Wednesday, December 19, 2007

There's no place like home, home on the range...

After spending the first 7 months of this year in Kansas and getting to know a lot of fantastic people there, originally it was all foreign to this humble Canadian, but now, I have to say in the immortal words of Dorothy, "There's no place like home."

Since December 4th, I've been in Chicago on a contract for the past couple weeks. But being in the American Midwest neighbourhood, I thought I'd take the Dec. 9th weekend, make a short flight to Kansas City and drive over to dear ol' Topeka to the best pub in the world.

I couldn't wait to get back to Frances O'Dooley's to visit with all the great friends I made during my stint and sing those oh so fun Irish tunes, especially my favourite, "Big Strong Man". My good friend and Masonic brother Mikey B. let me stay at his place. When I arrived, I was greeted by two big dogs, and he set up my bed and room with cute little night table and lamp, a couple Masonic books, an airplane bottle of Schnapps, and a prophylactic. Hilarious.

His roommate, Tom, a local cop, drove us to the pub where I was proud to display my Edmonton Oilers jersey--probably the first time that the Oil have been represented there.

My good buddy Rich "The Irish Rebel" Stevenson greeted me and all the other barmates were there. Throughout the night more and more friends arrived. I never realized how much I miss them so. It was a fantastic night. I told my friend Chasmo that I had to get this need to reconnect with these people in person out of my system.

So let me share something personal about this experience...

Looking back at that part of my life, it's like it was all a dream--that it didn't really happen. All the weekends I spent at a really fun Irish Pub, playing guitar, singing, and meeting people were all wonderful memories I'll never forget.

When I arrived at the Kansas City airport, everything was so familiar--the rental car place, the drive to Topeka, meeting up with friends and going to that Irish pub where most of my friends were all in their same stools.

I really couldn't believe I was actually there. It felt like a dream. It was truly a surreal experience. I've never had this feeling before. It was strange to me, but it felt great.

Believe it or not, but Kansas was a great experience for me spiritually. A lot of strange but meaningful coincidences happened to me. The latest coincidence was me being able attend Mt. Zion lodge for their installation. Being that I was sent on contract to Chicago and my company being able to fly me there for the only weekend I could have gone there, the timing could not have been better.

So I now wonder what was the cause, perhaps alchemical, of this odd feeling. Is it simply the massive amount of positive energy I received from these wonderfully friendly people? Is it the perfect pints of Guinness? Is it the wonderful harmony everyone experiences when we're all singing those familiar Irish songs together? Is it the witty remarks we belt out causing much laughter and frivolity? Is it the intelligent discussions on religion, politics, and philosophy we had around the table?

If someone has experienced something like this, please do share.

If you have an explanation for it, especially give some insight.

And finally, let me ask you this ... isn't this the feeling we should be having in our Masonic lodges and amongst our brethren?

And if our lodges are representative of our own spiritual temple due to the harmony and positive energy in it, what's so different about this humble little Irish pub and a good lodge?

What's been great is combining a positive Masonic experience with that Irish pub in Topeka. The brethren of Mt. Zion Lodge #266 and I have in the past gone to have dinner there after a few meetings now.

My congratulations go out to Worshipful Brother Chad Brewer on his installation as Master of Mt. Zion Lodge and a warm thank you to the brethren of that lodge who always make me feel at home in true Masonic spirit. The political discussion at dinner was great, proving that although we are prevented from talking about partisan politics and dogmatic religion inside the lodge room, with open minds we can most certainly talk about them outside the lodge, even at dinner or festive board.

Overall, I do look forward to my next visit to Kansas again. Here are the photos...

Next post... living and working in downtown Chicago and my Masonic visit to Oriental Lodge #33.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ottawa Part Deux avec un peu Cleveland

This is way overdue. Below is a slideshow of me and my dear friend Rose in Ottawa (by any other name?), getting ready for the Rush concert and taking an outdoor tour of the Parliament Buildings of Canada, some shots in the Market area of town, and a few from Cleveland, including the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

I already described the Ottawa Rush concert, but allow me to now tell you about them there govamint bildins. Well, they are absolutely amazing--breathtaking really. I'm sure the good folks who live and frequent Ottawa perhaps don't appreciate it them.

Nah, how can they not! But for this armchair political analyst who watches Question Period in the House of Commons online and seeing the beautiful gothic architecture, the statues, the spooky bell, and the grounds way up from the Rideau, is an inspiring experience. The war monument and unknown soldier inspired me the most though, thinking about how many Canadians fought, suffered, and died in all those wars, just so I could stand there, free, and proud of my country. Ottawa is a beautiful city in autumn and I look forward to visiting there again.

Later that night, Rose and I met up with my fraternity brother Wolfie, went out for dinner and some drinks at a pub in the Market area of Ottawa, which has tonnes of bars, pubs, and restaurants. I made contact with my old friend Jamie, who told me that night she's moving to Pakistan for a while. Writing this now in December while that country is under emergency rule, I wonder if she's okay.

After Ottawa, I spent six days in Cleveland, on a work contract, obviously. That said, I met up with my Deke brethren from the Beta Chi Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Case Western Reserve University who were gracious hosts. I got a tour of their house, which had a stairwell of various fraternity shirts that I got a chuckle out of. One of the guys and I went down the street from the house to this wee red decor bar. The bartender, humble in his ways, perhaps didn't realize how freaking familiar he looked. I ordered dirty vodka martini, and let me tell you, it was one of the best I've ever had (although I'd probably had about a dozen in my life up to that point). I then told the barkeep that he made a very good drink and that he looked EXACTLY like Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Same hair style and colour. Same eyes. Same bunny rabbit teeth configuring the same smile. I wish I took a picture. Anyway, a good night.

Wednesday night I drove from East Cleveland to downtown to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now this was interesting. Authentic everything--clothes, posters, instruments, autographs, and more. The Doors, Pink Floyd, and The Clash had their featured exhibits in separate floors. Outside was Johnny Cash's tour bus mysteriously established in the drizzling rain, which I had to take a picture. The whole front of the museum is protected by dozens and dozens of large decorated guitars.

The next night, I met up with the Dekes again and we headed to a campus bar which had an odd dual electric-techno neo-prog band playing while undergrads droned on. The local beer was good, from what I remember.

But for the week, I'll never forget what is probably the nicest restaurant I've ever been in, and it's attached to the hotel I was staying at. The sea bass was exquisite! And again, the dirty martinis were delicious. So if there's one thing I learned about Cleveland was that 1) it rocks! and 2) good dirty martinis. Okay maybe that's two things. Plus, I've never seen so many huge big houses along a city street. Then again, I'm still travelling around.

So, without further Rideau...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Yep, looks like I'll be goin' to Chicago for a good part of December working right in the downtown loop. I've only heard great things about that city and how much I'll enjoy it.

