Friday, 31 August 2012

Lover of Lists

As those close to me know, I have become obsessive about list making.  Originally, I thought that creating lists to remind me of chores, tasks and events that I needed to take care of in the coming week would be a good idea.  I use the current list as a bookmark in whatever book I am in the middle of, this way I rarely go a day without actually seeing the list.  Looking at the list provides me with a reminder that I am either: a) having a productive week, getting shit done, etc. or b) being lazy and unproductive and it is high time I get my butt in gear.  The lists have now evolved to include a number of different sections and are almost becoming an art form to themselves.  It's actually quite fun for me to think of all the things to put on the list, be it things that need doing urgently, tasks I have thought of occasionally but never got around to, or even fun things I want to do with the kids but might not think about again until the chance and time has passed me by.  If my list making has got me out on more bike rides with Jasmine, or resulted in extra trips to parks, the library or the pool, then I would have to consider the endeavour to be meaningful.  I know that I am a chronic procrastinator, so it feels good to see a list of tasks in black and white and be able to tick off a number of the items as completed come the end of the week.  I recommend this technique to all other procrastinators out there.  In honour of my admitting to said obsession I thought I would have some fun with lists.  At first I thought I would make top 10 lists, but I won't restrict myself in such a way.  Some lists with have more then 10, some will have less.  I will order them from best to worst at times, other times there will be no such ranking.  Enjoy.

Favourite Athletes (Current)

1. Taylor Hall
2. Andrew McCutchen
3. Jordan Eberle
4. Jose Bautista
5. Lionel Messi
6. Milos Raonic
7. Kevin Durant

Favourite Nutritional Products

1. BCAAs
2. Clif Bars
3. Whey Protein Powder
4. Green Tea Capsules
5. Glucosamine Sulfate

Favourite TV Shows

1. Louie
2. The Cleveland Show
3. Storage Wars
4. Modern Family
5. The Big Bang Theory
6. Mike and Molly
7. The Office
8. Parks and Recreation
9. Breaking Bad

Favourite Actors

1. Paul Giamatti
2. Christian Bale
3. Tom Hardy
4. Jesse Eisenberg
5. Philip Seymour Hoffman
6. Robert DeNiro
7. John Goodman
8. Anthony Anderson
9. Liam Neeson
10.  Jeremy Renner

Favourite Directors

1. The Coen Brothers
2. Ben Affleck
3. Judd Apatow
4. Clint Eastwood
5. Quentin Tarantino
6. Tim Burton
7. Spike Lee

Favourite Rappers That You Might Not Know

Asher Roth
Bun B
Chiddy Bang
Chris Webby
The Cool Kids
Dizzee Rascal
Glasses Malone
Hilltop Hoods
Lupe Fiasco
Machine Gun Kelly
Mac Miller
Mike Jones
Paul Wall
Rizzle Kicks
Slum Village
Gorilla Zoe
Gucci Mane
Talib Kweli
Tinchy Stryder
Tinie Tempah
Wiz Khalifia
Young Jeezy

Favourite Comedians

1. Gabriel Iglesias
2. Louis CK
3. Aziz Azari
4. W. Kamau Bell
5. Vidur Kapur
6. Donald Glover
7. Lavell Crawford
8. Dave Chapelle

Favourite Sports To Play

1. Hockey
2. Soccer
3. Basketball
4. Tennis
5. Golf

Favourite Sports To Watch

1. Soccer
2. Hockey
3. Baseball
4. Basketball
5. MMA
6. Football
7. Tennis
8. Golf

Favourite Authors

1. Truman Capote
2. Jon Krakauer
3. John Steinbeck
4. Ralph Ellison
5. Ursula Hegi

Favourite Poker Games

1. No Limit Hold em
2. 5 Card Draw
3. Badugi
4. Omaha 8 or Better
5. Stud Hi
6. Razz
7. 2-7 Triple Draw

Favourite Exercise Activities

1. Lifting Weights
2. Biking
3. Running
4. Swimming
5. Walking

Favourite Folk Singers

1. Tegan and Sara
2. Jeff Bridges
3. Tom Russell
4. Jack Johnson

For now, 'tis all.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Thoughts on Pot

Lately, I have taken to posting semi-regularly comments on my local newspaper's website  The paper itself is neither here nor there in terms of quality, but their website provides one of the only existing forums where one can express themselves in regards to local issues.  Often, the commenting area becomes a "left vs right" debate and I am not one to shy away from such a practice.  Earlier today, while reading commentary on an article titled "Grow-op leads to house arrest", I came across an anti-marijuana diatribe that was rife with inaccuracies and fear-mongering.  Feeling compelled to reply I composed a lengthy response that I would like to cross post here.  To be fair I will post the article link complete with the comments I responded to from user: "h0nneybadgr".

