Welcome to my Kill to Get Crimson 2008 tour blog!

My name is Isaac, 30 years old from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. I have set this blog up for the purpose of documenting the journey I am taking following Mark Knopfler’s Kill to Get Crimson tour in North America, in the summer of 2008.

The North American leg of the tour, as well as my journey, begins June 24th in Morrison, Colorado and ends on July 31st in Miami Beach, Florida.

Even though I intend to write on a daily basis, publishing the stories onto the server would be tricky. After all, we’re talking about vast distances which will be primarily crossed by driving, and there is no way for me to predict the availability of Internet connection throughout the way.

So… make yourself at home and feel free to drop a comment.



Saturday, July 12, 2008

Grand Forks, North Dakota

Woke up this morning at 6:00am as I was expecting a very long driving day to Minneapolis. Everything was ready to go so by 6:30am I was in my car, programming the GPS to my hotel in Minneapolis.

I was extremely tired and hungry, two feelings that one doesn’t want to have while driving highways devoid of any scenery whatsoever.

I have to admit I was a little sad I left Winnipeg—there’s much more here to explore, and in Manitoba in general. I will come back.

After about half an hour, or hour (who counts) I got to a tiny little town close to the USA border, called Morris. Reminded me of those tiny towns in Ontario that you drive by, fill up some gas, maybe have lunch and move on. I like those tiny towns. Make you feel peaceful. That’s why I chose to live in Waterloo and not in, say, Toronto: Waterloo isn’t really tiny, but it’s very spacious, friendly and green. I like the peace and quiet.

If only I could afford living in a peaceful, spacious & quiet environment in the Vancouver area… Ah. What a difference a few million dollars could make.

Anyway, continued on my way to the USA and arrived at the border. I did take the time before the trip to issue the Nexus card. Using it, I was able to cross immigration / customs in Toronto’s airport without even being questioned. However, the Nexus card didn’t seem to impress the North Dakota border crossing staff. The agent asked me what is it exactly that I’m doing in the border crossing in North Dakota with a British Columbia‐plated rental car.

I had to tell him the truth. I told him that I’m following Mark Knopfler’s tour in North America.

Needless to say, he wasn’t very impressed. I guess this is not the type of things border crossing agents hear every day. After some consultation with another agent, they decided to have me pull over for a vehicle inspection, of course after he took all of my concert tickets and inspected them very closely.

So I spent about 45 minutes altogether in the border crossing. You know, it’s very easy to say lots of bad things about the USA border crossing officers. True, some of them, sometimes, have bad days and they’re more strict than others. Well, everybody has bad days some times. Those people at the border, after all, are trying to do their jobs.

They are paid by the USA government to keep the country clear of people with bad intentions. That’s the job of every border crossing officer in any country; the reason for the USA guys being very strict (as a matter of fact, the Australians are much more strict—at least so I’ve heard from many sources) is that there are a lot of people out there seeking to do really bad things. When we talk bad about border crossing officers, we do it because we only see ourselves attempting to cross the border. We don’t see the drug dealer, the terrorist, the murderer, the thief—all of them also trying to cross the border, most of them look exactly like us.

Border crossing is never a pleasant process, but my experience shows that full collaboration and honesty is the best way to go. If you’re honest and have no bad intentions, and have no reason to hide anything—just collaborate and you’ll be amazed how friendly some of those officers can be. Lots of people feel attacked or having their “personal space” invaded by border crossing officers, and it ticks them off—hence problems occur. Just be patient, accept the fact that those people are just trying to do their jobs, be collaborative and you should be fine.

So I was driving into North Dakota, which is very similar to Manitoba when it comes to view (at least up until now). Craving my daily espresso, I asked my GPS really nicely for some coffee spot. The nearest one was in a city called Grand Forks which appears to be the first big city you encounter once you cross the border via the Pembina Crossing.

What struck me as soon as I entered this city is that it is very, very clean. It is so clean and tidy that it seems you could eat your meal right off the road. Very green, too, and very spacious. The coffee place I ended up in is called “The Coffee Co.” on 2100 South Columbia Road. What a lovely coffee shop. I took something I never heard of before—Cafe Breve—which turned out to be just like a latte, only made with half‐and‐half instead of milk. Very tasty. I liked.

Here is a picture of myself and Abby, the Barista:


People appear very polite and quiet in here.

Very interesting place. I should come back.

Feeling awake now… Caffeine is doing its job. Off I go.



Please ignore this post unless you’re interested in witnessing what goes through one’s mind while driving 550km of nothingness.

It can be ugly.

You’ve been warned.

Back in Waterloo I have a good friend, his name is Bill. Funny intelligent fellow, happens to work for one of my company’s clients. We had the chance to work together for approximately 4 years now. Bill and I talk a lot about all sorts of things and reach interesting conclusions. One of the conclusions we have recently reached is “you can argue with anybody, but you can’t argue with stupid people”.

(I am not going to discuss why we started talking about it in the first place)

Driving through hundreds of kilometers in the wonderful nothingness of the prairies, I thought about that statement and decided that perhaps it needs a closer look, as “stupid” is kind of a childish term, let alone immeasurable.

I figured that what I’m looking for are conditions which are necessary and enough for the existence of a productive argument. A productive argument in that context is an argument from which a fair, mutually‐satisfying conclusion can be drawn. Obviously the argument must be about a topic that is not quantitatively “provable”—for in that case there’s no need in an argument—it must be about something of speculative, subjective nature.

Since we’re dealing with topics of speculative nature, it follows that, when arguing, one must be prepared for the possibility that one’s expectations are not met in full. It then follows that, for an argument to be productive, it must not be approached to as a competition in which one side attempts to force his opinion on the other and prove that it is right.

To put it in simple terms: an argument about speculative or subjective matters is, essentially, a negotiation process. The key here is that whether you’re right or wrong has nothing to do with the result of the argument as the definitions of “right” and “wrong” are subjective.

I believe it was Donald Trump who said “it’s not what you deserve, it’s what you negotiate that matters”. Think about it for a second, regardless of whether you like Donald Trump or not. It is a very fine distinction, but such an important one. Most fights between people, and even nations, are due to either side’s failure to recognize that there is no “absolute truth” for speculative and subjective matters. It appears that, in most cases, the two sides are approaching arguments armed with proof that they are “right”, failing to understand that “right” and “wrong” are very subjective.

