AndyO Blog

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rush show 2 in Toronto - 9/22/07

This was the last day on my east coast Rush tour.

Here I was again, in the ACC, sitting with Monica about 15 rows up -- only this time on Geddy's side. The concert hall was filling up fast, and there was a noticeable charge in the air.

Geddy's daughter was once again walking around backstage with all her friends. The last section for the audience on Geddy's side seemed to be reserved for Kyla's schoolmates, as we saw lots of kids and their parents. Behind me, I could hear people talking about what it was like to have Geddy Lee as a parent at your kid's school ("He's just the nicest man," I heard.)

And then the lights went out, the band took to the stage, and they performed the most intense, passionate show I'd seen on the Snakes tour so far (show number five for those who are counting) -- and probably one of the best Rush shows ever for me.

A few notes:

  • When the chefs came out to baste the chickens, there was an entire group right in the front who put on chef hats. The last chef to come out was, we think, the producer of Snakes & Arrows, Nick Raskulinecz.
  • It seemed like it was "guys night out" all around Monica and me. Groups of guys were high-fiving each other every time Rush played one of their big hits.
  • Marijuana smoke seemed more noticeable -- especially during Bangkok. I guess if you're gonna do it, that's the song.
  • The band seemed genuinely pumped up and appreciative of the reception in their home town.
  • During intermission, while I was waiting around in the foyer, I talked to a couple. They happened to be from Seattle, which we all found incredible.
  • Rush played Distant Early Warning even though they'd played it the night before in Ottawa. They did this so the audience could see a different show than the first show in Toronto (yes, many Rush fans go to multiple shows).
  • Lorne Wheaton pulls a "fire blanket" over himself during the pyro in One Little Victory. I'd never noticed that before.
  • Subdivisions once again got one of the biggest ovations from the crowd.

And then it was over.

Here are a few pictures from the last show from my decent digital camera.

Rush performing at the ACC

Rush performing at the ACC

Rush performing Witch Hunt

Rush performing at the ACC

Rush performing at the ACC

Rush performing Distant Early Warning


Acknowledgments and special thanks

Thanks to my good friend Monica for planning this trip and giving me the nudge to go. Here we are enjoying the intermission at the last show:

Monica and me

Also thanks to Ray for all his hospitality in Buffalo, and great conversation in the car. Here's Ray during one of our gas stops somewhere on our trip from Buffalo to Ottawa:


Finally, thanks to the citizens of Toronto.

Toronto at dusk

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posted by AndyO @ 11:21 PM   0 comments

Ottawa to Toronto - 9/22/07

This was day six of my east coast Rush tour

This morning, while Ray slept in, Monica and I got up and ate a continental breakfast at the Country Inn Suites. Practically everyone in the room had been at the Rush show the night before, including a family with two young girls, whom I'd seen at the show. I thought about how much easier it was to attend a show without your kids.

Snorefest 2007

When we went back upstairs, Ray was already up. Now, it must be said that before we went on this trip Monica told me that Ray was the best snorer she or her husband Steve had ever heard (enough to drive Steve to sleep in the bathtub on one trip). So, I knew I had some serious competition. But then Ray told me, "Andy, you had a gold medal performance last night." I'm not sure if that's an award that I want, but it's always nice to be recognized by one of the best ;-).

Highway 7 to Toronto

We left the hotel a little later and stopped by Tim Horton's again (for Ray), and then we drove out of town. I knew I'd only seen one small part of Ottawa and hoped to return one day to walk around the actual city.

The drive between Ottawa on Toronto on the two-lane Highway 7 was beautiful, with the Fall colors starting to ignite across the countryside. Here are some pictures of what it looked like:

On highway 7 to Toronto

On highway 7 to Toronto

On highway 7 to Toronto

Toronto traffic jam

When we got outside Toronto area, we found out that the road we wanted to take, Don Valley Parkway, was closed. My GPS couldn't seem to figure out any other way to go, so we stopped and asked for directions.

Once we started driving again, we found that we (and the rest of all Toronto drivers) were stuck in a mess of a traffic jam, trying to get into downtown. Ray asked several drivers out the window if there was any other way to get into downtown, and they all said there wasn't. Most of the time we were driving on Danforth street and even passed the famous "Danforth and Pape" crossroad (the name of a section in the Rush instrumental La Villa Strangiato).