I appreciate the time and effort you put into your post, although it feels that you copy and pasted it's contents from an essay you wrote years ago.  You provided us with 9 paragraphs and 1 source from 2002, so I will take this as an opinion piece and as such will respond in kind. 

Your first paragraph belongs in a stand up comedy routine, not in a debate about marijuana legalization.  Illegal organizations make their money in illegal ways, hence the reason they are called "illegal".  The production of marijuana is a very profitable endeavour for these groups for a number of reasons.  The profit margins are artificially high due to the illegality of the product.  Of course, illegal means fear in some of the public, which makes the product more difficult to obtain.  At the same time, penalties when caught are still reasonably low, so the risk is not high when weighed against the profitability.  With the new laws the Conservatives have established, there is little difference in jail time between a high volume producer and a small time user of marijuana, so it makes sense for the criminal organizations to find a place at the top of the food chain so to speak.  If marijuana use and production was legal, these organizations either wouldn't bother being involved or would be just one of many groups growing to distribute.  When legalized, the price of a product comes down, this is basic economics.  Demand will not increase, as there are very few people who would like use marijuana but don't due to it's legal status.  It would be nice for all users if they had access to the product in a safe friendly environment where they didn't have to interact with criminal organizations.  Take out the illegal aspect, and the marijuana industry is just that, an industry, and a very large one at that bringing in $4 billion dollars in revenue annually.  The price would likely be reduced if legalized, but take a minute to imagine the tax revenue that would be created. (Source:

Next, you delve in to the classic idea that all drug users steal to get their next "fix".  Those that simply use marijuana and not anything harder will likely not need to steal for their habit as the cost is relatively low.  A heavy marijuana user may spend $400 a month, the approximate cost of 2 ounces in today's market.  Notice, that this cost is similar to the amount spent by a pack a day cigarette smoker.  Why are we not accusing cigarette smokers of stealing for their "fix"?  Drinking, even casually can easily cost someone $100 a weekend or $400 in a month.  Again, are we to assume that they are also stealing for their "fix"?  Those who are stealing for their "fix" are likely dealing with much bigger issues then marijuana use, and to argue that their problems were brought on by marijuana is laughable. 

You seem to fear an increase in people being "high on the job" if marijuana were indeed legalized.  Explain to me why this concern would be any different if the legal status of the substance changed.  Legalizing marijuana use would not impact the current laws in place in regards to "driving under the influence".  There are numerous people in professional situations who use marijuana, and many others who chose to abstain while working and partake only in their own private time.  To that end, there has been little, if any scientific proof that marijuana use makes one a dangerous driver. (Source:

This just keeps getting better.  You really go for the gold medal with your paragraph about "marijuana induced psychosis".  No sources or references in sight, one can only assume you pulled this one out of a Ronald Regan era fear mongering ad, or you just made it up off the top of your head.  This line has to be considered the true gem of your entire diatribe: "The cost of policing (not the drug but the behavioural impacts), the cost of care, the loss in productivity, and the socio-dynamic impact on people’s lives and the lives of their family is astronomical."  You are claiming a link between criminal activity and marijuana use.  Has their been instances where criminal acts occurred solely because the perpetrator was high on marijuana?  In a state of "marijuana induced psychosis" I suppose this is possible.  What to make of the studies that show marijuana having positive effects on brain function among schizophrenia?  One study even found that "Patients with a history of cannabis use were found to have superior neuropsychological functioning." (Source:
At this point I will rest my case.  I am not out to sway the opinion of people like yourself as I doubt I would have any success.  I find it insulting when numerous inaccuracies are put out in the public domain with so few sources to back them up.  Your opinion is just that, your opinion.  I appreciate that you were able to brace yourself for "hateful messages from those who either failed to read the whole thing, or are completely indoctrinated and unable to see both sides of the argument."  I hope I didn't come across as hateful as that was not my intention.  It was your piece and a few others that inspired me to respond.  The characterization of all marijuana users as lazy, uninspired, underemployed members of society left me annoyed and inspired to counter your arguments.  If you would like further assistance in getting over your stereotypical beliefs on marijuana users I can introduce you to numerous people who are at the same time professional, hard-working, well educated, friendly, and supportive of friends and family both financially and emotionally.  You may think you don't know anyone who fits the above description, but there are likely people in your life that are exactly that: functioning, contributing members of society who's life doesn't come to a grinding halt just because they use marijuana for one of many different reasons.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Christopher Nolan restores my faith.

