Monday, 25 November 2013

Chapter 1: An Untitled Project

     A slow drizzle fell from the grey, dreary sky as it does on many mornings here in my hometown.  I step off the stoop of my apartment building, buttoning my jacket as I normally would.  There is little alteration in the weather pattern particularly in the fall months as the temperature remains steady throughout day.  Precipitation is either falling, about to fall or has just fallen in this city and one tries their best to get used to it.  I begin my commute to work by briskly walking two blocks to the nearest bus stop where a tired old bench sits awaiting my arrival.  A cigarette is placed between my lips and I cup my hand around it, attempting to ease the process of lighting it.  On the third attempt the lighter flares up and ignition occurs.  Breathing deeply the tobacco smoke enters my lungs, a habit I have had for many years despite all of its negative connotations.  One takes a certain comfort in the routine happenings of a typical morning and I am no different.  From the hot shower, to the cup of coffee, to the hurried bowl of cereal I consume knowing that nothing is out of the ordinary provides a reassurance that the day ahead of me is navigable.  The bench is certainly looking tired when I arrive, but the presence of a young lady who's looks appeal to me provides a life to the bus stop that it doesn't usually have.  I slow to a stop a few feet from the bench and stamp out my cigarette under the heel of my worn dress shoes.  A nervous smile is flashed at the woman sitting on the bench but no smile is returned.  She is well protected by her oversized sunglasses, which are completely unnecessary on such a grey gloomy day.

     No longer do people have to punch the clock when they begin their work day.  The act of physically punching the clock is not such a long ago action, I was indeed punching a time card at one of first jobs, in my teenage years at a large grocery mart.  The tromping through the foyer to the elevator for the ride up to the office feels like the beginning of a temporary sentence, a feeling I always get when my card entered the machine at the grocer.  No crime has been committed, but the dreary feeling in the pit of my stomach makes me feel much like a remorseful criminal.  A few others slide through the elevator doors, and I nod to a couple in recognition.  It seems that my fellow elevator riders are as aware as I am what awaits them.  These people don't work for the company that I do, but it appears that their day holds slim prospects for excitement, just as mine does.  I exit the elevator on my floor and say and quick hello to the receptionist.  I consider enquiring about messages but the day has just begun and I am a low level employee who rarely recieves phone calls at any hour, let alone prior to the start of my work day.  I shuffle to the back of the main work area and find my square footage.  Three half walls separate my space from the other work stations.  Everything is where I left it the day before, and the lack of personal effects present make the area cold and uninviting.  After three years of employment at the same company you would think I would have done something to personalize my area.  That simply isn't in me.

     Slipping back outside the weather hasn't changed.  This city is known for his monotonous weather conditions that provide a type of time stopping sensation.  One requires a watch when living here because the grey cloud cover makes morning blend into midday then on into the afternoon.  An hour can pass or five and you wouldn't know it without an accurate device to measure time passing.  Hence the watch.  Planning to make the most of the interruption of my work day that I am granted daily I walk briskly away from the building.  An idea of where my walk will take me is always present, but I attempt to trick myself into thinking I don't know where I am going.  A creature of habit, a routine embracer like myself often thinks of being spontaneous prior to the decisive moment where once again the usual is chosen and relaxation occurs.  Changes brings on unknown factors and this causes uncertainty which sets the mind racing through all of the possible outcomes.  Which outcomes are considered first by a routine embracing mind?  Why, the most negative of course.  Excuses are quickly developed to denounce any positive outcomes and eventually the thought of breaking routine is discarded.  I pull back on the aged door and enter the shop.  A small bell clinks against the top of the beaten metal door signalling to the propietor that a customer has entered.  In my case the word customer may not be appropriate as he recognizes me and knows full well that I am a browser more than a buyer. 

