Leonard Cohen in Concert

When I started listening to Leonard Cohen, he had been living in a monastary for 5 years.  I pretty much assumed that, like most of the music I started to listen to when I started university, it was by someone I would never see live.

Which is fine by me, because I prefer the prefection of a studio recording.  I like it to be exactly how the artist wanted the music to sound, because they could retry if they didn’t like it.  So, I assummed from when I first began to worship the man as something like a god, except far more powerful and actually real, I would never be in his presence.

Because I decided that years ago, I didn’t realize, until I pulled up wikipedia to write this blog, that he toured in 2008 and 2010.   But shut-up.  You don’t know what your favourite band is doing right now, so back off.

When Old Ideas, his newest album came out in January, I fell completely in love with it.  It is amazing.  It’s a beautiful look at mortality and regret, and it’s uplifting and heartbreating.  It’s aboslutely amazing, and when I learned he was touring, I was like a hawk on the ticket release date.  I was going to get me those tickets.  I registered with something or other to prebuy, and got myself floor seats on the Saddledome.

I picked up two tickets because I assumed I would find some cute single girl to take with me, because I have a completely off idea of who Leonard Cohen fans are.  See, most of the times I talk about music, it’s because I’m trying to impress a girl with how good my taste in music is.  It’s usually some really cute crunchy granola girl who cares about the world and buys clothes at second hand stores, half for the irony, and half because they care more about art than money.

Basically, her.

So, I’m looking for these girls, and they’re not showing up.  Then I start looking for other people, who at least like Leonard Cohen.  Sure, they exist, but everyone I talked to either ended up busy on the night of the show, or they weren’t interested in several consecutive hours of his music.

So, like I always do in times of great crisis, I made Kodie my solution.  I forced him to come along, because somehow, after 20 years, I can still talk him into my plans.

When I got there, I found out that the average Leonard Cohen fan is a little more…

…this…

I mean, he was born in 1934, so I’m not quite sure why I didn’t think a 78 year old genius wouldn’t have gathered fans over the years, and lots of them had known about him since … before I was born.  I mean, there were some cute young girls there, but they were spaced out amongst a sea of silver.

So I got myself a Saddledome crack-beer, and we found our seats.  And then everything was amazing.  Leonard Cohen bounded onto the stage, so full of life and energy.  He loved the crowd, and we loved him back.  He was funny, and engaging, and his songs brought him to his knees with the remembered pain and the perfect catharisis.

Every musician on stage with him was extraordinary.  They could have filled theatres themselves.  They were there to play with him.  Each one was a master, and everything sounded so … perfect.

And I was worried that my expectations would be impossible to live up to.

He played for an hour and a half, and then announced he was taking a break.  Back in reality, Kodie was … suprised to learn that we were only a half hour in.  He … he wasn’t having the blast I was, because he likes music by people who aren’t part of our grand parents generation.  He’s a little less “Hallalujah” and a little more “Call Me, Maybe.”

So we had an intermission, and then another hour and a half of great music.  Then a three song encore.  And then another.  The third standing ovation brought him out again, and he sang again and Kodie gave me this “I’m going to kill someone” look.  I assumed it might be me.  So we started heading to the door.  Leonard told us it was alright during the first encore.  “If you have someone waiting,” he said “Go to them.  If you have time, friends, I’ll sing a few more songs.”

He’s the best.

But Kodie told me that I now owed him.  Kodie never says that.  He just puts up with my ridicilous bullshit.  So basically, if Cher does another fairwell tour (her third, I guess it would be), Kodie’s boyfriend is off the hook.

 

 

Worth it.

 

Advertisements
Published in: on November 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Watchman’s Pub

Watchman’s Pub is just down the street from my apartment.  It’s a rarity on 17th Ave, much like Morgan’s Pub.  Both these places are real. 

By contrast, most of 17th is trying to be ironically classy, and the understanding of irony is about as good as their understanding of classy.  Neither is really all that good.  Classy is usually attempted by setting high prices, acting snobby, and overdoing their ultra modern decorations and menu choices.  They then try too hard to be ironic by acting contemptuous of their self-created surroundings, not worrying about dress codes for staff or customers, and acting like they were forced into a strange, expensive menu.  It blends into an expense poser mess, failing to achieve either goal. 

Watchman’s deserves respect because they just are who they are.  It’s a local pub, with just the right amount of dive bar to be charming without being scary.  They’ve got a great patio for people watching,

and the interior is such a classic pub; wood panel walls and a big central bar. 

When I came in, the crowd was perfect.  Some beer-league team shared pitchers in one corner.  Two old guys argued in a language I couldn’t place.  Some guy sat alone nursing a broken heart and a Budweiser.  Another dud had a scotch and a news paper. 

I knew I had to come here to write.  It’s the sort of place where you can sip a beer and a whiskey and pretend you’re just like Hemingway. 

…if whiskey didn’t make me sick… 

It’s a casual, seat yourself sort of place.  I was barely on my stool when the waitress popped out of nowhere, like an impatient gopher.  Literally, sit, BAM waitress. 

She was either bored or really into me, and couldn’t wait to show me what a great girlfriend she’d make with her beer and food getting skills.  I’m pretty sure it’s the second one, and cute girls who bring me beer are much cuter than those who are too busy already having boyfriends who aren’t me. 

Those girls are jerks. 

I tried the Watchman’s house draft.  It was terrible.  I think maybe some drunk took a bitter pee in a rain barrel.  It was definitely more on the dive bar ascetic than the neighborhood pub, and while it got more drinkable as the glass got emptier, next time I’ll order something I know.  But I drank the whole thing.  And it got better as it went.  I became more and more forgiving.  It wasn’t as bad as I first thought.  It just shouldn’t be your first beer.  You drink it third, when your taste is a little dulled.  It doesn’t sit well with a sober tongue, but it’s not that bad as the night goes on.  I mean, I kept drinking it.

Considering how very pub the place was, I decided to go with the fish and chips.  I almost gave them a full food star, when I realized my meal was just alright.  Sometimes, I forget that Calgary is a long way from the ocean.

A real map. From a map store.