For my Kansas friends, I'm going to do my darndest to make a weekend trip to see you all at O'Dooley's. I might as well since I don't know anyone in Chicago. I sure do miss that little Irish pub and all of you in it. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Washington, DC?

Over the weekend I've been pondering the pros and cons of accepting a non-mandatory 1 year contract in Washington, DC.

Ironically, the week before, I had purchased a book on Washington, DC called "Solomon's Builders", written by my Masonic brother from Indianapolis, WBro. Christopher Hodapp.

I've put out e-feelers to my American friends and discussed it with my friends here in Edmonton. I've researched the web on what it's like to really live there. It doesn't look good. Crime bad. Housing bad. People? Diverse, but not overly friendly or fun.

For three months, maybe. But a year? I'm going to have to pass.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to visit, but live?

I also get the feeling that our partner company (which will remain nameless on this blog) asked many of their resources and they turned it down as well. Why would they ask a Canadian from so far away? Hmm.

Speaking of capital cities, I realize I haven't updated this blog to post my photos and videos of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa from a month ago and a couple shots of Cleveland. I'll get to that soon.

Boston might still be a possibility for a couple short term stints. We'll see how the contract pans out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bro. Denis Fontaine - Carpe Diem

Yesterday I learned the sad news that a dear friend of mine and fraternity brother, Denis Fontaine, 40, had passed away while kayaking in extreme conditions near Anvil Island in Howe Sound, northwest of Vancouver, BC.

My last memory of Denis...

Last I saw him was by chance in August 2006, while visiting a friend in Deep Cove, North Vancouver, BC. I rode a bus up from Seattle, where I was visiting my sister on my way back from a two week training session in San Diego. Anyway, that evening, we decided to head to a local pub one evening, where after waiting in line for 15 minutes, it was packed wall to wall and beer difficult to get to. Soon, I hear my name being called. It was none other than Denis, who joined my fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, back in 1987, which means I've known him for over 15 years now. He asked how our fraternity chapter was doing at the University of Alberta, as he was close with a lot of the brethren. We toasted to some shots of sambucca, reminisced and laughed. I can't think of a better last memory to have with someone such as Denis.

About Denis...

Denis was always excited about life, smiled all the time, and cared deeply what other people were up to. He literally lit up the room with his charm.

Denis was a professional extreme adventurer. Whether it be kayaking, mountain biking, or cross country running, although he was only 40, being as active as he was, he probably lived 5 more lifetimes than most people.

Although I had only seen him a few times in the past five years, I have many fond memories of him from the fraternity.

Back in the mid-90's, our fraternity alumni association put together a group of runners and helpers for the annual June Kananaskis 100 Relay though the Alberta Rocky Mountains. Out of the team of 10 runners, Denis took on the final 10km leg, which began at the dam and went through the mountain forest, ending up at the finish line at Nakiska ski resort. His legs were bloodied from a fall, but it didn't seem to phase the guy.

Farewell, my brother.
"Sing softly once again, of the loved ones gone before
Whom oft we used to meet, in the happy days of yore
E'en while now we're gathered here, in the twilight soft and sweet
Seem their spirit hov'ring near, o'er thine altar DKE."

From "We Hail Thee Holy Goddess".

The following article describes Denis to a T.

Kayakers die

Howe Sound outing turns tragic

Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun

Published: Monday, October 08, 2007

Denis Fontaine rarely let a day go by when he wasn't outdoors training, hiking, kayaking or mountain biking. He lived for training in the outdoors, his friend Marc Campbell said.

"His life was 'hurry up and work' so he could get outside and play," Campbell said.

"He loved to live life. He'd climb, he'd run, he'd hike...he was always doing something."

Denis Fontaine (left) and Richard Juryn died in hospital after their kayaks overturned in Howe Sound on Sunday. They were out with a group attempting to circle Anvil Island when high winds caused rough waters. A third kayaker is still in critical condition.

And Sunday was no exception. Fontaine, who celebrated his 40th birthday last week, headed out with buddy Richard Juryn and six others for a morning paddle and hike on Anvil Island in Howe Sound.

The fit and experienced kayakers - who often went out together for outdoor adventures - left Porteau Cove in four double kayaks at about 7:30 a.m. for a hike up the peak on Anvil Island.

When they headed back toward shore about five hours later, they hit pounding rain, two-metre (seven-foot) high swells and winds gusting to as high as 85 kilometres an hour.

The kayak carrying Fontaine and his girlfriend overturned in the rough weather, pitching them into the water. As one of the kayaks paddled toward Porteau Cove to call the coast guard, Juryn picked up Fontaine while another kayak scooped up his girlfriend. Then disaster struck.

As Juryn headed toward shore, the overloaded kayak flipped, tossing the three men into the frigid water. They tried to swim to shore.

When the coast guard arrived, both Fontaine and Juryn were found face down in the water, said Marc Proulx, maritime coordinator for Victoria's Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.

They died later in hospital; the third man is in critical condition.

Proulx said the men had been in the water for at least an hour.

Fontaine's girlfriend, who was taken in the other kayak to Anvil Island, has mild hypothermia.

"I'm devastated," said Campbell, who has known Fontaine for about 12 years.

"He's pretty much the most likable guy. When he walked into a room, the party started."

Both Fontaine and Juryn, 50, lived in Deep Cove and were seasoned adventurers who were well known and respected in the outdoor adventure industry.

Juryn, who is married with two teenaged children, was a central figure in the push for more cross-country mountain bike trails and bringing them up to world-class level. A masters expert in cross-country mountain bike racing, Juryn, who ran his own company Shore Events from home, was involved in organizing Crankworx and Whistler Mountain Bike Festival.

Tina Faulkner, whose husband Bob was in another kayak and survived the ordeal, said Juryn was well known in North Vancouver and was a "very giving man."

"It's a nightmare," she said.

"A couple of hours after, the weather calmed down. They just got caught in very bad weather.

"It's just a huge, huge loss."

Campbell, who has known Juryn for about seven years, said he was a "super enthusiastic" person, an incredible father and devoted family man. Fontaine, he said, was a social guy who was strong, fit and had many friends. Everyone wanted to be around him.

He had been a sales rep at outdoor company Helly Hansen before taking a job with Merrill Apparel.

When he wasn't working, he trained for everything - kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and climbing - but probably loved cross-country mountain biking most, Campbell said.

"He worked a bit and trained a lot - he would rush home and play," Campbell said.

"He is carpe diem, he lived every day. He will be missed for sure."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rush in Ottawa

A lot of you know that my favourite band are that true Canadian progressive rock trio called Rush. I've been a huge fan since high school and have only seen them live twice, both in Edmonton--once in 1990 for the Presto tour, and five years ago for the Vapor Trails tour. Both shows were quite memorable but the Vapor Trails show is my second favourite concert of all time, next to Pink Floyd in 1994. Nothing will top that one.