Danforth and Pape crossroad

Earlier in the week I'd talked to Ed Stenger, who runs the amazing website, about meeting in person. Given that we both run Rush-related websites, we end up periodically talking in e-mail, and I thought it would be fun to meet. But the traffic ended up ruining our initial plans of me getting dropped off at the hotel. I called Ed and told him to meet us at The Spaghetti Factory, which he thought sounded great.

Spaghetti Factory - take two

Ray had called in reservations for a semi-large party of people. It was a good thing, because unlike the night of the first show, the place was packed. After we got our seats, I walked out into the lobby area and found Ed. I actually recognized him from the picture on his website.

Dinner was great again. Monica's friend Heidi joined us, too, whom I'd met at several other Rush shows on the west coast. Ed and I talked "webmaster" shop, and also talked about other shows on the tour -- namely the show he'd seen in Cleveland, which Heidi also attended.

In Toronto, Ed was attending RushCon, and he told us about some of the things he'd learned there. He'd met Sam Dunn, who was filming a documentary about Rush. Dunn's earlier documentary was Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, which I haven't seen yet.

After dinner we walked to the Air Canada Center. Here's a picture of Ed and me standing in front:

Ed Stenger (webmaster of and me in front of the ACC

Now I was ready for my last 2007 Rush show.

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posted by AndyO @ 10:00 PM   0 comments

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ottawa, Ontario - 9/21/07

This was day five of my east coast Rush tour.

Today, Ray joined Monica and me for our final leg of our journey: Rush shows in Ottawa and Toronto.

Monica and Ray in the front seat As we drove from Buffalo to Syracuse, I sat in the back trying to fix my Palm 700w Smartphone. The day before I had overloaded it by asking it to do too much (GPS, mail, Internet, switching between cell networks in the US and Canada). After talking to Verizon tech support, they told me I probably needed to do a hard reset, which would basically erase all my settings and data. I did the hard reset and got my phone up and running again.

Ottawa, Ontario

By early evening, we arrived in Ottawa at our hotel, the Country Inn Suites. This hotel was definitely a step up from the Day's Inn in Tanawanda and Toronto. It was also popular with Rush fans, as just about everyone walking around wore a Rush shirt or was talking about the show. One guy in the elevator had a "This is my 50th Rush Show" shirt.

After a brief break in the hotel room, we headed out for dinner at a Wendy's and Tim Horton's combo restaurant. I opted for a sandwich at Tim Horton's, as I'd already had a hamburger at McDonald's earlier. After that, it was back to the motel to park our car.

Walking to the show

Instead of driving to the venue, the hotel recommended that we walk, as it was only about a mile away. They said it would be better because it would take us less time to walk back after the show. I was all for getting a little exercise after sitting in the car all day.

Scotiabank Place

At the entrance of Scotiabank Place, we met Monica and Ray's friend B-man. Many Rush fans will know B-man as Bill Banasiewicz, the author of Visions, the first official biography of Rush. (I had met him once before on the Vapor Trails tour at the Scranton, PA, show.) We spent time talking about the first Toronto show. B-man told us about sightseeing around Ottawa, as well as what it was like to take his mom to the Toronto show earlier that week to celebrate show number 300 (she liked it, but he didn't think she'd be going again any time soon). We also talked about the rumors of Rush adding shows in 2008. B-man told Ray that he "needed to talk to Howard Ungerleider" to get the scoop. Ray agreed.

The show

Once inside, Monica and I found that we had amazing seats. Not only were they in the first 12 rows on the floor, but we were right behind a wheelchair row -- with an aisle in front of that row. Ray's seats were a little farther back.

Once the band started, Monica and I kept commenting to each other about how great these seats were. The band played Limelight beautifully, and in The Digital Man near the end, Alex played to a guy standing on the side who looked (I swear) like Santa Claus. It was hilarious to see "Santa" rocking out with Alex.

My view in Ottawa

Throughout the rest of the first set, it became apparent that all the members of Rush were either tired, unfocused, or on autopilot. Geddy called the album "Snakes & Ladders," and before the song Mission he said, "This is Hold Your Fire." The major musical mistake came from Neil in Dreamline, when he went into the first chorus early (the big snare fill). When Geddy called the album by the wrong name, he quickly joked, "Jeez, I'm getting so old I can't even remember the name of the album!"


