Sunday, September 12 - Day 71 - Aclimatized

London Travel Blog

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I caught up on the emails and did some laundry at the motel. Being as the drying cycle had an hour to go, I set my alarm on my celphone and had a snooze. I bolted up to the buzzing-ringing-vibrato of my phone. I had been out stone-cold... I musta needed that. I stood up feeling pretty bogged down. Hmmm, maybe I shouldn't go out. I mean really, I'd rather have energy for this weekend, especially considering my ride through Albany didn't look promising. Maybe I'd just be a slug and take in yet ANOTHER movie! 
Headed to the nearby Regal Cinemas to catch Machete, but after grabbing my laundry and laying it out to dry (because it was still humid and warm.. sonsabitches!) I was running behind. Well, what else looked promising... "Vampires Suck?... Sounds lame... Scott Pilgrim vs The World?... Could be interesting... One for Scott Pilgrim"
I have to say, it was a good deal better, and definitely cooler than I expected. I can't say I could relate to our protagonist, Scott... Had I not left highschool, and my parents' home and joined the army and become a man and ya know.. lost my virginity, I would have probably ended up just like him. But thank the good Lord, I did not. And I didn't really agree with some of his choices in the movie. He seemed a little self-serving. Other than that, the visuals were AMAZING! Like watching an anime movie and games like street fighter with live people... Not that I'm into that stuff, no really! I swear! hahaha... Worth seeing it though if you like wierd indy sorts of films with massive budgets for effects. Quite funny. AND, it takes place in Canada! No kidding! What I liked is that it didn't play up the "we're in Canada" thing.. no stupid accents or anything like that. It was just a movie for North Americans about North Americans starring North Americans.
Speaking of Americans, I'm now an honorary citizen.... Yeah, I've totally aclimatized to the hot weather of the southern states. My good gawd, the weather this far north is awful!! 20' celsius!? FREEZING!! Riding in it was even worse! Bundled up in a sweater and longsleeve button up, I was still cold riding to the theater! Didn't take me too long at all, lol
Got my head buzzed this morning before leaving for Montreal. I asked the guy if Albany was fun to go out in, being as he was a barber not much older than myself. "Oh yeah, great place!" "What day is it today?" I ask "Uhh.. Thursday" he replies somewhat stupified by my stupification... (did that make sense?) "Is Wednesday a good night downtown?" "You mean tonight?" "No, Wednesday, I wanna know if I missed out not going out last night" "Oh... yeah, it woulda been good, you missed out!" Shucks... Ah well, I clearly needed some Z's.
The ride north was gorgeous despite the coolness of the crisp air sneaking into my suit through any opening. Thank Germany for electric handle-bar warmers. The forest around me rose into rocky hills and small mountains, which then became rolling fiels of various colours, and under the darkening clouds, it looked quite nice. Nice enough to make me finally pull over and take pictures again. That coupled with the fact that my couchhost isn't even free til 8, leaving me with all afternoon to get into Montreal, helped though.
It was nice to be riding IN Canada again, just felt like being home. Too bad as soon as I got across the border, the roads turned into lumpy shit. Doesn't say much for our grand nation.
Coming into Montreal though left me ecstatic. Something about Montreal, it's energy, the fact that is feels somewhat European, the fact that it's our fashion hub, and that it's fun.... I supposed these were all contributing factors for my elation (hope that's the right word, no wifi to check meriam-webster.com)
Called my boss. Seems the problem was a guy showed up to work for me without there being any paperwork for him to work for me. Uh ooohhh.. got three free shifts worked for meeeee!! lol, I mean seriously, this guy had tentatively agreed to work these dates back in February, then doesn't return a single one of my calls before I leave, forcing me to use vacation time and then get another person to work three shifts later on... So now what? I dunno.. we'll sort it out when I get home. He also said there's some nightshifts where no one is covering for me and I have no vacation time. I've got it all accounted for on paper sitting on my kitchen counter back home.
Went from the Tim Hortons, a national icon of Canada, over to Starbucks because Timmies doesn't have wifi yet. And may never. Different clientelle base I guess.
Got in touch with the couchhost, thank god, not a recurrence of Philadelphia. Although as I'd said, my coffeehost had been pleasant, the hostel and the motel left much to be desired.
