Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My visit to Golden Rule Lodge (Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario)

Monday September 8, 2008 (Ontario)

I drove up from my hotel in Vaughan to Orillia to meet fellow e-Mason, Bro. Shawn, which distance was much, much further than I expected. Several roadside businesses and places were like ghost towns

Needless to say, Shawn wasn't what
I expected either. Mind you, I didn't have any expectations other than I knew he was a good contributing member of this board, a Mason, and a fellow Canadian. Well, he exceeded all those expectations and more.

So we drove up north even further, saw a gas station on fire with firefighters on hand. The thing was burned to a crisp. We finally arrived at his lodge in Gravenhurst, a small town with old shops and there on the main street, a little door with steep stairs taking you to the street front landing area where brethren put on their aprons.

But before that, we went to the church basement next door where we had a hearty banquet served by ladies from the church. Followed by a speech from the DDGM (this was his official visit), the brethren continued to the lodge.

The lodge room was very nice (pics to come soon) and I noted the many similarities to mine and when the brethren were seated and the openings and closings in all three degrees were done perfectly, I noted the following:

- While all Ontario lodges are supposedly "Canadian Rite", the three lesser lights surrounded the altar as we would find in the U.S. and in Alberta and BC
Ancient York Lodges.

- "Worshipful Sir" not "Worshipful Master"

- The Immediate Past Master sits on the WM's right, not left

- When coming to order, the p. signs are held where we 'finish' them off. (Arms must get sore for some of the older guys.)

Other than that, the ritual wording was 99% the same and music to my ears.

There was a real nice relaxing feel to the lodge while all the protocols and traditions were maintained.

The brethren were very welcoming and interested in meeting me.

After the meeting, all the brethren went up to the third floor where a nice Coke machine dispensed $2 beer!

So there I was with Bro. Shawn, the Worshipful Master, and a retired policeman drinking Molson Canadian, eating Timbits (Tim Horton doughnut holes), and us sharing various stories about pulling over Eric Lindros for speeding, meeting Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, seeing Shane Corson and Tie Domi get the shit beat out of them outside a bar, and making fun the Toronto Maple Leafs.

You really can't get more Canadian than that.

It now being 12:30am, on our way back to my rental car, with rain coming down, I couldn't start the car started due to my stupidity in leaving the lights on. So Shawn kindly drove to his house to get jumper cables and back we went and I was on my way for a 150km trip in massive rain.

A fantastic night. And I also know why Shawn's username is bncprez, but I'm not going to share. You'll have to visit his lodge to find out.

Thanks again Shawn. It's guys like you and your welcoming lodge who make Masonry truly worthwhile for this traveller.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Jasper then T Dot

Going to Jasper this Labour Day long weekend for a few days of relaxation.

20080706 - Jasper 072

Then the day after I'm off to T Dot (Toronto) in an area called Kleinburg for some contract work until the 12th. This will be my first time movin' and shakin' in the Toronto area. Am I looking forward to it? No, no I am not, but we'll see. You never know.

Houston, you have a problem

Last week, me and four fellow co-workers, two from Cowtown (Calgary), and two from Hogtown (Toronto) headed on down to Houston, Texas to meet up with one of our software vendors for several days of training. We stayed in Kemah, Texas, in a house right on Galveston Bay. With several bars within two blocks, needless to say, it was a great time. Karaoke, piano playing, and a trip to Galveston for some seafood made it a fun, worthwhile trip.


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Friday, July 18, 2008

Peter's Drive-In

Being a true blue Edmontonian and Oilers fan, I'm not a big fan of Calgary. Call me jaded. Call me loopy, but it is what it is. Besides the airport, I haven't spent any time there in 25 months. I used to go all the time. My company even has an office there. I'm even working on two projects for companies based there.

If there's one thing Cowtown has going for it, it's Peter's Drive-In. Shoebox fries. Rootbeer shakes. Greesy double patty burgers. Love it. Always a good stop for a busload of drunk skiers on the way to the mountains to recharge the batteries.

Anyway, the founder, Gus Pieters, just passed away. I hope it stays open. I love the fact that despite being asked numerous times to franchise it, he's refused. Could you imagine if there was one open in Edmonton? What would Calgary have going for it then? The Stampede? Um, yeah, it's great to see so many oil executives and politicians in cowboy get-up and yuppies who put on a hat and wait in long lines to pay $20 cover at the same shitty bars to drink $7 beer. Real fun...lol..

