Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Royal Run

Raise your hand if you know the root source of the name for the city of Montreal.
(Waits patiently for loyal blog readers to raise collective hands.)
Me neither.
That is, until Andrew and I set off for an early morning run on a very muggy Montreal morning.
And when a nice, flat course just won't do, it's always a good idea to run to the top of the highest point in the city of Montreal, right?  And everyone knows what that is, correct? 
(Another show of hands.)
That would be Mont Royal.
And just what is Mont Royal?  Funny you should ask.  Here's where this blog provides another valuable geography lessons for anyone who cares to read it.
Mont Royal is a large, volcanic hill smack dab in the center of Montreal, consisting of three peaks - Mont Royal, Mount Murray and the Westmount Summit.
Fools on the Hill (sorry, Sir Paul) that we are, Andrew and decided to run up the 764 foot Mount Royal.
In some places, we decided to opt for running off the beaten path, trying to do some E Streeter trail blazing north of the border.
Note to hill runners: always take time for a cat nap on the largest logs you can find on your trails
And whenever possible, take the stairs.  In this case, all 255 of them.
At the top of the mountain awaits Mount Royal Park, one of Montreal's largest greenspaces.  The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who seems to follow the Cooks on just about all or our road trips.  (See previous Central Park blog post)
Is there any park this guy didn't have a hand in designing?!?!
At the top also lies the Kondiaronk Belvedere, and damned if Belvedere isn't following us on this road trip as well! (See aforementioned Central Park blog post again!!!)
It provided a perfect opportunity for Andrew and I to pause and take in the landscape from the outlook.
And then resume running 
Inside the Mount Royal Chalet, Andrew and I are ready to host a feast, a la Game of Thrones.  Just not a Red Wedding.
Further along the backside is the site of the Mount Royal Cross, the original of which was placed there in 1643 by Montreal founder Paul Comedey de Maisonneuve in a fulfillment he made to the Virgin Mary.
The newest cross is an LED illuminated one, first installed in 1924, then upgraded with new lighting technology in the years since.
Andrew was just praying we could make it back down the mountain safely
If you take the time to explore, the mountain is dotted with wooded trails, a route highly recommended over the more open access road that most travelers use. 
Back on solid - and flat - ground, it was back to the hotel via Olympic City. (Montreal was home of the 1976 Olympics, dontcha know.)
This run would not go down in flames
If there's a medal for beefcake photo posting, Andrew gets the gold.
At run's end, it was time to review the topography of our run.
Notice, I didn't print out the mileage pacing. Let's just say our splits were a tad off pace, especially at that apex smack dab in the center of the run.
Nothing like a hill workout, eh fellow runners?

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Long and Winding Road to Sir Paul

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home.

Most anyone who's ever glanced at this blog probably has an inkling or two that I've seen my fair share of Bruce Springsteen concerts over the course of the last four decades.
Lest you think I'm a one-trick music pony, you should know that between all those Bruce shows, there's also been a healthy dose of other live musicians, including, at a bare minimum, the Clash, the Who, David Bowie, Queen, the Police, Prince, Frank Sinatra, Fleetwood Mac, the Moody Blues, and so on and so on.
But there's one group of musicians who I've never had the pleasure to include in my list of experiences, and that's for a host of good reasons.
Number one being, the Beatles broke up when I was 6 years old.
Then John Lennon was shot and killed when I was only 16.
And when George Harrison passed away from an untimely illness, the chances of me catching any of the Fab Four live in concert just continued shrinking and shrinking.
Until Sunday night.
Finally, after decades of waiting, I was able to find that Golden Ticket inside my regular Wonka bar and score tix to see Sir Paul McCartney perform at Fenway Park.  I had heard for years from my friend Martin about how epic his shows were.  Martin Brewer and Paul Askew were among the folks who took the Magical Mystery Tour in England to retrace the Beatles' steps. They were also at the historic Bruce concert when Sir Paul joined him on stage only to have the power cut out because of curfew issues.  Lore like this only helped compound my fervent wish to finally take one of these shows in for myself.  Call it a concert bucket list, if you will.  And now it can be checked off.
Short review:  the show was everything my twisted mind had envisioned these past four decades, and far more.
A mix of Beatles tunes, both the biggest and obvious blockbusters (Let It Be, Hey Jude) and some from way out of left field (Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite?)
And of course, the smattering of Wings tunes sprinkled throughout the set list pleased those who've followed Paul's musical exploits since the Beatles broke up and broke global Beatlemania's collective heart in 1970.
The mood at Fenway was electric, on Yawkey Way and all the surrounding streets, restaurants and bars.  Andrew and Joey riffed on music almost the entire night.
The Band on the Run.
Jimmy and Candy have seen McCartney before, so this was old hat for them, even though the setlists have been very dynamic.  Jack and I were ready for a Hard Day's Night.
Not surprisingly, I bumped into people I knew everywhere I went
Folks like
Kathy Matheson
Genesis Reyes
And Mark Buckley
Magneto and Titanium Man were ready and the Crimson Dynamo came along for the ride.
For the record, Mike Cassidy (who was always a HUGE Wings fan) and I could never quite understand the thought process behind this song.  I mean, Magneto was an X-Man villain!  What would he be teaming up with Iron Man baddies for??? But I digress......
Taped to our seats was something new: a packaged poster with cryptic instructions: 
Jackie's not sure about this whole sign stunt thing.....
Until it came time to execute.
For final results?  Check out the lead photo on this blog, courtesy of McCartney's Facebook page.
  Kinda cool to be part of Sir Paul's official welcome back to Fenway.
Not many times you can say the Pesky Pole offers you an obstructed view of a living legend.
The show included tributes to fallen Beatles George (Something) John (Here Today) and even George Martin (Love Me Do) - the producer, not the guy behind Game of Thrones.
And then after nearly three hours of rocking and rolling at the age of 74, came the encore guests.
Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead, who appropriately helped everyone get Hi, Hi Hi.
(McCartney's Facebook photo here)
And the guest star that all the world is talking about.  At least in New England.
Gronk came out for Helter Skelter, a song that will likely become his new anthem.
I mean seriously, this guy's stock just continues to rise and rise and rise.
Thankfully, he didn't have long at the microphone and instead rocked the air guitar.  But who on the face of the Earth could ever have imagined seeing this duet perform on the world stage together?
Here's Gronk's twitter pic capturing the moment
Gronk, you may be a lover, but you ain't no dancer.
The setlist of Beatles' songs included opening with a Hard Day's Night, Can't Buy Me Love, I've Got a Feeling, Here, There and Everywhere, We Can Work It Out, You Won't See Me, Love Me Do, And I Love Her, Blackbird, the Fool on the Hill, Lady Madonna, Eleanor Rigby, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, Something, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Back in the U.S.S.R, Let It Be, Hey Jude, Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Birthday, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, and the End.  Whew!  An even two dozen Beatles classics!