Travelling Saint Dennis to my host's place (Or perhaps Beubien), I was reminded further of why I love Montreal. Gritty, dirty, sexy, artsy, ALIVE! Small bars lined the street, people were all about, even for a Thursday. A dim red light emitted from an open window where music spilled out into the street; a duet between a DJ and a woman on a harp, awesome! Arriving at my hosts place, I was also introduced to their room mate, Frank, a sexologist. That's sort of like a sexual psychologist. The three of us discussed what to do. They had no plans set aside, so I suggested we call my backup couchhost who had said something about some Finnish band being in town and playing 'rock'... Sure why not was the conclusion. We would miss out on the DJ/Harp duo, hopefully for something better...
We arrived down near Saint Joseph (Yes, all streets in montreal are named after saints.. as if every Father Tom, Dick, and Harry has witnessed 3 miracles during his service.. isn't that what it takes? I dunno, but there's a lotta saints), and had to ask around. They'd never heard of Sala Rosa... Was this a cruel joke aimed at a poor unfortunate anglophone pig?! Apparently not, we found the venue. I treated our guests and we got inside. The opening band had just finished. I texted the backup. "I'm up front, short hair, white shirt, black vest, lots of room for you guys"... We made our way up the right, just as the band started coming onto the stage. "I'm 6'4", that'd be so rude of me to stand right in front lol, we'll meet up after" I mean seriously.. the stage was 3 feet off the ground, maybe 4... It just wouldn't be right. Her tall friend with the hat was one tall dude enough hehe
The band, named The Do began some sweet-ass experimental alternative, rock, electric-infused sound... The vocalist, a lovely sweet-voiced girl much akin to Nina Persson of The Cardigans... I knew I would like this... And sure enough, I did.. powerful lyrics, powerful sound, a real passion for what they'd created, it showed on stage. Especially when they broke out into a torrent of instrumental sound, both sung, and manipulated through the pedals. I couldn't help but think back to greats such as Sonic Youth and Bjork as well. Really great show.<object width="484" height="291"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/9bBkEQYdMM8?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/9bBkEQYdMM8?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="484" height="291"></embed></object>Afterwards I met the backup and their friends. My couchhost and Frank had to work and go to appointments early in the morning. Would I offend my host by staying out with the backup? Only way to know was to ask. It was definitely alright, so that's what I did! After purchasing a copy of The Do's CD of course. I learnt after hearing The Pieces that sometimes it's tough to find mp3's for small artists in order to steal them off the net. Sometimes we have to break down and support them the old fashioned way.. with money. On the way out the backup asked if I would mind coming over early so they could copy the CD... Moments later we met the drumme and the bassist outside as they mingled and had a smoke. I complimented the bassist on his manipulation of his pedals to create the awesome instrumental song we witnessed, and then said "I liked it so much, I even bought your CD!.." Pulling it from my pocket to reveal it. "... Unlike SOME people!" I pointed my thumb at the backup, who shouted with embarassment causing him to laugh, and then we were on the road to a pub called Vice Versa that served craft beer to meet some of their friends who were playing a band practice earlier.
The backup was a trapeze artist in Cirque De Soleil (you meet such cool people when you couch surf) and proved to be hilarious fun when we found a tiny old Fiat for sale, posing all over it and taking pics.. Not quite as interesting as the shots taken with my Louisville host while with the bronze man on the bench, no not nearly that entertaining, but still quite fun, hahah!
From there it was on for a real Montreal delicasse, Poutine... Fries, with gravy... and of course, not complete without curds of cheese.. melted. But where we went, the menu contained more than a dozen other concoctions, spin-offs of the traditional classic poutine, such as pepperoni and onion.. with the poutine. Actually not too bad. I'd had poutine before but never like this. Still, not a great before bed snack.
In the morning, my couchhost said goodbye and went off to school. I slept some more. What a comfortable hide-a-bed! No joke, great blankets too. Around 11 I woke up and Frank was up making crepes and sausage. Fantastic way to start the day.
