Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Delta Airlines

Irmena and fam.

The first stop was Irmena's. I needed to borrow their scale to weigh my suitcase. If you go over 50 pounds there's a extra fee that gets added on to your air fare. If my suitcase was too stuffed I'd have to leave stuff at home. I had heard that the venue lighting was pretty poor and since there were no outdoor skating events this year chances of getting any good photos would be pretty limited. I decided to pack my flash gear. The SB-800s with the cheap light stands I had. It was this or more clothing.

After packing all the light gear I weighed the suitcase and it came to 46 pounds. Woo woo!

YYZ - Toronto's Pearson airport.

Flight 5374
My first time travelling with Delta. Generally I would go with Westjet but was booked on Delta through the travel agent. The cost difference was almost $400.00 between the two airlines, Delta being the less expensive of the two.

I was dinged with a luggage fee of $25 and another $25 to bring the luggage back. Plus it's not a direct flight. There's a stop over in Detroit. The seats felt a bit narrow. I was squashed between two guys that had iPad/iPhone technology and were catching up on what looked to be news in Chinese.

Despite this he stewardess, Louryne, was quite a nice distraction. We talked a bit about the city (Toronto). She had flown there many times but never stayed there overnight. It got me to thinking about working in an industry where you're moving around all the time. While it's kind of neat to see the world you really don't have a lot of time to have a base of operations or a decent relationship. Louryne said she was pretty old for a flight attendant, I would have guessed she was in her40s, she could have been a grandmother perhaps. She had a great intercom speaker voice. It sounded like something you would hear in a movie narration.

Looking out the window

The barf /"air sickness" bag.

The air sickness bags had "I'll be back" printed on them. I thought this funny as I could imagine if a bad egg salad sandwich sitting on a radiator over night could speak, would say something like this... with the Arnold accent of course. Maybe the bag should have said "I have returned".

Looking out the smudged window


Detroit has an amazing airport, who knew? It's gigantic. It even has a monorail in it! Wow. There's also food places all over the place (including Popeye's chicken). Unfortunately my incoming flight was stuck on the Tarmac leaving Toronto so the time to be had in Detroit eating and taking in the environment was cut short. I managed to grab a cheese steak sandwich at Charley's, inhaling it before getting on the next flight.

The underground tunnel in the Detroit airport

Impressive water fountain

The monorail


my sub.

Flight 1217

17:30 hey Allie gator is on this flight!

Allie Gator

With Montreal playing in Texas and only a handful of skaters from Hamilton or Toronto going to Rollercon this year I figured chances of bumping into any skaters that I knew on the way down to Las Vegas would be non-existent. With the added connection on my non-direct flight I suppose the odds improved. Sure enough a skater from Madison.

Airplane food

19:00 pacific standard time

We arrived at the McCarran airport. Like other trips I have going to Vegas I remember that it's hot (but a dry heat) but I forget how hot it actually is. I believe my brain is blocking out these uncomfortable experiences and just remembering the general overall sun of experiences. Las Vegas fun? Definitely! Hot? sure... maybe.

Being to Las Vegas now for the fifth time (three previous RollerCons, one NAB conference) I am still surprised at the amount of heat that blasts at you as you first walk out the airport doors to the bus stop. While not humid (like New Orleans), it's like opening an oven and sticking your whole body in. The automated doors open to the outside and Bawhooosh you're sweating like a pig.

Eventually your body gets acclimatized to a certain degree but five out of five times I have felt the weather change a shock to the system. So what if it's dry heat, it's still hot.

Waiting at the airport bus stop for our shuttle bus

There's this great service in Las Vegas called the airport shuttle bus. Not only does the shuttle bus take you to your hotel front doorstep but you can buy a two way pass so it can bring you back to the airport. I'm not sure if it's cheaper but it's a nice option to have while you have money, at least you'll be able to make it back to your plane if by the end of your trip you're broke (just don't lose your ticket stub).

Now in the lobby of the Riviera, Wendy checks her messages.