So much has been written and discussed about the topic of negotiation, my favourite being the wonderful work of Robert Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton of the Harvard Negotiation Project, in their book “Getting to Yes” (I prefer reading books that are written as a result of some research, rather than useless “self‐help” books written by pedlars). Of all business skills, the skill of negotiation is considered by many, including myself, the single most important one.

In order to be a good negotiator, one has to, first, know how to listen. Listen, not hear. Now when most people listen, they hear words and provide meanings to these words based on their own experience and values. Wrong! Listening must also involve the willingness and courage to see things from the other side of the table.

When you approach an argument, you’re usually very sure that you are right. Of course, nobody likes approaching an argument knowing that they’re wrong. However most of us are over‐confident in our abilities and that our values and perceptions are the “right ones” (some study conducted in the USA a few years ago has shown that about %80 of the drivers are very confident that they’re better drivers than average).

Trust me: the other side thinks exactly the same—about themselves.

So we have “listening”, and we have “ability to see things from the other side”.

The third one is knowing how to talk to people. This one is very, very hard to do and requires skills that take years to develop. As we grow up, we look at the world through filters that we have created throughout our years, many of these filters being created during childhood and are so embedded into our personality that it’s impossible to pinpoint why these filters exist and what for. That’s where hypnosis and other techniques fit in, but lets move on.

Knowing how to talk to people means that we have to adjust our words, tone and phrases to match the other side’s values and belief systems. This is very hard to do because often we have to speak and express ourselves in manners contradictory to our own values and beliefs. There is a very, very fine line between that and what is called “manipulation”, where the we’re talking about the same skill, only wrapped in a few “white lies” with the goal in mind being selfish benefit rather than mutual one.

The fourth one, and the last, is the willingness to accept compromise.

Everybody wants to think that they’re perfect; however, “perfect” is an absolute term (meaning “I’m the best in everything”) and we just don’t live in an absolute world. For an argument to yield fair, mutually‐beneficial results, each player has to—not has; must—know how to accept different opinions and accept the fact that a mutually‐beneficial conclusion depends on compromise.

And why am I writing all of this? Sure, I thought about it almost all the way from Regina to Winnipeg. But there’s another reason it’s worth writing.

Unlike most of you guys / gals, I wasn’t born in North America; I have no idea what North Americans are taught in school. I just know that in my time, when education in Israel was really something to be proud of, they didn’t teach us any of that in school. Discussions I had about the topic with some people has showed that this, and similar subjects, are not taught here either.

I think that schools should, instead of populating children and teenager’s minds with facts that everybody can look‐up in Google at will, should put more effort into teaching those youngsters how to be civil to each other, how to talk, how to argue and how to negotiate. For some reason, it appears to me that, that way, we would end up in a better, more stable, society.

There’s another topic that’s not taught in schools in North America, or anywhere else in the matter, and I think must be taught as well—the topic of finances and money management. I will write about this at some other time.

You see? I warned you…

Centennial Concert Hall, Winnipeg, MB

So after the restaurant I decided, for some reason, to go back all the way up Portage Avenue to my motel, drop the car there and take the bus. I believe that what I wanted to achieve is to actually “live” the city, see the people, you know, feel a part of Winnipeg.

People told me all sort of stories and jokes about Winnipeg. I have to say that Winnipeg is not a bad place to be in, not at all. Downtown Winnipeg has lots to see and do in it, there are quite a few parks and places to rest. The downtown area is bigger than I thought, and in the summer there’s a folk festival going on there (which I didn’t attend—I had a Mark Knopfler show to attend).

Will want to visit this place again at some point.

Bus took forever to arrive at the venue. and it really arrived at the venue. The bus stop is literally right by the venue’s stairs. It was 7:20pm already, 10 minutes before Jesca’s act so I had to hurry.

Got my seat—second row, absolute center. Not bad. A few minutes and Jesca appears on the stage wearing her regular attire—that purple dress. She looks great in that dress, however I happen to prefer the other, “secondary” outfit (jeans, shirt—nothing fancy but she looks beautiful in it. That’s what she wore for the Vegas show, and some very few other shows later).

Jesca gave her standard show except for the last song (Jesca, what’s its name?) which I only heard once before in the tour. Beautiful song. Tunes her lower E string down to D, decent guitar work. I like that song.

I occasionally find myself humming “Seed of Wonder” for myself when I’m driving.

During the intermission, I got the chance to take some pictures of the venue:


I have decided to not take any pictures during the show itself this time. First, I really suck at taking pictures. Second, I remembered the show in Woodinville, where cameras were strictly prohibited, and I actually liked the idea of simply shutting my eyes for pretty much the entire show and get myself hypnotized with the music.

The band, rested after a day in Chicago, appeared very shortly after Paul’s declaration of war against recorders. Mark greeted the crowd by “good to be back”, which means that he’s been here before—I talked to some people after the show and they told me that the last time he’s been to Winnipeg were during the Dire Straits days.

I think that, so far, everybody in the band changed clothes at least once except for Mark. Same jeans, same black T‐shirt. Some people don’t like change…

The sound in the venue was very good. Sitting in second row center, I got some great sound, not too loud (not even during Speedway in Nazareth) and not too soft. Just the right volume. No audio hick‐up’s this time—all equipment appeared to have worked flawlessly.

The guys gave Winnipeg a show that’s been worth waiting for. The crowd was fantastic—people didn’t seem to be talking with one another, they listened, they cheered, they were really a part of the concert. I loved being in that crowd. Way to go Winnipeg!

I know you guys always look for the weird and unexpected. It’s really boring to hear that all shows are so great (which they are). So what’s different in the show tonight?

Well, first I should mention that in two of the songs—Hill Farmer Blues and So Far Away, it appeared that either Mark just wanted to continue playing to eternity or the band just wanted to end it already. In both songs, Mark continued playing a solo sequence when the rest of the band was going for the outro—I could see the look of “WTF” on the faces of some of the band members. When it happened during So Far Away, Mark turned to Guy, gave him a big, hearty smile, as if saying “come on, dude”. But this band being comprised of such great musicians, they recovered so quickly that I don’t think too many people noticed.