 

I also forget what good fish and chips should taste like.  Honestly, you get Captain Highliner Imitation Fish Paddies at so many of the restaurants in the city I  fool myself into thinking tolerable fish is good. 

This man does not make food.

 These were real fish and chips.  They were good.  They weren’t great, but they were good.  And, I didn’t notice at first, but…

They came on a fish plate!

Then the bill came.  It was a great surprise, in that is was super low.  Like couch change low.  So I tipped the waitress 100 percent and promised myself I’d be back. 

This is really a great place.  Sure, I bitch, but I like Watchman’s a lot.  You really need to check it out.

************************************************************************************ 

Final Ratings: 4 Stars 

1/2 Drink Star: The beer was bad, but I wasn’t offended, because it suited the place.  I just wish I hadn’t tried it. 

1/2 Food Star: 1/2 Because they should make good fish and chips in a cool pub, and these were just … okay. 

Staff Star: Attentive and cute.  She was amazing, and made up for the problems I had with the product. 

Atmosphere Star: So cool.  Exactly what I wanted and needed. 

Price Star: Almost derserves two price stars.  Seriously, you get way more than you pay for here.

Leonard’s Visit

 

Leonard was coming back to Calgary from Art School for a week, which meant I was going to be at either the Ship and Anchor or the Distillery.  The Distillery has changed a lot lately, and in some ways, no matter how many new things she tries, Leonard is still a robot of habit in the deepest steel chambers of her mechanical heart.  She can’t handle seeing how some things have changed, and she wanted the familiar, so we were at the Ship.

We went on Friday.  If you don’t know, the Ship and Anchor is a bit of a punk pub, at least originally, but it’s slowly showing a hipster influence.  There’s a row of fake books on a shelf near the ceiling.  Antique-looking paintings and artefacts adorn the walls, interspersed with FIFA soccer pennants.  Each table had its own crowd, with no coherent group dominating the bar.  A couple of old guys spoke emphatically near a group of bookish girls too afraid to yell to be heard over the bar noise.  A pair of overly attractive people tried to decide if they wanted to make out at 8 pm in a pub, mostly through trail and error.

I got there to find Kodie, Leonard, B1 and A2.  I hadn’t eaten, so I ordered food.  For the rest of the night, one person at our table was always eating.  Either someone new would show up and order food, or someone who had been there for a while needed an appy.

I was sitting by A2.  He was ordering a different beer with each round and showing off his iPhone.

Tall showed up a bit later, followed by R1 and A3, friends of Leonard.  It freaks her out to see people she knows from different places together, especially if they get along.  She especially hates it if they start doing things without her.  She calls it “hanging out behind her back.”  I believe it’s because robots are always plotting against humans, so she assumes it goes the other way.  She knows it’s crazy, and she’s mostly gotten over it, but at times it bugs her.

So I probably shouldn’t have been hitting on A3.  Since the last time I’d seen her, she’d gotten a rather significant haircut, and was adorable with her short hair.  I was trying to be subtle, so as not to upset Leonard until there was reason for her to be truly angry at me.  On top of that, it was a loud bar, and everyone kept switching places around the table, so A3 and I didn’t get much of a chance to talk.  I doubt she noticed.  She also didn’t get my full attention, and I wasn’t willing to push to hard, so she was able to escape my considerable charm.

This time…

When Shawn showed up, our waitress changed.  The new girl was gorgeous, and completely inattentive.  You had to yell at her to stop her to order a drink.  We soon decided it was time to move the party, and Kodie and Shawn suggested the Elbow River Casino.  Tall, A3, B1 and R2 were out, but the rest of us decided to go. 

I’ve only ever been to the casino in Lethbridge.  It’s a newish building on the highway out of town.  I used to go with Txt Girl and her friends, because she loved to gamble.  I’d spend $20 on ten games of blackjack, then just hang out, because I value my money.  The Lethbridge Casino was fun every time.

Elbow River Casino was different.  It was smaller, darker, and mostly row upon row of heartless slot machines. 

Pictured: Uncivilized Gambling

 I don’t like playing the slots because they’re too much like video games.  The bright lights and sounds confuse me into thinking I’m having more fun than I am, and I forget every button I press costs me money.  I feel like my Nintendo cheated me as a child, so I know those machines that are literally after my money will for sure.  I just don’t like the disconnect I get from something too much like my Xbox 360.

So I walked by and got a drink.  Then I checked out the Blackjack.

There were no $2 tables.

The lowest on the floor were $5 minimum bet.

When the fuck did that happen?  I want 10 games for my $20.  Now, the most I’m guaranteed is 4 games.  4 fucking games.  Less than half.  I sighed, and sat down by A2.  I managed to last for 8 games without going over my $20 limit.  I was frustrated when the last of my money left so I went to find Kodie.

He was at a slot machine, and I was not sober enough to make good decisions.  In 3 minutes, the evil little robot ate $20 more.  I asked Kodie how he managed to keep the machine going.  He shrugged a timid shrug that suggested he’d spent more than he should have.

Shawn and I found the cheapest slots in the place, and I lost another $10 before I gave up.  It was home time, and I was down $50.

Do all Casino’s suck this much?  Am I remembering things wrong?

Or is the Elbow River Casino where hope goes to die?

Stampede

The Calgary Stampede can be a difficult thing to enjoy.  The city is absolutely overrun.  There’s no parking, there’s too many people on transit, there’s even more bad drivers, and there’s crowds everywhere you go.  You can’t get into a restaurant or pub.

Then again, cute girls in cowboy hats and short shorts are crowding the streets.  It’s never too early to be drunk.  There’s games and festival food.  With a plan, it’s a beautiful thing.

So I went this weekend and did it right.  David had a bunch of friends down from Edmonton, so we drank a bunch of beers at my house.  When you head out to Stampede, it helps to be less than sober.  Most of the people you meet will be drunk, and possibly assholes, but they’re easier to cope with when you’re full of beer.  

