Monday, August 31, 2009

New York City

Item #44 on my 100 Things to do Before I Go list:

- Celebrate my 40th birthday in New York City

Well, I didn't quite celebrate the actual day itself, but I think I can say that I celebrated the day after my birthday in New York City. That's close enough for me to consider the item above as done.

Last Friday morning, I got up bright and early at 3am, the taxi picked me up at 4am and by 6:25am I was on my way for a day in New York City. My friend Steve, who works for an airline company, offered me a buddy-pass so it was decided we would go. Unfortunately at the beginning of the week, the weather forecast predicted a nice sunny day. By the time Friday came around, Tropical Storm Danny was making his presence known by providing steady rainfall the ENTIRE day. Although it did make being outside all day a little uncomfortable and it did change my plans a little, I was determined to make the most of it and enjoy myself.

We arrived at JFK airport shortly after 8am, got through customs and waited for a taxi to make our way in to Manhattan. In rush hour traffic, in took over an hour. Down in Battery Park we bought tickets for the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island ferry and really started the day.

The Statue of Liberty is really big. FYI - you can't reserve your ticket up to the crown or even the base, at the last minute. In fact, you need about 2 months lead time to be sure you'll get up to the top and about 2 weeks to buy a ticket for the base. Otherwise, all there is to do there is walk around outside. It's not a big island and in the rain, it's not so pleasant. But I did it anyway - for one day I could deal with rain.

From the Statue of Liberty, we jumped back on the ferry and stopped at Ellis Island. This was incredibly interesting. It would have been an easy thing to spend the whole day there, wandering through all the different rooms, reading about the experiences there and how it all worked. There was also some kind of theatre performance that was going on but we didn't get a chance to see that.

After taking the ferry back to Manhattan, we hailed a cab to take us up to Central Park and Strawberry Fields. (It was still raining so we decided to skip Ground Zero, Wall Street & the Charging Bull, and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.) On the way up to Central Park, we did drive past Ground Zero but weren't able to see much beyond the construction fences that were up. We also passed a whole bunch of docks, saw a cruise ship and even saw the Intrepid, an aircraft carrier that now serves as a Sea-Air-Space museum. I have NEVER seen anything so big in all my life. Crazy.

Finally up at Central Park West and 72nd Street, we walked into the park and quickly found Strawberry Fields and John Lennon's memorial Imagine. I took a bunch of pictures and was most impressed by the lack of people around. I was even able to take a picture of the famous park benches without a single person in the frame.

From there we walked through the park to the east side and up another couple of blocks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That is some place. After briefly examining the map, I decided how we could do a quick tour of the place and hopefully hit all the highlights. We did that and then seeing as it was still raining, decided to do a quick tour of the mezzanine level as well. By this time it was nearly 5pm, and there just wasn't enough time to go up to the Guggenheim Museum or to go shopping so we jumped in a cab and headed back to the airport.

What a day! Obviously it would have been great to have good weather. It would just have meant that we'd have spent more time rushing around trying to do more things and not really appreciating what we did see. So we didn't see as much but we really made the most of the places we did visit.

The flight home was fine too and I was in my front door by 11pm, after a 20-hour day. Totally worth it!

Maybe my next goal should be to spend a week in New York City!

Oh yeah - here are the pictures.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Big 4-0

It seems like just a minute ago since I turned 30. That was pretty traumatizing at the time. A lot has changed since then. Good things, bad things, and all things in between.

As much as I've joked about turning 40 being a bad thing, in some ways it actually feels pretty damn good. Yes, 40 still sounds too much like being a grown up. On the other hand, 40 means I can afford myself little luxuries that I couldn't even dream of as a 20 year old, or even a 30 year old.

It's a little scary this whole age thing but I like a challenge and I think I'm up for it. Take that, the Big 4-0.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


The Canadian National Dragon Boat Championship races took place this weekend. The goal of the weekend wasn't to win the competition (in itself impressive for me to think about) but also for teams to race for the 5 positions Dragon Boat Canada was allocating for the Club Crew World Championship in 2010.

Approximately 50 teams were there. Under 23 years old (U23), over 40 years old (Seniors), over 50 years old (Grand Masters), women's teams, men's teams and mixed teams.

Saturday was a beautiful day. Hot, humid and sunny. My team, Montreal Mix, had three 500m races to compete in the morning. We didn't have a good start to the weekend. In the first race, the qualifier for division, we finished 9th overall and missed making A division by less than a second. That first result brought a number of people on the team down. I tried to keep upbeat and motivated and did all I could to pass on good energy to the team. Our second race (semi final B division) resulted in another 2nd place finish. We slipped to 10th place. Morale was sinking fast on the team. Before our third and final 500m of the day, a few minutes before we were going to start I tried my best to get the team up and in an aggressive mood but it didn't work - a third 2nd place finish.

