Miniblog: Halloween Costumes

My birthday is in early October, and over the last couple of years, it’s become something of a tradition that my sister Kim makes me a Halloween costume as a gift.  This is incredible.  She works in the theatre, and the quality of these costumes is amazing.

This year, however, I’ve hit a bit of a problem.  I’m not sure what to be.  I already wore an awesome Caesar Romero Joker:

Not Heath Ledger's Joker

and a superb Goblin King:

If you haven't seen Labyrinth, you live a sad life.

But now what do I do?  I’ve got a couple ideas, and I’m looking for advice.  I know I want to do a pop culture costume, but do I go with classic pop culture, and ask her for Indigo Montoya:

If you haven't seen the Princess Bride, I pity you

Which is awesome, if people get it, but otherwise kind of looks like a random pirate.  I mean, if I keep asking people about six fingered men and such, it’ll be fine, and I bet I can talk Kodie or Shawn into the Dread Pirate Roberts, which is an easier costume, because he’s pretty much Zorro, and see if we can get Tall into a Fezzick costume, completing the set and making it more recognizable. 

Alternatively, I could go super recognizable with Luigi:

It's a me!

It’s fun, people will get it, and who doesn’t want a Luigi costume to go go-karting or to a party.  It’s super fun, but it’s … it’s almost not worthy of Kim’s incredible skill.  Is this the one?

Or do I go a touch more modern and obscure with Dr. Horrible:

If you haven't seen Dr. Horrible's Sing a Long Blog, you know the drill

People might not get it, but if they don’t, I think Mad Scientist is better than pirate.  If people do get it, they’ll fucking love it.  Getting Tall into a Captain Hammer costume won’t be tough.  This one also includes no fake mustaches, so there’s that.

I love all three.  I really can’t decide, but I need to, quickly.  So help me out! 

If you want to explain your choice, leave a comment.

Advertisements

Los Chilitos

I can never remember the name of Los Chilitos, which is on 17th Ave near 14th Street in SW Calgary, but I’ve been obsessed with it since the first day I saw it.  Tequila and Taco House?  That’s awesome!  I usually call it Tequila and Taco House, which is the most awesome name in all of nomenclature.  That’s just unbelievably cool.

Somewhere, Leonard’s metal chin is rusting with drool thinking of this place.  When I was in Japan with her, she needed to eat tacos at least every two days.  Do you know how hard it is to find tacos in Japan?  There’s no Tequila and Taco houses there!  A2 can empathize.  Aparently she did the same thing through all of Europe.  Well, guess what, Leonard?  There’s a Tequilla and Taco house near my house, and you can’t come because you ate too many tacos in Japan, and wouldn’t even try tako.

You may not be able to tell from that picture, but Los Chilitos looks like a house set way back on its lot, with an enormous two story patio.  There’s more space outside than inside.  It’s a really nice patio with a really nice view.  You know how some Mexican restaurants feel like they’re owned by a chain, and some feel like they’re owned by a family?  Los Chilitos just oozes authenticity. 

Tall and I went one sunny afternoon, because he loves to eat and he loves to help.  The drink menu impressed me, and I couldn’t resist the mohito.

I don't think it's a gay drink.

Do you see that?  Real mint leaves crushed in there.  It was frigid and delicous.  It is porbably the best mohito I’ve ever had, and I’ve had over three.

Tall loved that his Coke came in a glass bottle.  He usually hates Coke, being very devouted to Pepsi.  He tastes the difference easily, and for a Coke to do well by him is an amazing feet.  Perfect temperature, and perfect presentation.

Honestly, it didn’t seem like things could get better. 

Then our food came

Those tacos there, they were amazing.  And I got both the red salsa, and the green salsa.  Green salsa is the super spicy salsa.  I love the taste, but it’s too hot for me most of the time.  Having both let me use just a little bit as needed.  This is one of the best tacos I’ve ever had, and I’ve had over 300 tacos.  Most of those are since meeting Leonard.

Tall’s burito was just as good.  Tall couldn’t find anything to complain about with it.  Tall loves to complain about food.  He loves it as much as eating food and helping.  It’s his favourite thing in the world.  He could find no fault in this burito.  That means it was aboslutely perfect.  Nothing was wrong, or he would have brought it up. 