The day was a bit rainy, which actually cut down on the crowds.  There are people sober enough to go inside when the weather is terrible.  Not my kind of people, but they exist.  So we walked to the gates and paid $14 to get inside.  It pisses me off a little that there’s nothing included for that $14.  You pay that to have access to all the rest of Stampede.  Shouldn’t the people setting up booths and rides and exhibitions pay rent so that we’ll see their stuff, and we can give them even more money?  I mean, Disney Land is expensive, but you get access to all the rides with admission.  You don’t pay to get into West Edmonton Mall, you just pay for what you use.  Stampede, you pay entrance, for food, for entertainment, for souvenirs, for everything.

I need 5 beers first to justify it.

But the small crowd inside was awesome.  We walked through the midway, stopping every once in a while to gamble or throw a baseball at some beer bottles.  We checked out the rides, but since we’re planning to come back on a weekday, when you can get a wristband to ride all day, we decided not to buy any tickets.  We went to the beer gardens, had a round and got shot glasses on Mardi-Gras beads, and then the rain picked up enough that even we noticed.  So we headed over to the Big Four and hide in the casino, playing slot machines until the rain settled down.

We headed out to my favourite part of Stampede: food.  I had Taco in a Bag, Elephant Ears, the giant lemonade, and cheesecake dipped in chocolate.  I am a bottomless pit of Stampede food.

If you’re a Stampede goer, and you want to know how it stacked up, it was average.  It’s a run of the mill Stampede.  You need to go to at least one, but they probably won’t ever blow your mind.

Miniblog: Fuck Golf

Mark Twain is smart.

 

Mark Twain once said “Golf is a good walk ruined.”  I agree.  I hate golfing.  But which I mean, actually golfing.  I hate hitting the balls with the clubs and then finding the balls and then knocking them into the hole.  I’ll play video game golf, but mostly as a social activity.  

I do enjoy the way golf is played now.  I love getting absolutely shit-faced in a public place and driving around in a little golf cart.  I feel that most modern golfers aren’t really worried about their scores.  They just want to have a couple of drinks while they drive around the course.  Hitting the ball down towards the hole is just there to kill time until the beer cart girl returns. 

The number 3 reason to golf

 

I still don’t golf often, because it’s expensive, people usually expect you to at least look like you’re playing the game, and I don’t like dressing like a golfer, or even someone allowed on a golf course. 

There is one thing I really don’t understand about golf.  Why is it considered a business appropriate event?  Tall works in sales, and he often has to spend his days on a golf course.  I’ve gone to a golf event for work as well.  I can tell you that the Bailey’s hits the coffee early in the morning, and you drink while you golf for work.  If it’s a full tournament, there will be meals with more liquor and generally raffles and prizes. 

But isn’t it against pretty much every business’s code of conduct?  I mean, the idea behind work golf events is that you’re there to conduct business, to make offers and sales while golf is the background.  But golf is the background to drinking, riding in a cart, and staring at beer cart girls.  You shouldn’t do any of those things in a work enviroment.  Once you’re drunk, you shouldn’t be making business deals, and when there’s prizes, aren’t those almost like bribes? 

I really don’t see why it’s considered acceptable to do business on the golf course.  I’d be fine if it was allowable for other things.  Why can’t you go bowling or to karaoke?  Why is golf, which is less of a sport and more of a drinking game, considered okay as a serious background?  I mean, it’s about as serious as go-karting, when you get down to it.

The Baby Stag

I recently went up to Edmonton to visit a buddy of mine from high school just before his wife had a baby.  I asked them what they wanted me to call them in my blog, as per my naming convention, and she told me to make up nicknames for them.  She requested they sound like 80s supervillians.  So she is Malinmar and he is Professor Destructo. 

This was my first baby stag.  It is a party you have before the baby is born, when you don’t have to worry about being too quiet or being a bad influence.  It’s more bachelor party than baby shower.  The party was a Saturday evening, so Kodie and I drove up that day, planning to sleep on our hosts floor.  We brought amusing gifts for the baby based on old inside jokes.  We fascinated the guests who arrived before us.  I had my ninj-brella because it was raining, 

A weapon? Protection from the rain? Or both...

And our vodka was in a crystal skull. 

Magic Vodka

Yeah, prop comedy.  How far the mighty have fallen… 

I grew up with Professor Destructo.  When I think back to my earliest memories, his house is the first friend’s I remember playing at.  We took figure skating lessons together, including a performance dressed as Ewoks, and went to the same school from kindergarten to grade 12.  It’s a bit odd to visit him at the house he owns, with his wife, to celebrate his first child.  It’s really cool, but it’s also weird.  I can picture him as an unsteady four year old dressed as Wicket, and he’s having a baby.

I may be remembering it wrong, but I think we looked like this

 

Malinmar is a different story, because I’ve only known her as an adult.  I met her at their wedding, and took a liking to her right away.  It could be that I like to be famous, and I feel famous when I hang out with her.  In Harvey, the greatest  play of all time, Elwood Dowd says “You seem to have me at a disadvantage,” when someone knows his name, and more about him than he knows about them.  I always feel this way with Malinmar.  Professor Destructo has told her reams of stories about me, but as we haven’t lived in the same city since high school, he never had many chances to tell me about her.  She’s also read a great number of my blogs, so she knows what I think about things and we always have great conversations about things I’m interested in, on which she has insightful ideas. 

The best part about her, though, is she’s good for Professor Destructo.  They compliment each other with different strengths and a genuine desire to look after each other.  When Professor Destructo gets lost, which happens because he’s easily distracted, she’s there to right his course.  When Malinmar gets down, he’s there to lift her up, and he’s never happier than when he’s doing something to make her smile.  They also speak the same way.  They say “realistically” constantly.  I made a game out of it, to see if what they said afterwards was realistic.  It’s similar to when you try to determine if people are using irony after they say “it’s ironic.” 

This was one of the biggest gatherings of my friends from high school, probably since Malinmar and Professor Destructo got married.  We drank at their house, and Ryan dominated the room.  This always happens, because he’s got an incredible presence, and all eyes end up on him.  He’s quick witted and gregarious, and always seems to be the center of the most interesting conversations.  So we listened to stories about the drunkest he’s ever been, and how everyone reads the letters of the “Anonymous” tattoo on his arm upside down, and due to the script get “Snowhound” instead.  

