was the pre-wedding blowout. All the late arrivals were pouring in from all over the place, including a significant Dutch contingent that I have to say were some of my favourites. Likely because of the age proximity as well as being equally unfamiliar with the rest of the group.
Perhaps just their enthusiasm for being in the US? I understand that a rented convertible Mustang and cowboy hats were involved for some of the Nederlanders involved in the bachelor party. Fantastic!

We were all shuttled from the hotel to a beautiful old house in the Garden District, with everyone, once again, impeccably dressed. Some really embraced the locale and looked like they walked right off the pages of “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Gone with the Wind”. Southern Belles and Gentlemen all about the place. In full regalia as it were.

All of this in stark contrast to the German DJ that was brought in for the event. I’m not sure the music went over too well with everyone at first but by the end everyone was in fine spirits and dancing away. Mix it up i say!

Now, as I alluded to in the first NOLA entry, I was, up to this point, more than a little disappointed with the music scene I had been so far exposed to. I had visions of hot, sweaty, brass soaked, foot stomping, balls out, New Orleans Jazz bleeding out into the streets at every turn. This was not the case.
As I said, you really need to know where to find the legit stuff. As it happens, not so much by coincidence, the bride was born and raised in NOLA and the groom, subsequently has spent a lot of time there and THEY knew where to go. So when things wrapped up at the house party, they had a few shuttles waiting, for those interested (ME!!!!!) in going to Frenchman st.

Just outside of the French Quarter, this is a stretch of smaller, more….indigenously populated bars, well off the Bourbon st path.
Three mid sized buses pulling up in front of the main cluster of bars, dressed as we were, must have been an odd site for some but once in the dark, dank, sweaty bars no one cared. Well…we didn’t care.
After trying a few bars with bands playing a little more mellow, dixie land, type stuff (equally awesome but didn’t get the blood pumping so much) we landed at VASO (I think).

Holy, sweet, merciful jackpot!!!! The band (The Pocket Aces) were just what the doctor ordered. I think I may have gone into a state of sensory overload because I vaguely remember standing there, static, for I don’t know how long, trying to keep my brain from exploding.
People were dancing and jumping and screaming and laughing and drinking and….. I’m getting shivers thinking about it. Unbelievable!!!!

I can’t remember how many players there were but it was essentially a front line of brass (trumpet, trombone, alto sax?, tuba, french horn?) and a drummer, possibly a bass player and an amazing singer/rapper that was growling away like an angry little hedgehog. An absolute blowout! There must have been sweat dripping from the ceiling.
As you may have surmised, I enjoyed it. Very much.

This would not be considered your traditional New Orleans jazz by any stretch but it had all the instrumental ingredients and it fed the little music monster in me, ten fold. They did an incredible cover version of Michael Jacksons “Dirty Diana” for example that had some of the local ladies twerking (look it up) and the rest of the room either trying to jump up through to roof or stomp through the floor.
Ahhhh…. sated. Ten fold.

Wedding day:

Finally the big event! Once again, we were all shuttled off in our now familiar fleet of mini buses to a truly, beautiful church. I’ve never been much of a church goer but I have always appreciated the architecture and majesty of church buildings and this one was certainly one of note.
Now, I don’t mean to sound callous or uncaring but… as I have never been a big church fan, same goes for anything church ceremony related. Weddings, funerals, sermons etc… not a big fan. Just saying. I doubt I’m alone in that sentiment.

The ceremony was lovely none the less and mercifully short. Cheers, tears and applause ensued and off we went in our cavalcade of mini buses once again. This time back to the hotel for the reception which was most welcome as the heat was kicking up and…for the most part, the build up was over and it was time to really let loose. Because until then we had all been completely restrained and decorum was the order of the day….. giggle.

Well, back at the hotel, all 200+ guests were all mingling, eating, drinking and re-introducing themselves. Bride and groom arriving in a white Rolls Royce (I think) with police escort no less. All very swank.

The usual protocol; food, drinks, speeches, first dance etc… all went off without a hitch. Top shelf once again.

Then, upon returning from a trip to the little boys room, I see everyone filing out of the reception room with white handkerchieves in hand and a brass band leading the throng of guests out through the lobby of the hotel. Clearly, I didn’t get the memo.

Confused and desperately looking around for Carine or anyone I know for that matter, I melted into the pyroclastic flow of this seemingly spontaneous exodus that spilling out into the street in front of the hotel.

Have you ever heard of a second line? Here is the definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_line_(parades)

In essence, we swarmed Royal st like a mud slide with a brass band and 200+ (mostly loopy) wedding guests and watched the newlyweds dance in the middle of the street with frilly parasols, while all the guests were waving white linen handkerchieves and proceeded to parade around the hotel block (with police escort) all through town, until we eventually arrived at a bar/house/restaurant? place, right on Bourbon st. where I found Carine who was equally wide eyed and excited as me. This was our second line and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done!!!

As ridiculous as I found Bourbon st to be initially, there is something to be said about having a mezzanine view of the circus below. Turns out that Mardis Gras beads maintain their currency well beyond their intended raison d’etre. Enough said.

