Is that my future calling?

A smart man said to me recently that success is predicated less on having the best strategy and more on executing that strategy with excellence. That smart man is my boss and he is not only smart, but well read and very successful; I learn as much in a 15 minute chat with him over coffee as a lot of MBA’s do in an entire course and I think that makes me really fortunate, so I keep my ears open.

What he said about execution resonated with me because it has occurred to me that the same principle applies in my personal life.   It’s not enough to know what I want to do or become or even have an excellent plan for getting there.  In the end, what is most important is to execute that roadmap diligently and with excellence.

The theme of my blog has always been about charting a new course in my life.  I’ve gone through a renaissance in the last few years, I’ve rewritten the course of my life and remade it in a direction that makes me happy, every single day.   Having accomplished that  there are still some goals, big and small, that I think about on an almost daily basis.

1.   Take a long trip.  

Not a week in Mexico, or a fast and furious 5 days in Vegas, but a long backpacking trip.   The South Pacific and Australia or Nepal would be my top choices, although Greece/Turkey/Croatia/Italy is not also not a bad sounding route.   And by long I’m thinking 3 months or more.  Long enough to really get away and get into rhythm of the road.  One of my favourite books is the Pillars of Hercules by Paul Theroux.  I guess because I love both travel and reading so much, it’s not a huge stretch that Paul Theroux, that most literate of travel writers, is one of my favourites and this version of his own Grand Tour through the war-torn, the vulgar and the beautiful, juxtaposed against some of the best literature of the countries he visits,  is a one I have read over and over again.

A truly great read

2.   Downsize. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live, but the reality is it’s too big.  I just don’t need to be taking up this much of a footprint.   And it seems to be human nature that however much space we have, we collect enough “stuff” to fill that up.  So, although I’m fairly parsimonious by some standards,  I feel like I have too much space and too much stuff.   I’d love to get down to a 2-bedroom condo and no more “stuff” than will comfortably fit in that space.  I’ve already downsized once but I still feel like I have just too much damn stuff.   Fewer possessions means more mobility; the more you own, the more you are tied down by those possessions, so conversely in a strange way Goal #2 relates directly to Goal #1.

3.   Getting published – yeah, me and every other blogger out there.

I love to write and I make the time to do it, no matter what else is neglected (sleep, dogs, children, vacuuming (actually I don’t give a rat’s about that one).  But there are a lot of good writers out there and they have good stories to tell.   I’m not at all sure that what I have to say is interesting enough or that I’m talented enough to get it down on paper.  And how to form the random stories into a coherent whole, and then get it published?   It will take time, a really good strategy and truly excellent execution. 

But, not to be deterred,  I’ve come up with a potential short-cut;  I may never write a great piece of CanLit (or any other type of Lit for that matter) but I’m pretty sure I’d be a whiz bang at writing Romance novels, and particularly the racier type with lots of throbbing and heaving bits.  And, best of all, I’d probably have to do LOTS of research.   Now that’s what I’d call a WIN/WIN situation.  

My future is calling

I think I hear my future calling;  Goal #3 would allow me to completely indulge Goals # 1 and #2, so I guess I better get started on that research, and you know, if it comes to nothing, I won’t be thinking of it as wasted time . . really.

Now that’s what I call great execution.

In Heavy Rotation: on a friend’s recommendation I picked up a copy of City and Colours new record, Little Hell.  Wow, I’m totally entranced, captivated, blown away.    To be brave enough to write lyrics with that much honesty and vulnerability – amazing.  I just love the reverb guitar sound Dallas Green is working and his voice – like silver bells.   Finding new (to me)  music that I love this much is bit like an early Christmas present, so thank you.  Check it out – the title track is fantastic, but there isn’t a bad song on the record.  My personal fav . . .tough to pick . .but it’s probably “We Found Each Other in the Dark”.  The new single is “Fragile Bird”

And in a completely serendipitous moment (don’t you just LOVE those) City and Colour is playing at the VOODOO Experience Music Festival in New Orleans, on Halloween.   Just to make sure I have it right, a punk/alternative music festival on Halloween, in New Orleans.  Voodoo on the Bayou – colour me tickled pink!!!   It has something called the “Social Aid and Pleasure Club” I’ve just signed up for email updates – bet those won’t be dull as dishwater spam.   