Loaded up the bike and headed for Toronto. 543 kilometers later, I had arrived, checked into my hostel, and learned that this was the perfect weekend to be in Toronto... What a fluke... "What's going on tonight?" I ask the girl working the front desk of the hostel "Well, our coordinator is sick so nothing" Then behind me I hear something like "blah blah blah Toronto Independant Film Festival"... "Uhh.. why didn't you mention the Film Festival?" "Oh yeaaah!! Sorry, didn't think you'd be into that!" "Because I ride a motorcycle?" "Ha.. yeah.." So I get the info, look into what movies are playing, right away a movie with Robert Deniro and Edward Norton piques my interest. Another with Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator Salvation) also grabs me. Sometimes the stars actually show up for their premiers. I checked the calender and unfortunately none of those shows were going to be playing while I was in town for the night.
Originally I'd planned to do Montreal Thursday night, Kingston Friday night, and then Toronto Saturday night, and then London Sunday Night. BUT a buddy from Toronto I met while in Kelowna last summer told me about what's called a Zero-Week College Party in London at Western University Campus... Google it, you'll see results about parties out of control and raging riots, lol... better make sure my bike is parked safe! So I'd be leaving Toronto Saturday to get to London a day early.
Also, tragically, as I mentioned in an earlier post, a new friend from Fort McMurray who was actually also one of my first references died in a car crash in July. He was from Toronto and his grave site was here so I was invited to come and see it with his mother and his best friend on the Saturday morning. So the plan changed to getting up early from Kingston on Saturday morning to be at the Mount Pleasant Cemetary for 8:30 am. As I left Montreal though I realized getting up early was foolish and I should get into Toronto. It's funny how things work, and have worked for me. I mean riding into town and finding out one of the best international film fests is going on? That's big. As well, I can't help but wonder if every great and amazing thing would have transpired just has it is, had it not been for Viktor's great reference for me... Sure I have other good ones.. but his was one of the first... Who knows.. Despite this, I could tell from the very brief time that I knew him, that he was a great guy, and deserved to have me stop by while I was in the neighborhood.
Rounded the corner from the hostel on the way to the Box office and saw volunteers from TIFF in orange shirts and asked about the box office. But it was now closed! My only chance was to wait in a "Rush Line" at a venue, one of the many theaters in the area showing the indie films, for a seat to be available. "Well what's playing here?" They told me a few titles and two stuck out, "Easy Money" and "Griff the Invisible"... So I stood in line. Moments later a dude walked up and asked what film I was waiting for. "I don't care" He tells me he's had a rough day and doesn't feel like seeing Griff the Invisible and just wants to get rid of his ticket. So I bought it, full price, not into haggling or screwing a dude over who's just given me a ticket to pass the line and go directly to the front of the waiting horde. My first every ticket scalping!! YEaaaaah!!!!
Sitting down, it turned out I was beside a woman known as Bonnie Gordon, who as it would turn out, is a world renowned creator of dessert. She is known worldwide as the foremost in cake decorating from Canada and has her own school. Google her, such a cool meeting of chance.
Giff the Invisible has a synopsis that reads similar to that of Batman... But it is NOT your typical superhero movie.. In fact, in my opinion, it wasn't about him wanting to be a superhero at all. Really, it was a tragic, yet incredibly touching love story about two people, a little left of center (okay, drastically off their rockers!), who find eachother, and realize they're the only ones that will work for one another. A beautiful message. What's better is the director and 3 of the main cast members were there too and held an interview after. The movie was done by David Leon, and the main character was some dude from True Blood, some TV Vampire movie... Very cool to be a part of this, and very fortunate. Earlier I'd stated that I didn't really believe in fate, that it's our perspective that tells us things are falling in place for certain reasons, perhaps under the guide of something else. And then later I'd state that a chain of incidents lead us to where we are and sometimes seem to have done so for a reason... But I can't help but think that if our pasts were guided, then before they become our guided past, they are our guided futures....? Paradoxical? Maybe, maybe not. Even so, I felt like I was to see that movie. It's the second time on this trip that my eyes have been opened to the reality that I was setting up my future in a direction not suited for me, and I'm thankful for that.
