Saturday, July 31, 2010

Back to the salt mines

There he is. What a good boy he was while we were gone. No messes, no trouble for our friend Emilie and she even talked about how great his turds were compared to last time. She was talking solidity there. Funny how we don't bat an eye at discussing dog doo when human doo is so taboo.

I had a lovely birthday thank you. Serge took me to the Spain store and bought me pans, rice, saffron, chorizo (the real thing from Spain, not the local imitations) Manchego and real Serrano ham. Next week, I'll try my hand at a paella while the instructions are still relatively fresh in my head from when mommy made it last week. After the shopping, we had cocktail hour on the patio and then we went out to dinner. It was fun because we ran into father Tony and his husband.  I wish we had yakked more because I ended up punking out for the Montreal blogger meet-up with Joe my God and the gang. I was too tired last night and today I start a new contract. I know, I'll always be an amateur. I was in bed at 9:30. Maybe I'll get out tonight (always sounds much more of a possibility at this time of day than later) and run into them.

I think this is the first time I'll be working weekends in years. It's certainly the first teaching contract I've done on the weekend. I'm doing Saturday and Sunday 9-3 for four weeks. It will be strange being all alone in the glass skyscraper. I've got the special keys and the special card for access. I hope my student is fun. Y'all have a great weekend now!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Roadtrip recap

We had a great time despite it being rather expensive in this province during the "construction vacation". These are the two weeks when all the construction industry workers are off and many Quebeqois are traveling. Honestly, the last night we paid seventy bucks for a total fleabag motel. (We were desperate at that point.) We started out by going to Quebec city for a meet up with our friends that we met while in Cuba last December. We spent many hours noshing, drinking and laughing together. The next day we drove the whole isle d'orleans which is a big island in the St Lawrence river just North of Quebec City. This pic is from a stop we made. All our self taken couple pictures are looking the same lately so we decided to mix it up with one of us being more in the background. We picked up some local cheese and pate and a hot baguette (is there anything more divine?) and picnicked in the countryside.

If there were a staple of this roadtrip, it would be the churches. No matter the size of the village, the largest structure was inevitably a church. Often times the village cemetery was just next to it. We spotted very worn headstones of folks that had died in the mid 1800's. 

Our next stop was a couple of hours North where we stayed at the inn of Serge's long lost cousin. They hadn't seen each other in over 20 years. (Maybe that's why there was no family discount haha. Not that it was expected, well maybe a little.) There we had a lovely view overlooking the St Lawrence. This part of the "river" is mixed with the sea and there are tides and everything. It is about 18 kilometers across at this point. I thought the sign was funny. There really was a beach but it sure didn't look like it from the road.

The next day, mother nature was unkind. This was our big day for the cruise up the fjord, the tickets for which had been purchased weeks prior. It was freezing, gloomy, windy, raw and rainy. Like the rawest winter day in Los Angeles. Serge hadn't even brought a sweater or jacket with him so he ended up having to buy one.

See his new coat? They were so kind to sell him that for eighty bucks. After the cruise, we continued up the route du fjord to the town of Chicoutimi. This was the only day we didn't drive around with the top down. Too cold! I just can't believe we were cold in July. But as I've said before, I've been cold every month of the year up here.

Finally at the very end of the day, the sun came out. We walked down to the port from our hotel to look around.  We stayed at the Hotel Chicoutimi where we got drinks and breakfast included. The restaurant was a comedy of errors though. We wanted mussels but they were out and we ordered two vodka martinis and the server came back and told us they were out of vodka. It was so funny because the liquor store was 12 feet away across the street. We glanced that way through the window when he told us but he didn't get the joke. We took gin instead and he forgot to charge us for them. Oh and we asked for french fries but were told no because they were only served with the mussels, which they were out of. I suspected the usual asshole chef behind such a thing. I saw the server clear a burger plate with remnant fries from another table and he tried to shield my view. I know how these things work - surly chef and bad management do not a good restaurant make. Twas cheap though and that almost made up for it.

The next day was clear and beautiful. Our first stop was the little white house that you see above. This is the house that withstood the incredible flood of 1996 while everything around it was obliterated. Let me see if I can find some youtube footage of it. No youtube but a news archive video is pretty good. We took the little tour inside and walked around the site.