It was a beautiful old building, ornate and gilded with that gorgeous, New Orleans style wrought iron ornamentation and it was perfectly in tune with the overall elegance of the day. This was one of those times when my camera truly let me down as well. Yes, I am blaming the camera…..

Eventually we all reconvened at the hotel bar (which is considered to be one of the better bars in that part of town) and that’s where things got a little hazy..for me anyway.
Enter…..the Jester!!!! Once again we meet! Like I said, things were already a little hazy…it was a long day…. a few people I chatted with had not heard of this noxious/delicious concoction…. and I was itching for that crazy, green, icy temptress once again. There may have been more than one trip to the Jester bar that night, I won’t tell…..and I can’t remember.

All in all, it was an incredible experience that won’t soon be forgotten (Jester induced lapses aside).

Despite my cynicism, it was a beautiful wedding and I am elated and honoured to have been a part of it and I wish the bride and groom eternal love and happiness from the bottom of my heart. Truly and sincerely.

Thank you and congratulations!

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NOLA!

Too good to be true?! Indeed. Back to back posts!

Considering the last post took me over 2 weeks to finish I figured I should try to redeem myself with an equally tangential rant about my recent travels before my brain relegates the memories to the cluttered attic of my mind.

So, after 4 days of total relaxation in Florida, we set off for New Orleans in the rental car. Carine, her sister Jocelyn, brother-in-law Mike, myself and a collective, months worth of clothing and luggage with multiple, full suit and dress attire included, packed into a mid-sized sedan makes for a potentially cranky 6 hour drive.

The car was one of the newer Impala models by whoever makes those, complete with cigar/cigarette smoke stink and a cd left hidden behind the sun visor with music that can best be described as rape rap. Offensive or risque language in music is nothing new and I usually get a kick out of it but this stuff was next level/earmuff the kids and pray for salvation kind of stuff. Wow!!! So of course we cranked the volume and hit the road, hell for leather.

Cruising along a major highway, there isn’t much to see for the most part. By the time we reached Biloxy, we were starved for a little aesthetic diversity so we turned down towards the gulf and we got what we asked for. I had forgotten or maybe I just never put it all together in my head but that stretch of the gulf got hit hard by hurricane Katrina. Although largely recovered, you can still see the remnants of devastation along the waterfront. Exposed foundations where buildings once stood, massive complexes and shopping centres with missing roofs or buildings with only 2 or 3 walls left standing, precariously askew behind safety barriers. All of the palm trees along the waterfront boulevard had crew cuts from having their tops shorn off by the unfathomable winds. It really boggles the mind to think of what it must have been like when it hit.

Having never been to Biloxy I was surprised to see the mix of sea side beach vacation vibe and old revival(s) (Greek, French, Gothic etc…) architecture. You can see big, beautiful, old plantation estates right across the road from a long, white sand beach strewn with palm trees and sunbathers. A unique mix from what I understand and with time hopefully, it will get back to its full, former glory.

The closer we got to New Orleans the more evidence we saw of Katrina’s scorn. A deadly breadcrumb trail of empty lots where you know something stood before but there’s just nothing left of it to prove it ever existed. Other than a complete void in the landscape. There were huge rusted out, steel cargo ships battered so far inland that you couldn’t see the body of water they came from. Surreal little anomalies like that, tucked in and around the otherwise normal urban and rural landscapes kept showing themselves as we traveled west. It was an unexpected and ultimately sobering dose of living history that I’m glad I was able to see.

We stayed the course on the same road through Biloxy until we eventually arrived in New Orleans. After weaving through some of the dodgier parts of town we eventually got our bearings and pulled up to the historic Hotel Monteleone on Royal st in the French Quarter of New Orleans. A beautiful building right in the thick of it. We dropped the ladies off at the hotel with the bags and Mike and I went to drop the rental car off at the airport. On the cab ride back to the hotel I noticed something that would, unbeknownst to me at the time, haunt me for the rest of our stay. It was a billboard advertising what they claim to be the “worlds STRONGEST drink” called The Jester.

Once we were all settled in our rooms, we arranged to meet in the lobby and head out in search of food and adventure. Turns out, the hotel is one block away from the tail end of the legendary Bourbon st. We jumped in to the nearest, nice looking restaurant and got our first dose of local cuisine which deserves its own entirely separate write up. Another time. Now full and intrigued by the parade of nonsense passing by the window of the restaurant we set out to see for ourselves.

Bourbon st is crazy! Even in the “off season”, as it was while we were there, the street was still packed with thousands of people as far as the eye could see, young and old, mostly drunk, spilling in and out of bars with their ridiculously large, novelty shaped take-away cups and Mardis Gras beads. We must have had the look of stunned pray walking into the melee of debauched tourists and cunning predators. Cunning may be too generous considering the state of most people walking around. It was more like shooting fish in a barrel. Within 10 minutes, if that, I was already dishing out $40 to a girl who seemingly jumped out of the shadows and started pouring shots of mystery juice down our throats. Never saw her coming. Just a blur of excessive cleavage and a fist full of test tubes filled with an assortment of coloured liquids and a bill  for $36 + tip. This happened within the first block of Bourbon st. and it must be at least half a mile long. It used to bother me that I never made it to Mardi Gras for spring break back when I was a student but in hindsight, I think that is a good thing. It’s an easy place to get into trouble for a young, unrestrained and enthusiastic young man or woman. Good thing I am such a responsible and conscientious ….. I can’t even finish that sentence. It’s a crazy place!!!! The problem, as I see it, is that it’s an easy place to lose your wits but it’s last place you want to find yourself once you’ve lost them.

