Monday, May 30, 2005

Joe and Lisa got married!!!

Hello all! It's the morning after Joe and Lisa's beautiful garden wedding. It was a wonderful day, with a gorgeous bride, handsome groom, and a wonderful group of people. It was a wonderful day. Pictures to come!


Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Day of the Wedding

Today is Joe and Lisa's wedding day. It's just 8:19 AM, and Joe just left to play 9 holes of golf with his friends. He seemed a little nervous before he left - was sure he was forgetting something. Lisa's been up for a while, reading and - I hope - relaxing. I had a tough time sleeping last night because I was so excited!


Update from Washington State

Hello again from Washington state!!! It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, and so many wonderful things have happened … this is truly a great trip! (I think I will have to work really hard to avoid post-trip let-down once I’m back in Toronto LOL)

I’ve been enjoying the fine hospitality of Joe and Lisa, my brother and future sister-in-law. They recently bought a brand-new three-bedroom house in the suburbs of Seattle. The house is still getting its final touches (e.g., fence and sod for the backyard), but it’s bright and airy with an open feel, lots of windows, and 10-foot ceilings. It’s a lovely home.

Joe and Lisa took me and Lisa’s sister Lori to Mount Ranier on Thursday, and Pike Place Market in Seattle on Friday. Last night, Lisa’s female relatives and friends met for dinner, then reconvened at a country dancing bar where Joe and Lisa first met. It was a fascinating anthropological study. At 9:00, after there had already been some dance lessons and dancing, all conversation and activity were abruptly halted for the American national anthem, and everyone stood and turned to face the American flag. I am NOT making this up! I watched the local instructor teach two dances (one line dance, one couple dance), and even if I was coordinated enough to perform these dances, I had to wonder whether I would want to have to remember anything so complicated for a leisure activity! LOL

Fortunately, Lisa has two very cool friends, Tracy and Monica, who were also mesmerized/horrified observers of the country dancing phenomenon. We hung out together and compared the handlebar moustaches, enormous belt buckles, and generally frightful fashion choices of a select few of the bar’s patrons. Late in the evening, we headed out for dessert, and I tremendously enjoyed the opportunity to get better acquainted with these two highly intelligent and very witty women. :->

It’s now the night before the wedding, and Joe and Lisa are so well organized that there’s little left to do. Lisa is the least-stressed bride I think I have ever seen. We’re all excited that the weather forecast for tomorrow is perfect – cloud in the morning to reduce the heat, then sunny and warm (but not too warm) in the afternoon. The wedding is going to be outdoors in a gazebo, so it’s great that the weather seems to be cooperating.

Well, time for me to go to bed – it’s a big day tomorrow!



Tuesday, May 24, 2005

It's amazing how fast seasickness can hit!

Hello again, this time from the town of Ucluelet on the western coast of Vancouver Island!
So much has happened since my last post two days ago - I will try to capture as much as possible, if only for my own reference later, and beg your forgiveness if I end up being a total bore! :->

Sunday morning I checked out of my hostel in Vancouver and picked up my rental car - which ended up being an electric-blue PT Cruiser! I never had pictured myself in a PT Cruiser before (I'm not so crazy about the shape), but I have to say that it handles really well, and has lots of room for its vehicle class.

I drove up to Horseshoe Bay (outside West Vancouver) to catch a ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The wind was fiercely strong at the harbour, and its combination of water and tree-covered mountains all around was thrilling! I stayed out on deck as long as possible.
Upon reaching Vancouver Island, I started the trek across this beautiful island. This involved driving in the rain on a two-lane road that twisted up and down mountains - one could say that it required a certain amount of attention! One thing about the forests here - in the rain at least they seem to have this bright green glow that I've never witnessed before. As I drove through this wild, vivid, and dramatic countryside, I thought about my smug assessment of Emily Carr's work in my last post and realized I'd been an ignoramus. After seeing nature in this setting, her work doesn't seem cartoonish at all! I guess this just goes to prove that travel opens your mind in ways you never could have predicted - and that it's never safe to write off someone else's art, because someday when my circumstances change, I might just get it! LOL

On my way across the island, I happened to stop at a place called "Cathedral Grove", which is an amazing little place. It's in MacMillan Park, and it's got these stately, immense trees. If you're ever in the area, please do NOT miss it!!!!

