Monday, August 29, 2011

Long Island, NY (Part I) - Stupid Crickets

I recently returned from a trip to Long Island, New York where I visited my cousins and aunt and uncle. I drove down with my sister and nephews. We stayed there for a week.

It was my first time visiting their place in 13 years. The last time being in 1998 for my eldest cousin's wedding. I had gone to New York City a couple of times (in 2005 and 2008), but never made it out to Long Island.

The drive down was long. But, as tiresome as it was for my sister and I, it was much worse for my nephews. Especially the youngest, Aaron (8). His first of many "Are we there yet?" moments happened shortly after we crossed the border into Buffalo from Niagara Falls. We were barely 1/4 the way into our trip and it continued on a regular basis from there.

We didn't do too much on our first full day in Long Island. We had dim sum with our extended family (aunt, uncle, cousins and their spouses and kids). After that the girls went shopping with the kids and I went to Queens to shop in the Chinese stores for groceries with my aunt and uncle. They bought all sorts of things for dinner which they wanted to have at their house, but didn't happen. Instead my cousin Donna (the youngest of the three girls) vetoed their intended gathering and I had dinner at her house with my sister and nephews and Donna and her family.

After dinner I spent some "quality time" with the kids. I did a few jigsaw puzzles with my cousin's youngest son, Victor. He seemed to be really into them. After I helped him with one 100-piece jungle-themed puzzle he brought out two Sponge Bob Square Pants ones for me to help him with. After finishing those I had had enough and my cousin drove me back to her parents place where I set up camp.

No, there wasn't any room at the inn for me. My cousin Donna's house was full. Besides her and her husband, Pete, and their two children Guilio and Victor, my sister and both nephews were there. So I stayed in Donna and Anna's former room at my aunt and uncle's house. It's just over 5 minutes drive from their place.

Being located in the burbs I thought I'd get a great night sleep there. As I'm sure you know I have a condo in the middle of a fairly busy part of the city. You here noise from the streets into the wee hours of the morning. When I went to my aunt and uncle's home I thought it would be quiet and peaceful.

True, there wasn't any street noise... but, the crickets made such a racket. I think it way worse than the drunken yahoos that hang out at the bus stop at 2:00 in the morning after a night at the bars. At least they're gone by 3:00. The crickets don't stop their incessant chirping until much later.

The next day was rather uneventful. I helped clean my aunt and uncle's house. My aunt still works and my uncle has been slowed down by a bum knee. And, like me, they're pack rats. Needless to say, the place needed a good sweeping and vacuuming. I also took their many, many floor mats out and beat the with a broom stick on the driveway to get the dirt out.

In the afternoon my sister and I went to Walt Whitman Mall to do some shopping. I was interested in getting some running shoes. I found a moderately priced pair of New Balance shoes that I liked. But, my sister convinced me to shop around a bit before buying, so that's what I did.

After we finished we went back to Donna and Pete's house for dinner again. I think this time we had tacos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Taku and Naomi's Wedding Celebration

Naomi, Taku, Mrs. Kumabe, Taku's sister-in-law, his brother

My friend Taku had a get together at his future condo's party room on August 13th. They were officially married on June 8th at city hall, but only had this celebration for friends this day. In November they will fly to Japan (in the outskirts of Kyoto) for a traditional Japanese style ceremony as well.

I went with one of my friends that I used to work with. A few of my former co-workers from Trader were there. Taku and I used to sit beside one another at work, so many of our friends from the company are the same.

Taku and I both play in the Ultimate (Frisbee) league organized by Cornerstone Church in Markham too. So there were some friends who attended from there as well.

My friend and I were amongst the first groups of people to arrive. We made our way to the party rooms on the second floor. One room had the food and some tables to sit at. The other was for people to mingle in. There was a slideshow going showing pictures of Naomi and Taku there as well as a wedding cake.

Taku and Naomi made a short trivia game to see how well their friends knew them. There were ten questions. After they revealed the answers they gave some prizes away to the people who scored the highest.

