Go East, Old Man

It will be interesting to see how this has changed since 2005

Well, I’m not quite old, yet, I hope, but I am going East, for about a week. Here’s the the plan: My family is having a reunion in Orlando, Florida next weekend, celebrating my Aunt’s Birthday (suffice to say It’s a big one). In the week leading up to that date, I’m going to visit some parts of the eastern US that I haven’t seen since we left in 2005 (a year and 10 days ago, to be precise). First stop is Dublin, New Hampshire, to visit The Walden School Summer session. I’ll write more about this amazing institution in my next entry. I’ll be visiting and hopefully soaking in the creative juices there from Tuesday through Wednesday. On Thursday I’ll be in Boston, visiting our old neighborhood in Cambridge and looking up some some old friends. I have to admit that while I consider Vancouver my home, we did live for 14 years in Cambridge, and since we’ve left, every once in a while I’ll do a little digital sleepwalk using Google Maps Street View to our old courtyard and the other streets in the neighborhood. I know every crack in the sidewalk between Hampshire Street and the Kendall Square T stop, or used to know, rather. I expect that I’ll be surprised at how things have changed. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to taste some Toscanini’s Ice Cream, or even an Emma’s Pizza or Kendall Brewery beer, but any and all of those will be nice to sample once again, just to make sure that they are all as good as I remember them. I’ll also have no chance to hear the BSO, or go to any concert, for that matter. Perhaps a ‘cultural’ reunion is something I’ll have to plan for another time. In the meantime, 3 whirlwind days in New England bookended by flights all around North America will be how my week goes. Let’s hope the heat wave has broken before I get there.

Early Friday morning I fly out of Logan (which I must admit I’m not looking forward to seeing again – I hate that airport — often called the worst in North America — with a passion and hope that someday they will mercifully tear it down, but I’m not holding my breath ) to Orlando, where Pam and I will join my parents, cousins and others in the Florida heat (although I suspect we’ll be in air-conditioning much of the time).

Paradise Found

One of the hard things about blogging on the road when you travel far eastward, is that you tend to conk out earlier in the evening. Combine that with early morning starts, and, well, I’m not making excuses, but uploading my photos is just about all I’ve been able manage.

So, with about an hour before dinner, and a bit of the day’s adventures behind me, I can try and write a bit.

I won’t try and catch up completely the last 6 days or so, which included our visit to Bangkok, Siem Reap, and Ho Chi Minh City, but will try to get back to them in a future entry. If I have to go through all of my notes and write them back in Vancouver, I guess I’ll do that.

Let me try and describe the scene before me. We are in what they call a ‘Villa’ in the Nam Hai resort, near the town of Hoi An, in Central Vietnam. This place has been listed as one of the leading resorts of the world, and I can’t argue. As it grows dark outside, we can hear the surf of China Beach on the South China Sea, as well as my iPhone, which is connected to their iPod plug, playing some Chopin on the invisible sound system. The temperature is cool, around 24C, with a strong breeze, which is tossing the palm trees. Pam found a couple of fragrant Frangipani blooms on the front lawn and brought them in to perfume our laundry bag.

This ‘house’ (which is nearly as large as our condo back at home) has what I can only describe as a ‘room within a room’. A frame of dark wood encompasses a bed, lounge, desk, bathtub and white tapestries (almost like mosquito netting, but there’s no need for that). The bed faces the sand leading to the beach. There is an exquisite bonsai tree at one end, and indoor and outdoor showers of our own. The floor (aside from the inner ‘room’) is dark stone, with steps leading down to the back of the room and exit to the beach. The 60 Villas are laid out in 5 horseshoes, with the beach behind them. The complex includes 2 Restaurants and bar, Library, swimming pool, Spa, Gym and Tennis, Basketball and Badminton courts.

The only bad thing about this place is how short a time we’ll be here; just two nights, and during the day, I’ll be in Hoi An, attending a cooking class. Still, it’s an extraordinary resort, and even though some of the places we’ve stayed during this trip have been pretty good, they just can’t compare with this, which I’d say is about as luxurious a spot as I’ve ever seen. I could easily spend a week here, but that kind of a stay is something only a movie star or Steve Jobs could afford. I haven’t spotted him, but we haven’t ventured out to the main complex yet. Dare I say, we feel a little underdressed.

On the Road

Years ago we decided that we’d make room for some of the visitors to Vancouver during the Olympics. So, on Monday evening, we set out, rolling our suitcases down the hill to the Olympic streetcar. Four minutes later, we got on the Canadaline Skytrain and got off at the Vancouver airport. It couldn’t be easier, and I’d recommend anyone who’s on the fence about the new mass transit vs. a taxi to look seriously at taking the Canadaline, especially if you have luggage on wheels (which the vast majority of bags are these days). About the only down-side was the Olympic crowds, even at 8:45PM.

Our flight on Cathay Pacific left at 2:00 AM, so we had a quiet airport and some time to use the Wi-fi to make some last tweets (and to chat with a friend in Hungary – what a small world this is becoming…but more about that in a later post).