After that we toodled on up toward Lac St Jean. It was a spectacular day and the countryside was beautiful. I insisted on classical music during the drive. We had a little adventure too because the route was closed due to a terrible accident. We ended up taking a dirt farm road to get around it and it worked! We don't have GPS nor a map for those little dirt roads.

The next stop was a cavern that we visited. It's a bit of a hike to get there but the forest and rushing river and waterfalls were glorious. We took the guided tour of the cave, basically a 150 foot crack in the cliff, and saw the lone stalactite, a mere two inches. Limestone creates stalactites ten times faster than granite, so it was very small.

We made it to the lake. It is a pretty big one too. We toured a cheese museum which was fun but we were tired of the podunkness of it all. We always agree after these rural outings that we are city boys through and through. Time to head back home. This was where things got tricky. Every place was full! That's how we ended up in a gross motel in a logging town a couple hours South of the lake. La Tuque is a town I'm fairly sure I'll never see again.

I took a lot more pictures and once I get them loaded onto facebook I'll post the link here. We got back yesterday and life came crashing in all around us. The ugly news was that the government didn't receive one of our declarations and didn't cash the check. Spouse didn't notice that the check never got cashed so now it's time to pay the piper. The good but kinda ugly news is that I go back to work Saturday and it looks like I'll be pretty much employed through December now. I really wanted August off too, but in my business you don't say no to contracts because you never really know when the next one will come through. We still have one little junket left coming up in a couple of weeks. More on that later.

Today I celebrate my 45 years on the planet and Serge is taking me to dinner. Yay!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Grab a cuppa and sit a spell

I've only been home three days and now we're heading out tomorrow on a roadtrip! We're going to tule around la belle province. Tomorrow we'll stay in Quebec City and then we are going to the fjord up by Tadoussac and cruising around the Lac St Jean area for a couple days. Don't worry if you don't know these places, I didn't either until I moved here.

Lac St Jean is the blob of water North and slightly West of Quebec city. You can not see across the lake it is so vast, just to give you an idea of the area. Quebec is the largest province by area and is only slightly smaller than Alaska. (Though it has 11 times the population of Alaska.) Geography lesson /off.

Remember the diet pill scam I talked about last month? Well I canceled the orders the following day and also changed credit card accounts. Still, I received a bottle of pills called "Maximum Burn". Oh my sweet baby jesus on a pickle, they might as well have called it speed capsules. Yikes! I'm sure these things do work for weight loss since my heart palpitated well into the night. I don't like the feeling though, a little coffee is enough palpitation for me. Of course after I felt the strong effects, I researched the ingredients (yes, the wise among us would have done that before ingestion) and there is one that is essentially the same as ephedrine, the substance banned years ago from these kinds of supplements. There's more to this story though. I checked my credit card balance since we're about to head out on a roadtrip and there was a new charge from a differently named company for a buck and a half. WTF? I called the credit card company to dispute the charge and inquire how it was possible that a merchant could charge something to the new credit card number when I hadn't given them the number. Get this. The lady told me that they update the information to merchants. What? I clarified, "You mean you gave out my new number to a merchant without my consent?" Not only was the answer affirmative, but the onus was on me to find, print up and fax proof of my canceling with these companies. You can probably guess what I did. Yes, eighty-sixed that credit card. Not only that but CIBC will never have a shred of business from us again. Sheesh! (You would have laughed when I cancelled - "We are very disappointed to see you go, before we cancel your account can you let us know your reason for leaving?" "Because you're giving out my new credit card number to internet scam merchants, that's why!")

I have a perplexion lately. See I carry around a Chapstick in my pocket and every time I use it, it is way out of its sheath (think Georgie peen). I don't understand. Is it the heat or is the thing turning in my pocket or what? It bothers me every time because it doesn't make any sense!

Does everyone know about Father Tony's quest to be the travel guru for I've voted for him, now have you? He would be eternally grateful for your support. All you've got to do is register (free, painless) and then vote for him at this link.  I'll be seeing Father Tony next week it seems as he and Joe from Joemygod are coming up here to cover the DiverCite festival.