I think I realized why Kodie and Ryan always got along so well.  Kodie rarely speaks, but with Ryan there, no none notices or cares. 

Rounding out the group of people I spent everyday in high school with was Skippy.  Skippy and Professor Destructo stayed close like Kodie and I did.  For Skippy’s last birthday, Malinmar got him a doll so he could practice not hurting the baby, just before she announced her pregnancy.  Skippy is a series of contradictions.  He looks like a biker, with a bushy beard, standing 6 foot 3, and you have to really pay attention to notice the guy is brilliant.  He doesn’t want you to know.  He listens to really heavy metal, or the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra.  He will constantly make comments designed to display how negligent he is, until someone actually needs help, which he gives freely and with gusto. 

There were a bunch of other people there as well, some whom I knew, others who had gone to university with Professor Destructo, Malinmar, and Ryan, and others who’s relation I couldn’t trace.  Kodie, Skippy and I spent a while catching up or listening to Ryan, until it was time to bowl. 

I haven’t been five pin bowling in years, mostly because I have an easier time finding ten pin.  We took up three lanes.  We drank beer at bowling alley prices, which is the true meaning of bowling. 

The bartender was a cute girl in dreads who was eating out of Ryan’s hand as soon as he spoke to her.  He felt bad, being unavailable as she kept throwing herself at him with mounting desperation.  We kept egging him on to find out facts about her.  Between being the center of attention, and really just being asked to talk to the cute girl, he couldn’t deny us.  By the end of the night he knew her age, whet she was taking in uni, where she was born, and nearly every biographical fact she could offer, except for her name and how to get her on the phone.  I think he broke her heart. 

Skippy bowls regularly, and destroyed our scores by the end of the first game.  Professor Destructo couldn’t believe I came in second, probably because in high school I was notoriously bad at sports.  The thing is bowling is less a sport and more a drinking game.  There’s a certain  buzz I can catch that makes me a competent bowler. 

By the second game I had passed it and came in near the bottom of the heat. 

Kodie watched us all silently, pleased to see how easily things could go back to the way they always were, at least for a night. 

After three or four games (I’m really not sure) we returned to the house.  Skippy had to head out, and as he was the sober guy in a crowd of drunks, I really don’t blame him.  Kodie and Malinmar had a long discussion about religion.  He kept dragging me into it, no matter how I tried to escape.  I’d find another conversation, but he’d need to check a fact with me.  

Not long after Kodie realized he was drinking, and as usually he decided he had better vomit and pass out.  I had long discussions about movies, superheroes, and heard a harrowing tale of betrayal in those pre-dawn hours where exhaustion and the haze of vodka mean everyone who’s still awake can be trusted, and you’ll only remember topics, not specifics.  It’s when truths come out, the sort you wish didn’t have to be true, but need shared when there’s no light left, just to purge the darkness.  If you’ve never lasted to five am, I can’ t really explain this twilight to you.  I encourage you to learn pacing, because these are the most human moments in the world, and if they aren’t painfully sad, they are ridiculously perfect.  You won’t know until they happen, but every one is a treasure of truth. 

Soon after, I was asleep on the couch.  I woke up to the 2009 Astroboy movie playing, which has Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, and Kirsten Bell.  It’s better than I expected, and is worthy of that cast.  Malinmar got up soon after, and was puttering around the kitchen, making breakfast for everyone.  I offered to help, but she tod me I’d just be in her way. 

Despite my knowledge of breakfast cooking, a talent even Gilly will admit I possess, I’m never offended when I get kicked out of a kitchen.  Anyone who doesn’t want your help probably knows exactly what they’re doing.  Malinmar made the best French Toast anyone has ever eaten.  Ever.  She also made a range of bacon, from deliciously soft, to ruined crispy, so that even freaks could have their burnt, ruined bacon. 

Ryan’s mom lives in Edmonton, and she joined us for breakfast.  She spent a far portion of the meal trying to convince us she had never done anything wrong and neither had her son.  We had grown up with him and spent the previous night listening to him trying to figure out which story was actually the drunkest he had ever been, but he quietly nodded, letting his escapades slip below her radar. 

I don’t quite understand it.  I’m proud of my mistakes.  I’ll tell anyone about the time I jumped out of a moving car, or why I can’t drink scotch, or the tale of Tequila Bender 2006.  My mom, much to her regret, keeps reading my blogs and sees hears the tales of my escapades.  I think she prays constantly that David never takes up blogging. 

Unlike Skippy’s Birthday, which I call November Absinth Massacre, Kodie was able to move the next day.  He drove us back to Calgary, talking about how he wants to plan a camping trip with me, Skippy, Ryan, and, if he can leave the baby for a few days, Professor Destructo. 

******************************************** 

Since this was written, the baby has been born.  This kid doesn’t know how lucky he is.  Baby Destructo couldn’t come into a more loving home, and couldn’t ask for a better set of people as parents.

The Back Alley With My Brother

I don’t try to keep up with David, my younger brother, very often.  I tend to feel old amongst his friends, mostly because they’re much younger than him, too.  I’m Methuselah in their company.  He sometimes gets caught up in trying to impress his group of acolytes; servers, bartenders, and hangers-on, who are drawn to his gregarious personality.  He forgets that they would already follow him over the brink of reason.  He doesn’t need to go big to impress them, but somehow he always decides he needs to out drink them, out party them, out go-without-sleep them, and generally out do them.

  

Then again, he is my brother, and that does lend itself towards a certain flair for the dramatic.  I’ve just gotten too old to need to do a shot of tequila or stay up till 5 am to prove myself.  I only do those things when I want to, not because someone else thinks I should.  

David gets along with my friends, but I live in a calmer world.  I mean, watch how early in the following tale we lose my social group:  

On Saturday night of May Long Weekend, I invited Matt, Ren, and David over for the sort of thing that lives more in my sort of social gathering than my brothers.  We watched Yatterman, a strange and wonderful piece of Japanese … something.  

Technically a movie, but …

We watched it with no subtitles and drank every time it made no sense.  Ren kept predicting the fucked up things in the movie, like the flowers were missiles, or that Yattergirl could deflect them with a stick.  

