So 2014 is nigh. I’ve just finished cleaning up the house, organizing some platters of food, chilling some champagne1, and am about to go shuck some oysters as I await the arrival of some friends who will be ringing in the new year with me. All told, not a bad way to spend the last day of 2013.
Looking back, 2013 has been a crazy amazing year. Despite setbacks with my exercise goals, I’ve had an adventure filled 12 months. Crushing the Goofy Challenge with Mark, wandering New York City twice, learning the true meaning of What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas2, exploring the beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador with Danny, Lee-Jay, and Corey, celebrating the 2nd Annual Big Mountain Challenge with Rick and my brother3, and various other adventures with friends in Ottawa, Toronto, and London; all have reminded me that I am one lucky bastard.
And even though work was as crazy as it was, I have to say that I love my job and had so much fun this year. I was beyond fortunate to work with several amazing students – people who have reminded me again and again that if you give students something real to work on, they can do amazingly awesome things. Their hard work led to Farm-To-Fork.ca, and all of the subsequent and well-deserved attention that it brought. I’ve been spoiled because of their talent, drive, and passion. Because of them, I was invited to speak at several conferences and seminar series. Because of them the Farm To Fork project raised and continues to raise money because so many people understand its importance. Because of them I feel that I have something significant to contribute to the world beyond academic papers. And that dear readers is an amazing feeling.
Beyond all of this, I’ve just been lucky to spend the year with some amazing people. Family and friends who look out for me, take care of me, feed me, and spoil me on a seemingly continuous basis. To all of you, thank you for making this another fantastic year. Thank you for telling me I need to sleep more or eat more or get out more, or that I need to learn to say no. I can’t promise I’ll do any of that in the new year, but it makes me smile to know that you’ll still be worried enough to tell me so.
So raise your glass and toast the year that was. To the ups and downs, the good and the bad. Here’s wishing that 2014 brings with it all the things that make you smile.
Since I started writing this blog back in the old-time-y days of 2011, I’ve used it as a sort of map of my life. It provides me with the necessary bread crumbs to guide be from wherever it is I might be, back to wherever it is I might have come. It has seen me through many adventures, lots of shenanigans, ups, downs, crazy accomplishments, rants, peeves, opinions, and the like.
However, as I’ve mentioned in recent posts, I’ve done a spectacularly poor job this year of writing down the comings and goings of my life. Where last year I posted daily, this year I’ve managed to post just over 80 times at ConsumedByWanderlust1. This means that at a time when I’m trying to look back and reflect on the last 365 days, I’m coming up with some rather large gaps.
Fortunately I have other sources of data. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have helped me piece together the things that I’ve gotten myself into this year. And amazingly, there were some things that I really should have written about but I didn’t.
So as not to bore you to tears, I now present for your entertainment my list of Things I Should Have Posted, But Didn’t.
Interest in the Farm To Fork project continues to grow. In the past year I have chatted with numerous groups within Guelph, throughout Ontario, and beyond, as well as the Ontario Association of Food Banks, and a major grocery chain. I’ve also been interviewed for Inside Guelph, and several magazines (the Portico, col.lab.o.rate, the Renegade Collective – which is based out of Australia). The support we’ve received continues to blow my mind. This includes financial contributions from TasteReal, the Better Planet Project, and the College of Physical and Engineering Sciences.
Earlier this month I returned to New York City with Steph and Gerarda. The 5 days were amazing. We ate, and drank, and ate some more. The trip was filled with laughter, great conversations, and so much good food. We also saw Pippin, Waiting for Godot (with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen), and a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (which was unreal).
In November I gave an invited talk at Western University in London Ontario. It was the first non-Farm To Fork presentation I had given in what seemed to be a very long time. I spoke about the use of Scenario Analysis for public health assessments. It was a lot of fun, and reminded me why I love statistics (even if my presentation offered zero equations, and very few real numbers).
I was surprised and excited to learn that I was in the top 20 for the Guelphonography photo contest this year. The entries were so good, I really wasn’t expecting to place.