The set list was the usual. It appears that the band has decided to chuck “Shangri La” from the encore as I haven’t heard it in a while.

Guy is back to his regular concert attire, that white shirt with what seems to be red / pink flowers on it. Coincidentally, I reverted back to my own attire—the Shangri La shirt has finally been washed today.

As usual, everybody improvised and seemed very happy about it.

One of my favourite performances in the show is the performance of Going Home. Before I heard it live, I really wasn’t a big fan of the original version (from the soundtrack)—instead, I really liked the “unplugged” version that appears on the “On the Night” DVD (just guitar, keyboard and some bass, no drums). However, listening to the “fast” version live makes for a completely different experience. Mark and Richard appear to go very well together. Richard taking the Gibson and using that volume pedal at the intro really gives me the shivers as I am a huge fan of this Gibson sound and Richard’s just so good at it.

At the end, Danny appeared a bit insulted that the crowd cheers to everybody else except for him. He was rewarded by good cheers very shortly after expressing his frustration.

That’s it. Another very good show.

A shot of the venue after the show:


After the show, I had to return to my motel by bus. Now people did tell me that downtown Winnipeg is not a place to hang out at night; they appear to be right. All kind of strange people hang out there, I don’t think they’re Mark Knopfler fans. Then again, every big city has that. Toronto has that, big time—you don’t feel very secure wandering around downtown at night. Vancouver is actually OK in that respect, unless you’re talking about Downtown Eastside (East Hastings, east of Gastown) which is pretty much the scariest place to be in, at both daytime and night time.

Tomorrow is going to be my longest driving day in the entire tour. About 735km (456 miles) are between myself and the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. I will have to leave very early so… time to sleep.

If anybody wants to get together tomorrow, or before / after any show, I should always be available by phone. Feel free to call or text‐message to (519) 635‐5003.



Bambolini (Italian Restaurant), Downtown Winnipeg

Went to hit downtown again. I figured I should have some dinner before going to the show. Following the advice of Patrick, a friend of a friend/tenant of mine (too complicated. Really. Move on) who I believe is originally from Winnipeg, I went to check out this Italian restaurant called Bambolini in downtown (Broadway & Hargrave).

Well, where do I start.

The food: delicious. I had some lamb chops with some kind of thick pasta (I’m not good with names; I’m only good with food) smothered in some sauce that I know, for sure, had asparagus in it. That came after a bowl of house salad which was very good as well. The entire meal was accompanied by slices of fresh bread and three types of cheese. It was very, very tasty.

The service: excellent. Fast service, very professional. Whenever I finished my glass of water there was always someone around to refill it, I don’t even know where they came from. How do they do it? Do they hire people to constantly stare at people drinking, just waiting for their moment in the spotlight in which they can fill a cup??

The atmosphere: quiet, calm and very comfortable.

The prices: very reasonable for the quality of the food you get, the service and everything. Entrees go for about $24, pasta dishes between $12–18 or so.

This is not the type of restaurant I’d go to by myself, though. The atmosphere there really begs that you don’t sit alone. Perfect for couples, group of friends etc. Because food that tasty should be consumed slowly, very slowly, enjoying every bite and talking to your spouse / friends in the meantime.

Patrick—thanks for the recommendation. Next BBQ in my house—your steak is on the house.

(Matt will pay for it)


Friday, July 11, 2008

Day in Winnipeg

Slow morning again. Woke up at around 9:30am, read emails and blog comments (thanks guys) and then decided to hit downtown.

So did the storm.

On my way to downtown, approximately 10km drive from the motel I’m staying in, it was pouring real hard. First time it rained like that in my entire trip. My GPS told me of a local sandwich place so I hit it for breakfast. Finding parking wasn’t too hard. The place was inside a mall called “Portage Place”, I think its name was “City Submarine”. Not a brilliant sub, however good value for the money you spend.

I then decided to look for some espresso. Starbucks was right nearby but I figured I may want to give some of my money away to local businesses rather than giant worldwide corporations. A short wandering around downtown (it stopped raining and became sunny again) and I came across this place called “Fyxx”, right on the big BMO building in Portage Avenue.

My advice—steer clear. Service was very slow—there were 3 people in front of me on the line and it took them 10 minutes to get my order. I figured, hey, maybe it’s worth the wait. I was wrong. I was given a cup of latte that tasted pretty much like water, milk and very low quality espresso. I can’t describe the feeling of craving good coffee / espresso and getting rubbish instead. I recall Richard Bennett’s blog post from a few days ago about some “Fine Italian” coffee turning out to be neither fine nor Italian but some rubbish made in America. It’s a very annoying feeling.

It was so awful that I couldn’t even finish it.

A short stroll back to my car. I realized that I am going to have to do quite a bit of driving starting tomorrow so today may be a good time for some laundry. Found some laundromat on Notre Dame avenue. I’m pretty sure it was one of the city’s rough areas as people didn’t seem to pleased wandering around the streets. Anyway, my Shangri La T‐shirt, a part of my usual concert attire, is clean again.

Back to the motel, getting ready for dinner & the concert afterward. Whatever I have left to do must be done now, as I have to go to sleep early—very long drive to Minneapolis tomorrow.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Winnipeg… At Last

Pheeew, was that a long drive or what.

Finally, 550km away from Regina, I am finding myself laying on my bed in a motel called Red Lion Motel, right at the outskirts of Winnipeg. Before that, I consulted my friend Jonathan regarding a place to stay, and he suggested two reasonably priced places in Winnipeg. I ended up ignoring them both because I noticed a cheaper place as I approached town and just checked in. Turns out this place has a strip bar. I swear to God that I didn’t know anything about it before checking in. It wasn’t mentioned in the sign…

I haven’t seen Winnipeg yet so I don’t have much to say about it (other than the receptionist’s warning of “stay away from the north end of downtown”, which I will), but what I can tell you about is the road from Regina to Winnipeg.

This is road number 1, the Trans‐Canada Highway. Guys, this road gives the word “boring” a whole new meaning. Driving a distance of 550km in 130km/h gives you about 4.25 hours of net driving. It felt like 425 hours.

It just never ends, never changes and boring to the point that you start talking to yourself, ask yourself questions, answer your own questions and then conclude the “discussion” realizing that you’re going bananas.