As I have chronicled previously in the space, I have the opportunity to view a considerable number of movies.  At work, I attend at least a few showings each month at the local theatre, and at home Sheila and I often enjoy a good movie.  Lately, I have cut back somewhat on my movie intake.  At work, our choice of activities leans towards the outdoors as we are smack in the middle of Prince George's extremely short summer season.  At home, my media player device is acting up again so our use has been curbed considerably.  This is not to say I am not seeing any of the new releases, I just have been leaving the theatre on a number of occasions with a sour taste in my mouth.  While I claim that my movie viewing has been curtailed, it seems that a quick peek at the current top 50 box office earners for the past week shows that I have seen exactly 9 of the top 50.  Wow.  For someone who has been "cutting back", that is a little excessive.  8 of the 9 were working trips, and there has been a few trips where I was just simply not in the mood for a long sit in a stuffy theatre.  I know what you are thinking, if that is my idea of a work-related complaint, perhaps I best clam up now.  I was inspired to make this post after last night's trip to the theatre to watch "The Dark Knight Rises" which quickly found it's way to number 1 on my list of movies of 2012.  A quick ranking of the 9 movies I have seen that currently find themselves in the top 50.

9) The Watch - Comedy at it's worst.  Slap a few funny actors together, build expectations, then watch people laugh at the "jokes" because they have been convinced everything involved should be funny.  I described The Watch as "shitty toilet humour" and it is just that.  Tasteless jokes done poorly.  One more notch on Vince Vaughn's belt as he tumbles off the face of the comedic planet.

8) Dark Shadows - I generally like the Johnny Depp and Tim Burton combination.  I knew going in to see this one that it was going to be a bit different from their usual fare.  A soap opera style movie about vampires.  I had no knowledge of the tv series that this movie was based on so I came at it from a completely fresh point of view.  The movie had it's high points, but as I recall the last 20 minutes were a completely convuluted mess that was difficult to get emotionally invested in.  The odd joke sprinkled throughout most of the movie kept it light and kept me tied in.  Tim Burton decided to do away with the jokes at the end and managed to produce a mess that may just be his worst effort yet.

7) The Three Stooges - We went to this movie on a slow week.  We had seen a few of the other movies playing already and unfortunately we sat down to see this.  Numerous times during the movie I was asking myself  "What the hell am I doing here?"  The Farrelly brothers bit off a little more then they could chew with this one, I really can't see any conceivable way that this could have been funny.  Perhaps going ahead and making this a kids movie would have been better, but at the same time, how many kids would have interest?  Just bad, really, really, bad.

6) Marvel's The Avengers - Admittedly, when viewing this blockbuster I was quite distracted and entirely not in the mood to be sitting in the theatre.  Knowing I would be sitting through 2 and a half hours of movie made me even more surly.  As it turns out, I just didn't like this film.  I am not a huge fan of the super hero flicks, but I quite liked both "Iron Man" and "Thor".  As it turns out, this was just a longer, explosion filled action film with no proper resolution.  The movie was filled with endless noise.  Loud explosions, constant gunfire, "The Hulk" getting angry, it was just entirely too long.  I believe the point could have been made in a much shorter time frame.  Sorry to the 96% of breathing humans that liked the movie, I can't agree with you. (source: Rotten Tomatoes)

5) Snow White and the Huntsman - High point: Chris Hemsworth.  He is getting roles with his muscles and looks, but I'll be damned, the man can act; see: Thor and now this movie.  Low Point: Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart.  Generally, I think Charlize Theron is a solid actress, but she really didn't fit this role as an "evil queen" and her acting was clunky and uninspired.  Kristen Stewart on the other hand, would struggle to act her way out of a paper bag.  I understand the idea of piggy-backing on her Twilight success, and hopefully for the film makers they added a few extra million to the box office numbers with her appearance.  She just added so little to a movie that had plenty of potential, most of which was left unfilled.

