Friday, August 6, 2010

The People You Meet

There is something really cool about the people you encounter in the course of traveling. I'm sure there are hundreds of cool people right here in Calgary that I haven't met, but there is just something about the people you meet when you are miles and miles from the familiar. Maybe it's because you are away from home on an adventure so everything seems a little cooler, or maybe it's because the people you meet while traveling are other humans that you would have never met if you were only in your place of residence; your paths crossed because of the travels you were on. Whatever the case may be, it's something to be thankful for. On my recent trip to Maui, I was fortunate enough to meet some really cool people and I wanted to share my experiences with you.

Part of me thinks that when you are traveling on your own you tend to meet more people. I'm not sure if that can be proven, and I may be totally off base but it just makes sense to me. When you are with friends or family when you are traveling the globe, you have people around to interact with and to keep you busy and to take your attention. You don't have time or even the thought to seek conversations with strangers because you have people you know around you for that. However, when you are spending a week by yourself, you're going to be more likely to strike up conversations with strangers because the thought of talking to yourself for a week straight only seems like a good idea intermittently.  So, with the hopes of saving myself from myself, I met some interesting people while in Maui, here are their stories:


My first morning in Maui, I ventured away from the hostel I had stayed in and headed to this local diner called "The Tasty Crust." I read about the most amazing banana macademia pancakes that they had so I had to check the place out. Unfortunately, when I got there and made my order I was informed they no longer had the famed flapjacks. No worries, banana flapjacks with strawberries would be just fine. As I was finishing up my pancakes and my delicious cup of coffee and leafing through a golf magazine trying to plot out my upcoming golf ventures, a little old lady came to my table and sat down. See, the restaurant was mostly made up of these long tables you would expect to see in the dining hall of your local summer kids camp so when they start to fill up, you may find yourself eating with people you didn't come with. So, down sat Pastora right across from me. This sweet lady then proceeded to tell me her life story, how she was descended from ancient Samurai warriors, and how she was so sad that her kids and grandkids lived on the mainland and she rarely got to see them. Eventually we exchanged names and she almost burst into tears when I said my name was Brad Dickinson because when she was a little girl she had a pen pal from New Jersey whose name was John Dickinson.  In those 20 minutes she opened her life to me and by the time I left she had me take down her phone number so I could call her if I needed anything during my week on Maui. I never took her up on the offer but I was definitely touched by her sweet, genuine spirit.

Cole & Kay

Since I was in paradise while my beloved Phoenix Suns were in the NBA semi-finals against the hated Lakers, I needed to find a spot to watch the games. I stumbled on a gem of a place, the Kahului Alehouse. Lots of screens to watch the games, friendly staff, free wifi, and pretty good food. First time I went to watch a game I noticed some passionate Suns fans sitting in the booth behind me. During a break in the action I turned to them and struck up a conversation. Turns out they are from Phoenix and were in Maui for the week for a wedding. They also were flying home that night so they stopped for supper at the Alehouse so they could watch the game. During the rest of the game we chatted back and forth and once it was over we talked for about 15 minutes discussing our different homelands, and what kind of things we had done in Maui. We exchanged e-mails and have kept in touch since. Someday I will finally get to visit Phoenix and Cole and his wife will be there to show me around. And if they ever make it to Canada as they hope to, I will return the favour.

Dave & Dawn

On my second to last day in paradise I decided to hike Haleakala. One of these days that might have it's own blog entry since it was such a great experience, but not today. However, that day I was fortunate enough to meet Dave and Dawn from New Jersey. The particular hike I wanted to attempt was one where you had to park part way up to the peak, hitch hike to the type and then hike a loop that would end you up back where you parked your car hours earlier. The second car I tried to flag down was Dave and Dawn's. They were happy to take me to the top, partly because the hike that I was trying to accomplish was what they had originally intended to do but were dissuaded by the park rangers at the bottom of Haleakala. We chatted the rest of the way up then took in some of the sites together from the top. I came to find out that after they left Maui they were headed to Yellowstone National park for some more hiking and camping. I took their email address and told them I would send them a note about my experiences on the hike so they had some more ideas and info for the next time they were in Maui.