Despite these disappointing results on Day 1, we had actually done better times than a month ago at MIDBRF. I fed the team homemade brownies and that seemed to cheer them up a little (or maybe it was just the chocolate talking).

Sunday morning started off cool, windy and rainy. Given the summer we've had, these were conditions we were used to during training and racing. We had three 250m races in the morning and the "final" 2000m in the afternoon. There were still some long faces as we were loading the boat for our first race and I'm pretty sure that didn't help us. 2nd place finish. Our coach reminded us all after that disappointing finish that Saturday was over, to stop thinking about it and really place our focus on winning today. An hour later we were ready for the second race but not prepared for another 2nd place finish. So frustrating. I don't know why, but I almost think that by this point everyone had had enough 2nd place finishes and were angry. Angry enough to pull it together as a team and FINALLY win our third race. And a beautiful race it was. An amazing start where we didn't have to play catch up with the other boats, then powered through the transition and straight into the finish of all finishes. You could really feel the boat pull ahead on the finish. It was incredible! That was the feeling I'd been waiting for all weekend from the team. Although the inconsistency is a sign of our inexperience (as a team), when it finally meant enough, we were able to do it and win. That is the team I know. It sure felt good to gloat in the face of the team who won the second race (bad, I know), especially when we found out they placed last in the final.

We then had about a 3-4 hour break until the 2000m at the end of the day. Time to watch the women's and men's teams race. Part of the joy of being at Nationals is that there are no beginner teams. All the paddlers are now experienced. Also - ha, ha, ha - there was certainly no shortage of buff bodies. Hey, I couldn't help noticing my surroundings :D

After a bit of a delay (there was a tie for 5th place in the men's teams so they had to race-off, Quebec vs. Alberta, QUEBEC WON!!!) we were finally ready for the 2000m race. There were 8 or 10 boats in our heat. The 2000m by the way, isn't just 2000m straight. It's a holding start from the shallow end of the basin, power through the start just to get to the starting line and going slightly beyond the 500m mark to turn. This is a tough race, not just for paddlers but for the steers too. Turning corners without losing too much speed is not for the faint of heart. Our coach likes that. He took us as close as possible to the buoys. There wasn't much action in our heat, only one boat passed another boat. I was happy that our arch enemies, who started behind us, never passed us. After our last turn, I could really feel every muscle in my body screaming at me to stop. But I gave it another little (well, big) push to get through. Suddenly we were at the 250m mark and I knew I could get through it. We finished the 2000m. Nobody fell out, the boat didn't die, we didn't tip. But then I had that feeling again. That bad feeling that I hadn't wanted to feel for another 10 years. Next thing I knew I had my head over the side of the boat and was puking my guts out for the second time this year. Because you know me, I have to prove that I've really put everything into it. Because I have to go and listen to our coach when he says "I want everyone puking after this one!" Thankfully, I hadn't eaten much. Racing seems to kill my appetite. Anyway - my old coach from the women's team, sits on the bench behind me and was proud that he got some of my barf on his paddle. Not really what I was going for but there you go.

Finally off the boat and back to our tent area, it felt good to sit down for a minute and breathe properly. A few minutes later, the most incredible thing happened. The results of our 2000m heat. We finished FIRST! It's never easy to tell how you do in this race because the boats leave every 10 seconds and even if you pass a boat it doesn't necessarily mean you're going fast, they could just be going slow. Anyway - when I found out we finished first I felt that everything had been worth it, even barfing.

For somebody who knew nothing of dragon boating 3 years ago, who joined a women's team to have some fun and practice for 1 hour a week 2 years ago, who got the bug and started training with a mixed team 7 to 10 hours a week last year - I have come a long way. OK - we didn't make the A division. Yes, it's disappointing to find out that the dream of competing in Macau next year is over. But wow, it's been some ride anyway. Even though we didn't quite reach our goal this weekend I can honestly say I loved getting to this point. And my resolve to retire from the competitive team is quickly dying. Despite the huge amounts of Advil I've been swallowing ;)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday, Wesley!

Today is my nephew's 2nd birthday. Happy Birthday, MonkeyBoy!

PS - hopefully Canada Post will get off their duffs and deliver the present I sent on August 13 ...

Sunday, August 16, 2009


We won the competition in Rawdon!

Our first proper "win" of the season and it felt great. It was a perfect summer day. Hot, sunny, at the beach, time to go swimming and to top it off, a gold medal at the end of the day. Now that is what summer is all about.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dreaming in Technicolour

Last night I dreamed I was doing chin ups. Yes, that's right, in the plural, chin upS. In fact, in my dream, I did 10 of them. Now how to make that a reality ...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Wall

So here it is. The red wall. It's not perfect (despite new primer plus six coats of paint) but it will do. Still need to put a few pictures up and then I can really consider it finished.