The thing that I noticed pretty quickly was that of all the hundreds of bars along Bourbon st., most of them with live bands of some sort, none had anything close to the New Orleans jazz music I was hoping to hear. Plenty of extremely talented players but they were all playing crowd pleasers and top 40 covers. I had this romantic vision of a place that eschewed American pop culture in preference of it’s own, incomparable blend of musical styles. A cultural Galapagos! Which it is in many ways, you just need to know where to look. And it ain’t Bourbon st.

The wedding itinerary allowed us a few hours here and there to wander around town. The memories are already a little vague but I believe Mike and I set out early the next day while the ladies went off on their own mission. Having forgotten about the billboard the previous day, we turned the corner on to Bourbon st and there in front of us was Jesters. Styled like a 50’s diner, full of colour and chrome and classic old spinning stools along the milkshake bar. A bank of machines along the back wall that are basically just slightly modified slurpee mixers, full with every colour of the rainbow of icy, sugary, alcohol saturated goodness. Home of the Jester! Strongest drink in the world! What is one to do in the face of such a claim?!

I can’t tell you exactly what goes in to a Jester but the end result is a 32oz styrofoam cup full of boozy slush, similar in colour to engine coolant. Which may actually be one of the ingredients. Best not to know. I’ve never ingested engine coolant but I imagine that it has a similar effect of making your tongue and lips go numb followed by a mild euphoria, laced with an underlying fear of what you may have just done to yourself. The genius of this stuff is that it never melts! The styrofoam cup helps I’m sure but this also lends a little credibility to my engine coolant theory.

This thing took about an hour and a half to finish. By the time I managed to get to the bottom of that massive cup of beautiful, green lunacy, it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for the evenings events. To my surprise, I was feeling pretty good at this point. No loss of speech or motor skills, wits still intact and slightly limbered up. Good to go! I took down the, so called, strongest drink in the world and I was feeling fine, more or less

It wasn’t until later that night that I realized I was in Jester withdrawal when I finally started coming down from the sugar/coolant high. This would mark the beginning of an intense yet short lived love affair with those slushy, sugary sirens of the Bourbon st. strip.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my previous post, there is something very appealing about getting dressed up and looking dapper in New Orleans and there was no shortage of occasions for everyone to get right in to it. As a side note, I didn’t come away with very many pictures of NOLA. I forgot my camera one day, the battery died the following day and the good majority of pics I did get were terrible, indoor, low light blurs and streaks of indiscernible subjects. Luckily there were more qualified and prepared people on hand to pick up the slack.

Ali 1 (427x640)

More about New Orleans coming soon.

 

[;p’

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Ok. So I’ve been a busy beaver lately.

Ok. So I’ve been a busy beaver lately. Not so much in terms of anything creative or even interesting but I have been getting things done and preparing for things to come. Good things.

First, let me say that today has been a great day (July 10, 2013) and it’s only 2pm as I type this. I just got back from my follow-up visit with the Dr. and it would seem that there has been a slight (micro slight) improvement in my CT scan results. It might not sound like much but these days, any movement in that direction is a huge improvement on the overall situation. The other good news is that the hole, formerly known as tooth, in my mouth is healing very well and there is no tunnel into my sinus cavity. Strange what passes for good news these days but I’ll take what I can get and then ask for seconds.

If it is possible to digress from a point that was never stated, then that is what you just read. Although that sort of information is essentially the catalyst for this blog and far more relevant than anything you might come across if you continue reading. It was not the reason why I wanted to post an update today.

So to get back on track, I would like to begin weaving, what will undoubtedly be an intricate patchwork of Brysonesque story-telling, recounting my recent travels south of the border. Or, just loosely tied together ramblings of what I can remember from the last 2 months. You decide.

1st leg: New Orleans via Florida…..via Fort Worth via Vancouver…

The big event of the summer has been Carine’s cousin Damion’s’ wedding in New Orleans. This has been in the works for 2+ years and I have to say; all that planning payed off. More on that in a moment though.

Before we made our way to New Orleans, I finally got a chance to go to Carine’s family cottage in Florida. It was the perfect way to acclimatize to the south before the relentless series of suit and tie formal affairs in NOLA. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Those affairs were awesome! There is something extremely appealing about getting dapper in a town like New Orleans.

As I was saying. The cottage.

