Thursday, April 30, 2015

Calgary Expo Day 4 - The Final Hours

Our final day in Calgary was really nothing to be excited about. The big events at the Expo were over with and many of the booths had had their merchandise severely picked over by the time this day came around. That made shopping for items a little less exciting than it was on the first couple of days. That didn't stop me though. There were a few things that I wanted to get, but I wound up only getting one of the items that I wanted. And that one item wasn't even for me.

My hunt started looking for a new case for my phone. Unfortunately the ones that I was interested in and looking at didn't fit my phone. Unfortunate, really. I was hoping to switch out my Hufflepuff case (yes, it's true, if I were in Harry Potter, I would be a Hufflepuff) for something a bit more superhero-ish. But, alas, it wasn't meant to be. I'm alright with that though. Hufflepuff, to those who are familiar with the books and/or movies, is a very clear indicator on my personality and who I am. Besides, it goes with my Hufflepuff scarf (that I picked up in London at the Harry Potter Studios).

"Riddle me this, Batgirl" seems to be a phrase that I utter quite often, and so my next item to hunt for was something with Batgirl for a friend. I found the perfect item during my wanderings on the previous days and made the purchase on the last day. It's a little statue of Batgirl from the DC Nation short 'Super Best Friends Forever' (which is pretty humorous, give it a watch here) and I felt it was particularly perfect! That would be the only item that was purchased on the last day, but there was a little bit more wandering to go on before packing up and heading home.

The drive home was spent listening to a Black Library audio drama and when that was over, we switched to listening to Marvel's Civil War by Graphic Audio. They honestly have the greatest audio books I've heard. As their tag line says, it is literally "A Movie in your Mind". I highly recommend giving their audio books a listen! But all the excitement of audio books aside, I was looking forward to getting home and sleeping in my own bed. As enjoyable as the Expo was, it didn't really feel like time off from work. It was all go-go-go and quite busy. Next convention is EekFest, where the guest is Caity Lotz from Arrow (who plays Sara Lance, aka The Canary). And then 2 days after that, I head off to Europe for three weeks!



Friday, April 24, 2015

Calgary Expo Day 3 - Team Arrow

Day three was my day! Saturday was the first day that Stephen Amell and David Ramsey were there and I was determined to get their autographs. Not only that, but I had my photo-op scheduled with them and Robbie Amell as well. This was going to be a good day, if pricey, for me.

The day started waiting in line to meet David Ramsey. On Arrow David Ramsey plays John Diggle, Oliver’s trusted confidant and the first person he reveals his identity to. Diggle is somewhat serious and reserved. He’s definitely the level headed one of the team. In person, David is quite humorous and very kind. I was lucky to have been able to chat with him for a little bit about nothing in particular. Whereas most people get nervous meeting their idols/heroes/celebrities, talking to him was quite easy and felt like second nature. In a word, it was pretty awesome.

After chatting with David Ramsey for a bit, I wandered over and got in line to see Stephen Amell. Playing Oliver Queen on Arrow, people may be used to seeing Stephen as a serious and brooding person. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Stephen Amell is honestly one of the kindest people that I have ever had the chance of meeting. And this was the second time I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet him. He’s got an easy wit and charm that makes him easily approachable. As for his kindness, the fundraisers and campaigns that he does benefits charities and his ego-less way of promoting said campaigns is inspiring, to say the least. If more people were like him, I have no doubt that the world would be a better place.

After collecting their signatures on Season Two of Arrow, it was time to wander for lunch. The food at the Expo, though good, is quite pricey and the lines… oh the lines! It’s just easier and less time consuming to eat elsewhere. We ventured off to a McDonald’s (not the best option, but nearby and inexpensive) where we had window seats to a protest. An interesting thing to witness from street level. The only time I’ve seen a protest was from the 7th Floor in Canada Place. And though it was interesting, it’s not something I wanted to make a habit of. But after a bite to eat, it was back to the Expo. My photo with Team Arrow/Flash was coming up quick!