Ray, B-man, Monica, and I went up to the concession stand, ate popcorn, drank water, and talked about the show. To fans like Ray and Bill, who saw many more shows than the average person, the set we had just seen was a disaster.

Monica and I listened to their complaints, but didn't add much to them. As I'll always say, I'm just happy that Rush is still out touring and sounding great. There are going to be nights when they don't sound quite as good, as that's just the nature of performing. Still, a "bad" night for Rush is still at a higher level than most bands.

Set 2

When the band came back out, they played with a vengeance, ripping through the Snakes & Arrows songs with the usual passion. One thing that Monica and I noticed: During the beginning of The Larger Bowl when Geddy is singing alone, Neil was actively scanning the audience. Neil even wrote on his blog about how much enjoys each audience -- their signs, their faces, etc. -- and this seemed like one of the few times he can just look around at everyone without playing.

By the time Rush got to Subdivisions, the audience had turned up the intensity one or two levels. During The Spirit of Radio, I turned around and watched all those thousands of hands clapping in unison during the chorus -- always an incredible sight.

One problem of being in our primo seats was that the seat moochers tried to stand with us and also break through security standing in front of the first 10 rows. Security did a good job for the most part, except one guy was able to talk his way through at the end of the show. I watched one woman yell into the security guard's ear, backed up, and then gave him a flirtatious look. I can only imagine what she had said, but by the guard's reaction I assumed it was sexual.

In our section, people would just come up and stand behind me, and then I'd back up into them, and they'd look at me like, "Hey, what's the problem, man?" We got them booted as quickly as possible. But this kind of distraction can be a real drag after the tenth or fifteen time.

By the end of the show, Rush had redeemed itself and come up to the level I'd seen at the other three shows. On the way out of the venue, we stopped at the soundboard area. As Ray waited to talk to Howard Ungerleider, as he'd promised B-man, the security guards kept trying to get us to leave. Ray stood his ground. Finally, Ray asked Howard, "What's the story with 2008?"

Howard looked at him and said, "Oh, we're going out for six months in 2008."

We had our confirmation that the band was indeed going back out on tour in 2008. We discussed this news and other aspects of the show on the walk back to the motel. The traffic jam on Palladium Drive was awful, and we were glad not to be stuck in it.

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posted by AndyO @ 11:00 PM   0 comments

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Niagara Falls - 9/20/07

This was the second half of day four of my east coast Rush tour.

After Port Dalhousie, Monica and I drove to the Niagara Falls area. First, we drove around on the Canadian side of the Falls, which looked more like Las Vegas, with its hotels, casinos, and flashing tourist traps. The falls themselves were in the distance, a cloud of water vapor rising up like smoke.

After a twenty-minute wait, we crossed the border to the American side, which seemed more run down, at least by the border crossing. After finding free parking, we walked over to the park alongside the falls. It was beautiful, but not what I thought it would be.


I didn't realize that there are actually two parts to Niagara Falls -- Bridal Veil Falls on the American side, and Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. The image of Niagara Falls that most people think of is Horseshoe Falls. I learned that less than 10% of the water flows over American side. 

One of the recommendations I'd received from the locals was to take the Maid of the Mist boat tour, which travels past Bridal Veil Falls and near Horseshoe Falls.

Monica and I bought our tickets, took an elevator down to the water -- where they give you a thin, blue plastic poncho, which you can keep as a souvenir if you want -- and waited in line for the boat. Our boat ended up being the "St. Catherines."

Once the boat left the dock, we floated by Bridal Veil Falls, and then headed toward the main event. I wasn't prepared for how much Horseshoe Falls would overwhelm my senses. First, you're completely surrounded by a curtain of water that reaches up 170 feet (52 meters). The roar is deafening. The mist IMG_2281that looked like smoke from far away rains down like a spring downpour. The falls themselves are obscured by the mist, giving you the strange sensation that they could be only a few feet away or hundreds of feet away. And the power of all that water coming down creates rapids that toss the boat like a bathtub toy. In that moment of communion with nature, I can honestly say I was awestruck.

Here are some pictures of what it looked like to be that close to Horseshoe Falls:




I later learned that the water flowing over the falls has been cut in half (from 5.5 billion gallons to 2.25 billion gallons per hour) to create hydroelectric power. One startling fact is that Niagara Falls is the largest producer of electric power in the world.

Finally, we took the elevator up to an observation platform and saw a great view of Bridal Veil falls, with the smoke rising in the distance from Horseshoe Falls.


