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.

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 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.