Wednesday, December 19, 2001

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" - George Santayana
It's Wednesday afternoon and I'm bored out of my tree at work. Thought I'd write a few notes down about the weekend, and prep for the wonderful trip across Saskatchewan back to Manitoba next week.

I got back into Calgary on Friday night. Doug was there to pick me up at the airport, and we proceeded directly to Jeff's Christmas party. It was a lot of fun, not nearly as many people as last year, but that was probably a blessing in disguise. I ended up drinking too much and making a fool out of myself. Poor Kim...I was giving her the old "why don't you like me?" sob story. I really have to apologize to her next time I see her. That's the state I was in....and yes, I ashamedly admit it. I can't believe I packed away a case of beer....well, actually I can. I haven't drank that much in one sitting in at least five years (okay, maybe it hasn't been that long, but it has been a long time).

I got a phone call from Robert in Lethbridge at about 8 in the morning. After I talked to him, I went back to bed and ended up missing running. However, unbeknownst to me, the Christmas brunch was taking place at Tim and Doug's, and since I didn't get back in time to organize a ride up there, I wouldn't have made it anyways. I did head down to Eau Claire around 10:30, and not surprisingly, didn't find anyone there.

I went back home and went back to bed for awhile longer. Joe and I got up around 2pm. I spent the rest of the day slithering around the apartment, and then got ready to go to Jeff and Susan's with Sean and Nancy. Philbert showed up, and we had a lot of laughs during the evening. I so enjoy getting together with that gang.

Anyways, Sunday, Sean, Nancy and myself headed to the Westhills Chapters. Jeff told us that all CDs were 50% off, and he was right! Nancy and I went temporarily insane, and bought a lot more CDs than we probably needed to, but it was so worth it. I even got the rest of my Xmas shopping done there (except for Joe, of course). Did some grocery shopping with them, then headed home and spent the rest of the evening lazing around.

This week I've started at Fountain Park finally. I'm still using the guest passes, so I'm only going to the noonhour classes. Step Aerobics was on Monday - lots of work, as was Move It! on Tuesday. I did Fusion today, which was essentially Yoga. Very relaxing. I think I could add on top of Wednesday a swim workout at LP. The run last night was pretty good although I didn't properly stretch afterwards. Tomorrow is my first ICE (Spinning) workout, and I'm looking forward to it. Actually I may keep the swim workouts on Thursdays and Sundays as I had originally planned since I will start the weight workouts in the gym on Monday and Wednesday (and possibly Friday) mornings. That leaves Tuesday evening and Saturday morning for the runs. What day to I get off? Well, after Pilates after running on Sat. mornings, I still have well over 24 hours off until the Sunday night swim. I hope the schedule works out.

I'm meeting up with Reid, Louis, and possibly Tony tomorrow night for a night on the town. We've been planning on getting together before Christmas, so it should be a lot of fun. Friday night is the last Christmas party at Greg and Marion Tompkins, and Joe's coming too. It should be a lot of fun.

Vonnie and Louis are planning on leaving for Grandview at around 7am on Saturday morning. I hope I'm not too hung over - although I figure, what the hell? There'll be four of us to drive anyways.

I also sent out my birthday party invitations on Monday. The plans are to do this on Sunday, December 30th. 8pm at Ming (I'm reserving the "Red Room"), and then heading to the Night Gallery for Sunday Skool around 11pm - midnight. I'm looking forward to it. Should be a lot of fun.

Ken isn't planning on getting back to Calgary from Winnipeg until the afternoon of the 30th. He's staying over in Regina on the 29th. I'm thinking I'd like to be back in Calgary before the 30th at least, so I may have to cancel the trip to Winnipeg after all. Probably just as well....I'm sure Grandview will be more than enough to handle.

Anyways, this will be the last blog until the new year. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to anyone who may be reading this in the future.

Friday, December 14, 2001

I am stuck in Denver International Airport for six freakin' hours. Luckily they have these 15-minute internet kiosks. I've been doing some emailing, checking the weather in Calgary, etc. I wanted to go into Denver and check out the city, but the shuttle bus downtown is $32 dollars retrun, for god's sake. This country is such a big ripoff.

