Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Race That Wasn't

Please don't judge me. I had every intention of doing it.

Yesterday, Lori and I packed up the girls, picked up Grandpa Stan, and headed to Hogs Back and Mooney's Bay to participate in the National Capital Tri/Du. I was signed up for the Super Sprint SwimCycle event, a 500-metre swim and 20-kilometre cycle. Lori was participating in the Super Sprint Tri, which included a 5-kilometre run, on top of the swim and cycle components. She's hard-core.

The swim component was taking place in Mooney's Bay, only there was a problem: for more than three days, the beach was closed to swimming because of high e-coli counts in the water. E-coli. Enough said.

For the past month, Lori and I were driving up to Lac Bernard to practice swimming in open water. We mapped a course that was 530 metres—longer than the race distance. It was perfect. I loved that swim, but I was noticing that after the workout, later in the day, I would always feel like crap. I was congested, had itchy, water eyes, would feel a burning in my lungs.

With each week, the symptoms would feel worse. On the first weekend, I was congested and suffered for only a couple of hours. On the following week, it lasted until bedtime. The week after that, I suffered all night and had to take the next day off from work. Last week, I suffered at night but went into work anyway, but felt lousy all day. On the Tuesday, I only lasted a couple of hours at work before heading home, where I stayed until this Thursday (granted, I was suffering other symptoms that felt more flu-like—I was a real mess this week).

Lori and I figured that pollen or some other material that I'm allergic to must have fallen into the water, and during my workout I was inhaling and sometimes swallowing whatever was affecting me. Some of my Twitter peeps seemed to agree. And I am allergic to birch and maple trees. Each week, the effects of the substance got worse, much like many of my allergic reactions are.

On Friday, I was finally feeling better from my week of being sick. So when I heard that Mooney's Bay was reporting high levels of e-coli, I said to the race organizers that there was no way that I was going in that water. It would be foolish to subject myself to anything that could make me sick again. The race officials even agreed; in fact, many participants opted out of swimming. Including Lori.

And because the organizers of this event are so great, they offered options. I could change race events. (I asked if I could just not do the swim component and just cycle, but because some participants were still swimming, that was a 'no.') There was just one snag: all other events contained a running component.

Except, I don't run. I can't run. I won't run—not even to catch a bus. I've had reconstructive surgery on my right foot, and it's very hard on me when I try to run for any distance. And so, running was out.

The organizer who was trying to be accommodating said that I could walk instead of run. There was a duathlon that involved a two-kilometre run, a 20-kilometre cycle, and then another five-kilometre run. I could walk the first two kilometres, do my ride, and then opt out of the final run. And I would at least get me ride in (there is no race with a cycle-only component).

Lori signed up for this event. I, on the other hand, had another problem: my footwear.

I hadn't planned on going any distance on foot. Had the water conditions been better, I would have been wading in in my bare feet. I would have trotted to my bike in bare feet, and then slipped into my cycling shoes, which are no good for walking in. I would have slipped into my Keens for the short trek from the bike area to the finish line.

My Keens are good for short treks, but if I walk too far in them, my feet suffer. They were not the best footwear for a two-kilometre walk, unless I took my time. And, to me, that seemed pointless.

And so I was left with only one option: to sit on the sidelines and cheer Lori on.

So please don't judge me for bowing out of the race. I had every intention of participating. It's just that water conditions and footwear prevented me from doing it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bloggers Wanted

Are you a wannabe blogger but haven't started your own blog yet? Are you a blogger who is looking for a change and want to see your words elsewhere?

I'm looking for guest bloggers. I'm looking for you.

Basically, I'm fairly open about the content, with a few exceptions. First, I'm not interested in selling anything, so no sales promotions. I won't consider anything that shows a strong political or religious slant. But if you have creative writing or want to share your opinion on any other topic than the aforementioned taboos, then I want to publish it on The Brown Knowser. Let's talk.

If you're interested in being a guest blogger, please contact my by e-mail at*. There's no deadline: this is an open invitation.

Consider yourself invited!

* If you know my personal e-mail address, you can contact me there too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Alien Abductions

Some truths are stranger than fiction. What you are about to read actually happened on an evening in August, 1998, when I was living in South Korea, teaching English.

I have told this story at my local Toastmasters club and I told a shortened version during a phone-in show for CBC's Ontario Today, and I am planning to fictionalize it in a chapter of Gyeosunim, the sequel to Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary.

This is a story of alien abduction. Before this happened to me, I didn't believe in such a thing. Now, I fully believe in alien abductions. Because I was the alien.

Why we decided to change our plans was beyond me. We were, after all, creatures of habit, predictable. It was Friday. I knew where we would be in a few short hours.

The ex-pat community was much smaller than it had been when I was there a year ago. Economic hardships saw English language institutes close. Friends came and went. But because Lori and I worked at different institutions (Lori was at Chŏnbuk National University; I was at Jeonju University), our pool of friends was substantial.

And we were all predictable.

Every Friday, when the work day was done, Lori and I would meet at our apartment. It was a low-rise building, only five stories high. Each floor housed only six apartments. But the third and fourth floors were occupied by the English teachers of Jeonju U. We were a community in of ourselves. Doors were often open, which meant anyone was welcome to come in. If a door was closed, it meant knock first, then enter. But if the door was closed and locked, it meant that either the residents were away or otherwise occupied. We'd come back later.

On Fridays, doors were almost always open. All of the teachers would get home, change out of suits and dresses, slip into something more comfortable—it was summer, after all—and get ready for a night of "social intercourse," as the owner of our regular hangout called it.

When I arrived at the apartment, I would change, blast my tunes through Koss speakers hooked up to my Discman, and crack open a bottle of OB Lager. A corner store near the apartment sold the beer in quart-sized bottles. Perfect for a Friday. I would drink one, maybe two, before my wife and some of our co-workers would meet up with us. We'd order in dinner—I had mastered ordering pizza, in Korean, over the phone. "Manny soh-suh, chuseo. Posot, bego."—lots of sauce, no mushrooms. When all the teachers were gathered, we'd hail a couple of taxis and head to one of our two regular ex-pat bars: Urban Bar or TwoBeOne.

But on this August Friday night, we'd change our plans, completely unsuspecting the consequences that our actions would have on our evening.