It had been raining for several days by the time that I'd reached the island, and as a result, I drove past countless temporary waterfalls (both large and small) down mountains. I kept saying, "Wow, wow, wow!!!" to myself, and more than once wished that I was driving a convertible (except that it was raining, and that I really couldn't afford to gawk if I didn't want to wind up in a lake or crashing into a rock face or tree. I guess what I was really wishing for was a sunny day in a chauffeur-driven convertible! LOL).

I finally arrived in Ucluelet late in the afternoon, and had a very early night.

Early this morning, I got up, got ready, and got on the road. I walked a short trail through an old-growth rainforest (I can't wait to show you the picture I took of a giant skunk cabbage!!! LOL) before going to the small harbour town of Tofino for a whale-watching tour.

Never having needed to consider these things before, I didn't pay any attention to the sign on the road that warned of high waves. About 9 of us got in a little closed-cabin boat and headed out to open ocean. Within a few minutes, we were rocking and rolling up and down 2-metre waves. Before I learned how to brace myself properly, I found my feet suddenly on the dashboard in front of me after a particularly large wave! LOL The ocean was roiling and dark, but Bill, our guide and captain, was a young native Canadian man with obvious experience and a very calm manner, so I put all my trust in him.

Mind you, there were times when the fibreglass base of the boat went up in midair and then slapped down on the far side of a large wave, and I wondered whether it would hold up to the structural strain. But it did!

One of the passengers became sea-sick fairly early on, but aside from the concern for my life, the ride was kind of fun, and I suffered no ill effects. We went to a couple of small islands to see some seals and sea lions, but the water was so rough that we couldn't get very close to the jagged rocks, and they certainly weren't about to come near us! So then we went to Cow Bay, where, according to Bill, was where grey whales would often be found.

After an eternity of searching, we finally saw the plume of a couple of grey whales, and Bill cut the motor while we waited for a whale to breach or do something interesting. We started bobbing and turning in all directions, even while Bill kept complete control over the vessel. This motion, combined with the fumes of the diesel engine of the boat (which were now blowing forward into the cabin), started a curious sensation in my body which I didn't quite equate with sea-sickness until just a couple of minutes before I was desperately trying to open the window next to me in order to feed the fishes below my partially-digested breakfast! LOL Somewhere in there we actually saw a grey whale rise to the surface of the water before it dove again.

Most of us must have looked fairly rough, because shortly after that, Bill decided to take us back to shore. There was no protest. On the way back, he heard on the radio that some of the Zodiaks had actually seen a humpback whale (far more rare), but none of us on my boat really cared that we'd missed it. LOL (Weren't the people in the Zodiaks puking their guts out too? I guess not ...)

In the midst of this misery, there was a couple with twin 15-months old. Their mother couldn't figure out why, when four of the nine adult passengers was tossing his/her cookies, her cherub-like infants were snacking on cookies! I didn't want to say anything to her, but I saw how she'd bounced them around while on shore, and probably the motion on the boat seemed par for the course to them. LOL However, I wouldn't be surprised if their IQs are somewhat below normal in a few years from the shaken-baby syndrome.

After blessedly reaching dry land, I spent some time just hanging out in Tofino until I felt better. I then drove to a place in the Pacific Rim Park called Wickaninnish, which someone in a Tourist Info office had recommended. Wickanninish has a long, sandy beach (creatively called Long Beach), and I spent hours walking along it, listening to and watching the waves. It was wonderful and relaxing. I also happened to see not one, not two, but THREE bald eagles in the air! (They have a distinctive white head and white tail, so I'm pretty sure that's what they were.) I had a delicious dinner of fisherman's stew at The Wickaninnish Restaurant before going for another walk along the beach and heading back to the hostel in Ucluelet.