Then it started to rain a little bit.  Our waiter appeared, and told us he had prepared a table for us inside when he saw the clouds forming.  He didn’t want us to have soggy food, and as soon as the first drops hit, he was there to help us.

Waiters have a hard job.  They have to juggle all kinds of tables, and make sure food comes out, and everyone is happy.  There’s a certain amount of forethought the job requires, but usually you do the basics by route and save your energy to solve problems with angry customers.

But this guy, he solved problems before they happened.  He was ready to help us out as soon as he thought there could be a problem.  The rest of the servers were cute girls, with asses like onions; they brought a tear to your eye, and you were in no way sad.  This guy was so good, he was better than that. 

Yeah, this dude was better than cute girls.  He was amazing.  I think he might be the owner, and if he is, this place will do well.  They have a man who not only understands good customer service, but goes above and beyond to provide great customer service.

And inside is pretty cool too:

Smiley faces protect the identities of the innocent

When our bill came, it was really good.  We had eaten amazing meals in a great place, with excellent service.  The prices were what you’d pay in any causual dining restaurant, but this was one of the best meals out in my life. 

I love this place.  If you want to throw me a party, or thank me for something, or impress me, take me to Los Chilitos.  It’ll put me in a great mood, to be sure.

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

Rating: 5 Stars

Food Star: Excellent, a superb taco.

Drink Star: Fresh mint in the mohito!  YES!

Atmosphere Star: Spot on.

Staff Star: Greatest waiter ever.

Price Star: Worth so much more than we were charged for

Tall’s Rating: 5 Stars.  From Tall.  He found nothing to complain about.

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.

Body Worlds

During Leonard’s Visit we decided to go to Body Worlds.  If you’re unfamiliar, let me explain a little more about this exhibit.

 

Dr. Gunther von Hagens invented the process of plastination in 1979.  Basically, it’s a way to preserve flesh by sealing it permanently in plastic.  It doesn’t rot or smell, it just lasts forever.  In 1995, an exhibit showcasing this technique, called Body Worlds, opened in Tokyo, and there are several travelling exhibits showcasing the technology and using it to teach anatomy.

In Calgary, it’s at the TELUS World of Science until September 6th.

Leonard, Tall and I went one Sunday afternoon.  Admission is a bit steep, at $30 per head, plus an additional $5 if you want to see the educational film and an extra charge if you want the headphone guide.  I didn’t get the headphones, and I’m pretty sure I’m not missing out there.  If it wasn’t for the relatively unique nature of the exhibit, I probably wouldn’t have paid that much.  There are very few similar shows, and I’ve got some concerns with those that I’ll get into in a moment.

Most of the displays show individual plasticinated organs or systems, such as lungs, hearts, or the nervous system.  There are also cross sections of people.  They tend to show healthy individuals, and contrast those to the effects of obesity or tumours.

Plastination leaves behind a hard replica, which is in all ways indistinguishable from a plastic model.  If you don’t remind yourself that these are the real deal, it starts to become boring.  You almost need to focus on the grotesque, or be really into science.

When I was a kid, I was really into dinosaurs.  Stettler isn’t far from Drumheller, which has the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Okay, I'm still into dinosaurs...

  By the time I was five, I understood the displays weren’t real dinosaur bones.  Those were too special to leave out.  The bones you walk by are plaster casts of the real things.  It never diminished my enjoyment, or learning, or wonderment of dinosaurs.

Body Worlds, for the most part, could have just been plastic models and it would have been the same for me.

What I really enjoyed was the full body plastinoids.

These were bodies which had their skin removed, and were then posed to show how muscles work together, or how organs interact.  They were unique, and fascinating, and the worth the price of admission.

The $5 film was not.  It was a C Grade documentary that had little education value if you were over ten years old, and even less to do with Body Worlds.  As in nothing to do with it.  It was just tacked on, and should be avoided.

The most interesting thing to me was the consent form.  The biggest controversy I have heard around the exhibit is about the consent of the subjects.  I know a similar show, Our Body, was shut down in France when the consent or source of the bodies could not be produced.  The bodies in this exhibit appear to have come from executed Chinese prisoners.  While Body Worlds has faced similar criticism, their website contains very specific information of both the accusations against them, and how they were erroneous and defended in court when necessary.