As I said, I don't know why we changed our plans. It seemed to happen sometime when I went back to the corner store to pick up more beer. Some of the teachers had been held up—a celebration with some students—and we'd be heading out later than usual. And so we all gathered in Ashton's apartment, eating mediochre pizza, listening to music from home, and chatting about our week. A recap, or download, of the stresses we faced of teaching in a foreign country.

Someone had talked about going to a night club. A Korean night club. Though there were people like Lori and me, who had been in Chŏnju for more than a year, not one of us had set foot in a Korean night club. We wondered how they differed from Western night clubs, how they differed from the pubs of Urban and TwoBeOne. Though our regular bars were focused on bringing in the ex-pat community, Koreans were welcome to mingle with the wae-gooks—foreigners. Would we be as welcome at a night club geared towards Koreans?

We decided to go to Pappy's. It was located on the fifth floor of a department store, of all places. The entrance to the nightclub was through a side door off a narrow alleyway, near the Gaeksa, an ancient residence that formerly housed government representatives that visited the city. It was now a common meeting ground in the centre of the downtown core. Next to the Gaeksa was a modern building that housed a KFC on the ground level. The scent of the 11 herbs and spices mixed with the scents of the city—foreign to me as the smell of KFC was to Koreans. And across the alley from KFC was a simple entrance to Pappy's.

You could access the nightclub by either taking an elevator or by using the stairs. This entrance didn't get you into the department store; it was exclusive to the club.

By the time we were ready to go, there were at least nine of us. I remember Raymond, Ashton, Russ, Steve and Hae-sung, Dave and Julia, and Lori and me. There may have been more, but these folks were definitely there. They were our usual Friday crowd from our apartment building. And in the time it took us to get together, eat, and decide our plan for the evening, I had lost track of the beer that I had consumed, mixed with a bit of makkoli, a creamy fermented type of rice wine. In a word, I was drunk. A bit. Still able to function, but definitely impaired. I trusted myself to do just about anything but drive or handle heavy machinery. Luckily, on this evening, I'd be doing neither.

We took the elevator. There were only two buttons to press: a G and a 5. Straightforward. At the top, when the doors opened, we were greeted by a bouncer who was dressed in shiny silver-grey slacks with a matching bow tie and a crisp white shirt. He was surprised to see us, to see foreigners. So many wae-gooks. Indeed, a lot of eyes were on us. I could almost imagine the music suddenly stopping, the crowd in the room turning all eyes to us. But that didn't happen. Sure, lots of patrons close to the entrance stopped what they were doing and stared, but the music continued, most of the young Koreans From the elevator, another 'host' escorted us to a table. We had a long sofa that held four of us. Chairs were gathered around the remaining three sides of the long, oval table. Menus were placed before us: it seems that service was paramount. There were no pedestrian beers: no OB, no Cass, no Hite. There were premium beers only: Exfeel and Budweiser. (Both of these beers tasted extremely similar and weren't my idea of premium beers, but this was Korea in 1998). We ordered Buds for everyone and the server went to fill our request.continued without noticing us.

Pappy's was large, dark, packed. From our table, it was hard to see where the dance floor ended. The paremeter of the club was dimly lit, giving the impression of endless expance. Lights on the ceiling were small and scattered in a random pattern, giving the illusion of stars. Blue neon lights accented the bar. Black light projected from somewhere on the dance floor.

None of the music was recognizable, but that didn't matter. It had a good beat and wasn't the teen bands to which our We all felt extremely underdressed. Because our regular Friday-night haunts were casual, we had dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Only Ashton, who almost exclusively wore a three-piece suit, fit in, though he was only in his slacks and shirt. He had left his vest, tie, and jacket at his apartment. Because it was a hot summer night, I was in shorts and a t-shirt. I was about as casual as could be.students subjected us. This place sounded like a proper night club. Very techno.

The Korean patrons, by contrast, were dressed for a proper night out. Dresses on the ladies. Men in slacks and dress shirts. Most of them head-to-toe in black. Hair was perfectly coiffed or jelled. They struck poses around the dance floor or cut it up. And one thing was certain: you looked at them and then looked at us, and you thought to yourself, something is not right. Something is definitely wrong.

Our drinks arrived on a silver tray, and on a silver platter an exquisitely sculpted fruit swan accompanied it. Pineapple, strawberries, kiwi, and cherry tomatoes (cherry tomatoes often came to our table at Urban). With the delivery, our server slipped some paper onto our table. The bill. Raymond turned it over as we all reached into our wallets for the cash, and we learned that the bill came to 27,000 won—about $25—over what we had calculated. Because Hae-sung was with us, and because Ashton and Steve had a good grasp of the language, they took the issue up with our server and we learned that the fruit platter wasn't complementary. Yet none of us ordered it.

Our server explained that patrons always ordered food with drinks, and because we hadn't ordered he chose the least-expensive item on the list. He just figured we wanted something but we forgot to order.

Thoughtful guy.

We had him take the platter back. Thanks, but no thanks. If we had wanted food, we would have asked for it.

He wasn't pleased, but he took the platter back.

We were all keen to dance. None of us had done any in a long time. The last time Lori and I had danced was the previous October, in Seoul, at a Thanksgiving feast hosted by the Canadian embassy. There was no dancing at Urban; TwoBeOne had a dance floor, but it was small and uninviting.

The dance floor at Pappy's was huge and beckoned us. We all abandoned our table and joined the Koreans. More eyes were on us as our presence became more apparent. Space was made for us on the varnished wooden floor. There were only three women in our group, but we didn't mind. All of us formed a circle and performed our various semi-drunken moves. And at one point, Ray, Russ, Ashton, and I noticed that there were a lot of very attractive women dancing around our circle in circles of their own. And so, without a word, but with a knowing nod, the four of us split from our group and joined the closest circle of women.

You'd think we were lepers.

No sooner had we joined the girls than they shrieked and moved off, and were immediately replaced by a group of young men, who took up the circle and continued dancing. Raymond, Russ, Ashton and I looked at each other, puzzled by this turn of events, before we looked around the dance floor and made a startling discovery. The women were dancing with the women; the men were dancing with the men. Never the twain shall meet.

Well, that might work for Koreans, but we weren't interested in dancing with guys, so we bowed out and rejoined our group.

The night went on. We continued to dance, rest at our tables, drink more beer, and dance some more. At times, some of us were on the floor while others were at the table. We mixed it up. We enjoyed ourselves, ignoring the stares we attracted. As the evening wore on, we talked about heading out, of returning to our apartment building. It was coming up on 2 AM: time to call it a night.