It makes me happy that I'm Canadian - "the land of the good deal" - where everyone's not trying to screw you and providing a service for what it's actually worth.

Anyhoo..if I'm still bored in an hour or two I may be back. My time is running out.

Joe wanted me to call him this morning. I tried him in New Orleans and here as well, and he's not answering the phone. I'll keep trying until I get him the hell out of bed.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

Last day in New Orleans....extremely humid, spotty rain all day. People say it's cool, but I'm still sweating buckets and getting the clammy, greasy feeling on my skin.

Today I did a bit of packing, and headed back downtown. My mission today was to check out the New Orleans Museum of Art. I got down to Canal Street, and through talking to several extremely rude people decided to take the 46 City Park bus. Big mistake! Actually it wasn't too bad....definitely went through some questionable neighborhoods along Basin Street and Orleans Street. Seemed like I was in the Projects. Unemployment must be running pretty high in those neighborhoods, coz everyone was out on their front stoops, not really doing much of anything. We ended up on the west (er...uptown) side of City Park, so I had to walk across to the other side to get in on the Esplanade Ave. entrance. I finally made it to the Museum, and spent all afternoon there as well.

Fascinating variety of art there, for sure. The first floor was devoted to special exhibits, right now that being the Martele Silver Collection. These were handcrafted silverware pieces created by craftsmen of the Gorham Mfg. Company of Rhode Island from 1897-1912. Apparently they were the first response to Art Nouveau design in North America, and were progenitors to the modernist movement. They were figured very prominently at the 1900 Paris World's Fair and were extremely sought after over the next two decades. These pieces displayed incredible craftsmanship. I kept thinking about the first class table settings on the Titanic when I saw all of this stuff.

Disappointingly, the 17th century Dutch artist exhibits on the first floor were closed for some reason. I followed a tour group around for awhile, but the guide was really dumbing stuff down for the fat American tourists that were there, so I ventured off on my own again. There were also lots of 15th to 18th cent. Italian Renaissance paintings on the main and 2nd floor galleries. The second floor also housed French 17-19th century art, and European, American, and Louisianian 19th and 20th century pieces, including an impressive collection of Picassos, Renoirs, Rodins, and Degas. Edgar Degas' family lived in New Orleans, and he visited here often. He was the only French impressionist to paint in the U.S.

Of special note on the 2nd floor were the Decorative Arts section, including a huge ceramics collection, esp. Belleek and Meissen porcelain. There was some glassware pieces there from well over 2,000 years ago. The Faberge section was very cool. The detail that was involved in the pieces was incredible, and what's even more incredible is that most of the detail was made from precious jewels, metals, etc. There were three Imperial Easter eggs from 1893, 1895, and 1912. There were many flowers, clocks, and such other things as cigarette boxes, opera glasses, and photo frames. What I thought was really interesting was the Imperial Basket of Lilies of the Valley. It was a tiny arrangement of these flowers, but all made out of gold, diamonds, and other precious stones.

The third floor contained all of the global art collections. There was a huge variety of aboriginal pieces from Oceania, Africa, and North and South America in the pre-colonial periods. There was also a large collection of Japanese, Chinese and Indian Art, such as Chinese porcelain jars, Dynasty ceramics, Japanese silk screens, and Indian paper art using tempera and gold.

After I left the cold, air conditioned museum, the humidity and warmth outside felt like getting hit with water. I took another bus down Esplanade Avenue, took one last walk through the French Quarter, and had a last meal at a Creole restaurant named Gumbolaya consisting of Crawfish cakes, Gumbo, Red beans and rice, and Jambalaya. It was fantastic. I walked down Bourbon Street to Canal and caught the Magazine bus back to Bill and Ed's.

