Drinking in Stettler

It’s been ten years since I lived in Stettler full time.  A decade.  Sure, my first few years of university, I came back for the summers, but that just isn’t the same.  While I still have family there, none of my friends live there anymore.  Hell, none of my friends parents live there.  I don’t know anyone in town I’m not related to anymore.

David wanted to go out on Friday night, and I had nothing else to do, I tagged along.  We headed out to one of his friends apartments, and I recognized it instantly.  Kodie used to live there.

People tend to come to Stettler to settle.  They have families, and they want houses with big back yards so the kids can run around, and some are there to retire.  People don’t move across town often, and when they do, it’s a big deal.  The last time my parents moved, it was because our house burnt down.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I think it’s pretty admirable to find a place where you belong and make it your own.

The problem is not everyone knows where they belong.  When you reach a transition phase, say when you’re done high school and don’t know what you want to do with your life, there’s not a lot of options in Stettler.  People want to move out, but there’s not a hell of a lot of places to go.  People tend to buy houses, not rent them.  Most of the people in the few apartment buildings plan to live there their whole lives.

So if you want to move out of your parent’s house, and you’re not ready to leave Stettler, then there are about three places you can rent.  Ten years ago, Kodie lived two suites down from the apartment we went that night.  We walked in, and it was like a time machine.  I didn’t realize how much I’d raised my standard of living.  I don’t really hang out in places with that many bugs anymore, or that many empty bottles.  You could tell the poor bastards that lived there had been given the dubious honour of being the standard party hosts.  Everyone just assumed they could come there to drink, and they didn’t really say no.

We hung out for a while, and … and it was Stettler.  We didn’t have much else to do but play drinking games.  We did something called Three Man, which was kind of like a drinking version of craps.  So … a bunch of guys sat around the table, making each other drink.

University is worth it, without a degree, just for the gender ratios.

So we drank, and I told them I was old so that I wouldn’t have to make myself sick, and they kept going.  Then we had to go down for the cab they had called.

I was… shocked to say the least.  Each day, my walk to work would take me right across Stettler.  There’s a real problem in town with cars.  No one realizes you rarely need a car, and people drive more often than needed.  If you aren’t carrying stuff or transporting small children, you can probably walk it.  To give you a hint of how little we needed it is the cost; we herded drunks like cats and they guy left the meter running so that the cost was six dollars.

We went to Social Bo’s, which is the one bar in Stettler that pretends to be a club and nearly succeeds. 

Look right across the bar

It has had several names, the earliest I remember is the Kowloon.  It sits in a little strip mall, and used to be attached to a restaurant.   Bouncers stand at the entrance, and there’s a bar and a shot bar, but if the music was off, you could have a conversation across the room.  It’s really not that big.  People dance, instead of sitting at their tables nursing beers.  Well, people still sit at their tables, mostly guys who are afraid to be seen dancing.   Most of Stettler’s bars are pubs with old guys sitting around looking sad.   I’m not saying I’m a big fan of clubs to begin with, and the makeshift version in Stettler, well, it depresses me.

What really hit me though, were the patrons.  Anyone who’s still in Stettler at my age generally has a couple of kids, and won’t be found in the bar.  No, the people there are either in or just out of high school.  As I looked around the bar, I realized that most of the people there probably hadn’t started the first grade by the time I left high school.  I felt old, in a I need to get out of here. 

They may be blurry, but I assure you, they also may be underage

David decided to stay because he knows who was actually of age, and has lower standards than me.  I just … I couldn’t.  I don’t belong there.  He asked how I would get home.  I reminded him it was Stettler, and then walked for ten minutes.

And I don’t think I’ll be back at Social Bo’s.  I’m too old and it’s too creepy.  I couldn’t even stick around long enough to give them a review.

But it probably would have come up as creepy.

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Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 12:01 am  Comments (1)  
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Flying to London

I only had 10 days in England, and I wasn’t going to lose any of them to jet lag.  Since I couldn’t sync my sleep cycle before I left, I decided to try and crash into English time.  I stayed up as late as I could the night before I left, planning to coast trough work.  I wanted to be completely exhausted, but force myself to stay awake until a proper bed time and then fall to an exhausted sleep when I got to England.