While some were finishing up the remains of their beer and others were still on the dance floor—including Lori—I figured it was a good time to visit the men's room. And this is where the evening took a bizarre twist.

On my way out of the washroom, two young men were standing in the door way. The spoke as I passed by them, but because they were speaking in Korean I didn't think they were talking to me. It was when I heard the work ching-goo—friend—that I looked at them and realized they were talking to me. They were gesturing towards the exit, which was on the opposite side of the bathroom from the dance floor. They were telling me that my friends had left.

I thought it a little strange that everyone in our party, including my wife, would leave Pappy's without me. But perhaps they thought I had already left myself. Who was I, in my now fully drunken state, to question? And now these Korean lads were escorting me out.

There was a long line of people waiting to take the elevator, so my escorts suggested we take the stairs down to the street. I didn't see any of my friends in the line, so I guessed that they did the same thing. I hadn't been in the washroom that long, so they should have been in the lineup if they had planned to take the elevator.

Proceeding down the stairs, each of the Koreans walked on either side of me, each held an arm to steady me as we negotiated the stairs. How nice, I thought, these guys are being extremely courteous, making sure this drunken foreigner doesn't fall and break his neck. Such kind young men.

We made it down the stairs and headed outside, onto the narrow street, and I started looking for Lori and my friends. They weren't there. What was there was a car, idling in the alleyway with the rear door open to us. Two occupants sat in the front. Before I could react—assuming I could do anything in my state of intoxication—my arms were twisted and I was pulled into the back of the car by one of my escorts, pushed in by the other.

"Gah!" exclaimed one of my abductors. Go!

"Odi gah-yo?" said the driver, turning to face us. Go where?? He too was a young man, dressed for the club. Designer glasses and styled hair. The front passenger was a young woman in a grey blouse. She tilted her head downward, her long, straight hair covering her face. Clearly, she wanted no part of this act.

Anywhere, just go, shouted one of the guys beside me. And off we went.

Now, at this point in my story I must admit that in this time in Korea, I was starting to become cynical. I was tiring of hearing how everything in Korea was wonderful, when clearly it was not. The country was trying to recover from an economic disaster, where banks and huge companies were failing and the IMF was bailing out many East Asian countries. At this time in Korea, the west was seen in a bad light. And from what I could see, the Korean economy had only itself to blame. I was also becoming tired of how westerners were being made the bad guy and I was vocal in showing my dismay at Koreans. They were in a state of disarray.

Nothing was organized in Korea, let alone crime. And even though I was sitting as an unwilling passenger in the back of a Hyundai Elantra, I wasn't concerned for my safety.

And my abductors were fuelling my confidence in my well being. They argued over where to go, what to do with me. Here they were, with a perfectly good plan for getting me out of the night club, with absolutely no plan for what to do when they actually had me.

I started to laugh.

The guy to my right didn't like that. He began slapping my cheek. Yet, he was barely making contact with my face: the slaps felt more like pats. Also, he said "Haji-ma!" in a whiney voice while he struck me, which was something similar to saying "cut it out" to a small child who was misbehaving. This caused me to laugh all the more.

I already told you that I was wearing shorts. These shorts were khakis, with pockets on the sides. In the right-side pocket was my wallet. The young man who was getting frustrated at my laughing felt the wallet pressing against his leg, and he ordered that I take it out of my pocket.

I stopped laughing. The wallet had all of my identification. My work card. My university ID. My credit cards. I was not willing to part with it. My photo ID and Canadian credit cards were no use to a Korean, so I knew that if he took it, it would end up thrown out.

He took my wallet and removed the cash inside. There was 50,000 won, almost $50. Once he had the cash, I snatched the wallet back. I looked at him with an expression that said I was willing to fight to keep it. He let me keep it.

We roamed aimlessly around the city. At this late hour, there were very few cars on the road. We competed with taxis as we seemed to spiral away from Pappy's, and then back towards the night club. Almost 25 minutes had passed and no plan had been made. We turned onto a street, dark lit, only about two blocks away from Pappy's, and we stopped. The lad who stole my money got out of the car and motioned for me to get out too. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen here.

He wagged a finger at me, and for the first time, spoke English. "Pappy," he said, "don't go." He hopped back into the car, and they screeched away. It was only as they were turning a corner that I figured that I should get a license number. I got a partial.

So that was it. They didn't want foreigners at their club. They were hoping to scare me. "Pappy, don't go."

I walked directly to Pappy's, hoping to find Lori and my friends. Surely, they were worried about where I got to.

By the time I was at Pappy's, the last of the partygoers was on the street. The doors to the elevator and stairwell were closed. A bouncer was guarding the entrance, and in Korean told me that no one was inside. My fellow teachers had left, probably assuming I had gone on without them—something I was prone to do and had a history of doing.

I prepared to walk back to the apartment. It would probably take me an hour. Lori would be worried, but there was nothing I could do.

Actually, as luck would have it, I stuck my hands in my front pockets and felt a piece of paper. It was a 5,000-won note. More than enough for a taxi ride (cab fare was dirt-cheap in Chonju). I walked to the Gaeksa and hailed a cab.

There is more to this story. When I returned at the apartment building, I was met by Lori and Russ, who were trying to hail a cab, to retrace their steps in search of me. When they learned that I had been snatched from Pappy's, we went to the police. That experience was surreal. Perhaps I'll share another time.

So that's my tale of alien abduction. I was the alien, a foreigner in Korea. I was the one abducted.

Thankfully, no probes were involved.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thoughts On Social Capital

Every time I say this, I get a big laugh from my wife, my kids, and my friends, but it is so true: I'm shy.

No in that hide-in-your-shell kind of shy, where I'd rather lock myself in a room and only communicate with people from a distance. I'm shy when it comes to talking to people, one-on-one, where I feel that I'm expected to initiate conversation or keep a topic going in a lively, thoughtful kind of way. In that regard, I'm incredibly self-conscious and would rather have someone else lead the conversation.

Don't get me wrong: I like people and like to be social. It's just that sometimes, when I am among others, I feel incredibly uncomfortable finding words, starting conversations.

When I'm among people that I don't know well, I put on a brave face. Because I want to be there.