Voodoo on the Bayou, hell yeah

Hello, there’s my future calling me again.  . . . .

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Heartbreak and Hooliganism in Vancouver

Between Wednesday night and now, about a million column inches have been devoted to the Stanley Cup riots in my hometown of Vancouver.   The city I live in, and love, got a big black eye that night.  Like so many others I sat transfixed, watching police in full riot gear lobbing flash bangs and pepper spray into crowds right on the streets where I walk every day, where I eat my lunch, pick up my coffee, visit with my friends.  Cars burned outside our beautiful main library, a place I visit several times a week. I buy my books at the Chapters, I shop at Sears and The Bay and I sat watching them being smashed and burned and looted. It was surreal and it made me so angry.

The '"Fan Zone" post Game 7 of the Stanley Cup in Vancouver

Friends who went down to watch the hockey game left during the second period because the crowd was becoming so unruly.  We were texting each other and they described the “fan zone” as being totally overcrowded with people trying to shove their way in past people who had been sitting there for hours. The so called “security” was a joke; people were openly bringing in liquor and drinking in the fan zones.  The downtown bars had been lined up since before they opened, so by game time at 5pm, there were lots of people who had already been drinking all day.   “This place is getting ugly and I’m getting out” was the common thread.  They described fights breaking out in the crowd and zero police presence within the incredibly overcrowded Fan Zone to control anything that was going on.  They were shoved and pushed as people tried to force their way in.  One fan tried to yank the towel they were sitting on out from under them  – because it had the colour yellow on it. They were fully dressed in Canucks colours and sweaters and had just happened to grab a blue and yellow towel and this “fan” of the Canucks wanted to grab it off them and destroy it. And this was BEFORE the game even started.

I left work early and headed back to the North Shore – I’ll admit at the time I was a bit disappointed, but as I walked the streets and got a feel for the crowd, I was no longer disappointed but thankful.   As another friend said to me, “The whole city was different.  You could feel the tension and unrest in the air.  It wasn’t like the other games.  Trouble was brewing and you could feel it”.    I have to agree; as the office buildings emptied early, the city was a sea of Canucks colours, but it wasn’t the happy, excited atmosphere of the past few weeks.  There was anticipation, but you could also sense that the crowed felt defeat was imminent – there was hope too, but not even the most diehard fan would have thought a win anywhere near a sure bet for the Canucks that last game.   And as the same friend said, “If I could sense the troubled atmosphere, which was so pervasive, why could the police and other emergency services not sense that too?”  A great question.

And when trouble started, it exploded in all directions.  I was making notes on my blog as I watched on TV:

Pockets of violence all over the city. People being stabbed. St Paul’s emergency closed because they cannot take any more emergency patients.

Emergency tear gas stations set up at St. Paul’s and VGH

Roving gangs moving from point to point around the city smashing windows, looting.

Buses no longer running in or out of downtown. Skytrain is running outbound trains only but after the initial crush stations are empty and these people are not leaving downtown. The Seabus is running back to the North Shore but no Seabus into the downtown.

Cambie Bridge closed. Burrard and Granville bridges closed to inbound traffic.

As I sit now on Sunday morning writing this, I realize I’m still incredibly angry; angry at the stupid people who tried to destroy the city I love.  I work about 3 blocks from riot central and right outside the Burrard Skytrain station, one of the main transit centres. We have a beautiful courtyard  where we eat lunch and sit in the sun, and that night idiots were wantonly yanking plants out of the gardens and throwing garbage into the fountains (which had to be shut down for the rest of the week) while building security tried in vain to keep the rioters away.   These were not anarchists or a small group of organized hooligans – these were just regular people acting very, very badly.

And that’s what makes me the angriest; the denial.   The police, the Canucks organization, the media or the average person on the street can say it was not “true” hockey fans that did this, but quite frankly I don’t buy it.   I think that to some extent,everyone who was caught up in the Cup run excitement feels just a bit uncomfortable that we are all a tiny bit culpable.  I will freely admit that I’m not a “true” fan, that I’m a total bandwagon jumper, that I don’t regularly follow any sort of professional sports (that’s another whole blogpost) but I was loaned a Canucks sweater and I wore it to work on game days and I, like so many others, left work early and raced home to watch the game.  I was totally caught up in it.  So the thinking, conscious or not, goes along the lines of “I don’t want to be identified with any way, shape or form with those who participated in the rioting – so I guess they can’t be a “true” fan,
because a “true fan” like me wouldn’t do that”.

This shadowy group of organized “anarchists” being blamed for inciting the riot by VPD Chief Chu – I’m calling total bullshit on that one.  Even his own officers are embarrassed at that piece of blatant deflection and the most pathetic attempt at spinning a story I’ve heard in years.  Really, does he think we are all that stupid?  That we didn’t watch all of it live on TV and haven’t seen the thousands of photos and videos posted on the internet? Give us some credit.   That some people came downtown prepared and intent on starting trouble – absolutely.   That they were dressed in hundreds of dollars worth of Canucks gear – again, absolutely.   That they were “disguised anarchists”, not real hockey fans – give me a break.

One image that has stayed with me was about 15 minutes of live footage shot by CBC right outside their studio at about 9pm on Wednesday night.   Across the street in the plaza of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (where people attending Wicked were trapped for hours) a 50ish man got into a heated confrontation with the police.  This was somebody’s dad, an older man, his wife and another couple.  All were dressed head to toe in Canucks gear. Their faces were painted blue and the ladies were wearing, like lots of other people, goofy blue wigs.  They had come downtown to support their team and hopefully be part of an historic victory – Vancouver’s very first Stanley Cup.   I watched as this man pushed and shoved at police in full riot gear.  His wife and friends tried to pull him away, and what struck me was how very, very angry he was.  His face was swollen and red, his eyes literally sticking out; an unrecognizable stranger to his family and friends (at least I hope so).   This continued for about 15 or 20 minutes until one of the ladies took him by the arm and tried to physically pull him away from the police, at which time he threw her to the ground where she lay, not moving. At that point the police jumped in, dealt him a few swift blows with their batons and slapped on the zap straps.

It’s this little vignette that I can’t get out of my mind and find so very troubling. What is it about professional sports that gets the fans to wound up, so angry, that they would behave like this?  And it’s not an isolated incident – its common practice for hockey fans to yell, scream and swear abuse at their TV’s during games.   My poor little dog still runs and hides whenever he hears the music for Hockey Night in Canada come on – in a past life the anger, swearing and yelling during the hockey game was just a regular part of Saturday night in my house.   And among all hockey fans abuse of the on-ice officials is as much a part of the game as what actually happens with the puck.  I once asked a hockey fan whether there had ever, in the history of hockey, been a well refereed game, because from what I’ve seen the answer is no.  I even heard a conspiracy theory being talked around that that NHL had conspired with the referees to call the game against the Canucks because for monetary reasons “they” wanted an Eastern US team to win, not one from the West Coast of Canada.  I’m not kidding.

So far, no mysterious anarchists have been outed or arrested for rioting in Vancouver, but a lot of regular people have been.  The high achieving athlete who was headed for a berth on our Olympic team that was caught stuffing rags in car tailpipes and setting them on fire – people just like that.   Our sons and daughters, our husbands and friends who got caught up in the violence and made a choice, that’s right, a choice,  to stay and participate rather than leave.  Because of the 100,000 people that were downtown that night, I’d guess that 80,000 plus chose to, and were able to leave, but the rest of the people down there made a decision to stay and participate.   Standing in front of a burning car or a looted store laughing and snapping pictures is no better than actually setting fires, smashing windows or running off with stolen property.  By participating they condoned those actions.   There are no excuses and one of the bright lights in all this is that by and large there has been no acceptance by their peers of their actions. It’s friends and acquaintances who are turning in and tagging photos of the rioters  – calling them out and shaming them for their actions.  And for that bit of sanity, in the midst of the craziness, I’m profoundly thankful.

These are my own thoughts and opinions and I don’t think they will win any popularity contests.  But being a highly democratic person, differing points of view are more than welcome, I’d love to hear them.

Fish Tacos with Rhubarb Salsa and Rhubarb Rosemary Cocktails

I love fish tacos, I love rhubarb and I love exotic gin cocktails.  And since good rhubarb recipies are so scarce, these were too awesome not to pass along.  Reblogged from When Harry Met Salad on WordPress.

Mmmmm time to go home and find some rhubarb

Rhubarb, Rosemary & Gin Cocktail
makes 8
adapted from Bon Appétit
printable recipe

2¼ cups water, divided
2 Tbsp. + ½ cup sugar
½ cup fresh rosemary leaves
3 cups diced fresh rhubarb
6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1½ cups good gin

Place 1 cup water and 2 Tbsp. sugar in small saucepan and simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add rosemary leaves. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain through fine-mesh sieve, pressing on leaves to extract liquid. Cool syrup to room temperature, then chill for 4 hours.

Puree 1¼ cups water, ½ cup sugar and rhubarb in blender. Strain through fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Squeeze the remaining rhubarb pulp to release as much liquid as possible. Chill the juice for 4 hours.

Mix the rosemary syrup, rhubarb juice, remaining 5 Tbsp. lemon juice, and gin in a pitcher or large jar. Pour over ice and garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs, if desired.

Leftovers (ha!) should keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Fish Tacos with Rhubarb Salsa

whitefish tacos with rhubarb salsa Sometimes I have good ideas. This is not one of them. It is a good idea — it’s a fantastically brilliant idea, really, but I can’t claim it. This recipe is a gift from the Google gods. I wanted to do something savory with rhubarb for a change, and a chef friend had recently mentioned how delicious rhubarb is with fish. But I’m a sceptic at heart, even when faced with overwhelming expertise, so I googled just to be sure. Judging by the sheer numb … Read More

via When Harry Met Salad

Viva Las Vegas

You can call it Sin City, Disneyland for Grown Ups or even just The Strip, but I call it Fabulous Las Vegas.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas

Got back last night from a 5 day extravaganza of good times and decided that just for once, what happened in Vegas can make its way back home (well at least some of it, I’m not that crazy!!!)  The wingchick and I decided a couple of months ago, sometime in March when it had been raining and 5 degrees for about a hundred years in Vancouver, that we desperately needed some sun – ok and maybe some sin.  Both of the above had been in such desperately short supply in Vancouver that we were starting to sprout moss – from all the rain I mean . . . .but anyway . . .

Since we have lots of Alaska Air miles, we decided to try flying out of Bellingham.  We usually fly out of Seattle, but it’s a longish drive (especially on Sunday coming home) and the traffic can be nasty, and as it turned out Bellingham is an excellent little airport.   Only about 1.5 hours from North Van (including crossing the border), directly off the highway, with cheap (by airport standards) onsite parking (no shuttle) and very short security waits.   2.5 hours later you are touching down in McCarren and the party can get started – it couldn’t be easier.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate – the party actually got started on the plane.  How often have you had a really, really unfortunate person sit next to you on a plane – oh, maybe like every single time?  And how often have you sat next to a really fun, interesting – really interesting – guy?  Never?  Yup, me either till this flight.  About 10 minutes into the flight and 2 minutes into our Bloody Mary’s we struck up a conversation and found out that the guy sitting next to us was not only a former Marine who had been deployed with anti-terrorist units in Iraq and Afghanistan. but he is a firearms instructor at a national firearms training facility and also a personal security expert.  Hmmmm, not totally Bourne Supremacy, but as close as I’m ever going to get so I’ll take it – hell yeah!!!!  And as if that’s not enough, he’s a contestant on season 3 of a reality TV Show called The Hot Shot on the History Channel.   Sweet.   Could not have been a more entertaining flight – he’s under confidentiality agreements so he couldn’t tell us too many details of the show, but it was sure interesting to hear about reality TV from the inside.   And of course put a Lotusland hippy like me into a conversation with an American firearms expert who has the 2nd Amendment tattooed on his arm – well that’s gotta be interesting.   Thanks for making it a great flight Chris, the story of your buddy’s family and their love of guns was hilarious – OMG, really.

We were staying on the Strip for 2 nights and then moving to a resort and spa out in Summerlin for 2 nights, so Wednesday and Thursday it was party time for the gals.   I guess everyone has their own favourite things to do in Vegas;  the wingchick and I like to hangout in slightly dubious bars, go see offbeat shows and find some good live music.  Oh, and seek out the best tequila bars in town, of which, I would note, there are a LOT.  I’m pretty sure that Patron is the national drink of Vegas – lucky for us.   Our favourite tequila bar is at Bally’s – what’s not to love about $2 shots, margaritas and beers.   All you have to do is park yourself at the bar, throw down a $20 and get busy . . . and so long as you stand up now and again to check that walking is still at least a remote possibility, what the heck could go wrong.  . . .[XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX] censored to protect those not smart enough to figure out the answer to that question – like us. Some stuff just has to stay in Vegas.  But it is possible to fall off the people mover, just saying . . .and why the heck did I wake up with a note in my purse from the live band karaoke – it’s a fantastic idea – at Wild Bill’s Saloon and Gambling Hall that said “you have my permission to shoot me if I do karaoke”.  It was a loooooong night.

Awesome People Mover in and out of Ballys . . .it's kinda high up

If you are not picky about having to see the hottest show in town (and we are totally not) then Tix4Tonight is a great place to pick up cheap tickets.  We scored a couple of good seats to see Gladys Knight at the newly renovated Tropicana, which is rapidly becoming one of my fav casinos.  Bought out by a Canadian with both good taste and a great sense of fun, it’s gorgeously white and red South Beach chic, but also fun and unpretentious with a great vibe.  Highly recommended.

What's not to love - the gorgeous Tropicana pool

When we went to pick up our tickets the first game of the Boston v Canucks game was on a giant screen and the bar was full of hockey fans of both stripes, so we got to watch most of the game in a great atmosphere before the show.   And what a show.  Gladys Knight has to be in her 70’s, but her voice is still amazing and she created such a warm and intimate atmosphere that it was like sitting in her home, listening to her tell the story of her life and sing all her greatest hits.  It was a really, really good show, and  yes, she did Midnight Train to Georgia.

Although we’ve seen them before, somehow a trip to Vegas is just not a trip to Vegas without a stop to visit the Awesome Aussies at Thunder Downunder.  Ahhhhhh, so cute, so funny, so hot.   And this time I got to watch the entire show from the audience, not the stage like last time – but that was no fun, no really, no fun at all, I swear.  And the wingchick may have a rash around her eyes [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX] yup, more censoring . . . I thought I was going to die laughing.

Hot damnnnnnnn

After 48 crazy hours we had to move out to the Red Rocks Resort and Casino in Summerlin – maybe the most gorgeous, sexy hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

Well someone has to stay there, why not me?

And we were going to see a Goo Goo Dolls concert at the poolside Sandbar.   Wow, wow, wow – what a venue.  Met up with some of our Goo friends for Blood Orange margaritas on the deck and then it was concert time.  4,000 crazy party people and at least a few die-hard Goo fans showed up.  What an audience, what a show.  Could have lived without the girl fight and the woman in a too short mini who ended up on her ass  – with no underwear!  No kidding, full Paris Hilton.  Not pretty.   But it was quite the night and only in Vegas.

Sandbar at Red Rocks - most awesome venue ever

With a pool like that, there was nothing more to be done on Saturday than sit poolside and have the cabana boys fetch us umbrella drinks – a tough job but someone had to do it.  It has been a pretty full 4 days (was it really only 4 days????) and the R&R was fantastic.  Some of our friends decided to head into The Strip that night, and I don’t know the whole story but we didn’t see them again and their last post from the airport Sunday morning was about too many martini’s at Mandalay Bay and only getting 45 minutes sleep.   Gotta love the Vegas airport on a Sunday afternoon.

Viva Las Vegas, I can’t wait to go back!!!!