Some would think that a band that's released 18 studio albums, toured a billion cities, would be old and out of ideas. Few bands from the 70's remain intact, but Rush is one of those few thankfully. Their experience and creativity knows no bounds and their recent album, "Snakes & Arrows", is very, very good. Geddy, Alex, and Neil, quite literally are playing better than ever and their sound, is well ... sound!

So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to seeing them live again.

But alas ... when I was in Kansas, Rush played Calgary, Alberta (only 2.5 hours away from home). Then when I left Kansas, they played there a few weeks later, and so did Dream Theater. Just my luck eh?

All that was left were a few shows in Ottawa and Toronto.

But luckily I met someone in September who's from Ottawa and then invited me to see RUSH, in Ottawa, on the 21st and a couple free nights stay at the Brookstreet hotel in Kanata, just west of Ottawa. I couldn't believe this was happening. It was like a dream come true. And the best part is that the seats were 8th row on the floor!

Also knowing that I would be working in Cleveland the following week, it all worked out.

TRAVEL PANIC ATTACK! About 4 hours before we were about to see the show, I just realized that I lost my passport. After calling WestJet, airport lost and found, and government offices (which is pretty much useless), we made a trip back to the airport, went to the police office, and voila! there it was. Some kind soul had turned it in. WHEW.

So we had some drinks, took a cab to the ScotiaCentre, not far away, and weeded into the 10,000 fans of a sold out show, making it down to the floor. Unlike in Edmonton, you can drink beer on the floor. And so we did.

The show was amazing from the get-go. Opening up with the classic "Limelight" and continuing on, they played nine songs from their new album, which is unheard of for an old band like Rush, but they also played a lot of old B-side gems like Entre Nous, Natural Science, Witch Hunt, and Between the Wheels. It wasn't your usual Rush "greatest hits" show, although they did play a few standards. This was a different show--a spiritually oriented theme threaded through all of the songs, like they were trying to tell us something. Very Zen I'd say.

Here's a sample video, but from a different show. Same idea though.

Here's a crappy video from the actual show... if you can see 8 rows in on the floor on the left, about 5 seats in, that's me (!).

Cameos on the big screen from Bob & Doug Mackenzie, who introduced "The Larger Bowl" from their classic "Great White North" was hilarious. Then later the Southpark kids had a little band trying to play "Tom Sawyer" but Cartmen was hogging the mic. Then the real song kicked in.

See for yourself...

The funniest thing was seeing what Geddy would have behind him where his old bass amps used to go. Alex still has three big amps, but Geddy now goes directly into the system. Last tour, he had three coin operated dryers with concert shirts tumbling inside and every once in a while, a roadie would quietly hop on stage and insert some coins to get 'em going again. This tour, Geddy had three chicken rotissiere ovens and "Henhouse" written in "amp font" on the glass windows with four rows of actual chickens turning in each under a red lamp. Unbelievable!

What I enjoyed was watching my friend, who is so new to Rush it makes me ... (you don't wanna know), actually really enjoy the music, especially Neil Peart (pronounced "Peert"), the drum professor himself. When his solo came up, and the entire kit spun around, she nearly freaked. "I love him", she said, later the next day buying his bestselling book, "Ghost Rider - Travels on the Healing Road".

Here's the drum solo he did in Calgary back in July... You gotta watch this!!!

After the show we ended up at a local Irish pub where another live band was playing. Back at the hotel, I had to go to the bar and play "Xanadu" by Rush on the grand piano. Staff asked me to not do that. I cried, "But I just saw Rush!" You'd think I'd get some leeway because of that, but much to my chagrin, this was not the case.

Next day ... Parliament!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Never Tear Us Apart

Hey, it's me and Kirk Pengilly, the sax/guitar player from INXS! Saw him at The Bank Lounge. Most of the kids in the bar had no idea who he was. But I did. I said, "Hey, I know who you are. You're that dude, Kirk, from INXS." We partied for a bit.

Now all that's in my head is that killer sax solo in "Never Tear Us Apart" (video).

"You were there, two worlds colliding..."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Uilleann pipes

Here's a video of my friend Rich "The Irish Rebel" Stevenson playing the Uilleann pipes in July at Frances O'Dooley's Irish Pub. This is good stuff folks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jasper campin', raftin', and hikin'

Well, a couple days after I got back from Kansas, I had to get in a true Canadian mountain camping trip.

During the August long weekend, a crew of some close friends and I set on a three day camping extravaganza in what has been deemed by many as the most beautiful place on earth, Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Some even say that when "God created the heavens and the earth" he started in Jasper.

While we almost got kicked out of the campground due to a little fun and sing-song, we eventually "subdued our passions" around the campfire. I wonder if it might have been me singing "Liquor and Whores" once I got settled in my lawn chair (see a video from a few posts ago).

The next day, 11 of us went whitewater rafting on the Sunwapta river, a level 3 grade, so yes, we had to wear helmets and wetsuits. Our guide, Mark, was awesome, and he told us that the best time to go is in June when the water is highest.

So did we get wet? You betcha! Nothin' better to wake you up from a night of drinkin' than some cold mountain glacial water!

Next day we all took various hikes at Mt. Edith Cavell, my most favourite place in the world. Why? Well, because each year it's a bit different. The lake is a different size, the glacial till has eroded, etc. While I usually just walk the main trail, this time, Bradeo took us on a jaunt way up the left moraine and then upward and onward to the mountain meadows. Me being obviously out of shape (I blame Guinness) was trailing the group, but managed to make it. Once we got there, we took some pictures, and the beers and bocce balls came out and we had a game of bocce way up there, probably the first one we reckon. But then it started to rain, so we made our way back down again.

Without further adieu, here are some pictures...

Truly an awesome weekend! I don't have the whitewater rafting photos, although I did buy a CD, the files were unreadable. :-(

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

You can always pull me through

Listen to this song now! (Seriously click on that link to listen to the whole thing while you read this) --> "Pull Me Through" by Jim Cuddy of the veteran Canadian band Blue Rodeo

Simply put, it's one of my favourites and I'd like to dedicate it to all the people in my life--for their continued support, my dear parents, my sister, my grandma, my aunties and uncles, cousins, my friends and bros in Edmonton and British Columbia, and to all the awesome people I've met and worked with in Kansas who've made the last 7 months in Topeka feel like home, and an amazing experience I'll never forget.

Here's how some grade 8 students in Saskatchewan interpreted this beautiful, perfect song:
Dear Jim Cuddy,

Mr. Cuddy my name is Shelby and I'm in grade eight. I think you're a talented songwriter and your words speak for the misplaced voice in all of us. Your lyrics (*see below) relate to everybody's life in some way also your new album is astonishing...
Now run out and buy Jim's amazing album.

