Category Archives: americas

New York City Detour

I love this anti-smoking law in New York. I’m amazed that it’s being respected. We’ve had the same law in Quebec for about 10 years, but you wouldn’t know it.

So, after I left the restaurant where I had met family, I didn’t end up going down to the coffee shops my cousins suggested. I turned around and went back to see that cute bartender at Detour. That place was the jackpot. It was almost exactly like the bars I would normally go to here in Montreal, only everyone spoke English and the live music was cerebral and impulsive. I knew I was on to something when the first three songs I heard from the sound system were from the Beatles.

When I walked in, there were a couple of guys my age at one end of the bar nursing martinis and a table off to the side with a handful of thirty-something women. The bartender was outside on the step having a cigarette and warned me that she’d be in shortly. Nobody from the band had shown up yet.

The two men to my left were artists from a paper-back novel. One is a filmmaker who does most of his studio editing in Montreal in what he considers the most affordable quality-city in North America. It happens, Montreal has developed some very fertile ground for film talent. Concordia University has a reputable film program. One of this year’s big winners at the Cannes festival was from Montreal. It was a big deal around here.

The second artist is an aspiring actor. I get the impression he’s not originally from New York. He’s one of the many actors who’ve left home for a chance to shine in NYC. For one, he’s a baseball fan, but he was talking about Kansas City. Also, I could detect a hint of an accent on his tongue, by the effort he put in to covering up whatever was there in the first place with a distinguished Frasier Crane pseudo-Brit-in-America kind of deal. He is working more with the administration of a theatre company than he seems to enjoy, probably because he can’t get acting work. A really nice guy, though, he very interesting.

I never spoke to the older women, but I overheard them arguing over which group it is that forbids sex and alcohol, Scientology or Christian Science. The bartender seems like the typical college student away from home on Daddy’s dollar paying her apartment without much serious responsibility. She’s having fun and enjoying life which is good, because working in a bar, if approached with the wrong attitude, can become terribly depressing and she doesn’t seem capable of dealing with anything too heavy. I had a long chat with her and noticed that there was really nothing much to her beyond her blue-eyed smile.

Then the first member of the band showed up with only a black, box-shaped case, soon after the group of women finished their round and left. I wouldn’t have known he’s a musician had the bartender not asked him if he was playing that night. The band turned out to be a three-piece arrangement of drum, bass, and xylophone. The young musicians were relatively skilled considering their lack of experience and their homeliness was vintage in its authenticity. They began their set to an audience of two men, myself included, after the two artists had decided to call it an early evening. It was, after all, a Sunday.

I chatted with the xylophone player before and after the set. He had toured Canada once. It was with a songwriter/musician who’s name meant something to me, but I could not place it until he linked him to Ani DiFranco. He had some great stories about being on the road and about his experience with Canadians. I was amused when he commented that Canadians don’t have guns. My reply wiped the confusion off his face and replaced it with disbelief: “Canadians don’t have pistols. They have shotguns and rifles meant to fill caribou and bears, not people. There’s no reason to bring a gun to the city, in Canada.” He smiled and joked, “I guess there’s something wrong with us.”

Shortly after the live improvisation began, a half-dozen underage-clubbers stumbled in to the wrong bar and got carded for their fancy-named drinks. They were somehow successful, most likely at selecting the right people to order. Sill, they didn’t last long and were gone before the end of the first set of four formatted pieces consisting of xylophone solo, bass and drum accompaniment, bass solo, drum solo, and then all the musicians together. Overall, a fairly unoriginal performance, but perfectly respectable.

It was exactly the night I would have scripted if I had attempted to form any expectations. Instead I let myself go limp to be blown by the wind in whatever Robby Robertsonnesque direction that may be. I left the bar after the band had sat down at their instruments to prepare their second set of the night. I waved to my temporary friend behind the massive metal mallotted melody-maker, thanked my kind hostess, and walked as far as Union Square before deciding I was too tired to spend an hour walking in the cool damp air. That’s where I hailed a cab that brought me right to the lobby of the hotel.

When I woke up the next morning, I was hungrier than I would have expected to be after a meal as filling as the non-Chinese Chat and Chu, but satisfied that I had enjoyed my vacation as much as possible. The only problem is: I want to do it again.

we all shine on…
let’s begin

Falling ill in Medellín

Last Tuesday in Medellín, as Mick and I touched down in the airport town of Rionegro, I had an uneasy ache in my stomach, and an undescribable fatigue. I don’t think I could have kept my eyes open, even with toothpicks. A delicious plate of chuzos de pollo, french fries, and a salad of onions, lettuce and dressing went uneaten as my unsatiable appetite succumbed to this mystery illness. No, not SARS.

Thankfully, a wicked hookup at a pricey aparta-hotel left us living in luxury for the price of peanuts. Our executive suite came with an eye-popping 8th floor balcony view of the mountain-side neighborhood of Poblado, and free medical attention. They diagnosed me with just a rogue “bug” that would pass in a few days. I was laid up in the hotel Tuesday night and all day Wednesday.