I'm going to relax for the rest of the evening. My flight for Denver leaves tomorrow morning at 9:30. I took out some more money today - hopefully enough for a cab to the airport and an airporter bus out of Denver International to downtown Denver and back while I try to kill seven hours tomorrow afternoon. Then it's off to Calgary tomorrow evening, and to Jeff's Christmas party as soon as I get home. *Sigh* ...another trip coming to an end, but I'll be glad to get back to my arctic desert home.

I spent WAY more money here than I thought I would. The conversion simply destroys you. A Canadian pays on par here what they would back home, plus having to add 60%. This will be my last trip to the United States for a long time. It seems ironic that Canadians can pretty much go anywhere else in the world and get great rates on the Canadian dollar, except for here. And where did I decide to go vacationing? You guessed it.....

At least I got to send my dance gear order from Action Dancewear to Bill and Ed's place with the 2 pairs of M.Stevens tights and 3 BalTogs bodysuits. That'll save me some hefty duty charges when I cross the border with it packed away in my suitcase. I also got the "Hard Heroes" movie sent here -- the customs office wouldn't allow it across the border because of it's content. I mean, please, it's a wrestling/bondage/hero-villain fantasy. What a bunch of prudes. That's coming across the border with me as well!

Next trip? Well, I had been thinking about going somewhere in the spring, but that may be a little to premature. I'm definitely going to Montreal-Ottawa this summer for a week again, but Joe and I are thinking about Mexico for two weeks in the fall. Cancun for one week, Cozumel for the other. Now that sounds like an awesome time!

I love New Orleans...I'll be back again someday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Update to Dec. 12 -

Just got home from another long day of walking around. Today's big event was checking out the National D-Day Museum. If anyone is in New Orleans, I highly recommend that you go and check it out. I spent five hours there this afternoon. It is very well set up, very interactive, and very moving. They play a movie co-produced by Steven Spielberg in the main theater as well occasionally throughout the day. I'm not sure if they run another one, but this one began with the bombing of Pearl Harbour and went on to discuss the rest of the War in the Pacific. It was very moving. I was tearing up through the entire thing, and I know I wasn't the only one who was. The exhibits are set up chronologically, beginning with the world events that set up the stage for WW2. Next were the beginnings of the fights in the Pacific and European Theaters, the entry of America in the war in 1942, and a detailed look at both fronts for the American Armed Forces. A look at life for American civilians during the war years brought the immensity of the war and the effect it had on everyone around the world to light. Of course, the most powerful exhibits were the D-Days in Normandy and the numerous attacks across the Pacific. There was a lot of mention of the British and Canadian forces in Europe, and the British and Australian forces in the Pacific that I really wasn't expecting, so I got a chance to learn a lot more about what our own national armed forces achieved in 1944-45 when pushing back the Nazis (all of that brought on some nationalist tears of my own).

Even though I was expecting the exhibits to be overwhelmingly from an American slant (and I'm not saying they shouldn't be), I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of explanation of how the citizens, resistance forces and armed force personnel from Japan, Germany, Britain, Canada, France, Russia, the Phillipines, etc. were coping with the situation. There were displays of how the war propoganda from each side (Allies and Axis) was scewed to portray the enemy as being even more horrible than they were (the Nazis were just horrible). It's amazing how a suppression of the truth is seems necessary sometimes to keep moral and alliances strong. I don't suppose the war's outcome would have been the same had the people from each side really known what the other side was like. It makes you realize that we're all people and that we all aspire to achieve the same things in our lives. It's also amazing how one or two people can make that all go horribly wrong (and that has even more relevance in the events that are unfolding today on the world stage).

All in all, a very amazing museum. By seeing how the American effort changed the face of the war and the face of the nation itself (the economic implications of the war effort on the US were mindboggling), it's certain that the world would be a much different place if the US hadn't gotten involved in the war when they did. December 7, 1941 certainly did change the course of world history (those two words, coincidentally, were scratched out by Roosevelt and replaced by "infamy" in the Declaration of War he made the following day - "A day that will live in infamy"). Pretty powerful stuff.