The movie is pretty fucked up, so we were nicely drunk by the time it ended.  David and I decided we wanted to go to a bar.  At the mention of such a thing, Matt and Ren vanished.  Matt had important World of Warcraft raiding to do, and Ren, not always the most social individual, was in no mood for the drunken general public that night.  

My friends, in general, are not partiers. 

David asked me to call anyone I knew who would join us.  I scrolled through the contact list on my phone.  There were maybe three people in there who might have gone, and they were out of town.  So he furiously texted a bunch of people while I played poker on my phone as we rode the train to the Back Alley

While drinking, my BlackBerry photography skills are minimal at best...

 We arrived to find a short line out front, who turned out to be smokers finishing their cigarettes before they headed inside.  It appeared the city had been abandoned for the long weekend.  We flashed our IDs at the bouncer and checked our coats.  

 Of all the clubs I’ve ever been to, the Back Alley is by far the best.  The first time I came, it raised my expectations for all clubs forever after, and nowhere else has ever come close.  Mostly, it comes from the music.  Very few clubs play music I like, as I find most dance and top 40 jarring.  Back Alley plays Modest Mouse, the Proclaimers, Rage Against, ACDC, and all sorts of stuff you don’t hear outside of pubs.  I never find myself praying to Zeus to fry the sound system with divine lightning to save my sanity.  

Not the ghost town I had expected

 On top of that, they always keep the crowd at a good size.  Even on the long weekend, we were pleased to find the place was busy, and the dance floor was packed, but we could move, and find a space to breathe if we needed one.  The staff is fun, and seems to enjoy their jobs, even the tit-shot girls who pour a shout of tequila down patrons throat from a hip-holstered bottle, and then motorboat the drinker.  I was a bit surprised they still do this, but I guess they’re will always be a market.  Even the bathroom attendants are unobtrusive and helpful.  Other places, I find them creepy, mostly because in University, the clubs that had them either needed them to ensure you weren’t coking up in the bathroom, or they were selling coke.  In the Back Alley, you never notice them until they drop some liquid soap in your hands and turn on the water, and they keep the place far cleaner than you would expect from such a busy club. 

David and I did a lap around the dance floor, on the off chance anyone we knew was there.  Apparently, even David’s texting was fruitless on May Long, the busiest camping weekend of the year.  We grabbed a pair of stools by the dance floor, and enjoyed a couple of beers and the scenery. 

Two cute girls slid off the dance floor, brunettes in little black dresses, barstars in their prime, and they ask my brother if he’s David.  He feels famous, even though one girl went to school in Stettler with Bev, our youngest sister.  They wanted to dance, but David knows me.  “You need a couple more first, right?” 

“I’ll be fine,” I told him, waving him towards the floor.  “You go, I’ll have some beers and people watch.”  Barstar2, the girl who wasn’t from Stettler, looked really disappointed as the three of them went back to the floor. 

Cute girls don’t know it, but they love to be ignored. 

By 12:34, focus was not my strong point.

I don’t know why, but I always feel part of something when I’m enjoying the same music as people around me.  I always get that feeling in the Back Alley.  I’m involved in whatever everyone in the building is involved in, and it’s not like a Starbucks, where people are in public, but each table is an island.  Everyone is here, in the same place.  I think it’s something we avoid, with iPods and carefully ignoring everyone around us.  I know I’m guilty of it too, and it’s nice to step out into a bigger world, even if it’s just for a few hours. 

I'm 93% certian this is the bartender I'm talking about

When I went and grabbed another beer from the bartender, she’s par for the course here; stunningly gorgeous, down to Earth, and glad you’re there.  I often find servers in busy clubs seem bored, and are faking that you’re not a hassle.  Staff at the Back Alley treat you like you’re attending their party, at their house.  Sure, they’re busy, but they’re having a great time, and it’s really important to them that you are too.I got lost in the crowd, enjoying the people around me.  I saw old friends running into each other by surprise, new couples clumsily batting tongues as if they’re alone, people lost in the sound and dancing their hearts out, and the strange, flamboyant people with Mohawks and feather boas, trying to find themselves and praying no one notices they’re lost.  I mouthed the words to songs and slipped like a shadow through the club, soaking up all the spilled drops of life stories. 

After a while, David and the Barstars came off the floor, and we did a round of Jaggerbombs.  “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers came on, and Barstar2 and I shouted the lyrics at each other.  She asked us if everyone from Stettler Line dances.  As she did, the only country song they play all night comes on, and it was “Cadillac Ranch” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, so in the back of the bar David, Barstar1 and I formed a line and showed them what we learn in Junior High School in small town Alberta. 

I was trying to be a good brother here, and wingman for David.  The problem is, he hadn’t chosen his Barstar of preference, so we kept switching girls.  Since he wouldn’t pick, I was waiting for them to do it for him.  They either couldn’t decide who wants whom, or neither is willing to settle for the runner up, or “Little Brother” prize, as I like to call him. 

This went on for a while, and at some point later in the evening, we got separated from the Barstars, who find guys who will buy them drinks to impress them.  Suddenly, they seemed very thirsty.  David is poor, and I was just sober enough to remember it’s often a mistake to hook up with a 20 year old Barstar.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t, but I’m not willing to spend fifty bucks to get her drunk to seal the deal.  Or twenty bucks.  We gave them another beer (which is a unit of time in which it takes us to consume a single beer, we really weren’t buying them drinks by this point) to choose cool over guys who have nothing to offer but a drink, and then headed over to say goodbye before we grab a cab. 

They were super disappointed, but they walked away from us, so we returned the favour.  David grabbed both their numbers, and they were also disappointed when I don’t ask.  They have little to offer me outside of their little black dresses, except being out of their little black dresses, and I’m not taking a rain check on that.  Barstar2 hugs me goodbye, which catches me unaware, and is really awkward until I call her clingy.  David and Barstar1 laughed, and she caught on that it was a joke.  She seemed to learn an important lesson about whoring herself out for vodka slimes. 

David and I took a cab back to my place, where he crashed on the couch.  I have a very small stash of Aquarius, and after drinking hard for twelve hours, I decided to pre-cure my hangover. 