When I was asked to emcee Blog Out Loud, I wanted to do it because I like being out in public and I really wanted to meet other writers. And with my Toastmaster experience, I have no problem getting up in front of a crowd of people and speaking.

But during the breaks, when people milled about and were social, I either went over to people I recognized from Twitter and introduced myself (if they didn't know who I was) or I hung back and listened in on conversations. Starting conversations is not my forté.

This weekend, I attended the first-ever Social Capital conference at the University of Ottawa. It was a wonderful conference that was aimed at bringing the social media community together, to share ideas and inform. Being relatively new to social media (my Twitter account is only 10 months old; I only joined Facebook—under duress—about five months ago), I wanted to see what I could learn to make my blogs better, how I might even capitalize on them from a monetary standpoint. I also wanted to meet the people with whom I have only recently connected, to see them face to face, as I had at BOLO.

Andrea Tomkins, Shannon McKarney, and Rebecca Stanisic on earning dividends on your blogging investment.

I was going to exercise that social side of the social media conference. Am I ever glad that I went.

Until this weekend, I have forgotten the value in getting out there. In getting human contact. The people that I met were wonderful. The information I gained was valuable. In a nutshell, here are some points that I took away from the conference:
  • It can only take one small act to affect change.
  • Social media is all about having conversations—interests are more important than issues.
  • Trying to involve people in a cause will fail: focus on social interaction.
  • "Proceed until apprehended"—Stacey Diffin-Lafleur.
  • Set goals with your blog—plan content and be consistent.
  • I may want to consider selling ad space, but if I do keep them within my "brand" (which is essentially my reputation).

I really enjoyed the conference. And I found the greatest value I got from attending was meeting the people who share my interest in social media. I met many people that I had only ever spoken to through Twitter. And they are wonderful people.

I hope that in attending, I will now be able to be better at organizing my blogs so that you will want to come to them regularly, and that I won't disappoint you when you do.

Here's to moving forward. To being a better blogger, to being more involved in social media, in getting out there in being social.

And to no longer being so shy anymore.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dino Tweetup

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Last night, the girls and I chose to beat the heat and avoid the soccer pitch. Ottawa hit the hottest day on record: at its peak, the day hit 36°C—factor in the humidity and it felt more like 46°C!
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I said hot, not H.O.T.!
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Luckily, we already had these plans to go to our air-conditioned Canadian Museum of Nature, where we attended a 3-D dino tweetup. The evening included a 3-D film about the final days of the dinosaurs, narrated by Donald Sutherland.
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At one point in the 20-minute film, Sutherland said that the Earth was hotter than we've ever known. Clearly, he wasn't talking about yesterday's temperatures!
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The girls really enjoyed the film, and afterwards we explored a wildlife photo gallery before Lori and the girls went to one of their favourite areas of the museum: the bird gallery.
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Meanwhile, I met up with some Ottawa tweeps and met some of my Twitter peeps for the first time. Great people!
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So day two of our heatwave went fairly well. How did you beat the heat?
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jump In!

On Day 2 of our city's heat wave, it'd be nice to take the day off, drive up to the cottage, and plunge into the cool waters of Lac Bernard.

Wishful thinking.

Actually, for the last couple of weekends, that's exactly what we've done. Lori and I are training for our 500-metre, open-water swim in the National Capital sprint triathlon and swim-cycle, which happens on Saturday, July 30. So we'll have to wait until this Sunday before we can jump in again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Brown Knowser on The Brown Knowser

Every once and a while, I perform a Google search on myself and my blogs to see what comes up. To see if I've actually written something that is worth copying. So far, other sites have sited some of my writing but no one has outright copied it.

Last week, it seems that I had performed my first search since I launched The Brown Knowser, and I was surprised to learn that I had inadvertently copied something myself. Well... not copied. Not really. Because I didn't know that what I had used had already been used before. So it's not really copying.

And what I had copied doesn't infringe on anyone's copyright.

Just what did I use that isn't original? I used the name Brown Knowser.

Apparently, there was a WWII B-24 bomber that also went by the name Brown Knowser. Same spelling. And the pilot of this Liberator was Thomas Frank Brown. No relation, I'm sure.

I tried to find more information about this plane and its crew, but so far to no avail.

Because you can't copyright a title, there's no infringement, so I'm safe. But it's funny what comes up when you Google yourself!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Notes From My Kids

My oldest daughter's bedroom door is covered in all sorts of signs, like this one:

You've been warned. That is all.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why Migraines Suck

I had such great plans today. I was up at 5:00 this morning, was going to cycle to work, get a jump on the day, be productive, and then cycle home, have dinner, take L to soccer, and then perhaps attend a tweet-up.

It was going to be such a good day.

But then, out of nowhere, a migraine came along and changed all that.

I know, I look like shit. This is what migraines do to me.

It could have been worse: the migraine could have struck halfway into my ride. That would have been the worst. I would have had to call Lori and wait, wherever I was, to be rescued. Suffering in public is never good.

It's after lunchtime, and I'm only now coming out of the fog that is my migraine. By some standards, this wasn't a bad one. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 leaves me with vision trouble but no pain and 10 is all-out war on my brain—sight, sound, and touch is unbearable; breathing is heavy, body is in spasms, and I'm spewing from both ends (sorry, awful picture)— this one was about a 7. My head was pounding, sight and sound was painful, and I finally passed out after an hour or so. It'll probably be another couple of hours before I start to feel like myself again.

This isn't the first time I've written about my migraines, but for those of you who only started reading my posts in The Brown Knowser, let me give you the post I wrote for my other blog.

For those of you who suffer from migraines, I feel your pain. For those who have never experienced one, count yourselves lucky.

Notes From A Migraine Sufferer

When I suffered my first migraine, as a teen in my senior year of high school, I didn't even know what a migraine was. I thought I was just having a severe headache. I stayed home from school that morning, suffering in my bedroom. When I threw up, I thought I might have caught a flu bug. I stayed in bed for most of the day. By dinnertime, I felt better: more or less like my old self; maybe a little tired, with a slightly foggy head.

Back then, migraines were few and far between. I'd get one every few months or so. I could probably count on one hand the number I'd get in a year. And when I was in college, they seemed to go away. I don't remember ever having a migraine while I was in journalism school, nor in the years that followed.