The flight was OK, but very, very cold. Honestly, it was like spending 10 hours in a meat locker; You could almost see your breath. Pam and I had coats with hoods, which we kept up the whole time. There was one blanket per person, and no more. We got in to Hong Kong at their 7:30 AM or so (a day later). After a short layover of about an hour, we boarded another flight to Bangkok. A couple of hours later, we touched down and saw their new(ish) airport, that had been built 3 years ago. It’s a very impressive structure, with caterpillar-like gates connected to a steel, concrete and glass main section. We were immediately met by two young reps. for the tour company (Abercrombie & Kent, who Pam used for her tour of Antarctica). They whisked us through baggage and customs, and we then were handed off to one of the tour guides here, who goes by the nickname Tukke (Tookie). She, and a driver, drove us through the enormous city of Bangkok, to the hotel where we are staying here, the Mandarin Oriental. It’s a very fine hotel (officially 130 years old), albeit old enough that I saw echoes of my grandmother’s taste throughout: the English colonial furniture, the palms and white palm tearoom, the pool with cabanas and teak walkways throughout. It’s well maintained, however, and the Internet in the room was good enough that I could phone my parents back in the states via Skype on my iPhone and it was good enough for them that my father thought it sounded like I was ‘next door’. The view, of the Chao Phraya river (River of Kings) is pretty impressive too:

The View out our Hotel Window – That’s the French Embassy’s Garden in the Lower Right

We managed to stay awake (barely) until about 7:30 PM before collapsing and then waking up at 3, and then 6 this morning. After one of the best breakfast buffets I’ve ever eaten (included with the room – I’ll try and take some photos tomorrow), we returned to the room, and after a short rest, I write this update.
I’m going to try and update the Flickr set of our trip as we go, and it’s here

Update: After many problems with the set getting too big, I’ve split it into 7 sets, including:

So, it’s off for a short boat trip across the river to explore some of the city (after we change into shorts to adjust for the heat). Then, perhaps a ride on the Skytrain (Hah, Just like home!). I’m also planning on a massage for my aching shoulder, back and neck, which may be from the plane ride, plus accumulated stress from the past few weeks.

More to come…

What a Month!

Is it really Halloween again? The month, like Scarbo the ‘half goblin, half ghost’ character from Gaspard de la Nuit, a poem and the third in a set of 3 extraordinary piano pieces by Maurice Ravel, has twitched, jerked and reared up and dropped down, pirouetting like a threatening demon (at least in terms of my nail-biting regarding the Stock Market and the US Presidential Campaign)  and now is about to vanish:

Mais bientôt son corps bleuissait, diaphane comme la cire d’une bougie, son visage blémissait comme la cire d’un lumignon,—et soudain il s’éteignait.

But then, his body would change, became as blue and diaphanous as the wax of a candle, his face as pale as candle grease – and suddenly he would be extinguished.

— The original poem by Louis Bertrand

(The first few measures and an excerpt that goes on a little longer are below. It’s truly some of the most menacing and spooky music that Ravel ever wrote, I think, and appropriate for this dark evening):

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He he he, creepy enough for you?

Earlier in the Month

I guess the piano music excerpt is partly because piano music is partly on my mind. Last week I got to a concert at the Chan Centre by Piotr Anderszewski, a very interesting pianist who was making his return engagement to the Vancouver Recital Society. He played Bach, Mozart and Schumann, and I’d have to say that it was the Mozart that I really liked best. Mozart Sonatas, like the Sonata in C minor, K 457 that he played are often played (badly) by children. Teachers give them to their students fairly early in their development, partly because the music seems simple and ‘easy’ to play. The fact is, when a really good pianist plays them, the music reveals how complex and really difficult it is. I didn’t always love what Anderszewski did; sometimes, particularly in the Schumann Humoresques (op. 20), he would take long floating pauses, and play some passages so softly and weakly that it was almost as if they were being whispered. Even if his readings seemed to lose the thread of continuity at times, I have to admit that he made me think — a lot, and that’s something that not every performer can do for you. I think we’ll be hearing more of him in the future on the international concert circuit. In some ways, he reminded me of Radu Lupu, a Romanian pianist who was particularly active in the 70s and 80s, and who won an Edison award for his Schumann (including the Humoresques as well!).

Last Night

Pam and I got an invitation to attend another live filming of a television sitcom pilot, this time in the South Burnaby area in a studio right by the Riverway Golf Course. The pilot, called Memory Lanes and was produced and created for the CBC by one of the actors in it, Ryan Stiles, of The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line is it Anyway? fame. While it is fun to see, it is also a real education, because nearly every scene is filmed a few times, and it was a real pleasure to see Janet Wright, who plays Brent Butt’s mother Emma Leroy on the series Corner Gas practice her craft in person. Ms. Wright was a perfectionist, sculpting her delivery and gestures with each take, and always making it better (and funnier). For me, she stole every scene she was in. I found out from her bio that she’s directed over 40 productions at the Vancouver Arts Club theatre (in addition to work all over Canada, including the Stratford Festival). It shows. I hope I’ll get to see more of her; I really gained new respect for just how much a great actor can add to a sitcom character.