Niagara Falls has joined a select few natural experiences in my life that have left me speechless. The other experiences include: a total solar eclipse in 1979, a total lunar eclipse that I watched from Gasworks Park in Seattle, seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, and seeing Mount Rainier for the first time.

If you're ever in this area of the US, make sure you go out of your way to see Niagara Falls.

Check out a webcam of Niagara Falls as it looks right now.

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posted by AndyO @ 11:00 PM   0 comments

Toronto to Port Dalhousie - 9/20/07

This was the first half of day four of my east coast Rush tour.

Monica and I left Toronto by 11:00 today, and drove on the QEW toward Buffalo. Along the way, we planned on stopping in the Port Dalhousie area of St. Catharines, and then Niagara Falls.

Having read all of Neil Peart's books and articles, I'd read a lot about Port Dalhousie (pronounced "Da-looozy" by natives), where Neil grew up, so I'd always wanted to go there.

Lakeside Park

Lakeside Park lighthouses and beach The first place we stopped in Port Dalhousie was Lakeside Park. When we opened our car doors, we were blasted with the stench of what smelled like a sewer (even for my poor sense of smell). The closer we walked to the shore of Lake Ontario, the worse the smell got. (I found out later the smell is due to decomposing algae on the shoreline.)

The merry-go-round is still there, and its still "only 5 cents." But it was closed, so I didn't get to see it. But later I read that it's a carved, wooden merry-go-round that is one of the last of its kind, and was restored in the 1970s by local residents.

Lakeside Park Merry-Go-Round When I go to a new place, I always try to connect it to other places I've been. Port Dalhousie seemed a little like Washington State's Port Townsend because of the old buildings along the waterfront area. But the marina and the lighthouses reminded me of parts of the Oregon Coast or even Northern California. It definitely had its own "feel."

I had also wondered how Port Dalhousie was connected to St. Catharines, since I'd heard that Neil had grown up in both places. The answer, however, had been right there in "A Port Boy's Story," which I'd read many times. As Peart writes:

"In 1956, we moved to a brand-new split-level on Dalhousie Avenue -- then Queen Street, before the imperialist forces of St. Catharines invaded Port Dalhousie, in 1961, and amalgamated it (like Saddam Hussein amalgamated Kuwait, it seems to me)."


Murphy's restaurant Monica and I were hungry, so we walked into "Old Port Dalhousie" to find a restaurant. The place we found, Murphy's Restaurant, was a fine establishment decorated with a nautical theme throughout. Our server was easygoing, and her intense lime-green eyes seemed to glow in the afternoon sunlight. We asked her about the "football field" we'd seen from the road, and she said that what we'd actually seen were the grandstands for the yearly Royal Henley Regatta. I had rowed at the University of Washington and knew that rowing was another important sport in Canada, like hockey, but I had never known that they had a big regatta in Port Dalhousie.

'Shroom Synchronicity

After eating we walked back to Lakeside Park, and I decided to use the washroom there (someone had vandalized the exterior of the washrooms to just "Shrooms," which Monica and I thought was funny). When I was inside, the radio was blasting through ceiling speakers. The DJs started taking about the Rush concert the night before. They said something to the effect of: "For those of you who left the Rush concert early last night, the band has just finished its 200th encore and the show is finally over."

'Lakeside Then the DJ started criticizing Rush lyrics. To prove his point about how bad they were, he read "Working Man" in its entirety, and then he went on to "2112," reading both the prose sections and the lyrics.

Now here was a moment you don't have too often. I was in the bathroom at Lakeside Park, the place Neil Peart used to work and play in his childhood, and the subject of the radio broadcast was Rush, and, more specifically, Neil Peart's lyrics (at least for "2112"). This was true synchronicity (a meaningful coincidence, per the Jungian definition), and it made me smile. By the time I left the bathroom, the DJs were still reading from "2112." For disliking the lyrics so much, I was surprised that they spent so much time on it.

"The air is thick today!"

After that, Monica and I drove around Port Dalhousie a little more, looking for places that Neil had mentioned in his writings. But both of us knew that these places had changed significantly since Neil's childhood. Still, it was a beautiful town and one that seemed like a nice place to grow up or visit on a three-day weekend if you lived nearby.