During the fall semester I got to work with a bunch of great students. Some were research assistants, some were doing senior undergraduate projects with me, and others made my class that much more enjoyable. One group of students spent their semester working on The Guelph Coding Community – a student driven series of talks focused on computer science topics not typically covered in the classroom. The talks were all fantastic, and a lot of fun. Better than that, I learned a thing or two as well.
On October 16th I was fortunate enough to be invited to the World Food Day Event with George Stroumboulopoulos. It was held in Toronto, and featured a panel of experts on Food Insecurity. It was also pretty cool to be that close to George.
Because I don’t have enough on my plate, I decided this past semester that I’d start offering a statistics seminar. I was hoping to host one a month, but things got started late and I managed to hold two. Regardless, they were both well attended, and were a lot of fun. Since I normally only teach Computer Science courses at the moment, being able to talk statistics felt great. I’m going to continue the series this coming winter semester.
I went to my first TiCats game in October. It was cold. I made it to halftime and then decided warmth trumped watching a bunch of dudes chasing around the pigskin. Can you tell I’m not really a football fan?
I joined a bunch of friends at the end of October to tour downtown Guelph on a Ghost Walk. While I was hoping to see a ghost, I had to settle for being entertained by the stories. Also, it was cold.
Earlier this year I was asked to speak at an event on campus where RBC donated $1 million to the University of Guelph. The money was provided to the University for undergraduate field experience related to Aboriginal water needs. The idea – get undergraduate students into the field to work on water related challenges identified by our First Nations partners. It was also pretty cool getting to hold a novelty cheque for $1 million.
I finally received my Leap Motion device near the end of the summer. It is so freaking cool. Sadly I can’t tell you much more than that since one of my research assistants has been playing with it since then.
As I mentioned before, I need to do a better job of writing things down.
Several weeks ago I was chatting with someone about my lack of travel this year. To put this into proper perspective you’ll have to understand that this observation had followed multiple months of 100+ hours of work per week. That is, I made the observation at a point in time where my body, mind, and soul were beyond exhausted. In other words, I was in a heightened state of stupidity, suffering from extreme lack of awareness, and dealing with a giant case of woe-is-me-itis.
After I made the bold proclamation that I haven’t really travelled that much this year, my friend looked at me as if I were on some sort of Rob Ford bender. How could I make such a claim knowing full well that the facts of the case would clearly destroy it?
It was at this point that I felt obliged to justify my statement.
It’s true. I haven’t really travelled that much this year. Ugh.
The ugh was delivered with probably more drama than warranted. It was at this point that I started listing where my travels had taken me, fully confident that my statement would easily be verified. Inside I felt a pre-victory party brewing, because by the end of my list I knew that I would stand point-proven and triumphant.
True story. In January I was in Florida for the Goofy Race.
February I was in New York, because, well, New York.
In March I headed to Vegas for my friends’ wedding.
It was at this point that I realized how much of an ass I sounded. Three major trips in three months. And somehow I had forgotten them. They seemed a lifetime ago.
Early in the summer I was in Newfoundland for a conference.
I trailed off. How, I thought, could I have travelled this much and still not feel like I’ve travelled at all this year. Seriously – could I be any more spoiled? I stood there smirking awkwardly because inside I realized how much of a whiney little shit I sounded.
Truth be told I’ve travelled a lot this year. My trips to Florida, New York, Nevada, and Newfoundland & Labrador were followed by trips to Ottawa, Calgary, and New York City. I’ve also been fortunate to travel for work – giving talks at Western University, and in Toronto. In essence, the year has been filled with adventures wrapped in shenanigans and deep fried in awesomeness.
And yet somehow I had forgotten.
Talk about feeling like a giant ungrateful ass.
Fortunately this is the time of year when I often look back at the things I’ve accomplished to make sure I don’t take where I’ve been and where I am for granted. I’m a lucky SOB because I am able to travel like I do, and even though I always want to travel more, I’m very grateful for this crazy life I have. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, and it’s irresponsible for me to take that for granted.
Remember back in the old time-y days of 2012? Those were good times.