Sometimes I'm reminded about the homophobia in the world from the oddest places. I've got a video on Youtube that I took of a guy who was stuck in the snow. I don't know why but it's had thousands of views with people commenting on the car and if it's 2 or four wheel drive. Several of the comments though are like this latest, "I think your (sic) a homo." Well how astute of you sir. I can remember a lifetime ago when those words would have stung me with shame, but now it just makes me marvel at the long road we still have to go in being accepted in society. Of course I watch the video and try to figure out what gave me away. It's not that mincy is it?

Look what we discovered this morning. We were both woken up at three in the morning to slamming doors. Turns out the girl (in nude dancer's old apartment, questionable energy up there) was having some kind of altercation with her boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. I could hear him yelling and her crying. Apparently when he stormed out, he punched these holes in the wall in the common area passageway. What the hell is wrong with people? Serge wanted to call the police while it was going on but I convinced him to text her instead. She wrote back, don't worry I'll handle it. You'll pay for it too if I have anything to say about it.

Okay, I haven't even begun to get around to the blog buddies and now we're headed out again. I'll have to rectify that when we get back. Did I tell you about the unemployment? I got approved but of course don't get paid for the time I was in California. That was funny too. When I filled out the form on line, I was told that I must call a certain number to clarify my reasons for "not being available to work". Well the number they gave me didn't work from the US though they didn't mention that. So I tried and tried in vain with a capital V. Finally I tried different numbers and the one to "change your direct deposit information" worked. Then I got a contract that starts next weekend so I probably won't get but about 7 days of benefits. It's funny, I'll work enough to not get benefits but I won't make as much as if I didn't work at all and just collected. Of course I'm going to take the contract, but I'm sure many others in my situation don't. Wow, I started to sound conservative there didn't I? Damn freeloaders, get off of my lawn!

Okay kids, I'll try to post from the road somewhere but if I can't, I'll be back next Thursday! Ciao and peace out!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Smattering of Vacay Photos

Three generations right there. It was great to see dad and grandma.  We had a nice lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and then walked around the mall. Dad bought a whole box of See's candy. Not only was I never hungry during the trip, I was frequently painfully stuffed. I weighed myself this morning. Up four pounds. Now I know why kings are fat.

After I had been there a few days at camp mommy, we got on a plane and headed up to San Francisco to see the baby brother. Mom and I went on a very long walk across the city and when we were crossing  a street somewhere, bam, there was the Transamerica building. It was neat, we walked from Soma to Fisherman's Wharf and then over to the Palace of Fine Arts. There was a magic bus that took us from there all the way back to our hotel.

Mom and I at the Palace of Fine Arts. On the bus ride back, we passed through Chinatown and it really was like a different country suddenly. Pushing and shoving became the norm for several stops. Mom and I had seats and just watched. So interesting how something is so taboo in our culture while so ordinary in theirs.

The real Sticky Crows. I love those but don't eat them anymore for various reasons. Fear of dislodged dental work for one.  This was after meeting up with a friend from high school whom I hadn't seen in over 20 years. We both agreed that we had changed little.

Mom and I took another junket to Vegas during my stay.  Remember I had received an invite from the Venetian for some free night with free gambling money. While in search of lower priced vittles, we came across this kiosk peddling the monstrocities you see above. If I had to choose, I'd take the fried pickles. I'm still curious about those.

The rooms at the Venetian are gorgeous. All suites with a step down living room, three flat screen tvs and an interesting view from our room reflected in the other tower. They totally lost money on our stay. I played the $75 they gave me and cashed out the $42 in winnings, took the free room and bought a couple of coffees. The last night mom sprang for a nice dinner in which we had foie gras, yum! Oh and I took her to see Ka, an amazing show by Cirque du Soleil. The stage is an engineering marvel and the scenes they created were like works of art. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend it.

Last Saturday was the big hike. Dad and I took the chairlift to the ski area at Mt Baldy and then hiked to the summit.  It was a beautiful day, a bit hot and there were some amazing views on the way up. At one point, if you slipped and fell off the 18 inch wide trail to the right, you died, and if you slipped off to the left, you died. It's rather scary when someone is coming the other direction and you have to pass each other.