But the stench of all that decomposing algae will always be associated with Port Dalhousie in my memory. One local man, who was getting in his car at the same time I was at Lakeside Park, proclaimed, "The air is thick today!" I asked him if it was always this bad, and he said this was the worst he'd ever smelled. And then he tore off in his pickup to get away from the smell.

Port Dalhousie sign

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posted by AndyO @ 10:00 PM   0 comments

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Toronto - 9/19/07

This was day three of my east coast Rush tour.

I woke up late again, but was excited to go out for a "sit-down" breakfast at Golden Griddle, just across the street from our hotel. Monica and I both got the buffet, because we wanted a little of everything.

Toronto subway and street vendors

IMG_2113After breakfast, we went on the Toronto subway for the first time. We got off at the Union stop, and then walked toward the CN tower. This part of Toronto is home to skyscrapers, hotels, banks, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation headquarters. It was also home to traveling restaurants (vans serving food), from ice cream to hotdogs to "chunky fries."

An artist was just setting up his display on the sidewalk, when I stopped and asked him if he had any Rush pictures. He immediately pulled out two or three matted, charcoal drawings (copies, not originals) of familiar Rush pictures, and said, "Twenty dollar."

I smiled and said, "Maybe later."

"Fifteen dollar," he said.

I smiled again and said, "I'll come back after I do some sightseeing. I don't want to carry it around."

"OK, you first customer today. Only ten dollar!"

I had entered a negotiation without even knowing it, and now he'd cut his price in half! Because I wanted to give Ray a special thank-you for his hospitality in Buffalo (and this picture was certainly a unique Rush artifact), I agreed to "ten dollar."

The CN Tower is Closed

While I'd heard about a power outage earlier in the morning, I didn't know it was affecting downtown Toronto until we walked into a tourist shop and the lady could only take cash (the credit card machine was down). I then noticed all the lights were off, too. It was during our transaction, when I was buying Drew a T-shirt, that the lights came back on. I told the lady, "I guess I'm your lucky charm."

The CN Tower in Toronto Because the power had been out, I realized the CN tower was probably closed, too. Sure enough, there were security guards standing in front of the ticket office, telling people they "would be open soon." I looked up the tower and saw one of the elevators stuck about two-thirds of the way down. I wondered if people had been stuck in there since the power outage began.

Instead of going up the tower, we walked around Rogers field (formally the Toronto Skydome), where the Blue Jays play ball, and looked at the interesting artwork and view toward the water. I especially liked this artwork called "The Audience: Part I":


Toronto waterfront

As we started walking toward the waterfront, I noticed how this part of Toronto reminded me more and more of San Diego, with its harbor and buildings built up against the shoreline of Lake Ontario. I guess the 80-degree F. temperature helped that perception, too. I could understand why people would want to live in this city -- at least during the summer.

Rush busses at the ACC Monica and I found our way to the Air Canada Centre (ACC) to see Rush's buses near the back. We didn't understand that we could walk through the bus area and into the front of the ACC. Instead, we walked back to the subway and rode back to our hotel for a short break.

Parliament building

Our next stop was the Parliament Building, where Rush had shot the cover of their now famous, breakthrough album "Moving Pictures." It's a beautiful building with old-world architecture and details that you don't usually see in cities on the west coast (although Vancouver, B.C. has a few of them).

'Parliment Other Rush fans were also stopping by the building to get their picture of the famed building. Monica took at a picture of two people who had come all the way from Japan to see Rush.

We went in the building and met Janet, a nice woman who worked in the gift shot. We talked for about 15 minutes about the building. She told us about being an extra in the movie Murder at 1600, and getting a speaking role opposite Wesley Snipes. I told her I'd rent the movie to see her at some point.

When I went outside, I found Monica sitting in the shade of a monument. She was talking to her husband on her cell phone. I also sat down with her and tried to call a few people, but had no luck. This was one of the most peaceful moments on the trip for me, sitting there in front of the Moving Pictures building enjoying the warm air.

Walking back from Rosedale

On the way back to our hotel, we decided to ride farther north to the Rosedale stop and then walk back. The mix of new and old architecture along Yonge street was interesting, and something I've only see on the east coast of the U.S.

Talking down Yonge street from Rosdale

Rush in Toronto

Before the show, Monica and I met Ray and another friend Paul at the Spaghetti Factory. I've been to this restaurant chain in Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and this was just as good. There's nothing like spaghetti and meatballs before a concert -- especially when you're really hungry (and I'd been walking all day).