Images of beach side hotel/motels and timeshares are what come to mind when I think of Florida usually but this was in panhandle country y’all. Miles away from anything remotely touristy and not a souvenir shop in sight! Picture a Canadian cottage, out in the country, on the lake, except with cypress and palm trees and lizards. Why don’t I just show you:

DSCN0819 (640x480)

After a quick stop at the nearest Walmart for a pair of swimming trunks as my luggage decided to take the scenic route, we settled in for a few days of quiet relaxation. I was kindly assured that my luggage was either, “somewhere on the tarmac” in Florida or mingling with the other lost luggage somewhere in the continental United States. It’s funny how the pace and tone of the airline bag recovery people changes when you tell them your cancer meds are in your lost luggage. Not that I take pleasure in making peoples jobs any more stressful than they already are but I got a complimentary toiletry kit and my bag was promptly delivered to the door early the next day.  Just sayin…. something to keep in mind next time you find yourself in that situation.

The following 4 days involved not much more than sitting on the doc, a couple of leisurely boat rides, good wine,good food and great company. Not a bad way to kick things off if you ask me.

———————————————————————————————————————————————

As you may have noticed, the date that I started writing this entry was over 2 week ago. Today is July 25th.

Like I said, I’ve been a busy little beaver lately and I was fortunate enough to have another excuse to pop over to Vancouver island a few days afterwards I started writing this post and spent the better part of a week there hanging out with some dear old friends and now some new ones. I will elaborate on that in future posts.

I have given up on any form of consistency at this point.  I will carry on posting, however disjointed and sparse, with as much enthusiasm and/or caffeine as I can muster.

Next chapter: New Orleans. Please stay tuned and remember, today is a beautiful day to be alive!

Especially because of this guy:

DSCN1173 (800x679)

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Prelude

What’s that old saying about good intentions? Something about road construction I think?….. best left alone for now.

The point here, is that my intention was to pick up the pace of my updates and for anyone following closely, you may have noticed a trend to the contrary. Well, far be it from me to put old proverbs to the test. Especially in this context.

I hope to remedy this situation in installments. Seeing as the last month or so has taken me to Florida, New Orleans, Toronto and Mexico, I have a fair bit of content to work with. I haven’t quite worked it all out yet. Keeping things in chronological order makes sense to me so that’s where I will start…. in my next update.

First I want to share with you, what I think is the most amazing gift I have ever received. I hope no one takes offense to that statement. I have received some incredible gifts in my life from incredible people and I don’t mean to belittle any of those, not to mention, in a more grandiose sense, the gift of life from my Mom or the gift of love from Carine or my friends and family. Those are intangible, priceless blessings that make me grateful to be alive.

No, what I am talking about is the kind of tangible, tactile gift that leaves you speechless or conversely makes you scream “Holy S#!T!!!!”. 

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Ryan managed to pull this little trick out of his hat with a little help from our old friends at Gibson guitars. I can’t quite remember what I said when it was presented to me although I do remember having to stifle the aforementioned expletive out of respect for the kids in the room. I can also admit that I may have been struggling to choke back a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. Maybe. 

I am still floored by the thought and consideration that went into this. Behold!!!

ImageImage

I am happy to report that I have respectable callouses on my fingers for the first time in years. I will honour this gift as best I can by squeezing every ounce of inspiration I can out of this beautiful beast.

Thank you so much brother! Time to catch the sunset and do some strumming.

Good night all. A bientot!

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On the move

Hello hello,
Once again it’s time to hit the road. This one is not necessarily part of my journey, in the sense that it has been planned for the past 2 years and is not all about me. It is for Carine’s cousins wedding.
That doesn’t mean I can’t be a little self indulgent and treat it like an extension of my journey. In addition to the wedding taking place in New Orleans, this is also the first time that Carine and I are going somewhere together in a long time. That fact alone is the highlight of this trip.

As some of you may have noticed, I still have yet to leave on my planned road trip through the US. Well, life as we know, likes to throw the odd curve ball. Not to worry. Nothing too serious.
In the time I had between my return from Europe and this wedding, I thought would be a good time for the road trip. It was going to be tight, time wise but feasible. Then my doctor added some additional blood work to my appointment schedule which pushed back the tentative departure date. Then…. I cracked a tooth.
I’ve always had issues with my teeth as far back as I can remember. This tooth had been in need of attention for a long time and it finally reached it’s limit and cracked right down the middle. Top right first molar.
Luckily, sort of, I had a root canal done to it years ago so there was no pain but it was clear that it had to be dealt with as I could only chew on one side of my mouth because it was moving around and it was kind of gross to be honest.
So here is where things get awesome/freaky/serendipitous. Not having a dentist in Vancouver yet, I had to call around and find one that could fit me in asap. I made a list based on online reviews and offices that were still taking new patients etc….
Literally, the last dentist on my list was the only one that could fit me in and within 48 hrs no less. Not having a job currently and no insurance coverage, I was more than a little concerned about the cost of this whole process but it had to be done so off I went.
I had to fill out all the paperwork as a new patient when I arrived and when the Dr. came in he brought up the medication I had listed on my info sheet. Turns out it caught his eye because, as fate would have it, he happens to work in the dental department at the Cancer Agency and knows my doctor there very well. Happy coincidence? Yes, but there is more. When I mentioned my concern about not having coverage and the cost etc… he says “let me make a call”. Five minutes later he comes back with an appointment card. He figured out that I could have this whole thing covered by getting the tooth dealt with at the Cancer Agency….at no cost.
Brilliant! Then, to top it all off, after he sanded down some of the sharp edges on my nasty tooth, he sent me on my way and his assistant says “no charge for the work today”!!!
My daily horoscope, that I read while in the waiting room foretold that I would receive some sort of windfall that day and that I would feel undeserving of it but should accept it because ‘you do deserve it’. Well, whether or not that is true, I accepted it and had to restrain myself from giving the hygienist a great big bear hug right there in the waiting room. I didn’t want to give the other waiting patients the idea that they were just handing out free dental work so I restrained myself as best I could. In my excitement, all I could muster was to say “You’re awesome!” in a strange, clenched tooth, whisper. We looked at each other, both slightly confused about my silent outburst and I turned and walked out.
As you probably know, dental work ain’t cheap. I’ve had to pay absurd amounts for a simple consultation and x-rays with other dentists. These guys took x-rays and worked on my tooth enough that I can chew normally for the time being and didn’t charge me a cent!!! You know, I’ve been embracing, or at least trying to embrace an unconditional love towards life and all mankind since this whole thing started and it’s not always easy or natural. Especially when you see terrible things being done by terrible people around the world in the news…. or being stuck in traffic, but it’s little things like this that fuel my positive outlook and helps maintain my faith in mankind. Sounds a little dramatic for a trivial issue like my wonky tooth but it’s true.