     The familiar fusty smell embraced me as I stepped inside as the stacks of worn books closed in on me from all sides.  As much as I enjoy finding and reading a great book, the appeal of this used book store to me is its utter lack of organization that causes it to ooze character in a blatant manner.  The propietor not only embraces the chaos within the walls of his shop, many of the teetering stacks appear to have been engineered by him and his employees to add to the decor.  When I first discovered this oasis not long after I began working nearby, I gained an affinity for the shop due to an exchange I had with a woman who works within.  As she stared up at a shelf which exceeded ten feet in height she held a small paperback book in one hand.  To her left was a large haphazard stack of books that appeared to have been there for a considerable amount of time.  Other stacks surrounded her making it appear as if she had built up a defensive barracade of sorts around her.  Continuing to scan the shelf with her eyes it dawned on me that she was indeed attempting to shelve the book.  The stacks of books built up around her were where the were supposed to be, but this one book was destined for the shelf.  How was that determined?  It amused me even more to watch her as she retreated to the front desk area and retrieved a few more books.  She wandered about the store shelving them as well.  Organized but messy.  Watching the proprietor work was also fascinating.  He answered the phone, or spoke to customers in the flesh and anytime they mentioned a author or work they were looking for, he knew it's location.  Not always precisely, but there were general areas of the shop designated to a variety of topics you would typically find in a bookstore.  A love affair began that has lasted nearly three years with no termination looming.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Hockey Burnout: **** the Oilers!

The weather has been turning on us lately here in the northern part of the northern country of Canada.  The start of winter in Prince George is usually designated by a first snowfall, or more specifically the first snowfall that stays grounded.  If it snows, like it did late last week, then melts within a few days, is it really "winter"?  I digress.  Hockey in Canada, does not wait for winter.  This year, I was even part of a team through the summer though I struggled to make it to games.  The real season has been underway for a couple of months now, and just the last few games have been played with the feel of winter surrounding them.  The professionals also have been playing for a couple of months.  As the years go by, the coverage of the preseason has increased, couple this with the ability to now see nearly every game played by every team in the league and I have already begun to feel what I have termed "hockey burnout".  Allow me to elaborate.

I support the Edmonton Oilers.  Let's get that out of the way right now.  I have been cheering for the team since 1995, when my former favorite team, the Quebec Nordiques packed up and moved to Denver.  I was 12 years old at the time and I had a thing with cheering for underdogs (this hasn't changed).  I also felt that I should be cheering for a Canadian team, as a Canadian boy.  I never considered the Vancouver Canucks despite spending my entire life in the province where they play.  My aforementioned affinity for losers also would have discounted the Canucks at the time, as they were but 1 year removed from a heartbreaking finals loss to the New York Rangers.  What was so appealing about the Edmonton Oilers at the time? 

Aside from the fact that Edmonton is only 14 kilometers further away than Vancouver, the Oilers had another endearing quality at the time.  You guessed it, they were a bunch of losers.  A sad sack bunch that had little or no hope of winning a playoff spot, let alone a championship.  At that age, I was unaware of coaching or management ineptitude, and with basic cable, I only saw Oilers games when they happened to be on Hockey Night in Canada.  Perhaps it was a case of yearning makes the heart grow fonder, but I would endure losing seasons with pleasure, knowing that like most things in life, hockey is cyclical.  You lose for years, then you win for years.  It's not that any team is entitled to winning seasons, but for nearly any sports team, this is how it works.  In your lean years you stockpile talent and assets for the future until these assets mature and a quality product results.  I would liken it to a roller coaster, except the Edmonton Oiler version of the ride has been quite devoid of ups lately, and so full of downs that the ride is struggling to keep going. 

I missed the golden years of Oilers Stanley Cups, choosing to join up when they were faltering with low revenues and ownership that had little to spend.  The late 90s produced a few memorable moments, i'll never forget Curtis Joseph and "the save" or Todd Marchant and the subsequent goal that led to Edmonton knocking off Dallas in a huge upset.  The season following, Edmonton knocked off heavily favoured Colorado before losing to Dallas in the next round.  As it turns out, Dallas got their revenge not just the year after losing to Edmonton, but again the next year, and the next, and the next.  Dallas eliminated Edmonton 5 times in 6 years, only taking a break because the Oilers didn't qualify in 2002.  Despite the lack of playoff success, these were good years as a fan.  The team battled every night, overcoming a talent void with hard work and aggressive play.  Led by one of the most unassuming stars of the era, Doug Weight and an overworked goalie in the aforementioned Joseph, the team got timely contributions from guys like Mariusz Czerkawski, Mike Grier and Boris Mironov.  After the repeated early exits, a narrow miss followed and it felt like a few lean years were ahead.  Edmonton lacked blue chip prospects, as they have been historically terrible at draft and finding talent.  The lockout of 2005 came and went before the season of 2006 provided some of the most surprising hockey in Oiler history.