We walked to the ACC and through the tour busses to the front of the building. When we walked in the venue, I was surprised how cold it was (although I wasn't complaining; I always get hot at concerts). We were seated about 15 rows up on Alex's side. From that vantage point, we could see Alex's tech working on all the guitars, adjusting things, etc.

Right before the house lights went down, Geddy's daughter Kyla (I'd seen a picture of her so I recognized her) and a pack of friends went up on the stage and added notes to Alex's Barbie Doll collection (I couldn't see what they were adding). We noticed how people were walking all over the arena with Snakes & Arrows laminates -- friends of the band, or a friend of a friend of the band. As Ray said later, "Laminates were everywhere!"

The lights went down, and Rush launched into their set. I saw that they'd abandoned the shtick with Geddy wiping off his face with a napkin and replaced it with Alex just starting Limelight, and then just waiting for Geddy to get onstage. It seemed to work better without the napkin wiping bit. The band played as well as they had when I'd seen them in July.

Rush in Toronto - 15 rows upThe only problem for us was that we were sitting on an aisle, and every single person sitting in our row and the rows around us was going to get beer every five minutes. There was a guy in front of us with a cane who seemed to keep falling asleep (or passing out), and people in his row would tap him on the shoulder -- sometimes multiple times -- to wake him up so they could go get their beer. A few times he almost fell down the steps as he stood up.

Rush in Toronto - 3 rows up Once intermission came along, Monica and I talked about how bad the distractions were with all the people around us. She noticed that there were rows of seats available right next to the stage, a mere twenty feet from where Alex was standing. We decided to move down. A few people with laminates walked into our row and sat down to watch the show. Nobody told us to move. The only problem was the pyrotechnics during a few songs -- extremely loud and extremely hot that close to the stage!

During one song, a guy behind me yelled into my ear, "What is the guitar player's name?" I told him. Later he asked if he could buy my earplugs (I had brought my expensive ones that weren't for sale).

Alex seemed to have friends or family in the first row next to him, as he kept looking over and smiling. Geddy came over a few times, too.

When Neil played his solo, I took out my earplugs and watched him intently, as usual. I saw him lose his stick on the underside of his ride cymbal during his snare section -- and then he grabbed it before it dropped. Having had this happen to me a few times during a performance, I could only smile with understanding (only I was never playing to 15,000 people). I'm sure hardly anyone noticed.

I've noticed that the better my seats at a concert, the faster the time passes. This was no exception. Soon, the band was playing YYZ, and then the lights came on.

Monica and I took the subway back to the hotel, got some pizza from a place right next door, and talked about the show. I had inadvertently blown out my voice from singing along with the band, but that didn't stop me from talking.

I didn't fall asleep until 2:00 a.m.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:37 PM   0 comments

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Buffalo to Toronto - 9/18/07

This was day two of my east coast Rush tour.

I found it difficult to get out of bed, as did Monica. Something about being three hours ahead definitely throws off your system. Monica got up, showered, and brought me the dregs of the continental breakfast, and we were in the car by 11:30 or so.

For this trip, I bought a Navibe GB735 Bluetooth GPS receiver for my Treo 700 Smartphone, and I got it up and running as we drove from the hotel. I downloaded Live Search to the Treo, which displays GPS maps. I punched in the for directions to Toronto, and the GPS lead us to the right freeway

Once we got through the Canadian border (about a 30 minute wait), we drove on the QEW to Toronto. On this highway, we passed through Neil Peart's home town of St. Catherines (Port Dalhousie), although we didn't stop. We were in Toronto by 3:00 p.m.

Toronto - First Impressions

Driving in to Toronto, the CN tower in the distance As you drive closer to Toronto, the spire of the CN tower is like a beacon to the city center. As you get closer, you see a huge windmill churning near the waterfront. I guess even though I knew Toronto was on Lake Ontario, I never pictured it with a waterfront in my mind's eye.

As we drove into Toronto, the big-city energy that I've only felt in cities like San Francisco, Boston, and Vancouver, B.C., grew stronger. On Yonge Street, the longest continuous street in the world, the city seemed to become like what I've imagined New York or Chicago to be (I've never been to either of those cities). Crowds of people waited on corners for lights to change. Cars honked and pushed up the street. Buildings towered overhead. Then we arrived at our hotel, the downtown Day's Inn.