So there, in a nutshell, is the last two amazing days of my time in British Columbia! Tomorrow I head off early, back across the Island, then south to Victoria before heading to Seattle for my brother's wedding. I am really looking forward to my stay at a nice hotel tomorrow night, and also to seeing my family in Washington State. :->

Bye for now!


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Notes from the Pacific Northwest - Installment #1

Hello from Vancouver!

Here I am, sitting in an Internet cafĂ©, after a long and busy day. I’m trying to upload pictures from the past two days from my digital camera so I can take some more … I need to fix them a bit, but that will come later when I’m back home in Toronto. In the meantime, you can check them out at (the album starts with "First Stay").

After a sleepless night of packing and cleaning, I caught my way-too-early flight (mental note, NEVER again book a flight for 7:30 AM!!!). Due to complete exhaustion, I was able to catch some sleep on the plane, so I had a bit of energy to catch a couple of sights yesterday after arriving in Vancouver. First stop was the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical Chinese garden in Chinatown. I loved it there. It’s an elegant, quiet place with lovely detail that would continually reveal itself with repeated visits. The gardens were modeled after those created in China during the Ming dynasty, and was the first of its kind ever created in North America. A compound with several buildings/structures as well as the gardens, every piece of wood and rock was imported from China. Rugged stone worn into weird and wonderful shapes was selected to contribute to the natural feel of the garden. Buildings were constructed of beautiful veneered wood, and without a single nail or power tool. Our tour guide was an octagenarian named Andrew Clunan, who spoke rather slowly and sometimes forgot words, but nonetheless was a mischievous character with a twinkle in his eye. He has been a volunteer with the gardens since they opened 19 years ago, so he was very knowledgeable. At one point during the tour, we were discussing the various elements of the garden that were meant to ward off evil spirits (e.g., the foot-high threshold placed at the entrance of every building), and Mr. Clunan told us that once in a previous tour, in a similar discussion, a gentleman had asked him, “Do [these elements] work [in warding off evil spirits]?” “Well,” Mr. Clunan said he replied, “in the 19 years that I’ve worked here at the gardens, I’ve never heard anyone complain of evil spirits, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions!” LOL

After the gardens, I made my way to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Disappointingly, two of its floors were closed to prepare for upcoming exhibits, but their permanent collection of Emily Carr paintings was open. Carr is perhaps Canada’s best-known female painter, who used a style also used by other Canadian artists known as the “Group of Seven”. The subject matter is usually nature (landscapes), the colours somewhat cartoonish, and the style tending toward the abstract. Not exactly my cup of tea, but it was educational to read more about Carr and her philosophy concerning nature (she was greatly influenced by the poet Walt Whitman, and felt that nature was part of the divine).

After that, I crashed at my hostel for 11 hours of nearly unbroken sleep … (angels singing)

Today when I woke up, I decided I was going to go for the gusto and try to get as much sightseeing in as possible. Since navigation and transportation are time-consuming and distracting, I signed up for two bus tours. The morning tour was of central Vancouver – a drive through Gastown and Chinatown, a ride up the Harbour Lookout Tower, a whirlwind tour of Stanley Park, and a brief shopping stop at Granville Island. I felt like a bit of a dork, as all but one of my fellow tourists on the bus was a senior citizen. LOL But they were amazing … They made friends easily as they compared notes about cruise trips, high blood pressure, diabetes, and real estate. LOL There was a couple from New Jersey who were particularly interesting and funny, although they didn’t seem to like each other much. Ah, marriage!!! LOL

The afternoon trip had a much younger group of people, and together we went to the Salmon hatchery, Grouse Mountain, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge, all in North Vancouver. The scenery was breathtaking, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge was superb!!!! One of the benefits of traveling alone is that you often make friends that you wouldn’t make otherwise. In my case, I ended up hanging out with Rochelle from Richmond Hill, ON for most of the afternoon, and we had a blast!

