travel tuesday: preparations. [03/31]

Today was one of those reflecting on logistics of travel sorts of days. I spent the day sifting through and uploading video for an upcoming Healthline project on travel and asthma. I received some further information on my first ever overseas trip (Zurich, Switzerland in November. Disclosures etc to come once things are finalized there.) I got a reimbursement/stipend cheque in the mail for my upcoming trip to Toronto for the Asthma Canada conference in 2 weeks. 

In the beginning of the Incubus Look Alive DVD, Brandon Boyd reflects on these logistical aspects of travel—and I am not even planning a tour (although with asthma and ADHD it sometimes feels like it!).

Anais Nin wrote,

“In the world of the dreamer there was solitude: all the exaltations and joys came in the moment of preparation for living. They took place in solitude. But with action came anxiety, and the sense of insuperable effort made to match the dream, and with it came weariness, discouragement, and the flight into solitude again. And then in solitude, in the opium den of remembrance, the possibility of pleasure again”.

Her sentiment is frighteningly in tune with our plight at the moment. We’re in the plotting stage of the game. I’m looking at pages and pages of potential tour dates, and travel arrangements logistics, et cetera, et cetera. And if I wasn’t completely ecstatic about everything at present, all these moments of preparation would be quite daunting. […]

Brandon Boyd, Look Alive

The thing is, I love/hate this part. The pouring over Hotels.com, even after I’ve booked a hotel, the forays to Airbnb, finding that home base, however off the beaten path it may be at times (so long as off the beaten path is not so much so that is in a seedy area!). The ridiculous amounts of time spent looking at flights, weeks before booking will even take place. The e-mails saying that my reservations have been added to TripIt. The preparations for whatever events I will be attending. The juggling of multiple schedules as I try to schedule coffees, lunches, dinners with friends in Toronto.

Yes, it is work before the wheels even lift off, but it is all so worth it. Even for the moments in airports when I want to throw dollar store earphones at people who seem to not understand that there is a 3.5 mm jack on their device for a reason (unless they have a dumb iPhone 7). Even when my 1:30 AM arrival flight gets in at 3:30 AM. Even when I spend 5 hours too long at SFO. Even when every damn time I fly through YVR I get delayed (just about, although my last delay out of YVR saved my butt because it allowed me to make my connection from SFO which was 2 hours late, and I even got to eat.).

The preparation for travel part might not be about rolling with it, but the travel part sure is. I’ve learned that over the years. Like the time Steve and I were in Toronto in the middle of friggen nowhere (AKA outside the Don Valley Hotel) and my Google Maps refused to acknowledge I was no longer in Winnipeg, and would not even tell us what food was nearby. Which turned out to only be a Tim Hortons unless we wanted to take public transit. Like finding a magical drink machine in YVR that sells drinks for $1 less than the news stands—and remembering its existence. Like when Union Station was deserted and under construction and I got lost wandering around “The Path” and stuck in some weird triangle under the CN tower/Ripley’s Aquarium, etc… Which was I got to Toronto from Philly and my bag had to be tracked down at Pearson since I was no longer connecting to Winnipeg, and that took like two hours. All I can say is, for once, thank God for Leafs fans because there was a game going on and I somehow found myself in Maple Leafs Square where a cab driver flagged me over and asked if I wanted a cab and I was like “You know what, yeah.” Even though I was close to my hotel.

That was also the day when a baggage handler at YYZ preached to me about Jesus. As my friend (Reverend) Jessica said, “Only you would get preached at by airport staff in Toronto.”  
And the cab driver talked a lot about staying positive. I needed that dude after the day I had. 
And then I got amazing macaroni and cheese from Uber EATS to my hotel because, also, that day I had to call Air Canada after the Philly woman would not tag my bag to YYZ instead of YWG, and also, I lost my Team Toba jacket in PHL, which I am convinced was destroyed by airport police because it was in its pillow form and possibly a suspicious unaccompanied package and also because I called them and it was not in their Lost & Found.
That was all in about 8 hours, people. 

That is the stuff that makes travel what it is. The stuff you can’t prepare for.