There's nothing like driving through the Northeast Kansas country-side, sun shining, with the top down on a white Mustang convertible listening to this CD in its entirety.
I hope you're traveling well now
And there's stars over your head
And I hope the river carries you
Everywhere you said
God Bless Kansas. Home on the range. And on August 1st, we're not in Kansas anymore.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Best Trip Ever - BC Road Trip 2007 Part II

To Nanaimo, Vancouver Island
Okay, so I left off where I was heading toward the ferry terminal in Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. If you don't know, when you go by yourself in a car it's about $53 one way. But this was my holiday and I wasn't going to worry about it (although a certain guy named Artie was supposed to come... ahem.) The last time I was on a ferry was back in 1988 when my high school basketball team made a trip to Victoria, but that was from a different terminal. So this was a totally new experience for me and let me tell you, my dear friends and family, it is absolutely spectacular! Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo is one awesome ride.

To Bowser
No, this is not a Sha-Na-Na Revue. Bowser is a little unincorporated hamlet about an hour North from Nanaimo just off the highway next to the East coast of Vancouver Island. And this is where my dear friends Dave and Tara and their 1 yr old son live now. You see, Dave was the drummer in my band and he is simply the best. He was the master of playing any style of rock music, on time, and with true passion. For a bassist like me, there's nothing better than playing with not only a great drummer, but a great guy, and a good friend. Tara is a loving, feisty woman who is an amazing host. We used to party a lot at their house in Edmonton. Now, she's a loving mother again and their son... well let's just say, I look forward to seeing him again. I miss them dearly. We all do. But I can't blame them for moving. It is quite the transition, but a much, much better location. I couldn't be happier for their little family on such a big lot.

Upon arrival, I got out of my car and Dave was right there with our old band beer, Lucky Lager. What a welcome! We had Tara's fantastic butter chicken for dinner (mmmm) and then Dave and I headed to the beach with a six pack and shot the shit into the twilight. Aaahhhh.

Dave was explaining that the islands out there are basically a utopia. No other way to describe it.

To Courtenay/Comox (aka Pamela Anderson's hometown)
Or so I hear. This little town is really growing. In fact, the whole island is. Booming. But ssshhh, no one is supposed to know. It's well developed, has all the typical box chain stores, but has mom-and-pop stores and a small town community feel. It is nestled amongst such beauty with coastal mountains and the inlets. The best part is that WestJet airlines flies from Edmonton to Comox Airforce Base which is next to Courtenay.

Anyway, we drove there for some excellent eggs Benny and took a tour of the area. I gotta tell ya, it's pretty awesome. We also drove up a mountain and found an abandoned ski hill with a couple lifts. It was really surreal.

But sadly and way too quickly, I had to go back to catch the 3pm ferry from Nanaimo back to Horseshoe Bay. One thing I know, I will definitely be back and will likely fly directly there. It's a definite place to consider moving to. Dave and I joked about being in a band together again and playing at local pubs in the area or being a house band at a local bar. Seriously, with a drummer this good, how can I not seriously consider it!

Okay, so that's the second leg of my trip. I have a big video of that, but it's coupled with my drive back to Vancouver, Kelowna wine country, and Vernon/Armstrong, with the final drive home to Edmonton.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

More fun at O'Dooley's Irish Pub

This video is of me singing the quintessential Canadian "Trailer Park Boys" song, "Liquor and Whores" by Bubbles.

Here's the original version by Bubbles himself...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"The Best Trip Ever" - British Columbia Road Trip 2007 Part One

During the first week of July, I took some time off, flew home to Edmonton from Kansas, then drove on my own to Vancouver in 12 hours exactly. For my fellow Western Canadians, we all know that the Alberta and BC Rocky Mountains are just awe-inspiring, so this post is mainly for my dear American friends to show you how beautiful Canada is, in case you didn't know. The total trip for me was 3000km (1800 miles) and spent $300 on gas. (It would have been about $200 in the U.S. for those keeping track.)

The drive was a perfect day the whole way with a little rain in Mt. Robson Park (see pic). As some of you know, I have a music ritual which I play. Thankfully, when I mentioned to a friend of mine in Topeka that I was missing Simon and Garkfunkel, unbeknowest to me, went and bought it for me just before I left. How thoughtful.

Okay, so when you're driving from Edmonton to Jasper, when you pass under the iron bridge near Sanguido to pop in a CD -- "Five Days In July" from Blue Rodeo. You see, not only did my trip include five days in July (you see, you see!) but when you're driving by Chip Lake and the highway splits, you should pass a road sign on the right that says "Cynthia 34" right when the chorus for, he song yep you guessed it, "Cynthia" comes on. After that I usually put on more Blue Rodeo, "The Days In Between" album released in 2000. The song "This Road" is perfect for highway driving. "This road, this road. Well it goes on like a dream..." Awesome.

And when travelling through Jasper National Park, I usually put on U2's Joshua Tree, so when the valley opens up, "In God's Country" comes on, 'cause well, basically you are in God's country. But for me this time, the park gate was backed up a half-hour, so it was a bit of a wait.

After that, I'll put on Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits because "Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water" comes on while going over a bridge or driving next to rocky rivers when leaving Jasper.

One of the most fun and scenic drives in the world is from Jasper to Kamloops, BC. Big mountains, lakes, valleys, farms, orchards ... however, when you reach Barriere, you'll note the devastating effect of the pine beetle has had on the forests. This continues on through Kamloops and in parts of the Okanagan Valley. It was a bit devastating for me as I hadn't been through here in over 10 years.

Okay, for all you drivers out there, if you're looking for fuel in Kamloops, don't go into town. You'll get lost. There's a PetroCanada gas station just outside Kamloops. It's the only one right on your drive through. Then you hit the Coquihalla Highway (#5 not #5a folks). It's a $10 toll road for a car, with really steep hills, but it's two lane divided the whole way into Vancouver. Basically, I could go straight to Whistler without hitting and intersection.

I first spent Canada Day n Horseshoe Bay golfing and going for beers at the marina with my two former Edmontonians and bestest buds Brian and Mat. Horseshoe Bay is where the ferry terminal is which is part of West Vancouver and the beginning of the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler, where the 2010 Winter Olympics are being held. Needless to say, the scenery with the marina, the mountains and the water is so very Zen. I'd love to live there.

Later we hopped on a big boat, toured the Vancouver bay area on a perfect night and watched and celebrated the Canada Day fireworks. I had to take a few photos of Brandy's friend Andrea with the sunset. Then we ended up taking a limo from the boat to The Yale bar where a band called "Brickhouse" was playing. If you're in Vancouver, you gotta go there because they're the house band, start at midnight and play until about 2:30am. You can get drinks up until 3:00am too!

The next day, after going back to The Yale to pick up my credit card (oops), I got on the ferry in Horseshoe Bay and floated to Nanaimo and drove to Bowser to visit my buddy and former drummer Dave and his wife Tara, which they moved to from Edmonton last year.