The spring of 2006 I was working at Irly Bird selling building supplies and going on the occasional delivery.  I had to rise early to work at 7 am, and Sheila and I were working our tails off to get ahead, or at least stay afloat.  At some point during our struggles we decided to go ahead and shut off the cable.  We still had internet and downloading, and Jasmine who was all of 3 at the time had a pretty extensive VHS collection.  Then, it happened.  Not only did Edmonton squeak their way into the playoffs, they started to win playoff games.  I started itching to see the games, but I worked until 530, not home until closer to 6 and with quite a few starts at 4 pm, I was missing out.  Eventually I got cable back in time for the 3rd round, but without a PVR in those days, I still missed plenty of the action.  It was a glorious run full of overachieving and some of the most determined efforts I will witness in my time.  Chris Pronger was an absolute beast, leading the team with 21 playoff points.  Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth provided secondary scoring.  An unheralded 3rd liner by the name of Fernando Pisani led the entire playoff scoring race with 14.  Truthfully, much of the credit goes to the goalie who they picked up at the trade deadline, Dwayne Roloson.  Of course, heartbreakingly, Roloson would get hurt in the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, leading to the Oilers falling in the 7th and deciding game with a backup between the pipes, Ty Conklin.  Knowing the amount of overachieving that took place during the run, I knew it would be tough to repeat that kind of success.  The team was the 8th seed, they qualified for the playoffs on the last weekend of the season.  During the summer Chris Pronger and his immense talent demanded a trade, and the shine diminished.  Little could anyone have known at the time, but 7 years later the Oilers would still be waiting for their return to the postseason.

Now I say that we as Oiler fans are still waiting, but there is little suspense at this time.  It is a given that the Edmonton hockey club will not be playing in the playoffs in 2014 either.  With only 19 of 82 games having been played so far, it is pretty sad that I can make that statement. The last handful of seasons have begun with me bursting with optimism.  A few years in a row I was foolish enough to make and lose bets to friends based on the teams performance.  This year, I didn't bother with any of that.  I made no heady claims that this team was destined for greatness, or even for that matter, mediocrity.  That hardly makes their shitty play any more palatable.  I have, for the third season running signed up for the Centre Ice package which gives you access to almost every single game played all season.  I have witnessed first hand almost every Oiler game since the start of the 2011-2012 season.  I have access to a number of different news and discussion websites where I can talk and think Oilers without stopping.  Well, with the team sitting at 4 wins, 13 losses and 2 more overtime losses, I think I am ready to stop.  It hurts to think about how bad they are.  It hurts to watch, and due to my loyalty and my access to every broadcast, I still flick the television on when a game is scheduled.  It really has sucked a lot of joy out of the game for me.  Will I still watch?  I want to stop, but the car crash has always been exciting viewing.  Perhaps Wednesday night when they play next I will try it out.  I just won't bother turning on the game.  If the players don't give a damn, why should I?

Monday, 4 November 2013

Turning Thirty Worked Out / alt. title: (A Trip With Pops)

I'm official.  I have gained entry, through no fault of my own into what I termed the "original old guys club".  That is, I have hit the first milestone in life where normal people start to joke about your age.  I say normal so as to exclude certain abnormalities that include kids who often point to anybody older than them as nearly dead.  I'm alive, and the celebrations surrounding my turning thirty have died down from their feverish peak.  This morning, I am most certainly feeling old after driving myself pretty hard all week in the exercise department.  You see, I was determined to do so after indulging quite a bit on my birthday weekend. 