Anyway, the appointment to have my tooth dealt with was yesterday. I went in to the Cancer Agency, met the Oral surgeon and was promptly pumped full of anesthetic. As we waited for the numbing to set in, the Dr. checked my x-rays and explained the procedure (extraction) and all the things I could not do after the procedure such as…. air travel, submerging myself in water, drinking alcohol etc…..

Me (with numb mouth): “Ummmm, Dr.? I’m supposed to get on a plane in less than 48 hrs, I’m going to spend the first few days sitting on a dock and swimming in Florida then going to New Orleans for an extravagant wedding attended, in large part, by a bunch of hard partying Dutch people.There may be booze involved.” !!!

Oral Surgeon (with raised eyebrow): “Ok, call me when you get back and we’ll take care of it then”.

Me: “Good stuff. Thanks for the Novocaine”

So, all clear for the trip. It just so happens that this is my first time going to New Orleans and I’ve wanted to go for as long as I can remember. I absolutely love the music that comes from the southern US and I’m heading to one the most musically saturated cities in the world and arguably the birthplace of jazz. Holy crap I can’t wait!!!!
Time to pack.

Remember people, although it has been easy for me, considering the free time and opportunities I’ve had lately; however big or small, every day will present you with a reason to say “Today is great day to be alive”!
The key is to accept that and learn to find the little gems even if they may not be obvious or clear on a given day.
My wish is for all of you to find that little gem every single day and embrace life and all of it’s twists and turns.

Much love to you all!!!

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Break’s Over!

Apologies are in order. I’ve been back home for just about a week now and I have been more or less hibernating since I arrived. I apologize to all who have been waiting for responses or feedback since I got back. Truth is, I think I just needed a little break.

So in case there is any concern, I am fine and feeling good. I went in for my latest round of scans on Wednesday however, we won’t get the results for another week or so. It’s not always easy but I feel like the less weight I give to the results the easier it is to just go about my days. Now that I have all this healing mojo running through my system the usual stress seems to be gone or at least drastically reduced. It doesn’t make the wait any more pleasurable but it definitely blunts the stress.

One thing that is exciting is that I have officially started the new meds. My doctor seems quite excited about it, so I, therefore, am also excited. As usual though, we won’t see any real results for at least another 2 weeks so all in all, we are in a little bit of a holding pattern for the time being.

I was really looking forward to being able to report some news to you all regarding the overall state of affairs but alas, we wait.

In the meantime, let me tell you a little bit about my trip to England.

After leaving Nice, I flew straight to London and tried to meet up with some Canadian ex-pat friends living there but was foiled again by my complete and total lack of planning. Sometimes it is great to be free of schedules and appointments. Other times it can result in a frantic search for food, shelter and a cold pint.  Luckily, these things can all be found in abundance in London.

Priorities being what they are in times of minor crisis, I closed my eyes, turned around a couple of times, pointed my finger and found a lovely pub (with wifi no less) right around the corner from Victoria station. From there I managed to book a room, figure out where and how to get to the right train station the next day to meet up with my uncle in Essex. Crisis averted. Thirst (eventually) quenched.

The following 4 days were just so lovely and enjoyable that I am still glowing a little I think. There is something about being able to bond with or just be around family that can really fill your soul with so much goodness. Being an only child and generally being either 3 hours drive or 8 hours flight away from any family other than my mom, it has always been a slightly awkward process (for me anyway) to suddenly be in the presence of people who love you unconditionally yet barely know you as a person…and vice versa.

The older we all get, the easier it is to get past the initial awkwardness and jump right into the appreciation and embrace of being with loved ones.

So, my uncle Bruce and his lovely wife Sue picked me up at the train station and in no time  I felt perfectly at home and grounded in the land of my ancestors. Something to be said about that too.