So the concert repertoire has been expanded.  Not THE Beatles, but pretty damn close.  My long-unanswered question about what would the experience be finally seeing a live performance by at least one-fourth of the Fab Four In My Life?

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

(Click on the YouTube video below to see how it went down)

Finally, I got my Answer.

And in The End
The love you take
Is equal to the love
You Make

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fun Pack of Notre Dame

Bienvenue au Montreal!
The Cook 2016 Road Trip continues North of the Border, into Montreal!
Some tips for travelers, which most of you already know, but we forgot in the moments leading into our next destination: shut your cell phone's roaming function off even BEFORE you cross the border into Canada.  And this next tip is especially important:  directions on your apps, maps and anything else are all in French.  And for someone who took Spanish along his whole high school and college academic paths more than 30 years ago, that can be tres problematic.  Tres, indeed.
In fact if you don't have someone like Heather along who took French during her academic days, you may Rue the day.
On to the Notre Dame basilica in Old Montreal!
Yeah, yeah, enough with the smooching pics.  Too bad.  We're still crazy in love after all these years, but THIS particular day marked the 25th anniversary of our first date and first smooch, so it seemed fitting.  Plus uncomfortable shows of public affection, as the Black Widow will tell you, play an important role in national security.
Perfect timing to catch that perfect sunset shot on a perfect cobblestone side alley
And leave it to Andrew to turn it into a British Invasion album cover.  Pick your group.
My family is so damn hip, it's scary.
Not sure if Montreal is ready for us, but we're about to find out.
Also, let's go see what this Tim Horton thing's all about.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Empire Strikes Back

Time to leave the Big Apple, but before we could leave, Heather wanted to meet the Evil Empire first-hand for her NYC early morning run, so off we went, passing first through Times Square and New York's Finest.  Thank you to the men and women who keep that city safe.
No time to stop at the public library.
And suddenly, less than a mile from hotel, we had reached out destination.
The Empire.
"The Empire has a legion of loyal soldiers that are in endless supply."
Nope, not that one.
Nuh-uh.  Not that one, either.
Puh-lease.  Have you been reading this blog through the years?
No, I'm talking about the granddaddy of all the Empires.
The one and only Empire State Building herself.
The Empire State Building stands102 stories tall, one of the tallest skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan, on Fifth Avenue, between West 33rd and 34th Streets.  How tall?  About 1,250 feet, but if you factor in its antenna, you're talking 1,454 feet.
For decades, it was the tallest of buildings in the Big Apple until the World Trade Centers came along.  Nowadays, it's still in the top 5 in the country.
Everyone, of course, knows it from this iconic 1933 flick:
Us Whovians, of course, know it from several serial episodes, going all the way back to the First Doctor, but perpahs most especially the Daleks in Manhattan with the 10th Doctor
Heather, fitness beast that she is, pondered doing a stair workout inside the building on this fine morning.
I talked her out of it.
So off we went, headed back to the hotel
Heather was reaching her Dad-Cam Saturation Level
The question on everyone;s mind: would Heather find time to shop in the World's Largest Store?  Would my wallet allow it?
Alas, there would be no Miracle on 34th Street this morning.
And with that, Heather suddenly started running faster.
Wrapping NYC up with one final quote, also from a 1933 flick, 42nd Street.
Heath, this one's for you:
"You listen to me, and you listen hard.....You've got to go on, and you've got to give and give and give. They've got to like you. Got to. Do you understand? You can't fall down. You can't because your future's in it, my future and everything all of us have is staked on you. All right, now I'm through, but you keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out, and (Heather), you're going out a youngster but you've got to come back a star!"

And If I can make it there
You know, I'm gonna make it just about anywhere
Come on come true
New York, New York, New York
- Frank Sinatra - New York, New York 

Bye-bye Big Apple!