Where’s My Parade?

Wednesday night was the last night we went out with Joy and friends before she headed out of town and the Drag Queen Bingo night at Celebrities nightclub seemed like a hot ticket.

Drag Queen Bingo is hilariously fun! The main drag queen, Joan-E, is a towering creature with a repertoire of dirty jokes and innuendos. She also doesn’t take any guff from anyone who gets out of line or screws something up. One poor guy mistakenly called bingo and had to wear an Anne Of Green Gables hat with pigtails.

Our table had 3 bingo wins which I think was almost half the prizes. We owned it!

The thing I like most is that this is a charity event for The Friends for Life Society which helps people who have a terminal illness. So far the Wednesday night bingo events have raised over $275,000 for the charity!

I’m glad Joy made it out to Vancouver for a few days. I had a great time hanging out and exchanging music and cultural notes. She introduced me to Margaret Cho’s infamous “Am I gay? Am I straight?” act. I also found out about a new indie rock band from Versailles called Phoenix. Chill beats. I like them!

Last night I took the first of 4 bike maintenance courses at Pedal Depot where I learned about bearings, hubs, and the rotational systems on a bike. This culminated with everybody disassembling, re-greasing, and reassembling a wheel hub. I learned a lot (in fact I was feeling a little drained at the end) and feel like I have a better understanding how my bike works. I’m looking forward to the next session!

Now I’m going to pack up to head to Vernon for the weekend to visit my Mom and catch some Okanagan sun.

The Beat That Kills!

The Refused are a punk/hardcore band from Sweden who split up in the 90’s. I first discovered them through the singer’s new band, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, which quickly became one of my favorites and I never missed a show when they came to town.

Last year news broke that The Refused were getting back together to do some shows and I became very excited to see Dennis Lyxzén (the singer from Noise Conspiracy) rock out again. Shanman called him “the Mick Jaggar of punk” and it’s totally true. He has a  repertoire of microphone tricks that he’ll unleash during a performance and I spent the entire show watching his mic swinging around and flying up in the air before, with a flick of his hand, he would pull it back in time to sing.

The songs were pretty much all the ones off their last (and most popular) album but they did throw in a cover of TV Eye by The Stooges, which The (International) Noise Conspiracy had also covered on one of their live albums.

They’re a political band and as such we were encouraged to support the recently-jailed Pussy Riot members in Russia. The crowd got the message and during the encore break everyone began chanting “Free Pussy Riot!” which impressed the band.

Opening the night was a band called The Bronx who were OK but I was more impressed with the gigantic banner featuring an angry gorilla with the words, “The Beat That Kills.”

Joy, Slacklining, and Squamish

Joy and her friend Makoto rolled in from Japan on Sunday morning and we’ve had heaps of fun running around checking out our beautiful city. Sunday we started with brunch at the Alibi Room followed by a wander along the seawall in Coal Harbor. This led us to meet some more friends on The Mill’s outdoor patio for a couple pints of Whistler Brewing beers. The day was gloriously sunny so we walked across downtown to chill at Third Beach in Stanley Park. Eventually, after a couple of hours of sitting back at the beach, we became hungry and went over to Oysi Oysi on Alberni for sushi. The evening was capped off with a beer at our favorite Gastown pub, the Black Frog, where we exchanged scandalous stories before making our way home to collapse and get some sleep.

Monday I took Joy and Makoto on a scenic drive up to Squamish where we stopped in at the Howe Sound Brewery for a late lunch and then wandered around the shoreline. There’s a big park at the end of Squamish where they have slacklines set up. Of course we had to try them out! Slacklines are like tightropes, but are usually closer to the ground and use nylon webbing instead of actual ropes. It’s tough to balance on them although with a bit of practice it shouldn’t be too hard. It sparked my curiosity in that sport and I’d like to try it out more seriously some day.

Once we got home it was time for me to go see The Refused! I’ll do a separate write up on that experience.

I Heart the PNE

On Friday night Sharon arrived home with a surprise for me: 2 tickets to the PNE, rides included! So, after a lazy Saturday morning, we went through the gates and straight for the first Superdogs performance.

Even though Superdogs has been around for 35 years, this was only my second time seeing them. The first time was about 8 years ago when the Beastie Boys played at the Pacific Coliseum and Superdogs were the first warm-up act. At the time I didn’t know about the Superdogs and was surprised to walk into a concert and see dogs doing tricks on stage!