Being the naive person that I am, I had been totally taken aback by a nice little surprise party that Sheila had organized for me on the weekend before the big day.  Buoyed by the fact that it was a week early, the party was meticulously planned by Sheila to not allow for any clues that would tip me off.  Sheila asked my manager at work if he could allow me a day off on the Sunday of the weekend, and she also arranged with my co-worker to switch with me so I would off Saturday evening.  There was copious amounts of food, and I was arriving home with Ian just as that night's UFC card was starting.  The fights were great, the beer was cold and the company was quite nice.  After the fights and a rushed game of poker, a number of us went downtown to spend too much on ridiculous cover charges and inflated drink prices (channelling my newly acquired old guy status).  I would be lying if I told you I remembered the finer details of the night.  I am essentially a non-drinker at this point in my life, but I cut loose and go overboard on this occasion.  It seemed like as good a time as any.

The reason the hoedown in my honour had to be held a week early was because I was set to be quite busy on the weekend of my birthday.  A couple of months before the big day, while visiting at our place, my parents asked me if I would be interested in a sports getaway weekend to celebrate my big milestone.  It has been more than 4 years since my dad, our friend Kamil and I went to Los Angeles for 3 sporting events, and 3 years since I saw my first NHL game as an adult in Edmonton.  I made sure that my Dad knew how interested I was, and also that I would be more than happy with whatever you wanted to plan for the trip. 

After a non-start to our trip which involved waiting to board our delayed plan while sharing a holding area in the Prince George airport with more people than should be allowed in the small space, we were in a race against time to reach BC Place Stadium for Friday night's football game between the British Columbia Lions and the Edmonton Eskimos.  The timeline would have been tight without the hour long delay, as my Dad was scheduled to work the day and we couldn't fly out until the afternoon.  Each part of the flight seemed to take place in slow motion, from the overly thorough flight instructions, to the disembarkment from the plane upon landing.  We hurriedly walked through the expanse of YVR to Skytrain station, missing a departing train by seconds.  8 minutes later and we were seated for our trip into the downtown core.  By this time, the game had started, and I was able to check the score as we rode.  I let my Dad know that we could toss the bags at the hotel desk to save time, so after a brisk 2 block walk from the station to the hotel we dropped our bags with a friendly bellman and raced across the street to the stadium.  We had gotten lucky.  The game wasn't nearly as far along as we expected.  Two minutes into the second quarter, and the score was 12-1 for the villains. 

The game we were attending had unfortunately become irrelevant due to the positioning in the standings of both teams.  The game could have had a considerable dearth of intensity, but if it was there it was less than glaring.  B.C. had their backup quarterback playing due to injury, but the interesting part of their offense was the dual headed monster at running back.  Andrew Harris is the established starter, and Stefan Logan has recently returned to the team after a couple of years playing in the NFL.  With mixed emotions about missing the terrible start to the game, we proceeded to sit down to enjoy a barrage of offense that extraordinary even for the CFL.  In the 40 minutes of football that we witnessed, B.C. threw for 4 touchdowns and ran for 2 more.  Dad and I had plenty of chances to holler and cheer, walking away after the game with a happy glow.  Delays forgotten, we had thoroughly enjoyed our first CFL game in about 10 years (not sure when the Eskimos game was, but I was a much younger man at the time). 

We checked in to our room, taking a minute to relax before heading down Robson to find a bite to eat.  It was about 11 pm and the street was quite lively.  The last Friday before Halloween added some traffic to what is already a busy spot on the weekend.  We walked a number of blocks, eventually deciding on a Persian joint with music blaring and what appeared to be the rare, Father, Son and Grandpa providing all the staff neccesary.  For a reasonable 10 dollar each we enjoyed Lamb kabobs, rice, salad and hummus.  Exhausted, we headed back to the Hampton to call it a night.

The men's trip continued the next day as we filled our faces with the free continental breakfast while discussing what to do for the rest of the morning and afternoon.  I told Dad about this awesome used bookstore that Sheila and I had gone to a couple years ago, and it turned out we were less than a kilometer away from it.  Our hotel's location on Robson proved to be most convenient, as we took but 1 skytrain ride all weekend, everything we wanted to see or do was in the near vicinity. 