So without further adieu, I give you...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Life is Golden

Over the June 20 weekend, a lodge brother and I took a trip to Golden, BC for some whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River. He brought a waterproof disposable camera and probably has some amazing photos, but for now, here are some pics I took of the town, the scenery and our trip up the Icefields Parkway in Alberta.

We also saw a really cool band, The Steve Elmo Murphy Band. They're like a younger Blue Rodeo mixed with some reggae and blues. With songs like "Baby I'm Drunk", it's tonnes of fun. In fact, I liked 'em so much, I bought both their CDs.

Anyway, absolutely breathtaking postcard scenes...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Trailer Park Boys


The past week I was in Alexandria, Virginia again, wrapping up the project.

Now on to other things... like The Trailer Park Boys, who are live at the River Cree Casino in Edmonton tonight. I'm going with my boss, who's wife got him tickets for his birthday. She called me a month ago to tell me I'm going with him.

I've never seen them live, so I have no idea what to expect. Beer, guns, music probably. Rawk!

"Now fuck off, I've got work to do."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

House of the Temple

Two historic Masonic buildings visited in two days...

Thursday April 24, 2008, I made another trip to the George Washington Masonic Memorial and Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 for their regular meeting, which wasn't so regular, as it was their annual Charter Night, where the lodge was opened in the Colonial Replica Room, which is a copy of the original Alexandria Lodge that Bro. George Washington attended. Over 30 visitors were in attendance, many from Florida, one from Wyoming, and one from the U.K., which was nice to see a familiar looking apron style to mine! (If you're not aware, American Masons wear a different style of apron than Canadian and English brethren.)

On Friday April 25, 2008, I made a visit to the House of the Temple of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, U.S. Southern Jurisdiction, headquarters for the Supreme Council 33rd Degree. The building is located in basically a residential neighbourhood in the north downtown area of Washington, DC on 16th Street between S and R Streets. It faces West (for obvious reasons to any Mason).

The amazing part for me was the curved, multi-tiered library, which is entirely dedicated to Masonic and related philosophical works. Now I know why some say that Freemasonry is one of the most written about subjects ever. This library and its extensive collection is prove-positive of that. It's certainly a room that I could spend hours ... make that years, studying in.

Lots of photos... but they still do not do it justice...

Monday, April 21, 2008

DC at Night

My last night in DC before I headed to Kansas took me to the National Mall again, but this time, at night. Enjoy the photos...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Masonic Spring Workshop 2008!!!

Awesome. There's no other word to describe it.

Once again, the Masonic Spring Workshop in Alberta was absolutely awesome. Keynote speaker, WBro. Chris Hodapp, author of "Freemasons for Dummies", "Templar Code for Dummies", "Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies for Dummies", and "Solomon's Builders" as well as fellow Knight of the North, Chris' speech on Friday opened with a poke at Britney Spears where he certainly got our attention. After that, he described his journey at rebuilding a lodge and starting a new one, as well as creating Levant Preceptory, a true medieval depiction of Masonic Templarism. Chris was inspiring, funny, and entertaining, and I most especially enjoyed the conversation over scotch in my lodge's hospitality suite on Friday.

The talk in all the hospitality suites and at the pub was how well Bro. Hodapp was able to "set the tone" in a positive direction for the whole workshop. Everyone was in a great mood and lots of ideas were exchanged. Lots of laughs.

While I normally don't make it out for the Saturday morning sessions, I did make an afternoon one put on by Workshop Chairman, Bruce Zawalski on the ancient Scottish Masonic "Kirkwall Scroll". He provided some excellent scholarly work and challenged us to make our own conclusions on whether the scroll was a lecture board or floor mat and what it was for.

As I implied, the deep late night conversations over scotch are really what it's all about--meeting fellow Masons from around the province and talking about Freemasonry, mostly in a spiritual-esoteric sense. One late night talk by the lobby fire with an old friend about comparing Zen Buddhism with Masonry was most enlightening.

The senior officers from my lodge were there and it was just a great bonding experience for us as well.

There was a wonderful Masonic spirit in the air. Even taking a personal walk along the mountain paths to one of the most spectacular views you'll ever see, hanging out with the fauna, all helped me reconnect with the Divine. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining.