Why is there a speed limit on that road is beyond me, considering the fact that I have failed to see even one police car during the entire 550km stretch. I’ve never been to the Autobahn in Germany (and I pray, for the sake of the Germans, that the Autobahn is not as boring as highway 1 here), but if there’s one highway stretch in Canada that deserves having no speed limit then this is it.

The car’s front, as well as the windshield, seems to have tonnes of proteins in it, which are the remains of once happily‐flying insects.

I’m happy that I did this boring driving stretch today rather than tomorrow. It means that tomorrow I’ll have all day to enjoy downtown Winnipeg (some people told me that it’s rather dull… I’ll have to look into that) and then go to the show.

Will go for a quick bite soon, and if I’m not too tired, I’ll add another post outlining some of the discussions I had with myself during the drive today.


On My Way to Winnipeg

I figured I’ll just travel to Winnipeg today so I don’t have to drive 600km of extremely boring roads at the day of the show (tomorrow).

Started the morning very easy. Weather was clear, sunny and warm so I decided to see what downtown Regina has to offer.

Not bad, actually. It’s pretty and has some good stuff to offer. The main place to be is Scarth Street, which is a pedestrian‐only street that has some nice places to sit in and, from time to time, there’s a live band playing there, sponsored by the city of Regina.

However, first thing’s first so I needed my breakfast and latte. I ended up in a place called Aegean Coast Coffee & Tea, located at 1901 Hamilton Street. Got myself a scone and a latte, which ended up being one of the best two latte’s I had in the trip so far, the other one being the one Jennifer prepared for me when I stayed with the Christopher family in Calgary. Emily, the Barista, created some nice tree‐like figure on my latte and it tasted very good. So good that I decided to actually tell you about it so the next time you’re in Regina you’re certain to hit the place for an excellent latte.

Here’s Emily and I:


Some photos from Scarth street:


Now you have to agree with me that this is just too funny to be a coincidence:


I’m now sitting at the Saskatchewan visitors center, right on the Manitoba‐Saskatchewan border. They call it “the land of living skies”, and for a reason. Lots of sky here. It’s so flat that you get to see blue sky all around you:


Time to go…


Conexus Centre of the Arts, Regina, SK

Before I start, here’s a nice sign I photographed on my way to Regina:




Still shaken from that incident with the business‐savvy motel owner, I went to sniff around the Conexus Arts Centre. It was about 5:00pm and there was nobody there. My dear GPS (the best $300 I spent in my life, other than that night back then in Montreal but I swore not to tell) found me the closest place to eat, which ended up being Taco Del Mar. Taco Del Mar is, as it seems, a chain that only operates in western Canada (well, Saskatchewan is kind of west, if you think about it. For Torontonians, whatever is west of Ontario is “western Canada”). They sell wonderful huge burritos, with all bunch of ingredients inside. People who know me know that despite my slim fit figure (6’0, 175 lbs.) I can eat quite a bit. And that taco made me full, so imagine that.

Went back to the venue and still nobody there except for a couple sitting down in what seemed to be a Porsche to me. We chatted for about 10 minutes, very nice people. The absolute opposite to that motel guy.

(Sorry, that incident really upset the hell out of me)

I then went to the venue itself and took some pictures for you guys.


The ticket scanners were there so you could enter the venue but not enter the hall itself. The ticket scanner looked at my ticket with amazement and told me that I have the best seat in the house (row AA, seat 28), which turned out to be almost correct—I was one seat left of the absolute center. Still not bad.

Entered the venue and had a chat with some of the people who work there. In general, during this trip I am much chattier than before. I never really was a small‐talker, but now it appears to have changed. No idea why.

So somehow my discussion with the ushers led to the inevitable. They asked me if I have ever seen Mark Knopfler live and I told them that yes, about 13 times in the last 16 days including today. They quickly computed this and apparently arrived at the conclusion that this is some impressive concert attendance ratio, so I told them the story.

The rumour spread quickly and soon enough I was bombarded with all sorts of questions about my past, present and future. Then somebody came to me and told me that what I’m doing is courageous and outstanding and unheard of. I told him what I tell everyone who presents me with similar statement—for me, there is no other way.

I entered the hall and man, that’s some pretty venue. Similar layout to the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton. Comfortable seats, distance of about one meter between the front row and the stage, no fence of any kind.

Jesca Hoop went on stage on 7:30pm sharp and gave her usual performance except for one new song at the end—very nice song. Half way through her concert she talked to the crowd and said that we probably guessed that she has some tendency towards the abstract, and the crowd laughed. It was really funny. Duh! Sweet voice and sweet songs.

I took some pictures of the venue’s interior as well.


The band showed up on stage on 8:30pm sharp and went, as usual, straight to business with an awesome performance. The sound in the venue was excellent and sounded great from the front row—people I were talking to after the concert mentioned the great sound as well so apparently it’s not just me.

The set list was as usual, no new / different songs but there were some interesting points in tonight’s concert.

During “What It Is”, John was taking a little different approach in his violin solo during the interlude, which, in my opinion, sounds better than before. Deserved—and received—a good cheer from me.

I also noticed him altering his whistle’s sequence during Sailing to Philadelphia and today it sounded very emotional. As a matter of fact, Mark and John’s collaboration in Sailing to Philadelphia’s outro has become a much anticipated part in the concerts for me. John’s whistle work there is very touching.

The Marbletown interlude seemed to be longer tonight than always—which is of course a good thing.

During the performance of Telegraph Road, I noticed that Mark’s Pensa is set to have bit more distortion than usual. It was very weird to hear Telegraph Road’s first solo played with a distorted guitar. I’m not sure if it is was intentional or not (maybe I was just dreaming?), but it sounded… well… interesting. Not better and not worse. Just different. Just as good, but different.

Also during Telegraph Road, one of the Vox amps behind Richard appeared to have been gone kaput. Richard and the soundman tried to fix it, apparently to no avail so the microphone has been switched to the other Vox amp right beside it.

The crowd gave a great cheer to the band at the end. It appeared to have been a very cooperative crowd today, not too wild but not too boring either.

Some pictures:


After the concert I went to Earl’s for some late dinner. I wrote a little bit about Earl’s in one of my previous posts. Yet another “western Canada only” chain with fabulous restaurants, very well decorated, and some great food. The jewel in the Earl’s crown is their restaurant in Jasper, on Patricia Street, with the patio overlooking the Rocky mountains.