It wasn't until the early 90s that I suffered my first migraine in more than seven years. Lori and I were living together and I scared her so much that she was tempted to call 9–1–1. I think it was when I started slamming my head against the wall that she started to panic. When I blacked out from the pain, she sat with me to make sure I was still breathing.
I have a handful of symptoms that accompany a migraine. I don't always experience all of them every time, but I will experience at least a couple at once. My symptoms include:

  • uncontrollable yawning
  • heavy breathing
  • chills and sweating
  • extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • convulsions
  • blurred vision, tunnel vision, or loss of vision
  • extreme pain in my eyes, in various regions of my head, and in my neck
  • aching teeth (often caused by clenching my jaw)
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • blackouts

One of the worst episodes of a migraine came a couple of years ago. I had spent an evening out with a couple of friends, Perry and Andy, at The Manx. We had enjoyed a couple of pints and warm conversation. In the course of the evening, I had consumed two, maybe three pints of beer. It is often thought that alcohol could be one of my triggers for a migraine, but if it is, it's not a guaranteed trigger. I've had migraines after consuming alcohol—large and small quantities; I've experienced migraines when I haven't had a drop to drink.

When Andy, Perry, and I parted company, I headed up Elgin Street to catch my bus home. About halfway up Elgin, a migraine hit me with no warning, or at least no warning that I recognized. I was tired and yawned a bit, but not with the fierceness of a migraine yawn. Before I knew it, my vision was blurred, my head was pounding, and my breathing was heavy. I had to sit down. The sounds from the street were crippling, the lights of traffic blinding.

I vomited in the street. Passers by looked at me and told themselves that I was just another drunk reveller on a Saturday night. With disdain, they passed me by.

Somehow, I made it to a bench, where I lay down, sweating and trembling with chills. And eventually, I blacked out.

Much to the shame and credit to Ottawa residents, I was left alone. Apparently, no one checked to see if I was okay (or if they did, I didn't respond and they didn't call for help). Also, no one robbed me while I slept. My fanny pack, containing my wallet, phone, and other valuables, was left untouched.

I awoke just before 3 AM, as a few drops of rain began to fall. In a haze, I arose from the bench and made my way to my bus stop. Mercifully, the buses to my part of town were still running. When I finally crossed my front door, I staggered to my living room and collapsed on the floor, where I slept until Lori found me after sunrise.

By far, that was the worst migraine I have ever experienced. It left me vulnerable, not only to my pain, but to the elements and the unpredictability of strangers. I was defenceless throughout that ordeal.

When I described my experience to my doctor, he put me on propanolol, a beta-blocker, and gave me some pills to carry on me, to take when another such migraine struck. He warned that these pills (I have since disposed of them and forget their name) were extremely powerful, and that there was a 1 in 10,000 chance that they could trigger a stroke. But they would help diffuse the migraine. I only used them once, and thankfully I was at home: these pills effectively knocked me out so that I wouldn't feel the effects of the migraine. I was no better off than when I blacked out on that Elgin Street bench.

The beta-blockers worked to some extent. I still suffered migraines, but I wouldn't feel the pain. The only symptom I seemed to experience was with my vision. I would be able to see, but parts of my vision were blacked out, like I was wearing blinders. I wouldn't be able to see to my peripheral or wouldn't be able to see below me, like the lower half of my sight, when looking straight ahead, was blocked. And what I could see was diffused in light waves. It was almost a psychedelic experience.

Taking the propanolol daily, though, left me with a lack of energy. I was tired all the time. Also, I was warned by my doctor that these beta-blockers also came with the risk of a stroke, and so I eventually weaned myself from them.

Since then, my migraines have returned on a regular basis. On average, I get a migraine once a week. If I feel the onset early enough, I can take a couple of migraine-strength Advils. If I notice the migraine too late, there's nothing I can do but ride it out. The majority of migraines hit me early in the morning. On Tuesdays and Fridays, when I wake early anyway, I typically get to them in time. I've noticed that on Thursdays, for some reason, I'm a bit of a slug getting out of bed, and if a migraine calls on me on those mornings, I typically get to them too late.

Yesterday, I experienced one of my worst migraines in months, if not since that evening on Elgin Street. And I experienced a new symptom that had me quite concerned, one that made me think that this was the "big" one. As I bent over the toilet, vomiting (too much info?), blood ran out of my nose. It dripped into the toilet, and as I wiped at my nose with my hand, I gazed at the red and thought: is this a brain haemorrhage? I was scared, but with the pain flooding my senses, I did nothing about it. I didn't call for help. I simply wiped the blood away, flushed the toilet, and cleaned my face. The blood stopped as quickly as it started. It reminded me of one time, snorkelling in Thailand, when I pulled off my mask and the suction pulled a fountain of blood from my nose but didn't persist. It freaked out those who saw it happen, but by the time I reacted it was over.

Yesterday, after I cleaned myself up, I staggered back into bed. I was shaking, from the chills and from the shock at seeing blood, but I passed out before I could do more.

Life as a migraine sufferer is not fun. There's little that doctors understand and less that they can do about it. And unless you're willing to go on risky drugs to prevent them, there's not much the sufferer can do except try to get to it in time or to try and ride it out as best as possible.

And not panic.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Instagram Photos

One of the things that I love about my iPhone (yes, I said "love" and "iPhone" in the same sentence, get over it!) is that I can combine my photography with my tweeting. Okay, my phone is never going to replace my Nikon, but depending on what I'm shooting, it's not a bad instamatic-type camera.

One of the apps that I've added to my phone is Instagram, with which I can quickly shoot a picture, apply a number of cool filters to it (or not), write a caption, add a location, and send it out through Twitter, Facebook, or other electronic means, including by e-mail.

I wish there were a way to instantly post these photos to my blog. Last week, I showed you one of these pictures. But to do that involved me e-mailing the picture to myself, saving the photo, and then creating a post. If anyone knows of a way that I can access my blog directly through Instagram, please let me know.

So today, because I didn't have much to say, I present you with a couple of photos that I shot with my iPhone and posted on Twitter, using Instagram. And by e-mailing it and all that stuff.

A flower in my back yard.

Shadows on Sparks Street.

Get used to seeing more of these photos down the road.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blogging Out Loud, Out There

The more blogs I read—other people's blogs, not my own—the more I think I need to be better at my writing. I mean, there are some really good writers out there.

Last week, I attended Blog Out Loud Ottawa for the first time. It was the third year for the event, and I had the honour of hosting. Of being the Emcee. And I had a blast.