Next year, Bro. Craig (our DDGM) and I are planning a pre-workshop ski trip to Banff if anyone is interested. We went skiing the day the workshop started, and I got a nasty sun burn which is now making me look like a clown.

Next year's workshop features many things, but one new idea is "Masonic Idol" where brethren get 2 minutes to deliver a bit of initiation ritual of their choice and they'll be judged on passion, accuracy, and other aspects.

We'd better see more of you come next year.

A big thanks to RWBro. Craig Shutt for the drive down, the skiing, beers, and impeccable snoring, Bro. Bruce Zawalski for chairing and putting on a most amazing weekend and to Bro. Mitch Cammidge for being really entertaining throughout and for hanging out with me very late Saturday/Sunday morning.

Photos!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Banff, Sunshine, Kananaskis Country

Well, I'm off on a trip to beautiful Banff, Alberta with my lodge brother and DDGM, Craig. We're skiing at Sunshine Village for one day, then to Kananaskis for the "funnest Masonic event you'll ever experience", the annual Masonic Spring Workshop where fellow Knight of the North and Masonic author, Chris Hodapp will be the keynote speaker on the topic, "Freemasonry: What do we have to offer?" I told Chris that at my lodge's hospitality suite that night, we have scotch to offer.





Isn't Alberta just beautiful?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

DC KS DC

I've been back home for a few weeks now after spending almost two weeks in Alexandria and DC. I'll make a separate post for that 'cause we saw a lot of things. Even made it out to Annapolis, Maryland and saw Davy Jones from The Monkees perform.

Saw The Cult this past week here in E-Town. Billy Duffy is still one of my favourite guitar players.

Next weekend (Apr 10-11), I'm going skiing to Sunshine Village in Banff, Alberta with my friend and Masonic mentor, Craig, and then apres-ski, we join 250 other Masons for the Alberta Masonic Spring Workshop in scenic Kananaskis Country. This year's workshop is featuring WBro. Chris Hodapp, author of "Freemasons for Dummies" among many other books, as the key-note speaker.

All brethren in attendance are welcome to join the traditional Ivanhoe Lodge Hospitality Suite on the Friday 11th night.

After that I'm now booked to return to Alexandria and DC, then a weekend stint from April 18-21 in Topeka and Kansas City. And yes, I'll most definitely be heading to my most favouritist pub in the whole world, Frances O'Dooley's, featuring Rich "The Irish Rebel" Stevenson.

Then back to DC for another week of work.

Whew.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Year Day!

Just 'cause it only comes around every four years, except on century years not evenly divisible by 400, I'd like to officially wish you all a Happy Leap Year Day!!!

Also, I was only 6 days away from being born on Feb. 29.

Why does February get the short end of the stick when it comes to days? Well, back in the day, July (Julius) and August (Augustus) only had 30 days, but then each of the aforementioned Roman Emperors attributed to said months had big ego's so they stole days from February to add to their month.

So what of February? From Wikipedia:
February was named after the Latin term februum, which means purification, via the purification ritual Februa held on February 15 in the old Roman calendar. January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar, since the Romans originally considered winter a monthless period. They were added by Numa Pompilius about 700 BC. February remained the last month of the calendar year until the time of the decemvirs (c. 450 BC), when it became the second month.
Now you know.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Helping Kids and Drivin' Segways"

Something you don't see everyday... a Shriner on a Segway at the Presidents' Day Parade in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How to crash a Republican party

Visit my political blog on last night's political shenanigans here in Alexandria, Virginia (pictures included too!)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Masonic Week in Alexandria

The first week in February saw Masons who are also members of various York Rite bodies congregate at the Hilton in Alexandria for national meetings, installation ceremonies, dinners, and other fun side degrees. It's generally called "Masonic Week" or "AMD Week" (AMD = Allied Masonic Degrees, of which I'm a member of actually.)

Anyway, the timing of me working here and Masonic Week were more than a coincidence, I believe, because there were several brethren whom I've known in the Masonic online community for years, and finally got to meet in person, as if the GAOTU bought us together in fellowship and Masonic enlightenment.