Anyway, now that it’s the future I figured I should take a few moments to look back on the year that was 2012 to remember what I’ve accomplished, and identify those challenges that have eluded me for one reason or another. Perhaps the challenges were a bit too grand, perhaps I didn’t try hard enough, perhaps I realized the challenge wasn’t worth my time because something more important fell into my lap, or perhaps life just got in the way. Whatever the reason, I’ll use the things I did and the things I didn’t do in 2012 as a baseline for the things I’ll want to accomplish in 2013.
So, without further ado, I present to you dear readers my list of successes and failures from 2012:
I ran 2 marathons in a 3 week period, plus 15 half-marathons in 2012 – 5 in December alone. While I hoped to run 3 marathons in 2012, the Goofy race should allow me to cross run 3 marathons in a year from my list. I also ran in 8 official races although my goal was 12. One of the eight races included my first Around The Bay 30 km, my fastest 10 km time, and my first sub 4 hour marathon. In total I ran 944.3 km despite having a goal of 1000 km. While I missed my running mileage target, I’m still excessively proud of what I managed to do over 366 days.
I biked 582.2 km, although I had aimed to bike 2200 km. This is probably my biggest failure of the year, and something I’ll need to work on in 2013. Regardless, I posted my very first 80+ km bike ride in 2012.
I walked over 1500 km successfully crossing another item off of my list. This challenge seemed almost too easy though, as I walk to and from the office almost every day. As such, I’ve upped my walking mileage goal significantly for 2013.
I went zip lining again, edge walking twice, sky diving again, bob sledding, and ice climbing.
I blogged every day for an entire year.
I significantly reduced my debt, and increased my net worth. W00t!
I managed to reduce my original 30 year mortgage to 14 years by negotiating a lower interest rate, and increasing each payment by 15%. This year I’ll once again increase my biweekly payment to reduce the length of my remaining mortgage even further.
I learned to cook dairy free treats (such as pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and Irish cream). I’m definitely going to keep exploring this in 2013.
I travelled to Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, and Ottawa. Sadly, I didn’t make it to New York City in 2012. I also didn’t travel outside of the country. Clearly my wanderlusting ways won’t allow this to become the status quo. Regardless, my trip to Banff and Lake Louise to compete in the Big Mountain Challenge with Rick was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was so much more than a vacation, and something that I won’t ever forget.
Overall I managed to cross off 33 things from my Not-So-Bucket-List list. While this is fantastic, my original goal was to cross off 42. Even still, I can’t complain. I was busy the entire year with challenges, work, and fun. I spent a great deal of time with people I love. I travelled. I experienced new things. I pushed myself further. I laughed. I laughed a lot.
To say that 2012 was fantastic for me would be an understatement. It’s not that there weren’t set backs and challenges outside of my lists – because there were. But I know it was fantastic because when I think back on all of the things that happened in the past 366 days, I can’t help but smile. Friends, family, adventures, successes, failures – all have brought me to where I am today.
Truly, looking back on the year that was reminds me of how lucky I really am.
Here’s to an amazing 2013. Happy New Year everyone.
For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I like to make lists and that I also like to challenge myself. Those challenges often vary in their level of insanity; from hiking mountains to running two marathons in 3 weeks. There are those challenges that are meant to push me beyond my comfort zone, into a new and improved version of myself. And then there are those challenges that are meant to teach me something, or remind me of something that I perhaps had forgotten.
This post is not about any of those types of challenges. Today’s post is about the other kind of challenge that I put to myself. The challenge that can only be described as I just thought of something stupid. I wonder if I can do it?
Of course, you may have just read that and figured that running 2 marathons in a 3 week period falls under the same heading. I won’t argue that. Regardless, today’s post is to inform you that I’ve just completed another of my challenges – item #246 on my Not-So-Bucket-List list to be precise. The challenge: Write at least 365 blog entries in 2012 (including personal, professional, and guest blogs).
Being a bit of an overachiever, I started writing a post per day on December 2o last year. Also, I wrote more than 365 posts (today’s post makes 426 since December 20, 415 for 2012). I won’t pretend that all of them were great or amazing or life changing, but they represent a reflection of the world around me and my state of mind at the time they were written. I also won’t pretend that this was easy. There were nights that I almost forgot to post. And writer’s block was always a threat. Regardless, I’m happy that I took on this challenge and rather proud that I managed to stick with it. I’m even more amazed that I completed it.