We made it to the top! It wasn't easy. 3.2 miles up and 3.2 miles back. The last part, dubbed heartbreak hill, was grueling. You cannot make it to the top without suffering, but that makes it even more worth it in my book. My legs were cathedrals of pain the next day. Dad said I should be fine since I regularly do squats, but as I reminded him, I don't do them 5 hours at a time. I was old man for two days following the hike.

The last day, mom made (and showed me how to make) paella. Oh my but it was good. In the next couple of weeks, I'm going to give it a try. Now where can I find a paella pan? I already know where to get the paella rice, which is essential. Oh and I wish I had picked up some saffron while I was in Spain. You pay through the nose for that shit here.

I made it home yesterday with the haul you see above. Plus the quilt seen in the next photo. I had a little skirmish in the airport in Toronto. Some lady, when arriving at the immigration entry, stopped right where you were supposed to go and choose a line. It was just like the idiots who stop at the top of an escalator to look at a map. I squeezed around her little girl and picked a line. She called out to me, "We were here before you!" I replied, "There's 20 lines, pick one!" She then said, "Well you could have said excuse me.!" I rolled my eyes and said, "Oh shut UP!" and turned and approached the immigration officer. Honestly, I just spent two weeks with my mother, I don't need another one, lol.

Georgie was so happy to see me, he cried and cried. Later he fell asleep next to the quilt. I really missed him and I think he missed me too. He started whining for our regular 8:30am walk right on time this morning.

Happy to be home for a few days before our road trip. More on that to come.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mid vacay update

I know it's been too long since I've checked in but power relaxing takes up so much energy, I have little to check in and update.  When I got here, mom presented me with the fabulous quilt you see. Actually it's just a small part of the quilt but it's so cool how she embroidered little Georgies into the design. The colors will be perfect for our living room. We may even hang it on the wall for a while.

It was so cold when I got here. Cold for July anyway. Drizzly and mid sixties. Yuck! I didn't even pack a sweater or a jacket so I had to borrow one. It was a nice break from the hideous heat wave of death back in the East but it's July for pete's sake, it's supposed to be warm at the very least.

I had a chance to meet my dad's new dog. Actually I don't think it's a permanent member to his family (he's already got two) but it was so cute. It's kind of like a cross between a chihuahua and a daschund or maybe a beagle. So loving though. Anybody wanna adopt? Serge would kill (KILL!) me if I brought her home, but Georgie wouldn't mind I'm sure.

On Friday, I went up with the family to San Francisco. We stayed at the Intercontinental where my old friend works. We haven't seen each other in at least 5 years, but we were inseperable in high school. It was fun to reconnect over cocktails and dinner. I think it's time to ditch that shirt but it has special meaning. I found it in a $2 bin at a sidewalk sale about 5 years ago. I wish I had bought a dozen.

I have the usual pictures from San Francisco - bridges, cable cars and skylines but I thought this shot came out neat so I'm posting it. When I get home on the 20th I'll post some others I'm sure. Or perhaps they'll show up on facebook. Hard to tell with me.

Our last night in San Francisco with the family. My brother lives up there, hence our visit. We got pretty snockered the last night after Spain won the world cup. The Spanish restaurants were stupid packed but Mexican food is practically as honorable. Mom and I are such geeks in this photo, but that's why I likes it.

I'm home for another day and then mom and I are driving out to Vegas for a couple days. We're gonna see a taping of Wheel of Fortune and take in Ka, the cirque du soleil show. Spend a few bucks gambling too I'm sure. It's supposed to be something like 100 zillion degrees so we'll be sticking inside for the most part.

I'm sure there's more but I'm being called down to dinner. Oh how I love camp mommy. Don't have to lift a finger and get to eat like a king. I definitely see diet in my future. Have a great week peeps, I know I will~!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Weekend update and toodles

That's his new thing there. He runs around at the doggie park and then when it's time to walk home, he stops at every shady spot and lies down. He will literally go limp when I tug on the leash and let me drag him while he gives me the stinkeye. Yesterday it was really hot so I took the car to the doggie park to avoid this behaviour but he still did it on the way to the car. He doesn't like the heat much, he's much livelier in cold weather.