Hard Rock Cafe - Toronto

Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto After checking with the hotel (we couldn't check in until around 4:00 or so), we walked down Yonge Street to the Hard Rock cafe. We were hoping to be able to sit in the booth next to Geddy Lee's bass, but a couple was already sitting there. While Monica and I ate Hard Rock hamburgers, we looked around at all the music memorabilia that makes the Hard Rock famous, including an Alex Lifeson Paul Reed Smith guitar.

When we walked into the gift shop, I noticed a glass booth next to the exit with a Q107 logo. Monica pointed out that Kim Mitchell, of the Canadian band Max Webster (who opened for Rush in the 80's), was one of the DJs sitting in the glass booth. When a fan came by with his Downtown Toronto family and knocked on the glass, Kim was all too happy to come out and sign his shirt and talk. What a cool guy.

Outside the Hard Rock, I took in Eaton Square, which is the closest I've ever come to something like Times Square. Huge TVs and billboards create a vortex of information that was both hypnotic and disgusting.

Massey Hall

Picture of Massey Hall sign After lunch, Monica walked me over to Massey Hall, where Rush's now-famous first live album was recorded, "All the World's a Stage." The hall itself is medium-sized, with old-world brick architecture (the hall was built in 1894). Other than the first live Rush album being recorded there, I don't know much about the hall. I did see that current bands playing Massey included diverse acts like John Scofield and Kelly Clarkson.


Picture of Sam the Record Man in Toronto The venerable record store headquarters for Sam the Record Man was located in Toronto until earlier this year, when it went out of business. Sam's had not only been a fixture on Yonge street, but had been one of the early forces in helping Rush gain an audience. Fortunately, the famous building front hasn't been torn down yet. While I know the record industry is in the midst of a sea change, its sad to see stores like Sam's go out of business.

Incredible Hulk 2008

The Apollo Theater replica in Toronto On the way up Yonge Street, past Sam's, I noticed a lot of Hollywood-style camera lights and barriers. I asked an official-looking woman with a laminate around her neck what they were filming, and she said, "The Incredible Hulk." Evidently, Edward Norton is David Banner in this one. While I find it odd that they're making another Incredible Hulk, after one was released with Eric Bana only in 2003, I do like Edward Norton (who also worked on the screenplay for this movie).

As with many American movies, Toronto is a stand-in for New York for "Hulk" -- and many of the storefronts on Yonge Street had been transformed into Harlem. I hadn't even noticed the Apollo Theater replica -- but if you've never seen a city before, you wouldn't know the difference. I made a note to return to see them filming.

Maple Leaf Gardens

Maple Leaf Gardens (now closed) Monica walked me over to Maple Leaf Gardens, a famous hockey and Rush venue, that is now closed. Fortunately, the Gardens were right next to our hotel. Back in the day, Rush would play two or three nights at this arena. But like so many of the arenas in the United States and Canada, they are being replaced with newer, state-of-the-art venues with luxury boxes, less leg room, and other things that make the owners a lot more money.

Anthem Records

After we took a short rest in our room (and checked in), Monica drove me by Anthem Records, the business office for Rush in Toronto. This is where the management of the band works, although there's nothing to indicate this on the outside. If you call ahead, you can request a brief tour of the office, which includes some album artwork and gold records.

Orbit Room

IMG_2105 Then it was up to Alex Lifeson's bar on College Street called the Orbit Room. Being that it was only 8:00 p.m., it wasn't even open yet -- so we walked down the street and had a great Thai dinner. On the way back, we didn't go in the Orbit Room, as we knew we'd have to pay a cover for the band there and we were getting tired.

We went back to the hotel and called it a night.

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posted by AndyO @ 10:04 PM   0 comments

Monday, September 17, 2007

Seattle to Buffalo, NY - 9/17/07

I'm traveling with my friend Monica Z to a series of Rush shows on the East Coast and Ontario. Today, we traveled from Seattle to Buffalo, with a layover in Detroit.

My day started at 5:40 a.m., which is the earliest I've gotten up in about a year. I drove to the airport, parked in a shuttle lot, and made it to the airport by 7:00. The line at the Northwest Airlines ticket counter was longer than I expected, and the security line was practically a mile. But I made it to the gate by 8:10 a.m.

Monica and I met up on the plane, and we settled in for the 3-1/2 hour flight. As always, we were able to talk almost the entire way about a host of subjects including music, movies, work, and what we were going to do in Toronto and Buffalo.

