Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Camp is off and running. I’ve been keeping up with the news from camp and watching for photos online trying to catch a glimpse of my ‘angels’ having fun in the sun. They were more excited this year to go to camp than ever before. That says a lot for the camp. Scout confirmed one thing to Kooza before we arrived, “my cabin will have THE coolest counselors no doubt, or else they would put them in someone else’s cabin.” Makes a Mom feel good about all the money she’s spent to send them to camp. There are 8-10 boys to each cabin along with 3 assigned counselors. That could make for a noisy, long night of ‘your momma’ jokes—which to no surprise the boys tell me the counselors usually win.

It’s Wednesday already and I haven’t started anything I said I was going to do after I dropped off the boys. Oh! Take that back…I have done ONE thing. Writing this blog entry makes TWO things on the list I’ve done today.

The Dark Knight review coming soon.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


The time for summer camp is finally here! The boys are extremely eager to leave. They’ve waited all summer for this day to arrive.

This will be Scout’s 6th year to attend ‘Camp O’ and Kooza’s 4th. This will also be Scout’s last year as a camper. Next year, he would like to attend as CLP (Counselor Leadership Program). He’s going to make his best efforts to impress the staff and talk them into letting him do the CLP training and work sometime next summer. Actually, I believe (as Mom) that both the boys have impressed the staff so I’m not worried. Besides, the staff actually welcomes ‘lifers’ as they call them. CLP gives them a one week trip to Colorado--that's the part Scout remembers.

We have been working for 2 days to get the trunks packed. As you can see from the photo above, the trunks are full and there is a lot more that’s supposed to fit into them. We even left out some things on the suggested packing list in an attempt to create more room. Of course, there are a lot of things NOT on the list going with them that they assure me, “will be fine and I really need that.” Luckily, the camp has put a ban on cell phones and electronics, so there is no fight there. Lots of 'Spartan Red' in the mix. Both the boys are on the Spartan team.

We drop them off tomorrow afternoon. It will be 2 weeks of deafening quiet around here while they are gone. The only communication is by email and snail mail. I’ve let them know I must receive a minimum of 5 letters or short notes over the 2 weeks they are gone. I’ll hope for the best.

Friday, July 18, 2008


The end of my stay in Montreal is near. This is a good time to give my ‘review’ of the city and it’s contents—keep in mind, I've experienced very little. I never feel like leaving Old Montreal. This is my second time in the city. We were here last year for the opening of Cirque’s KOOZA show (I wasn’t blogging then).

The City: Old Montreal is wonderful. The historic stone buildings make it a pleasure to walk through all day. This part of the city is easy to get around by foot. The streets are stone bricked and narrow, making it difficult for vehicles to get through. It doesn’t change much around here. The exact same shops and artisans are in the same exact places. I get the feeling the French don’t like change very much. There is a great plaza nearby with street performers, caricature artists and the like. Once outside of ‘Vieux Montreal,’ it is a typical big city that looks much like any city in northeast USA with architecture that accommodates what I’m assuming is a long snowy winter. The historic architecture in the downtown area is beautiful. Outside of downtown, there are very few high rise buildings. Two to three story row housing is the norm. I haven’t been out to the suburbs but once so I speak only of downtown and the surrounding area. What is so charming about the housing, and is portrayed in postcards, are the stairways and floral colors that front all the row homes.

The People: The best words to describe them are hardworking, efficient, punctual, and task based. For example: Breakfast is served continental style here at the hotel. At 10:25 each day (I’ve been here for 5 days now) the waitress makes her rounds to each table letting them know there are 2-3 minutes before the buffet will be closed. Promptly at 10:30 the staff comes out in unison to collect the buffet and by 10:40 everything is back in its place looking untouched. Everyone has a task and they don’t cross the lines. If there is a spill, the waitress promptly calls housekeeping because picking up spills, even if in the restaurant which could be considered waitress territory, is not her job. She would be insulting the housekeeper if she were to do the task herself. The shopkeepers are wonderful. Everyone is helpful and eager to please their Montreal guests. They aren’t big talkers here. It’s generally very quiet.

Television: Now I know why people are so thin and well read here. No one is on the couch watching TV. The television viewing is horrible and boring. I hate to sound so harsh. There are a few English speaking channels, most are understandably in French. What’s interesting is they mix US stations on one channel. ESPN is the only English speaking channel that stays ESPN all day. Maybe CNN too.