The whole show revolves around trained dogs (40% are rescue dogs) doing tricks, running obstacle course races, dancing, and even performing a hockey-themed game of musical chairs. Afterwards, there’s a meet and greet with the dogs and their owners where heaps of curious children get to crowd around and pet the animals.

After Superdogs we got a chance to hit some rides, starting with something called Baywatch. Imagine a merry-go-round that spins around and is tilted on it’s side. This looked like a gentle ride to get our feet wet but turned out to be a real stomach-lurcher! So of course we hit it twice!

Sharon wanted to see Superdogs again so we caught the second show which was every bit as entertaining as the first. Then it was time for more rides, the highlight being the wooden roller coaster which was built in 1958 and is said to be one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world. I always thought it was a wilder ride that any other roller coaster I’ve been on and try to get on it whenever I’m at the PNE.

At 8pm the band Heart had a sold out performance on the PNE grounds and Sharon and I wandered over to check them out. It was good timing too since my stomach was starting to get upset with all the spinning and bouncing around on the rides that afternoon.

Heart rocked! When they started up I knew we were in for a good show. About halfway through they slowed it down but kicked it back up at the end with Barracuda, the song I’d been wanting to hear all night. Song rocks! What I didn’t expect was an even more thundering encoure that was opened by a new song, 59 Clutch and closed with a blazing cover of Misty Mountain Hop by Led Zeppelin.

Spent from a day of rides and a phenomenal concert we jumped on a last couple of less-intense, older rides to relive our junior high school years and then staggered home.

Fun times! Now today I’m pretty wiped from all of the excitement and my throat is a little rough from screaming like a schoolgirl on the rides.

Halifax

Flew into Halifax yesterday with Sharon. The overnight flight is a bit cramped and neither of us managed to sleep so we arrived at 6:30am local time, hooked up with Sharon’s friend Colleen, and immediately fell asleep at her place.

Once we were awake a refreshed we took a walk through the boardwalk, the farmer’s market (where I found delicious blueberry chocolates), and downtown. Then back to Colleen’s for one of the many local beer’s she’d stocked for us and over to the Wooden Monkey for dinner. The Wooden Monkey is a tasty place with vegan options and some excellent beers (such as the PumpHouse blueberry ale) on tap.

The main event planned for Saturday night was to see Alan Doyle (of Great Big Sea) perform at The Casino which turned out to be an actual casino with a large ballroom for the show. They’d lined up rows of chairs but I felt more like we were walking into a sales convention than a concert. When Alan came out with his band any thought of boring sales conventions disappeared. Those guys rocked it out! Kendell Carson was playing fiddle, which was cool because she’s from Vancouver and we last saw her guesting with the Deep Dark Woods at the Biltmore. The whole band was on fire and super-tight. The highlight for me was their cover of John Mellancamp’s Paper in Fire, which gave me chills to hear how powerfully they played it.

After the show Colleen suggested we check out Bearly’s House of Blues where Garrett Mason, the son of a local blues legend, was sharing the stage with another local blues talent, Keith Hallett. Fantastic show! They reminded me a little of The Smalls reincarnated as a blues band. Mostly I think because two of the guys looked pretty workmanlike with their dirty trucker caps and flannel shirts. Anyhow, they rocked this little blues bar and I’m envious that Halifax has such a cool place to see shows.

Now we’re awake on Sunday morning (actually afternoon local time) and are about to head to Peggy’s Cove.

Tofino

Sharon and I are hanging out in a swanky resort (Black Rock Resort) in Ucluelet for Josh and Shan’s wedding this weekend. We got here a bit early so we could enjoy some of the west coast and so far it’s been fantastic!

We drove in yesterday, stopping along the way to see the attractions at Coombs where they have a little tourist market featuring goats grazing on grass roofs of all the buildings. Sadly, it was too early in the season for the goats to be out. Still, we got to chat with a number of locals and explore some funky shops.

After Coombs we explored Cathedral Grove, one of my favorite places along the drive since it features a good chunk of old-growth forest.

Largest Tree

Our last stop along the way was at a place colloquially known as “The Rocks” where a river has worn down a large swath of rock. Whenever I’m going through I stop and get out to climb around on the rocks and take pictures.