Like Torontonians not stopping to give you directions even if you are CLEARLY tourist looking and downtown and wandering with a suitcase. I enjoy you Toronto, but you people stick to yourselves too much. Which I usually like but not when I am confused and the elevator to Front Street goes up but the door at the top is locked and I can’t get there. (Jess and my mom were watching me wander lost on Friend Find. Jess was being helpful, whereas my mom was just not texting me and watching.)

There is adventure to be had. Prepare well (but not too well ;))… and go have it.

on airports: embracing chaos.

Airports are places that—like airplanes—probably instil panic rather than calm in most people—I mean, those TSA announcements about the current threat level isn’t really all that calming. Myself? I love airports. (I don’t love that they’ll charge you $3+ for a bottled drink, but honestly, I went to the University of Winnipeg for a film shoot on Friday and paid, I am not lying, $3.38 for a bottle of Minute Maid Lemonade. A single serving bottle, not a 2 litre. Madness. I’ve gotten that item cheaper in an airport.)

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Swarm informed me awhile back that I had 5 consecutive weeks that I checked in at airports. Then I broke the streak. I love airports, and I will—I hope—break that record one day. I thought I was going to break it after four weeks, and then I went for my Nexus interview. (By the way, I’m super safe, all—Trusted Traveller status right here.)

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The moment I fell in love with airports was probably in Minneapolis, on a 3 hour layover to Orlando—this was years ago, and I remember watching this little girl with her roller bag and a pillow, lining up to board the plane. I remember this girl in a “hugs not drugs” hoodie. I remember writing down these observations somewhere (which is probably why I remember this.)

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I remember my first solo trek through security in 2012, en route to Quebec City. My first solo flight followed shortly after, by about 5 weeks, to San Francisco. On the Quebec City trip I met Cathy, another NAPA member, at the gate, so the flight wasn’t exactly solo. My first solo connection—and international connection at that, in YVR. The conversations I’ve had in airports, only really happen when you’re flying solo (but are easily avoidable, for the most part). Finding super overpriced snacks and refusing to buy them ($7 for a bag of chocolate snack mix? No way.)

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I’ve napped on airport floors (or attempted to), done a nebulizer treatment in the YVR bathroom (when Cali made my lungs hate me), sat in obscure places for a power outlet, gotten lost (and gotten lost with my friends who may be blind but know where they’re going 300 times better than I). I’ve bought over priced snacks, and mock-Lego WestJet planes (thanks, YOW!), surrendered a bottle of iced tea to a TSA agent at LAX (I still haven’t really been to LA), walked in an entire huge circle unnecessarily through security at MSP (and wandered out of security by accident at YYZ). I know airport codes better than phone numbers. I’ve tweeted WestJet en route to YVR at YYC asking what the heck the alarm was that was going off. I’ve confused CATSA security officials coming back inside with Guide Dog Murray, Gerry, and Guide Dog Brody, trying to assure them that no I was fine guiding, and no, we did not need a guide after going outside to relieve the dogs (…I guess being a sighted person with a guide dog in harness is a bit confusing?). I’ve sat on airport floors and reorganized my bag, and arrived too darn early and waited impatiently for flights, or for friends to arrive (a la finding Steve at YVR in 2013). I try to keep my “Inhalers I’ve taken in airports” and “Starbucks drinks I’ve purchased in airports” tally pretty even.

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I love the chaos, the hustle—I love when I can enjoy this without being in a rush (and, when I screw up my gate, I love the rush, too, because it means I’m going places. I don’t, however, love disorganized people in security. Look, if I can seamlessly get through with medical aerosols and a laptop with no delay, people should figure it out, no you cannot take all that cologne through.)

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Thanks, YYZ, for the construction barrier to lean against?

Next to being in the sky, being in an airport is a pretty close second in the list of places I love. The preparation for takeoff, the departure from the arrival…

Whichever way that’s being spun. 

she said planes made her feel like she could get away
[…] i wish i had an airport…

airports, something corporate 

where did may go?

Seriously. Where did May go?

I told myself I’d write a blog post today. Well, here we are, 11:55 pm, so I’ve got four minutes to make that happen. Technically, I wrote two blog posts today, for Asthma.Net. But that’s not what I meant.