McLeod's on Pender didn't disappoint.  My Dad is more into book buying and reading than I am, and the haphazard stacks that cluttered the narrow aisles had his head spinning.  The front desk of the store where the long time proprietor sets up shop is completely buried under papers and books.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that not an inch of wood is exposed, as if the desk was being heavily guarded by the mass of paper and cardboard it was covered in.  How the clerk found the debit machine to take payment was beyond me.  I chatted with a young female clerk about her job, this after sharing a laugh over her line: "Can I help you find something?"  This was uttered as she held a book in one hand helplessly staring up a 12 foot high shelf hoping to find it's home.  We ended up escaping after finding a few books each.  Asher got "Fox in Socks" to add to his Dr. Seuss collection, and Jasmine was happy with her copy of "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe".  I opted to add a couple books to my Truman Capote collection, continuing the tradition from my last visit.  I also grabbed an obscure George Orwell title.  I thoroughly enjoy both authors and hope to eventually consume all of their works. 

We filled the rest of our afternoon exploring Gastown and Chinatown, restraining overselves at the gigantic used book sale at the Vancouver Public Library, then as headed back to our hotel to kick back for a second the scents coming from the restaurant across the street overwhelmed us.  It seemed that the BBQ establishment called "Back Forty" had their smoker going fullblast out in their parking lot.  Having not eaten since the complimentary morning face filling, we were enticed to enter the crosswalk and check the place out.  It was swamped with people, only getting busier as our stay went on.  Wanting to ensure that we got a dish that had been smoked out in the lot, Dad and I both chose the pork ribs.  The mushroom caps came with the meal, odd for an appetizer, but that didn't stop them from being delicious.  We consumed barbecued Brussels Sprouts for the first time in our lives as they were the seasonal vegetable provided.  The ribs were solid but not amazing.  All in all, a decent meal but I am a big proponent for trying things in the big city that I can't get at home.  I'm not certain that I can get smoked pork ribs in Prince George, but this meal lacked that blow me away factor.

We had realized in the weeks leading up to our departure that our Saturday night of the weekend was blatantly unfilled with sports.  Dad and I scoured all ticket sources in search of an elusive sports event to attend, but alas we were left holding the bag when our only choices involved multiple transit transfers and a level of hockey only slightly above the beer league that I play in.  In a funny twist, as we were unpacking our bags Friday night, I mentioned that I had found a small concert at a nearby nightclub that might be fun.  It was also inexpensive.  My Dad countered with another small concert that I had somehow overlooked.  The headliners were unknown to me, but they were billed as "indie rock" and I thought that might appeal more to both Dad and I.  The venue?  The Rickshaw Theatre. 

An old as dirt venue smack dab in the middle of the "worst" part of Vancouver, The Rickshaw on East Hastings sounded intriguing.  We walked from the hotel, 2 kilometers through the downtown core, I love the feel of being in a city.  The walking we did during the weekend was always enjoyable.  I like the buildings, I like the people watching, I like checking out various obscure stores and restaurants.  We arrived way too early, my Dad enjoyed getting his i.d. checked, then we decided to go wander around until closer to show time.  My love for politics and my interest in socioeconomic diversity lead me to enjoy getting a feel for different parts of a city.  I am not a bleeding heart per se, but I do like to experience this type of thing so that I am less likely to perpetuate stereotypes that others are willing to expound.  Dad doesn't usually spend a lot of time downtown on his Vancouver trips, so the walk was a bit of an eye opener.  I remarked that there seemed to be a lot less people around than the last time I had walked the street.  Hopefully that is due to an increase in shelter capacity, but it may be that the street population was forcibly reduced for the Olympics in 2010 and it hasn't recovered.  It was a nice mild night in Vancouver so we enjoyed our walk before turning around and returning to the theatre.  After a short wait, then concert began.