So there are three small, simple examples of regular strangers crossing paths somewhere along the way and adding a little something to each other's lives. Nothing earth-shattering or ground-breaking, just normal people taking the chance to meet new people and make new friends. Take the copportunity to meet someone new and strike up a conversation, you never know what you or them will gain from the encounter.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One Month at a Time

I was thinking about something. Not only was I thinking about something but I also felt the need to publicize my thought here, at least for those of you that read this 'once in a while' blog.

For a long time I've thought about the fact there are a ton of good books to read and there is no way I will get to read even a small portion of them if I don't start reading more than I do right now. If you were around back in April when I celebrated New Years, you might remember that one of my resolutions was to read more books. Well, I've definitely made progress in that area but I want to put more meat on the bones of that idea.

What I'm going to try and do from August until the end of the year, is read at least one book per month. I really have no idea how easy or hard this is going to be, which is why I'm only committing myself to one book a month, and only until December and not something crazy like for the rest of my life. I mean, what's the point of setting unreachable goals? Since I already have a couple books on the go, what I'm going to do for August is to aim to finish those 3 and then in September start with a new one and so on and so forth. At least one a month, maybe more, we'll see how it goes.

A key part of this plan is to have somewhere to go, an escape, a place to get away from the noise and distraction of my house to read. I found that place on Sunday. There is a little cafe a few minutes from my place called Caffe Crema which I think will be my getaway. Comfortable atmosphere- check; friendly staff- check; good location- check; and most importantly, great coffee- check.

So I encourage you, wherever you are, take the time to pick up a good book sometime and exercise your mind. If you need any recommendations on something to read I might have some ideas for you. Happy reading and you know where to find me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Things Commentators Say

One of the best things about watching World Cup football, and just international football period, is the great commentating. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that no other sport has announcers as good as the ones that handle big international and European matches. I'm sure part of it is the accent, which seems to fit with the game but the real skill these guys have is with words. They all seem to be very talented wordsmiths who can paint a picture with the spoken word like no one else. They know when to be silent, and when to describe what is taking place. They can take the ordinary and mundane occurrence and bring it to life with a few simple words. They have the ability to find a way to say something different than anyone else would say it to give that extra bit of pizazz. I can't really describe it all that well so I have some examples for you. I jotted down a few lines that I heard while I was watching the games and here they are for your perusal. If you imagine hearing them in a British accent they are even better.

"slightly naughty" -Clearly in this case the player went just barely out of the framework of the rules

"breasted it down" -Um, I guess that's the same as saying "chested"

"he forgot the geography of the goal" -He could have just said that he forgot where the goal was but  
 doesn't that way sound a lot cooler?

"loitering with intent" -I am often a culprit of this as well, just not usually on the field of play

"exchanges looks with daggers in them" -Great line, really adds to the drama eh?

"tickled it down the line" -if you didn't know that you could tickle a soccer ball, well, now you know

"they have the scent of victory in their nostrils" -'nuff said

"an absolute snorter" -not sure if this was the same guy who said the nostril bit but it seems to fit...he was talking about a brilliant goal by the way, the one Van Bronckhorst scored in the semi-final I believe

"hammerblow", "thunderbolt", "wonder-strike" -all great word choices to describe fantastic strikes on goal

"the Dutch defense capitulated for once" -I dare you to try to use the word capitulated in a sentence

"Robben was a sinner rather than a saint" -Nice of them to throw in a religious reference

"hair's breath" -Could there be a clearer, more precise way to describe a close call?

There are some examples of just another aspect of what makes the World Cup the greatest sporting tournament in the world. At least if you watch it on TV with the English commentators anyways.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

So This is Withdrawal

Well, it had to come to an end eventually. For some unknown reason, the World Cup is not able to go on forever, and is all said and done in one month. I guess in the grand scheme of things it's probably a good thing the World Cup is only one month long. For the last month I have breathed, slept, ate, dreamt, and lived the World Cup. I would spend my whole day at work avoiding human contact as well as internet and media contact to avoid hearing the scores of the games so I could rush home after work and watch the 3 games of the day. That takes its toll on a person day after day, week after week. Kind of a strange thing to have to scamper out of a room or cut off conversations with people for fear of some hint of a soccer score being overheard. Now I will say, for the most part I was successful. It took a lot of work and diligence, but I was often able to make it home after a long day of work, sit down in front of the TV, and turn on the games without having any idea what took place earlier in the day.