The weather has been surprisingly chilly these two days, which led to the impromptu purchase of an oversized sweatshirt at the top of Grouse Mountain in order to avoid hyperthermia. LOL The rain held off until we got off the gondola at Grouse Mountain. As we were sitting in the parking lot, we saw a wedding party struggling through the pouring rain in order to take the lift to the mountain top for the reception. It was hilarious to listen to the commentary from the whole bus as the bride pulled up in the white limousine … from the collective oohs and ahhs to the suggestion that she should have eloped in order to avoid the awful weather … LOL By the time we got to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, the rain had eased up somewhat, and whatever mist was able to make its way through the tree canopy just added to the wonderful atmosphere of the place.

Well, my photos are halfway done their upload, but I just don’t have much more energy to write any more, so I will post this and then putz around a bit while I think of the dinner that I left behind at my hostel … LOL Hope everyone is doing well!!!!


Monday, May 16, 2005

Moment of Vindication ... Lost ...

While away on vacation, I have two amazing friends from work, Nancy and Kevin, who are going to cat-sit for me. Tonight I had them over for "catsitting orientation", as well as dinner. I had stressed about my apartment all weekend long, because I figured that it had to be up to a certain standard to meet with the approval of a meticulously groomed gay man like Kevin (yes, it's a stereotype, so sue me).

But as I was showing them around the apartment, Kevin actually said, "Your apartment is amazingly clean and organized!" (or something to that effect). Now you have to understand that my entire childhood, my parents always found my housekeeping skills less than satisfactory (because I always preferred reading books!). So here it was - my moment of vindication. I ran to the phone (while Nancy laughed and Kevin blushed as he always does so adorably), called my mother, and said, "Mom! A GAY MAN just said my apartment is amazingly clean and organized!!!" This would be the moment when my mother would sound proud or at least surprised. Instead, she was remarkably underwhelmed. "Well, you did say that you were going to clean yesterday." Yes, but ... SIGH.

Anyway, Nancy and Kevin are oriented and I'm one step closer to my vacation! And I have an apartment that can impress a gay man! :->



Finally, after a LOT of hard work during "Operation Apartment Overhaul", I can show a pic of my abode with a little bit of pride! (Well, I think so, anyway) ... The bookcases, shelves, TV bench, TV, wicker chairs, poster, lighting are all new. In the top shelf of the left bookcase, I have displayed my most treasured Korean souvenirs (a fan and some beautiful pottery). In the top shelf of the right bookcase, I've placed another Korean fan in the back, with champagne, martini, and red wine glasses in the front. I love the lighting on the tops of the bookcases. Posted by Hello

Cleo and the wicker chairs

Cleo loves the new wicker chairs and can often be found adding her own touch of glamour to the room under the "L'Instant Taittainger" poster. Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Cool Jennifer Lopez video

I saw this video at the gym a while ago and just looked it up - it's JLo playing several different people at a dance club ... It's a lot of fun to see her play different personalities. My favourites are the bartender and the librarian-like blonde with glasses. :->

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Stephanie Plum Quote of the Day

One of my favourite series of books is the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich. They're fun, escapist reads that make me laugh out loud on the subway. I've been re-reading them lately. So here's your quote for the day, from "Four to Score":

“Nothing like being pregnant to give a woman a glow,” Grandma said.

“I may be glowing, but I’m not pregnant.”

Grandma looked down at my stomach. “You look pregnant.”

It was all that damn Italian food. “It’s cake,” I said.

“You might want to get rid of that cake before the wedding,” Grandma said. “Or you’re going to have to buy one of them empire gowns that don’t have a waist.”

“I’m not getting married,” I said. “There’s no wedding.”

Grandma sat up straighter. “What about the hall?”

“What hall?”

