Saturday, December 25, 2010

Getting Home (Or: Nie Wieder Lufthansa)

(Thanks to Miriam Schnurr for the German bit in the title; I think it’s “No More Lufthansa” for her either)

December 2010 (or, to be exact, December 29, 2010) marks my eight years anniversary in Canada. Ever since December 2002, when I left, I made it a habit to visit home at least once a year; being Israel’s weather unbearably hot (for me) in the summers, I had long ago decided to visit primarily in December, as weather is much more manageable and, hey, it’s holidays season in North-America anyway.

Over the years, I enjoyed the habit of taking Air Canada’s direct flights between Toronto and Tel-Aviv. 10:30 hours to TLV, 12:30 hours back to YYZ… I got used to it, to the point that those long flights didn’t really seem that long anymore. However, this year, I was surprised to find out that, at my planned departure date, no direct flights were offered at all. In other words: it’s not that there were no seats available on those flights—the flights were simply not happening. I could have waited additional 2 days and get a direct flight, but my homesickness made me take the alternative route, and fly to TLV via Frankfurt, with Lufthansa (my flight back to Toronto would be direct, with Air Canada… As always).

I really had no huge problem with it. One hour layover in Frankfurt’s airport, which is—although being the second largest in Europe (after London’s notorious Heathrow)—still manageable and familiar for me. At the odd case that I’d miss my connecting flight due to the short layover, Frankfurt’s city centre is just a few train stations away—and I am no stranger to trains, especially the German ones who are super-precise and comfortable.

But little did I know… Oh, how little. The entire story of myself getting home now seems like a bad dream. Much like an onion, that story stank more and more as it unfolded. The bottom line is this: Lufthansa will never ever have the privilege of having my ass occupy any of their seats.

And the story started… Well, it actually started nicely.

It started with a smile.

“Welcome”, a mature lady welcomed me into the almost vacant Lufthansa check-in counters in Toronto’s Pearson airport. Warm smile, welcoming me to go ahead and approach one of the three available agents.

I smiled back. Had I known that that was going to be my last smile in a while, I would have made special arrangements, such as taking a picture to commemorate the occasion; alas, this all seemed to me like just another typical Canadian exhibition of extreme politeness. I approached the counter, and was facing yet another smiling lady.

I was responsible enough to weigh my suitcases beforehand. I normally travel with hand-luggage only, but this time, I had to pack two suitcases—for reasons I won’t go into here. So there I was, armed with two suitcases, my carry-on trolley and my Taylor Travel Guitar. At that point, the lady at the counter bothered to tell me that the guitar actually counts as a carry-on item.

Now I have flown with this guitar, along with a trolley, many, many times before, with many airlines. The rules about carrying musical instruments on board vary between airlines, however generally, they are permitted on-board for the instrument’s safety and as they are typically stored in some sort of a wardrobe, they usually aren’t counted as carry-on items. Whether or not it makes sense is not the point; but that’s the situation I got used to.

Apparently, though, Lufthansa decided recently to completely overhaul its carry-on luggage policies and enforce them to the point of insanity. Explaining my situation to the lady at the counter did very little help (the usual “I don’t make the rules” sort of excuse, given by people who are generally too dumb to think outside the box to begin with): to avoid paying a charge of $250 (!), I was told to step aside, repack my stuff and try again.

… Which I did. Moved one thing here, another thing there—good. Lets try again. No—now I’m over 2kg in one of the suitcases, while the other one is under-utilized by about 10kg. Never mind the fact that, considering the items I was carrying, I could never reach a perfect balance; she simply didn’t care at all, and sent me to re-pack again.

I won’t go through the entire story of why I was so reluctant to re-pack; I will just say that one of the suitcases contained items which I had very, very little interest in ever seeing again, let alone re-pack. There I was, though, taking my suitcases to pieces once again, reassembling them in a way that sort-of made sense; even threw out a few things. Approached again—now the suitcases are fine, but my trolley weighs 9.5kg instead of 8kg (the limit used to be 10kg up until three weeks ago; I bought my ticket more than a month ago).

At that point I sort-of lost my temper, and explained my packing situation (that is, my reluctance to repack one of the suitcases) to her. She went away and spoke to a supervisor, who agreed to put an end to my misery and board the aircraft with 1.5kg above my limit. Gee, thanks. Went and spoke to the manager; a few useless minutes of conversation later, I got my seat reallocated to a better seat in economy class – at the emergency exit row, with unlimited leg space.


I was happy to be over with the past hour of hell; made my way to the gate, unpacked my guitar and started playing, to unwind. The time came to board the aircraft, and I was looking forward to the possibility of maybe getting some sleep. Seeing immense space in front of me, I was sure that I’ll be able to fall asleep relatively easily…

Again, no luck. It took me a few hours to determine why: it doesn’t matter how much leg space you have—when you stretch your legs, the problem now becomes your back. The only way to resolve this—which I thought of about one hour before we landed in Frankfurt—is to get your trolley out of the overhead bins, put it in front of you and lay your legs upon it. Apparently, it is allowed (except for take-offs and landings).

“Never mind”, I thought. We’re soon arriving to Germany, and then a short layover, and four hours later—I’m home.

We arrived to Frankfurt right on time and deplaned. Welcome to Frankfurt.

All Lufthansa flights from Frankfurt to Tel-Aviv go through a gate notoriously known as “the C13”, for the simple reason that that’s the gate’s name. It features its own security checkpoint line-up. If you’ve been following the news lately, you might have become aware of the uproar in the USA about the new TSA body-search techniques; let me clue you in on something—in “the C13”, that’s how things have been working for a while. I guess that’s what happens to flights going to a country surrounded by people who wants to kill it. Once you pass security there, that’s it for you—you’re stuck at that gate, and you can’t go back (without being re-screened). No duty free shops inside; there’s one lousy mini-stand selling dry sandwiches and drinks (oh, that “Still water or Gas water” conundrum again) for just about the weekly salary of whoever it is that builds i-Phones in the far east. Oh yes, there’s a Kosher vending machine there, too. Yep, that gate is clearly geared towards “those of us”.

Flight boarded 30 minutes late, due to (and that I learned well after the fact) a strike that took place in Greece, with flight controllers refusing to work thereby turning Greece air-space into a “no-fly zone”.

Plane started to taxi… Then de-ice (using those huge machines that spray de-icing material on the aircraft just before departure). Oops! We missed our departure time-slot, so we have to wait for the next one, in about 30 minutes.

De-icing again.


What the FUCK was that? Turns out that the aircraft, while making its way to the runway, stumbled into a pile of snow. They called some small trucks to help it out of the jam.

Too much time passed, so we needed to de-ice again.


Yeah. COOL. One of the de-icing vehicles had hit the aircraft at the front, making it necessary for technicians to come on board and ensure the aircraft is OK.

That took about an hour. Then, just about three hours after our scheduled departure time, there came the announcement. Apparently, Tel-Aviv’s airport was scheduled to close early that night due to some construction and improvement work on its runways, so, sorry guys, we can’t make it—the flight is cancelled.

I cursed.

When I was done, I cursed again.

Buses came by to take us all back to the terminal building. There we were, about 400 people crammed in three buses. As the buses arrived at the terminal building, they lined-up, but did not let us out. We were stuck standing in the buses for about 30 minutes, until the “ground crew” was ready to take care of us all, giving us vouchers for taxi’s, hotel rooms and dinners for the night.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Well it would be, has it not been for Lufthansa’s completely incompetent staff, and the genetic inability of Israeli people to stand in line.

The latter, I suppose, requires elaboration. For the typical Israeli, the practice of “standing in line” runs counter to everything he/she believe in. A line-up in Israel is perceived as “the place where those, who aren’t lucky enough to be too aggressive, stand up and wait for us apes until we’re done”. In other words, line-ups are for suckers: for the typical Israeli, “waiting in line” is perceived as some sort of a defeat; and who are “those Germans” to make us line-up?

You have to be aggressive in order to get by in Israel, and when Israelis travel abroad, they seldom leave that temperament at home. My flight was full of Israelis returning from Europe, so the entire experience altogether served as a good reminder to the place I came from and its mentality.

Lufthansa’s incompetent staff took between 5-10 minutes to handle each individual; there were between two to three attendants on site—depending on whether one of them suddenly just had to take a phone call on their mobile phone.

In the meantime, we all got a bit too agitated with the entire process—partly because it was slow, but mostly because of an altogether different reason: we all wanted to go home, and it was unclear whether the order in line affects your chances to get home earlier, or not. At first, we were told that the rebooking has been done already so place in line doesn’t matter, but shortly after we noticed a few people being able to squeeze into earlier flights with a bit of aggressiveness.

People cut each other in line… What a mess. Two people were rebooked to the flight later that evening; some people—for the flight the next morning; some (like myself)—for the flight the next evening; and some were completely unlucky and were not rebooked at all.

Therefore, after two and a half hours in the terminal building that seemed like forever, it was my turn. I was done within less than 3 minutes: got my taxi vouchers, my hotel & dinner vouchers and went on my way. Destination: Intercontinental Hotel Frankfurt, right at the city centre. Objective: pass the next 24+ hours without losing my mind.

At that time, it seemed impossible. I was bummed to no end.

The Intercontinental Hotel Frankfurt is located very close to Frankfurt’s city centre, about a block or two away from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Frankfurt’s main train station). The train station is surrounded by low-cost hotels—millions of them, and I tried quite a few; generally OK but leave much to be desired. On the contrary, though, the Intercontinental is an altogether different experience. If there is one positive thing about my 30 hours stay in Frankfurt, it is that I learned about this hotel. If I ever get to Frankfurt for a layover, I doubt I’d ever try a different place to lay my weary head on its pillows.

Arriving at the hotel, I met a group of fellow Israeli travellers; most of the stranded travellers from my flight were sent to the Intercontinental, and whoever stayed with many Israelis in one hotel before, knows that it can be an irritating experience as most of us really aren’t known for keeping quiet. Surprisingly, though, the experience was different this time. As soon as I entered the hotel’s area, I suddenly felt much more relaxed; misery likes company, and it was somehow comforting to be in the presence of people who were going through what I was, at the same time.

Up to one of the better hotel rooms I had visited recently, unloaded my belongings, quick shower and I was set to start counting down the minutes until my flight, some 26 or so hours later. Dinner downstairs, and after going back to my room I realized that time might pass more pleasantly if I’m actually with people. A small gathering of fellow stranded Israelites at the hotel’s bar proved to be a great antidote to the sense of loneliness—we essentially had a United Nations gathering there with Israelis coming back home from all sorts of locations. A couple of hours flew by easily.

We started debating about the probability of being able to squeeze into an earlier flight. As it happened, some of us were scheduled to fly the next morning, others (like myself) the next evening, and yet others had no flight scheduled at all. A group decision has been made, to go to the airport early morning and try getting on the earlier, morning flight anyway. It’s hard for Israelis to stand in line… And it’s just as hard for us to blindly accept fate without at least attempting to flip our middle finger to it.

I then went on to do some work; I figured, if I have some dead time here in Frankfurt, why not catch up with stuff (I am supposed to be working between 2-3 hours daily during my vacation; won’t go through the details, but suffice to say that it’s a fantastic arrangement for me). It wasn’t before 1:00am that I finally returned to my room and took my first attempt at sleeping.

Unfortunately, those attempts didn’t go well. I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of missing yet another flight the next day; reports about the forthcoming weather kept flowing through the Ether courtesy of the Seattle Redhead (Hadar Rymer, who else) and I started thinking that maybe there’s reason to be worried.

Endless turnings in bed, a terrible sense of loneliness started creeping in. I was supposed to have a great dinner with my family for the first time in a year, and instead I’m stuck in a foreign land with really nothing interesting to do other than counting down the minutes. Such feelings usually drag me into rather existential  debates: who am I? am I really a happy person? why is it that I’m worried at the moment? why can’t I sleep?

At the end, I reached the conclusion.

It wasn’t me.

It was Frankfurt, and Frankfurt sucks.

Waking up early morning, it was time to meet my newly-made friends at the lobby before heading to Frankfurt’s Airport for our attempt at the early flight. Looking at the clock, and realizing how tired I am, I decided to follow Hadar’s advice and not take things too hard on myself. I decided to go to the airport as scheduled, and try to relax as much as I can until then. The night before, I was able to arrange for an extremely late check-out (3:00pm instead of 12:00pm) and, at that moment early morning, I could think of nothing better to do than continue sleeping.

I don’t remember what time it was when I finally woke up, but I remember feeling surprisingly fresh for a stranded individual. I guess it was around 1:00pm. Hot bath, total relaxation; down to the lobby to check out, left my luggage with them and went up to the 20th floor. The Intercontinental boasts a nice VIP-type lobby, to which I gained access the night before through a newly-made Israeli female friend who got a VIP suite due to her flying business-class with Lufthansa.

The next few hours—between 3:00pm and 6:30pm—were spent in that VIP lounge. Free tasty desserts, relaxing cup(s) of tea and I really felt anew:


(The views are Frankfurt from atop the 20th floor of the Intercontinental)

6:30pm arrived, and it was time to get down to business: head to the airport with hopes that my flight leaves on schedule. Along with a family of three, I hopped on a taxi cab and off we went to the airport, as I was endlessly speculating about how terrible it would be if my flight is cancelled again.

I was expecting to see an extremely busy airport, due to flight cancellations starting to pile up; however, to my surprise, there wasn’t much action going on there. Had two hours to kill before boarding, during which I played my guitar for a bit and spent some time talking with other travellers. Many of the travellers on that flight were people who were at exactly the same boat as I were—having their flight cancelled some 24+ hours before.

As relaxing as the atmosphere was, tension grew as minutes passed by; you know that feeling, that everything is going just “too well” comparing to a recent experience, that you’re starting to wonder where, exactly, things are supposed to start falling apart. However, everything appeared smooth; we boarded on time.

To the next of me, an empty seat; that’s good news. Then the aircraft started taxiing along…

… And taxiing…

… And de-icing…

… And taxiing again…

… And de-icing again!…

And then, about an hour and a half past our scheduled departure time, I heard the familiar engine’s roar. YES! We are definitely taking off. At once, I felt much better.

Home is only four hours away. What could possibly go wrong now?

Lady fate, however, thought differently.

Israel’s one and only sizable non-military airport, Ben-Gurion Airport (IATA code “TLV”, named after Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion) is said to reside in Tel-Aviv but it really isn’t. Instead, it is located in a nearby city named Lod, a huge distance of about 12km from Tel-Aviv. I wasn’t seated at the window, but still was able to catch a glimpse of Tel-Aviv’s lights as we approached over the Mediterranean. Ten minutes later, we touched ground.

I believe it was the year 2005 or 2006 when TLV’s new terminal, “Terminal 3”, opened its gates some 5 or 6 years behind schedule. Ever since, it gained great feedback from international travellers. It is a beautiful terminal building, certainly giving you the feeling that you are in Israel. Jerusalem-like brick walls along the long, long, long, walk towards the passport control area. Biometric identification – done, and there I am waiting for my luggage.

The belt started rolling… And rolling…

And it rolled for about an hour before myself, as well as everybody else who was rebooked for that flight, realized that our suitcases are not with us. Thank you again, Lufthansa; at that time, it was unclear what happened to the suitcases, but in retrospect, it became known that the suitcases were actually left in Frankfurt airport.

About 100 people gathered in an Israeli-style line-up (that is: a random collection of people squeezing in a form that would only resemble a “line-up” if you’re severely drunk), each one taking 5-10 minutes to process by the three helpless attendants in TLV’s “lost luggage” booth. It was about 4:00am local time, with my family waiting for me outside at the arrivals hall, and I really started to feel desperate again. Who knows when, if at all, will I be rejoined with my belongings? There were a few virtually-irreplaceable items in there, some of which I decided to bring to Israel in preparation for moving to Vancouver (to ease the moving process).

Two hours and a half after landing, I was able to fill-up all required forms and stormed through customs on my way to the arrivals hall; and when I say “stormed”, I mean it – I literally ran outside, pushing a luggage cart containing my carry-on luggage and with the Baby Taylor guitar hung on my back—and because the automatic door opened too slowly (for me), I somehow crashed into it.

But who cares. Finally, after so much trouble, I saw my parents again…


I am finishing this post on Saturday, December 25, just about a week after arriving to Israel. It’s been a relaxing week so far. The suitcases finally made it to my house about 48 hours after I got home. The suitcases themselves were damaged; a few CD’s had their shells broken; the MK “Get Lucky” deluxe package had a small tear on one of its sides; other than that—no damage to the contents.

It’s good to be home, especially when the weather here is at the neighbourhood of 20℃.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all,


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Updates (Shipping Prices & Charity Information)

Hi there,

Before I finalize and upload my first post from Israel (including a description of the process of actually getting in here, which was quite painful), here’s a short update with regards to the book, as well as the charity I decided on.


Orders are still accepted (until December 31) via PayPal; the printing prices of each edition (colour, black & white) were already posted in earlier posts—so the only thing remaining is the shipping price.

Shipping made by online retailers (such as Amazon) typically costs much less than what you or I would pay at the post office, for the simple reason of volume. Companies that ship thousands of packages per day are (justifiably) entitled for huge discounts that the typical individual sender could only dream of.

I did my best to come up with a shipping plan that makes sense and saves money. For example:

  • Shipping all European orders at once, in one big box, to someone in Europe and have them ship orders from there (expecting that multiple shipments within Europe would cost much less than individual shipments from outside Europe into the continent); then doing the same for the USA;
  • Shipping from Canada;
  • Shipping from the USA (as I am moving to Vancouver, Seattle is pretty much around the corner);
  • Using courier companies (UPS, FedEx, DHL) instead of national mail (Canada Post or USPS).

After running through all scenarios (thanks to Hadar Rymer for helping out with figuring out USPS prices), I reached the following conclusion for getting the best prices overall:

  • Books sent to Canada, will be sent from Canada. I will sign & ship the books during my 3-4 days stay in Ontario, in mid-January. Shipping costs within Canada vary depending on distance; the worst case scenario (shipping from Ontario to Vancouver) costs $15.40; best case (say, Waterloo to Toronto) costs around $10. Therefore, shipping in Canada would be between $12-17 including packaging; if you live in Vancouver, shipping would be $0 for you as I can bring it with me when I move there.
  • Books sent to the USA or Europe, will be sent from the USA. I will sign & ship the books as soon as I move to the west coast, on the third week of January. All books will be shipped from Seattle.

The USPS website is a bit convoluted but, from what I could see, I should be able to ship one copy of the book for around $15, in USA and internationally—perhaps a few dollars more.

If you wanna take your own time to calculate shipping prices, here are the details you’d need:

  • USPS’ (United States Postal Service) website:
  • Canada Post’s website:
  • Book’s measurements—
    • Length: 28cm (11”)
    • Width: 21.6cm (8.5”)
    • Depth (thickness): 3.1cm (1.2”)
    • Weight: 1.568kg (~3.5lbs)

In any case, whatever payment you make over PayPal and is not being used for shipping, will go to the charity, which leads me to the next part of this post.


And so, after a long process of being approved, I can finally reveal the name of the charity I picked for this project.

The SickKids Foundation ( is a Canadian foundation which sets its goal at improving the lives of children in Canada, as well as around the world. Since 1972, the foundation has been raising funds on behalf of The Hospital for Sick Children ( located in Toronto, Canada.

My first acquaintance with the SickKids Foundation took place a few years ago. My girlfriend at that time used to attend the University of Waterloo on a bio-informatics program (sort of a combination of biology, chemistry and computer science), and spent one term working as a co-op at The Hospital for Sick Children. The department she used to work for was, and still is, almost exclusively funded by donations; overall, the vast majority of the foundation’s funding comes from fundraisings.

Having said that, it was my own personal experience that made me pick the SickKids Foundation. I happen to have lost a 6 years old cousin to cancer, about 18 years ago (amazing how time flies). It took him a couple of years of battling with cancer before he gave up, and it’s hard to describe how painful the process was for our entire family.

Still, amidst rivers of sorrow and despair, there were islands of joy and happiness as well. Bringing a smile upon a sick child’s face means a lot to everyone who’s involved in the child’s life. Frankly, I can’t think of too many purposes as worthy as this one.

So… There you go. You should have all the information you need in order to decide on the number of books you wish to get (someone here actually asked for three (!) copies), the edition (colour / black & white), as well as the amount of money you’re interested in donating to the SickKids Foundation.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Will go ahead to finalize my first blog post about my current visit home…


Friday, December 10, 2010

Westbound Again (& Book Updates)

Hello all, hope you’re all doing well.

I hope that the French of you have calmed down since the October strikes, and my deepest sympathies with you, the English, who are now going to pay triple as much for tuition fees. This world is clearly showing the signs of being thrown right to the toilet, and the only question remaining is who’s gonna end up pulling that handle and flush the mess down.

It’s only been a month since I wrote here but it seems like it’s been a lifetime. So much is happening nowadays—with the world, with me—that keeping up starts being tricky.

Back home in Israel, a huge fire—the worst fire in Israel’s history—has literally wiped out thousands over thousands of acres in the Carmel heights; 41 people were killed, while being trapped in a bus that was sent to a nearby prison to evacuate inmates from the wrath of the flames. The entire country was (and still is) in shock, and I was following the news very closely. Again I reminisced some of the reasons why I left that country in the first place—primarily, the fact that it is run, and has always been run since circa 1995—by complete and utter morons.

An Australian chap who answers to the name of Julian Assange has been pointing out—in his own unique way—how terribly wrong this world is being run. Insanely stupid people such as Sarah Palin (come on, Alaska; you can do better. Palin is almost as clueless as that guy… what’s his name… Barrack O-something) call to assassinate this guy when all he did was to put a huge honking mirror in front of world politics. What the f**k people; how about cutting the Prozac’s in half, for better absorption?

More on those—in a later post.

Traveling… Again

I was so happy to come back home after spending four months following the “Get Lucky” tour; I was looking forward to the opportunity to finally rest for a bit. Life’s been a breeze, until I started feeling awfully homesick. Luckily, this happened just around the time when I usually book my flight ticket back home (I made it a habit to visit Israel at least once a year, in December; weather is unbearably hot otherwise). After contemplating with the idea of staying somewhere in Europe for a few days on my way to Israel (an extended lay-over, say, in London), I decided that I have had my fair share of travel for this year and went for the shortest route home.

On December 16, which is next Thursday, I will make my way to Toronto’s Pearson Airport; Air Canada flight to Frankfurt, short one hour layover and then Lufthansa to Tel-Aviv, for a month in the sun, surrounded by my family and my closest friends. I can’t wait.

I intend to do quite a bit of writing while in there… As I always do.

I will return to Canada on January 16; this time, however, it’s going to be different—as I will only be at home for a few days… Which brings me to the next subject:

Moving… Again

The last time I moved was almost six years ago. Shortly after I became independent, I started working on short-term contracts, here, there and pretty much everywhere in this giant country. During 2004-2005, I moved no less than 5 (!) times, until I decided to settle in Waterloo, Ontario for reasons that I… Well, never mind.

At some point, I believe it was just about a month or so ago, something happened. I cannot remember the last time I felt like this but I had the feeling as if I’m wasting my time. I finally grew sick and tired of living in a small city and needed a change. Combined with homesickness, I realized that it was time to do something.

I contemplated a lot between two options—returning to Israel or moving to Canada’s west coast (for a short period, I also considered USA’s west coast however, for technical reasons, I decided to pass). Both options were lucrative for their own reasons. After playing some sort of a simulation game in my head, I realized that there is no way in hell I can ever return to Israel before at least trying to live in Canada’s west coast.

Some of you might have already heard me (or read me) raving about the city of Vancouver, BC. It has always been my dream to live there (and for a short period during 2006, I did—lived and worked there for 3-4 months); having seen my share of beautiful cities around the world, I can honestly and positively say that Vancouver is very hard to beat.

Another feature of Vancouver, besides it being such a breathtaking city, is that I have quite a few friends there. So, one conversation led to another and, before I knew it, I was already in the process of getting acquainted with a new client. Few phone calls, gruelling interviews by people who really know what they’re doing, and then it happened—an invitation for a face-to-face meeting.

There I found myself, two weeks ago, driving to Buffalo, NY to catch a flight to Seattle, WA with a short stop in Chicago. Seattle, coincidentally, also serves as the residence of Hadar (see; she picked me up, and we drove straight to Vancouver as my meeting there was going to take place the morning after.

I arrived to Seattle about a day or two after a snowfall. It was hilarious for me to see how spoiled people are there when it comes to snow. A few inches of snow, and the entire city was talking about it, as if Starbucks went out of business (it didn’t). I looked at the measly puddles of thin snow and wondered what would these people do had they lived one winter in Ontario.

It was so good to once again breathe Vancouver’s air; a hotel right downtown, good meal in White Spot and a great night sleep.

The meeting with the prospective client, held the next morning, was great—but not as great as once again meeting my good friends there, a cute couple whom I first met long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Great meal—all four of us—in Earl’s, which is a BC restaurant chain who is in the habit of producing good food for reasonable prices. Another thing—it is their policy to only hire women who exhibit features greatly appreciated by the typical superficial man. I am not talking nonsense; I actually bothered to check.

Later, a meeting with my good friend Joyti and a friend of hers; it wasn’t before 7:00pm when I started driving back to Seattle.

A few more days in the lovely city of Kirkland, WA (just facing Seattle, across Lake Washington) have finally convinced me: I have got to live in the west coast, no matter what. The time has come.

Very few people knew of my intentions, as I decided to keep that one to myself until the very end. It was one of those wishes—those plans—that, when they don’t materialize, you really wanna be the only person in the universe who’s aware of it. It was bizarre for me—keeping it secret from the people I admire the most, including my best friends—but it just felt right to do so.

A week later, I decided: I will move to Vancouver, regardless of having any work lined up. There’s no point in working in Ontario and being miserable; I prefer being (temporarily) workless in a place I really love being in.

A few days later, I got the good news: I am starting work in Vancouver on January 24, 2011.

It’s final… And just as it is final, it is exciting. I am moving to the city I love the most, one of the greatest cities on this planet.


The Book

So here is something you guys should know about mail in Canada: it is reasonably quick domestically, but when it comes to international mail—that includes, of course, mail being sent from Canada’s most important trade partner, the USA—it is horrendously slow.

More than three weeks ago, I ordered the first copy of my book—actually, two copies: one in color, and one black & white—just to make sure that everything’s in place and that the book looks the way I expected it to. I checked the mailbox daily, sometimes even twice daily… to no avail.

Then I got word from a client of mine that there’s a software development team somewhere in downtown Toronto who need a bit of help catching up with technology; packed a suitcase and drove to the big city. Spent a couple of nights in my good friend Jonathan’s and his girlfriend Adi’s apartment, right downtown—then moved to a hotel nearby when I realized that helping that team out may take more than a couple of days. During that time, I kept nagging one of my tenants to check the mail with specific instructions to send me a text message as soon as my books arrive.

It finally arrived on Thursday (yesterday); as I was scheduled to go back home on Friday, I decided to hold just one more day before I lay my hands on the first copy of this book.

As soon as work was done earlier today (Friday), I rushed to my car, and started driving back home. Toronto traffic… Friday at 6:00pm… Not the most pleasant way to pass the time, I tell you; but I was excited, and couldn’t wait to finally see what’s in the mail.

Arriving at home, the package waited for me on the kitchen table. At first, i thought that someone was playing a joke on me: the two books were wrapped in a cardboard box, and that cardboard box was, in turn, wrapped with a f**king giant hard-nylon wrap. It was the size of an average household garbage bag, with all sorts of tags on it—as if it wasn’t a couple of books inside the package, but Plutonium instead.

I cut the huge nylon wrap…


And there it was:


My pulse went sky-rocketing; I rarely get that excited about anything. I carefully took the bubble wrap away, took the first copy, and opened it.

It was the coloured one.

It took me minutes until I could stop smiling. In any way I looked at it, it looked perfect. Everything about this book is just perfect; as a perfectionist, I don’t say this very frequently but, hell, I could have not imagined it turning out any better than this.

I therefore decided that yes—that’s how I want my book to look like. I therefore announce this copy as the final revision of the book—no updates necessary; it is just perfect.

The Next Step

I am still in the process of establishing the formalities behind the charity involved. For certain reasons, I cannot announce the name of the charity I chosen until everything is finalized, but for now I will say, that it has to do with the health and welfare of children in Canada. Having lost a 6 years old cousin to cancer—almost 20 years ago—I can think of no more suitable type of charity to donate to.

As I wrote in my last post, the first phase will be a “private distribution” phase, and it opens right now. Whoever expresses interest in the book from now until the end of the year, will take a part in this phase:

  • Prices are shown in my previous post, so check it out ( $98 to print a coloured book, about $26 to print a black & white book, not including shipping which ranges anywhere between $7-15 depending on destination (Europe is, surprisingly, the cheapest to ship to).
  • Your price is any price you are willing to pay, as long as it covers the cost of printing and shipping; the rest will be donated to this important, purposeful charity that I had decided upon.
  • Payment can be done via PayPal; use my email address ( as the destination.
  • It is highly possible that, due to quantity, we will get a discount. $98 (colour) or $25 (black & white) is the maximum cost of printing a book, and there’s a good chance we’ll make it to the quantity that gives us %10-15 discount. Any leftover funds will be donated to the same charity as well.
  • The order for the “private distribution” phase will take place on January 1, 2011. If you decide to buy one of the books, but change your mind before the cut-off date—your money will be returned to you in its entirety.
  • All books in the “private distribution” phase will be personally signed and dedicated. If you have a specific request for a dedication, let me know.

If you have any questions, just comment here or email me.

All the best, and get that RSS subscription (it’s free) going so you can catch up with the latest of my travels in the wonderful country of Israel, starting one week from now.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Tour Blog for Charity: Book & Charity Updates

Hello again,

Just wanted to provide you with some more updates with regards to the upcoming hardcover edition of my Get Lucky Tour Blog (see the previous post, here). I am juggling between approximately two million things concurrently over the last few months… It’s nice, every now and then, to take a breather and do some writing.

Today’s entry won’t be long… Well, we’ll see.

So, over the last few months, the vast majority of my otherwise-free time was dedicated to working on the hardcover version of my Get Lucky Tour Blog (link: In the previous post, I provided some technical details about the book, as well as a sample.

As some of you may remember, in my last tour post, I mentioned that proceeds from the book’s sales will be donated to charity. I had mentioned that the charity’s identity will be named by Mark Knopfler, or – if no feedback is received - by myself. Therefore, I should tell you that I did contact Mark’s management, provided details about the upcoming book and asked whether there is a particular charitable organization that Mark would like proceeds to be donated to.

Took the response quite some time to arrive, however it finally arrived a few days ago. I will spare you from the specific details of the response; for our purpose here, the bottom line is:

  • The book may, indeed, be published (you wouldn’t expect me to publish this book against Mark’s wishes, now would you); and
  • No particular charity has been named.

As a result, the decision with regards to the charity has been “delegated” to me. I am contemplating between two charitable organizations at the moment – both are Canadian; as it turns out, arranging something for charity isn’t as easy and obvious as one might expect.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t hold anything back. As it happens, I finished working on the book’s cover this last Sunday, which means that, as far as I can tell, the book is in the best state it could ever be. I placed an order for two copies – one in color and one black & white – just to ensure that nothing went awry (in the field of reproduction of digital material into printed media, there simply are too many pitfalls… and I would like to make sure that everything’s tip-top before I release it to the public.

I should have these copies ready within two couple of weeks, and assuming everything’s a go – public publishing is within a keystroke. And in case you’re wondering what the front cover looks like…



The book will be published in two stages. The first stage will be private; only those who emailed me with interest for the book will get a copy during this stage (see clarification below). As this stage is basically a private distribution operation (rather than working with Amazon, for example), this pre-public edition will not have an ISBN assigned to it. My intention is for those “private distribution” copies to first visit my house before being spread out across the continents, in which case, all books will be personally signed. If there’s anything specific you would like me to write – let me know; if you would like me to write something but decide to leave it all up to me – well, make sure I really like you before giving me the go-ahead.

This stage will last one week only; all profits from this publishing stage will be donated to charity.

The second stage will be completely public. An ISBN will be attached to the book and it will be sold through major book retailers such as Amazon. The only updates that the book will see would be the barcode on the back (which will include the ISBN), as well as the ISBN number on the second page. This is by law, by the way.

As I initially did not consider publishing this book “publicly”, I still have to look into the feasibility and the work involved in donating all profits from the “public” stage to charity as well. There are quite a few things to consider – taxation is one of them – so I’ll figure out the details and will announce once everything’s settled.

Clarification (thanks Marie for pointing that out): the concentrated order for the first, “private distribution” phase will be placed one week after I receive the proofing copy, which should be some time next week. Whoever already emailed me with the edition they’re interested in, and whoever is going to email me by the time I place the order, will be a part of this bulk order. Sorry for the poor choice of words.


The price of printing each book, assuming no discounts (see below), are as follows (prices are in USD):

  • Hardcover, color edition (414 pages in full color): $98 (about €72).
  • Hardcover, black & white edition (cover – in full color; interior pages – black & white): $25.38 (about €19).

Depending on the quantity of the initial order (for the “private” distribution), discounts will be applied. There are discounts for bulk orders of 20 or more, with the discount increasing the more I order, so the more people we have on board – the merrier. For 30 books, there’s a %10 discount, plus a significant discount in shipping (see below). For 60 books, there’s a %15 discount.

Not that bad of a deal, I reckon.

Shipping costs: if shipped individually from the store, each book costs between $7—15 (€5—11) to deliver, depending on destination and delivery type (mail, express etc.). Having said that, the initial bulk order will first travel through my house (for signing) so this may impact the price by a couple of dollars here or there. I will provide details about it when I have all the information.

The total price for each book, then, is the printing price, plus shipping, plus any amount that you would like to be donated to charity. A blog entry will be posted once I conclude which charity it is going to be (between the two that I am considering); rest assured that both are well worthy of every penny invested in them.

Payment for the Private Distribution Phase

I am going to arrange the order myself; PayPal appears to be, by far, the best option. After one week of collecting payments, I will issue the order to the publishing website and get the thing going.

So… There you go. The last stretch. Off to do some recording now; my acoustic-electric Taylor guitar is calling.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Life & Book Updates

Hope my name still rings a bell or two out there. Hello, how are you all doing?

(Echo… Echo…)

I believe the last time I wrote anything here was over two months ago. Coincidentally, this seems just around the same time I last had a minute to breathe.

All sorts of things happened since I last hit the “Publish” button. I began working three days a week, mostly from home; sort of a rough start, as the last time I did anything useful with a computer (other than writing a blog) was over four months prior to that. Nevertheless, I have no reason to complain. Besides, work isn’t really interesting, especially not mine.

So you must be asking yourself what I have been doing in the other 4 days of the week, when I was not working. In retrospect, scanning through the last couple of months, I can say that about %95 of my spare time was used for one and only one purpose.

The Book

Now this book is a clear example for a task that initially seems very simple but at the end proves to be very complex. I have come across so many challenges during the process, sometimes to the point that I was calling out all sorts of swear words towards large-cap USA-based corporations. So, if I may, how about I tell you a bit about the process.

The Principle: As the book’s source exists online, I made it a principle, right from the get-go, that the creation of the book out of information already available digitally would be fully automated. A long career in the software world has taught me that being lazy is an asset; when you’re lazy, you come up with ways to cut your efforts – and what good exactly is a computer if it doesn’t do work for you?

[At this point of this post, I actually started writing about the technical problems I have encountered; after about an hour thinking how do I explain XML, XHTML, XSLT and other software jargon to people who may have no clue about any of this, I gave up]

I did encounter, however, many problems – which is an indication, I believe, that such a thing was really never done before; at least not completely automatically.

One problem, for example, was with my word-processing software. Previously, I had decided to use Open Office – which is free software, aiming to be a replacement for Microsoft Word; a week or so later, I encountered a severe problem with it. I created what’s called a “bug report” (basically, notifying the creator of the software that it has a problem), and got a response basically saying “we’re too busy working on real problems, so, sorry, you’re out of luck”. At that instant I switched to use Microsoft Word, which turned out to have much less problems.

Another problem was how to automatically program the conversion process so the book will be laid-out nicely. For example – ensuring that, in any given page, the title will never be the last line on the page (in such cases, you’d want the title to be “pushed” to the next page).

By far, though, the biggest “fun” I had was after I sent the initial revision to my dear friend Kyle Hawke, who – among other things – is also an acknowledged book editor. He then decided to tell me that in English typography there are at least three types of dashes, some other types of hyphens – and each one should be used under certain circumstances. Decorative quotes (such as “these ones”) are another thing; to make a long story short, the book – while looking not bad at all – looked more like a dump of computerized text than an actual book.

Not a perfectionist like myself would let that slip by; there I went, over the next few weeks, diving into the blog and correcting literally thousands of punctuation marks.

I suppose, that, then it was a great idea to automate the process of creating the book; I’m pretty sure I had to regenerate it well over 200 or 300 times (!), each time with somewhat different settings, until I reached at exactly what I was looking for. Had I went ahead and just used a simple word-processing document right from the get go, I would probably never finish this book. What happens when you work on such a long project, then find out that some “standard” you followed (for example, pictures’ size) doesn’t work for you anymore? You’d have to backtrack and do everything again.

At the end, I reached a situation that almost the entire process of Microsoft Word document creation was automated. The only things I had to do manually (because I didn’t have the time, or the patience, to learn how to automate them) are:

  • Hitting a few keystrokes to generate the Table of Contents;
  • Creating the footer of the pages (this has to be done once, and all pages take the same footer);
  • Slight effect-processing on a few images (the ones at the beginning of each part - “North America” and “Europe”);
  • Generation of footnotes. I used footnotes only for cases when the original blog text had a hyperlink “disguised” as a word (for example, the words “between the quotes” here are actually a disguise to a hyperlink that leads you to Google’s web page). There were 13 such occurrences.

So, from the moment I hit one button to start the entire extravaganza, it took one minute until to start working on the items above, and another 25 minutes to work through those. That’s it.

At the meantime – while working on all of this – I was also looking for publishing options. The first place I looked at was – as a referral from Mr. Arthur Dunk who recommended it to me in a comment to my last blog post. Initially, I was looking at creating a book with a non-standard, quite large page size; did not offer that so I asked for the advice of a local publisher in Toronto.

The conclusion I really quickly arrived at is, that if I were to go with a publisher, the book would cost such an insane amount of money that I doubt anybody would buy it. It was approximately four times (!) more than what it would cost to produce the book with Therefore, I decided to compromise on the page size – and I’m happy I did, because the end result is just fantastic.

Also at the meantime, I was sending drafts for review to our buddy here Jeroen Gerrits. To whomever of you suffering from amnesia, that’s the same Jeroen with whom I had the pleasure to share 38 of the tour’s 87 shows, including all shows in North-America. Jeroen did a great job providing insights and recommendations from the viewpoint of the reader – and I can’t even begin to tell you how better the book looks now that I incorporated his recommendations.

After announcing last week that the book is done and all that remained was the cover (to be worked on by our Nelly here), I realized a crucial bug in my automated process and some things that still required addressing. That took about a week to fix, and today – November 6, 2010 – is the day when I’m 100% positive that that’s it, the book’s interior is done.

If you want to see what it looks like, here’s a 2-page sample:

Some more information about the book:

  • Total number of pages: 414, with a page size of 8.25” x 10.75”.
  • Total number of pictures: 2,422 within the blog’s text itself, plus 9 more in a few introduction pages. The 2,422 pictures that are a part of the blog itself had to be shrunk in size, in order to make this book anything close to being a regular book rather than a brick.
  • Font used: I actually did quite a bit of research on that, and decided to go with Palatino Linotype.
  • Formats: The book will initially be offered in two hardcover editions: color and black & white. Due to this book being 414 pages long, there obviously is a different in price between the two options, so you can make up your mind which one is better suited for you.

Over the next couple of days, I am going to provide Nelly with what she needs to complete working on the cover; then, a few more procedural issues that shouldn’t take long and the book will be ready.

So, other than the book… a few things have changed. Well, to be more exact – things changed in my intentions, values and what it is that I’m looking for, and now it’s time for action. Quite a few changes will take place over the next couple of months, changes that I initially didn’t think will ever take place.

While some of it is rather personal, one thing I can state for sure: these are my last couple of months in the city of Waterloo, Ontario. There are a couple of options where I am going to move next, and the two options are just about 15,000km apart from each other. Over the next week, I will know for sure which option is the one I’m going to take.

If I said that I’m not at all tense and frightened with it, I’d be lying; anyway, sometimes one reaches the conclusion that even the most “comfortable” bubble isn’t good enough and it’s time to take bigger leaps.

With that, I started being seriously homesick. As in every year, I will be flying home on December 16 for a month; I am counting down the days for the opportunity to once again spend time with the people that matter the most to me – my family – as well as with the so-many friends I have there.

So funny, I tell you. I have been in Canada for eight years now; you might think that this would make me establish strong ties with this wonderful country and diminish my ties with Israel. So funny to realize that exactly – exactly – the opposite has happened. I miss home now more than I ever did, and, quite frankly, I can’t see this paradigm being reversed any time soon.

During my trip back home to Israel, I intend to keep a journal of the visit, as well as places I’m going to visit. I hope you will allow yourselves to take the time and follow my writings from this troubled-yet-brilliant country, with its rude-yet-immensely-warm people. You can say whatever you want about Israel – that it’s a world-politics troublemaker; that its internal politics are a sham; that its society is broken, divided, and headed towards an almost-unavoidable breaking point – but for me, contrary to around 200+ countries worldwide, it is, after all…



Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting Readjusted

Hello all. I hope all is well with you.

So. Today is August 21; the last Get Lucky concert took place exactly three weeks ago, July 31 in Gredos, Spain. How time flies… and not just when you’re having fun.

The last post ended with me telling you about the weird feeling of arriving back home after four months of absence (well… I spent a few days at home during the month of May but work with me here). If you’re reading this, then you must have some inclination to want to know what happened next.

Well. The next three days was spent with me coping with a nasty virus.

In my computer.

To the tour, I took my Asus EEE-PC Netbook along because it’s very light and easy to carry; I left my “real” laptop, a 14” Dell, at home – so my father can use it while I’m away.

My father is, well, how to say it… Quite the technophobe. He has very little idea of how computers work, what to do with them, what not to do with them. He’s by far the greatest man I have ever got the chance to know – his life story is quite amazing, actually – but he just can’t get computers.

When I set him up with a user profile on my laptop, I had to choose whether I give him administrator rights or not. I chose to give him administrator rights so he can install programs if he absolutely needs to; in hindsight, that was a terrible, terrible decision.

He spent most of his computer time in front of Facebook, playing Poker through some Facebook application (virtual money). That in itself wasn’t too bad, however somehow he received some prompts to install all sorts of Internet Explorer toolbars, add-ons and whatnot. My father, not knowing really what to do in such cases, simply clicked OK on such prompts. That “OK” spree resulted in some virus being downloaded and executed on my computer – a “worm” that basically demolished each and every HTML file on my machine by changing them to manipulate a security hole in Windows (lets not get too technical here). Symantec’s Anti-Virus proved to be absolutely useless as it only started detecting the infection after it took place.

Lucky me, I had lots of backups done so there was no real risk to my data – I just wanted my laptop back. It took a few re-installation of Windows; the first two times, I made some rookie mistakes and accidentally executed infected files. Third time was all golden; too bad it all took about three days.

Eager to start working on my book, I caught up with paperwork and other annoyances very quickly. I had piles over piles of mail to go through. Shit! Forgot to set-up automatic payments of my property taxes, so the government now charged me $12 in arrears and penalties. OK, will prepare better for the next time.

And then…

After postponing it as much as I could…

I had to do it.

The ultimate nightmare of paperwork: prepare my data for my corporate taxes.

Two of them. Deadline: August 15.

The next few days then were spent sifting through banking statements, investment statements, receipts, you name it. Piles over piles of useless crap. I am telling you folks, it’s no picnic at all. It’s exhausting, and even worse than that – it is absolutely, horrendously boring. I worked hours over hours, days and nights to get it done…

And I did. Woo-Hoo! I’m free.

At the meantime, I got slowly readjusted to the time here. After spending almost three months in Europe, moving back to Eastern Time wasn’t very easy. Had trouble falling asleep at nights – actually, I’m still not fully readjusted – which also affected me during the day. Therefore, I really tried to keep activity level to minimum.

And then…

Back to work.

Well, I shouldn’t really complain. And I’m not complaining; this is actually a good story.

When I left for the tour, I had nothing on the horizon (work-wise). I knew I’m going to be away for four months, but had no idea what it is I’m going to do when I’m back… Whenever that might be.

Seems scary, doesn’t it? Well, truth be told, many of the people whom I met with during the tour had trouble understanding it – that is, the ability to simply get up, flip a middle finger at reality and just do whatever the hell it is that I want. Some called it courage; others called it stupidity. Really, depending on what one’s situation is in life, one may look at it differently.

What I looked for was freedom. Nothing less than absolute and utter freedom – I wanted to pack my backpack and go. While it may seem a bit “reassuring” to know that you have “real life” to go back to – let me give you a hint: it’s not reassuring and it’s a full pile of bullshit. The feeling of true, pure freedom greatly supersedes any feeling of such “reassurance”. It’s a good, purifying feeling; you would be amazed at how such “disconnection” affects your thinking.

… And that’s how I spent the tour: caring for absolutely nothing except for making it to the next concert, and writing about it.

As the tour ended, I found myself in Barcelona, on the beach. I was sitting on one of those stone benches, looking at the sea; it was a perfect, bright day. I was calm, relaxed.

I was ready to start thinking about going back to do whatever it is that I do for living. And what a great feeling it was – to approach “what am I going to do next?” from a position of power and control, rather than from a position of constraint and obligation.

I made a couple of phone calls, send a couple of emails… And apparently, that’s all that was necessary. I guess I have been doing something right ever since my career kicked-off some 14 years ago, as I couldn’t even have dreamed to get what I ended up getting. I won’t go into too much details, but I will just say that it’s an interesting short-term initiative with flexible working hours, sometimes working from the leisure of my own home, some travel is involved and I will be working at 60% capacity for the first few weeks. This is absolutely perfect for me as I want those other 40% to be dedicated to my book, and for recording some music.

Pure luck? Maybe. But whatever it was, I am thankful for it. Seriously, I couldn’t even have planned it better.

A very smart man once said the following about “freedom”:

“I don't like definitions, but if there is a definition of freedom, it would be when you have control over your reality to transform it, to change it, rather than having it imposed upon you. You can't really ask for more than that.”

If you trust, then this saying about “freedom” is attributed to no other than that superbly-gifted individual who answers to the name Mark Knopfler – yeah, the same guy playing guitar writing beautiful songs. Oddly enough, I recall an ex-girlfriend of mine once asking me what it is that I consider “freedom”; it was long, long before I became aware of the quote above, and my reply to her was pretty much along the same lines.

So, all and all when I’m looking at the readjustment process, I realize that, really, it doesn’t suck. I received quite a few emails since the tour’s end, and without exception, all of them carried the question of whether it’s too hard to get readjusted to real life. Fortunately, it isn’t hard. Actually, I feel motivated and full of energy. My complaint list is empty and I intend it to remain that way.

Working on the book is a lot of fun. After considering a few alternatives, I decided to stick with OpenOffice for editing – for whoever of you who isn’t aware of it, this is actually an open source, free office productivity suite that offers you whatever Microsoft Office offers – at least, whatever matters – for absolutely free. I have been using it for years – it has a word processor (called “OpenOffice Writer”), a spreadsheet processor (called “OpenOffice Calc”) and other goodies.

And it’s free. And it’s available in lots of languages. Check it out at

The challenge I’m facing now is with the pictures. Lots of pictures in this blog and I’ll have to weigh my options – pictures’ size, page size, margins – in order to come up with a book that will not take an entire shelf. Will keep you posted; anyway, it’s going well for now.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

From Spain… Back Home

Well, what do you know. First post after the Get Lucky extravaganza, in my all-purpose blog which, from now on, is going to serve as a fine container for whatever nonsense I feel like writing.

So, welcome.

I’ll tell you a bit about what happened since the Get Lucky tour came to an end, on July 31. Jeroen and I woke up early on August 1 in Avila, as we had to drive back to Madrid and split up – Jeroen flying back to Amsterdam and myself… well… that was still up to debate at that point. Woke up, quick breakfast and we set out on our way back to Madrid.

On our way there I started thinking what it is that I wanted to do.

My original plans (from a few months ago) were to spend a few days in Palma de-Mallorca after the tour, by the beach, to unwind from the craziness; therefore, my flight back home was scheduled to depart Barcelona on August 6. Back then when I ordered the ticket, though, I didn’t know much about travel in Spain, and what it would be like to fly domestically; having my luggage lost once, and all domestic flights in Spain delayed, rendered going to Palma out of the question. Not gonna happen. Barcelona sounded better in that respect; there’s a beach there, and it’s the same city from which I’ll be flying back home six days later… minimum risk.

I then had (what I thought was) a brilliant idea. On my BlackBerry, I checked for flights back to Canada from from Madrid for the same day. Turned out that there’s a flight leaving shortly around noon, at around the time we were going to be at the airport (to return the car). I started thinking… should I go back home now? Or should I unwind by the beach? Which beach? Barcelona? Maybe take a train up to northern Spain?

Knowing that my father is waiting for me back home, I decided to give it a shot. Upon arriving at Madrid’s airport, I ran towards the departures floor as if a Jalapeno was stuck up my ass. That happened 30 minutes to departure time; I figured I may be able to do the ticketing and board on time.

Alas, again… this is Spain. The terminal was full of people in much the same way that the moon isn’t; scores of people wandering around; standing; sitting everywhere – on the floor, on seats, upside down, sideways. Managed to find the information desk, and I had a very simple question. All I needed to know was where Air Canada’s ticketing office is (so I can revise my travel plans with them). Here’s what I asked:

- “Air Canada’s ticketing office?”

Four words. She seemed very confident in her response.

- “Three hundred and twelve”, referring to a check-in counter.

At that instant I already knew that I have very little chance finding anything useful there – yet I started running… and running… until I arrived at counter 312. Of course it wasn’t a ticketing office at all; it was a regular, unmanned check-in counter. I started wondering why she gave me wrong instructions… then I said… well… three words:


25 minutes to departure… and I realized I should better hurry up to the train station. Three subway lines from the airport to Madrid Atocha and I arrived there at 1:10pm.

Train leaves on 1:30pm.

That’s 20 minutes which should be plenty of time to buy a train ticket.

Of course it is…

… Or is it? Well, lets test that hypothesis. Always remember, guys; always remember; TIS. This Is Spain.

1:10pm I was ready to storm through some automated doors on my way to the departure platforms, only to realize that I have to go through security first and – lo and behold – you have to buy your ticket first, and that’s one floor down.

Not a problem. Went there, entered the door and saw people standing in two short lines, and two million people standing in lines at a nearby room. Something didn’t seem very good in that picture; distant (one week old) memories of Barcelona-Sants crept in. If there’s a longer line nearby, I probably belong to it. Of course, it turned out that the shorter line was for “information only” while ticketing took place at the nearby room which just happened to contain the entire population of Madrid in it.

Took a number and started counting the minutes patiently.

On 1:20pm – ten minutes before the train’s departure time – my number finally appeared on the screen. Fantastic! Ten minutes left for departure, so I should be able to make it. I took one step towards the booth that called my number.

- “One moment, please”, called the attendant in that booth.

Turned out that the two lousy bastards that were there in front of me suddenly realized that they have another question to ask, or another request to fulfill. Needless to say, everybody there appeared to have taken their time. My unpleasant looks didn’t appear to impact the attendant in the slightest, as the minutes passed…

1:21pm… 1:22pm…

At around 1:24pm, I decided that this is too ridiculous and attempted to approach the next booth to the left. I explained the situation to him in English; he didn’t understand and replied something in Spanish that I took as “get the fuck out of my face”.

1:25pm. Oh no, we’ll have to be quick.

They left at 1:29pm. In those 9 minutes between my number was called and the time I was served, seven (!) other people were served in the nearby booths. I was so frustrated of the outright disrespect exhibited by the two idiots before me, as well as the stupid attendant, that I could actually hear and feel my pulse. That’s it, I’ll have to wait an hour now. An entire hour of my life was lost because of idiots.

- “Yes, how can I help you?” she said.

- “(In the most impolite and disrespectful tone I could emit) Well, I was going to buy a ticket for the 1:30pm train but I guess it is a bit too late now!”.

She didn’t even try to appear sympathetic.

- “Well, this line-up is not for immediate departures”, she said in a very peaceful voice.


- “… WHAT??!?”, I asked, “… So where is the line-up for immediate departures?!”.

- “It’s on the other side of the floor”.

You see, folks? This entire incidence encapsulates within it pretty much everything you have to watch out for when doing independent travel in Spain. Things work very differently here. People expecting clear-cut instructions and signage are going to be majorly disappointed here.

The flip side of this is, that if you can make it in Spain, then you can make it anywhere in Europe. If you can get yourself out of your own comfort zone to the point that you can feel comfortable and “flowing” in Spain, then really, you can make it anywhere in Europe – at least anywhere I have been to, which is 19 different countries.

Anyway, I used the extra hour for eating yet another baguette and then boarded the train to Barcelona. The last inter-city train ride… for a while.

Upon arriving at my first hotel in Barcelona – Zenit Barcelona – I decided that that’s it. I’m not leaving Barcelona – will stay there until my time comes to fly back home. The hotel was nowhere near the beach, but I couldn’t care less – it was booked only for one night, and I was dead tired anyway.

Entering my room I came to realize once again that there’s no concert to attend later on. I will admit that I felt somewhat empty and purposeless, however as soon as thoughts of purposelessness crept in, they were immediately kicked out; hell, these next five days are supposed to be purposeless. Just rest, damn it I said to myself. For five days in a lifetime, it’s quite OK to have no purpose whatsoever other than resting.

The next morning I went to a different hotel, Barceló Hotel Atenea Mar, located right by the beach, a bit north of the hustle. It was then when I started feeling really rested; didn’t spend any time in the beach though because it was cloudy. I decided then to move to another hotel (that’s three hotels in three days), closer to the “action” – and make that the last hotel stay in this trip.

Too bad, though, that my hotel of choice (Hotel Icaria Barcelona) was a bit disappointing. Perfect location, but way too high a price for what you’re getting. Nevertheless, the next three full days in Barcelona were characterized by total and utter relaxation, as well as a fair bit of sightseeing. It was then when I realized how beautiful the beaches are in this city; weather was perfect, and I spent a few days laying down at the beach, swimming and exploring Barcelona’s shoreline as well as its famous La Rambla (Wikipedia:,_Barcelona).

Only one thing separates Barcelona’s beaches from absolute perfection, and, unfortunately, it is something that Barcelona’s beaches will never have: a sunset. Other than a sunset, folks, this must be the best looking beach in the world. The entire walk from Port Olimpic all the way to Barceloneta, by the beach, is surreally pretty and it’s evident that the city of Barcelona put a lot of efforts into its beaches. Up until visiting Barcelona, I was convinced that the prettiest beaches in the world belong to Israel; that opinion has now changed and, unless Australia is going to surprise me beyond recognition, it’s very unlikely to change again.

My daily walks started in Port Olimpic all the way down to Barceloneta. Barceloneta’s beach is considered by many to be the best beach in the world; according to Discovery Channel’s 2005 documentary about the world’s best beaches, Barceloneta’s beach is considered to be the best urban beach in the world, and the third best beach overall (by “urban beach”, I believe they refer to beaches that really are a part of a sizable city. Tel-Aviv in Israel falls into that category, while I believe the beaches off California’s coast don’t. Need some fact-checking here).

Here’s what it looks like when it’s sunny and gorgeous:


After about 25 minutes walk along the shore, you get to Rambla de Mar, offering a gorgeous walk along the port.


Now look at the following picture and notice the people holding the big white bags:


That’s another thing very commonly seen along the coastline. What happens is this: many people sell goods on the streets. What they do is offer their goods (sunglasses, gifts and other sorts of stuff – usually stolen, fake and altogether just fishy) by laying them down on a big white mat, so people passing-by could take a look, inquire and (hopefully) purchase.

Now the problem is that selling stuff on the street, just like that, is illegal in Barcelona. Therefore, you will always see that the white mat has a string stretched from each corner, held by the merchant. Upon noticing a police officer, it takes those people less than a second to pack the mat – upon whatever it is that was on it – into a huge bag and travel around with it. It’s quite an amazing thing to watch, how quickly they turn this bag full of goods into a white mat laid upon the sidewalk, and upon sighting some form of authority – collapsing it back into a bag; I’ve seen it happen a few times.

From there, it’s a short walk to the beginning of the world-famous La Rambla. La Rambla is as touristic as things can get in Europe – this long avenue is literally flocked with tourists from all over the planet, all the time. I very quickly lost count of restaurants, cafes, hotels, shops, street-shows – they’re all here, by the dozens.


The walk back at night is no less impressive, especially along the beach. Barcelona’s coastline has no sunset to brag for but other than that, I can think of no better scenery.


Somewhere along the beach, close to Port Olimpic, there’s a set of stone-made “seats” facing the sea. I found it to be a tremendously pleasant spot to sit down, look around and just relax.


What I described above was my routine for the three days of relaxation. During one day, though, I decided to follow Julio’s advice and went to Park Güell (Wikipedia: – a very rewarding decision. This park, an easy 3-4 subway ride from Plaça de Catalunya (which is at the north-end of La Rambla), is built upon a hill offering stunning panoramic views of Barcelona.


The building you see in the following picture is called Sagrada Família (Wikipedia:


The Sagrada Família is a Roman-Catholic church that has been under construction since – get a load of this – 1882. Completion date? they’re talking about at least 2026. Antoni Gaudí, the famous Spanish architect who designed it, was known to respond to questions about the tremendous construction time with “My client is not in a hurry”.

I went there once in the afternoon – there’s a subway stop right outside it – but decided to not go in because the place was full of tourists. As you can see by the pictures in the corresponding Wikipedia article, this is going to be one hell of a beautiful church.


Next to it, there’s the world’s largest vibrator.


The park itself offers an endless number of pretty and winding trails with amazing views and structures throughout.


Three days of relaxation in Barcelona passed quickly; August 6 then arrived, time to go home. Woke up early morning and took a taxi to the airport.

You know, there are those vacations that, when they end, make you feel a bit bad. You want that vacation to continue, and really aren’t looking forward to go back to what’s commonly referred to as “real life”. It may seem a bit surprising, but… I had no bad feelings at all. I looked forward to being home again. Not because I didn’t like being on vacation; it’s just that I felt like this long 4-months vacation was fantastic and fulfilling. I can’t even begin to describe how much motivated I was to go back home, pick things up where I left them four months prior, “grab life by the horns” and enjoy every minute of it. Hell, I even came up with an idea for a start-up!

Boarded the plane… Buckled up…

Eight hours later, a short layover in Montreal. Oh, here’s a Tim Horton's store. Starbucks is here, too. The atmosphere… Yes, this is Canada. A short while later, boarded another airplane and I was in Toronto at around 5:00pm local time.

Picked up my luggage and was quickly picked-up by my father – so great to see him. Two hours ride to Waterloo…

… Oh, here’s my neighbourhood…

… Turning to my street….

… Here’s my house…

Garage door opens, car parked. Opened the door, entered.

Closed the door.

I was so happy to be home. My house; my living room; my bed. My guitars! My piano! My espresso maker!

Home felt better than it ever did.

Signing-off this post while sitting on my deck. 10:00pm, August 17. Just finished working on some accounting year-end stuff – a huge load off my mind. Actually, that work I had to do is the sole reason why this post took two weeks to complete.

Other than that, getting adjusted to “real life” was a breeze… as you will read in the next upcoming post.