Toronto. Minneapolis. Ten days of the month on the road, and it was awesome. Then the storm—in a good way—of catching up. I turned twenty-five. I hit all my goals (actually exceeding one of them) for work. Assisting with getting the research protocol off the ground for the U of A project. All kinds of mostly awesome nonsense filling my head, and trying to return to my commitment of quelling all that nonsense a bit with meditation—it’s all good.

So, here we are, May.

Over.

Except with pictures to come tomorrow, because there are a lot of them and they’re still uploading.

Untitled

12 of 12 – may 2016 | minneapolis edition

On the 12th of the month, I take 12 pictures throughout the day and blog them. This month, I started off a trip in Toronto, and then flew from YYZ to MSP to spend nearly a week in Minneapolis.

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11:36 am | noodles & company. I had some ambitious food goals on this trip (there’s lots of stuff on the University of Minnesota campus, where I was spending my time). Lunch #1, Noodles & Co.

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1:12 pm | East Bank train platform. I wandered around for quite awhile after lunch, hitting up the UMN Bookstore, CVS (my favourite), Walgreens (to use the Coke Freestyle machine, because how could I not?) and stop in a few other places. Here’s the East Bank train platform, on my way back from the bookstore.

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1:29 pm | University of Minnesota. Not only do the crosswalks talk, they have very detailed signage of how to cross safely.

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1:30 pm | Washington Street (?). We’re not really super school spirited in Canada, so I’m not sure if I love or hate all the spirit around university (COLLEGE) campuses in the US. Either way, here’s a logo’ed bike rack of an M, and in the distance you will see a Golden Gopher bike rack. 
Really.

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1:35 pm | Mesa Pizza. Well, two hours since Noodles means it’s time for second lunch… Today, penne marinara pizza. I also had mac & cheese pizza here on this trip… Twice.

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 2:10 pm | University Avenue. On the sidewalk near the Days Hotel, there’s this poor mom graffiti… It’s amusing and confusing, and the cursive is quite good given the medium (at least it’s better than mine on any medium…)

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2:23 pm | Days Hotel. I’d been living at my cousin Dean’s apartment for the past couple days. My aunt and grandma arrived on the 12th, and my aunt added me to the hotel reservation—and they let me check in early (two for two on this trip!).

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3:35 pm – Days Hotel. I took about 5 trips between the hotel and Dean’s apartment (basically parallel but a few blocks away) with my 10+ days worth of crap (and things I’d purchased). I then re-set-up my bed, aka air mattress, in this corner… It’s quite the bedroom, even if I did have to move the fridge and clear an armchair to the other side of the room.

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8:14 pm | Jax Cafe. We went out for dinner with Dean’s girlfriend, Jackie, and her family for dinner to celebrate Dean and Jackie becoming real engineers with pinkie rings the next day.

Yeah, pinkie rings. Read about that here if you’re confused.

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8:58 pm | Jax Cafe. “You call that a knife? This is a knife.

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9:13 pm | cvs. There you go again CVS, takin’ all my money. I dropped another $31 USD (so like, $50 CAD) in CVS with my grandma after returning from dinner. Here are some NOT BIRTHDAY cards.

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10:44 pm | hotel. Emptying out my pockets at the end of the day. I friggen hate pennies, and America needs to follow our lead and get rid of them. I don’t know how I still have a TTC transfer at this point, and I heart cvs (and love the extra care keytag that is not on any keys.)

it’s international guide dog day: meet murray!

Today is International Guide Dog Day! I’ve been working on this post for awhile (read: since October), but what better day to finish it and share?

Murray the service dog on his 3rd birthday

This is my buddy Murray, on his third birthday last July. I took this picture of him, a smiley-looking Black Lab in his brown leather Guide Dogs for the Blind harness sitting at a bus stop, before Murray and I were basically best friends—I’ll get to that in a minute.

Since before I started coaching goalball last October, I’ve spent a lot of time with my friends Stephen and Gerry, and their Guide Dog partners. I know better than anybody that dogs are cute and furry, and I’ve learned that they even more attractive to people when they’re working dogs and are as smart as they are adorable. As such, I’ve become that person who tells people “Please don’t pet his dog, he is working,” or informing the well meaning people who talk to Murray saying “I won’t pet him I know he’s working,” that talking to him or waving to him can be just as distracting as being touched. The guys don’t mind me doing this: they’ve both been at this for close to a decade—Gerry—or two—Steve, and I get it: it gets tiring. One thing I find never gets old, though, is hearing parents explain to their kids that Murray is a special puppy with important work to do, and that the kids are not allowed to pet him.