4) Ted - This was a solid, dependable comedy that had me laughing plenty of times.  Seth McFarlane stayed close to home with predictable humourous style, but who can blame him?  It works, and it works well.  The pairing of Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis was great, and while the "Ted" character did start to get tiresome towards the end, the small twists in the climatic ending were well done and exciting.  This is the type of movie you can enjoy a second time.

3) The Hunger Games - A blockbuster of a movie, it was difficult to comprehend the amount of hype that this movie generated.  While I didn't know a thing about the book series, it was funny to hear commentary from other people in regards to the flick.  In the end, it most definitely delivered.  Jennifer Lawrence was called "the most talented young actress in America" by Rolling Stone, and I would have to agree.  Her work in Winter's Bone was incredible, and while The Hunger Games is much more commercialized and overproduced, her talent still has plenty of room to shine.  With excellent supporting work provided by Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks, I went away more then pleased after watching The Hunger Games.

2) Madagascar 3 - Jasmine and I went to the theatre to enjoy this one, and enjoy it we did.  We were there with a friend of mine and his daughter, and it almost seemed the adults laughed harder throughout then the kids did.  I love going to this movies because I enjoy watching Jasmine have a good time, and I will be honest, some of my favorite comedic movies of the last couple of years have been cartoons. 

1) The Dark Knight Rises - This movie possesses the single most important quality I look for when watching a film; the ability to grab my attention completely and hold it throughout.  Clocking in at just under 3 hours running time, The Dark Knight Rises does not feel overly long and it really isn't.  Gripping action coupled with very good acting makes for a winning formula.  The explosions were well done, and not overkilled.  The intense scenes involving the Hell prison were awe-inspiring.  Bruce Wayne's eventual escape was one of my favourite scenes of the movie, as the movie took on a cliff-hanger feel.  The constant twists, most notably Miranda Tate's last minute turn had me surprised, and added a great dimension to the climax of the movie. 

Christian Bale is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors to watch.  He gives the impression that the role of Batman was made for him, a quality that is most important when attempting to enjoy a film.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a very intellegent actor who endeared himself to me with his role in 50/50 last year which I counted as one of my favorite films of the year.  While it most certainly is a no brainer to get involved in the Batman series, I credit Gordon-Levitt with being a excellent "role selector", someone who knows who he is as an actor and puts himself in position to succeed.  I liked the little tease at the end of the film that just may lead into yet another Batman movie, when it was revealed that his character's real first name is Robin.  Quite possibly the best performance turned in was that of Tom Hardy who played the sinister villain Bane.  While most North American movie goers would be unfamiliar with Hardy, I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform in "Bronson" a 2008 film about a serial killer of the same name.  Tom Hardy convincing plays a psychopathic man who is blood thirsty and ruthless, if the character Bane didn't do enough to convince you of Tom Hardy's immense talents, give "Bronson" a try. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Poker Problems

Ah, the curse of all poker players is the same, variance.  No matter how well you play, how well you prepare yourself, how well you focus on any given day, there simply are a number of things that are out of your control.  Maybe that opponent who almost always pays off the big bet makes his annual tough laydown against your flopped set.  Maybe your top hands keep coming when no one else has anything worth 2 cents.  Perhaps you aren't playing on the right nights, if you are playing against 9 nits who won't raise preflop with AK or pocket 9s, chances are your profits will be significantly reduced.

It just so happens that August once again has come around, and I am feeling a little pressure to earn some money.  Last summer Ian and I decided to jump back into playing organized hockey and we both had to tackle the expenses that went along with it.  The only way I can conveniently make additional income is at the poker table.  Despite the game at the local casino being very weak in the summer months, I was able to book a few solid wins and cover the cost of the registration fees and equipment I needed in order to play.  This August, I am again in need of some profits, as I am looking to play hockey once again.  I am also signed up to take a work-related course at the college, and I just signed Jasmine up for a series of horse riding lessons that have been long promised.  On top of my regular month to month expenses, these things are adding up. 