River

Late in the afternoon we arrived at the Black Rock to find ourselves in a fancypants resort. Our room is fabulous and we’ve got a view right out onto the waves crashing over the rocky shoreline.

Dave was in Tofino overnight on a bus run (he drives for Tofino Bus) so we headed over to see him and wound up in The Shelter for dinner and to watch the Canucks hockey game. Canucks won although we didn’t stay for the third period. I was starting to fade after driving all day and had to drive back to Ucluelet in the rainy night. Shelter is a superb restaurant too and it’s been a few years since I’ve been there. Dave’s planning to move back to Tofino so I’m hoping to be out again before the year is out.

This morning I got up at 7 and went for a short run along the Wild Coast trail, which runs right through the resort. Beautiful place with plenty of lookouts where you can see the waves crashing into the rocks on the shore. Sharon and I spent the morning wandering along the 8km trail with plenty of stops to take pictures.

That evening we headed back to Tofino to fill up our growler of Tofino Brewing beer at the brewery. Place is so cool! It’s basically a brewery built into an industrial garage just outside of town. There’s a counter in the front corner where you can sample the beers and get your jugs refilled.

After the brewery it was time to explore the town a little bit. Sharon’s only been out to the west coast once, briefly, some years ago so I figured we ought to have a proper tour. We got to check out my favorite bookstore in the world, Mermaid Tales, where we picked up some new books and had a long talk with the lady behind the counter. Turns out she knows Dave! She’s also part of the new Tofino roller derby team, The Black Pearls.

Finally we headed back to the Black Rock, after stopping at Long Beach to see the surf, and had a beer with Reilly and the gang. I also dropped off the melodica that we picked up for him in Coombs and that started a jam session with Jason on the melodica doing blues covers.

Now it’s Friday morning, sunny, and we’re planning to get out for more hiking.

Quick update on the heels of a fantastic Kaiser Chiefs show

I just got home from the Kaiser Chiefs at the Commodore. Fantastic show! Tight band, singer really knows how to work a crowd. Near the end he wandered over to the side bar, stood up on it, and belted out a song after knocking back a shot that the bartender handed him.

A couple of weeks ago Sharon won tickets to the Trews show at the Vogue Theatre. It was a meet-and-greet package thing so after they figured out how to get us in (apparently the promoter was the one handing out the prize but never bothered to tell anyone working with the band!) we got to watch soundcheck and then go have a quick chat with the band before having our photo taken together! Band guys were super-friendly and I suppose that’s because they’re from the east coast.

Their show that night was outstanding. Sharon’s seen them 10 times now (this is only my 3rd Trews show) and it was one of the best she’s seen too.

There’s a song off the last album called “If You Wanna Start Again” which is a slower one but it’s become one of my favorites. Seeing it live cemented it for me.

There’s a couple of shows coming up and tomorrow I’m going to run to Red Cat records to score some tickets to the Polyphonic Spree on April 7.

…and now I sleep!

Cleaning Up and Hunkering Down

The last couple of weeks have been fairly chill. Well, not really, I’ve started swimming and that’s been going fantastically. The gym is rocking again although it’s been a bit spotty as I’ve tried to ramp back into a 5-day-a-week cycle again (MWF – gym & TTh swim) and my body said NOT SO FAST BUDDY. So my 4:30am plan is still a work in progress as is the 5-day workout cycle. I should have it nailed by the end of the month. Just need to take things a little slower.

I’ve mostly hunkered down in my place to dig into more software stuff, which I won’t bore anyone with here. I’m enjoying it and it’s good to have a more singular focus again. Sticking with one thing at a time means I get more forward movement.

Last week was Sharon and my 2nd anniversary and we had dinner at Naam to celebrate. Sharon’s vegan so Naam is one of our main places to go since they’re all vegan/vegetarian. The food’s amazing too. I’m slowly pulling my diet away from meat again, but this time it’s a more natural transition instead of jumping in with both feet.

This weekend Sharon had a friend of hers in town so we were out last night with a pack of people on Commercial and then hit the Alibi Room this morning for tasty breakfast.

Not a lot of shows coming up. Just Joel Plaskett and Rammstein. I’m keeping the weekday shows out now since my mornings are early so I’ll miss bands like Chixdiggit! from Calgary. Most everyone showing up I’ve seen so there’s not much draw in me going out for them.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

We hit the film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a dark movie and deals with some intense subject matter but I like that there’s a strong female lead especially since Daniel Craig, normally a tough guy in films, was the one that the girl kept saving.