This is what magic looks like

As I fell asleep, I thought about how after I go to most clubs, I don’t want to go back ever again, or at least for six months.  I never get that with the Back Alley.  I was ready to go back the next day…

************************************************************************************

Final Rating: 5 Star

As stated above, I love the Back Alley, so that get all the stars:

  • Drink Star
  • Staff Star
  • Price Star
  • Music Star
  • Atmosphere Star

 ****************************************************

Seriously, did you go to Joey’s Twitter yet?

Staying In

I know back in my mission statement, one of my goals was to get out more, but tonight that’s not happening.  The weather is cold and miserable, and every time I think of brining my little black book to a bar or a coffee shop, I cringe.  I just want to stay in.

On my way home from work, I just decided fuck it.  I stopped at Edo on the way.  Their menu claimed they had a bento.  Bento is the Japanese term for an easy box lunch.  Normally, there’s some art to these.  I mean, they look nice, even from convenience stores.  Not here.  Here they just throw some food in a Styrofoam to-go box.

Well, Finger painting is an art too, kinda

Yep, Calgary still uses Styrofoam.

I trudged back to my place to enjoy a couch bound evening.  I mean, look at the weather outside.

The Sky is frowning

That’s literally what the sky looks like, and there’s no MS Paint involved.

Want to see something sad?  I went to the fridge and found this

One sad, lonely beer

That’s sad for the beer, so I better drink him.

Normally, I try to limit my time with DVDs and video games.  I enjoy them, but they’re traps.  Time traps.  I’m pretending it’s okay that I’m putting in this evenings third disk of The Office because every once in a while I write a line in the book between episodes.  Also, I went to the gym twice this week, so it’s okay.

I’m sad for me because the beer is gone.  What else is in the fridge?

Cream Soda?

 Why the fuck do I have Cream Soda.  Do I even like Cream Soda?  I poured it into a glass to find out.  It’s not terrible, but I don’t want to go back to the couch without a full drink.  That’s just asking for trouble.  I’ll need to get up again way to soon.  What goes with Cream Soda?

 
 
 
 

Is it Vodka?

Obviously.  Vodka goes with every thing.  How could this be terrible?

It fucking is.  It’s like discount cough syrup.  I should just head out, grab a beer at Watchman’s around the corner, or at least pick up some decent mix.

But

 
 
 

The Sky is frowning

Screw it.  Vodka Cream Soda isn’t that bad.  Mostly.

Oregon Miscellany

Portland from 30 Stories Up

Portland from 30 Stories Up

There are several Oregon items that don’t quite merit their own posts, but they’re good.  I’ll collect them all here:    

Micro-breweries: Apparently, Portland is the micro-brew capital of the world.  They have approximately 3 micro-breweries on each block.  Any beer which is bottled more than a dozen at a time is despised, and generally unavailable to prevent riot.  Instead, everywhere you go, someone offers you a beer you’ve never tried.  There are lots of good ones, but by Oregon law, you may never drink the same beer twice.  Ever.    

Wineries: As above, but with wine.  Also, I don’t really care about wine without a Stretch Hummer.    

The British and Rivers: Chris asked Gilly why the English were obsessed with finding the source of rivers.    

“What do you mean?” she asked, confused.    

“British people are always trying to find out where rivers come from.  Like where does the Nile start, or the beginning of the Amazon.  You’re all obsessed with it.”    

“Where did you get that idea?”    

“I’ve been reading books by an English author, and every one has finding the source of a river was a major plot point in each book.”    

“Maybe it’s just that writer.”    

“Maybe.”    

“I mean, I went to the source of the Thames, and it wasn’t impressive.”    

“See!  No one else would care!”    

We’re an All Natural Commune: Portland is a green city.  It’s good for the world, and the ease and access of bike trails and public transit are admirable.  Sometimes, they go a bit far.  Everything is all organic, done/made by hand, and locally produced, and it’s very important to the average Portlandian.  They seem to think the rest of the world is a poison cesspool full of robot created Chinese death.    

As I was leaving, Chris was worried that I didn’t bought any completely natural, handmade Portland goods.  I told him, “I think that’s more important if you’re from Portland.  Akiyo laughed so hard I thought she was going to burst a blood vessel.  I think she may be tired of hearing about the wonders of handmade organic Portland goods.    

Sales Tax: Oregon has no sales tax.  It’s the only thing anyone knows about the state up here in Canada.  Txt Girl, a cute girl who lives in Vancouver and texts between every heartbeat sent me three messages when she heard I was going.  Each expressed her jealousy that I could shop without paying sales tax.  People in Portland try to convince you you should buy an extra metric tonne of handmade organic goods because there’s no tax, and you could just ship it home.  They refuse to understand that the freight would be higher than G.S.T.    

Gilly’s Detective Skills: Gilly joined me on the couch as I was working on a blog.  Because the whole internet will see it later, I let her read over my shoulder.  She pointed to where I had written Gimtmbifhbsic.    

 

     

It looks like this in the Black Book

It looks like this in the Black Book

    

That’s not a word,” she told me.    

“You’re a great English Teacher.  It’s a code.”    

“Why are you writing in code?”    

“I’m not sure if I’m going to put it in.”    

“But why bother with code?”    

“So if you see it, you won’t know what it says.”    

“Are you worried I’ll be mad if you write ‘Gilly is mean to me, but I forgive her because she is cute’?”    

“…no.  And it’s not slander if it’s true.”    

Food Stands: On third and fifth street in downtown Portland, there are outdoor food stalls like the ones at Skidmore Market.  The food is great and inexpensive.  You have to try them if you get the chance.    

Powell’s:    

It's bigger than it looks

It's bigger than it looks

Powell’s is an enormous second-hand bookstore.  They have new titles as well, and they’re stored on the same shelves, so if there are no used copies you can still get the book.  It’s divided by the Dewey Decimal System, and I think it may be bigger than the University of Lethbridge library.  They certainly have more rare books.  It is several stories tall, and divided into sections like literature, genre fiction, true crime, travel, foreign language, and each ends up with its own room, large enough to be a lesser bookstore.    

