Summer in Montreal

Leonard Cohen Mural in Montreal

After leaving SF on July 5th, I spent a week in Chicago, and 6 hours in Boston (to dine at my favourite 20-seater Sicilian restaurant).

Then, I arrived in Montreal just in time for (my 5th!) Startupfest. Especially since I don’t live in Montreal anymore, Startupfest is the perfect venue to see all my tech startup friends in one place, to connect, reconnect, and learn.

This year, I particularly enjoyed Alistair Croll’s talk on “how to be just evil enough”, and Evan Patronik’s Ignite-style presentation on managing time and energy. (Will add links when the slides go up) A relevant read: The importance of meeting people in real life and how to optimize your time 

Taking the subway home after my first day in Montreal and the first day of Startupfest, I remember thinking: “Montreal feels foreign”. It was a strange feeling to have. Montreal is my adopted home, and if it no longer feels like home… where does?

I think it was just a combination of being caught in rush-hour crowds and the sudden onslaught of French. Because after an almost 2-month stay, Montreal feels like home again.

High On Life

(Warning: long section on death and anxiety. Skip to the Festivals section if you prefer.)

Speaking of feelings, my anxiety peaked in July. My worst episode yet was the day I found out about Alexey, Ryker, and Mindy’s deaths. Alexey and Ryker were 2/3 main guys behind the YouTube channel High On Life, and Mindy was Alexey’s long-time girlfriend. The guys and I were on overlapping Contiki trips in Europe in 2012, and Mindy is an influencer with whom I communicated on behalf of a client.

This was the worst episode in that it was also the longest. I had a heavy chest all day. I was in the backseat of a car, driving back to Chicago from Lake Michigan. I also had this feeling of escapism. More than wanting to escape the car, I wanted to escape myself. It felt hard to breathe (in theory, not actually), even when I stepped out of the car.

I wrote about Anthony Bourdain’s death and my anxiety last month, and it’s not like I know these people any better. I have a slight personal connection to them, and have been following them since ~2012. They’re also from BC, we’re all about the same age, and I ascribe to their motto: High On Life.

I think 2 things bothered me most:

1) Most of the media coverage of their deaths pointed out that they’re daredevils and adventure seekers who have gone out of bounds, which have resulted in bans and fines from US national parks, as well as an overnight stay in jail.

(For context, they fell over a waterfall in BC. The vague story is that Mindy slipped, and Alexey tried to save her, and Ryker, him.)

This seems to imply that they might have been reckless and thus “asking for it”. Some explicitly wrote:

a) that it was unclear/unknown if they were filming immediately prior e.g. trying to get a cool drone shot?

b) about tragedies for social media likes e.g. a guy convincing his girlfriend to shoot a gun at him while he’s holding a book, but it went through the book, killing him.

2) I’m also bothered by the lack of eye-witness accounts as I don’t believe they were risking their lives for social media fame. In this CBC News video of the area they were in, there are no signs saying “Warning: Extremely Slippery” or anything. So what is the learning here? Be extremely careful? Always hike with a rope? Or avoid such powerful forms of mother nature all together?

And finally, beyond feeling for the last member of their trio and best friend since childhood, Parker + Ryker’s long-time girlfriend, Alissa, I struggled with the rationality aspect of it. Was it 3 lives lost when it could have been 1? Was it a selfish decision to make, given everyone they left behind + their grief? Would/should I do the same for my sister and loved ones? Is this something I should be thinking about now since I have the luxury of time to think instead of having to make a split second, likely irrational decision?

I also thought about how they died. Was it by drowning? Or the impact of tumbling down a waterfall? How does it feel to choke by water?

Two other episodes of my anxiety were:

  1. When I had pink eye and my vision was impaired for a few hours due to an ointment I applied in my eye
  2. On a turbulent flight from Montreal to Toronto

#1 freaked me out because it made me think of an acquaintance who lost his sight in one eye, and the possibility of that happening to me. Especially with my pharmacist telling me that “if it doesn’t get better in 5-7 days you absolutely have to go see a doctor”.

In both instances, I used Mind Ease, which helped.

One of my best friends offered that I may have a fear of death.

Gary V tells us that we are young, and to put in the work and be patient. One of my biggest learnings from EA Global is to not be impatient for impact. But when things like this happen, it makes me acutely aware that our time here is limited, and reminds me of all the platitudes like:

  • Live every moment like it’s your last
  • You Only Live Once
  • Etc

That was July. Now it’s September and my anxiety is mostly gone/under control. I think being in Montreal, a familiar city + being surrounded by loved ones helped.

Let me leave you with this hilarious Donut Man song ft. Ryker and his infectious energy. Remember the when White guys listen to Indian music dance? That was them. They were high on life.

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” Lao Tzu

Festival Season

Summer equals festival season in Montreal. I just missed Jazz Fest, but caught Complètement Cirque, Nuits d’Afrique, and Just for Laughs.

I went to Osheaga for the first time, and to my first Pride parade. I also finally went to Comedy Cellar on a quick trip to NY.


  • Singapore, Michigan

    There is a Singapore in Michigan!

  • Three-Tea White Ale is a thing and is yumz

  • Maple Match, an app for Americans who want to date Canadians

  • Unavoidance. I started feeling anxious and claustrophobic on planes, but even though it’s counter-intuitive to not avoid what makes us uncomfortable, we should in order to overcome it. Psychiatrists preach exposure, exposure, exposure.

  • Our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that makes us feel alert and has a similar effect to caffeine 3x a day. So, it’s ideal to drink coffee outside of those hours; if you wake up at 7am, that’s 8-9am, 12-1pm, and 5.30-6.30pm.


I watched I, Tonya, Eighth Grade, and Crazy Rich Asians. I liked the shooting style of Eight Grade and how it was as if the camera was another person in the room. It’s a relatable coming-of-age story which also sheds light on how it is to be a teenager in today’s world of social media. And of course, Crazy Rich Asians. Here’s a post by my sister which echoes my thoughts on the movie and the feels it brought up.

I’m currently in Toronto cooking something up. Stay tuned for the announcement next month x




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