Also, I was fortunate enough to be invited to an historic dinner at Gadsby's Tavern in Old Town, Alexandria, with some of the brightest minds and authors in North American Masonry of my generation. The dinner conversation focused on how many of our own Masonic lodges have already reinvigorated themselves to be THE place for men to gather in harmony, enlightenment, and progressive knowledge, and how we can offer support for brethren seeking the same in their own jurisdiction.

But I digress... Back at the Hilton... some highlights...

My dear friend, known online as "Fylfot", and I were given tickets to a dinner for the Knight Masons Occidental (I have no idea what Masonic body that is). A couple brethren mentioned they had visited Alberta and the mountains in particular.

Then we went across the hall and participated in the "Elevator Degree" performed by the Pacific Northwest Players (see cheese hat photos in slideshow below). The "degree" was a satire on how some Masonic jurisdictions have experimented with what are known as "one day classes", fast tracking men through all three degrees of Masonry, often right through to membership in Shrine, all in one day. The performance was hilarious and I laughed throughout.

The brethren of the Pacific Northwest Players had hosted a wonderful hospitality suite for the week, and Fylfot and I had spent much time there getting to know the Masons we've only known online, as we had been doing that week ourselves. That was a great highlight and I hope to meet them again one day soon, hopefully in lodge.

I should mention that the first few photos in the slideshow below are me visiting Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 at the George Washington Masonic Memorial. The gentleman in the royal blue collar with me is actually one of my favourite Masonic authors, Worshipful Brother W. Kirk MacNalty. Some of his books include:

Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets & Significance

Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol

The Way of the Craftsman

and an article published in "Heredom" 2005 called "Freemasonry for Bobos". That evening, he gave a presentation in lodge on the spiritual Masonic journey through the powerful symbolism presented in the degrees. He ended with a statement about what happens when we finally reach the "sanctum sanctorum" of our inner temple that I simply cannot publish.

Okay, photos...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Alexandria, Virginia!

For this prairie boy Canadian, I've only seen the Washington Monument and Capitol in movies, pictures, and Legoland replicas. So when you land at the Reagan National Airport, which is just south of DC, those two structures glow and certainly standout on the other side of the Potomac River, and I couldn't believe I was actually here, soon looking forward to seeing them up close, and being in a place where so much history has taken place in the name of freedom and democracy.

Speaking of "freedom", today is Martin Luther King Day and offices were closed, yet I still had a 9am meeting. ..lol..

But I digress. On my drive through distinctive and historic Old Town, Alexandria, I then got lost, and I knew I went too far because back behind me was the George Washington Masonic Memorial standing out, lights glowing upon it in the night, like a beacon, saying, "Mike, come back this way."

So I turned around and followed the roads that led to it, back into Old Town, finally driving down King Street with this view, and five minutes later, I found my hotel.


Magnificent, isn't it? I'm visiting Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 on Thursday.

Okay, food notes so far: fish is okay, pizza is tasty, and I hear the Greek is very good.

TV: Same crap.

Roads: Immaculate, but instead of driving you're better off taking the Metro into DC as parking is pretty much useless. The Metro goes everywhere here.

Alexandria Architecture: American Colonial, matchbox row housing, lots of brick, and distinctive. Parts reminded me of row housing in London.

I've already met one of my Masonic brethren who happened to call me at the exact time I was lost driving back to my hotel from the office, and he then directed me to his office only a couple miles away. After knowing him only online for over three years, it was good to finally meet him.

So now that I'm settled in here, I'll have continual updates on my tour of area, what's good, what's not so good, and my infiltration of a Canadian into the Barack Obama campaign.

But be prepared for a lot of Masonry comin' at ya, 'cause next month is George Washington's birthday and there's a tonne of stuff going on, with the lodge, parades, and events. Oh, I saw the Anglican church he went to. More to come!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chicago, Vegas, Virginia

On New Year's Day, I travelled to Chicago for 5 days, stayed at the Hotel Blake again and worked a few days. The next evening, I met up once again with the brethren from Oriental Lodge and we had a great evening over scotch and some food.

The next day, a friend of mine flew down and we spent an evening at The House of Blues and watched four tribute bands (Jimi Hendrix, REM, The Police, U2) which was very good. We also saw some live jazz, a dueling piano bar, and met some marines from Virginia, which was coincidental as I'm "stationed" there soon. Then the next day we went to the Field Museum of Natural History.

I really like Chicago by the way.