When I see this, I hear Choirs of Angels...

When I see this, I hear Choirs of Angels...

Bookstores are fiscally dangerous for me.  It happens like this; I see things I want, I buy them, and I don’t worry about when I’ll actually have time to read them.  I tore through the building, abandoning Gilly in the first room.  When she caught up to me, 45 minutes later, I had shown great restraint.  I only had three books I had to buy.  There were eight more I was seriously considering.  They were the sort of strong maybes that would become yeses with just a little time.  Gilly had much stricter requirements.  She wanted something small (even by book standards) due to the weight restrictions on her luggage home, cheap as this was a used bookstore, and unique enough she might not find it somewhere else.  She needed more time.    

I realized I was about fifteen minutes from a euphoric bookstore breakdown.  This would have led me to drain my bank account and max out my credit card.  There was no tax, so I could just ship all those books home.  Before all logic drained from my brain, I bought the books under my arm and headed to the attached coffee shop.  I waited there, downing mochas for two hours while Gilly gave the store the attention it deserved.  I kept thinking I should get just one more book.    

Akiyo Plays Volleyball: In Japanese school, if you join a sports team, you spend hours each day playing that sport, a level of dedication reserved strictly for hockey in Canada.  Akiyo played volleyball from Junior High until she finished university, and we went to watch one of her community league games.    

Akiyo is sweet, energetic, friendly, and modest.  When she’s playing volleyball, she’s all those things and a force to be reckoned with.  She tends to call thing out in Japanese.  For example, when she serves, she yells “Hai!  Ippun!”  She can play any position, and play them well.  She was dominating the games we watched.  At one point, when she was serving, she scored ten consecutive points.  She would serve, and before you knew it, she was at the net, spiking the ball back with more force than she could have possibly contained.  She was everywhere at once, and the other team was terrified of her.    

Gilly Makes a Wish:  Gilly didn’t want to go back to work, and wished she didn’t have to fly back to the UK.  The next day, a volcano in Iceland exploded, interrupting all air travel to Great Britain.  The airlines lost over $200 million a day, and I encourage them to talk to Gilly about it, because correlation equals causation and this is her fault.    

A Ride in a Convertible: Chris’s care is a two-seater green convertible, which is cool but not practical when he, Gilly, and I need to go somewhere.  We kept walking or talking trains, but eventually we needed to drive somewhere and couldn’t find a larger car to borrow.  Chris informed us that there is a way to fit three.    

We pushed the passenger seat all the way back, and I sat there, being much bigger than Gilly.  She crawled in and sat on the floor between my legs.  Even though she’s tiny, it was a tight fit, with my legs squeezing her ribs.     

In order to avoid being pulled over, Chris decided to stay off the main roads.  The street we took had speed bumps.  Before we reached the first one, Gilly instructed “Make a cushion with your hands behind my head.  I don’t want to head butt you in the crotch.     

As I do, Chris informs us “Usually, the third sits facing the person in the seat.”    

I take a moment to think of how that would work, with Gilly’s face colliding with my business.  It is not an image of pain.  “You can turn around if you want,” I suggest, with my smirk in my voice.    

Just then, we hit a speed bump, and I catch the back of her head as it flies at me, too quick for comfort.  “You can move your hands, if you want.”    

Gimtmbifgbsic.    

Going Home: I decided “Fuck Bombardier Q400s” on the way home.  Alaska Air my charge $6 for a tiny bottle of vodka, but I wasn’t going to get pass-out drunk on beer.  I had to shell out.  I finished my first, and try to get my second.  Apparently, we were too close to descent, and the attendant wouldn’t bring me another.    

Sweet Escape

Sweet Escape

I grab a few quick drinks in Seattle, and formulate a plan for the next flight.  I slammed the first.  I figured if I went fast, I could get 3 down in an hour and not think about how much I hated the deathtrap around me.  You think the flight attendant got without shouting range at any time before we hit turbulence?  Because that would be a big no.  I think they were hiding from me.

******************************************

Is there a story about you and Joey you’d like to hear him tell?  Want to know his warped perception of some event?  Good news, he’ll take your requests, about that time you met, what he remembers about you, or that fucked up time in Cleveland that no one really wants to remember.  Send him a message through WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, or email and he’ll write it and let you know when it goes up.

A Cabin in Bend

Chris and Akiyo asked Gilly and I if we wouldn’t mind leaving Portland for one night during our visit.  They seemed hesitant, like they thought we might say no.  Chris believes the city is an endless source of constant amusement.  As it’s not Vodka City, capital of the Island of Hot Desperate Women, I don’t feel the level of awe that he sometimes seemed to expect from me.  There’s a resort town in Eastern Oregon called Bend, and Chris really wanted Akiyo to see it.  Gilly’s up for pretty much anything, as long as it’s not my idea.  Akiyo was able to convince her boss to give her a day and a half off in the middle of the week, so we made reservations for Wednesday.    

As Bend is a three hour drive, we couldn’t take Chris’s car.  It’s a two-seater green convertible, and it’s as cool as it is impractical.  We decided to rent a  car, a Toyota Corolla, and we headed off after lunch.  We went through Gresham, an endless suburb of Portland.  It goes on into eternity, a hopeless wasteland of strip malls and lower middle income housing.  I quickly learned why Chris calls it “Fucking Gresham” under his breath every few moments; the place begs for contempt.    

We continued on, and Akiyo fell asleep in the back.  Apparently, she does this on any trip over 10 minutes long.  Gilly was reading beside her, some kind of smart person book with a title I can’t be bothered to remember.  (And to think, someone gave me an English Literature degree).  As we headed through the mountains, Chris and I kept playing with the radio, trying to keep a strong signal on a decent channel.  Gilly politely informed me if I didn’t leave the radio alone, she may resort to murder.  Concluding I would be the most likely victim of such an act, I turned the music off.    