“We figured you’d hold your reception at the Polish National Hall. It’s the best place for it, and Edna Majewski said they had a cancellation, but you’d have to act fast.”

“You didn’t hire a hall!”

“Well, we didn’t put down no deposit,” Grandma said. “We weren’t sure of the date.”

I looked to Joe. “You explain it.”

“Stephanie’s apartment got damaged in the fire, and she’s renting a room from me until her apartment’s repaired.”

“How about sex?” Grandma asked. “Are you having sex?”

“No.” Not since Saturday.

“If it was me, I’d have sex,” Grandma said.

“Christ,” my father said, at the head of the table.

Report from the Sleep Clinic

From notes written at the sleep clinic:

8:26 AM – Arrived at the clinic last night around 9:15 (45 minutes late, but what else is new??? I had stuff for work that had to get done before I took the whole day off today!) I was fully wired and harnessed with electrodes – to measure my brain activity (hopefully they found some), heartbeat, leg motion, eye motion, jaw clenching, and breathing. I got a lovely plastic tube shoved up my nose and hooked around my ears and chin like I was in a hospital’s critical care unit. But even more uncomfortable were the two bands I had to wear – one around my chest, just under my arms, and the other around my stomach, just under my ribcage. I had to ask three times for the chest band to be loosened. The technologist was concerned that the bands be tight enough to measure my lung and diaphragmatic breathing; if she hadn’t been so nice, I would have suspected her of being secretly sadistic. :->

The sleep clinic is a bit like a hotel or a dormitory for really boring university students (with some great posters and art prints! Why don't I have a job that sends me to symposia in Prague so I can get cool posters???). Definite institutional feel, but as comfy as they could probably make it. Everyone has his/her own room. Mine is called the “Henri de Toulouse Lautrec Room”, after the Impressionist artist whose print, “The Bed”, is hanging on the far wall.

When I came here last night, I was really tired (I’ve been burning the candle at both ends again as per usual). I thought I’d sleep like a rock, but no such luck (room too warm and too dry, bands too tight, etc.)

In the morning, I got to lose all the gear except the electrodes on my face and skull, kept in place with gel and tape, with colourful wires dangling from them. I’m a sight, and it’s my understanding that I’ll have to continue wearing them until 3:30 this afternoon.

This morning, when the tech came to set me free from some of the monitoring equipment, she did tell me matter-of-factly that when I slept on my back last night, I had “several small sleep apneas”. (So sleep mystery solved, not sure what more I will learn from the doctor in our appointment a month from now! LOL)

7:12 PM – Home now, after completing 4 daytime tests. Basically, I sat in the dark for 30 minutes at a time trying to stay awake while the electrodes on my head recorded goodness-knows-what. On a good day, this would be a challenge for me … today in particular was hard. However, if I were to fall asleep during the tests, there would be the potential for me to lose my driver’s license. I relied extensively on isometrics to keep me awake, as I was not allowed to consume caffeine or chocolate until after the final test. Almost as challenging was keeping myself occupied between tests, which were two hours apart. I didn’t have my laptop with me, and I was too tired to really get into the novels that I’d brought with me. A couple of times I left the clinic to get some food and bottled water. In spite of the fact that there are sleep clinics almost every day, it didn’t seem like everyone in the neighbourhood got the memo about nice girls wandering around with electrodes taped to their faces and skulls, with bright cables dangling from behind the gauzy tape. If I’d had more energy, I would have smiled brightly and waved to those who were staring, but instead I just ran back to the clinic as soon as I could. :->

Anyway, home now to a couple of lonely cats. Hope to be in bed by 8:00 tonight and to get some normal sleep!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Una sera molto bene con alcuni amici nuovi

I just got back from dinner with my friend Maria, and friends of friends ... Had a *great* time! We met at an Italian restaurant near Bathurst and St. Clair. The service was somewhat poor, and the restaurant was incredibly noisy, but I still enjoyed myself tremendously.