Dad and I had not heard of the headlining band before that morning.  We listened to one song on you tube, and that was enough to determine it was worth spending our evening enjoying "Okkervil River" in concert.  Despite our ignorance, Okkervil River has produced 7 full length albums, and has enjoyed 15 years as a band.  The lead singer Will Sheff has been the lone constant in a revolving door of band members.  As the show began the first couple of songs were alright, then we got blown away by a song I later discovered  was called "Big Love".  Great melody, killer vocals, you name it.  The next song involved a lengthy breakdown into instrumental extremes as the band's dual percussionists and it's keyboard player went off on a lengthy tangent.  Simply put, it was awesome.  It was after this song that my Dad remarked: "This is the opening act."  I can only surmise that he could tell this based on a poster he had seen, or perhaps the one music video that we had looked at.  Well, the opening act was great.  We were still in the dark about the name of the band until we checked a poster on the way out after the concert.  Matthew E. White, thank you.  You have at least one new fan.  This gushing about the first band is not to take anything away from the main act, Okkervil River.  They were a little more fast paced, a little more rock styled than their predecessors.  Ironically, as I was celebrating my first old man milestone, in classic old man style I started getting sleepy by the end of the concert.  I had enjoyed a few pops, and the theatre was getting hot.  Despite my drained energy, the experience was very positive.  The theatre was genuine, and I prefered this intimate setting to the passionless feel of an arena concert.  Did I mention that the tickets were but 20 dollars?  I plan to attend more concerts in the future, and have already made tentative plans to take Sheila to a local one later this month.  Folk rock band that I have never heard of for the more than reasonable price of 15 bucks?  Sign me up.

Sunday started with a nice soak in the jacuzzi at the beautiful hotel spa.  Lots of places you stay claim to have a gym or a spa, but this one really had one.  Complete with multiple cardio machines, free weights and machine weights, ping pong table, jacuzzi and a sauna.  Even the change rooms were expansive, with seemingly no expense spared.  Coupled with the free breakfasts and the great service from the staff, the hotel added considerably to the enjoyment of the weekend.  I suppose a glowing review on trip advisor is in order.  Tangent be damned, I was all cleaned up and ready to tackle the Casino across the street for a little poker.  Well, as any seasoned poker player should know, Sunday morning is not a good time for the game.  What a silly man I am.  Feeling like I should play due to the proximity, I was conflicted because my Dad doesn't play and I was quite enjoying our time together.  He had some work to take care of, so this seemed like a good time to go for a bit.  Boring is the word.  I lasted an hour and lost, but I think I would have been bored whether I won or lost.  Not a highlight of the trip that's for sure. 

I came back to the hotel and agreed to the suggestion of taking a ride on the skytrain.  Dad and I ended up at Metro Town mall.  After strolling through aimlessly, we took to the streets of Burnaby.  It was nice to find the condo building that my Grandma and Grandpa used to live in, and we enjoyed reminiscing about the good old days.  It has been more than 15 years since my mom lost both her parents within a short time span.  As we strolled around the neighbourhood I imagined how much both of them would have just loved Jasmine and Asher, and it most certainly brought a tear to my eye. 

My Grandparents had an awesome view from their place, and one of my Grandma's favourite things to do was watch people out and about.  As little kids we were fascinated by the skytrain, and it raced by on its track just a few hundred meters from their building.  Our visits at their place involved a handful of traditions that I will never forget.  One night, there was always the chicken dinner from KFC.  My Grandpa was a great cook, so ordering take out was reserved for 1 night while we were there.  Their building had a pool on the groundfloor, and Paulette, Erin, Ian and I went daily while we stayed.  I can remember like it was yesterday the agonizing half hour wait we had to endure after eating because as Grandma put it "you will just end up with a tummy ache".  A few blocks from their place is the beginning of Burnaby's Central Park.  Going for a stroll in Central Park with our Grandpa calmly leading the way was something we all looked forward to.  Usually, we stayed overnight with Grandma and Grandpa in staggered intervals, the boys for a night or two, then it was the girls turn.  My memories of Central Park don't involve my parents, just me and my siblings along with my Grandpa.  The park is impressive with some gigantic old growth trees, the type that even adults can't reach around.  Grandpa would always get us to try though.  Along the walking trail were a series of exercise stations, we always tried them even though we couldn't do them properly.  We didn't always make it to the duck pond as it was on the far side of the park, but I can recall standing at the edge of the water, bread in hand.  The destination on these excursions was always the same.  We enjoyed the expansive park area for as long as we could until Grandpa said it was time to head back.  I always insisted on peeking through the fence to get a glimpse of Swanguard Stadium where the Vancouver 86ers played their home games.  When I was a bit older, I got the chance to take in a couple games there with my Dad.  My Grandma didn't come to Central Park, that was Grandpa's gig.   My Grandma, for the entire time she was apart of my life, was confined to an electric scooter due to a car accident.  That didn't stop her from delivering big and frequent hugs that enveloped us kids.  She would always want to kiss us, and little kids aren't always fond of that, but we humoured her nonetheless.  Maybe part of the reasons why the kisses were "scary" was due to Grandma's taunting us with her teeth.  She would pull them out on occasion to get us to laugh, then show off how silly she looked without them in her mouth.  Grandma always took us to the Metro Town Mall for a little shopping.  Grandpa would drop us off, and we would follow along beside Grandma's scooter as she lavished us with coloring books and jogging suits.  Always with the jogging suits, and at Christmas time, we would get the annual sock allotment as well.   Sadly, I can admit that I don't think of my Grandparents as often as I might like.  Life keeps me busy, and at times my priorities are askew.  They were two of the best human beings I will ever encounter in my life and it is important to remind myself how lucky I was to know them.