I left the viewing and across the street the clubs on Richmond had started picking up and people were lining up like crazy. I walked over and asked the doorman the dress code "Well you can get in when you change your sandals" "NOBODY FUCKS WITH MY JESUS SHOES!" I screamed and thrust him into a wall.. lol, just kidding, "No, no.. I'm going to change". A short while later I was back in line. I looked around. A lot of young faces. I say to the same doorman, "Dude, everyone here looks 18, is this an underage club?" "No, it is 19 and over though, and it's a younger crowd" "Oh right.. I forgot we're not in the states... So where shall I go for people our age? I'm 29... " "Oh yeah, I hear ya, we have a small group of people that come in, but I'd say go to King St" "Okay, what venue" "Cobra..." "Cobra?? Dude... if I get stabbed I'm coming back here with the cops" He laughs "No no, it's good"
He wasn't lying. Very cool lounge, LED's alternated colours on the ceiling in tune with the music while an awesome DJ played good tracks. Chachi douchebags filled the place, calling me to chuckle under my breath and sometimes even laugh out loud, or just smile in amusement. Regardless, I just wanted to dance and have some fun, and did I! Especially when some chick DJ took over. I'm not sure if they'd prearranged the tracklist so she had all the good songs or if she was just more talented, but it was a great night!
Having to get up early to pack up and then head to the cemetary to pay my respects, I decided to call it an early night. Man oh man... did the CN Tower ever look wonderful during the walk home... Such a great city.
Another great thing about this city is the multiculturalism of it all. So many people with so many backgrounds coexisting, and cohabitating, getting along, being friends, getting married, without worrying about the colour of eachother's skin. Why can't it be like that globally? Of course I wasn't searching out places where tension might actually exist and be prevalent.
Navigating with google maps on a celphone is a pain in the caboose, but I found the cemetary. With time to spare, I went to a nearby gas station and had a breakfast sandwich at Timmies. While enjoying my BLT Bagel, a gentleman walked in. He was blind. Blind people don't deserve pity. They deserve respect. The fact that this guy is still living his life, and getting out in the morning for a coffee, rather than just moping around his house feeling sorry for himself and the cards he was drawn, shows great tenacity. I understand that being born blind or losing sight when young is probably greatly different to losing it after a lifetime of having it, but I know if I could no longer see, I would be devestated. I felt very appreciative to be who I am, and to have lived the life I have lived. I couldn't help but feel like an ass for any time I'd every whined to myself that I'd had it tough.
Riding around the cemetary made that hit home even more. I anticipated meeting Viktor's mother, and it sunk home heavily what kind of pain my own mother would be feeling if she were to lose me so untimely. It was sombering riding around, and I had to keep myself from tearing up in my helmet.
I met Viktor's friend, Raymond, but his mother had a doctor's appointment and couldn't make it. Raymond and I exchanged stories about how we knew Viktor and had met, talked about life, our futures, and how great a guy Viktor was. His mother had hoped to meet me. Meeting Viktor's friends and hearing all the positive stories about him was helping her, even just a little bit. Unfortunately she was only free that afternoon, and I'd be at the baseball game, and then off to London.
I went to a Starbucks for some free wifi. I couldn't help but reflect on everything from that morning. My heart was heavy. It may sound selfish or insensative but I tried to think about the rest of my trip. I wanted to understand what I was feeling but not let anything hamper my spirits. I still have two weeks to travel.
I left the cafe to head to the game, put my foot down on the shifter and felt it give way causing my foot to fall a few extra inches than normal. I looked down. My shift-assist mechanism had snapped, the shifter dangling at its pivot point. Oh wow.
After some rigamarole, I had BMW Road Side assist sending Moto Limo out to get my bike to take to the nearest BMW Motorrad dealer which unfortunately had no mechanics to work on the bike til Monday. Immediately I had to look at the bright side. I would enjoy more time in Toronto, see more films, in exchange for partying in London during the last hoorah of orientation week where things get crazy. As well, I made a call to Viktor's mother to let her know that I had time to see her now, and we set a time for lunch the next day.