Our friend Ida who lives in the sticks came to town for a little hubby free vacation and dragged Serge and me and Daniel out on the town. We started down in the village to stroll through the arts festival and we were mesmerized by the glassblower. It's just so weird to see it bend.

A little further up the street there was a guy doing body painting. Except for the swimtrunks, it's all paint. It reminded me of a living cartoon. I have another shot where all the men on the adjacent bar patio are ogling him. It's kind of pathetic though.

We decided to seek out an old Vietnamese restaurant we used to haunt many years ago. The appetizer (entrée in French) section cracked me up. They did their homework and looked up the word in the dictionary. Entrée does indeed mean entrance; however, they needed to scroll down to meaning number two in the dictionary. Pork meat is funny too. Like saying beef meat.

Daniel's not in the picture since he forbids me posting him here. He did take the picture but only after fruiting around with the zoom ten times. Hence the thinly veiled irritation on our faces. Well not mine, but I'm faking it. This is down at the jazz festival where we walked around enjoying the free shows for a while. I get uncomfortable around crowds though. It was at the jazz festival 15 years ago where I panicked when the crowd all decided to move from one venue to another and I got trapped in the flow. I ended up climbing a fence to get out. Ever since then I've been leery of any place where there are tons of people and I'm always surveying my exit strategy and making sure I'm at the fringes and not in the middle of the crowd. It might be construed as a personality defect, like being a Republican or being a smoker. We've all got one or two, right?

Although the lighting is not ideal, I love love love this picture. My stoic boys.Yesterday was a quiet day. We puttered around the house and I got the laundry done and started packing for my trip. Today I've got to go to the bank and get some US dollars. In honor of the fourth of July, I had a hot dog for lunch. That pic is posted on Facebook as many of you know. Here's another one that makes me laugh.

I won't be posting as regularly over the next two weeks because I'm on vacation from my vacation. What? Well I'm heading out to California for my annual summer visit. I'll post from there at least a couple of times but I probably will be largely absent from the blogosphere. I look forward to disconnecting a bit. Don't miss me too much now!

Friday, July 02, 2010


* And just how would you caption that?

* That Vermont shirt he is wearing in the photo I got for one dollar! At the sidewalk sale there was a bin where everything was a dollar and you know those kinds of things are like the flame to my inner moth so I ruffled through it and realized nothing was in my size. There was plenty in Serge's size though. Turns out he loves that shirt and wishes I had bought more. I'll make a spendthrift out of him yet.

* The mother-in-law's surgery went flawlessly and the good news is that the cancer is stage one (for the moment, have to wait for the tumor analysis) and they think they got it all out and she's recovering nicely. Did you know that it costs $12 a day for the tv to work in your cubicle at the hospital? That surprised me, but I guess when the medical care is free, they've got to find ways to offset costs.

* As for the utensil dilemma from the last post, there doesn't seem to be a consensus. I'm going to try to get him to make the steak knives and butcher knives pointing down. The rest doesn't bother me much.

* Yesterday was a big milestone for me (as noted on Facebook) as it was 2 years cigarette free for this boy. I love everything about being a non-smoker except for the 20 extra pounds. That said, I actually look more normal now. Whenever I look at other 45 year olds, by and large there has been some middle aged spread.

* The magazine picture of Serge and I was taken (to answer commenter queries) separately of him and me. The bubbles were a pain in the ass! I'm surprised they got two shots as well as they did. While one of us posed the other plus the assistant photographer madly blew bubbles as fast as possible. It's not as easy as you think! And we got covered with liquid soap in the process. You should have seen our shoes.

* I'm getty giddy about my upcoming California trip. I'm taking the new Air Canada flight into John Wayne airport. (Much more convenient for me than LAX) I've got to connect in Toronto but that's easy. Air Canada is great because you don't have to worry about checked bag charges and they have those free personal video systems in the seats like JetBlue does.

* I think Georgie needs to be enrolled in a 12 step program. Shiteaters anonymous.

* It's not supposed to rain the next few days so I'm going to waterseal all the patios and balconies at the other building today. See how fun landlording is?

* Here's wishing a nice long holiday weekend to my American peeps. In honor of the 4th, I will be making hotdogs on the grill and thinking of y'all. Later gaters!