So, now that it's all over life can get back to normal. It's been a good ride; there has been a lot of drama, controversy, and great football action. Maybe later on there will be some more analysis coming from me but right now I'm still processing what has gone on in the last month. One thing I know for sure, the final game between Spain and The Netherlands left something to be desired. It was a scrappy, cautious, physical game that saw more of ref Howard Webb reaching into his pocket for yellow cards than well-played offensive football. There were a lot of harsh tackles, a lot of acting and diving, and just overall not a lot of free-flowing football. Don't get me wrong, Spain played well and deserved to win, it just wasn't the entertaining game that we all were hoping for .

The fact that in the last week of the tournament and the week after, the bigger news story was Paul the Octopus and his predictions and not what was actually happening on the pitch is an indication of either A)how much North America doesn't really care about football, or B) how uninteresting some of the action was. Probably more so the former, but both are pretty accurate I'd say. Don't forget though, the octopus was a perfect 8 for 8 in his predictions so he's no slouch. If any of us were even 4 out of 8 in those same games, I would be surprised.

The other bit of business I need to cover here is the status of the World Cup beard, or almost-beard. It is now a thing of the past as of Tuesday morning. It was good while it lasted but definitely nice to get rid of  it and get back to a more normal face. You might remember that I had made a bet with a friend when the tournament started that if an African team made it to the final game there would be a facial hair surprise for you. Well, Ghana made a good run but came up just short. Therefore, the facial hair surprise never came to fruition. What you would have seen is Brad making a fool of himself and sporting a handlebar mustache for at least one day in public. Yup, I dodged a bullet there for sure. I do want you to see the finished product before I shaved it all off so here you go. And if this hasn't inspired the guys out there to grow a beard for no apparent reason, then I don't know what will. Wow it's annoying to have my tongue embedded in my cheek like that.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

1 Week Left...

Just because there is no African representation left in the World Cup (no bitterness here of course) doesn't mean that the beard for Africa is no more. Back on June 10 I decided to grow a World Cup beard, and as long as the World Cup is still going on, the beard will continue to grow, or at least I won't shave it. Whether it's growing anymore or not is still up for debate. Another week and then I can rescue my face from this nonsense. Here it is on Day 24

This is the 'angry at Luis Suarez' mohawk version. Maybe next World Cup I will go with a World Cup mohawk instead of a World Cup beard.

As you can see, it's been a tough weekend for me, and a tear or two may have been shed. Ghana lost on Friday, I found a mouse in my car on Saturday, then had to run through sprinklers to get into my condo at 1 AM, and it starting raining while I was trying to clean out and vacuum my car. Oh, and the Blue Jays gave up 11 runs in one inning yesterday and lost in extra innings today to the hated Yankees. It is good that in the grand scheme of things, all of those mean nothing.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Day After

It's the day after one of the most bitter sporting pills I have ever had to swallow. As I write it is approximately 15 hours after I finished watching Ghana's heart-breaking loss to Uruguay, due to the fact I had to tape it and watch it last night because of work during the day. I can honestly say, it will take more than 15 hours to completely digest what happened yesterday. That being said, I will try to compose my thoughts and reactions in a way that you can follow and make sense of.

The Game
The game itself was enjoyable to watch whether you were a neutral observer or were heavily invested in one of the teams. There were definite stages to the game, with each team enjoying the edge in possession at various moments. Out of the gates Uruguay was the better team as Ghana seemed to take a while to get into things. For the first 20 minutes Ghana looked tentative and kind of sleepy. During this stretch, Ghana keeper Richard Kingson was forced into making a couple important saves. Once they got into a rhythm though, they were able to dominate and create a number of chances in the final 25 minutes of the first half. It all culminated in a great strike by midfielder Sulley Muntari (left) from 35 yards out. It came out of nowhere right before the halftime whistle. Pleasantly surprised, the first half had ended successfully.