Things of note that I learned, or learned more about:
-By the end, the entire world was involved - the logistics would have been unbelievable.
-Eisenhower was the commander of the allied forces in Europe. He had to make a decision to send the D-Day forces to Normandy through a storm in the English Channel, or risk delaying the attack for weeks. It was a decision he had to make over the course of a few hours, with half of the allied leaders saying "yes", the other half saying "no". If you've ever thought you were in a stressful situation, you don't know what stress is...
-the Canadian 3rd infantry were one of the first six "teams" on Normandy, were responsible for landing on Juno Beach and meeting the British outside of Caen and occupying the city. Is this how the Junos got named? Seems like a strange relationship if true.
-Nimitz was the commander of the allied forces in the Pacific (MacArthur was leader of the American forces (I think)). I had never known much about the Pacific theater before since Canada was not involved in it, but it is fascinating. It makes me want to learn more about the involvement of such countries as Australia and the Phillipines. It makes me want to visit the places of the fiercest battles, such as Truk and Leyte Gulf (scuba dive down to the plane and shipwrecks) even more. Even though the battle was fought so much more on the water, hundreds of thousands of people were killed.
-mainland Japan was destroyed by air raids to an extent I had no idea. The pictures were horrible - some of the cities were completely (ie. 100%) razed.
-there were 2 million soldiers, etc involved in the European D-Day + followups. The initial sail across the Channel involved 5,000 ships. Amazing...
-before the go ahead was given to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Allied tactical plans to move onto Japanese soil (to start on Kyushu) were to be the biggest, and undoubtedly bloodiest battles ever witnessed by humankind. We are talking millions of casualties on both sides. The a-bombs killed around 250,000. I know I had always been one of those that didn't know what to think about the decision to drop the bombs, but now I think the best decision had been made, despite the horror that resulted. Harry Truman weighed on his decision VERY heavily as stated in his diary (he was sworn in after FDR died of a brain hemorrhage in early 1945 - something else I didn't know).

War is absolute hell. I just hope people don't forget that.

That does reflect back on my fundamental belief that people are essentially lazy and ignorant. I would think we would NEVER want a repeat of the years 1939-45, but given the wrong conditions with the wrong people in power, I can completely see a scenario like this, and most likely a LOT worse to play itself again.

"Those who cannot remember history are bound to repeat it", or so the saying goes. Sometime I wonder if it should be "do not want to" instead of "cannot". At any rate, in order to not forget, we must all go and see such things at the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. 'Nuff said.....

On much lighter news, I have officially finished my souvenir shopping. Tomorrow is a completely free day of touring. I'm going to head up to the Museum of Art tomorrow in City Park.

I fell asleep watching my movie last night. I'm going to go and watch the rest of it now. Nite nite.
Just thought I'd drop off another quick note before I head out for the day. The last few days have been overcast and cooler (but still in the mid- to high teens), but today is supposed to be back up to 24^C, so I don't want to miss out.

Yesterday, I got up and ran from the house here in the Garden District to Tulane University campus and Audobon Park. St. Charles Ave. is the main drag through MidTown, and it is simply gorgeous. There are huge magnolias and oaks lining the street, and the old-fashioned streetcars run up and down it from the French Quarter to the Universities (Tulane and Loyola). Most of the nicest examples of southern colonial style homes line the avenue as well, and they are all decked out for the holidays. The area where I'm located is between Downtown (the Central Business District and the French Quarter), and Uptown (at the universities and further west). It is south of St. Charles and an area along Magazine St. which is quite similar to Inglewood.

The directions north, south, east, west are meaningless here since the city is build on the curve of the Mississippi River and the streets turn in a fan pattern with it accordingly. The directions are Downtown, Uptown, Riverside (obvious), and Lakeside (towards Lake Ponchartrain). It's getting a lot easier to travel around once you get used to the lay of the land.

But I digress. After my run, I got home, changed and ate and headed back down to the Quarter to do some more souvenir shopping. I ended up in the Cabildo, which is a historic building now housing the Louisiana State Museum that dates back to the late 1700's. It's where the Louisiana Purchase was completed between Spain and France in 1803, and then between France and the U.S. 21 days later. Lots of War of 1812 ("The Battle of New Orleans" in 1814) and the Civil War information. The region has a fascinating history. I ended up spending about 3-4 hours there. I got back and ended up being a loser and renting a movie for the evening.