I am meticulous when it comes to budgeting, detailing all my income and expense items on a spreadsheet months in advance.  The problem with such careful planning is that poker as an income is nothing short of wildly unpredictable.  Occasionally, the budget can go from balanced to a significant deficit in just a few sessions.  My results this year have been solid, but it only takes one or two bad outings for my confidence to drop.  I am playing against many of the same opponents, but variance can really take it's toll.  I need to remind myself that I am in this for the long run, and not to put added pressure on winning right now, this moment.  Bad luck crops up whenever, there is absolutely nothing to be done.  I'm planning on stepping back from the game a bit, doing a bit of studying and relaxing instead of beating my head against the wall.  The game is simply not very good in the summer months when the opponents are generally all regulars, mostly tight with their money and luck is much more important then it usually is.  In the meantime, I'll focus on keeping myself and my family happy, and letting the expenses sort themselves out.  I win at poker, I don't doubt that, but in the heat of the moment I am full of second guessing.  A quick look back over my results spreadsheet should be all the reassuring I need to drop the doubt and refocus for the next session.  Work isn't always fun, but it sure is a lot easier when it is. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

This feeling I am feeling, is good.

With our family vacation now in the rear view, I felt it was time to get back at it.  Back to exercising that is.  Other then an excessive amount of walking, and the consumption of numerous healthy smoothies of my brother-in-law's creation, my health plan went right out the window in Montreal.  I thought a nice break would help me regain some motivation that can wane at times.  We touched back down in Prince George on Thursday evening and after taking the night to relax and recover with the family, I literally hit the ground running on Friday.  Friday before work a ran my usual 3 km circuit and that was enough for my first day back.  I made it my goal for the week to get all of my weight lifting in, 5 workouts in total.  I also was looking to get to abs a few times, and to fit in as much cardio as I could convince myself to do.  The first few days back went rather slowly, I lifted weights a few times and got some yardwork done while watching the kids.  I was content with the start.

On Wednesday I drove Jasmine, Asher and my neice Taylor down to Quesnel, dropping Taylor off at her dad's after a nice visit.  I had a nice visit with my parents, though we were preoccupied with a health concern my older sister is dealing with.  She had a seizure Wednesday morning while we were about to come down, and my mom had to escort her to the hospital.  By the time we arrived at their house, Paulette was on her way home.  She seemed alright, she was seemingly quite tired and had a sore back likely from the convulsing involved in the seizure she had.  Seizures are not something that Paulette normally has so we were all concerned and were attempting to decipher the reasons behind the event.  As Paulette was relaxing in bed an hour or so later she had another seizure and all the talk of the first seizure being an isolated event ceased.  Mom called the doctor, and he asked her to bring Paulette back for observation.  Paulette was very lethargic and non-responsive after her second seizure, and she needed significant assistance in walking to the car and getting in.  Mom and Paulette returned to the hospital, and I made my way back to Prince George at the same time.  While obviously concerned for my sister's health, I did not bring up the small elephant in the room.  Would my parents be okay with Asher and Jasmine staying for the planned visit despite their worries about Paulette?  Knowing how much Sheila was looking forward to the break I didn't want to be the one to bring it up.  It seemed at the time that Paulette's stay at the hospital would be for one night, then she would return home.  I told Mom as I left to call us if the kids proved to be "too much".  We knew that Jasmine would be very well behaved, but we weren't so sure about Asher.  He's active.

It's now Sunday.  I haven't seen Asher or Jasmine since Wednesday and from all reports everyone is doing fine.  Sheila left yesterday morning to go to her cousin's wedding, also in Quesnel.  She is recovering this morning from her fun, and visiting for the day.  The hope is that Paulette will be released from the hospital later today after responding well to the new medication she has been prescribed.  My mom has spent the majority of her time since Wednesday at the hospital with Paulette, and the kids have spent most of their visit with Grandpa, going for a few visits to see Auntie.  I am glad that my dad survived his time with his grandchildren, but I wish the circumstances were different.  Hopefully Paulette is released from the hospital today so that she can come up to Prince George with Sheila and the kids when they come back tomorrow.  Paulette is set to stay with us for 3 weeks while mom and dad are on holidays.  Of course all of these plans have been thrown up in the air by Paulette's health concerns, but with a little good fortune Paulette will be settling in to her room at our house on Monday and we will be seeing mom and dad off on their flight Tuesday morning. 