As proof of this accomplishment, I have kept each and every post documented by date in an Excel Spreadsheet. Because I’m a nerd, obviously. For your viewing pleasure, that list is provided to you below.
Anyway, I’m not sure that I’ll keep up the write-at-least-one-post-per-day writing pace in the new year. I will, however, continue to blog because it gives me so much more than I ever thought it would.
Thanks for sharing in my crazy adventures. Hopefully I’ll have many more to share in 2013.
I have a wee confession to make; despite my attempt to travel as often as I can – what with my insatiable wanderlust – I have realized that there is no way that I’m going to be able to use up all of my vacation days this year. Not even close.
Despite my failure to use up all of my allotted vacation time, I have still managed several trips this year, including Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Quebec, and Calgary. And that doesn’t even include that epic adventure with Rick known as the Big Mountain Challenge. While the trips weren’t necessarily as frequent1 as in previous years, they were fantastic, and filled with adventure filled shenanigans. I have absolutely zero complaints about any of them.
Of course, having written that, and with the knowledge that I won’t be using up all of my allotted vacation time this year, I think I need to set myself a task. Specifically, I need to ensure that next year I use up all of my vacation time and I do so by travelling as much as I can.
So, dear readers, I present to you my newest challenge. In 2013 I need to travel to at least 12 different cities outside of Ontario2,3. I think this is completely within the realm of possibility because I already have some trips in mind4 for various reasons:
I know, I know – that’s really not a big surprise. We all know that I’m pretty much always one with the wanderlust. Regardless, I started chatting about potential Christmas trips with my brother and now I can’t get it out of my mind. The problem is that there are just so may places to go. And not enough time. Or money.
Anyway, my options (at least as far as I can tell) are as follows:
I’m leaning heavily towards NYC given what’s happened there in the past few days/weeks. Also, because I love NYC. But visiting Chicago would give me the opportunity to visit my friend Ben, and also explore another city that I love. And then there are those other cities that I’ve never visited – Seattle and Boston to be specific. Perhaps I should visit them?
Wherever I decide to go, I know that the adventure is going to be a blast. In the meantime, if you have a preferred destination – let me know in the comments.
It’s hard to believe that I wrote my very first blog post here at Consumed By Wanderlust 1 year ago today: January 19, 2011. I won’t say that my re-entry into the blogging world was all that profound; I mean, my first post here was entitled “My First Post (a.k.a. Worst Blog Title Ever)“. I’d like to believe that things have improved since that initial post. But let’s be honest, anything that followed “My First Post (a.k.a. Worst Blog Title Ever)” had to be an improvement, right?
When I started the blog I had fully intended it to be a place for me to write about my adventures, my academic and health related pursuits, my nerdery, and other such related bric-a-brac. And for the most part, I think I’ve been successful in that respect.
I also had intended the blog to be a place where I could identify challenges for myself, set goals, measure them in some way, and further keep track of the things that I’ve been fortunate enough to do (as I am rather forgetful). And again, I think for the most part I’ve been successful in this too.
However, there were also unintended consequences of this blog that I never would have ever foreseen. First and foremost this blog has taught me a lot about myself. That’s not to say that I didn’t often stop to reflect on my life prior to the blog – I did. But having to put into words the things that I have been thinking or feeling has been a great way to evaluate not only where I am and where I want to go, but more importantly who I am and who I want to be.
A second amazing and unforeseen consequence has been the development of new friendships. The online community has been (and continues to be) amazing. For those Bloggers and Tweeters that I’ve been able to meet in real life and get to know outside of the interwebs, I can’t begin to tell you how awesome this past year has been and how awesome all y’all are. You are a group of amazing individuals who are unbelievably active in the community, who are charitable and positive, optimistic about life, health-minded, and never lacking in laughter and smiles. You have and continue to inspire me to be better at everything that I do. Your lust for life is addictive, and I thank you for getting me hooked on it.