In the early hours of the morning, I was goofing off on the internet when I realized either they changed my flight time or I such at the 24 hour clock, because the flight I though left at 8 pm left at 10.  I pretended it was delayed and went through with my original plan.  I also decided I need to practice the 24 hour clock.  The next day at:

07:15 I showed up at S1`s place.  I had bribed her with Crave Cupcakes to take me and my luggage to work that day, and to the airport that night. 

How to get your way in one easy step

This plan meant no suit cases on the C-Train, which makes my life easier.

08:00 to 16:00 Apparently I worked, but in a cloud of anticipation, I don`t remember any of it.

16:01 I rushed S1 out of the office.

16:20 We arrived at the airport.  I was bouncing around the car the whole way there.  I fucking love to travel.  S1 stopped the car and I took out my luggage.  She hugged me good-bye, and I was too tired to let her know that we aren`t hugging friends, but that`s generally how people become my hugging friends; someone tries to hug me, I don`t stop them, the world doesn`t end, and it is therefore permissible in future. 

That`s not an excuse to try it, S2.

16:31 At Cole`s, I bought the first to volumes of the graphic novel version of Scott Pilgrim.  The girls at the counter ask me if I`ve seen the movie.  They`re almost cute, and paying attention to me, which makes them cute enough.  I regurgitated this blog. They are entranced.

16:42 I realize I`m holding up the line.  I leave.  The girls are heartbroken, and rightfully so.

16:51 I head into the Montana`s lounge and get a vodka coke and a chipolte burger.

19:57 I realize I`ve read two complete volumes of Scott Pilgrim.  I settle up my bill.

20:04 I check in using electronic boarding passes direct to my phone for the first time.  If you`ve never used one, it works like this; within 24 hours of your flight, you log onto the carrier`s website and put in your phone number or email and booking number.  You receive an image of a bar code on your phone, which gets scanned anytime you would usually show your boarding pass.

The woman who checked my bags obviously hadn`t seen a lot of them, because she was confused as to where to write down my gate info. She then realized it was in the text the bar code came with

20:08 I returned to Cole`s to get Scott Pilgrim 3 and 4.  Unfortunately, the shift had changed and I didn`t care about the hipster dude who really wanted my opinions on shit.  I leave quickly, breaking his heart, and rightly so.

20:12 I tried to go to the B Gate, but it was closed, saying we needed to check through security at gate A

20:15 I reached gate A.  With double the passengers, no one thought to increase the staff.

20:17 I realized only one of the metal detectors is open.

20:20 A French father and his four kids lined up behind me.  The three sons and one daughter were all dressed in matching pink striped sweaters.  Obviously mortified, they decided to raise all kinds of hell to embarrass him.

20:22 By this point, the wild kids were running and fighting and squabbling, and they`ve reminded me of an ad.

A French child screams in the grocery store for bonbons.  The temper tantrum gets worse and worse until the kid is screaming on the floor.  The camera then looks at the exasperated, end of his wits dad.  It’s an ad for condoms.  I wish this French dad had seen it.

20:23 I considered offering to slap one of his kids upside the head.

20:24 A kid punched the dad.  He slapped the boy upside the head.  I suppressed a cheer.  The dad tells the kid, in English “Do you want to fight me?  Go ahead.  You’ll lose.”

20:47 I get called to the metal detector, and rush through to escape the Franco-Hellions.

20:52 The security guards pull the French family aside to check one of their bags.  I can only assume the staff planned to punish the father for what he has put everyone through via an invasive cavity search.

21:09 After long consideration, I decided that even at duty free prices, I shouldn’t buy a 2-6 of Triple Distilled Smirnoff Vodka.  I was going to the UK, where drinking is like kung-fu — there are many styles, and I go to learn from the masters, not to study the style I use at home.