The line for registration was about 12 people long. While this doesn't sound that long we still ended up being in line for over 40 minutes. The people at the front desk were pretty understaffed or slow to get us all in. Being RollerCon and all though the 40 minutes didn't seem so long if you knew people in the derby world. I stopped some girls to take their photo on the account that one of them was wearing the Neon Skates T-shirt.

A Neon Skates T-shirt worn by a Guelph skater.

Neon Skates is the Montreal skate apparel shop owned by Marc and Tush. So seeing the familiar logo was a nice reminder of home I suppose. The girls as it turned out were from Guelph, Ontario (Canada). Hammer City just played them (How did I miss that game?) recently.


"Bagelhot!" I looked toward the front of the line and it was B-Train from Wicked Skatewear. Yay! My first West Coastie of Rollercon. Like most people you like it's always good to see the person in real life and not just on the internet.

The hotel room

Skaters from Houston.

After checking in I decide that it's time for food and wander back downstairs to scout out nearby food places. On the main floor next to the Queen Victoria Pub I bump into some people from Houston. One guy thinks he remembers me from the previous year. After a bit of talking I figure out he actually remembers Marcus. Asian looking guy with camera, wearing shorts, and camera bag.

Kim Supersonik (on right)

Wondering around the lobby, especially the registration line, I kept bumping into people I knew or people from Canada. It was like attending a family reunion of sorts. Even with out Montreal, Hamilton or Toronto there, it was nice to see familiar faces.

Skaters from west Canada!

Our hotel signage

The hotel had a few things around it that would be useful. There was a Wallgreen's (drug store) just down the street, some food places (including a Denny's), a McDonalds and Subway sandwich shop across the street and a food court inside the hotel itself.

In the hotel food court

I ended up getting dinner at the Wok Express. It didn't really matter what type of food I ate, at this point I just needed to eat something. The Wok Express food was nothing out of the ordinary but it was just what I needed to keep my stomach from rumbling.

My first dinner of the night

A skater from San Diego left watching luggage

While heading back to my room (and trying to find it through the maze of slot machines) I found myself back in front of the registration line. This is where I saw this girl surrounded by luggage sitting on the floor. She was from San Diego. Her team mates had left her holding the bag, sitting next to a few of them actually. It was at this point I hear "Hey!". It was Marcus.

Marcus Metropolis!

That same guy that the guy from Houston mixed me up with. Marcus had just gotten in from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He hadn't had dinner yet so we ventured out to find food.

A San Diego girl looking for other San Diego girls

On our way through the hotel we saw this skater looking for her peeps. As it turned out she was from San Diego. I told her about the lonely skater sitting next to all the luggage downstairs.

Marcus at Denny's

Marcus and I ended up at Denny's where I ordered a round two order of food. Mostly light desserty stuff. Some Hawaiian tropical pancake puppies chased down by a rootbeer float.

Dinner two. Hawaiian tropical pancake puppies.

It should be noted that while the Hawaiian pancake puppies sould good having pineapple in them, if there was pineapple it was in powder form. The pancake puppies were pretty dry and hard, equivalent of eating a timbit that sat outside for a couple of days. The rootbeer float was good though.

The bronze Crazy Girls statue at the entrance of the Riviera

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day before lift off

Captain Hill crawls on the grass.

I worked today. It would be the only day of the week that I would work. In terms of going on vacation or going away it was bad timing job wise. The previous week had no work days scheduled and the week I got back I'd have only one day scheduled for work. So two days of work in three weeks.

It's not like I knew what the work schedule would be like when i started to plan taking time off once I figured out when Rollercon was. Just finding someone that could work in my spot was challenging enough. Toronto has been pretty busy this last year with work. At least for playback operators. I kept getting job offers while I was working. Something that's not that usual in past years.

My first thing to do once I got home was to change the hamster cage (aka The POD). While doing that I took the Hamster outside for a bit so she could crawl around in the grass and breathe in the fresh air. The following are some of the photos taken with the Fuji W3 in 2D mode.

crawling toward me and the camera...

Hears something...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Andy's travelling to Taiwan.

I arrived home from London to find the Captain had escaped. My friend Andy was having a going away party. The dilemma was choosing between whether to go to the party to see a friend off or look for the hamster. My logic told me that the hamster had been missing for a maximum of two and a half days. There really wasn't much I could do.