The event ended at around 4:00-4:30 p.m., a bit later than the time stated on the invitation (3:30). Though I currently see Taku every week at Ultimate (just for the summer), it was nice to see some of my other friends again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

I went to see Crazy, Stupid, Love the other day. Having already seen the T.V. commercials I wasn't expecting much. But there didn't seem like many other good choices at my local theatre so, for me, I was just limiting my losses.

To my surprise it actually turned out to be a really good movie. I have to say I'm a big Steve Carell fan. He's one of the many offbeat characters in the hit television show, The Office. Though, in that show, he's quite over the top. In this movie he's more toned down. A bit more realistic which was nice.

All the characters in the movie were wonderful. From Steve Carell's bumbling, Cal, to the smooth talking Jacob (Ryan Gosling) to Cal's cheating wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), they were all great. Marisa Tomei was really funny as, Kate, a girl Cal picked up at a club one evening. Emma Stone did a good job as Hannah, Cal and Emily's daughter.

The only character I didn't really think was written that well was Cal and Emily's son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo). He seemed way too pushy for a kid his age in pursuing his love interest in the movie. Other than that the movie was great. It was funny and touching and had a bit of a twist near the end. Go see it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

BBQ at Tony and Iris' Place

The day following the BBQ at Daryl's house we had another one at Tony and Iris' place. This one was to thank the people involved with helping them with their second wedding and their move to their new place.

I got there quite early having come straight from the boarding home where I visited in the afternoon. We finished at around 4:00 p.m. Rather than going home and coming over right afterwards I came straight here.

I can't remember exactly who else showed up early. But, after looking through my photos Tae Hoon, John and Cora would have been among them.

Being the good brother that he is, Tae Hoon helped Iris preparing food in the kitchen. Tony was outside with Andrew manning the BBQ. John and Cora were engrossed in the Camouflage game that I brought once again to another party. Since it had been such a big hit at Daryl's place the night before I thought I'd bring it again.

The main dish Tony and Iris were preparing was Samgyeopsal. It's a popular Korean dish consisting of thick, fatty slices of pork belly wrapped in lettuce. You can add other seasonings inside as well before eating. The photo above is the table full of items for the Samgyeopsal. Iris made one for John as a demonstration.

Quite a few people came over. We hung out in the yard for most of the evening until it got too dark. Then the people who were still there came inside.

Carny, Mike, Ying and her friend came late. I can't remember what Carny was doing, but Ying and Mike took Ying's friend around Toronto to see the sights. She's a flight attendant and was in town for the day. So they went to the C.N. Tower and Taste of Danforth among other things.

The evening wrapped up shortly before 10:00. Not long after the latecomers filled their bellies and played a bit of the Camouflage game. A nice way to end the weekend.

Friday, August 12, 2011

BBQ at Daryl's Place

Grace, Maria (?), Daryl, Sasha

Daryl invited a few of us up to his place in Markham for a potluck BBQ dinner. I know him through Tom who I play hockey with in the winter. Daryl and I car pooled it up to Bracebridge for our cottage/zip-lining adventure.

Tom and Florianne were the first people to arrive along with their friend Jo Woo. She's an artist from Korea who will actually be going back pretty soon. I was next followed by Denise and Lena. I would have arrived earlier had I not witnessed an accident at the Superstore at Don Mills and Eglinton. I stopped there to buy some pies to bring up to Daryl's place.

As I was making my way through the store this fellow around my age slipped on some water that had accumulated on the floor next to a freezer. I guess it wasn't working properly and the food in it had started to defrost leaving water on the floor. As he was walking by he didn't notice it and slipped on the floor landing very hard flat on his back (probably hitting his head too).

He was a bit dizzy after he got up and said he felt nauseous as well. A few of us saw the whole thing. I waited around until the assistant manager came and wrote out what I had seen on a piece of paper along with my contact info. I sure hope the guy will be okay. I told him he should go to the hospital to get himself checked out just in case.