So if your a friend of mine on Facebook, you can see the photos there. And instead of loading a tonne of photos, instead here's a multimedia slideshow of the first part of my trip!

Click here to see the cool slideshow!
(Song is "The Days In Between" by Blue Rodeo)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

M.W.Bro. Robert A. Drury, Grand Master of Alberta passes

On July 11, I received word that the Grand Master of Alberta, Most Worshipful Brother Robert A. Drury, had passed away suddenly while visiting family in Toronto that morning.

I am greatly saddened by this as I know all brethren in Alberta are. My condolences ring out to his wife, Lorraine, and his family.

I met Bob on several occassions as his lodge, Exemplar #175, meets on the same night as my lodge, across the hallway at Freemasons' Hall. I now deeply regret not having attended the Grand Lodge session in Edmonton back in June when I was home visiting.

Why? Brother Bob was one of those rare, larger-than-life men, who when entering a room, always with a smile, humble in his stature, would light it up so brightly, you knew you'd be in for a special moment. His jokes were legendary. Often when you'd ask him how he was doing, he come back with a witty comment about his own shortcomings. He WAS the name of his lodge, Exemplar, in the truest sense.

His Installation as Grand Master took place just over a month ago on June 9 and having Bob in the big chair, all the brethren were looking forward to what was to be an exciting year of Masonry in Alberta. Now we all share heavy hearts.

The following bit of Masonic ritual from "The General Charge", in my opinion, describes Brother Bob so well, to give you an idea of what he was, and what we all thought of him:

If you see a man who quietly and modestly moves in the sphere of his life; who, without blemish, fulfils his duty as a man a subject, a husband and a father; who is pious without hypocrisy, benevolent without ostentation, and aids his fellowman without self-interest; whose heart beats warm for friendship. whose serene mind is open for licensed pleasures, who in vicissitudes does not despair, nor in fortune will be presumptuous, and who will be resolute in the hour of danger;

The man who is free from superstition and free from infidelity; who in nature sees the finger of the Eternal Master; who feels and adores the higher destination of man; to whom faith, hope and charity are not mere words without any meaning; to whom property, nay, even life, is not too dear for the protection of innocence and virtue, and for the defence of truth;

The man who towards himself is a severe judge, but who is tolerant with the
debilities of his neighbour; who endeavors to oppose errors without arrogance, and to promote intelligence without impatience; who properly understands how to estimate and employ his means; who honours virtue, though it be in the most humble garment, and who does not favour vice though it be clad in purple; and who administers justice to merit whether dwelling in palaces or cottages;

The man who, without courting applause, is loved by all noble-minded men,
respected by his superiors and revered by his subordinates; the man who never
proclaims what he has done, can do, or will do, but where need is will lay hold with dispassionate courage, circumspect resolution, indefatigable exertion and a rare power of mind, and who will not cease until he has accomplished his work, and who then, without pretension, will retire into the multitude because he did the good act, not for himself, but for the cause of good!

If you, my brethren meet such a man, you will see the personification of brotherly love, relief and truth; and you will have found the ideal of a freemason.

So mote it be! Farewell, my brother. May the Great Architect of the Universe keep you and bless you always.

For more information on Brother Bob, visit (photo above taken therefrom).

(I'll soon be back blogging about my recent week-long road trip through British Columbia, which I have deemed the "Greatest Road Trip Ever", with lots of scenery pictures and stories.)

For now, along with my brethren, I mourn.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Canadians get screwed by supposed level exchange rate

Although the Canadian dollar exchange rate has increased by about 25% compared to the American dollar, Canadians at home aren't seeing the benefit and are being ripped off by middlemen.

I can certainly attest that goods and food are much cheaper here in the U.S. compared to when I go home each month. Especially gasoline. Fuel in Edmonton is about $4/gallon (~$1.05/litre), where in Kansas it's hovering around $2.85 right now (~$0.77/litre).

At Denny's restaurant, the popular "Moon's Over My Hammy" and other breakfast slams are about $6.50 here in Topeka. In Edmonton, $8.99.

The list goes on.

Read more about it here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

June trip home

Oh home on the range ye olde Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. E-Town, River City, City of Champions, Capital Region, Deadmonton, Redmonton, Festival City, Oil Town, "The Chuck", whatever you want to call it, it's my home and always will be.

My latest trip home wasn't much different than the one before. Good flight home. Did some wedding gift shopping though, but Karaoke at B-Street on Wednesday night with The Crew was good. Thursday I headed to the office for a bit, then went to Lux to meet with friends.

This time though, Thursday night I was able to attend a lodge meeting at dear old Ivanhoe Lodge. It was a real pleasure seeing everyone again. My good friend and lodge brother, Bro. Gordon Wright, a WWII D-Day navy veteran, received his 50 year Masonic jewel. He's such a humble gentleman, and told us some stories about the war and what an experience it was for a young man to be able to use all this equipment. Click the link on his name to read more about this amazing man.

We also had a Masonic memorial service for WBro. Bob Dean, a former Edmonton Eskimo pro football player who passed away last month. Bob was born in the U.S. and came up to Edmonton to play after he was offered a bigger salary than what the Washington Redskins put on the table. Bob was one of my sponsors into Freemasonry and for that, I will always be grateful, and he will be dearly missed in the Edmonton community.

After lodge, several of us retired to Martini's pub until the witching hour.

Friday evening the boys at the fraternity house hosted a BBQ which several of us alumni went to. Then later a huge crew of friends and I were at Suede lounge. It was really great to see so many people in one place again. Then we headed across the street to On The Rocks which is proving to be a popular live music joint in town.

Saturday, I had my cousin's wedding at Snow Valley. (Now for you non-Canadians, there is actually no snow there right now, in case you were wondering.) The new ski lodge there is now an amazing banquet facility to have events such as a wedding, and the Alberta prime rib was fantastic. My job was to take video of the entire event and I had a lot of fun doing it. It was wonderful to see my cousins, aunts, and uncles, but especially to see my cousin, Christine, get married to a really fun guy, and I've never seen her so darn happy.

Sunday I just relaxed and Monday, dad drove me to the airport with golf clubs in tow.

Next month, Artie and I are doing a big road trip through beautiful British Columbia including watching the Canada Day fireworks from a yacht in Vancouver bay, taking the ferry Vancouver Island, hit some wineries in Kelowna, and visiting my cousin in Kamloops.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Traditional Observance

On Saturday May 19th, the brethren of a "new" Masonic lodge in Topeka were called to their second meeting, which I was privileged to attend once again. They've become good friends during my time here and am proud to call each of them my brother. I say "new" lodge because they are in the process of simply trying to continue the charter of dormant Auburn Lodge #34, but are now looking at taking over the charter for Mt. Zion Lodge. These things in Masonry are a convoluted process, and take time to get done.