Worse case scenarios - a) the resident cat, Lucy, made up for all the times the Captain ran up to her at full ramming speed in the hamster ball. b) The hamster found her way into the air ducts, got stuck and died.

Both theories I didn't like much.  After doing some house investigation I didn't smell any rotting and didn't see any body parts on the floor so I was pretty sure the Captain was just some where sleeping. Perhaps the couch.

I thought that's where I'd be if I were the hamster. It's warm and dark with a close proximity to the POD. Plus there's food in the couch as Cheryl tends to drop crumbs when she's eating.  I know this because I've cleaned the couch before.  I'm not talking huge things like whole crackers, just little particles of food.  I want you the reader to know that Cheryl is not a slob.  Cheryl noticed a toilet paper roll knocked over saturday. So we pieced together, like a Crime Scene Investigation, that it was pushed or knocked over by the hamster after escaping from the back of the POD.

The latch sometimes flips open. With a nudge, I figured the hamster made it's way out and crawled out the open back panel. Once on the outside, while crawling around, the hamster then pushed the toilet paper over, then fell to the ground (about a 60cm drop). Once on the floor crawled along the wall past the shelf and to the couch. It's dark, and made of soft material that the hamster could easily climb up and into. Plus there's food in there. I found a pretzel bit when pulling up a cushion.

I decided to go see Andy. I wouldn't see her for at least a year otherwise and dead or alive the hamster would eventually be found. As dark as that might seem there was nothing I could do.  Also I always wanted to meet Andy.  I knew her through Bill and had only met her in passing.  She was always someone in the background that I never said "Hi" to.  We had kept in touch over the internet and by that I mean maybe one or two messages a year.  But from that and her facebook postings there was something quirky about the girl I liked.  I also figured that Bill or other people I'd know would be at the party and it would be good to see them too.

On the way to Andy's place I stopped by the local grocery store to pick up some peanuts to use as a lure for the hamster when I got back home. This bag of peanuts would later become a conversation piece as I talked to people later on that night.

After an hour of commuting I ended up standing at the front door to the going away party with no one answering the door. It's times like this where I wished I had phone numbers of people that were going to be there. I didn't. After about 20 minutes of looking like some squinting stalker on the front porch I eventually left. Maybe I got the address wrong?  the event got cancelled?  ugh. 

While on the subway travelling back home between the Summerhill and Rosedale stations, the train is outside above ground, my phone picked up a text message. It was Andy saying that they didn't hear the doorbell or door knocking because they were all in the back yard.  Someone had found my card with a message that I'd been there and luckily passed it on along with my phone number.

Using the incoming phone number attached to the text message I texted the person back saying I was turning around. At Bloor I reversed course and headed back to the party.

Andy at her going away backyard party

Posing for the 3D camera.

The party was fun. I ended up chatting to various people, talking about the 3D camera, eating a large number of hot dogs, taking photos and explained numerous times why I had a bag of peanuts. Photos of people dancing, being clocked on the head with stuffed animals, lawn bowling. Fun stuff.

It was good to see Andy in real life as well. Talking to someone on facebook is one thing but it's definitely not the same as actually meeting them in person. I'm glad I went and in the end was happy to meet her even if never to see her again.  She was going away after all.  Maybe our paths would cross again some day in the future.  She took a bunch of our addresses so she could send mail to us.  While it seemed like a nice thing to look forward to I won't get my hopes up.  Every time I travel I usually don't send mail.  It's one of those things you need time to do.  Maybe if she was stuck indoors somewhere because of the weather?  I think about being in London when it rained.  I was outside exploring.

On the way back home I received some text messages from Cheryl (the landlord). She and Lucy (the cat) had located Captain Hill in the couch and the hamster had run behind the shelf unit. I instructed Cheryl to block the floor vents and told her I was on the way home.

By the time I got to Dundas West station I had more text messages on my phone. The last one stated that Cheryl had caught the hamster in her derby helmet and scooped it up putting in back into the cage (POD).