The second half started with Uruguay again in control. They were rewarded in the 55th when star Diego Forlan (right) executed a great free quick to tie the game 1-1. The goal seemed to boost Uruguay spirits and they continued to take the game to the Black Stars. Forlan and strike partner Luis Suarez (don't worry, we'll get back to him in a minute) continued to look dangerous as Ghana slowly started to find their legs again. As the game got closer and closer  to the breaking point and the seeming inevitability of extra time, Ghana started to assert themselves again. When 90 minutes had passed and a winner had still not been declared, the two brave sides ventured into 30 more minutes of tense action. Ghana had the opportunities in extra time and both Asamoh Gyan and Kevin Prince Boateng came inches from putting Ghana in front. But those chances weren't meant to be, setting up the most dramatic of finishes.

The Controversy
With only seconds left in the extra time before penalty kicks, an unbelievable sequence of events unfolded, which I am still recovering from. In the dying seconds Ghana was awarded a free kick in a dangerous area. John Paintsil stepped up and lofted a precise cross into the box  which Uruguayan keeper Muslera got a hand on. Unluckily for him though, it ended up at the feet of Ghana's former captain Stephen Appiah. His shot was blocked on the line, legally, by Luis Suarez. The ball then ricocheted right to 20 year-old striker Dominic Adiyiah who headed into the net. Or at least it would have been in the net if it wasn't for a moment of brilliant volley ball play from the one and only Luis Suarez. Suarez made a save that any goalkeeper would be proud of. Since he's not a keeper of course, that means a red card, automatic ejection, and a penalty kick for Ghana. It has to be the winning goal, right? Penalty kicks are rarely missed and Ghana had already converted 2 in this World Cup. Asamoah Gyan, Ghana's 24 year old striker and star of the tournament stepped up and well, words can't describe what happened next. Here's the video of the entire sequence of events:

Not easy to watch. In fact, every time I see it it's like when you have that annoying mosquito
bite on your leg that you have scratched so many times that it starts to hurt and bleed, then 
you leave it for a while and forget it's there except for a moment of weakness when you reach  
down and scratch it again, re-igniting the fiery pain. After that, Ghana was unable to recover
and eventually succumbed to the South Americans in a penalty shootout. Ghana's dream run
deep in the first ever World Cup in Africa was brutally brought to an end. Heartbreak for Gyan,
Ghana, and all of Africa.

The Reaction
There was no other reaction possible for me after the game than pure and utter disbelief, sadness, and shock. Could there be a more bitter and difficult way to lose a game of that 
magnitude? I actually felt sick when it was all said and done. 
Probably one the most blatant examples of 'the agony of 
defeat' that I have felt.

Let's get down to brass tacks here. Am I upset with Suarez 
for denying Ghana the victory by clearly cheating? Yes, 
absolutley. Can I hold it against him? No, I don't believe I can. It's the system, the rules that are flawed, he did what a lot of people would have done in his situation. In a split second he made the decision to deliberately break the rules to deny a sure goal to keep his team alive for another few seconds. He knew he would get a red card and that Ghana would get a penalty kick. He also knew that Ghana would probably convert the kick and his team would lose anyways, so he 
didn't really have anything to lose. Luckily for him and his country, and unfortunately for 
Ghana and Africa, Gyan stepped up and hammered the shot off the cross bar. The problem 
here is in the rules of the game. The ref did things by the book, made the right decisions based on the current rules. What I'm saying is the system is flawed. It should not be possible for a 
player to break the rules on purpose, get penalized, and yet still come out as the benefactor. What I'm also saying is that the ref should be able to award the goal to the team that deserved it, 
avoiding the possibility of cheaters actually prospering, which is what happened in this 
case. Take a read through this article and tell me if you think that justice was served. Like I 
said, it's hard to fault Suarez when it's the system that is flawed allowing things like this to 

The Future
This World Cup is only the beginning of the Black Stars who have a bright future ahead of them. In 2009, The Black Satellites of Ghana won the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt by defeating Brazil in penalty kicks, and already a few members from that team have graduated up to the senior squad. Between now and the 2014 World Cup which will be in Brazil, I'm sure Ghana will continue to improve and should be ready for another long run amongst the worlds best teams. Let's not forget, Ghana accomplished as much as they did in South Africa without their leader and most well-known player, Michael Essien. Congrats Ghana for representing Africa so well and showing the world that African football is indeed ready to compete on the world stage. Thanks for the memories, even the tough ones that I will be recovering from for some time.


...just stunned. It will take some time to get over this one. More thoughts to come when I can actually compose them. Right now it's just bitter disappointment.