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Me with Steve and Murray a few weeks ago

Every person with a service dog will be different with whether or not they allow interaction with their pup while they are working—but if you really can’t resist your desire to pet the dog, ask first, and ask every time. Respect it if they say no: the dog, just like the handler, can have an off day too, where being touched may be more distracting than usual. The answer might always be no, or, it might vary—a crowded bus stop may be a no, as to not invite a parade of people, whereas if the dog is laying calmly under a restaurant table, it could be a yes (…that is, if anybody even notices the dog is there!).
And, just because someone with a guide dog is visually impaired does not mean they can’t tell when you’re petting their dog—after working with a dog for any length of time, handlers are super in tune with their dog’s movements and behaviours—they will usually be able to tell!

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Murray, who is from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA, stops to say hello to a Canadian Guide Dog in the mall. (The Canadian yellow lab is a plastic donation collection receptacle!)

Working dogs in harnesses are smart and well behaved. They have important work to do. I get it: yup, for some reason, being in uniform makes the cute-factor for these pups go up about 1000% (don’t get me started on the rain jackets). It sounds ridiculous, but imagine if you went to work and all day dealt with: “Oh, a human! Here human, hi human!” all day long. You’d get distracted, too (and God, I hope nobody tries to pet you at work…). Praise and treats are how these puppies are rewarded for their hard work—working dogs are fed specific amounts at specific times of the day, and while some handlers will allow you to give a Milk Bone to their dog if they’re behaving well in a coffee shop, often the answer will be no. Just like petting or otherwise interacting with the dog: ask first. If you’d really like to give the pup a treat, you can always ask if the handler would like it to give the dog later—the dog will be just as happy with your gift when they’re not working!

The handler always sets the rules for working dogs. This enables them the authority they need to keep their service pup working hard and focused on their job—to keep both halves of the partnership safe.

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Here comes the confession, regarding my friendship with Murray.

I am a rule-breaker.
I am that person who talks to Murray and pets him when he is in harness—when he is working. The game changer is this:
I have permission. Each person with a service dog sets the rules differently about interaction with their dog—based on what is best for them and with how the dog can handle this. The way Murray responds to me is different than he responds to other people, because he has consistently been allowed to behave this way around me—he’s a smart puppy, after all. My points here are that:
a) Steve has chosen not to correct Murray for being a little silly around me or for his response to me, and
b) We are fully aware I am a potential distraction to Murray.
Murray is serious about his work—even when he’s heeling (walking on-leash on Steve’s left side, kind of like pseudo-working?) as I do the work as a sighted guide, Murray rarely does so much as look at me, and focuses on his work even though I am calling the shots. He’s still in harness, after all! We know Murray may be distracted by me—he is a dog, after all—so it is deliberate that I guide Steve 99% of the time when I am in Murray’s sight, to minimize most risks (I say most. I mean, I do on rare occasion bump Steve into an obstacle because I haven’t moved my arm back quick enough, or sometimes Steve does not listen when I say “two steps down” and miraculously does not get injured after flying down two steps… I do try to pause before descending now! Also the dog is smarter at being able to tell if branches are Steve’s height than I am.)
When I meet up with Steve and Murray (usually signalled by Murray starting to wiggle happily, wag his tail more forcefully, or pick up speed!), I will approach, say hi to Steve, give the wiggly, happy puppy a pat and a hello, usually let Murray give my hand a lick, and then I’ll move to Steve’s right (as the dogs are trained to heel on the left). Murray then ignores me when we’re walking, aside from when we have to do a u-turn and he’s forced to say hello (I presume he’s thinking “Human, I know where I am going, figure it out!” and shaking his puppy head.)

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Fair trade, I think. I occasionally use Murray as a pillow (below), for all the times he does the same to me (above).