Finally, I would also never have foreseen that my blog would be read by so many. To date, this little-old-blog has been viewed almost 40,000 times. It has received over 1500 comments and is followed by over 500 people. I’m not sure where that stands in the grand scheme of blogging, but it’s far beyond what I ever had imagined. Truth is, when I started this adventure I figured I might get a few family and friends reading my posts. The fact that this blog receives over 100 views per day astounds me.
Anyway, here’s to another year of blogging and all the awesome things that it brings.
Some statistics, because, well, why not?
Total posts: 316 since January 19, 2011
Total page views: 38257
Average daily views in 2011: 103
Average daily views in 2012: 127
Total followers: 518
Total comments: 1516
Most common search term that brings people to my blog: sad babies, followed closely by pi
I’m sure everyone is aware that 2012 is a leap year. That is, 2012 has 366 days – 1 day more than the common 365 day year. Generally speaking, the extra day corrects for the fact that the earth takes a little longer than 365 days to circle the sun. Personally, I look at it as extra time to accomplish things on my Not-So-Bucket-List list. It’s also an extra 24 hours where one can be awesome, or slack off, or spend time with friends, or do pretty much anything.
The point is, 2012 has 24 extra hours and they probably shouldn’t be wasted doing things that aren’t awesome. Of course, what I consider awesome and what you consider awesome might be vastly different. I don’t consider spending quality time with a giant eight-legged-nasty awesome. Someone who spends their life studying such eight-legged-nasties might clearly disagree with me. Awesome really is in the eye of the beholder. But 2012 has 24 extra hours, so that means we each get 24 extra hours to do things that we find awesome.
With that in mind, I thought I would write a list of things that I want to try to accomplish this coming year – a list of things that I think will be awesome should I manage to complete them. To make things extra crazy, I thought I’d add a specific timeline to each of them. I’m not saying that I have to hold myself to these timelines, but I always work best when a due date is involved. Also, because I’m efficient, some of these items come from my Not-So-Bucket-List.
Visit Matt in Ottawa (which makes 14 trips in 13 months – crazy!)
Submit 2 papers to 2 different journals
Start training for marathon #1 & #2 in May
Start training for 160 km bike ride by end of year
Start the push-up challenge
Visit Rick in Calgary, and go ice-climbing (15 trips in 14 months – w00t)
On Wednesday night, Aidan and I returned home from our 4 day adventure in New York City. Aside from the obvious excellent time that we had exploring New York, be that exploration of the visual, gastronomical, or booze-y variety, two other most excellent things happened while I was away.
First, I got to see Arlene. And, since item #130 on my Not-So-Bucket-List list was Travel to visit Arlene, and since I technically travelled to visit Arlene, although I may not have visited her in her home, it still counts. Hence, I’ve scratched item #130 from my list.
Of course, I’ve added another item on my list – item #242 - Travel to visit Arlene. The intent this time is that I must travel to her home. And stay for at least 3 days. The best and completely unintended part, is that the task must be completed 1001 days from today, which just so happens to be September 18, 2014. And that date, dear friends, is her birthday. Too cool.
The other most excellent thing that happened while I was away, was the completion of item #195 – Travel once a month for twelve months. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure this one would happen. Not because I didn’t think I could travel that often, but because life could have gotten in the way. Thankfully, despite some rather crazy events this year, I was still able to complete this task. And I’ve had a blast doing it. So much so that I’ve outdone the original goal. That is, I’ve travelled at least 13 times in 12 months. Apparently I don’t know how to count.
Does this mean that I’m going to stop travelling? Hells no. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I suffer from the wanderlust. Of course, I’m not necessarily going to stick to travelling once per month, although I am going to do my best to keep this up. My vacation days aren’t just going to go on vacation without me, right? Having said that, my intention this coming year is to hit up Ottawa in January to visit some friends, and I’ve already planned a trip to Calgary to see Rick and go ice-climbing (as described here). After that, I’m hoping to hit up Japan, or maybe Malaysia, or some other such country with Rob, and there has been discussion about a trip to Vegas, as well as Los Angeles.