21:33 Half an hour of peace is shattered when Franco-Hellion family showed up at my gate.  They were on my flight.  I consider telling the airport security guard that they are a gang of armed drug smuggling terrorists to keep them off the flight.

21:51 Everyone who got on the plane before me misread their row numbers.  I forced everyone of them to move, displacing fifteen people so I can sit in my assigned seat.  I feel like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, but when no one is in the seat next to me, I became too happy to care.

This is the face of satisfaction at the expense of others.

22:03 I remembered why I love big Boeings.  This thing was like a smooth air mall in the sky.  There was enough room with that empty seat, drink service as soon as we leveled off, and a little screen that let you chose your own entertainment as soon as the seatbelt light went off.

22:15 After a peaceful half an hour and another volume of Scott Pilgrim finished, I turn on the inflight entertainment system.  I watched several episodes of 30 Rock, Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, some crappy sitcom called Party Down, and fell asleep to Gunless.

Hour Unknown: I felt the plane begin to descend.  I failed at staying awake, but it should be middle of the afternoon local time.  It was a Saturday.  I decided to wake up and find someone to drink with, because that’s how I travel.

____________________________________________________________________________________

To Be Continued…

The Girl on The Train

I have a weird social anxiety that people who know me don’t realize I have.  I need a set relationship to talk to someone.    If we’re just strangers, I can’t start a conversation.  I know that’s stupid and crazy.  I know that I’m not disturbing people by speaking to them, but if I need to know the time, I’m more likely to go into a store and buy something so I can ask the clerk than to ask a person at a bus stop.  

It’s weird in the ways it doesn’t show up.  I have no problem public speaking.  I’m more comfortable before an audience of hundreds than a single stranger.  I can do my job, which involves speaking with customers I don’t know all day long, because we have a set relationship. 

To meet new people, I generally need to lamprey onto an extrovert. 

It's an unpleasant image, I know.

 

If I have that back up, someone else to say the first word, to start the conversation, I can join in.  That’s why I need Tall or Lina in new social situations.  Once they break the ice, I can plunge into the frozen lack below, but I can’t do it myself. 

Which isn’t helping me right now, as I write this.  I’m on the C-Train with my Black Book.  If you’ve never been on a C-Train, there’s two types of cars.  One has a bunch of seats that all face one direction, like a school bus, where you stare at the head of the person across from you.  Then there’s the ones I call picnic cars.  The benches face each other like this: 

Three sets of these on either side of the train

 

It looks like you’re facing each other, and you’re going to set up a picnic between you.  All that’s missing is the table in the middle and it would be like your grandparents camping trailer.  The awkwardness right now comes from the fact that only a mostly empty train, I’m sitting here: 

I'm brunette, so I'm brown in an overhead view.

 

And this really cute blonde girl came onto the train and looked around.  There were completely empty sets of picnic seats, and she completely ignores them and heads for mine.  This obviously  means she’s into me.  The only problem was I had no extrovert here, no Tall to start up the conversation.  I’m on my way home from work, and I haven’t had a chance to drink yet, and my social anxiety kicks in.  Then it gets worse.  See, normally, when you join someone on a picnic seat, you sit opposite of them. 

Kitty corner, maximum distance from train strangers

 

But this girl doesn’t seem to know the etiquette, or is so into me she doesn’t care.  She sits here. 

As close as she can get.

 

The diagram doesn’t really do it justice.  She was trying to cuddle.  She really wanted to sit in my lap, but I had this book out, so I was writing away.  

How could this happen today!  The one day I don’t drink at work!  How am I supposed to talk to her?  I’m on my own, she came to me, she came right for me!  Does that mean we have a set relationship?  Can I do it?  Can I talk to her, dead sober, on my own? 

Of course I can!  I’m amazing!  I’m such a cool guy!  I’m internet famous, with literally dozens of readers on my blog everyday!  I talk to hundreds of people every week, so why can’t I set a relationship, instead of walking into a predefined one?  In fact, there is one here!  This cute girl defined the relationship as cool writer guy on the train and cute girl who wants him!  There’s no way she thought it would be normal to come sit right next to me!  This is Canada, and we have nothing but open space, so she obviously wanted to get all up in mine so I would get all up in her. 