After that first night which consisted of a lovely dinner and a pint at the Blue Boar Pub (If ever you find yourself in Maldon, Essex, do yourself a favour and check this place out) and then just relaxing at home with Bruce and Sue, every day after that was spent visiting different family members. All of which live far enough away that it required, more or less, a full day to drive there, hang out a bit and drive back. It was a perfect system for the amount of time I had there.

I realize that reading about other people’s family get togethers is not necessarily the most exciting topic and as much as I enjoy writing, I certainly don’t think I have the skills to keep you fine people riveted for a fully detailed account of every day so I will keep it brief. 

Ultimately, I was able to see where my cousins, Colin and Marie live and spent a day with each of them and their respective partners Shirley and Scotty. I also saw my fathers cousin Marion which was amazing.

Colin lives in or next to Clavering in an amazing little 400 year old cottage (man I love Europe!) which is just down the road from the Cricketers, which is the pub owned by Jamie Oliver’s parents and occasionally visited by the Naked Chef himself. I just love these old English pubs! Being 6’1″ it can be a little tricky walking around without scalping or concussing yourself on a low beam but I learned to just place my hand, palm out, on my forehead and used that as my little meat helmet. Not surprisingly, the food was incredible and we all had a great time.

It was great just being able to spend time with Colin who is one of the few male cousins close to my age that I have. There is a love and kinship there that I truly appreciate and I look forward to seeing him again soon.

Marion, who is my Dad and Bruce’s cousin and we figured out, my second cousin was our next visit. She too lives in an incredible 400 + year old, thatched roof cottage (can’t remember the name of the village though) and for all intents and purposes, I was meeting her for the first time. I was 2 or 3 maybe, the last time I saw her and have no real recollection of her from that time so it was really touching and gratifying to finally meet her as an adult.

My dad passed away when I was 11 years old and there are very few people left in the world (that I know personally) that were close to him and Marion is one of them. So meeting her and her husband Don was a double bonus because they are just wonderful, kind, interesting people and we were able to share stories about my dad and ourselves and it was all effortless and natural. So once again we all went out for dinner and shared stories over dinner and drinks and I am richer, once again, for the experience.

Finally, on the 4th day we went to see my cousin Marie and her partner Scotty. They live in the same town that I used to visit as a young lad and where both Colin and Marie grew up.

They just moved in to a beautiful new house right next to an old mill and a river. Very nice indeed.
So once again we sat around, chatted for a bit then went to grab a bite. Afterwards we went a couple of doors down the street to grab a drink in… another 400 year old pub! Amazing!
It sounds repetitive but I could honestly do that sort of thing over and over again. Each one of these old places has it’s own character and soul. They all tend to have these grande old fireplaces as well so it smells like firewood and history and well, beer of course.
Let me just say, I realize there are quite a few references to drinking on this trip but I feel I must add that this was all done in moderation and not a hang over was had the whole time.
Uncle Bruce and I did however make it a point to have a little night cap together every night which is one of my most cherished memories now and I feel no need to justify that one bit.
Five years ago however, I might have been telling a different story.
Back to the point, it was lovely to see Marie and Scotty and to see them doing so well and happy together.
It was all very short and sweet (unlike this update) but it could not have gone better given the fact that I had to fly back to Vancouver for my tests and pick up my new meds. Basically, I managed to squeeze in what would normally take a week or two into 4 days. It was a little exhausting but I would do it again and again. In a heartbeat!

Now I just need to coax them all to come over to Canada for a visit.

Thank you all for your patience (assuming you’ve gotten this far) and once again, please accept my apologies for dropping out for a little while there.

Sending you all love from the depths of my being.

Alistair

Bruce, me, Colin

Bruce, me, Colin

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The scoop

Hello beautiful people! Well, as you may know by now, I have gone through my treatment here in France and have been enjoying my time in Nice absorbing all that I have recently experienced. It is hard to explain exactly what the whole process is and I feel a little strange trying to elaborate on it but I will give it a go. At it’s core, the concept is that of mind over matter to put it in simple terms. The power of the mind and consciousness to heal anything. I’ve always been more of an empirical evidence kind of guy myself but given the distinct lack of understanding in the medical community re: sudden reversals in terminal diagnoses and scientifically inexplicable changes/cures in life threatening illnesses I was compelled to embrace this concept and man oh man am I glad I did.
Not to mention the fact that I am out of truly viable medical options other than certain treatments that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and have similar success rates to what I just did.
So, we were a small group of about 20 people from all around Europe with various ailments and a collective desire to be healed of them. Each day starts with a meditation and then we learned about the connection between the consciousness and the body and how things can manifest themselves in various ways that can block or impede the flow of energy in our beings. There were a series of exercises that we all participated in that were, often, so incredibly powerful and emotional and ultimately it has changed me profoundly. Again, it is hard to explain and I am not sure I am doing it proper justice but just as an example, there was one lovely lady from London with breast cancer and she was very distraught when she arrived. By the end, as she was examining herself daily, she could no longer locate any lumps. She knew exactly where they were but could no longer feel them. Another guy from Switzerland, a very sharp, intelligent, energetic character, the kind of guy I would gladly hang out with and would easily fit in with my friends was cured of his colour blindness. Suddenly, he noticed that a plant in the corner of the room actually had red flowers that he could not see or distinguish from the green leaves and they suddenly jumped out at him.
These are just a couple of examples out of thousands of similar stories. What is most important, for me anyway is that I feel incredible! After working directly with the man himself, Martin Brofman, I have felt quite different. Up until yesterday I was dealing with some significant discomfort in my abdomen which started after he worked on me. As well as feeling really tired but like I said, it’s hard to explain but what I can say is that I feel like things are changing, moving, healing, shrinking and my mind is in such a healthy state that everything looks and feels alive and colourful and new. Weird eh?
This is an ongoing process, the effects of which are working constantly and can take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks to take effect. My instinct is to try and convince you or sell you on the validity of this whole thing but truthfully I don’t think that will do anyone any good. What matters is that I believe it worked and that thanks to all of you whom I love dearly. Yes, ALL of you! I am forever changed and soon to be blowing some minds when I head back home for the next round of scans. Thank you all for helping me live this truly life changing experience!
Sending you all love and energy from Nice! See you soon!

