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!