Now after reading the above you might be confused.  My title and opening paragraph allude to a great week that I had, but then I proceeded to delve into some bad news.  Now, I am very concerned for my sister.  Hopefully, we can provide her an opportunity to rest and relax at our house.  When she is feeling up to it, she will have some fun with Jasmine and Asher, as I don't plan on sitting around the house on my days off.  It's been a long time since we have had the chance to spend considerable time with Paulette, and I am excited about it.  The challenge of helping her out over her 3 week stay is not daunting, but thrilling.  I am hoping Paulette will enjoy her stay, and maybe we can make her visiting a regular thing.  The anticipation of her coming visit is part of why I am feeling so darn good.  The rest, well the rest is of my own doing.

While the kids were out of town Sheila and I had a little more time to ourselves then we normally do.  Sheila had been excitedly talking about a local production of "The Producers" for weeks, oddly enough considering neither of us had been to a play since we met 7 years ago.  Personally, I hadn't seen a play since the school mandated attendance of the annual high school musical every year at Correlieu.  Not only did I readily agree to going, I decided to contribute to the date night as well, by offering dinner before hand.  Since "Dana Mandi" opened 2 years ago we have had numerous discussions about trying it out.  We have had a small number of indian meals over the years and I love the cuisine.  Sheila is a little less excited about the food, but was happy to have me for a dinner and a play.  Dinner was great, chicken vindaloo, lamb curry and an eggplant dish with garlic naan bread.  We were both stuffed and I had two lunches to take home.  As it turned out, "The Producers" was great too.  I didn't know the story, and other then being told it was a comedy I had no information to go on whatsoever.  While it started to drag at the end of hour 3, the production was special when considering everyone involved was local talent.  I laughed a number of times, and was blown away at time by the acting and directing talent on display.  Gil Botelho played the lead role of "Max Bialystock" and as it turns out, he is a veteran of local plays.  His talents alone may have me back in a playhouse sooner then never.  I was very glad that Sheila and I had a nice night out while the kids were away. 

As I had set some lofty expectations for myself this week in terms of exercise, I knew it would take a considerable effort to reach my goals.  It feels really good to sit here and proudly type of my success.  In the first 9 days since returning from holiday I lifted weights 6 times, completing a total of 5 routines.  I did shoulder and bicep day, deadlift and hamstring day, chest and tricep day, back and trap day, finishing up yesterday morning with quad and calf day, while mixing in 3 ab workouts as well.  Right after my leg workout yesterday morning I proceeded to lace up my shoes, slap on my ipod and go out jogging.  My jogs all start the same, the first 700 meters or so I go in the same direction, then I have an intersection where I have to decide what kind of a jog it is going to be.  Do I go straight ahead, opting for the longer 5 km loop on relatively flat pavement?  Do I turn right, easing my way through the light 3 km jog?  Or do I turn left, heading straight up St. Lawrence, a considerable hill in both length and grade.  When I choose to jog the hill, I then have to rely on will-power to go as high up the hill as I can.  I have found that after a leg workout I actually have more energy for running.  My muscles are looser, I am less likely to get shin-splints, and I am more motivated to continue putting in work.  As I crested the very top of the hill, I congratulated myself in my head, knowing that my jog was a solid accomplishment.  Even those that are physically fit enough to tackle my running route would have to battle their own mind to get to the very top.  I could stop half way and still be content with myself, but that pinnacle is the goal and always should be.  I plan on being there more times throughout the rest of the summer.  The previous 8 days I managed to run the 3 km loop, the 5 km loop, bike the 3 km loop, and make one bike trip up most of the St. Lawrence hill.  It feels good to have accomplished so much this week, and my fitness level has never been better.  Getting fit and having fun, Hal Johnson and Jo-Anne McLeod would be proud.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Montreal Highlights: The First in a Series of Posts

Well, the first long flight and cross country holiday trip for the whole family is in the books.  All in all, a great success.  Sheila and I felt like we were melting in the humid air of Montreal the entire time we were there, and sleep was short as it always is with Asher, but we enjoyed ourselves.  There were many highlights to the trip, lots of fun was had.  I thought that instead of making convoluted mess of a post I would instead make a series of posts with highlights of our trip.  May I present the first on the series.