Anyway, I’ve been to quite a few Earl’s locations so far in my life and I noticed something interesting. There’s one thing that is consistent among all Earl’s restaurants, and it is that the girls who work there (hostesses, waitresses and any other client‐facing positions) are absolutely stunning. I haven’t yet seen a client‐facing girl working in Earl’s that couldn’t be a model. Awesome eye candy, of the kind that actually distracts you from eating. The best Earl’s in that respect is the one in Victoria, BC. I’ve been there twice and the girls there are so beautiful that I really lost my appetite.

I always thought it’s very peculiar so tonight I decided to find out for sure. I called my waitress (who was, of course, stunning as well) and asked her if Earl’s has some policy about only hiring absolutely stunning looking girls. I asked it in a real question‐like tone, not a flirt (I wouldn’t know how to flirt if my life depended on it), however she appeared to think otherwise. She told me that Earl’s restaurants indeed tend to only hire great looking girls, then said “it’s shallow, I know”. So I told her “shallow, yes, but fact is that it works wonders” so she laughed again.

She laughed a lot. Well, lets face it… they do work on tips. But at least I got my answer.

No show tomorrow so I’ll either stick around in Regina or make my way to Winnipeg. I’m still in the process of deciding which alternative is less boring. Will play it by ear tomorrow.

Take care,

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hospitality in Regina

So I made my way here to Regina. Concert is in about 3 hours but I have already had my daily dose of aggravation.

People told me before that Regina is not a great city to visit, as the crime rate here is considerably high than other parts in the country. They were mentioning that people here are rather rude. I got the first (and hopefully last) taste of it today.

Before leaving Saskatoon, I checked some places to stay in while in Regina. I came across this motel called “Inntowner Motor Inn”, quoting me the rate of $48.95. Not bad.

So I’m arriving at the place. Looks a bit run down and the area doesn’t appear to be safe. Door was locked, then the owner of the place shows up. The minute I saw him, I knew that something is just wrong in this picture.

First it turned out that the rate is higher than what he quoted me. OK, that’s fine. No big deal. Probably my mistake.

Then I basically asked him two things:

  1. Can I see the room?
  2. Is this area safe?

So he showed me one of the rooms, which appeared to be fine. Then I got to ask him the second question about whether the area is safe or not.

Guys, believe me when I tell you that he started to give me a 20 minutes lecture about, basically, how dare I ask such a question. At some point, he told me that if it was Saturday, I’d probably not get a room there as I ask too many questions (on Saturdays, occupancy rates are higher).

I was amazed and waited for him to finish. I couldn’t believe what I heard. After he was done with his lecture, I asked him: “Are you the owner of this place?”

He said: “Yes, I am the owner. Any more questions?”

”No” I said, and fled the scene.

Now I don’t know what this guy’s problem is. It’s very easy to say that he’s an a**hole and so forth, but one thing I learned in life is to refrain, as much as I can, from judging somebody before I put myself in his shoes.

Still, we’re trying to operate a society here. If you’re in the lodging business, better be patient and kind. Whatever problems this guy has at home or in his personal life, this is really inappropriate. If you can’t show at least a bit of professionalism, don’t own a motel.

Too bad that this guy, and similar other people, are giving Regina such a bad name.

So there you are. The place is called “Inntowner Motor Inn”. My suggestion: never stay there.

Consulting my GPS, I ended up parking my rear in Sherwood House Motel, further down the road and closer to downtown. $75, but at least I feel safe in here.

Time to eat, and then the concert…

See you soon,

Morning in Saskatoon

So I went to have some breakfast downtown. Nice downtown area. Not very big, not very small, very clean and people appear to be nice. If only the food I had was as nice. Ordered a Caesar Salad that obviously wasn’t made of the freshest ingredients available in the market. But the latte was very good.

Weather is sunny and warm, perfect for a convertible ride. Regina, here I come.

Tomorrow (July 10) is a day off for the band. I have previously wondered what on earth are they going to be doing for a full day in Regina, which is not known much for its attractions. Then I came to realize that, hey, the band has an airplane at their command. How wonderful that must be. I will have to stick around in Regina for a full day, or maybe do some driving on my way to Winnipeg, which isn’t that much of an interesting place either.


Time to go,

Sid Buckwold Theatre, Saskatoon, SK

The drive from Edmonton to Saskatoon was, in one word, long. In three words, “long and boring”.

Guys, we’re talking about a highway (again, that same old Yellowhead Highway, renamed “Yellowhead Trail” once it gets to Edmonton) that simply doesn’t want to end.

Speed limit there is the good old 110 km/h whereas one can easily drive 150 km/h and still not feel challenged enough.

A few kilometers into Saskatchewan, the road becomes more boring than ever. Yes, there is green on the sides but that’s pretty much it. Also, the land becomes more and more flat. I bet that there’s not one reader here that hasn’t heard the joke about owning a dog in Saskatchewan—even if your dog decides to part ways with you and leave the house, you can still see him in the horizon three days after he left.

Some people tell a variant of that joke, with the subject being a wife. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know and I don’t want to know.

Absolutely flat. Absolute plane. Not even a hill, let alone a mountain. Very few tiny towns along the way.

Anyway. Approaching Saskatoon, I began looking for a place to stay. As always, the first thing I was looking at was Motel 6 as it has the reputation of having an excellent price/value ratio. Imagine my astonishment when I heard that it costs $100/night! What the *bleep*? $100/night for a motel room? In Saskatoon?

After doing some more research I managed to find a decent motel room for slightly less, $80. A short discussion with the receptionist let me to conclude that this has something to do with the economic mega‐boom that Saskatoon is going through right now. Whoever invests any of his money in the Canadian market knows that Saskatchewan is the next big thing (at least that’s what Bay Street’s speculators are trying to sell us). Demand is surpassing supply on pretty much everything, hence the increased prices.

You will rarely hear a bunch of guys in their 20’s or 30’s saying “lets go to Saskatoon and have fun”. The city has acquired itself the reputation of an extremely boring place. Well, lets admit it, Saskatoon is not Montreal. But it’s not as boring as people claim. Yes, as soon as I entered the city I sent an SMS to my friend Jonathan telling him that it appears to be boring. However later I got to drive a bit around, there appears to be some action there. Not much, but still.