The point is, my travel days are far from over.
Anyway, because I’m all about summaries and statistics and tables and suchlike, I offer you a summary of my trips for 2011 in table form, with means and other statistics to boot! I’ve included the length of each trip, the number of flight legs involved, the total distance travelled (round trip), and a cost breakdown (flight, hotel, and ground transportation costs).
My travels have included 4 trips to Ottawa, 3 trips to New York, 2 trips to Calgary, 1 to Chicago, 1 big ass trip to Hawaii, 2 adventures in British Columbia, 2 conference based adventures, and a trip to Montreal. In all, I’ve travelled in 5 of the 10 provinces this year, and have seen 3 different states (4 if we include the fact that I landed in California on my way to Hawaii).
The total distance travelled – 39393 km – works out to about 98.3% of the circumference of the earth (which, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia is 40075.16 km). Hmm, perhaps my goal next year should be to travel the distance of the circumference of the earth. Clearly it’s possible, and clearly it’s math-y, and clearly it’s nerdy. Three things I love. You know what, this challenge is officially on the list.
So just like that I’m crossing off items #130 and #195, and adding items #242 and #243. Next year is going to rock.
After a most entertaining few days in New York, I’m home.
Let me repeat that.
Our last day included more walking, eating, and drinking of the tastiest hot chocolate ever created by human hands. And that, dear friends, is the hot chocolate that comes from Choco Bolo, an awesome little chocolaterie that is nestled at 2058 Broadway near 71st street. It has now become another on a growing list of places that I will visit when I return.
For those that haven’t been paying attention, that list is growing. It includes, but is not limited to, and presented in no particular order, the following eateries, hotels, cafes, pubs, attractions, bars, restaurants, shops, monuments, buildings, districts, galleries, and museums:
And because I’m extra nerdy, I’ve plotted the bulk of these on the following Google map. Feel free to print it off and use it on your next trip to the city. And let me know if you find any awesome little spots that I should check out on my next visit. Because honestly, the question isn’t if I’m going back, it’s when. And in case you were wondering, it looks like I’ll be going back sometime next summer. W00t!
Today is my last day in New York City. And unless something crazy happens between now and the new year, it’s my last day in NYC this year. Excuse me, I have something in my eye. *sniff*
Yesterday was another walk-our-butts-off kind of day. I think, however, that our wandering was a little slower than the previous two days. The weather was grey, but the temperature was generally nice. Not too hot, not too cold.
We began our day at Good Enough To Eat. I really felt that Aidan needed to try this place because the food has always been fantastic, the atmosphere friendly, and best of all it’s a short walk from the hotel. Given that I was feeling a little morning-after-the-night-before, a shorter walk seemed far superior to a longer walk. We also figured a mimosa might be in order given the ole hair-of-the-dog theory. While it wasn’t the cure-all that I’d hoped, it was pretty good. By about 11:30, with the help of the mimosa, some hearty oatmeal, coffee, water, and bacon, I was feeling like a real human being again.
Following breakfast we took the subway down to the Financial District. I hadn’t been down there in quite some time and I wanted to see how the new Freedom Tower (or whatever it’s going to be called) was coming along. At this point, they have slightly more than half of the 104 floors complete. And this thing is freaking epic. So far, the building looks beautiful. It is clearly going to tower above all the other buildings around it.
We also took some time to check out the Brooklyn bridge, Battery Park, the piers, and the Staten Island Ferry; all along admiring the architecture of the buildings. For those not in the know, the Staten Island Ferry is a cheap (read free) and very civilized way to view the Statue of Liberty up close and personal (mind you, not as up close and personal as actually visiting the statue) without the hassle of paying and dealing with a lot of tourist crowds. Simply walk to the Staten Island Ferry terminal and board. It’s as simple as that. And did I mention that it’s free? The ferry also provides some excellent views of the lower Manhattan skyline. For those interested, you can also purchase beverages inside the boat to enjoy with the scenery. Given our morning-after-the-night-before morning, we opted to simply enjoy the scenery.