Food: I don’t think Montreal is known for outstanding food. Hence my question, “Where’s the taco stand?” Being from Texas, I’m missing the one constant we have there. I would take a taco stand and a cold Dr. Pepper over any of the food I’ve eaten here in Montreal—upscale restaurants included. (The upscale here reminds me of bad country club food.) Although, I have to say, I had the best pizza ever yesterday. I finally asked a few of the locals where they eat after picking too many losers on my own. ‘Pizzedelic’ was the suggestion for the day. No meal is inexpensive. Each meal I’ve eaten, good or bad, has cost at least 20$CAN (they put the $ sign after the number here). That’s for one entrĂ©e and one drink—no dessert. Skip the food here if you can. By the way, are Americans the only ones who eat sliced bread? No sandwiches are served on sliced bread. The baguettes, although delicious, are killing the roof of my mouth. I keep getting strange looks because I keep asking for a glass of ice to go along with my drink. I have to emphasize a FULL glass of ice. Are Southerners the only ones who need lots of ice with their drinks?

Fashion: Not much fashion to speak of here. After observing this week, it makes complete sense (!) why French Couture is straight line. All the size zeros live here!—and in France I guess. The native women are so thin. They must be 10” wide (okay I’m exaggerating a little). I’ve concluded anyone who isn’t that small isn’t truly French Canadian. No rap influence, no goth, maybe 2 guys with tattoos all week-and the lady watering the hotel plants today, few piercings. Final note: NO obsession with Hollywood stars, fame and the like. I haven’t missed seeing or hearing any of that stuff this week. It’s becoming clearer to me why outsiders think Americans are so over the top.

Tidbits: No IPods. I’m surprised there aren’t more scooters or motorbikes. Public transportation is clean enough. You pay 3$CAN for a soda. There are plenty of tourist sites to keep you occupied for a weekend. I’m spoiled in that the big city I live in has a lot of what they have here. Still, I get to enjoy it here whereas at home I don’t always make the time. Side note: I ran into a few teens from Jordan while waiting in line to see U2. They had been to 3 museums during their short stay and more were on their list. I suddenly realized how I take for granted that museums are relatively abundant in the US. They went on to talk about books I should read, etc. It seemed backward that they were telling me about the culture I should be including in my life. Americans have it in front of them all the time. Unfortunately, we don’t appreciate the gift that it is.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


U2 IMax 3D
This is beyond a doubt, definitely, absolutely, hands down the best film Duchess has seen this year!! This is an absolute MUST see especially for U2 fans. IMax 3D they call ‘3ality.’ Is it showing in the States yet? Let me just say…the lights dim, the music starts, you hear “Hello, Hello” and the crowd goes mad!! A big “HOLA!” goes up on the screen behind the band (probably 4 stories high) and they’ve got you! You’re pulled in to the whole scene—lights, Bono, Edge, crowd with hands and cell phones in the air---beautiful!! You figure out a bit later they filmed in Buenos Aires. Bono even sings a few lines in Spanish (another plus for Duchess). They say you hear the concert in 36,000 watts. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m sure Doc does. Film with a message? Absolutely! The beginning line up goes something like this: Hello, Hello…It’s a Beautiful Day….All is Quiet on New Year’s Day….Love and Peace (!)…Lay Down Your Guns….How Long Must I Sing This Song??? These few lines alone tell you the message is “Coexista” (in Spanish) From: U2, To: the World. The word “Coexista” lights up the stage from the screen behind them and the outdoor stadium crowd goes mad, pumping open hands in the air in support of the message while singing at the top of their lungs. I am SO moved, tears are welling up in my eyes by the time “In the Name of Love” is sung. I begin asking myself, “How Long…?” How long before Bono’s peace filled World will exist? I’ve been a U2 fan forever. The Band’s message is as meaningful today as it was 25 years ago, perhaps even more so. In their “Rattle and Hum” film of years past, Adam is being interviewed and states that those around him have said, “you can’t mix music and politics,” to which Adam replies, “I think that’s bullshit.” He was right then and he is right now. This film is FULL of music and politics—the right kind. The hour and a half went by in what felt like 10 minutes. I didn’t want it to end…. Duchess note: I think the American crowds will be much more animated. The French crowd didn’t move. I only saw one other guy bouncing his head with me (must have been American). I wanted to raise my hands and light up the cell phone, but obviously that wasn’t good form.