I then spent a few days at home before I headed to Vegas with 10 other friends for a stag week. We stayed at New York New York which is pretty cool, went to many clubs, bars, casinos, restaurants, etc. I gambled for the first time and won! (YAY!) A lot of other things happened that will definitely stay in Vegas (as the cliche goes). But a real highlight was seeing BLUE MAN GROUP at The Venetian. I gotta tell ya, YOU HAVE TO SEE THESE GUYS. An amazingly interactive show.

Most of all, for five days, I never laughed so much in my life. It was truly great spending time with ten good friends, making jokes (mostly about each other), recovering daily only to get back in the mode again.

More pictures are coming for all these trips soon.

"Why do you leave the West and head toward the East?" Here's why...

I'm now headed to Alexandria, Virginia for more work through to April. I will be back to Edmonton on a few occasions, but am really looking forward to visiting some Masonic lodges there and all the historical Masonic and American government architecture evident in the DC area. Especially the following:

House of the Temple
Supreme Council 33 Degree
Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry
Southern Jurisdiction

I will be touring these magnificent buildings with my good friend Adam, a brother Mason from California the first week of February and meeting up with several other e-Masons I've known online for quite some time. I finally look forward to meeting them face-to-face.

I get the feeling that I'm supposed be there. Indeed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

My kind of town, Mine All Mine, New Laws, and Books

While spending two and a half weeks in Chicago in December, I was asked to return for a few days in January. So here I am on New Years Day. One of my rules about flying is that's it's not a good idea to have a hangover. Trust me on that. So luckily, after partying with friends all night, I was excited to get on a plane and start 2008 in "my kind of town".

Mine All Mine...

After a couple try outs, I also just received news that I was accepted as the new bass player in an Edmonton area based rock band called Mine All Mine. After spending a few years as the bass/keyboard player in my old band, Dexter Thorax, and still reminiscing on what an entirely fun experience that was, I still had the bug to play, create, and perform progressive rock.

And I wanted to join an established band that was creative. So thankfully, there was a band looking for a bass player as posted on a musician classified ad site that described themselves as "progressive". Being a crazed lunatic fan of said style, continuously listening to bands such as Yes, Rush, Kansas, and any type of rock music that was outside the norm, this bass player was mighty happy when he first tried out for Mine All Mine. I could hear all sorts of influences from every band I've ever liked. "Mike, see if you can follow along with this one. This part is in 27/13 time" or something like that. I love a challenge. Keeps the mind fresh.

So check 'em ... er, I mean, "us" out. While you can't hear me playing on the songs, I will be. And I'm really looking forward to heading into the studio for their (our) second album and playing gigs. Stay tuned to the website http://www.mineallmine.ca or hop on The Official Mine All Mine Facebook Page. Also try the My Space site.


My Kind of Town...

Ok, back to Chicago. I'm meeting up with the fine brethren of Oriental Lodge #33 for some suds. Any Masons reading this, I'd highly recommend you visit this lodge. Excellent ritual and fellowship. Great guys all around.

New Laws...

Today being Jan. 1st, not only did the Goods and Services Tax in Canada drop another point to 5% as promised and actually delivered by the government, but Illinois bars will no longer allow smoking. Not smoking a cigar in a Chicago bar is rather untraditional don't you think? Being a nonsmoker with chronic sinusitis, I do welcome this.

Books on the go...

I month ago I finished a book titled "One in Fifteen Million", an autobiography about a Ukrainian professor in the late 1930's who was put in a Soviet prison with no trial. The descriptions of the absolute horrible conditions in the prison and how the prisoners were abused and tortured go beyond humane.

A book I'm almost done is "Solomon's Builders" by Christopher Hodapp, whom I've met in person when he visited Edmonton in October 2006. This book simply tells the truth of the anticipated myths coming out of Dan Brown's next book, "The Solomon Key" about Freemasons, the Founding Fathers, Washington DC, and Masonic/American history.

I'm also in the middle of "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. It's a fun yet seemingly thorough timeline of the history of the development of science. If you like science, read it!

And finally, I'm almost done "Right Side Up - The Fall of Paul Martin and the Rise of Stephen Harper's New Conservatism" by Paul Wells. This is a detailed account of the 2004 and 2006 Canadian federal elections and all the good stuff in between. If you love federal politics, read it!


Common theme throughout all this? Progression.