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It’s been about 7 months now since Murray decided he and I should be besties. The running joke now is that I’m trying to steal Steve’s dog. Back in October, Murray got sneaky for the first time—he did a little Downward Dog-esque stretch, and moved toward the middle of the table that Steve and I were sitting across from each other at—nothing unusual, the dog likes his yoga. A few minutes later, though, he did it again… this time turning his whole body around to sit beside me, facing Steve.

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Laughing, I told Steve that his dog had ditched him to come sit with me. He reached down to of course not find his dog at his side, but rather a good foot away, beside me. I laughed when he tried to hand me the leash, and didn’t take it.

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Steve’s picture of Murray sneaking away to sit beside me, top, and below, my selfie with sneaky Murray.

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Just look at that face… He knows he’s up to something 😉

It became a pattern: Starbucks after goalball (picture below)—or any coffee shop, sitting on the gym floor before goalball (out of harness). As he learned Steve wasn’t going to correct him, he became less stealthy and would just stand up and turn himself around—Steve would just laugh and shake his head.

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It’s not like I let Murray get away with anything, either—nor had I even fed him a single treat when he started sneaking over to me. I love him to bits, and especially since we’ve bent the rules here, I’m just as strict on catching him doing things he shouldn’t and verbally correcting him with a “Murray, no”, or giving him a little tug on his collar if he goes after floor food, or licks his paws/boots/fur too much, or tries to sniff random people’s shoes (he has a bit of a foot/shoe fetish, that dog).

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Shoe fetish, however, does not mean Murray enjoys his boots. He tries to lose them often—probably so all the “Oh, look, that dog has boots!” people stop discussing his boots.

I’m lucky that I get to have guide dog friends (their owners are pretty okay too, I guess ;)). So, as much as I love Murray-face and as much as it’s obvious he loves me, he knows when he’s working and that I’m not going to let him get away with much besides choosing a different place under the table (or, licking my hand depending on the circumstances… there are just some places that it’s easier to let him slobber all over my hand versus trying to prevent him from sniffing/licking at every gross thing on the ground… Steve agrees!).

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Montreal in January. Nah, I don’t spoil this dog at all. Except I did make him move to the bottom/other side of the bed because, hey, that’s where I sleep.

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Someone looks comfy… Complete with a towel blanket and everything.

And, while Steve has yet to go on a trip without Murray and me since Murray and I have become buddies, he knows he’s got another puppy-sitter. Although, on our last few hotel stays, Murray has been my roommate—the first time, it was just easier with me rooming by myself and Steve being with two other guys, the second was just for fun, and the third was this past weekend in Quebec City—Gerry had his new guide dog, Brody, too, and though well-behaved, the two dogs get kind of silly…

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Murray crashed out on my hotel bed this past weekend. It took him a bit to decide hie did not, in fact, want the pillow.

By the way, Murray knows me as Small Fry, not Kerri (useful trick: Steve can ask Murray “Where’s Small Fry?” and he’ll come find me)… and he was perfectly happy to overtake Small Fry’s bed this weekend. (That’s what I get for, after learning Steve did not mind puppy going on the bed, opting to share my bed with a 75-pound Black Lab…)

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This, in Toronto, is when he actually chose a good spot and not the middle of the bed. Beggin bacon bribery may have occurred this past weekend when he decided he wanted the whole bed…

I mean, other than that, I don’t mind—he’s a pretty good excuse to spend 5 more minutes laying in bed in the morning, as when I give him any indication I’m awake and moving, Murray seems perfectly content to engage in a brief yoga pose with his front paws to my right and back paws to my left, and then end by resting on top of me…

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Murray sometimes decides that Small Fry is comfier than the bed. This often leads to me texting Steve to inform him that sorry, puppy will not let me get out of bed.

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All in a day’s work, right? If only he actually motivated me to do yoga with him…

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You think you’re going somewhere? You’re silly, Small Fry.  My paw will keep you here.

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That’s my story about my buddy Guide Dog Murray. (Your friends with service dogs, and service dog friends may vary.)

Want to read more about Murray? You can follow him on Twitter, @GuideDogMurray. And, as a thanks for reading all the way to the bottom… Here’s Burger Face (for a period of time around Halloween, Murray responded to “Burger Face”. Silly.)

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