S2 saw a Body World Exhibit in New York, and was disturbed by the foetuses included.  When I reached this section of the exhibit, I read very carefully to determine the source of these specimens.  They were donations from older medical collections from universities and all predated the 1920s.  While this makes consent even more of a question, the age of the specimens makes it rather difficult to do anything about it.

Other controversies surround whether or not the exhibit is morally decent or in good taste, usually from religious figures or politicians.  I really don’t believe that this is a question, considering the consent form.  It is really in-depth.  Those wishing to donate need to be 18.  They need to indicate they understood some considered this more of an artistic exhibit than a scientific one.  Donors had the option to be seen only by medical and biology students at accredited institutions, or to be seen by the general public.  They chose whether or not exhibit visitors had permission to touch their remains.  They chose if they wanted to be full body plastinoids, or displayed in pieces.  Finally, the form stated the family could override your choice to donate and to ensure they were aware of your terminal wishes.

Based on this form, the individuals and families were fully aware of what happens when you donate to Dr. von Hagens.  If a church or a politician doesn’t agree, they don’t have to see the show, but they shouldn’t be shutting it down based on the fact that they wouldn’t donate.

I hesitate to recommend the show.  If you’re interested in the science or art of it, because it’s both, then you really should see it.  However, if you think you’ll be offended, you probably will, and you’re better saving your thirty dollars.  It’s not a life changing experience, just an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

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?

Finding Home

Nique is rarely around.  She’s in Chicago most of the time, learning to be a doctor.  When she comes home, she usually doesn’t have a lot of time.  She has too much doctor learning stuff to do, so she can’t be away for long, and it’s too expensive to come home from school often.  When she is home, she needs to see family, friends, and spend some alone time with Ren, who she’s been dating for several years.

Like the jerk I am, I always emotionally manipulate her into allocating more of her visiting time to me than is fair, or appropriate.

Ren and I have been hanging out long enough that he’s seen through my clever tricks, so for Nique’s most recent visit, he acted as her personal assistant, controlling all communication between her and I, ensuring I didn’t steal 72 of her 144 hours in Calgary.

Well played, Ren.

They decided to have dinner with me, Tall, Kodie and Shawn on a Tuesday.  They asked me where I wanted to go, and of course I told them the Palomino Smokehouse and Social Club.  It’s where I always want to go.  This isn’t a review, because that’s an excuse to go back yet again.  I mean, they’ll be getting 5 stars.  I mean, look at this –

Down there, at the bottom...

They never took down the furniture store façade.  That’s awesome!  The whole place is so Renegade Folk that it nearly puts me to shame.

But this is not the review.  That’s for later.

As usual, I had an awesome time while there.  I didn’t have enough time to get from work to the gym, home, and back to the bar in time for supper, so I brought an extra change of clothes and went to Palomino’s from the gym, getting there twenty minutes early.

I sat at the bar, enjoying a Corona.  The bartender and I chatted a bit, and we both knew every word to every song that came on the radio.  We both sang along, not loudly, not karaoke style, but it created this sense of belonging.

Kodie, Shawn, and Tall showed up just as the sun came out.  We took a seat on the patio, and Ren and Nique arrived moments later.  We talked about old times and new plans, and all the hoops Nique still needed to jump through to be a doctor.

The specifics really don’t matter.  We laughed, ate until we were stuffed, and drank to a happy buzz.  One thing I’ve found in my adult life, especially in Calgary, is I rarely have what I would call a home feeling.  There hasn’t been a consistent place where I’ve felt completely at ease, not since I left to live in Japan.

I am comfortable at my place, but there’s no sense of permanence in my apartment.  I doubt I’ll live there this time next year.  I feel like a stranger at Loubagga’s, mostly because I don’t know his girlfriend as well as I should.  Matt, Tall and Lina all have houses, but I always feel like a special guest in those places.  They’re happy to have me, but it’s a given that I’ll be leaving.

But somehow, on the back patio of a downtown bar, I felt like we could stay forever.  I was at complete ease with good friends.  There was nothing we needed that we didn’t have, nothing pressing, nothing missing.

It was so damn near perfect, I couldn’t even tell you what was missing.