 

 
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Just a taste

Hello all! This has been a long time coming I realize. My apologies if my absence has caused any (insert sentiment here___________________ ). Those of you following intently will know that I have been in France for a little over a week now for my alternative treatment. That whole process was a 4 day and dare I say, life changing experience? Yes. I do dare say. Wholeheartedly and without reservation! 
Even though it has only been a week, it feels like so much has happened…which is pretty accurate I suppose.
Only a few lines in and I’m already stumped! Not sure where to begin or what to say or how to describe what I have experienced. At least now I can take my time, think it through and not worry about the wifi kicking out or resort to sitting in the tub to write because that was, oddly, where I was getting the best signal.

Let’s start at the beggining as they say.
Upon my arrival in Nice, I found the bus stop that would take me to Castagniers les Moulins, thanks to some very helpful people at the airport. The bus driver confirmed that I was indeed on the right bus and off we went. Castagniers is about 15kms from the airport heading away from Nice. What I did not realize at the time was that there is another hotel of the same name mid way between the two. You’ve probably already guessed what happened next but I’ll fill in the gaps anyway.
After a relatively short ride, I saw the hotel name and emblem coming up and proudly hopped off without having to rely on the bus driver to point it out to me. I excitedly made my way over to the hotel, gear in tow and was greeted at the front desk with…confusion. Not only was there no reservation in my name but they had no idea what I was talking about when I told them about the ‘seminar’ I had just flown halfway around the world to attend. They were very accommodating however and assured me they had plenty of vacancy.

When they saw the obvious confusion on my face and the not so subtle hints of my impending breakdown, one lady suggested that perhaps I was referring to the other affiliated hotel (of which there are only 2…..in the world!!!) which was just a little further up the road. Well, it turns out that is exactly what I was referring to.
With that mind bending mystery solved and a quick, 30 euro cab ride, we arrived at my final destination and thankfully avoided all the local headlines “confused Canadian loses his shit, arrested in roadside hotel lobby”.

Once I checked in to my room, much easier when you have the right hotel, I hopped in the shower, put on some comfy pants, went down to the bar, grabbed a bottle of wine and started getting ready for bed. Enjoying the sweet relief of finally being settled, I stepped out into the crisp evening air for a night cap on the balcony and….. wait for it….. promptly realized I had locked myself out. (see previous post).
From that point on, things have been pretty smooth and much less embarrassing.

I am still trying to work out how to explain/describe the following 4 days. It’s hard to even get my own head wrapped around the whole thing much less try to explain it coherently here. I had to take a few days to be on my own and absorb everything before writing about any of it.
It has been a very agreeable time, walking through Nice, taking pictures, drinking coffee in little bistros, totally anonymous and free. As much as I miss my sweet girl back home, this is all part of the process and really, this is exactly what I set out to do. So much more to come!!!

That’s all for now folks. I don’t want to give it all up in one shot, you know? There is plenty more to write about and I look forward to sharing it all with you.
Despite a couple of hickups, the theme still stands. It is a great day to be alive!!!
Please stay tuned.
I love you all!
xo

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So far, so good!

I’m sure some, if not all of you have had the experience of writing out a long lettre/email/essay only to have your computer glitch out and lose everything? Well, that is exactly what just happened to me, twice, and it sucks.

So, as I was saying. Finally, after a 24hr travel day, I am finally in France! I managed to get a somewhat, staggered sleep and I am eagerly waiting to get started on my healing process which starts later this afternoon.

The main reason for this post though, was to share a little adventure story with you. So here goes:

Last night, exhausted but still full of adrenaline, I stepped out onto my balcony for a little night cap. The weather here is quite similar to Vancouvers at the moment although a little sunnier, so I closed the door behind me and quickly realized that I had locked myself out.