There’s been some other great films lately. The Descendants featuring George Clooney was a favorite. Tintin, which we saw recently, was an enjoyable ride too.

On the new year’s weekend Sharon and I went up to Porpoise Bay (just north of Sechelt) for a night of camping. The weather was great! Lots of sun, no rain until we were on our way back to Vancouver. The campground was quiet so we went in to a local pub for a snack and a beer before going to the Raven’s Cry Theatre to watch Mission Impossible. I like going to smaller local theaters since you don’t have to put up with a pile of advertising before the movie.

It was nice to get away and we’ve officially done the first camping trip of 2012 as well as the last one of 2011. Once we got back to the mainland we stopped in at Amelia’s place in Squamish to check out her newly-purchased townhouse and visit with her, Dave, and Amelia’s parents who had come down from 100 Mile House for the holidays.

Now I’m back, recharged, and onto my 4:30am plan again so I can get a jump on the day. I’m getting into the gym regularly and start swimming again tomorrow. Hopefully within a couple of months the weight I put on over the last part of 2011 will melt off and my belt starts fitting like it did 6 months ago.

Not too many shows coming up. I’m sticking with weekend shows since the 4:30am thing doesn’t mix with late nights. Most of my favorite bands toured last year so I’m not expecting as many shows this year. Who knows. Maybe Mudhoney will put out a new album (let’s hope!)

Joel Plaskett – Vogue Theatre on Saturday, April 14
Rammstien – Rogers Arena on Sunday,  May 13

Oh, and I’ve put a hold of my beer drinking (‘cuz I’m such a lush, haha) while I get my jean size back down to where it should be. Dave gave me a huge jug of Tofino Brewing beer which I had to pull out with friends to help polish it off. It was a delicious coffee-infused beer. We drank it on Saturday night before going over to Lana Lou’s to watch some a local friends-of-a-friend’s band perform. They were pretty cool. Don’t remember the name but they rocked a cover of the Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia to finish off. Dude sounded quite a bit like Jello Biafra and it was rad to watch.

Paste it, traced it, erased it

When I left my job earlier this year it was because I wanted a life change. Working at a stressful job, even though it was well-paying, was setting me up for a life of poor health and eventual disease and I vowed I would avoid that road after witnessing my Dad’s death from cancer just 6 months after he retired from a stressful workplace.

I find I’ve become stressed out again, despite the changes to my career trajectory. As a result I’ll be making a few changes in the coming weeks to bring back a sense of balance and a lifestyle that I can maintain. I also need to drop the 10 pounds I gained over the past 4 months and get back into a healthy lifestyle.

Music’s already off the table. Although there are aspects I enjoy (primarily the social opportunities), it’s something that takes work and diligent practice to get good at and I found that I was constantly worrying about practicing enough or trying to fit practice into my busy schedule. I’ve still been running the music room in our amenities building, but that responsibility ends next week when I step down and make way for a new leader who can get things in order.

I’m scaling back my involvement with the amenities building too. I wound up as the head of the committee, but it’s made going down to the amenities building more of a job than as a fun perk I received when I bought into this building. I step down as ABC chair next week.

The biggest change will be getting back into the outdoors again. Of all the things I’ve tried over the past few years, going camping, hiking, and biking has had the biggest impact on my mood and energy level. When I first moved to Vancouver I made it a rule to get into the outdoors at least once a week. Getting out of the city and all the stress and pressure was like hitting a release valve for me and I would come back recharged and ready to kick some ass again. Now that I’ve been hiding out indoors, I find that the stress slowly builds until I start to snap at my girlfriend and blow up over the most trivial incidents. This is where I am right now and it needs to change, quickly!

This all starts this weekend when Sharon and I abandon our new years plans to head to Porpoise Bay campground near Sechelt to get a night in the woods, away from the city noise and BS.

This winter will likely involve a lot of snowshoeing since Sharon and her friend are doing a snowshoe clinic up at Grouse in January. I’m not sure if I’m going to try out cross country skiing this year. With swimming and then a woodworking course beginning in February I’m likely to be stretched for time.

Hooray for 2012! I’ll see you outside.