Morgan’s Pub

If there are three things Tall, my gentle giant, loves, they are food, being included, and terrorizing villagers for sport.  When he found out I would be doing restaurant reviews as part of this blog, and that he could help, he was onboard.  He was upset when he found out we wouldn’t be stomping on any thatch roof cottages, but you can’t have everything.

We headed down 17th Avenue one Saturday afternoon, after deciding we would eat somewhere based solely on its outward appearance.  We noticed how many shitty facades line 17th.  There were places with their windows covered in brown paper, buildings with signs that hadn’t changed since 1952 in the worst way possible, and just a bunch of ugly restaurants.  Tall kept admiring the wrong buildings.  He pointed and said “That would make a nice restaurant.

“Tall, that’s a bank.”

“I know.  I’m just saying, it would make a nice restaurant if it wasn’t a bank.

Eventually we saw 1410 World Bier Haus.

Not a bank

It fit our ascetic standards, so Tall charged across the busy road, glaring at cars like the Incredible Hulk.  Brakes squealed in horror, and I waived my apologies at the terrified grandmother as I followed behind him.

1410 had a line at the door.  It was supper on Saturday, and there was a playoff hockey game on T.V., so the place was packed.  Tall wasn’t waiting for food.  He tried to scare the villagers, but Canadians care more about hockey than hungry monsters, so we started to backtrack.  Then we saw Morgan’s Pub

This guy danced for us

We headed in, and even though there were big screens on every wall, facing each seat, broadcasting the Canuck’s game, the place was half empty.  There was a stage for live music, but the radio was playing.  Tall noticed the music was great.  It was all classic rock or hard alternative, but never so heavy that it would alienate people who weren’t fans of the genre.

The only problem was the ceiling:

What is that and what does it want?

Look at that.  What is it?  I’m sure it’s not a problem, because there’s no way a health inspector could miss it.  It just looks terrible and dirty.  Tall went red in the face because he was afraid to breathe.  It was seriously disconcerting, and we both kept noticing it.

Our waitress came, and my initial read on her was she was used to being one of the boys.  You know, that cool chick who drinks beer and never orders just a salad, and plays video games and talks smack, and you almost forget she’s a girl when you’re not looking at her.  On top of that, she was friendly in a brash sort of way that I think exudes confidence.  Tall didn’t take such a liking to her.  She was a couple of years older than us, and while she was in good shape, she also had an asymmetrical haircut, really short camo shorts, and Ugg boots.  He thought she was trying too hard to act younger than she was.

I really don’t care why a girl is wearing short shorts and boots, as long as they wear them.

I started with a vodka coke and chicken spinach dip.

Brilliant!

  Honestly, I don’t know why I never thought to add finely chopped chicken to spinach dip.  It was tender and delicious.  It made a good thing better and more filling than usual.

Tall felt that a restaurant can be judged by their steaks, as a cooked slab of beef on an open flame is the highest cooking art in Alberta.  So we both tried it.  I won’t be making that mistake again.  The cut was weak and it was pretty bland and chewy.  Tall’s was undercooked.  It wasn’t inedible, just very disappointing.

Looks good, but once it's in your mouth, you'll be sorry.

Then the bill came and turned everything around.  We paid next to nothing for our food, drinks, and appies.  The bill showed the truth of Morgan’s Pub.  It’s a place to go and hang out for hours.  Seriously, I don’t think I’ve found a pub downtown where I could afford to do that until Morgan’s. 

I’ve decided that while as a restaurant, the steak leaves them with 4 stars, they score 4.5 as a bar, because if I had considered them as such, I would have just had the delicious appetizer, and only the ceiling would have bugged me.

Tall is less forgiving than me, and awards only 3 stars.

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

Star Breakdown:

Joey As Restaurant:

Drink Star

Price Star

Staff Star

½ Food Star

½ Atmosphere Star

Joey as Bar:

Drink Star

Price Star

Staff Star

Food Star

½ Atmosphere Star

Tall

Drink Star

Price Star

Food Star

Liquor Ban

Read about how Alberta joins liquor ban in national, provincial parks for May long weekend

As far back as I care to remember (1998), May Long Weekend has been a time for camping.  It’s usually the last snow of the year, and like some pagan festival, Canadians send our young adults out to celebrate the change of seasons.  They suffer rain, snow and sleet to welcome the coming summer.  They drink and fornicate in excess, so the Great Sky Beast knows we are ready to welcome it’s Time of Ruling. 