After a moment, the severity of the situation set in and I peered through the door to see my keys sitting there on the little desk (not that that would have done me any good) right next to my phone (not that that would have done me any good as I do not have international access) which immediately turned into a cursing rampage followed by a mild panic attack.
As far as I knew, there was no one else on my floor (which I confirmed once I climbed over the railing and tried opening the neighbouring balcony doors) and being 4 minutes to midnight (which is when the front desk closes) I flipped the switch and turned on my cat burglar/ninja mode.
I am on the third floor to put it into perspective.
The roof of this building is covered in those Spanish style, terra cotta tiles. Having seen my fair share of action movies where the hero either goes sliding off or crashing through them, I took extra care not to put too much weight on them.
Clinging to the wall, I gradually made my way from balcony to balcony eventually coming to a tiered section that allowed me to ‘gracefully?’ lower myself down to another balcony one floor below.
Just within reach of said balcony is a tall, narrow cedar type tree that I once again ‘gracefully’ reached out for all the while thinking to myself “France has good health care right? How long will it take them to find me, broken and lying behind this tree? etc….
Stretched out like a starfish, one hand desperately clinging to the railing, the other optimistically reaching for a tree branch I finally managed to climb down just in time to see the curtains from the balcony I had just been deftly, fumbling around on, swaying and a shadowy face peering out.
Safely on the ground, I raced around to the front of the building, just in time to catch the concierge. Giving a brief explanation of why I needed a spare key, all the while picking leaves and sticks out of my hair, I advised the concierge that in the event any calls about burglars trying to break in through the balcony were received, that he should just explain that they likely dreamed the whole thing.
Finally back in my room, I downed the rest of my glass of red that was still sitting there and jumped in to bed safe, warm and totally awake.

This seemed much funnier and entertaining the first time I wrote it out but I hope you enjoy none the less.

yup

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YVR

Well, it’s official! I’m off to France! First leg of what is sure to be a REALLY long day. Just waiting to board my first flight of the day at Vancouver International and I’m pumped!
Funny how the biggest packing concern these days is that I have all the right cables and chargers for my myriad devices than whether I brought appropriate clothes. ‘forgot my pants but at least I can charge my phone so I can call someone… about pants’.
Ok, good start. Already half delirious and I haven’t even set foot on a plane yet.
Giddyup!

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Music on the road – Tyler Harvey

This guy just happened to be playing at the hotel bar I was staying at in Victoria, B.C. My ears perked up when I was walking by and decided to check it out. Good call!

I got a chance to chat with him after the set. Super nice dude.
Try to catch his show next time you find yourself in Victoria. Good times. Enjoy!

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It’s GO TIME!!!!

I’ve been ‘off the grid’ so to speak for the past few weeks. Just trying to get everything sorted out for my upcoming treatment in France. Well, the time has finally come! I’m flying out Monday morning and should arrive in Nice, sometime Tuesday afternoon.

It’s going to be a long ride but I can’t wait to get started. I will have a day to boot around and check out the area before things get under way on the 20th. Then it will be at least 4 days of intense healing therapy and cancer destroying awesomeness!

I promise, from this day forward that I will be updating the site on a regular basis. Now that all of the planning, booking and doctors visits are out of the way I can focus on the true purpose of this journey which is to find peace and healing and immerse myself in the beauty and majesty of this little world of ours.

As I’ve been more or less home bound for the last couple of weeks, I don’t have much to offer at the moment as far as content, interesting or otherwise.

So as a gesture of good faith, please enjoy this picture of otters.

Image

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Welcome! Thank you! Here we go!

After a quick trial run, road trip to Vancouver Island and several hours/days of tinkering with the new web site we are finally (hopefully) good to go.

Despite all the time and effort put in by my dear friend Jay, trying to teach me how to navigate through the details and functions of this web site, I am only now starting to update it. The delay can only be blamed on what I will diplomatically call a “learning curve” on my part. There is plenty more to learn but at least we can move ahead and adjust as we go.

Onward! Upward!Outward!

Please know that all of this is only possible thanks to all of you who have helped support my journey. Whether financially, emotionally or just with a kind word. Thank you seems such an impotent and toothless sentiment in contrast to how grateful, humbled and loved you have all made me feel. I have a long list of people to thank and follow-up with so please don’t be offended if it takes a while for me to get to you. I promise I will eventually.

The purpose of this site is to document my journey through writing, photos and whatever other content I can squeeze in. I mention this because I was planning on doing a day-by-day journal type thing (please refer to aforementioned ‘learning curve’) but it has not quite worked out that way so far.

Based on the spotty internet access on my trip to Vancouver Island recently, I assume that I will, inevitably, run into this issue again…and again….and again along the way. So I will do my best to keep you posted on what is happening as often as possible. In the meantime, I uploaded some pics of my island trip…..I think. It seems to be working on my end anyway.

Please feel free to let me know if there are any issues with the site.

It’s a beautiful day!

Much love

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En route to Tofino

En route to Tofino (2)

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Long Beach, Tofino, BC

 

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Currently on Vancouver Island with no internet connection.

Hey everybody! Sorry I haven’t been able to post anything here yet. I’ve been on Vancouver Island with extremely limited internet access. I’ll be posting lots of pictures in the coming days and weeks so please check back soon!

Thank you so much for all of your warm wishes and financial support! Words cannot express how much I appreciate all of your help! Much love to all of you!

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