Of course, walking builds an appetite. We decided that our lunch/dinner should involve something hearty, wholesome, and comforting. It seemed to fit with the weather. So, we headed to Lincoln Square to sample the wares of Ed’s Chowder House. Verdict: best idea of the day. We ordered a bowl of mussels to start, and then both opted for stuffed clam chowder. Translation: regular clam chowder with loads of shrimp, scallops, lobster, and crab stuffed into it – so much so, that the chowder transforms from soup to stew. Aidan ordered the New England version (i.e., cream based), while I chose the Manhattan version (i.e., tomato based). The chowder was fantastic. We actually might be returning there today for lunch.
The rest of the eve consisted of more wandering and such. At some point in the later eve, I decided hot chocolate was the only thing that would soothe my weary soul. Thankfully, I found a chocolate spot near the hotel that I have to return to today. Seriously, this was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. Rich, creamy, full of dark chocolate goodness. And all soy based. YUM! Sadly, I don’t remember the name of it so I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Anyway, here’s to my last day in New York. *sniff*.
My vacation has been absolutely memorable for several reasons already; the least of which was the flight. I would like to take this moment to personal thank you mysterious airplane panel that required replacement. You know who you are – the same airplane panel that apparently could only be replaced after AirCanada decided to board our plane knowing full well that the panel needed to be replaced (I know this because I overheard the engineers discussing the replacement and delay prior to boarding). We, the passengers, loved sitting in a stuffy plane for a full 40 minute delay only to have our patience rewarded with a 30 minute follow-up delay. And then another 15 minute delay. And if that weren’t enough, the icing on the cake was a final further 10 minute delay. Total time to NYC – over 3 hours. Good gravy.
But don’t get me wrong – I appreciate that AirCanada took the time to fix the plane. I’d rather not explode or disintegrate before I have a vacation.
And ultimately, Aidan and I made it to New York. The city is, as always, amazing. Our first day found us wondering around a lot. I would guess that between random stops for food and drink, we walked 20+ km. We walked from our hotel (On The Avenue) at 77th and Broadway, down to 30th, and back. And then, for giggles, we did it again. It was cold and a little windy, but the city was vibrant and walking is the best way in my humble opinion to check it out, especially when one – such as Aidan – has never seen it before. Our walkabout found us in Central Park, on Lexington and on Park Avenues; we checked out the stores on 5th Avenue; explored the decorations and mayhem of the Christmas masses at Macy’s; we found ourselves in Rockafeller Centre admiring the giant Christmas tree (something that I’ve never been able to see lit up on any of my previous trips – in a word – beautiful); we checked out the Library, Times Square, Grand Central Station, the Lincoln Centre, and so many other places; and we stumbled on many tiny Christmas markets that reminded me a little of the markets we found in Germany, minus the booze-y Glühwein of course.
In short, we walked a lot.
Monday morning we casually sauntered about again. Of course, this time we had a purpose; Arlene was coming to town. We met her at the bus station at 41st and 8th – a stone’s throw from Times Square. From there we just started walking; through Central park, and up to about 110th and 5th. We stopped twice – first at a Christmas store so that I could search for a tacky Christmas ornament, and second at a small cafe for some much-needed food and drink. We managed to see a lot of the city, but really it was all about chatting with Arlene. We caught up on as much as we could; her new home, her kids, my new job, my defence. It was fantastic.
Of course, walking as much as we did clearly works up a thirst. Thus, after jumping on the subway we made our way down to Prince street with the intention of wetting our whistles, followed by some shopping.
Shopping never happened.
Instead, we found the Brooklyn Brewery – a gem of a pub with a fantastic selection of beer. The bartender – I forget her name – was knowledgable, and entertaining on a level I was not expecting. The banter between her and the regulars was absolutely enjoyable to listen to. And before long, we were included. That due in part to the fact that my brother and I love meeting and chatting with new people, but mostly it was due to a regular who went by the name of Brian Moran; a retired paper delivery man who worked for The Daily News for some 30+ years; a man with an extensive knowledge of music and poetry; and an all around excellent person.