Also, the entire city appears to be under construction which makes traffic hell. You can tell by the roads that the city wasn’t planned to be a mega‐city in the first place, and with this economic boom growing faster and faster, driving in this city became nightmare.

Remember I told you I learned from my mistake of not considering the time difference between Edmonton. This time I was smart enough to check the time zones in Google and accounted for an hour difference. So I arrived at the motel on 6:00pm, with the show starting at 7:30pm. Changed quickly and drove to the venue, only to discover very shortly later that there is no time difference between Edmonton in Saskatoon, at least not today.

Edmonton and Saskatoon are indeed in two different time zones, however Edmonton’s time zone (MST) observes daylight savings time whereas Saskatoon’s one (CST) doesn’t.

So the first time, I ignore an existing time difference, and at the second time I assume a time difference that doesn’t exist.

I think my brain is going through something.

As I was early, finding parking nearby the venue was a snap. I parked on the street, which is free of charge after 6:00pm. Walking distance of about 30 seconds to the venue. I did remember to wear a new shirt though (whoever doesn’t understand why I’m mentioning this, read my previous posts).

The venue itself is rather impressive, almost as the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton. You have great facilities inside and lots of space. Distance between the front row and the stage was about one meter with no barrier in between, which I appreciated very much.

Some pictures:


So far I’m really enjoying the Canadian venues (with the Jack Singer Concert Hall being the exception. It was OK, but not great).

I had some time to kill so I hit Starbucks further down 22nd street:


Some view from that spot towards the downtown area:


My dear readers, I was very, very tired. Remember the night between the shows in Seattle & Vancouver, that I slept about two hours plus one hour on the train? Well, last night I slept barely two hours and had to drive all day.

And with all of that, there comes Jesca Hoop on stage. Jesca’s voice is so soothing and warm, and hearing such a soothing and warm voice when I’m super tired doesn’t contribute much to my alertness. Her performance was very good. At the beginning of one of her songs, she didn’t manage to get a clear high pitch voice, so she stopped, apologized and asked to start again. Way to go Jesca! That’s cool. She dealt with it very well and the crowd seemed to appreciate it.

During the intermission, I went by the stage (which wasn’t hard; I was seated at row AA seat 12, about 4 seats right of the absolute center) to look closely at the equipment. John was there tuning one of his weapons of mass entertainment, and was very kind to say hello. He asked me how was the drive, and I replied that it was very long. He then told me something that I couldn’t understand as I was having a major headache due to lack of sleep, and then said “enjoy the show”. I noticed that he’s very busy preparing for the show so I didn’t bug him to repeat what he said.

Took some pictures from the stage:


This last picture is Richard’s effects pool. I have no clue what each box does as I myself am not an effects‐fanatic. Look at all of this. Insane! I’m not sure how many of those are active at any one time though. These are all tuned just right to emit the tone that is so unique to Richard. Can’t wait to get a copy of his new album.

The band came on stage and were welcomed with cheers all over the place. It turned out that my seat was directly in front of Richard, which was nice because I got some clear view of how he plays the guitar. I noticed some interesting things that I will try as soon as I am back home. I miss my Gibson…

The sound in the venue was great. I am no sound technician and my definition of “great sound” may vary from other people’s, but basically, I consider the sound to be great when there’s excellent balance among the volumes of each instrument, and when you hear good sound no matter where you’re seated.

Very simplistic, huh.

Concert went smooth with the usual set list except for skipping “Shangri La” at the encores. The highlights of the evening, other than the obvious Marbletown interlude (I believe I mentioned it about a thousand times now), were an amazing performance of “Hill Farmer’s Blues” when Mark improvised yet another brilliant solo that is different than any other version heard so far.

Now I have heard Mark improvise with the guitar before, but I can’t recall him ever improvising voice. Enter the Saskatoon concert when he threw in some vocal improvisations during “Song for Sonny Liston”. Turned out very good. Great guitar work there as well, he appears to enjoy improvising on this song.

Some pictures from the show:


I happened to really like the crowd yesterday. Good balance of basically all age groups 20 years old and up. The crowd appeared to behave itself, as I couldn’t witness Mark pointing at anybody filming the show.

Somewhat shy, though (the crowd). Several times I found myself being the first one to stand after an excellent performance, when other people seemingly waiting for somebody else to raise their arse from the seat first because nobody wants to be “that guy”. So that was me.

Nevertheless, great cheers at the end of the show, before and after the encores. Some amazingly looking girl (in fact, Saskatoon is home for so many beautiful girls… another consequence of the economic boom? One must ask) left a bouquet for Mark, on the stage, at the beginning of “Going Home”. He seemed to have appreciated it much more than he appreciated those two roses handed to him by that Vegas woman (read my post to find out more).

Great concert, I really enjoyed it. At the end there were a few people there seemingly waiting for everybody to leave so they’ll be in a better position to ask for a pick, or other memorabilia, from the stage crew. Now I don’t really get this. For me, a simple “Hello” from a band member means way, way more than some piece of plastic with somebody’s fingerprints on it (and maybe some sweat), no matter how famous this person is. At the end of the day, I reckon, we’re all people. A pick with some sweat on it means nothing; appreciation, gratitude and communication between an artist(s) and his /their crowd means much more.

During the Vegas concert, Danny Cummings gave a fan, I believe her name was Nancy, his drum sticks. Apparently he knew her or heard about her before, I can’t recall the exact story. That is meaningful and beautiful because there’s a personal element in it. If there’s no personal element in it, then what’s the point?

But that’s just me. Obviously I’m not attacking anybody here, just expressing thoughts. I recall once writing about me not understanding how North American people eat greasy food in the morning, and somebody commented on my blog calling me an ass… don’t take it personally. :-)

Went back to the motel after the concert, then decided it’s time to eat so I went to Kelsey’s for dinner. Kelsey’s is a Canadian (I think) chain of mostly American food. It’s not great but not bad either. Definitely not White Spot level.

I happened to catch up with Guy’s and Richard’s blogs. Guy & Richard—please allow me to thank you again for having me a part of your blogs, it is very much appreciated. Also, I would like to thank you, and possibly other band members who read my blog, for taking the time to read it being the tour so packed with action.

Anyway, it turns out that Richard has followed my recommendation regarding White Spot, went there and enjoyed their wonderful burger. Richard, I know exactly what you mean about not being able to pinpoint what in the sauce makes the hamburger so great—that’s exactly what drives me bonkers as I tried to recreate this taste in my own house a few times, with a %100 failure rate. It’s the sauce, I tell you.

The rest of the band, while having a day off in Vancouver after the Calgary show (must be so nice to have an airplane willing to take you wherever you want), followed Richard’s recommendation and they all went to White Spot. There’s a funny picture of Mark wearing a helmet right outside White Spot, however I can’t figure out which White Spot it was. Since they were biking in Stanley Park, I suppose it was the one in West Georgia street right next to the park? It happens to be of the better locations—they have a bar there as well and it’s nicely decorated.

Happy you liked the food, guys. Next time you’re in British Columbia or Alberta, you may also want to check Earl’s out—another BC / Alberta chain, not really much into burgers but just great food. Their absolute best establishment is in Jasper. They call it “Earl’s in the Rockies”, and sitting in their patio you can eat while watching the snow‐peaked mountains. Joy.

I should really move to the west coast…

It’s Wednesday morning now, and I have to check out already. I’m expecting a short 250km drive to Regina today, so I’ll take the time to hang out in downtown Saskatoon.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Edmonton to Saskatoon (with pictures now)

Left Edmonton on my way to Saskatoon. The wonderful GPS tells me that I have a little more than 500km to drive through highway 16 and told me it will take me just a few hours to get there. Learning from my previous mistake and factoring time-zone change, I realized that I still have some time to kill. So I decided to stop over in Elk Island National Park.

Elk Island National Park is right off highway 16, about 30km east of Edmonton. Even though the name would lead you to believe that you’re going to see lots of elk, it’s not entirely true. Not much elk in here, however there’s plenty of bison.

Driving through the lovely roads, green on all sides and clear blue sky above, I did manage to see one humongous bison devouring some grass right on the roadside. It was huge. I took a few photos, then it started moving towards the car so I took off. I know a little bit about car insurance, and I’m not sure I have “having the car severely hit by furious huge animals” anywhere in my insurance raiders.

Here it is:


That was my first time seeing a live bison. All of my previous encounters with bison were in the context of a meal.

Further down the road, inside the park, is the Astotin Lake area. This is some decent lake with a cute island in the middle. No mountains here, so this lake really reminds me of similarly looking lakes in Ontario which are just as beautiful. It is amazing how differently you appreciate the look of a lake when there’s no mountains around it. Mountains add lots of beauty to any lake.


There’s a bench right next to the water. Knowing that there’s no person named Doug here to annoy me, I decided to take a short nap on the bench. Cool wind in my hair, carrying sweet flora scents. Short nap – maybe 15 minutes – and I’m feeling like a tiger again.

Time to pack and keep on driving…

Pictures from the Kelowna Show

At the Kelowna show, as I mentioned before, I met this guy called Morten who is a professional photographer. He took some fantastic photos during the concert. I asked him to provide me a link to his photo album, which he did but being swamped with emails I didn’t get to post it until now.

There you go:


Morning in Edmonton

So I went to sleep last night at about 3:30am as it took me quite a while to upload photos to the blog. The Internet connection where I was staying wasn’t of the fastest.

I believe I fell asleep in an instant as I don’t recall having sleepless moments at all. I was having a great time. Doug (the guy who booked the other bed in the room) didn’t show up, so I was very happy to realize that I basically got a private room.

You know that feeling you have when you fly coach, seated in a row which has three seats in it, and it’s very close to departure time and nobody sits next to you? It’s a nerve‐wrecking moment, knowing that in just a few minutes the doors will be closed and you have an entire row for yourself so you can get some sleep.

So, I had the similar feeling. Except that, in a hostel, contrary to a flight, there’s no “departure time”. People may show up at any time they feel like.

Obviously I’m telling this for a reason, as Doug showed up at 5:30am and woke me up after two hours of sleep.

After about 15 minutes I managed to fall asleep again, only to be awakened again 45 minutes later. I woke up to some sort of a scream. It repeated every few seconds, and sounded much like an animal being tortured. I wanted to jump to the window and see what it was, only to realize that this will make me lean right against Doug’s head and I wasn’t sure that he’d take it well if he wakes up. Then the same screaming voice appeared to come from a few sources at the same time. Turns out that there’s a nest of some sort of a bird right beneath my room.

Obviously I couldn’t sleep anymore. At 6:30am I finally gave up trying to sleep, shaved, packed my gear and off to the checkout counter. The guy at the checkout counter looked as if his aspiration in life is to be Michael Jackson. Nothing else explains the outfit he was wearing, including some fancy hat. Asking him for a coffee shop that has Internet access, he mentioned some name and location but the cafe wasn’t there.

I ended up sitting in a place called “Artisan Cafe & Bakery” on Whyte avenue, right across the road from the Chevrolet dealership. Had a good healthy breakfast, answered some emails.

Now I’m off to Future Shop to buy a carrying kit for my GPS, and then off to Saskatoon.


Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Edmonton, AB

Once I came to the conclusion that I must leave Jasper at once if I want to make it to the concert, I started the drive on the Yellowhead Highway east towards Edmonton. The weather was cold and cloudy (about 14 degrees Celsius), but I wanted to drive the Rockies with the roof down so I put a jacket on.

It takes about half an hour drive east until you finally leave the Jasper National Park area. A short drive further takes you to the town of Hinton, which is full of services for travelers crossing the Yellowhead Highway. One of those places that you always drive through, and never stop unless you need a gas refill or are really hungry.

The further away you get from the Rockies, the warmer it gets. The road itself is in an impressive shape, with the posted speed limit of 110 km/h but not even one vehicle drove less than 130. The views after you leave the Rockies are mixed; for the most part, it’s just plain. Incidentally, you get to see some cool rivers and lakes.

Here is a picture showing a sign that I’m sure I’ll follow at some point:


I drove non‐stop all the way to Edmonton as I knew that time is running out. I didn’t intend to spend much time in Edmonton in the first place—I would take an hour in Jasper over an hour in Edmonton with no hesitation.

About 50km away from Edmonton I started consulting my wonderful new GPS about places to stay. Prices for motels were just around the $80–90 per night, with the ones closer to downtown (and thus to the venue) costing more. I decided to spend the night in a hostel. So these lines are written while I’m sitting in what appears to be a large hall with many sofas in it, intended to be used as a common meeting place or something.

The hostel is the Edmonton branch of the world‐famous “Hostelling International” network. A private room here costs $71, and a semi‐private (two beds, you share with one more person, shared bathroom) is $35. I decided to give it a shot.

I’m supposed to be sharing the room with a guy named Doug. I know two things about Doug. First, I know his first name. Second, I know that I will probably never know anything else about him as I am not a night person.

After unloading my belongings in the room I headed right to the auditorium. Of course, wearing my usual concert shirt, which turned out to be a grave mistake (see below).

The hostel is located about 20 minutes walk from the venue, so I’ve been told. The problem is that 20 minutes walking for someone else is 30 minutes walking for me, as it’s been a while since I worked my cardiovascular system.

I arrived at the venue. Here is a picture from the outside:


Entering the venue, I was amazed. So far, the only closed‐ceiling (hall) venue I’ve been in that rivals this venue is the Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. What a wonderful venue! Very large, very spacious. Amenities of all sorts, water fountains in each entrance. The moment I stepped into the lobby, I loved it.

I really wanted to see where my seat is located (Pit Centre, row AAA seat 34). I missed Jesca’s first song due to me being out of shape (sorry Jesca), so the usher had us wait for an applause break before letting us in. Turns out that the seat is in a very sweet spot—center section, front row (duh), 3 seats left of the absolute center. It was really funny to see that Phillip, a guy I met along the way (who also attended a few shows) was sitting right next to me. We happened to be sitting one next to another for 2 or 3 shows so far, however today’s going to be the last as he is heading home.

Distance between the front row and the 1.5 meters high stage was a mere one meter. Fantastic.

Jesca’s performance today was exceptionally good and I made it clear to her as soon as I saw her in the lobby after her concert. She recognized me from our previous talk in Seattle, and congratulated me for my face being healed from all those sunburns I had. What a nice lady.

Standing at the left corner, I noticed John McCusker tuning one of his guitars. Upon noticing me he said “hi”, and we had a short chat. What a nice fellow! He told me that he’s glad I made it so far, and I made it clear to him that it’s been a very long drive today and going to be a longer one tomorrow. Then I expressed my jealousy at him for having the privilege to fly from one place to another while poor Isaac has to drive a car through thousands of kilometers of asphalt.

Also during the intermission between Jesca’s and Mark’s shows, I met Greg—a friend of a guy called Rob Thompson whom I met in Seattle. We had a short talk and then Paul Crockford came on stage, as usual promising hell, blood and fury to whomever is caught filming the show.

I then got the opportunity to get up and look at the venue. Guys, we’re talking first‐class here. This venue is amazing, period. Whoever designed it was obviously sober and in a very good mood.

A few minutes later the band showed up. Luckily, the crowd here is a bit more enthusiastic than the crowd in Calgary, and it turns out that the crowd‐handling policy here is not as strict as I expected. OK, so people weren’t as nuts and wild as in other venues (Kelowna, Seattle and Los Angeles being good examples for wild crowd), but they did participate in the show.

I had the mutual “Oh, you’re here again” acknowledgement session with Guy Fletcher. In one of my previous posts, I vowed to only change my concert shirt after Guy changes his first. Apparently he has read it. So he pointed at his shirt today while looking at me and smiled. It took me a few seconds to calculate the meaning behind this unprecedented turn of events, until it hit me—he changed his shirt! Looking at my own shirt, I felt like an idiot. I knew I should have brought an extra shirt, just in case.

Tomorrow, I guess, I will walk into the Saskatoon venue with a new shirt. Thank you, Guy—it’s time to wash that shirt anyway.

Holy Moses, the sound that venue has! Absolutely brilliant. So far, the best sound in a concert hall, followed closely by Abravanel Hall. I actually got to hear each and every instrument from the front row, in just the right volume, even though I wasn’t seated in the absolute middle. Great!

The band appeared to be very relaxed after a day‐off somewhere in the Rockies (probably Banff, as it is normally frequented by artists), and played accordingly, leaving nothing to be desired. It was a fantastic concert with band members, as always, trying new things. The first one to do something I haven’t heard yet in this tour was Glenn Worf, altering the bass sequence in the outro solo of Sultans of Swing. I really didn’t see (or, more exact, hear) it coming but it was very neat! Mark also appeared to be having fun improvising the Sultans of Swing solo, once again to a new direction.

The piano intro for Romeo and Juliet was also a bit different today. Too bad that Matt is seated behind some large pianos, I’d really like to see him play. I also play the piano (however the guitar is my vehicle of choice), maybe I could learn something. The guy plays wonderfully.

As I was seated slightly to the left of the stage, I was closer than usual to John, Glenn and Matt. I was seated directly facing Glenn, which made me very happy as I got to get a clear view of John & Glenn doing the wonderful Marbletown interlude. I play neither the violin, nor the bass guitar nor the cello (as a matter of fact, I don’t know anybody who plays the cello), but looking at these two guys working on Marbletown’s interlude you realize that you’re dealing with pros. They are so concentrated in the music they produce that it seems like nothing in the world could possibly distract them.

Oh, I really liked the Edmonton show. All band members played wonderfully with perfect harmony. They seemed to like the venue and the crowd. At the end, Mark even shook hands with a few people in the front row, myself included. Mark—thank you.

At the end of the show, a few people approached me asking me to send them photos that I took during the show. Instead of emailing the photo to each and every one, I figured it’d make much more sense to post the photos here and send them the URL to my blog. So, here we go. I took about 20 pictures, here are the best ones:


After the concert, I talked to the receptionist and asked her if she knows of anything that’s open so I can grab a bite. No help, so I had to consult my GPS again and ended up having some dinner at Boston Pizza right downtown.

A long driving day expects me tomorrow. Right, it’s only 536km, but we’re talking about some awesomely boring drive through the prairies. I see gallons of coffee in my future.



P.S. If anybody could explain to me how come Guy always smiles & laughs when he plays the keyboards in “So Far Away”, please do so.