Today I either want to head Lakeside to the City Park where the New Orleans Museum of Art is, or head back downtown to the Confederate Museum and the D-Day Museum. I'm pretty much tourist trapped out, and have most of my souvenirs bought. I was considering going out for one last time tonight on Bourbon Street, but I might pass on that.

December 7th was the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, so the D-Day Museum hosted a huge event with parades, etc. There were jet fighters and bombers flying over the city all afternoon. I'm sure the Americans found it all very wonderful, but I found it sort of unnerving. There is also a huge aircraft carrier docked at one of the piers downtown that I've taken about a thousand pictures of. Very impressive piece of engineering.

I guess I'll take a bunch more pictures today, and that will pretty much finish up the trip from a image perspective. I'm trying to write down everything I do so I don't forget anything.

I don't think I'm going to have time or money to go on the Riverboat ($$$) or on a swamp tour. Apparently it's pretty off season to see any critters in the bayou, so I may have to go back to the Audobon Zoo at the Park to see some local flora and fauna. The amount of squirrels around here is ridiculous though. There as plentiful at gophers back home. And everyone owns at least one dog down here, while all the cats you see are strays. Weird....

Anyways, gotta go. I see the temperature is supposed to be -15^C when I get home...great.

Monday, December 10, 2001

I also see that the weather in Calgary has improved immensely. I also see that it is supposed to go back to shit the day I get back too. I was beautiful here on the weekend, but it has also cooled down here quite a bit in the last few days. I think it's 17^C here or something today. Here's hoping that it warms up again later this week.

It's Monday afternoon and I managed to get completely wrecked again last night....good for me! ;-)

I'm done that nonesense for the rest of the week. I'm going to get a good sleep tonight and get back on track tomorrow doing some sightseeing, etc.

I think I might take the swamp tour tomorrow - or do the riverboat thing. It all costs a bunch of money, but oh well. I've been spending way to much so far on all the wrong things. I still have to go to the parks, check out the museums (the Cabildo, D-Day museum, Confederate museum).

I did manage to get to the pool yesterday at Tulane University. Ed wanted to work out when him and Bill got back from Houston, so I caught a ride. Considering how I felt, I still managed to get 2000m done in the pool.

Last night there was a tea dance at the Bourbon Pub Parade, which cost $5 to get in and was all you can drink draft can imagine how happy I was about that! I went out with Bill and Ed for dinner last night to a really wonderful restaurant in the French Quarter called Irene's, and then they let me go free on my own. I managed to blow $100 (that would be $160 Canadian) yesterday, and that was the sign that I should stop spending like a freak. I still have to buy a lot of souvenirs, even though I have bought a few things.

Well, I'm going to relax for the rest of the day. Bill is going to cook a roast on the BBQ tonight, so that is what I'm looking forward to for the rest of my day.

Saturday, December 08, 2001

Hello from N'awlins!

How are things? It's Saturday (December 8th) morning here, and I'm killing from a hangover (imagine that!).

It is so beautiful here. Everything is so lush and humid. It was like 25^C here yesterday, plus the humidity made it feel even hotter. I think I got a bit of a sunburn. I spent all of yesterday walking around to get my bearings. I spent most of the day in the French Quarter, but I also walked up to the Superdome and along the river to a huge shopping complex called Riverwalk (imagine that...) where I got to buy some souvenirs, etc. It's very touristy here, but luckily Bill showed me around a bit yesterday to some areas of town that are less frequented.

We went out last night to a bunch of the gay bars in the Quarter which was pretty fun, but everything's so damn expensive here. I ran out of money and came home with Bill, then proceeded to go back to the Quarter for a while longer by myself. It is crazy down there at night. The entire stretch of Bourbon Street is a mass of people moving around, socializing, and going from bar to bar. You can drink booze here 24/7. They even sell it in kiosks in the mall. Bill told me there are drive-thrus that sell daquiris here too. I find that a little bizarre. The traffic is insane, I don't think you need drunk drivers added to the mix as well.