Oh right, the sitcom? Memory Lanes may make it to the CBC line up next year. I’d say it was a better than average script, and the characters and situation show some promise. In some ways, it reminded me of Wings, another sitcom that revolves around a pair of odd-couple brothers who end up running a family business. In the end, it will be the writing that makes or breaks it. Lets hope it gets a chance, something that never happened to the pilot of All the Comforts that we saw nearly a year ago.

A Life In Motion

One of the reasons that I haven’t been posting as often this month as last month, is that it seems that I’m always in town, busy attending/watching/participating in something. You’d think that being on the job hunt and not tied down with a 9-to-5 commitment would mean that I have tons of free time to spend on blogging, cleaning up my office, and doing all of those other ‘things I’d do if I had time’. No such luck.  It seems my calendar’s clutter increases to fill the allotted time. I do want to at least mention, and provide a snapshot or perhaps a snippet of video (because I can) of some of what’s been going on for the past 2 1/2 weeks or so:

September 13th: To celebrate my (and my brother’s) birthday, we took a weekend trip down to visit him and the rest of the family down in Bellevue, Washington. This included a trip to the Sculpture Park:

At the Seattle Sculpture Park

At the Seattle Sculpture Park

and a celebratory Dinner out at Wild Ginger, a favourite Seattle restaurant of theirs:

OK, so I got a little silly, but a birthday candle is just asking to be played with.

OK, I got a little silly, but a Birthday Candle is just asking to be played with.

September 16th: I had lunch with a friend and attended the Molson Brew 2.0 event, which I had written about a little earlier.

September 17th: Met with several people during the day and attended Launch Party 5 at UnWined.

Imbibing and meeting Startups at Launch Party 5

Imbibing and meeting Startups at Launch Party

September 20th: Attended BarCampBankBC, a real eye-opener about the concerns of the people in the Banking and Credit Union business (Questions included: “If increasingly, everybody does most of their banking online or at ATMs, what’s the new design/experience of a Bank branch supposed to be?” ):

A session at BarCampBankBC

A session at BarCampBankBC

September 21: Made it to the first Annual Canary Derby in Gastown, a fundraising race of soapbox-style racers, mainly to cheer on the team of Webnames, who regardless if they won or not (they didn’t), still had the classiest looking race car of the day. Here’s one of the earlier trials that they won:

Since that was moving pretty fast, here’s what the car looked like standing still:

The Webnames.ca entry in the 2008 Canary Soapbox Derby in Gastown

The Webnames.ca entry in the 2008 Canary Soapbox Derby in Gastown

(Note: The child at the wheel in this shot is not the driver in the race)
September 23: Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, Pam and I were able to get to one of the Pre-Season games of the Cannucks. They were playing Edmunton, and despite that team’s (apparently well-known) speed, the Cannucks won! Here’s a snippet:

September 26: The Party for BarCampVancouver 2008, the yearly unconference, took place at Workspace. This year I helped out in the planning as well as the food prep (and even played bartender a bit).

September 27:We lucked out, and the weather was gorgeous, which helped since BarCamp was held on Granville Island, at 3 separate locations including the Revue Stage, Emily Carr University, and the Playwright’s Theatre. I had prepared a talk on Ubiquity, the fascinating Firefox plugin that extends some of the ideas about interacting with information on the Internet. Unfortunately, I was bumped because the contract for the room had us there until 5PM, not 5:30 as we had been led to believe. Moral of the story: Never reschedule your session to what you think is a better time (originally I was early in the morning and opposite several other sessions that I wanted to attend myself!) I am working on reformatting the presentation and slides so that I can put them online on my other blog and will try and let folks know when it’s done. Here’s me pitching my ill-fated presentation:

Making my pitch for a presentation on Ubiquity at BarCamp Vancouver 2008

Making my pitch for a presentation on Ubiquity at BarCamp Vancouver 2008

September 28: Word on the Street, the Annual festival of books, writers and other things literary took place downtown, around the library. Pam and I managed to make a talk by the entertaining and inspiring Colin Moorhouse, a freelance speechwriter that Pam had managed to hear at a BC Editors Meeting last year.

That brings me to today. I nearly feel out of breath just recounting this. And it doesn’t include a couple of job interviews, meetings with friends and colleagues, and the usual day-to-day stuff. It has been a busy month, to say the least.

I think that what’s been going on is a gradual accrual of yearly events. We noticed a couple of years ago that there seems to be a tacit agreement that in Vancouver, anything worth doing is worth doing annually. Our year is getting busier, which is probably OK, but soon we’ll have to pick and choose what we can or cannot make and say instead that we’ll catch whatever we miss ‘next year’.