As I mentioned above, this was the second time that I’ve gotten to meet Stephen Amell. It was also the second time that I’ve gotten my photo with him and this one turned out so much better! Not only for the fact that there are three people in the photo from two of my favourite shows, but I look much more calm and relaxed in it. Maybe from actually having a chance to chat with each of them, I wasn’t as nervous? It’s possible. But whatever it was, it turned out great! Though as my friend Deanna pointed out, compared to them I am pretty short…

After my photo was taken, Adam and I had just enough time to head in for the costume contest. To be honest, this was the part of the weekend that I was dreading. The melancholy brought on by the costume contest. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t hurt, but I feel I hid it pretty well. On a brighter note, there were some AMAZING contests that were entered and I would have loved to get a closer look at all of them! Mark Meer was the host for the contest and for those of you who don’t know, he does the voice for the male Commander Shepard in one of BioWare’s flagship game series, Mass Effect (which happens to be one of my favourite game series). The whole time I was expecting him to say “I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favourite costume contest on the Citadel”.

After the contest was over, it was time to head back to the hostel to drop some stuff off and then off to meet my brother again for some supper. While we were at the hostel we got invited out with our roommates, to which I gladly accepted (I have to get used to going out with new people, after all. I have a trip coming up!). A quick bowl of Pho with my brother and I was ready to head out with the roomies.

A couple rounds of drinks with them before heading back to the room and to bed was just what the doctor ordered. I’m not the most social of people around, but I’m trying to make more of an effort and meet new people. It could be that I was the resident Canadian of the group (the others being Chilean, German, Swedish and Czech), but I felt more confident than I usually do when with a group of people. Home Team Advantage I guess. But whatever it was, it was a good thing and I found it easy to talk with them and share a couple of laughs. If that is a taste of what Europe is going to be like in June, then I’m going to be just fine.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Calgary Expo Day 2 - Enter Firestorm

The second day started off with feeding my coffee addiction. The hostel that we were staying in offered free breakfast from 07:30am-09:30am. But me being me, the only thing I needed was coffee. Oh coffee, sweet nectar of the gods! After a couple a few some cups of java, it was time to head back to the Stampede Grounds.

This was the big day for Adam at the Expo. Thursday morning it was announced that Neil Patrick Harris was going to be at the Expo for Friday only. Being from one of Adam’s favourite shows, NPHs autograph was a must for him. Yes, NPH is awesome, but it wasn’t needed by me. I don’t follow anything that he’s on religiously, though I still remember the days of Doogie Howser.

While Adam was in the three hour line for NPHs autograph, I lined up for Robbie Amell’s signature. Being a DC Fanboy, the chance to meet Firestorm was an opportunity not to be missed! Kindness must run in the Amell family. Both Robbie and Stephen are super nice! Not only did I get to meet him, but I also had a conversation with him about the new Star Wars trailer that was released (you can watch it here). Talk about combining loves. DC Comics and Star Wars. Pure awesomeness!!

And because NPHs line was still going strong and my con-mate was still waiting, I decided to hit the Expo Store and collect my swag that was provided by having the Deluxe Four Day Pass. That included a Calgary Expo 10th Anniversary shirt (only available to Deluxe Pass holders), a ginormous bag that you could fit the entirety of the Death Star in and a $20 voucher that I used to buy an Arrow themed shirt. And because I was still waiting for Adam after doing a bit of browsing, I decided to grab some lunch.

The Expo is not known for healthy food, but it does have good food. The only time that I’ve had Coco Brooks food is at the Calgary Expo. The line up is long, but the food is well worth the wait and it has become a staple for me at the Expo. I have to have Coco Brooks at least once. As it turned out, this was the only time that I’d have it this trip. I’m already looking forward to it for next year!

After a quick lunch it was time to meet up with Adam (who finally made it out of line) and wander the Exhibitor’s Hall. As I mentioned in the last post, it doesn’t matter how many times you pass a booth, there is always new stuff to see. There was an awesome hand crafted coffee mug with a fox on it that I came upon. As we know, the fox is my animal. Alas, the funds weren’t able to accommodate for the day, but I did file it away in the back of my mind to revisit.

We wandered around for a few more hours without purchasing anything before deciding to head back to the hostel, where we dropped off what little we collected. We then took off to investigate the immediate area and grab some supper. After a few more hours of walking and a bite to eat it was time to head back to get caught up on Sinestro comics (thanks to my iPad) and prepare for day three.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, Day One

Ah, Calgary. It’s been a while. July of last year, to be exact. And even then it was just on the way to and from Banff. But there we were, Adam and I, just blocks away from the stampede grounds and gearing up for the Calgary Expo.

After checking in to our hostel and stowing our bags on our beds, we took off to find a Shopper’s Drug Mart that had a Post Office in it. Adam wanted to see if his fiancĂ©e could overnight his driver’s license to him. (You had one job!!) After an unfortunate answer from the Post Office (he never did end up getting his ID sent down), we made our way to the Stampede Grounds to collect our wristbands.

Holy Line-up, Batman! The line to get in was astronomical in length. It wrapped all around the Agrium Building and then some! Surprisingly though it moved fairly fast and in no time we had our wristbands and were able to wander the halls to browse the exhibitors and media guests. Plenty to see, as always, and quite overwhelming. It doesn’t matter how many times you wander past the same booth, there was always something new to see. And that continued on for the whole weekend.

Within a few hours the Expo was closed for the day and we vacated back to the hostel where we met our temporary roommates. European and South American. Typical hostel accommodations. To be honest, I’ve missed it. The different cultures mixing together for a mutual reason… It’s slightly intoxicating in a good way. But alas, we couldn’t stay and chat. That would come on a different night. Instead Adam and I took off to meet my brother, who happens to live in Calgary, for some supper.

After a bite to eat and a visit it was back to the hostel for sleep. That was until our roommates returned from having some drinks. A bit of some noise and socializing (on my part) and then real sleep would happen. Before we knew it, it was time for day two of the Expo.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Musical Interlude

Music is everywhere. Some people make a career out of it. Some people casually listen. Others allow it to whisk them away to memories, or lift their spirits when feeling down. There is not a person alive that can say that they don’t like music. There is a genre for everyone. A song for everyone. And sometimes music can mean the difference between eating and not. This is one of those stories, and I hope that it inspires confidence and a willingness to practice.



Tears blurred her vision and swam down Alyss’ cheeks as she suppressed a sob. She could hear the patrons laughing at her. She could see them pointing. She had frozen during her performance, struck the wrong chord and her voice had cracked in embarrassment. Her plans and hopes for food money were all coming apart at the very seams that held them together. In a flash she saw herself as the crowd must see her. A young girl, dressed in little more than rags compared to their clothing.
Alyss tried plucking a few more strings in her tune and the laughing turned into booming guffaws.

“I’m sorry,” she muttered and hurried to the door cradling the lute. With tears stinging her eyes, Alyss pushed through the still laughing patrons and stumbled out of the inn.

Alyss ran through the crowded city and fell hard onto the cobblestones. The lute skidded into the distance and Alyss crawled to the traitorous instrument and continued on her way home, listening to the sounds of her own grief.

The pale grey light of early morning strained to greet Alyss through the stained and moldy sheets that covered the window in the small one room hovel that she shared with her family. Her mother and younger brother were still fast asleep on the rough straw bed. She gently added her blanket to their own and silently left her home with the lute.

The tall and narrow wattle and daub buildings loomed over Alyss and the narrow alleyways twisted and turned on her as her thoughts swam back to the night before. She could feel her throat tighten and her stomach turn once more. How could she be able to afford food after that performance? She would have to go back to begging on the street corners.

Alyss looked at the lute in her hands.

“Stupid thing,” she muttered. Moving a crate against the back wall of a fletchers shop and feeling boxed in and secure from the buildings, Alyss strummed a short tune in the alleyway. She closed her eyes and began to play, her heart going into her music.

At the sound of clapping, her eyes shot open to see a gentleman. He was dressed well, much like one of the merchants in the center of the city, with colours in black and white picked out in silver and he appeared to glow in the early morning light. Across his shoulders Alyss could see the most wonderful of sights, a small minstrel’s harp.

“You play quite well,” his voice was clear and musical as he smiled and spoke. “Yet your song is sad. Shouldn’t a pretty girl such as you play something more uplifting?”

Alyss blushed at the compliment and tried to hide her lute from sight. “I’m not feeling very uplifted at the moment,” she muttered, looking at the ground.

“Concerned with your performance last night?”

“You were there?”

“I was, and I’m pleased to see that you really can play as well as I thought you could last night.” He reached down and reached her lute. “May I?”

“Go ahead,” she muttered.

“You will never get any better if you don’t have a bit more confidence.”

“How am I supposed to have confidence after that failure?”

“Practice, my dear,” the minstrel tuned some strings and played a short little tune. “Just with a little practice.”

Alyss accepted the lute back and looked up to see the minstrel walking away. He paused and turned back to her.

“The Golden Canary Inn is a nice place to try your songs. Why not stop by tonight and play something? It could be worth your while.”

Alyss looked down at her lute again and then back to the minstrel. “Why? Why are you helping me?”

“Because,” the minstrel smiled again, his white teeth showing and his eyes shining, “I believe everyone should do what they love and I can see the love for music that you have.”

Alyss watched the minstrel as he walked away, whistling a happy little tune to himself, until he disappeared around a corner. Perhaps she would play at the inn, but for the moment she had to find some food.

Alyss hesitated outside the small inn. The minstrel’s words still rang in her mind. He had told her that she just needed a little practice and that he could see that she loved music. Hearing that somebody could see potential in her helped with her unease a little bit and she had spent the entire afternoon practicing in and around her home.

She pushed open the rough wooden door and stepped into the Golden Canary Inn causing a small flurry of autumn leaves to enter the building. She closed the door so that the crisp air wouldn’t bother anyone more than it already had and headed to the bar top.

“What can I get for you, young miss?” the innkeeper asked, polishing a glass with a cloth.

“Actually, I was wondering if you would like any music for your guests tonight?” Alyss asked shyly.

“Some music? It might liven the place up some,” the innkeeper looked around the quiet room. “What did you have in mind and how much is it going to cost me?”

Alyss placed her lute on the bar top and thought for a moment. “Just a meal for three people to take home for my family. In return,” she added “You get an evening of music and half of any tips I make from your guests.”

The innkeeper looked from the lute to her and back again. “How do I know you are any good? I could lose guests if they don’t like what they are hearing.”

She wasn’t prepared for the question and thought carefully before responding. “Two songs? I could play two songs for your guests right now and you can decide then. If you don’t like what you hear, then I’ll leave and you won’t lose out on anything.”

“Alright. You have yourself a deal.” He said after a few moments thought. “Good luck to you, lass.”

Alyss nodded her thanks and sat at a table by the fireplace. She strummed the strings on her lute a little and made some slight adjustments to the tuning as the quiet conversation in the room quieted even more and she could feel eyes upon her as the patrons looked towards her.

Alyss took a steadying breath and began to sing, her voice quiet but gaining in volume. Her music began to fill the small room. A cheerful song started and she could hear the patrons clapping and stomping to her song. She ended on a high note to the sound of applause and launched herself right into another song, a humorous little ditty about a fast-talking Viking which brought about a chorus of laughter. When she had finished her songs she returned to the innkeeper.

“Very good, lass,” he said with an appreciative smile. “Looks like you have yourself a deal.”

Alyss accepted his hand and couldn’t help the smile and blush that crept to her face. “Thank you so very much.” She took her place once more and looked at the occupants of the room. In the very back was a familiar individual clad in black and white. Once again Alyss’ face split into a smile and she mouthed the words ‘thank you’ before playing her music once more.


The ocarina in the picture above, as you know, does not make an appearance in the story. But being the only musical instrument that I own, I had to make do with a photo of it. If you're interested in it, I purchased it from Songbird Ocarinas and you can find their website here.

When I first wrote the story I was told, by a few people, that the minstrel sounds me. I can only take that as a compliment, as he inspired confidence and the drive for practice. Not sure how accurate that is because I must admit that I have been feeling much more like Alyss lately, and less like the minstrel. Sometimes I feel like I'm the one needing the inspiration, not giving it.