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?

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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.    

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Just try to follow Joey on Twitter.  Just try.