I think today I'm going to do a bit more walking around and maybe take the ferry across the Mississippi to Algiers and Gretna and do some more exploring over there. The architecture and urban layout are so fascinating. Bill and Ed's house is at the east end of the Garden District, and it is typical of the homes here. Huge and stately....the main floor ceilings are 13 1/2 feet...and all the windows are SINGLE pane, if you can imagine that. I still plan on taking an evening cruise on the Natchez paddlewheel sometime next week (hopefully...if there's any money left). The dinner cruise costs (yipe!) $50US.

Audobon Park and Tulane University are very close by, so I'm going to start running tomorrow and get in for a few swimming/gym sessions at the Uni with Ed (he teaches law there).

Anyways, that's about it from here. I'm spending a lot of cash. I thought SOMETHING would be a deal here, but no chance. Even the booze is expensive. I'm having a hard time controlling my spending urges, since everything is there for the grabbing, however, I keep in mind that everything sells for a price on par with Canadian prices (again: THERE ARE NO DEALS HERE), and realize that I can end up buying stuff for cheaper in the long run when I get home, and that keeps me in far! LOL

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

Don't forget the DJ Tiesto show is on Dec. 15 as well at Max Bell....Joe has to work, and tix will be a minimum of $40 now, so the adventure looks doubtful....
We did our last 30 min time trial in the pool on Thursday (Nov. 29). I'm happy to announce that I managed to swim 1600m in 30 min, a 100m improvement over the last one. That means I'm doing a 1500m in just over 28 minutes, which is a great improvement over the 35:00 clockings I was doing this summer....still about 5 more minutes to knock off before spring....

The last swim practice with UCTC is tonight. There is one more running session tomorrow night. Depending on how much packing, laundry, etc. I get done tonight will determine whether I go or not. It would be nice to go and say goodbye to everyone.

I joined the Fountain Park Fitness Club yesterday. $530! Yikes! At least I get $250 back from CPR. I'm SO looking forward to taking classes when I get back from NOLA. I'm still not sure what the itinerary looks like over Christmas. We still haven't decided what day to have the birthday party. I imagine a lot of people will be taking the 31st off, since it will be the only day that week some people will work, however, having it on Saturdya would guarantee more people coming out. Which means I'd have to be leaving Manitoba the morning of the 29th at the ABSOLUTE latest. I'm not sure if Ken will be up for that. If that's the case, I probably won't be heading into Winnipeg after all... :-(

Christmas party season started last weekend in high style. My manager John and his wife had a party on Sat. night for our implementation team and spouses (Joe was working again...). It was a good meal, lots of wine and laughs. I caught a ride back downtown with Boris and Hanna and went to the other party, which was an Apollo party at Don's place that moved to BT's around 11:30. The condo was packed full of people. Doug, Darren, Rodney and myself made a stopover at the apartment before heading to the bar - had to make sure we were nice and pleasantly pickled before we headed to the bar. Fun, fun, fun.

The night I get back from NOLA is Jeff's annual Christmas blowout. He typically has it on a Friday night for some reason, but this year his company Christmas party is on the 15th, so he has to have it on the 14th. Joe has the night off, so it should be a lot of fun. I'll have to jump in a cab and head home, drop off the bags, and head up to Jeff's.

Saturday the 15th is the Frontrunner's Christmas brunch after running. I hope I'm not in too bad of shape for that. The following Friday is Greg and Marion's Christmas party (21st), the evening before everyone is taking off for the holidays. Joe also has that night off, so we will be able to have a last fun evening together before I take off to Grandview with Vonnie and Louis.

Well, that's about it for now. I'll try to do some updates in New Orleans, although if not, I'll keep a journal and update this when I get back.

Until then, have a happy mid-December, especially you chumps who are here in the gross, frigid Prairies. I'll be thinking of you while I'm hanging out in shorts and t-shirts on Bourbon Street and getting sunburn while feeding the crocodiles in the bayou.