I missed blogging yesterday. I was indulging in reading a book, which I hardly get a chance to do when I’m home. I went to the mall yesterday too. I was looking for more to read. I only brought one book with me thinking it would be plenty. Let me say--I had no awareness of how expensive fiction books are these days. I don’t typically have (or make) time to read fiction. Luckily, Librairie Renaud-Bray at Complexe Desjardins had one small (!) section of books in English. Needless to say, there wasn’t much to choose from--especially since I was looking for ‘light’ fiction. I walked 10 city blocks to get there. I figured I had no schedule to keep and would take advantage of the perfect weather. 50$CAN later, I had 3 books in hand. I finished one yesterday…. Do I dare buy more at those prices?

This morning while watching those around me at breakfast, I couldn’t help but notice all the business that was going on around me while I leisurely eat and read my book. Every morning, there are several groups of mostly men, selling something. I don’t listen to their conversations but every now and then I hear them talking $ numbers, so I’m thinking it’s some sort of sales triangle pitch that’s going on. The number is always big and delivered with borderline desperation of ‘please buy into this’ program. It reminds me that I’m here for pleasure and God help me if I ever get to the point of having to listen to a sales pitch for work. It doesn’t seem right.

That’s one group of interesting people watching. Next, there are the families with small children. I can’t figure out what they are doing in Montreal. Not much here for kids. And then, of course, there are single couples, typically seniors doing the retired traveling we all talk about. Sometimes the couple is one ‘senior’ man with a beautifully dressed younger woman. It reminds me I don’t want to limit myself to ‘retired’ traveling. My thought is I want to travel now while I can enjoy it with my growing boys. That would work beautifully, of course, if only the boys would enjoy traveling together. Last week I swore we would never travel as a family again because of all the fighting and whining I was putting up with. And so…that brings us full circle to the wonderful quiet time I’m having here in Montreal.

I heard from Kooza today:
«i love u! alot
So ya,,,,,,
Bye «i`m having alot of fun!
That’s it. That’s all. No news is good news? I’m happy to hear the “i love u! a lot” part. I’m glad to hear he’s having a lot of fun. I’ll take this abbreviated message as a blessing!

On the agenda today: U2 in 3D at the science museum.

Monday, July 14, 2008


The good news is the sun is shining bright today. The bad news is the exchange rate, $0.89US=$1.00Canadian. There won’t be much shopping for me this week.

I read this morning in USA Today that vacationing was good for your health. I believe it. Apparently, the average employed American earns 14 vacation days a year compared to the average European who gets 30-35 days a year. Guess who’s healthier? The article goes on to predict even less Americans will vacation this year due to rising gas prices (gas here is $5.40US/gallon) which means the tourist industry, along with non-vacationing Americans, will suffer this year.

All I know is the streets of Montreal are packed. I’m staying downtown in Old Montreal which is the historic part of town near the river. It actually looks like a small European village. The photo above is one I took last year when we were here. (I forgot my camera-computer exchange cord, so I don’t know if I’ll have new photos to load this year.) Plaza Jacque Cartier, which is down the street a bit, is filled with outdoor cafes/restaurants, street performers and local artisans. Last year Kooza donated lots of cash to each hat or guitar box that was out for donations. He can’t wait until he is old enough to perform on the streets himself.

More later….

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I’m still reeling with excitement for Kooza this morning. He was so excited about camp yesterday that his overwhelming enthusiasm is carrying me today. It’s a gloomy day here in Montreal, but I’m sure he hasn’t noticed one bit. The pouring rain is forcing me to stay in and relax.

My hotel room overlooks the terrace of the hotel where the outdoor bar/restaurant sits rain drenched and empty today. Yesterday, the hotel was abuzz with 2 wedding parties and their guests. The terrace was packed all day with socializing. Later in the evening the crowd was full with onlookers waiting for the fireworks show that was going to be held over the St. Lawrence River. The “Spectacular” will be held each Saturday evening through August. Apparently, it is a fireworks world competition (who’d of thought). Portugal was displaying their expertise last night. It must be some show because as I returned to the hotel around 7pm the crowd was already staking spots near the river undeniably to get the best view of the show.