The Mighty Skybeast

This year, Banff National Park placed a liquor ban on all its facilities over May Long.  Following the example of the most important campground in Canada, a number of other National and Provincial Parks declared their own ban.  The reasoning provided by officials is that this will reduce vandalism and noise complaints. 

To be fair, when I look back over my storied May Long career, I do find several … questionable instances.  On more than one occasion, K2, a friend from high school and a champion drinker, would decide to go down the back roads at three in the morning, extremely inebriated.  He would hit every sign he came across with the prow of his enormous truck.  I’m not condoning drinking and driving, and I wouldn’t get into the truck with him, but at the time no one got hurt and it seemed pretty funny. 

Older as I now am, I can see how the noise complaints would be a problem.  I now have friends with kids, and they should be able to take them out camping without hooligan shouts keeping them up all night.  Traditionally, I’d be one of those people, out at the campfire until five in the morning, making too much noise. 

But this liquor ban changed my May Long plans.  I don’t have kids.  I want to be at a campground where we drink late into the night.  I want to pour a rum and coke into a travel mug in case a warden comes by as I wonder to neighbouring campsites to introduce myself.  I want to be surrounded by nineteen year old girls who are eager to impress and experimenting with making terrible decisions.  In the morning, I want to wake up to the breakfast beer, the camping treat, the one time you can drink before 10 a.m. and it’s socially acceptable.  I want to tend the fire and go for walks that lead to revelations, and return to stare at the flames in a drunken haze. 

I can’t be bothered to research to ensure I go to the right campground.  I suspect a number will determine they’re dry at the last moment.  There are other types of camping I enjoy, which don’t involve drinking.  Those types also usually involve a campsite more remote than those in a National Park, and a fair bit more planning.  Since May Long is about irresponsible drinking in a tent for me, I’ll stay in the city, and hit up patios and wonder around Princess Island Park.  It’s not the same, but I don’t feel like spending the whole weekend sober in a tent. 

Normally, I would just use all the tricks I learned in university, to drink in places I’m not supposed to drink.  There’s a small arsenal of clever prestidigitations, recipes and containers that are innocent to all but the most intense inspection.  But they’re really for drinking in movie theatres, or lecture halls, or getting from one party to the next.  Camping is about having a keg in the river and a Texas Mickey on the picnic table. 

Just so non-North American readers know what a Texas Mickey is..

Being this is the first time they’ll be shutting down the drinking, I suspect the Mounties will be out in full force.  They’ll confiscate your booze and write you a heavy ticket for something that’s been an accepted tradition since at least 1998. 

My camping this summer will all be on private property now.  Kodie’s family has land on the shore of Slave Lake.  Tall might be able to secure a cabin in the Rockies.  We also talked about going down to Waterton, and going to the U.S. side. 

In Alberta, the drinking age is 18.  People come here to tie one on young legally from other provinces and sometimes from Montana.  It’s surreal to be considering the States as our drinking destination, with their history of prohibition and their ridiculously high drinking age, just to celebrate an Albertan tradition. 

Being drunk in the wilderness.

Iron Man 2

Usually, I don’t need to be the first person to see or do something.  I tend to be a patient individual, waiting until the things I wanted are undefended, and then I take them. 
 

   

   

Like this pie

Like this pie...

   

Iron Man 2 was the exception.  I rarely see movies in theatres.  I don’t take extra thrill from a larger screen or bigger sound.  As long as I can see everything on my TV, I’ll save $12 on the movie and $15 on the snacks.  If I go to a movie theatre, it’s generally more about the social side than the particular movie.  There’s only one reason I ever need to see a movie in theatres; the rare occasions where I can’t wait.  

Mostly because I loved Iron Man.  Not the comic, but the original movie.  I mean, my obsession with Batman is well-known,  

So cool

and I think Dark Knight was the best comic book movie ever.  It was superior as a work of art, and complete as a story outside the genre.  I think it’s better than Iron Man.  

 But I enjoy Iron Man more.  It’s more entertaining, and the lighter tone makes it easier to watch repeatedly.  Plus, I relate better to a witty alcoholic narcissist than I do to an aggressive driven obsessive. 