At first it was just four of us women, talking about our lives, about men, relationships, dating, etc. Then Susan's sister and brother-in-law joined us for dessert, and we had more great conversation and a lot of laughs. I really enjoyed meeting them and getting to know each one of them a bit better. You know, it's wonderful when you meet good people who are open to making new friendships.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Songs from My Childhood, Part II

"Lemon Tree" is another song I was taught in grade school. In part, the lyrics are:

When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
Come here and learn a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.
Don’t put your faith in love, my boy, my father said to me,
I fear you’ll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree.

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Am I just insane, or does anyone else think, "Whoa, that father had issues!" (Yes, I know it's just a song ... HUMOUR ME. ;->) Can you imagine your father, taking you aside at age 10, and telling you that love makes sweet promises that turn into bitter reality? Maybe it was an episode of "Married with Children" ... or after a bottle of Jack Daniels. LOL

Friday, May 06, 2005

"Gilmore Girls" Quote of the Day

Emily: And this man with the ice?
Lorelai: Luke.
Emily: How long have you been seeing him?
Lorelai: Luke? I'm not seeing Luke. He's just a friend.
Emily: Mm-hmm.
Lorelai: Mom, I swear! Luke keeps me in coffee -- nothing else.
Emily: He seems to like you.
Lorelai: And you're judging this by what?
Emily: By the way he looked at you.
Lorelai: Which was how?
Emily: Like you were about to give him a lap dance.
Lorelai: Mom, he did not look at me like that!
Emily: You're pleased.
Lorelai: What?
Emily: You smiled. You're pleased that the ice man looked at you like a porterhouse steak.
Lorelai: I'm smiling because you're crazy and that's what you do to crazy people to keep them calm.

Monday, May 02, 2005

BURSTING with excitement!

Tonight I finally got around to booking accommodations for my upcoming trip to the Pacific Northwest. My brother is getting married in the Seattle area the end of May, so I am using this opportunity to also visit British Columbia - a first for me!

I spent a lot of time looking at hotels and B&Bs - they were all pretty expensive. It's hard for me to feel enthusiastic about a trip when in the back of my mind I'm wondering how large a financial vein I've opened ... LOL So I finally found this site for hostels, and they sound clean and simple, but friendly. I've booked two nights at their hostel in Vancouver, and two in the one in Ucluelet (on the ocean side of Vancouver Island, near the Pacific Rim National Park, and lots of whales!!!). It's going to be fantastic, I just know it! :->

And to treat myself for being so good and frugal (and hopefully very busy and active), I'm going to use my AirMiles for one night at this hotel before I go to Washington state to hang out with my brother and his beautiful fiancee. It will be a real treat to stay at such a luxurious hotel, but I think I can handle it! :->

Well, time for me to calm down and get ready for bed ... I might have a hard time falling asleep tonight! LOL


"Gilmore Girls" Quote of the Day

MR. MEDINA (one of Rory's teachers): I think we should date.
MR. MEDINA: Because I think we both want to.
LORELAI: Well I want to be in the Bangles but that doesn't mean I quit my job and get a guitar and ruin my life to be a Bangle, does it?
MR. MEDINA: The Bangles broke up.
LORELAI: Yeah, that's not the point.

Songs from My Childhood, Part I

The other day, I had the following song running through my head:

What shall we do with a drunken sailor
What shall we do with a drunken sailor
What shall we do with a drunken sailor
Early in the morning?
It was a song I can remember singing back in music class in grade school.

Which made me wonder: what the hell were we doing, a bunch of innocent kids singing about drunken sailors???? LOL Not to be ultraconservative or politically correct, but is the topic really appropriate? I guess the next verse "Put him in a boat and make him row it" might perhaps teach that there are consequences to being a drunken sailor, and one's coworkers can always find a way to make your life miserable if you fail to pull your weight ... LOL

Sunday, May 01, 2005

"Gilmore Girls" Quote of the Day

Emily: (in response to Dean honking the horn for Rory to come out): This is not a drive-through! She is not fried chicken!