This small group of dedicated Masons are basing their lodge on the Traditional Observance (T.O.) model as part of the Masonic Restoration Foundation. This model ensures that lodge meetings have substance, no minutes are read, educational presentations are made and discussed by the brethren, ritual is performed with dignity and grace, tuxedos or dark suits are worn, and post-meeting fellowship is encouraged with a dinner in a private room at a fine restaurant. There is much flexibility to this and it's up to the brethren what traditions they wish to maintain.

This lodge is the only one that meets at the Grand Lodge of Kansas building in downtown Topeka. We had an excellent presentation made by a brother on the five orders of architecture--the Ionic, Doric, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite and how they might correspond to the five ancient mystery schools--the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Hebrew, and Christian. This discussion continued at festive board, which we had in a private room at Frances O'Dooley's Irish Pub (where else!).

Here are some pictures of the Grand Lodge of Kansas building, inside the lodge room, me with some of the brethren, and dinner and fun at O'Dooley's.

Update: The mosaic pavement "checkered floor" is a rarity to find in American lodges, but commonplace at all four lodge halls back in Edmonton, so this ornamentation made me feel like I was back in my own lodge room. In the picture below right, the gentleman on the front right, Brother Chad, is the artisan who designed and put the floor together.

Oh, and I met Drew Carey ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Peaceful Places in Topeka

So I've been back in Topeka for two weeks now and each weekend is still filled with great times at the Irish pub and Rich still being so gracious and letting me play guitar and sing between his sets.

But what I want to share with you is a beautiful area along side of Shawnee Lake which has all sorts of flowers, plants, with rocks and little creeks. The mallard ducks are very tame due to everyone feeding them all the time. I've hung out here a couple times now, and will definitely return, as it's just so peaceful. Without further adieu...

That duck kicked ass. I wouldn't say he's "Mighty" though. Go Senators!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Kansas Coincidences

I've mentioned this to a few people, but since I've been here in Kansas, I've experienced some interesting coincidences, which I will share with you now.

The second week I was here, I went to my apartment complex's office, as I was told you can sign out DVD movies for free. They have a whiteboard showing the latest arrivals and this week, the movie "Capote" starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman was featured. I had always wanted to see that movie, but to be honest, I really didn't know what Truman Capote did. So I thought now was a good time to do so.

Unbeknowest to me, "Capote" is the true story of how Truman Capote the author, began the 'true-crime' book craze with his release of "In Cold Blood", which is about a brutal senseless murder at a farm homestead in rural Kansas, which happened about a two hour drive southwest from Topeka! The murderers were then caught and brought to Leavenworth Prison, which is only about 45 minutes from Topeka. I could help but feel I was MEANT to watch this movie at this particular time.

Another coincidence happened when I drove down to the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport to fly out to Las Vegas. Upon my return, the next week, I happened to be watching "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" starring John Candy and Steve Martin where their plane to Chicago gets diverted all the way to the same airport and their adventure takes them through Kansas and the rest of the Midwest.

Not really a coincidence, but notable was watching "National Lampoon's Vacation" with Chevy Chase a few weeks ago, that takes the family through Kansas and Dodge City, famous for the Wyatt Earp history. The scene that showed Christie Brinkley driving her red Ferrari on the highway made me think why I haven't yet seen anything like this yet.

And would you consider it a coincidence that a Masonic brother from here was from San Diego, where I was just at a couple times last year, and his girlfriend resembles two of my ex-girlfriends and has the same name as another ex of mine (yes, I have a few ex's, but that's not the point

Speaking of Masons, I'll mention again about the evening at the Scottish Rite Temple in Guthrie when asking Jim Tresner about what his favourite degree of the Scottish Rite is and which working tool he likes the most, he happened to pick what I would say: "The 18th degree and the level."

And I almost forgot to mention how Rich Stevenson "The Irish Rebel" told me over a late night breakfast at IHOP that he is a huge fan of Rush. As well, although he plays guitar at the pub, he actually happens to be a drummer. Being that I'm a bass player and also a huge Rush fan, I think I'll chalk that up as a coincidence. Especially when one night he was taking requests and I blurted out "Rush!" as a lark, he actually started playing "Sweet Memories" from the album "2112" (1976).

These are sweet memories indeed and why I have to blog them.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Ever wonder where on our continent the ol' adage "April Showers Bring May Flowers" actually holds true? It's not Kansas because you have to back up a month where the March showers bring April flowers. So you'd think you would just have to go North to see it come to fruition.

My trip back to Edmonton for May was primarily to take my mother and grandmother out for Mother's Day lunch, which I do every single year. In search of the right dining establishment, I remembered that "Continental Treat" on Whyte Avenue and 106 Street could be good. Elegant and popular, being that it's been around for over 25 years, I remember going there about 12 years ago. And it was excellent. Dill pickle soup was excellent. Open smoked salmon sandwich was perfect. Our waiter happened to be a Brother Mason from Highlands-Unity Lodge as well as he recognized my square and compass necklass jewel. Anyway, my dear grandma loved this restaurant and we've decided it would be our annual go-to Mom's Day place.

The flight four days before that was smooth as silk. Opting to fly out of KC at 6:30 AM through Denver on United Airlines was much, much better than on Northwest through Minneapolis. My good friend Ruben was there to pick me up at the airport and we then had lunch at Earl's Tin Palace. Later that night we would join our usual group at B-Street Bar for the world's best karaoke. Afterward, Mikey, Artie, and I would head to Mike's house for some darts and drinks whilst listening to the new Rush album.

Thursday May 10
I stopped by the office for a bit then met up with Moondog, Shlab, Dan, Artie, and Allison for some drinks at Lux. Moondog always makes me laugh too, being the one who originally coined my current residence "Topechka, Kansi". He's funniest bloke I've ever known.

Friday gong show
Friday evening we met up at Earl's Tin (I know, I know). We being Artie, Allison, Taryn, Perry and K.Lo downed some food and we would all ended up at Devlin's Martini Bar and Savoy on Whyte where more friends would join us. Then it was off to On The Rocks back downtown again, one of few remaining live music venues in town where a cover band called "Liar" were playing a tonne of AC/DC, Judas Priest, Nazareth, and other kick ass rock tunes. We had an absolute blast. Next thing you know, we're all at Allison's place, me cranking out my guitar and some Blue Rodeo. I don't remember anything after that.

Saturday afternoon I hung out at my boss's place for some sun and beers. Later, my dad took my aunt and I out for dinner at Normand's on Jasper Ave. Excellent food. Highly recommend it. Then I met up with some friends and went to "On the Rocks" again but this time McQuaig was playing. If you wanna see blues and bagpipes, McQuaig is the band to see.