 Gilly sent me a message a week before the movie came out, saying it was good.  I couldn’t figure out how she had already seen it, being that for my friend she’s astonishingly non-geeky, and as such wouldn’t see things at something like a comic convention secret sneak preview.  It turns out the release was earlier overseas because Paramount personally hates me. 

 I knew what I had to do.  No one else was going to see that movie before me like that jerk Gilly. 

 Tall and I went a day early for tickets.  Since we weren’t in it for the spectacle, we didn’t need 3D or IMAX or explod-o-vision. We had no trouble getting seats for the 10 pm show.  I was confused the next day when Matt, Ren, and David were all concerned.  They wanted to be there an hour early at least, and David insisted on an even bigger head start.  He was at the theatre at 8:30. 

 We needed it.  Yeah, we had tickets, but even ticket holders were lined up in front of the screening room.  David was about 15th in line when we got there.  Line as far as the eye could see, 45 minutes before show time, and it’s the version with no bells or whistles.  I can’t even imagine what the midnight IMAX showing would have been like, but I am forced to assume it involved a couple of overweight individuals in ill-fitting costumes, and some generally poor hygiene. 

 This was all old news for the staff at Chinook.  They had contingencies in place, and ordered us around with practiced ease when they needed to do something the line was blocking.  They ushered us into the theatre at 9:40 and waited 10 minutes before starting those pre-movie trivia things that come up before the show.  We had a great spot in the centre of the theatre, and due to Matt and Ren’s planning and David’s not really having a life, no matter what he tells you. 

Batman Cool

The movie itself was superb.  It played to the strengths of the original without rehashing old plot points.  They focused on the joyous excess, the price of success, and the sharp dialogue that made the original so good.  They were telling a story that happens to have a superhero in it, instead of a superhero story, a pitfall that plagues so many comic book movies, even today.  Honestly, the strength comes from the fact that the comic fights could have been replaced by board meetings or basketball games.  Everything was so good that the hero parts were just extra cool, not central. 

It didn’t feel the need to tell the original, giving the audience enough credit to continue the tale instead of redoing the first movie.  The plot and the characters only went forward.  

The casing was superb.  Robert Downey Junior, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel Jackson were all as excellent as they were in the original, and their talent adds legitimacy to what could otherwise be a silly movie.  John Slattery plays Tony’s father, which is fitting, as Roger Sterling is nearly a non-superhero Tony stark in the 60s on Mad Men. 

Tony Stark cool

  Scarlett Johansen works for well as Black Widow, especially because they didn’t have her do the Russian accent and they did put her in a leather cat suit.  

I guess I can suffer through that.

The new actor for Rhodes was good, but I find Rhodes a pretty flat character to begin with.  I also enjoy that the movie acknowledges the change, in a scene that lets us know we should just get over it.  

The villain, Whiplash, played by Mickey Rourke, was great.  He had a legitimate grudge, understandable motivations, and was a challenge worthy of a more experienced Iron Man.  Superman movies, are you listening?  Villains should be worth the hero’s time, and should have reasons for what they do.  

Fuck Movie Lex Luthor

I really enjoyed how unobtrusive the special effects were.  They served the story, and never went over the top for their own sake.  Big explosions weren’t Bay-esque, and a large effect always had an in movie reason.  

In fact, the movie had amazing verisimilitude.  It stayed true to its own reality, and anything that looked like a logic flaw had an explanation.  I’m not Kodie, and I can’t say if they were scientifically sound, but they were sound enough for a movie about an international playboy in a robot suit.  

The movie is fun, exciting, and well done. It’s an excellent continuation of a great story, and it’s worth your theatre money.  

Even if you have to wait longer than the English.  

Jerks

Tommy Burger

I barely made it back from Portland in time for Tall’s birthday.  He wanted to go out on Friday night, and I was landing at midnight.  Being the unstoppable force of nature I am, I planned to take a cab home, drop off my bags, and catch up to the party.  The day before I left Oregon, I got a text, saying the festivities had been moved to Tommy Burger on Saturday afternoon.  That meant it would be easier to get there, and Kodie could pick me up at the airport, because he was no longer going to be at a party.  Everything was coming up Joey.  