Then she pulled out this: 

I don't know if it was actually Spanish

 

A foreign language dictionary.  Great, she just doesn’t know our customs. 

Or she’s learning a foreign langauge…. 

Now I’m trying to lean over without her noticing, figuring out what language it is.  I can tell by the type of book what it is, but I can’t see if it’s German, or French, or Japanese.  Those are my ins.  I have enough of those languages that it counts as a set relationship, whether she’s a tourist or a student.  

Fuck, woman, just let me see your book! 

This is getting ridiculous.  Why am I still writing?  Why can’t I talk to her?  For fuck’s sake, it doesn’t matter what language the dictionary is!  Hell, I could just ask her.  Just say “What language is that?”  I’ll be able to tell if she speaks it or if she’s studying it when I ask.  If it’s one of my languages, I’m golden. 

I tried it, just now, but it quickly became a cough. 

Now she seems weirded out.  Why don’t I have a flask on me?  Just a quick shot, just a little buzz that I can blame if I screw up!  Why is this happening to me. 

Fuck, Tall, where are you?  Why aren’t you here?  If I text you, does that count?  Do I have the power to talk to the girl then? 

It’s hard to balance the book and text.  I elbowed her a little.  Not inappropriately.  Now Tall isn’t texting back.  WHERE ARE YOU WHEN I NEED YOU? 

Why is this going so badly?  Why can’t I handle this?  This is a normal thing!  Normal people do it all the time.  We’ve been sitting together for twenty minutes now.  Is it too late?  Why don’t I just talk to her?  Why am I still blogging. 

We’re downtown now.  She’s getting off at the first stop. 

Thank God that’s over. 

Wait a second … 

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

Joey would have you believe he’s suave with women, as he’s surrounded by beautiful girls all the time.  Women constantly fall in love with him on the train.  He’s usually not interested in them.  This girl was special, but that’s not a good thing.

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: World Cup

Due to extreme technical difficulties, I’m unable to post a full blog today.  I know the world was waiting with baited breath, and I apologize, but it may be touch and go while I work on getting my computer at home back online.

In the mean time: World Cup.  Chris asked me what World Cup was like up in Canada, and the 2010 is different than any previous World Cup.  Soccer just didn’t happen in Canada before.  It probably doesn’t help that the highest Team Canada has ever ranked is 40th and that was in 1996.  People here just didn’t follow Soccer, not enough for it to be on TV or anything.  They had to read it in the back of the sports section, and it’s hard to get behind that.

But since the 2006 there’s been changes in the way people do information.  With YouTube and the Internet, Canadians can follow foreign teams, fandom usually based on whatever boat their parents came over on, and follow the sport.  With digital and satellite channels offering packages with over 20 sports channels, those channels need something to fill the time when there’s no more hockey and curling, and so they go to soccer.  It’s actually possible to follow FIFA in Canada now.

So this year, bars are opening at 8 am to play games.  People are getting up early to see what’s happening in soccer, and drinking as soon as these games starts.  They’re cheering on teams based on whatever connection they can find, and desperately seeking paraphilia.  Having an official anything makes you a big deal. People cheer when a goal is scored, but apart from the hour, it’s really not looking much different than a busy night at the pub, but people disperse at the games end. Also, 8am drinking.   It’s almost enough to get me to actively follow the sport.

Because you’re not a drunk, you’re just a soccer fan.

Published in: on July 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Miniblog: Canada Day

Leonard has always believed Canada Day is for getting really drunk during the day.  I’ve been swayed to that point of view.

In fact, I think I’ll start tonight.  Vodka Coke binge drinking until I pass out, then wake up, greasy Tim Horton’s breakfast, and find a patio.

That is, if I was going to wait until I was done work to start drinking.  If…

Happy Canada DAy!

Published in: on June 30, 2010 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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. 

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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…

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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

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