The central section of Medellín is nothing special. We spent Thursday afternoon in an area of town near Parque Berríos. There’s a museum nearby honoring the famous Colombian painter, Fernando Botero. Mick and I walked the streets in search of three things, a t-shirt, a pair of size 48 (European) sandals, and a strip club. We ended up in a place where the DJ played Snap from a Sony Discman hooked up to a speaker system, and a cockroach scurried across the stack of second-hand CD’s. We also sat down for 20 minutes at Taberna Unica. It didn’t take us long to realize we were in a brothel for underage prostitutes. The place was full of girls, some alone, some in groups, drinking beer at 4pm and watching a soccer game on TV. Really sketchy.

Outside, on the steps of that same “brothel”, a street urchin lay sleeping with a tattered brown blanket partially covering him. He couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old, and his face was covered in bruises and dirt, and a unidentifiable white crust in his hair. “What kind of life is that?”, Mick asked aloud.

Medellín is a city famed for being the home of the late Pablo Escobar, and is reputed to be the homicide capital of the Americas. However, its many trees, the distinctive red-brick buildings, and the phenomenally gorgeous women which are its claim-to-fame, give it a flavour which is unique among the cities and areas of Colombia. The paisa accent is a sing-songy baritone lilt which will charm and disarm you. The people are friendly and warm, and love to have fun. The Antioqueños are known for their hard-working nature. They are fiercely proud of their city, and will get very upset with anyone who says otherwise.

It’s Sept. 11th and the L.A. atmosphere is eerie


Helicopters flying all over L.A. today. Cars are out in droves with flags flying high, and balconies everywhere are draped in the “Stars and Stripes”. Other than that, everybody is acting fairly normal. Stores are open, and business appears to be as usual.

In Montreal, Concordia University activists protested against a speech by Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. Check out an article written by Jake Morrissey and photos taken by same on Jake’s Wordiness site [site now offline].

The following day, the Concordia administration imposed a temporary state of silence on public debate concerning the situation in the Middle East. This drew even more criticism, including this piece [now available at the Internet Wayback Machine] from Josh Bernatchez, writer and concerned Concordia University student.

I had a couple of hours today and I managed to get the rest of the photos from last week on to the site. Check them out!

In other news, I’m in it. Check out this local newspaper [article now offline] from the West Island of Montreal. Pretty wild. :) I made the paper!

Ok boys and girls, take it easy..

Alvaro Uribe elected President of Colombia

So it turns out that Alvaro Uribe has won the presidential elections in Colombia! He’ll face a challenging job in dealing with the nearly 40 year old conflict in that country. Success should mean improved security conditions in the country – which is good news for me (and for Colombians). Fingers crossed! :)

My old CEGEP and University textbooks are all for sale to try and raise ca$h-money for my trip. Feel free to e-mail your titles too and I’ll gladly post it up on my site. :)


I’ve also added Pico Search to my site, see the bottom of my menu at left. You can search the site for keywords that interest you! (PS December 26th, 2003: The PicoSearch function is currently down, it will be visible from the homepage once it’s working again.)

Telling my parents about the soultrip

On Friday, my parents arrived home from their “2nd honeymoon” trip. They spent 8 weeks traveling Europe and returned to North America by ship, on the Queen Elizabeth II.

I am kind of amazed to see my father finally traveling outside of North America. He has an intense fear of flying, which has limited him in the places he can travel to. For this trip, my mother convinced him to travel by sea to Europe (return-trip). From the conversations I’ve had with him since his return, I suspect that this trip may have changed him – opened his eyes.

My parents – about to leave on a trans-Atlantic cruise to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary

On their return, I told my parents about my plans for a backpacking trip to South America. They took it well and I was surprised. I thought they might try to convince him not to go.

As I plan to spend time in Colombia during my trip, I’ve taken to watching the news from that country a bit more closely. For one, presidential elections are taking place in Colombia today. Depending on the outcome, it could change the dynamic of my term of study in 2003, since Colombia is in the midst of a decades-long armed conflict with rebel and paramilitary groups, and dealing with the conflict is a major election issue. You can see the results of the elections here.

Aside from that, I’m vacating my apartment on the 8th of June. I will be moving back to my parent’s house for a few months to save on rent ($500/mth, plus food, hydro, etc – it adds up). Living in the suburbs will mean cutting down on parties and bar-hopping, but at least I’ll get a ton of practice driving to work on my motorcycle every day!

That’s all for now folks! Please keep an eye on this site for regular updates and changes. You’ll be seeing lots more on here in the days to come!



As you have probably noticed, this site is undergoing some renovations. I’m tweaking it in preparation for my motorcycle backpacking trip through Mexico and Central America later this year, during which I want to share photos and stories from my travels. I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands lately, as the weather has been horrible here – rain, and cold wind in the middle of may! In fact, they forecasted snow only a week ago! I cannot wait to leave for Colombia, only three months to go.

For a holiday (Victoria Day), today was relatively sedate and uneventful. I spent most of my time working on the computer, doing laundry, and organizing my personal things for my upcoming move. I showed my apartment to two people today. I am hoping I will be able to sublet or transfer my lease as soon as possible. If you’re interested in an apartment in downtown Montreal, click here to see a description of it. I’d like to vacate as soon as possible to save as much money as possible before my trip starts!

OK, it’s getting late; I gotta hit the hay, catch ya later dudes!