My Dad and I ended our jaunt to Burnaby with a nice lunch at a quaint little Thai restaurant.  I can happily take credit for exposing my Dad to the cuisine for the first time, and we both came away satisfied.  It was then time to jump the train and head back to the hotel, before going to the soccer game.  We stood in line an hour before the game, the plan was to enjoy the warm up and the atmosphere, not to mention the open roof was likely going to make chatting in the stadium quite pleasant.  They let us in, and right to the left of the entrance they had a merchandise booth with sale signs on it.  Any sports fan would know, that rarely happens in a stadium, at a game.  We jumped in the rapidly forming line, not even knowing what was on sale or whether or not we "needed" anything.  If we don't jump into line right away, we would have missed out.  Dad grabbed a jersey, and I did too, picking up a great hoodie for Jasmine and a hat for Asher as well.  I paid 55 bucks for all 3!  The game itself was great.  It was my 9th or 10th live soccer game, and likely it was the best of the bunch.  Firstly, my team won.  Vancouver's star striker Camillo needed 2 goals to win the season scoring title on the last day of the season.  No problem, he proceeded to get all 3 goals in a 3-0 win.  We stayed after as the crowd feted Y.P. Lee, their best defender who had decided to retire.  The team all stayed on the pitch for a lengthy salute to the fans, then they gave away their game jerseys to lucky fans who had been preselected.  The only Korean fan selected randomly got the Y.P. Lee jersey (he is Korean), and the highly coveted Camillo jersey went to a boy of 11 or so who had gone on field all by himself.  It was all pretty cool.  Exhausted after the game, Dad and I unwound in the hotel room only heading out so that I could get dinner.  I ate the biggest burrito I have ever seen, and despite my fears, experienced no backlash whatsoever.

Our trip wound up Monday with an excursion to the Kerrisdale area where we visited with an old family friend.  Elizabeth used to live in Quesnel, where she worked with my mom as an elementary school teacher.  It had been more than 10 years since I had seen her, and nearly as long for my Dad.  We had an nice visit, discussions surrounding teaching and adoption.  Elizabeth is and always has been a very positive person, and she gave very few clues that she was smack dab in the middle of radiation treatment.  Tragically, her breast cancer was discovered right at a time when she was set to complete an adoption of a child after years of jumping through hoops to be able to do so.  After struggling against beauracracy for so long, I couldn't imagine the emotions she felt when she had to turn down the adoption.  Complications with her cancer have caused a need for secondary surgery that will keep her on the mend for much longer than originally thought.  Through all of these occurances, she has kept up her optimism, and as we parted with hearty hugs at the airport, I was thoroughly impressed by her outlook.  She will have a child eventually, and it seems that thought keeps her going. 

I had a great weekend with my Dad, and the memories of our excursion will stay with me a long time.  I appreciate the thoughtfulness and planning that both of parents put into the trip, and their generousity can not be overstated.  Thanks again for everything Mom, I can never say that enough.