And then a major speedbump; My shift-assist part would have to be ordered from Germany. Two weeks away. I was 10 minutes away from posting on Facebook "Trip plans altered, 2 weeks to go anywhere, do anything, Any suggestions?"... 'Adapt and Overcome'. I could hop a plane and fly somewhere fun, or couchsurf Toronto for 2 weeks, meeting all kinds of awesome people and enjoying the film festival in toto... 'Roll with the punches'. Then what I had suggested, to change out the part for a regular shifter on one of the retail bikes, and then replace it with a part they could get in a few days (the regular shifters were in stock at the warehouse unlike the autoshifter so far away), was okay'd and the second moto salesman, who was fairly mechanically inclined made the swap for me. Slight hiccup in the trip, but I was now back on track. Fortunately the hostel that I had just called to reserve a room for the night was totally okay with giving me a refund even though we were well into the no-cancellation timing. Canadian Backpackers Hostel, very reasonable.
The ball game had already begun, I'd been informed that Jay's games are abhorrantly boring, but most importantly, I'd agreed to see Vik's mom, and I knew that should take presidence. We arranged to meet up in Greek Town, where she would show me recent pictures from Viktor's older brother's wedding, and to hear about my brief friendship with her son.
We sat in a Tim Hortons (Yes, they're everywhere), and looked through the photo album from the trip to Mexico for the wedding, 2 weeks before he was killed in the accident. She was very strong, I did my best to be strong as well, despite everytime looking at her, seeing my own mother, and imagining how she would be in this same situation, talking to strangers about me. I was able to keep my composure, and she told me of all the people who had only known Viktor a short time, but who still made the trip to Toronto for the funeral. That's the thing about Fort McMurray, so many people living there for a short time to make money, making friends quickly, being fortunate when you find good people amongst many that aren't that great. That these people would travel was a true testament to how great a guy he was. I told her of my positive experiences with her son, and how I believed that Viktor was an integral part in the chain of events that has lead to me having such a great experience on my trip, and how thankful I was for that. No words could ever assuage her grief of course, but I said that she should take great comfort in the fact that Viktor impacted so many people positively in his short life when so many others go a lifetime without doing that for people. She appreciated it, but nothing would take away that pain.
Walking back to my bike, I tried to cheer up, but couldn't shake the thought of my mother being absolutely broken if I died. There is a special bond between mothers and their sons. That coupled with the loss my mother has faced in the past, made her anguish painfully inconceivable to me. 
Then I got a text. It was coincidentally from my mother. I called her immediately. I had to listen to 10 minutes of bitching and griping about the potentiality that I could lose my job, and how that would impact her semi-retirement and financial situation, and freedom to shop or something like that. All without real warrant of course, amplified by a condition of over-anxiety, and needless worry. So much for the tingly feeling I'd had and the strong sense of empathy over her pain at my hypothetical loss.
Incredible... Isn't it? My bike had a mechanical failure keeping me from going to a baseball game, so that I could go and help with the sorrow of a grieving mother, but still continue on with my journey as planned, only missing a baseball game that apparently wouldn't be worth going to anyway. Uncanny. Maybe fate doesn't exist. But maybe it does.
The ride to London along the 403 and 401 was beautiful. The clouds, deep and gray, the rain at bay so far, the leaves just starting to change, the crops yellow and brown. I'm not sure if there was a lot of rain in the area while I was away, but this part of Canada is looking so gorgeous. I really love it.
Arrived at my buddy Aaron's place where he was now renting with 3 others for his courageous return to college. I'd met Aaron while in Kelowna around the same time the fateful houseboat catastrophe occured. We'd had a hilarious time stomping around the area and kept in touch over Facebook. Upon hearing I would be in the area on my travels I was invited to stay and coincidentally it was during the most massive party of the year.
What a night, went to a place called Jack's after watching some Beer Pong at the house. We got in early to avoid lines but within an hour the place was wall to wall people, primarily crazy college kids. The DJ was no Tiesto, but top 40 kept the place hopping and you could hardly move on the dance floor. 
Met up with a friend who worked as a pharmacy tech back in Fort McMurray during the summer. Only got together once for coffee but the conversation was enjoyable so it was good to briefly reunite. 
It's Sunday now, staying around for one more night in London to chill, Leaving for Michigan tomorrow to meet up with a buddy from Powerslide.net! Hopefully I have no problem getting back across the border with my two unpaid tickets and my unpaid parking ticket :P lol
Take care, Ride safe

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London
photo by: signedcutie