After having driven by Mont Royal a few times during our first few days in the city, I was already struck by the beauty of the large park area nestled right in the middle of a bustling metropolis city.  More a hill then a mountain, the park is of considerable size, covering both the area of the hill and a large parcel of land at the foot of the bump.  Home to a large array of recreation choices, there are soccer pitches, multiple playground areas, numerous picnic spots and plenty of green grass to hang out on.  Adam and Erin, my sister and brother-in-law, our gracious hosts proceeded to tell us about the weekly gathering that the Mont Royal Park hosted every Sunday in the park.  In a impromptu fashion a large number of people gather at the foot of the hill and bring along all sorts of different types of drums.  They proceed to jam together for hours while others sit out on blankets and lawnchairs to enjoy the music.  It sounded intriguing, and I was interested in checking it out, I also thought the kids might enjoy it.

Sunday came, and after we had tired ourselves out during the day, we decided to go and check out the park at about 5 o'clock Sunday.  We parked, walked a mile and as we approached the location of the drumming circle the sights and sounds began to wash over us.  Speaking for myself, it was all a little overwhelming. One of the most heartwarming things I noticed about Montrealers was the general zest for life that seemed to be on prominent display wherever we went.  The Sunday gathering of drummers at Mont Royal was a dramatic display of this generalization, and I think that was why it was so wonderfully appealing.  We set up our blanket in the nearest spot, then Erin, Adam and I went over to check out the music.  Sheila and the kids were exhausted from the long day and walk to get there, opting to sit and rest for a bit.  Adam and I enjoyed a smoke as the three of us let the whole scene wash over us.  The music itself was nothing spectacular, mostly bongo drums, with some creative percussion intruments added in.  It was more the visual scene that got to me.  The 75 or so drummers came from every walk of life.  There were a number of young guys involved, black, white and hispanic.  There was a handful of women drumming, though a majority of the women were dancing instead.  There were a few middle-aged white dudes who appeared to be having a blast escaping their day to day routines.  The rhythms seemed to increase in speed, as all the drummers appeared to get a kick out of forcing their fellow drummers to go faster and faster.  The dancers were run ragged as they attempted to keep up.  Eventually, as Erin had noted they would, the drums slowed and for a brief moment there was silence.  Everyone drumming got a sip of water, or took a minute to catch their breath.  Then it would be someone else's turn to start the next "song", and off they would go.

We returned to the blanket and I grabbed Asher to come back over with me.  Jasmine was tired and cranky, very focussed on getting an ice cream to cool down with.  Sheila wanted to continue relaxing so Erin and I went back to watching, with Asher along in my arms.  Now, I may or may not have discussed Asher's affection for music in this space previously, but it must not be understated.  His love is developed to the point where I can put on almost any kind of music be it rap, rock, metal, reggae, dance, electronica and it will send him into a frenzy of head nodding, spinning and foot stomping.  He has an interesting and dangerous style that elicits a smile from most that get to witness it.  So we get back to the drumming circle and Asher is already jamming, head bobbing rapidly, smile widening across his face.  We are standing above the circle, a brick wall where a number of the drummers are sitting is just in front of us.  After a few minutes we move closer, down a set of stairs, so that we are standing directly behind a row of drummers.  Asher can see all the people dancing, and he begins to squirm to get out of my arms.  A large part of me thought it would be awesome to see my little guy dancing away, and I knew that he would be a huge hit with those drumming and dancing.  Dad played it safe and found him a square of grass on the other side of the stairs, actually Asher spotted it, and trotted over to the grass.  He proceeded to break into his usual routine, spinning, head nodding, waving his arms and shouting.  He drew the attention of a few people who were watching the drummers, and as usually he soaked it right up.

The whole scene was awe-inspiring, and was my favourite thing we did while we were vacationing in Montreal.  Seeing so many different walks of life come together for such simple fun.  No admission fees, no exclusionary rules, and best of all no need for police enforcement.  Cheers to you, the drum loving people of Montreal!