Anyway, back at Daryl's place people started arriving "fashionably late". Tom worked his magic on the BBQ and people were chatting on the deck in the backyard. We ate our dinner there even sitting through a light rain shower. It was only when the light started to fall and the mosquitos came out that we headed indoors.

Back inside I brought my nephews' Camouflage game out. It's a puzzle game where you have to fit six tiles (with polar bears and fish on them) onto different backgrounds that have snow and water printed in various patterns on them. The polar bears have to land on the snow and the fish in the water. There are 48 levels. It can get quite difficult once you make your way up to the higher levels.

Throughout the evening most people got a chance to play at least once. I know they all got a kick out of it. Everyone likes a challenge and the chance to outdo one another. I have to say, Daryl's brother was quite good. I think he was one of the ones who had the most success.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Anti-Human Trafficking Event

I attended an Anti-Human Trafficking event at Yonge-Dundas Square last Thursday. It was called Unveiling the Myths. A few people I know from Project 417 (the group that I do the Sandwich Runs with) helped put it together.

This is what it was about (from their Facebook webpage): Join us on August 3rd and 4th, at Yonge and Dundas Square for the launch of "Unveiling the Myths". The awareness campaign seeks to expose commonly held beliefs/myths, surrounding human trafficking both worldwide, and within our borders. The maze-like art installation will bring viewers into the realities of Human Trafficking.

Anti-Human Trafficking advocate MP Joy Smith also spoke against the practice. In 2009 she introduced Bill C-268, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years). This Bill amended Section 279.01 of Canada’s Criminal Code to create a new offence for child trafficking with a five year mandatory penalty. On June 29, 2010, Bill C-268 was granted Royal Assent and became law.

Her website has a link to other Anti-Trafficking sites. You should have a look. I've briefly gone to a few. Over the next few days I'll take a look at the rest.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

2011 Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival

I went to the 2011 Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival parade on Saturday. Under different organizers it was formerly known as Caribana.

I really like the colourful costumes that everyone wears. But, even though the name and organizer the hiccups in the parade didn't.

The big turn off for me last year was the 10-15 minute wait between the floats being pulled by semi trucks. I'm not sure what the delay was. I heard a rumor that some of the manhole covers along the route were missing, but I'm not sure how accurate that info was. All I know that it was really, really annoying.

This year I decided to show up a bit later. The parade was officially supposed to start from the C.N.E. grounds at 10:00 and make it's way westbound along Lake Shore Boulevard. I figured if I showed up along the western end of the route I should catch most of it.

I rode my bike down and set up camp on the south side of the street a bit west of Jameson Avenue. When I got there that area was pretty much void of spectators.

After waiting for a short time an older gentleman came up to me and asked if he has missed much of the parade. Having only arrive a little while earlier I wasn't completely sure. But, being it was only around noon I told him that they were probably just behind schedule.

At that point I had only seen floats for the NDP and Liberal parties go by. Not long after a few OPP vehicles came by with officers and other volunteers handing out small, colourful flags with their logo on it.

After that it was the Big Wait.

I believe it was at least an hour before the next semi pulling anything behind it came along. By that time Don (the gentleman I had met) was long gone. I was sitting next to this girl who had got there at 10:30. It was her first time to the parade and I'm sure she wasn't very pleased at this point either.

We saw one of the big trucks coming round the bend along the Lake Shore. But, for some reason it stopped at the Jameson Avenue pedestrian overpass. We waited... and waited... and waited. I don't know how long it was there. But, it was pretty annoying.

After who knows how long it finally started again. Later on I found out from one of my friends who had been watching it on TV that the trailer that the truck had been pulling didn't fit under the bridge. I guess whoever decorated it out too much stuff on it and made it too tall.

Now I don't know whose fault that was, but come on now... you can't even get something like that right? If you want to know how to pull off a great parade take some cues from the organizers of Pride. Now that's how it should be done.

Great music, enthusiastic participants, floats coming one right after another make for a happy group of spectators.