This was my view for much of the night.

What I liked most about the event, at first, was that I had the opportunity to meet some of the peeps that I follow on Twitter and some of those whose blogs I occasionally read. It was nice to be social in person, and not just on the social net.

But what I loved about the event was that not only did I hear some amazing blog posts—posts where people really put themselves out there (stories about abuse, about loss, about love)—but these blog posts were delivered in a way that put my Toastmasters club to shame. These were not simply readings; they were performances.

I listened to women talk about abuse, about the pressures of body image, about the inability to conceive a child. There were times when I returned to the lectern with a lump in my throat, unsure that I would be able to keep my emotions in check.

I also laughed my ass off. There were funny family stories told. Stories about relationships that had me laughing, again near to tears. Stories that made me glad I had no boys; that I was terrified at the prospect of impending teenage girls.

I was a little disappointed that of the 21 presenters, only one of them was male. Where are the men bloggers, and why aren't they getting a chance to speak? I submitted a story—admittedly, not one of my better stories, but damn it! It was an upbeat story. It was one that shed praise where I usually vent my frustrations. It was my tale of giving kudos to an OC Transpo bus driver. Something of a rarity with me.

I thought it was humourous. I thought it was positive. I thought it was safe. But after I listened to the other readers who made the cut, I learned that safe is not the way to go.

It was, after all, Blog Out Loud. Not Blog Safely, Nicely. Those that read really put themselves out there. Were reading out loud.

The event left me feeling that I need to write better, to not hold anything back. To stop writing crap.

After this post.

I'm going to start going for quality and not quantity. I may not post a blog every day. I may not even post every week, though I'll try my best. I want you to continue to follow me, after all.

Though I enjoyed hosting Blog Out Loud and would do it again in a heartbeat, I'd like to present.

I've got a year: be ready!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Burned Out

It's been a while since I've posted a blog entry (three days is "a while" for me) and I just wanted to check in. Let you know that I'm still here.

The truth is that, since Thursday, I've been pretty busy and I burned myself out. Literally and figuratively. I've been so tired that it's a struggle to stay awake at times. Also, there was a time where I had so many things that I wanted to write about that I suddenly felt overwhelmed, and so I wrote about nothing. I took the easy way out.

This year, I wanted to hone my writing skills and I thought that the best way to do that was to keep writing. And so I wrote steadily. This post will be my 167th post this year between my two blogs. This doesn't count the rewriting I've been doing for Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary and the new writing for my next book.

So yeah, I've been writing a lot. Maybe too much, and this weekend, after my last post, I felt somewhat burned out.

Also, last week, I started training for a race that Lori and I signed up for late last year. I'm registered for the National Capital SwimCycle event; Lori is in the Super Sprint Triathlon. The race is on Saturday, July 30, starting at Mooney's Beach.

Yes, that's right. I said the race is July 30 and I only started training last week. I know, you don't have to say it: I'm an idiot. Lori's been training for months. But not me.

The SwimCycle is a 500-metre, open-water swim in the Rideau River and a 20-kilometre cycle along Colonel By Drive. Lori's triathlon adds a 5K run. She runs; I don't.

Like Lori, I should have started training in May, but I'm the king of procrastination. Last year, when I participated in the 2010 Early Bird SwimCycle, I procrastinated so badly that I didn't train at all. I got all excited when my time was two minutes faster than the previous year, but then I learned that they had shortened the cycle element from 22 kilometres to 20. And so my time was slower.

I had originally signed up for the 2011 Early Bird SwimCycle, but because I hadn't worked out since the 2010 event and I was in really bad shape, I deferred my registration to this month's event. And I'm not backing out, even though I've only just started preparing for it.

Last week, I dusted off my bike and cycled in to work. It's just shy of 20 kilometres—before my office moved, I used to cycle 32 kilometres, the last dozen through the Gatineau Park (I now cut out the park and I miss it). It was a good ride, but it showed me that I was clearly out of shape. It took me almost an hour and 15 minutes to complete the journey. I needed to push myself.

This weekend, because I didn't get a second cycle in to work, and because Lori wanted us to practice our open-water swimming, we made plans to go up to Lac Bernard. So I cycled back to my office, which is on the way, and Lori met me there with the family. I improved my time, taking only a minute over an hour to complete the ride. I stashed my bike in the office, and we continued up to the lake, stopping in Wakefield for breakfast. The day was gorgeous: we couldn't have picked a better day to swim outside.

We used a GPS device to plot out a course on the lake. But because a bouy out in the water made for a perfect marker, we ended up with a course that was 530 metres—not the 500 that we needed for the race.

Close enough. If we could swim 530 metres, we could swim 500 come race time.

Lori learned that without pool markers, her front crawl pulled her significantly to the right. I had to call to her several times to get her to change course. I learned that even though I kept a fairly straight line, I couldn't see the marker very well. And so, after about 100 metres out, I switched from a front crawl to a breast stroke. For the most part, I kept up with Lori this way.

The swim went much better than I expected. When we finished the course, I had lots of energy. I could have swum longer. We didn't time our swim, but I estimated under 15 minutes. Lori was less than 50 metres ahead of me at the end, and she had maintained a crawl. I think I'm going to stick to the breast stroke for the race. It seemed to work for me.

After our workout, we had lunch, soaked in some sun, and then headed back to town. Lori dropped me off at my office, where I retrieved me bike and cycled the rest of the way home.

So, in one day I cycled nearly 40 kilometres and swam 530 metres. I was feeling optimistic for the race.

And then I crashed.

On Sunday, I slept in until almost 8:30. That's almost unheard of in our house. The girls woke us with breakfast in bed, and so I didn't lift my sorry ass until almost 10. Again, unheard of. I set up a list of things to do for the day, Lori added to it, and then she headed out for her 20-K ride. I was told to give her about 45 minutes and then head to Mooney's Bay, where the girls and I would pick her up. She wasn't planning to ride any farther than that: she wanted to ride to the start of the cycle component for the race, check out the elevation changes, and stop. No return trip.

I picked her up as scheduled, and after a stop for lunch, we returned home so that Lori could drop off me and her bike. She took the girls for a swimming play date while I started my afternoon chores.

First up: cutting the grass. Little did I know that this would be my only chore for the day.