Getting my share of local restaurants, Sunday night I had dinner with a dear friend at 4th and Vine, where it's movie night. "Volver" starring Penelope Cruz was on and it was a very enjoyable movie. And believe it or not, but I drank some Merlot. A nice Chilean called "La Playa".

Flight back to KC on Monday
We were delayed on the tarmat in Denver due to some crazy storms. For the first time, I had a listen to the air control traffic on the headsets. I was amazed at how all these planes were coordinated to fly around the storms. Finally arriving at KCI airport, I was blessed to have been given a Jeep Compass for my car rental and I soon discovered it was a very smooth ride indeed.

This last trip back to Edmonton, though, made me realize how much I do miss my friends and family. I will return from June 6 to 11 as my cousin has a wedding on the 9th I've been asked to video tape and I plan on finally going to one of my own lodge's meetings as I do miss old Ivanhoe Lodge and the brethren.

As I just found out that I will be in Topeka until July 31st, I can't help but realize that there's still a lot to do around here and in KC that I haven't even done, so the extension is a good opportuinty to take advantage of it. So hopefully, I'll have some more adventures to tell, including a planned trip to Indiana.

While there weren't any May flowers in bloom yet in Edmonton, having spent time with my aunt and mother, who both have a middle name "Rose", and grandma, whose first name is "Rose", those were all the flowers a man returning home could ask for.


Monday, May 7, 2007

The Frances O'Dooley's Drinking Team

So basically, since I've been back in Topechka over the past several weeks, enjoying the scenery by taking drives around the area. Kansas is a strikingly beautiful state with rolling hills, ornery trees, long white picket fence ranches, acreages galore, and excellent roads. I finally bought a Kansas band compliation CD. Being the progressive rock fan that I am, I can't believe I never owed any Kansas. Well, I'm truly impressed. So there's nothing like driven through the Kansas country-side listening to, well, Kansas!

There's a definite soul to this humble state. With the recent tornado wiping out Greensburg, a town of 1500 people, killing 12, you get a real sense of community spirit here. Kansans are very proud and the friendliest people I have ever met.

So I've been frequenting my usual hangout. Rich has been kind to let me play and I've been surprisingly well received, being that I don't have any lyrics in front of me and often find myself repeating verses. But the good-hearted Kansans don't seem to mind.

I've befriended, Adam and Laine, some of the fine folks from KSNT 27 News, the local NBC affiliate. Then there's the other members of the O'Dooley's Drinking Team and have shared a few with the other regulars--Bob, Sean, Mikey n Jenn, Todd, Rugby Mike, the other Jenny, supreme Guinness pint pouring bartenders Nate, Darren, and Amil, and our tolerant nurse, Christina. There's also the gals from the back who've got their own "Irish Friday Club", but they don't sit at the front with us. Boooo!

So, from these photos, you can see Adam, Rich, and myself jamming at the front, playing some "Don't You Know That You Are A Shooting Star".

The other day was "May the Fourth Be With You" day, and many Star Wars references were had. Rich played us some Star Wars parody songs, which brought the house down with much laughter.

I did manage to take a stroll at the nearby Shawnee Lake, Southeast of Topeka, which is dammed up. It's a nice big lake with boating, canoe rentals, parks galore, mini fishing lakes, and a golf course on one end. It reminded me a lot of back home, so it was good to just hang there.

My good friend Mike, also a brother Mason (the well dressed one seen singing on the right), came over the other day as I've turned him onto Canada's own top TV show, Trailer Park Boys. We sat and watched a couple seasons over a case of beer.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Home Again for Easter

The Best Week EVER!

Well, after a few weeks in Kansas, it was time to head back to Edmonton for everything Easter.

Flight home
Was it a smooth trip home? Hell no. My flight from KC was a touch late, surprise, surprise, so when we arrived in Minneapolis, it was literally about 5 minutes before my connecting flight to Edmonton was to depart. Then as the plane approached the gate, it stopped about 20 feet before and the captain announced that there was some equipment in the way! GREAT! REALLY GREAT!

Finally, we parked the damn thing and I hurried on out and ran all the way across this massive, massive airport, carrying my laptop and pulling my carry on luggage, sprinting down moveable sidewalks, dodging around people, taking the odd short break (yeah, yeah, I know...) and then hearing my name on the intercom to report to gate C14, which wasn't even close yet. I finally arrive in a pant and a sweat and while the plane was still at the gate, the freakin door was locked. So I wave out to the pilots. lol... I know, pretty useless. So I go to the adjoinng gate, interrupt the current inquiry, and ask the lady to get a hold of the plane. She does so, and says someone will be right out. WHEW!!!

So I get on the plane, go to my seat, and they give me some water. Nice.... Tired as heck and wanting to sleep, two chatter box comedians behind me are yappin' away to no end. I glance at the three empty seats across the aisle and head over to bliss. Nappy nap.

Upon arrival, I knew there was no way my other bag would have arrived on time, so luckily I didn't put any needed clothes in there, but I did have some ink cartridges for one of my bosses, but the next morning, the bag arrived at my door. Sweet.

As I couldn't get a hold of anyone to pick me up, a $50 cab ride ensued. Hopefully I can expense it.

I get my key from my aunt's place and cabbie takes me home. Ah... home. Nappy nap.

Later that night, the B-Street Gang went out for karaoke and Brad the DJ was there. Really good to see him and the crew again.

A Maundy Thursday
Thursday afternoon, I headed to work to drop off the ink cartridges to my boss and we chatted and then headed down to Lux for a while and had a really good meeting. Several of my friends who work downtown stopped in and we had more drinky drinks.
But then I had to head off home to get in my tux and go to my Masonic Hall where I was participating in the 18th degree - Knight of Rose Croix as the 2nd General. It's a pretty big night in Scottish Rite Masonry, so it was great to see all the brethren again too. The degree took about 2.5 hours and I thought my general's charge was pretty inspiring. Anyway, after our Extinguishing of the Lights - Feast of the Paschal Lamb, I popped in the hall lounge where I knew brethren of my lodge, ol' Ivanhoe #142 were hanging out. Many of us then headed over to Martini's Pub for some wine and fellowship. I told everyone about my awesome trip to the Scottish Rite Temple in Guthrie.
I must say that that Thursday was one of the best days I've ever had. I will never forget it. I also decided that Kara and I would go skiing to Jasper after she insisted. Her telling me "You say Jasper is your spiritual temple, so let's go!"
A Very Good Friday
So Good Friday we hopped in her van and headed to Jasper -- specifically the Jasper Park Lodge and Marmot Basin ski resort. With Blue Rodeo and U2 playin' on the way, I was once again, for the umpteenth time, awe-inspired by the massiveness of the mountain scenery. That night we went to the Atha-B and watched a really good blues band.
Saturday, here in the park...
The next day was very warm, about 16C on the hill! The snow was a bit sticky, but my favourite runs, Highway 16 and Showoff were still a lot of fun. Just before lunch, I mentioned to Kara in a lift line that I usually one of my friends here. Sure enough, one of my fraternity brothers was also in line and later we joined him and his gang for some beers, food, and tunes down at the upper parking. Classic. That's what I really love about Marmot is the party atmosphere in that parking lot.