Canadians, have any of you ever used chains on a car?  As we headed up Mount Hood, sign after sign insists they are required.  When I asked Chris why, he said they’re for snow.  I still don’t understand.  Are they to tie to a trailer hitch to pull you out of a snow bank?  Do you wrap them around your tires like tank treads?  I’ve driven in snow since about the first time I got behind the wheel, and I have never needed them.  Chris seemed certain that any snow would mean sudden death for all of us, a tragedy that would be easily averted if only the rented Corolla had chains.  My offer to drive if he got scared did not go over well, and we kept going, chainless, due to my challenge of his manliness.    

Really?

Really?

Seriously, though, fuck chains.    

We crossed the mountains without incident, and the landscape became more familiar.  It was full on prairie, interrupted by river valleys full of coolies.  The rest of the car is amazed at how sparse, flat and dry it is.  I was worried I would fall asleep, so I glance back at Gilly to see if it’s safe to turn the radio back on.  She reads me like a children’s book and shakes her head.  Murder was still on the docket.  Chris and I started telling tasteless jokes about nuns.  Gilly decided we could have the radio back.    

One of several entrances

One of several entrances

In Bend, we were staying at Old St. Francis School.  Chris told us the story of the McMenamin Brothers.  They started running a micro-brewery several years ago.  Using the profits, they started buying several interesting properties in Oregon, and turning them into resort hotels.  This used to be a Catholic school, but now the classrooms have been turned into hotel rooms.  The rest of the school’s facilities have been converted into guest services.    

At the front desk, we found that because we booked our rooms together, we had use of one of the cottages.  It turns out that the school used to provide lodging for some of the teachers on the grounds.  Eventually, these homes were used for classes, before they were converted back into cottages.  We were in the Art House.   

Our Cabin

Our "Cabin"

I don’t know why they called it a cabin or a cottage.  It looked like a house, just with exceptionally bad paintings on the wall.  The faces were scary, and the colour was a bit like old puke.  

Those walls *shudder*

Those walls *shudder*

  Apart from that single visual complaint, it was amazing.  We had a private kitchen, a breakfast nook, a full living room, and the bedrooms and bathrooms were off a little hallway.  It cost about what I would have expected for hotel rooms, not a full on set of conjoined suites, which we literally had.  

Out our backdoor was a courtyard with tables and bonfires. 

Bonfires don't photograph well...

Bonfires don't photograph well...

  Yeah, full on bonfires.  There was a cigar bar with a complete food and drink menu in one corner, and anything purchased there could be consumed around the fires.  However, you couldn’t smoke cigarettes, just cigars.  I really don’t know how that worked.   

There was a normal restaurant, but we were more interested in the eccentric parts of the resort.  They had a movie theatre with a bar and food, but we couldn’t agree on any of the movies.  Chris likes cheesy 80s movies, like Romancing the Stone.  Gilly goes for chick flicks or kid’s movies.  Akiyo speaks English really well, but really prefers if a movie has subtitles, either in English or Japanese, to make sure she understands what’s going on.  No one but Kodie shares my taste in movies, so they weren’t even playing The Convent.    

 

  

The Greatest Movie Ever

The Greatest Movie Ever

 

We decided to give theatre a pass.    

Old Saint Francis School also had a soaking pool, which is like an extra large hot tub.  When we lived in Japan, the four of use used to go to onsens together, which are Japanese public baths.  Chris glanced in through the window in the door to see how similar the facilities were.  He quickly jumped back with a devil’s grin and said something in Japanese that I didn’t catch.  Akiyo was aghast and Gilly laughed. I peered through the window.    

The room on the other side was gorgeous.  An old chapel had been converted to hold the pool.  A skylight and high stained glass windows let in natural light.  The walls were painted with murals of monks working vineyards.  Steam rose from the water, which entered the pool through a gentle fountain in the center and the lion statue in the corners of the pool.  The eye was most drawn, however, to the long haired man sitting on the edge of the pool.  He didn’t appear to be wearing anything, but details were blocked by the girl in the tiny bikini and a tramp stamp.  She stood in the pool, pressed against him, and trying to crawl down his throat tongue first.    

“Oh,” I said as I stepped back.  Gilly took a peek but Akiyo was too crept out.  That would never happen in a Japanese onsen..  We decided to go get our swimsuits, on the official hope that they would stop by the time we returned.  I tried to hurry everyone along because I think it would be funnier to interrupt them and see what they would do.  Despite my best efforts, Poolguy and Trampstamp are gone by our return.     

We soaked, and discussed how that would never happen in Japan, partially because onsens are nude and gender segregated.  Co-ed onsens came up, but Akiyo told us only creepy old Japanese grandfathers go to those.  Gilly piped up “No, creepy young English teachers go too.”  She inclined her head to indicate me.     

“So that’s a no on making out in the soaking pool then?”    

She didn’t answer, as more people came through the door, providing her resounding no.    

After an hour or so, we dressed, and passed an old gym which had been converted into a live music venue.  Like everything they had a full food and drink menu.  A bunch of middle aged dudes were playing slow folk rock.  Akiyo wasn’t familiar with the genre.  “Are they good?”    

“Not really,” I told her.  “I doubt the good bands play on Wednesday night.”    

We decided to spend the evening in the Fireside Pub instead.  The place had an enormous hearth and pool tables.  We had an incredible meal.  I loved their Devil’s Grin beer, and the garlic knots and wood-baked pizza were superb.  We were there for quite a while, mostly because Akiyo wanted to grab a seat by the fire.  We waited until the girls at the nearest table left, and ate desert by the fire.  The chocolate brownie was a s good as the rest, but we may have overeaten a bit. 

Fireside for dessert

Fireside for dessert

We headed back to the cabin in time to catch The Daily Show and Colbert Report.  Akiyo had trouble following either show, and feel asleep by the first commercial break.  Chris and I prefer different programs, so I insisted Gilly decide which was better.  She chose Jon Stewart either to spite me or, more likely, she didn’t quite get Colbert yet, and needs to watch more of him to really get him.    

Here’s the very best part though; in the morning at Saint Francis, someone leaves a basket on the front porch.  Inside are a newspaper and fresh ground coffee.  It was right there, waiting for me, and it was amazing.  I drank a little over half a pot before we had to check out.  If you’re ever in Oregon, you need to check out a McMenamins’ resort.    

**************************************************    

Just try to follow Joey on Twitter.  Just try.