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.