Captain Hill with banana chip

I got home and gave the hamster a banana chip. One should note that banana chips cut length wise down the banana are not easily moved by the hamster. It does provide some entertainment when she tried to squeeze into a tube with the banana slice horizontal. I am evil.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bag Lady? We're having breakfast with a bag lady?

Last night at the Nite Owl, I overheard Diane telling Mirambo something about breakfast and a bag lady. There was loud ambient noise and music playing so I couldn't hear everything definitively. Was it an actual bag lady that we were going to meet? Does this bag lady have a name? Is this a famous well known bag lady of London? Mirambo seemed to know who this person was and then so did Becca. I figured if Diane wanted to spend time with this person she, the bag lady, must be an alright individual. Who am I to judge. Should we go out and buy her sandwiches? Diane is a pretty good judge of character and not flaky in the slightest. Ergo, the bag lady is therefore a pretty decent individual. Let's meet this bag lady friend of yours.

As it turned out, and I'm not sure if this was a let down or not of my expectations, the Bag Lady turned out to be a restaurant. A restaurant loaded with tea cups and aprons and other girly things. Also filled with knick knacks that I haven't seen since I was a kid. It kind of reminded me of something one would see at Disney world while waiting for the "It's a small world after all" ride.

Diane at the Bag Lady (N42 59.728 W81 14.441)

Toys, books, board games, records, all packed into a room of assorted tables and chairs... with floral arrangements. I was kind of surprised that the place didn't have a bunch of doilies. This was one of Diane's favourite haunts. I could see why. It's unique charm combined with a menu filled of comfort food. Yummy, tummy food. By this point I was pretty hungry.

Look at all that nostalgia on the shelf.

Diane with a potato head

Diane takes a photo

yummy peanut butter jelly.

the breakfast burrito

Diane at the counter of the Bag Lady

We saw some aprons on the wall. I'm not sure if this triggered us going to the Weezi studio. That's where we ended up. There was a collection of notepads and postcards made from recycled record album covers to 50s (if you could put a time on them) dresses. They also had purses and assorted bags. I was impressed with the hand made bag out of newspapers that was sewn together used to package your bought goods.

Diane buying goods at Weezi Studios (N42 59.355 W81 15.050)

It was while talking to the shop keeper about the previous night's Rock in the Park that we found out Amy Winehouse had died and also that there was a massacre in Norway. The shop keeper told us that she had been glued to the TV watching news. We were surprised to hear the two stories. Where were we?

A planter. It would be cool to grow lettuce in it. Then you could say "I've got a head of lettuce".

We stopped by the farmer's market (N42 59.474 W81 13.281) for food (fruit and an apple fritter). It was here that I discovered Diane's cherry sorting capabilities. She even impressed the guy working the fruit stand. I think he even offered her a job.

The freshly made apple fritters... yummy apple fritters.

The apple fritters were amazing. Like pocket sized sugary apple filled pies, loaded with apples. Move over Tim Horton's apple fritter, you've been replaced.

Diane at the beach

From there it was a trip to the beach in Port Stanley (N42 39.602 W81 13.204). I was kind of surprised to see that it was so populated. The demographic ranged from toddlers making sand castles to older people sitting on towels baking in the sun.

Diane posing at the beach

We sat on the beach taking turns going into the water. It was refreshingly cold and for such a shallow beach the waves were pretty good. Kind of reminded me of being on Ward's Island as a kid before the Leslie street spit was made. Waves came at you that were powerful enough to push you off your feet.

Diane's browning prompted us to return to her house. It's there where we watched about five hours of 'Sons of Anarchy', a FOX tv show about the life of a biker gang dealing with gun running.

Friday, July 22, 2011

London and the grilled cheese sandwich

Today involved a lot of travel prep. The normal stuff like doing the last minute load of laundry to the packing of the suitcase, the mad dash to upload past photo files to my web site. I wanted to upload the rollercon photos from the last three years before leaving.

I really should have started this a few nights ago. Today's upload time determined that only the photos from 2008 would be uploaded before I leave (if that).

Added to the list if things to do I also had to pop by the travel center to pick up my plane tickets and hotel voucher for RollerCon and before that had to go to the bank to get rent money and some US dollars. The US dollar is now trading at 98 cents Canadian. That includes the bank fee. Nice.