What to do on a rainy day here in Montreal? Update your Blog? Yep. Read a book? Yep. And of course, LOTS of hotel people watching. The hotel has great lounge areas for guests to enjoy each others company. Montreal is an interesting city in that it is a “francophone” which means French is the primary language. The business language is French, yet everyone here is also fluent in English so it’s easy for us sloppy one language Americans to get around in this city. I’m intrigued by how easily they switch from one language to the other. One table is speaking French, the next is speaking English, etc. The staff responds in either language.

Here's news from Kooza:
Bonjour!!!!! I have learned to understand a little French (some-what). I also learned how to say «i dont speak French in French,,,,, «hehe
Well, we are doing powertrack for sure tommorow and a few other things that are in french so..... LOVE YA!
I'm so grateful they are giving campers computer time! The message is short, but definitely makes Mom feel better.

Interesting Fact of the Day: On the front page of the “The Gazette” today - John Lennon. Apparently, years ago Lennon held his “Bed-In for Peace” here in Montreal. Hmmm.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Update for family and friends---
We made it safely to Montreal today. Kooza and I traveled alone, leaving Scout and Pops at home with the puppy dogs. (They played a practice round in Bryan preparing for Scout’s tournament on Monday and Tuesday. I don’t think they miss us yet.)

I dropped Kooza off this afternoon at “L’Ecole Nationale de Cirque” where he will be staying this week. (The photo above shows the front of the building -about 7 stories- with the Cirque du Soleil Headquarters in the background.) This a BIG deal! He was so energized to finally be here. I can only hope it will live up to his expectations. He is one of 15 students who will be staying overnight at the school dormitory during the week. There will be 17 more students commuting each day. The day is going to be ALL about circus arts. They will have nutritious meals (they have a nutritionist on staff), 2 workouts a day, and then wind down to typical summer camp night activities. He will be in circus heaven. The facility is fantastic, the counselors I met were enthusiastic about the boys being there, and I’m positive the training will be outstanding. Plus, I’m thrilled he will be spending time with kids who are like him—in that they like circus arts too. We don’t know anyone else in our hometown that dreams of Cirque the way Kooza does. He will finally have circus buddies!

Thank you to everyone for all your prayers these past few months.

The day of traveling was long for us. We woke up at 5:30am to begin our journey. My brain is out of words at the moment…more tomorrow about Montreal.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Gone Baby Gone
I was a bit skeptical about this one. I knew it had received great reviews and awards, hence my hesitance to watch it. Typically, all the award winning movies are dark and depressing. Not true of this film. The subject matter is definitely on the dark side, but this film gives you more to think about—mostly wondering if doing ‘good’ (the ‘right’ thing) will always give you the happy ending. Kuddos to Ben Affleck! He (and his buddy Damon) should consider buying every Bostonian book out there, writing the adaptation screenplay, directing and releasing the movie. Affleck captures his native Boston like no other. Duchess is arriving at this conclusion on 2 films, this one and his Oscar winner, Good Will Hunting. There are so many elements I love in watching these films. Brother Casey does a fantastic job acting as the do-good protagonist. I’m feeling the Affleck brothers are all grown up. I can’t wait to see more from them. Caution: The typical Bostonian F-Bombs are included in this film. A 'must see' if you like films that give you something to think about and debate.

Yet again, Will Smith makes his July 4th blockbuster. I liked it—I didn’t love it. All of the leading actors--Smith, Theron and Bateman--are on my list of favorites, so I had to see it. I like the premise of the film. The reality is I couldn’t help feeling this film was simply the introduction of more Hancock films to come. The hour of film time setting up the story was a clue. Hence, the bad reviews from published critics. Overall, you can’t go wrong with Will Smith. Duchess conclusion: this one will be just as good on DVD.

Imagine a Pixar short film becoming a feature film and you have the inspiration of this film. Creative (!!) and no words needed for you to understand. Kooza and I enjoyed watching this one, but some of our younger neighbors were bored and could only sit through half the film. The subject matter was a little too much for them to understand. Having said that, this story really makes you think about saving the earth, as well as where technology is taking society as a whole. I left the theater wanting to recycle more and eat less. Duchess couldn’t help but fall in love with WALL-E. He is a Pixar treasure! (His character is more developed than hero Hancock.) I would like to see more of WALL-E, and his friendly roach, with more story to tell.