On the way into Detroit, Monica pointed out the patterns of clouds outside the window. They looked like sand dunes or waves.

Flying in to Detroit - sand dune clouds

Detroit and the broken plane

If you've never been to Detroit, it's probably one of the most futuristic airports in the United States, with its elevated indoor train, myriad screens, and metallic architecture. It seems like it could be a space port. It's also immense. We must have walked a mile to our new gate. When we got to A11, we noticed our departure time had moved back two hours. The guy at the desk said, "I guess I'll tell you what's going on. We've got a broken plane."

Monica and I went to eat lunch at Max and Erma's in the terminal. After we ordered, Monica thought she'd better check our flight information again. She went out to the information screen and came back to report the flight had moved from 6:30 to 5:30, which meant we only had about 40 minutes or so to get to the plane. After a few more minutes, she went and checked again, and the flight was now scheduled to depart at 5:10! Needless to say, we grabbed our food to go and ran to our gate.

Fortunately, we weren't late, and the plane didn't take off until 5:30 (they'd unloaded the plane's cargo when they found out it was broken, only to have to reload it once the plane was fixed).

Detroit to Buffalo

Monica and I didn't sit next to each other on the flight from Detroit to Buffalo, but I ended up sitting next to a nice older woman from Buffalo, who didn't mind me eating my club sandwich and fries in front of her. We talked about everything, but what I found most interesting was her story about her 100-plus year-old father, who had recently passed away. She told me about how he had dressed, fed, and gone to the bathroom by himself almost until the day he died. When I hear stories like this, it makes me smile.

Touching down and eating at Duff's

Once we got into Buffalo, Monica's friend Ray met us outside the gate (which was really nice of him). He guided us to our Days Inn motel, and then led us to the place for wings in Buffalo --Duff's Famous Wings. As Ray said, "After tonight, your life will change forever."

I'm not a huge wings fan, but I have to say I was impressed with Duff's. We got the medium-level spice, and it had a salty, vinegar twang. I got the feeling from Ray, his friend Kevin who joined us, and Monica, that Duff's is an institution, like Chinook's in Seattle.

Duff's fries, salad, and (famous) wingsAfter that, we went to Ray's house to meet his wife and three sleeping kids. Unfortunately, the spicy wings were enough to throw my gastrointestinal system overdrive and I needed to escape to the family's only bathroom for a while. After I emerged in embarrassment, asking if they had a spray to clear out the bathroom (there was no fan), Monica, Ray, and I went downstairs for the Buffalo Rushfest 2007. (It must be said here that Ray has an amazing Rush collection.)

We sat and talked into the night, even though Ray had to get up for work the next day (Ray says about staying up, "If there's still four digits on the clock, I consider that a success."). He had received the new Rush tribute album Lush, which we listened to and promptly turned off.

When we returned to the hotel, I fought with my computer trying to get on the "high-speed wi-fi connection," as it was advertised. (We found out later that they have problems with it every week.)

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posted by AndyO @ 10:18 PM   0 comments

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The best UFO hoax film in history

Take one look at this short film, and you'll think someone had a real Close Encounter in Haiti. Scroll down for more information. 

Well, it turns out it's a hoax. According to, the creator of the film --a professional computer animator only known as Barzolff814 on YouTube, created the film as research for a feature film he's working on. The film is about two people who create a UFO hoax so real, it spirals out of control.

All of this was confirmed by the Los Angeles Times with the production company Partizan, who is working with Barzolff814 (whose real name, it turns out, is David Nicolas).

As a fan of computer animation, the UFO phenomenon, and Science Fiction, I have to say the quality of Barzolff's film is amazing. A friend of mine who is a computer animator told me that the secret of digital effects is in the lighting. Everything in this UFO film looks like it belongs there. I would argue that perspective is another thing that has to be perfect -- the way the UFOs float above the trees is unnerving. Of course, Barzolff's use of sound also helps to trick you. The person gasping in disbelief reminds you of what you would do in this same situation.

It's interesting to note from the LA Times interview that life is, once again, imitating art. Like the premise for the film he's working on, even though this film being proven as a hoax, people still believe it's real.

If this clip is any indication of Barzolff's talent, the feature film could be very interesting indeed.


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posted by AndyO @ 1:16 PM   0 comments