Everything seemed to time out well and before I knew it I was at union station waiting to board a train for London (London, Ontario).

Union Station

I waited at gate 20 for about 40 minutes before being allowed to board. The heat and stagnant air in the under ground waiting area had me sweating through my t-shirt. It wasn't just me, looking around I saw people using their boarding passes as fans, attempting to blow wind on their perspiration filled faces.

I thought about the combined body odour stink from everyone that would be filling the train cars once we all boarded. If you're reading this blog entry and designing a waiting area for a bunch of people to eventually cram into a smaller space please keep this in mind. Ventilation is key.

It might have been me only smelling me, and I thought I stank (it's like I inherited the mutant power to increase my B.O. levels off the charts), but maybe it wasn't that bad, the woman sitting next to me didn't say anything. Plus her eyes weren't watering. That's a good sign. Yes, I'm comparing my man smell to mustard gas.

In other news, I've noticed on past rides on planes that my GPS doesn't seem to work. I thought it was some kind of shielding based on how the vehicle was made. Being in the train car seemed to have the same effect. It wasn't until we passed Hamilton that the GPS started to find a satellite signal. I'll have to look into this with further experimentation.

London, the destination, was planted in my brain about two weeks ago. The props guy, Robert, on the show I've been working on mentioned a rock concert in London featuring Cheap Trick, Meatloaf and Stone Temple Pilots. There were other bands but the ones that were of interest to me were really Meatloaf and Cheap Trick.

As things worked out at work. My schedule had me not working for the entire week before and after RollerCon. London just seemed to fit into place.

Rock in the Park

Diane was in London. It would be cool to see her again and this time in city six. I met Diane while staying at Tush's place in Montreal, city one. Tush picked her up from the bus station a day before I left Montreal. Since then we've met in different cities. Las Vegas, Toronto, Hamilton, and Kitchener/Waterloo. These didn't all coincide with derby events, FYI we do have lives other than just derby.

Diane met me at the train station, we dropped off my luggage at her place, then got to the park where we caught the tail end of one of the bands.

Me and Diane sitting on a large stump waiting for Meatloaf.

The guy with the Van

It was the end of Cheap Trick's set ("hello there" and "I want you to want me") that we got to listen to. At first from a bridge, then making our way over to the entrance we found a large stump to sit on. This is where we sat while waiting for Meatloaf to go on we heard music pumping out of a guy's van. We figured he was showing his sound system to some passerby. From our vantage point we could also make out that he had a 42 inch TV screen in the back. He saw us listening and asked for us to rate his system. "Did I get a 10?" he asked. Diane gave him a 10 with her hands spread out.

Meatload eventually took the stage, he opened with the song from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (Hot potootie - Bless my soul) then went into some new stuff interspersed with ranting about no one buying his new album. He also told off a guy near the stage (we assume he was near the stage from the audio, we didn't see him) that he should be standing up and not sitting. The argument based on Meatloaf being 63 and standing on stage. I wondered what made Meatloaf so bitter.

We left after the rant and a few of his new (and unknown) songs to meet up with Mirambo at the Nite Owl. A place where I was supposed to buy a grilled cheese sandwich.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich goodness

"Grilled cheese sandwich?", you ask? I know right? I had imagined a cheez whiz squirted in between two slices of wonder bread then burnt shut (with a clothes iron) and wouldn't have been surprised if it had a footprint on it. It's hard dehydrated casing could have been flung around and maybe killed someone (from the biker bar next door) before making it's way to the plate. That would add flavour.

To my surprise, my pleasant surprise, my B.S.T. (Bacon, Swiss, tomato) came on some nice bread and was toasted to perfection. On the side there were things that looked like fries but were hollow and crunchy like a shrimp chip. Added to that was a small dish with mayonnaise mixed with maple syrup.

It was quite good. Exceptional even. If Montreal is known for smoked meat and poutine, London is now known for the grilled cheese sandwich. Yes, it was that good.

Mirambo and Diane pose in 3D in the VIP room!



Mirambo as Justin Bieber

Diane getting sloshed

Mirambo and Diane