So we skied one day and then Kara drove us home, again listening to Blue Rodeo, Dave Matthews, knowing that I would return to my most favourite place in the whole world.
Saturday night was hanging at Suede Lounge and it was awesome to see the ladies of The Crew -- you know who you are! Then we went to some Level 42 club, which wasn't bad, but you cats know me, ... not really into the dance trance, hip hop stuff, so I called it a night as I had to get up early in the morning.
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
I was up at 7am for the Scottish Rite Relighting of the Lights Ceremony and Easter breakfast.
After that, I headed home for more nappy nap. Then I visited my mom and grandma, and after picked up my aunt in the afternoon and we went to my uncle's for Easter dinner as my cousin and her family were in town from Kamloops.

Monday Monday, so good to me
I had lunch with another dear friend who I haven't seen in a while. Then I a visit with my mom again. My 2nd cousin and her family were there. Her husband and I get along really well, so we decided to finally hang out together that night and so I took him to Martini's pub where he got to meet my good friend Boobie. Well, those two were like peas in a pod, with their overemphasized gay voice talk and yappin' about movies and religion. Hilarity was had by all.
Home On The Range...
But let this be a lesson to you all. Do not have a hangover whilst flying. Luckily, my dear friend Al drove me to the airport. The flight to Minneapolis was really good. Coincidentally, I sat in the exact same seat on the exact same plane I arrived in. I knew this because I left a magazine in the pocket and it was still there! Would a hot sexy women then sit next to me fulfilling this serendipidous moment? Alas, no.
Then we had to go back to the other end of the airport (you know, where I usually arrive from KC at), but this time I had and hour and a half to kill, so I had some pasta at a fine restaurant near my gate. We all get on the plane, but then wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. Finally, the captain instructs that the nose cone on the plane "has a history" so we had to switch planes. But guess where? That's right, all the funk away at the gate I arrive at!
I am done with Northwest Airlines. Not one smooth trip yet.
So this time I discovered that the Minneapolis freakin' airport has an automated train that goes from the main concourse all the way down to the G gates and saves you a good 7 minutes of walking. WELL THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN GOOD TO KNOW A WEEK EARLIER YA KNOW!!!
Finally arriving in KC, but late, Dollar Rent A Car obviously didn't have the Sebring I reserved, so now, I'm currently driving a Dodge Caravan. Someone direct me to the little league soccer game so I can fit right in please!
But let me tell you all something. Although I had the best week ever in Edmonton, I missed Kansas. So it was good to be back... home on the range.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Oklahoma, Oklahoma!

Scottish Rite Masonic Temple
Guthrie, Oklahoma

On the last weekend in March, several of the local Masonic brethren from Auburn Lodge and I hopped in my kick ass Town & Country rental van down the Kansas Turnpike and made the four hour drive down to Guthrie, Oklahoma to stay and hang out at the infamous Scottish Rite Temple there.

Because it was my rental van, I had to drive. Unfortunately, an hour outside of Wichita, a terrential rain storm began. Let me tell you this was absolutely the most unbelievable rain I have ever seen. If it weren't for the lights on the truck in front of me, I wouldn't have been able to see where I was going. Stopping was out of the question as I wouldn't be able to see where I could pull over or would I know what was behind me. The rain was coming down so hard and fast, at one moment, my life passed before my eyes and I wondered what my mother was going to think knowing her son died on a highway in Kansas. Seriously, it was that scary. I've driven through snow storms in the BC Rockies, but this was really, really crazy. This went on for about an hour and a half.

Finally, we reached the Temple late Friday night and my friend Paul gave me a quick tour. And wow, this is absolutely the most beautiful building I have ever been in.

Saturday morning we got up early, and I registered, to which I had the secretary of my valley call ahead of time to confirm that me, a Canadian Mason was attending. There was a mix up and so one of the members asked me if I knew the 18th degree sign and password. I said, "As a matter of fact, I do." You see, they don't instruct them for any of the degrees anymore, but we do it in full in Edmonton. So I think my dear brother was caught off guard by him trying to catch ME off guard. That said, he probably didn't know that I'm currently the 2nd General of the Rose Croix body of the Edmonton Valley.

So they eventually let me and we watched degrees 17 to 21, then we had lunch and missed the 22nd, but caught 23 to 25. The 26th was not performed due to some of the cast not being able to make it. A banquet followed where the brethren invited their wives and girlfriends to which they were also invited to a play about Pontius Pilate and his dilemma.

Sunday we watched degrees 27 to 29 in the morning and 30 to 32 in the afternoon. The 31st has been revamped and is derived from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

During the entire weekend, I was bugging my American Scottish Rite brethren and the caps they have to wear. In Canada, 32nd degree Masons wear a simple collar with a teutonic cross for a jewel at the end, where in th U.S., they wear black caps which in my opinion, makes them look like bell hops. So I continued to ask my friends why they haven't taken my bags up to my room yet.

Here are some of the photos of this beautiful building.

Left: One of the sitting rooms. Right: The Library

Left: Lodge room. Right: Egyptian Room

Left: Me and Bob Davis (Secretary of the Guthrie Valley). Right: A performance on stage. Look at the backdrops! This play was open to friends and family after the banquet.

These two are of the main auditorium being set up for a degree. The stage is very deep and has a couple dozen back drops which are used during the degree performances. The altar in the middle has a trap door on its back side.

Left: View from the first balcony. Right: Me at the big organ!

This is me and Dr. Jim Tresner, who is basically one of the most respected brethren in all of Masonry, especially in Scottish Rite circles. Saturday night he hosted an informal discussion in one of the sitting rooms where a couple dozen brethren asked him questions about Freemasonry. I stood up and brought greetings from the Supreme Council of Canada and the Edmonton Valley and proceeded to ask him two questions:

1) Which is your favourite degree in the Scottish Rite?
- He said, "The 18th, for obvious reasons."

2) Which is your favourite working tool?
- "The level."

Coincidentally, that's what I would answer.

I also asked a question regarding Buddhism and Freemasonry to which a brother from California answered very eloquently and was extemely enlightened by it all.

All and all it was an amazing trip, one I'll never forget and very glad I was able to take advantage of the short distance to travel while living in Topeka. The drive back was very pleasant, we stopped in Wichita for some food, and made it home in the late evening. I have to say again that I love driving the Kansas Turnpike. It's soooo smooth.

For all you Masons reading this, or anyone really, go visit this Temple and get a tour: