travelogue – Happy Birthday?

Nov 2, 2003

rick_mugI am … 40something today. There is some debate on the exact number. As you know, I don’t have to count those years in which my birthday was not acknowledged by anyone. I missed two for sure: in Kathmandu & Moose Jaw.

My family has never had much use for birthdays though we will celebrate this one.

Birthdays are, perhaps, a good prompt for introspection.

rick_bike2Happy Birthday?

Lets see.

I’ve written of my philosophy of voluntary simplicity; following my bliss; having achievable goals:


  • 1 hour reading / day
  • 1 hour exercise / day
  • few possessions
  • few commitments
  • eat modestly
  • lots of time on the www

This year I want to get out of debt & even start earning some income from this website editing hobby.

My buddy Rockin’ Ronnie travelled to Lynchburg, Tennessee for the Jack Daniel’s World Championships of Barbecue. They finished 2nd in pork butt! A dream come true.

Best news is that I bought a new mountain bike. It’s a half hour commute to the gym each way through the zoo and Inglewood Bird sanctuary on superb river bike paths.  I see more coyotes, deer & bunnies than people or dogs.

Biking takes care of my exercise quota. Lately I am finding cycling better for fitness than running. And it’s easier to get motivated to hop on the bike.

double_miniWork at Altadore Gym Club is going well. The boys program is relaxed & we have 3 full-time men’s coaches to shoulder the load.

The boys are strong on tramp and, in the mode of Kyle Shewfelt, good on floor and vault.

This lad, way high on double mini double back, is an Altadore trampolinist who just finished 5th in his age group at World Championships.

I always wanted to be a slumlord. 🙂 You can find me downtown in Bridgeland; Little Italy. TC got me a job as resident manager of an apartment block near Edmonton Trail.

apartment-Edmonton-TrailFrom my balcony you can enjoy a vista of skyscrapers — a compelling homescape even to a recidivistic wanderer like myself. (So far I am camping but camping on real hardwood floors.)

My first duty was to evict 3 of 17 tenants including the sickly alcoholic handyman who is here somewhat at the charity of the owner. Ne’er fear for those I displace — they can camp free a few blocks away at the park beside Edmonton Trail bridge.

Actually, we post eviction for everyone even a day late with rent. All three eventually coughed up the dough. As a capitalist stooge, I don’t care where the money comes from just so long as I get it.

My MP, Stephen Harper, leader of the Official Opposition, the Reform Party CCRAP (Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance party) Alliance Party? Conservative Party will defend my right to lord it over tenants.

I’ve never lived downtown before but I always thought that if one must live in the city, one might as well live in the urban hardcore handy to LRT (Light Rail Transit), the main public library, Eau Claire market, Princess Island.

There’s an urban beauty best exemplified in Calgary by the surreal dead calm between towers, illuminated by the reflection off mirrored windows. Brighter than Heaven.

_calgary_glareParty-wise, I am a stone’s throw from the Cecil Hotel & Beer Land (cheapest beer in town). The inner core is an interesting place to live — I saw a pick-up truck hawking live pigeons in China town last week — though I need to wheel around the odd passed-out bag sniffer.

Calgary is a boomtown inevitably attracting a population of angry, damaged dysfunctionals. There seems to be a pretty good social safety net at the nearby Calgary Drop-in Centre — but they won’t let you in at night if you are stoned or drunk.

BM invited me to volunteer to serve breakfast for the homeless sleeping in the gym at Knox United church downtown. Quite a civilized group of people. Many had daytime jobs, actually.

calgaryThe copious amount of media time on the gay marriage debate was a waste of time IMHO.

My own solution is practical; abolish all marriage. Isn’t it a throwback to the time before church & state were separated? What is sacrosanct about the heterosexual couple? Devout Muslims can have 4 wives; a good Mormon as many as he could stand. A Tibetan woman marries a man and all his brothers.

As a happily single guy (that’s my story, I’m sticking to it), I long ago quit apologizing for not being married. I’m not sure of the stats in Canada, but less than half the adults in Australia are married.


In a democracy we could organize. Majority rules, right?. We could vote to TAX all marriage.

Happy birthday to me. 🙂

I’m mostly listening to 50, coveting, like him, an iPod. But RC turned me on to (Trent Reznor protégé) Johnny Cash’s final album. Have you heard it? Excellent!

Johnny lost his beloved wife a few months before he succumbed. Testament to a marriage that worked.

He sings a life retrospection:

You can have it all,
my empire of dirt.

What have I become?
my sweetest friend.

Everyone I know
goes away in the end.

Kind of a bleak way to end a birthday reflection, don’t you think?

OK. Instead a joke:

I was tempted to join the international Sceptics Society — … but can I trust those guys?

Calgary Rick



photos – Jack Daniels BBQ championships 2003

houseIan Baird’s photos of the Jack Daniel‘s World Championships Barbecue, in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

To see Ian’s photos jump to the permanent webpage in Rick’s photo archive. OPEN icon

Peter Finlay’s photos of the same trip.

travelogue – Perth, Australia

Sept 21, 2003

It snowed in Calgary in September. No surprise; it has snowed every month of the year here at one time or another.

Every morning in Perth I rushed to the window hoping for snow. But I saw only frost. Too bad.

mapIt has never snowed in Perth, Australia — but I was there for the month of July during a winter cold snap. A boat skipper told me that the 4-year drought which broke this year was the very end of El Niño.

I was invited to Perth by a police sports group where I worked with gymnastics coaches and athletes from 27 clubs. Good fun. A great experience.

The kids in Western Australia don’t have much gymnastics equipment — but they are fit.


smphotos Alastair McNaughton

Just kidding. WA is remote but Perth is a modern city of 1.4 million. The only complaint I heard was that shopping is terrible. Perth ladies fly to Singapore or Sydney with credit cards held high.
I was actually hosted much of the time by the owners of the excellent Olympic Gym Club . (They are looking to hire coaches, by the way.)

I was billeted by locals, the best way to travel. Hospitality can be suffocating, but in western Australia I was well treated.

Perth is an enjoyable city. I loved the parks & zoo , the unique and bizarre animals. Aussie is famous for deadly creatures. Little girls at the gym club name the various fist-sized spiders living under the lobby picture frames.

Rick holding a wombat

After defending myself from this wombat, I was attacked by a koala bear! You don’t believe me? It’s true. Juvenile male koalas are quite active and mobile.
The Tasmanian Devil is much more hyper. Luckily the ones I watched pace were locked up tight.

My last 4 days down under I signed on for a backpacker tour headed north to slightly warmer climes. Highlights:

  • Nambung National Park, Pinnacles Desert
  • sand dune surfing
  • Kalbarri National Park, Murchison Gorge
  • abseiling (facing forward and backward)
  • hand feeding dolphins at Monkey Mia
  • catamaran sailing

I’ve visited many of the famous memorials of the world. But I cannot recall one finer, more surprising, than the Geraldton war memorial. It’s not on the tourist route. We visited only because our driver once lived in this obscure town.

– Aussie Rick


My friend DB narrowly avoided meeting Michael (big hand on the little hand) Jackson at the Cirque du Soleil studios in Montreal.

I had my own brush with fame — a writer displaced me from the guest room at my brother’s place. You must have heard of Robert J. Sawyer from Toronto. He recently won a Hugo — the People’s Choice award for science fiction writing — for Best Novel of the Year.

Sawyer has previously won the equivalent of the Academy Award, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Nebula, for Best Novel of 1995.

Sawyer joins the elite of science fiction — 16 people who have won both Hugo and Nebula including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, William Gibson and Frank Herbert.

Rob is a good guy. I just finished one of his books, Flash Forward. Excellent.


Just as famous in gymnastics circles is Kyle Shewfelt. We at Altadore Gym Club are proud and still a bit stunned that one of our athletes has become the most successful Canadian gymnast ever, slightly ahead of Curtis Hibbert in the opinion of Hardy Fink of the men’s technical committee.

Kyle won 2 bronze medals at World’s in August. He is one of the favourites for an Olympic medal in Athens next summer.

I am back coaching at Altadore mainly because Kyle has done so well. I am assisting his coach Kelly Manjak in the run up to Athens.

It’s nice to be home at Altadore where I spent over 20 years up until 1990. It’s nice to be back in my hometown, Calgary — though the traffic is insane. Calgary is booming economically, but the quality of life is better in Saskatoon and Christchurch.

I am now living in a huge gorgeous home backing on to the river, rather unlikely accommodation for a minimalist. I will be out soon. The hot tub cover is so badly rotted that I suspect a neighbourhood petition is circulating. I can’t live like this!

I am house sitting for a family gone travelling around the world for 11 months.

Five weeks into a new job, it feels like I am settling in. I look forward to the Daily Show every night, certainly the most insightful news commentary in the States. Humour at the same high level as the best of This Hour Has 22 Minutes in Canada.

I now have fulltime high speed internet, a big improvement from limited access in New Zealand. In my dotage I hope to work on the www. The only glitch is that computer work demands carcinogenic quantities of Diet Coke.

And I am again a tax payer. Or am I?

Vancouver-based Fraser Institute says that Tax Freedom Day — when a typical Canadian family has earned enough to pay off all taxes and to start working for themselves — came June 28. (This includes everything including pension contributions.)

I was savvy enough to start work in August.

In Canada we live in a one party state. If only we had better politicians to vote for — someone like Arnold in California. That’s who we need to guarantee a homeland free and brave. 😦

typical Schwarzenegger voter