It was hot yesterday afternoon, and after I finished the front lawn and the strip between my house and my neighbours, I moved into the backyard, which had turned into a sauna. With our high fence and near-full exposure to the sun, no air was being circulated. I decided that it was a good time to stop for a cold drink, and so I grabbed an ice tea and hung out on my Father's Day hammock. I rested for about 20 minutes or so and then got back to the lawn. I had lots of chores to get through and the grass wasn't going to cut itself.

What is usually a half-hour job took much longer. The grass was long and thick after the rain we had received, and for some reason the trampoline seemed much heavier than usual: I struggled to lift it and move it to a bare patch so that I could mow the patch underneath. I didn't have the energy to move it back. When the job was done, I was soaked in sweat. I put the mower away and rested in the shade of our front porch. But my head felt light, and so I moved inside, where the air conditioning gave me an instant chill. I lay down on the sofa for only about five minutes before the girls returned home, with a friend from the play date.

I explained to Lori how I was feeling exhausted from the heat, and she said I could rest and keep watch on the kids while she went to the grocery store. Only, you can't really rest when there are kids playing in the house. And so I sat up, nursing my headache and trying to confine the kids to only one place in the house. It wasn't until our little guest was gone that I could actually lie down.

I was burned out. I could barely move, could barely keep my eyes open. With the exception of helping with dinner—we barbecued a couple of homemade pizzas—I barely moved. We watched TV with the kids, but I nodded in and out of consciousness. Never saw a complete episode of any show we watched. When it was time to put the kids to bed, I went to bed myself. Crashed.

I forced myself out of bed this morning, forced myself to cycle in again. And realized I hadn't blogged in a while. But I was burned out. Had no ideas.

Except to write about how burned out I am.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Down In The Valle

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In 1991, Lori and I took our first trip overseas together, to England, Wales, and France. It was not our first trip together, but I think I can safely say that it was the one trip that proved to us that not only could we travel together, but that we could do it very well. We are excellent travel companions.
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We started in London, and after a couple of days we rented a car and hit the road, heading north, towards Stratford-Upon-Avon, and then into northern Wales, where we worked our way south, to Cardiff and then followed the southern end back into England, where we saw Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury, before finally returning to London and then over to Paris.
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I loved Wales. Such raw beauty. In fact, several times I was so overcome by the splendour of the countryside that I had to pull over, had to stop driving so that I could take it in. In the six days that we were in Wales, we visited 10 castles and abbeys; nearly all of them, in ruins.
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One of the prettiest sites that we visited was tucked away in a valley, in the vacinity of Llantysilio, in Denbighshire. The closest town was Llangollen. And this site was the location for this week's Where In The World? contest.
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I'm talking about Valle Crucis Abbey.
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Photo courtesy of Cadw (pronounced ka-doo).
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This installment of my contest was solved after only two days. Clearly, I'm going to need to get tougher with my photo challenges. Here are the clues I provided and how they fit into the location:

  1. Groundbreaking—810 years ago: Valle Crucis Abbey was built in 1201. You do the math.
  2. Last of the White Monk monasteries: Valle Crucis Abbey was Cistercian (Cistercian monks were also known as the White Monks for the frocks they wore); Valle Crucis Abbey was the last Cistercian abbey to be built in Wales.

That's it: only two clues. And then the mystery location was solved.
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Congratulations to Ben Wood, winner of my first Where In The World? contest. Fitting, since Ben also was the first winner for Where In Ottawa? And because Ben has already won a copy of my book, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary, I'm going to give him another book from my library.
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Ben: please send me an e-mail or a DM tweet with your contact info, where I can send you your prize.
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Thanks to all of you who played along. I'll be back with another challenging photo next month.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Storm Before The Calm

I hadn't planned on blogging today. I was getting all psyched up for Blog Out Loud, which happens tonight—if you're in Ottawa, I hope that you can make it.

As I said, I hadn't planned to post anything on my blog today. But yesterday, when I posted a photo on Twitter, I received such positive feedback that I thought I'd share with my blog followers.

Like most Wednesday's, I worked from home. I've set up a small desk near the window in my bedroom. I have a great vantage to my neighbourhood and can see when the school bus drops off the kids, and I can watch them make their way home from the stop. I can also watch the changing weather, and that's what I did yesterday.

My iPhone was handy, and with the Instagram app I have, posting images is really easy. Thanks to everyone for your kind comments.

Enjoy your Thursday!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No Regrets

There are people that come and go in our lives. Some who are with us for long time that are forgotten after years of absence; others, who are with us for a relatively short time, but are remembered, no matter how long they are away from us.

I only knew Joy for a year, maybe longer. She stopped being part of my life more than 30 years ago. But as a young teen, she was my first love.

It was her wonderfully twisted sense of humour that first attracted me. Her wit. Her sarcasm. Her sly eyes. She took crap from no one, would dish out a double helping of any trouble she was handed. Woe to those who ever wanted to bring trouble to her.

Joy's round face usually had a smile. And it was that smile that distinguished her from her twin sister, Joanne, who tried—and failed—to fool me into believing that she was my girlfriend. I remember one time, at their house: me, sitting on the sofa, listening to Leonard Cohen, waiting for Joy to rejoin me after a trip to the washroom. The person who came into the living room and snuggle up to me got shoved away: "Back off, Joanne. You're not fooling me," I said.

It was the smile, the way that Joy carried herself, that was unmistakable.

Joy and I broke up and got back together a handful of times in the year that we dated. Our biggest challenge occured when my parents found out that we were having sex (we were way too young—being a parent now, I shudder to think of my girls in any similar situation in the years to come). Joy and I got through that patch, but I finally broke up with her when my new friends at my new high school took me in a different direction from Joy and my old high school—my family moved from Gatineau to Ottawa. It wasn't just the distance that turned me away from our relationship; it was also my new environment, my new life. It was a tough breakup, but it had to be done for me to move forward. It was tough, but I have no regrets.

I saw Joy and her sister a year or so later. They were visiting their brother, who lived nearby. We spent a couple of hours together: I had my driver's licence, and the three of us went for a drive. It was nice to catch up, but it made me realize how much I had changed since our breakup. I was fully immersed in my new life, and our relationship seemed so far removed from who I was that day, though I was and am still aware that our relationship had had a strong hand in making me the person I was. After that day, when I said my goodbyes to Joy and Joanne, I expected to never see them again.

I was wrong.