We stayed in the bar for several hours chatting and laughing, hearing stories of his youth, about New York, about everything and nothing at all. He asked us about our lives, where we’ve been, what we’ve done, what makes us happy. He demanded I not wear my toque in the bar (a gentleman never wears a hat indoors), and insisted I not use the word awesome to describe anything unless I was actually in awe of it. Instead, he suggested I use the phrase Awesome, or something else. He was, as he self-described, the real New York. And I couldn’t agree more.
At some point I had to say goodbye to Arlene. While we didn’t get in the shopping we had expected, we still had a fantastic day; definitely not one I’ll soon forget. You see, after dropping Arlene off to catch her bus, Aidan and I returned to meet up with Brian as he had graciously invited us back to his place for drinks, to tell us more stories, to listen to music, to play the guitar, and to enjoy a smoke or two. All this, plus a lot of laughter. I can’t even begin to describe how fantastic the night was. Between the beer and the smoke, the music, and the guitar playing, the house itself seemed to add an air of old-time-y-ness that I can’t explain. He told us of his life, his friends, the art he had collected (and it is an extensive collection), his vinyl, his family and so much more. And he continually sang us songs and asked us about our lives. When his roommate Brianna arrived, the two of them began belting out Joni Mitchell songs. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.
Anyway, after many incredible hours shared with Brian and Brianna, Aidan and I left exceedingly happy and ever thankful for such an amazing experience.
Thank you New York. Thank you Brianna. But most of all, thank you Brian. You are an incredible individual, and I’m so happy that I was able to meet you.
Okay, vacation starts in about 2 hours. But really, I’m so stoked about vacation that my brain has pretty much checked out. Two little hours. One hundred and twenty minutes. Seven thousand two hundred seconds. I can do this.
For those of you that may have forgotten, my younger brother and I are heading to New York City on Sunday. This will be Aidan’s first visit, and my eleventy-billionth. I really can’t get enough of that city. Not much is planned apart from visits to any or all of the following:
But nothing is set in stone as this trip is really free-form. And I love travelling like this, especially since Aidan and I have a way of finding things that are awesome. Or perhaps trouble/adventure has a way of finding us. Either way, adventure is out there and we’re going to take part in it.
The extra awesome part about this trip is that Arlene will be meeting me in New York for a day. I haven’t seen her in far too long and it will be awesome to catch up. Arlene is one of the most amazing people in the history of ever. She’s someone who you can’t help but love. Seriously – I challenge anyone not to lover her. You can’t. It’s impossible.
Anyway, we met in first year – we had a chemistry lab together – but we didn’t really get to know each other until second year. Her mom (affectionately known as Toots) saw me helping people move in – I was an orientation volunteer – and told Arlene “He looks nice, you should make friends with him.” She still takes credit for our friendship. Anyway, after that Arlene has been one of the most important figures in my life, even if I don’t get to see her often. So naturally, I can’t wait to see her and give her a huge hug. Can’t. Freaking. Wait.
But as I said – two more hours – less than that even. W00t!
After visiting the hospital today to see Becky and my brother, Aidan and I headed to Simcoe to visit my parents. We figured it would do all of us good to have a normal family dinner. And it did.
Over dinner we chatted about the obvious; that being my brother and the accident. We also chatted about Christmas and what that would entail. You see, Aidan and I had planned to fly to Europe for three weeks over Christmas and New Years. However, given the current situation with my brother, it seems like a far better idea to stick around and spend time with the family.
But don’t worry folks; this isn’t the end of my wanderlusting ways. Far from it. During our drives back and forth from the hospital, Aidan and I have been chatting about what our plans could be. Clearly we both know that being home for Christmas is the only option. But we also know that travel is still in our very near future. In fact, after our conversation today I think we’ve figured out where were going to go and when we are going to go there. So, without further ado let me present to you the
Say what? New York City? Again? Weren’t you just in the Big Apple?
Why yes, yes I was, thank you for noticing. But really, this is a no-brainer. Flights are inexpensive. Hotels are inexpensive (for NYC). The time of year is right. I love the city. And even more: Aidan has never been there. This is clearly something that I should have rectified long ago. Regardless, the plan is to hit the Big Apple one more time this year. On our list of things to do: