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After one of the longest stints grounded in recent memory, I was up in the air this weekend, in the big smoke, the T-dot, the centre of the universe, Toronto.

The purpose of this brief sojourn was threefold: inspect the apartment I’ll be calling home this coming summer; firm up plans for my second co-operative work placement (the final requirement of Red River College’s culinary arts program); and, lastly but not leastly, have a bit of fun.

And oh, what fun I had!

Indeed, I was fortunate enough to spend a better part of Sunday working the line during the brunch rush at Café Belong, alongside the resto’s chef de cuisine — who also just happens to be a dear friend from my days in Ottawa, and with whom I’ll be sharing an apartment this coming summer.

It was intense. I’m but a lamb in the woods when it comes to cookery. She’s a frickin’ lion.

Nevertheless, I had a blast — and can’t think of a better way to have spent a frigid Sunday in the Big Smoke.

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On the heels of nine straight days working, I find myself sitting in the international departures lounge of Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

No, I’m not fleeing the country for a non-extraditing South American refuge. I’m off to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. And by my count, I’ll be in the city — and what a city! — for no more than 36 hours.

Jaunt, indeed!

I’ve been to Chicago before. It’s a first-rate city and one of my favourites. Sadly, my tight schedule means I’ll have less time to sample the city’s remarkable culinary delights than I would have liked. (Alinea continues to elude me. Grumble.) Still, I’m hopeful I’ll have enough time to squeeze in a quick visit to the city’s eponymous Art Institute.

More to the point, and more importantly, I’m incredibly excited to witness my dear friend’s nuptials.

Chicago, here I come.

There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I would have seized the opportunity an unexpected long weekend presents to travel. I’d fly out on the Friday night, fly back on the Monday afternoon. Easy.

When I was living in Ottawa, I was able to indulge my jet-setting urges fairly frequently. After all, Ottawa’s proximity (and direct flights) to so many fantastic destinations — Montreal, New York, DC, Chicago — made it relatively painless. Better still, I’d become expert at playing off my two travel rewards programs (Air Canada’s Aeroplan and RBC’s Avion) against each other to my maximum benefit.

But that was then.

Despite having just such a long weekend this weekend, I’ll be staying put. My jet-setting days are over.

Granted, for a brief moment earlier this fall, I was gearing up to make fairly regular trips to Toronto. Air Canada was even offering a student pass that allowed individuals to make six trips to a specific destination. It couldn’t have been more perfect. But things change. Sometimes in an instant. And so, I’m grounded. Indefinitely.

I suppose it’s for the best. As I revealed earlier this month, I’m a student again. I might as well start living like one.

Still, I’m comforted by my fond memories of those many weekend excursions. Each one was an adventure, a marvel, a treat; always to see friends, eat well, laugh lots and soak up the many delights of whatever city I happened to be visiting.

But of all the weekend excursions I made during my extravagant years in Ottawa, I’m proudest of the weekend I spent in London. (England, not Ontario.)

It was the May Long Weekend of 2009. A dear friend of mine was celebrating his birthday around that time and I thought it might be fun to wish him a happy one in person. So, on that fateful Friday morning, I went to work with my weekend duffel and then headed straight to the airport that afternoon. By the next morning, I was eating breakfast in my friend’s kitchen, steps from London’s Pimlico tube station. Amazing.

Anyway, as I said, that was then.

Will I have more amazing weekends in the years ahead? Will I ever again be able to pick up and fly away at a moment’s notice?

Fingers crossed…

I once again find myself sitting in the departure lounge of Winnipeg’s airport. Bags checked. Boarding pass in hand. The exhilaration of take-off awaits.

And this time, I’m flying up and away with no return date and only the flimsiest of itineraries.

I do know this much: from Winnipeg, I’m flying to Toronto; from Toronto, Barcelona by way of Brussels; I need to be in Casablanca on the 14th of July, Dublin on the 24th, and Edinburgh on the 7th of August.

Other than that? No plans.

Amazing.

I’m luckier still, since I won’t be on this adventure all by my lonesome; I’ll be with various friends along the way.

So, here’s to summer, to friends, to sunny days, to safe travels and to happy returns.

Cheers!

As you might recall, I had a very bad day in May. What should have been a straightforward process — applying for an enhanced identity card to speed cross-border travel — became a bureaucratic nightmare.

I survived and managed to set things straight: my passport and my driver’s license now both contain my full, legal name.

Case closed? Not quite.

When my NEXUS card finally arrived in the mail, my jaw dropped in disbelief.

Kristopher Ade.

I kid you not. After all the fuss about “Kristopher” not being my legal name because it’s my middle one, the US government issued me a card without my first and “legal” name.

What are the odds? I mean, really.

For what it’s worth — after my third trip to the Immigration office at the Winnipeg airport — I was assured by my new best friend, Canadian Customs Lady, I would not need a new card: my name as it appears in the US government’s system has my first, middle and last names.

“Kristopher,” incidentally, is also listed as my nickname. A small consolation, I guess.

Ever have one of those days? You know the ones: the kind that starts well enough, but by mid-afternoon has you asking yourself why you ever got out of bed? Well, I hadn’t had one of those days in a while. Until yesterday.

To make a long story short, I’m in the process of applying for an enhanced passport; the kind that offers you quick entry into both Canada and the United States, via a self-serve kiosk with an iris scanner.

Unfortunately, this process, which had until yesterday ticked along quite smoothly, came to a sudden and immediate stop. Why? Because I learned yesterday morning my passport — the one I’ve used to criss-cross the bloody globe — is invalid. It doesn’t contain my full legal name, just the name I’ve used since birth, which so happens to be my middle name.

And so, after being lectured, politely, about my fraudulent passport by the border sercurity officers at the Winnipeg airport, I made my way to the Passport Office, conveniently located downtown, miles from the place where you’d most often actually use a passport, to get a new passport with my full legal name. Simple enough.

Wrong.

In order to get a new passport, I’d need to show them two pieces of government ID with my full legal name. Problem is, the only legal document I posses with my full name is my birth certificate. Literally every other document I possess simply lists me by my middle name. And so, the kind lady at the Passport Office suggested I get my driver’s license changed. Only then, she told me, could I change my passport since I’d then have two pieces of ID attesting to my actual identity.

Which, may I remind you, has not changed. I’m still the same person. I’m not even trying to change my name. Nope. My name has not changed one bit. All I want to do is add my first name, which has always been the same, to my second name, which I’ve always used, which would together appear before my surname, which has most certainly been the same since birth, according to me, my parents and various branches and levels of the Canadian government.

But, as I quickly remembered, bureaucracies are expressly designed to thwart common-sense people from applying common-sense solutions to simple problems.

And so it was off to yet another office — at a different level of government no less! — only to be told I couldn’t change my driver’s licence because that would require them to dial into Manitoba Public Insurance’s central computer system, which, quelle surprise, was down and had been down for four days. Better still, they had no idea when it would again be operational.

And so, I left. Miserable. Tired. In an apparent legal grey zone, as far as the folks at Customs and Immigration are concerned.

Oh, and on my way home, some asshole backed into my car.

FML.