In 1989, the year that Lori and I started dating, I had returned to my parent's house after having lived that summer on my own in New Edinburgh. I had moved back in with my folks after leaving my full-time job at the camera store to go to university. And though it wasn't surprising that my parents would be protective of me, living under their roof, it was strange for them to treat me like I had never lived on my own at all. So when Joy called up and wanted to get together, it was amusing for them to want to shield me from her, as though somehow she would get me to leave Lori to start dating her again.

We met for coffee at a place on Bank Street. Joy hadn't changed a bit. And yet, she had changed a lot. She still had that round face, those mischievous eyes. But in speaking with her, she seemed to have mellowed. She had already had children but was a single mom. Some 22 years later, I barely remember the details of our meeting. We didn't stay long; perhaps for only one cup of coffee. But what I did take away from that meeting was that Joy and I were very different people. While I didn't regret the relationship we had, I couldn't imagine what had held us together for that year almost 10 years earlier. Again, when we said goodbye, I fully expected it to be our final goodbye. We had had closure on our relationship—twice.

Last week, I received a message on my Facebook wall with a request to "friend" someone (I hate using friend as a verb, but the digital age has flushed the English language down the toilet—that's another blog post of its own). The message was simply "I don't know if you remember me...". It was Joy.

How can you forget your first love? Though she had only been in my life for a year or so, though we had only seen each other twice since our final breakup, though I hadn't seen her in 22 years, I remembered Joy. And I accepted her friend request.

We exchanged e-mail messages. I told her about my work, that I was married, with two kids. That I was still living in Ottawa, though I lived for a couple of years in South Korea. Joy had three children: her oldest, 29; her youngest, 21. She had never married and was single. In her words, she had never found the right person. And she was still in Ottawa.

And so we agreed to meet, to catch up.

Joy said that she hoped I would recognize her, but it was she who didn't see me sitting at a table on the patio of the pub. I'd have recognized her anywhere. She still had that round face, those devilish eyes that had been so full of fun when we first knew each other.

Joy is happy. Her three kids have grown. She's a grandmother already, soon to have two more grandkids arrive—both of her daughters are expecting next month. She has a good government job. Her health is good.

We caught up. Our lives had gone in very different directions, neither necessarily better than the other. We had grown into very different people than we were those 30 years ago. We had seen and experienced different facets of life, each with its ups and downs. We learned about the people we had become and we were happy for each other.

There were no regrets.

When we parted ways, I had already learned that our goodbyes were never final. I didn't tell myself that this was our last get-together. And so I told her to keep in touch.

And I have no regrets.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Where In The World? Round 1

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It's time to go global.
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If you're a follower of my blog, you're familiar with my Where In Ottawa contest: identify the location in the photo and win a prize. I'm giving away an electronic version of my book, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary.
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This time, the photo is not of a location in Ottawa (that's a bonus clue). You're going to have to look beyond my city limits. Here's the photo:
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Think you know where this place is? Think you know the world? Prove it! Leave your guess as a comment to this post. The first person to correctly identify this spot wins. It's as simple as that.
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I'll be posting clues every day on the right-hand side of this blog and on Twitter. Keep checking, and good luck!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Then And Now

Early Friday Morning, on Canada Day, I drove my parents to the airport, where they were flying to my brother and sister-in-law, who are expecting a baby this week. Their flight left Ottawa for Phoenix at 6 A.M., which meant that I needed to get them to the airport by 4. Like the good son that I am, I didn't mind.
With traffic that light at that early hour, I managed to drop them off at 3:45, just before the early light of dawn broke. And with them safely delivered, and me wide awake, I decided to take advantage of my free time and take some photographs.

In May of 1989, just a couple of months after Lori and I started dating, I also found myself wide awake at dawn, wanting to take pictures. Back then, I headed for the outskirts of town. This time, those outskirts are now very close to my current neighbourhood.

And so, not wanting to stray too far from home, I thought I'd return to where I shot those photos more than 23 years ago.

Back then, fog hung thickly in the air, and when the sun broke over the horizon it cut through that fog and cast a beautiful orange glow. On a road that was once only two lanes but is now four, this is what I shot*:

I returned to the Fallowfield United Church. It stood, unchanged, still cast in the same glow of the yellow street lamp. Though I was now there a couple of hours earlier than in 1989, the lighting was somewhat similar.

Back in 1989, the silos near Valleyview Farms gave me an eery chill, and when I shot them that morning, the gathering fog completed the chilling effect. But on this morning, the silos shone, almost as though they were new. The hairs on the back of my neck didn't stand on end, as they had when I had taken those pictures 23 years ago. On this warm July morning, all I felt was the solitude, broken only ever so often by passing traffic—something that didn't happen back then.

I really enjoyed my early-morning photo shoot. As time allows this summer, I hope to take advantage of any opportunity to do more.

* I had planned to show more photos from that '89 shoot, but my scanner no longer wants to scan slides. I found this in an archive of slides I had scanned a few years ago. I'll try to show other slides when I can solve my scanner problems.

Friday, July 1, 2011

We Got Lucky

For those of you on Twitter, who wished me and my family luck in going downtown to see Will and Kate: thank you!

We got lucky.

We took forever getting out of the house this morning. Leisurely breakfast, getting dressed and packing up, walking to the transitway, and taking the bus downtown. By the time we arrived, it was a quarter to eleven: one hour before the royals were scheduled to ride along Rideau Street in a Landau. We were pooched, I told Lori. But we all agreed that we would make our way up to the War Memorial and at least take in the crowds.

As predicted, the crowd that pressed up along the barriers were about 20 or so deep. Police kept a pathway behind the throngs where people could still move, but not stop. The crowd continued around the property of the memorial grounds. But much to our surprise, a lamppost that was easily scalable was vacant. No one was even standing around the base.

We took our chances. We hoisted up the kids and then I followed. We could see the road clearly over the heads of those pressed against the barriers.


I had no problem capturing Will and Kate as they rode by. So thanks for wishing us luck! It really paid off.

More photos are available on my Picasa Web album, including photos of the evening's fireworks, where Kate and William made a surprise appearance. I guess they wanted to see Sam Roberts and Great Big Sea, among other performances.

O Canada

It's Canada Day, and so far all I've done is shot a picture of my chest for you.

We're going to head downtown, amid the throngs of people eager to see Will and Kate. Wish us luck.

I'll post more later.