 

A few months earlier, one of my coworkers, W1, had told me about a restaurant downtown where they served gourmet burgers, like a $40 Kobe Beef burger with lobster and white truffle Hollandaise sauce.  Only in Calgary, kids.    He told me about their wild game burgers, like elk, and the tuna, turkey, and bison.  Gilly was slightly disgusted for what passed for classy in Alberta when I told her about this place.  She couldn’t believe we would be willing to make burgers out of Kobe beef. On the drive home, Kodie was worried about the cost, but glad it was close.   

The next morning, I realized I was wrong.  W1 had told me about Lounge Burger, not Tommy Burger.    

Where we needed to be...

Where we needed to be...

 We were not going to the above restaurant.  My first concern was that Tommy Burger was a far ways South down McLeod Trail.  I called Kodie, who after all these years was still surprised I could be wrong.  His boyfriend, Shawn, was at work with his car.  We called him, and Shawn had thought to find the restaurant before he needed to leave.  He swung by to pick me up, and we grabbed Kodie and headed south.   

   

Tommy Burger turned out to be high-end casual dining rather than gourmet, which suited me better.  Casual dining, for those unfamiliar, means a restaurant is nice but not pretentious, the sort of place you aren’t ashamed to bring a date, but you know every item on the menu.  I don’t have a highly refined palate, as evidenced in my wine country tour.  I will eat anything, and I would try an ostrich burger, or whatever rich people insist on eating, but I generally prefer something simpler.   

We walked in, and the hostess was a beautiful blonde girl in a short dress so tight it looked like she had been dipped in half a bottle of ink.  I decided it was probably best I did the talking, since it would be wasted on the gays.  I told her we were there with people, and gave Tall’s name.  I was about to say something witty and charming, the details of which I won’t type here so that I don’t get promises of undying love from women I’ve never met, but then I remembered she was a hostess. I used to work in a restaurant, back in university.  There I learned the true reason restaurants have hostesses.  Sometimes, a jaw droppingly gorgeous girl will come in and apply for a job.  You would never guess by looking at her, but she turns out to be sixteen.  Alberta law requires servers to be eighteen in a licensed establishment.  Minors can only be employed in positions that don’t handle alcohol.  A restaurant does better with attractive serving staff, and a hostess is an investment in the future.  She has a job right out front, drawing customers into the restaurant, and she starts to learn how things are done.  When she turns eighteen, she can become a server.  

A Classy Interior

A Classy Interior

Jailbait is jailbait.  I bit my tongue and followed her to our table.  We were about twenty, so they put us in a section where our long table had walls on three sides, with just one opening into the rest of the restaurant.  The décor was designed to subtly remind one of a 1950s diner, but with enough restraint to keep it from being tacky.  Over half our party was there, so I let someone else entertain Kodie and Shawn while I perused the drink menu. 

What’s this?  Tokyo Iced Tea?  

Tokyo Iced Tea

Tokyo Iced Tea

Kiwi?  I fucking love Kiwi.  Our waitress was tall and smiled easily, and was too busy to give me her undivided attention.  I stopped flirting and sent her off to get one of these tiny wonders.  

Really, look at that drink.  Think about how good it could possibly be at its best.  It was better than that.  David showed up, and I told him needed to try one.  “Joey, that’s just a long island iced tea with kiwi.”   

“Yeah!  Kiwi!”   

He decided to sit at the far end of the table to avoid me.  I assumed he just didn’t want to compete with me should our cute waitress have three seconds to spare.   

Tall is a giant, and he eats like one.  Meals out with him generally include appetizers, to maximize the amount of food he can possibly consume in a single lifetime.  It was 2:12 by that point, and all that was sloshing around in my stomach was Tokyo Iced Tea, so I figured I had better get a starter.  Then I saw them; Kobe beef sliders.  Despite living reasonably near Kobe in Japan for a year, I never had their beef.  There was enough other exciting food.  Gilly might be right, putting Kobe beef in hamburgers, even tiny hamburgers, might ruin it.  

Also pictured; Shawn's bucket of poutine

Also pictured; Shawn's bucket of poutine

But trust me, sliders are not ruined by Kobe beef.  They were juicy, without being fatty.  I bet that’s what angels taste like.  They were amazing.   

For the main course, you could choose a prebuilt burger, or build your own.  I perused the ingredient list, and found a dilemma.  First of all, they make tamago burgers.  The Japanese may not know a lot about burgers, considering the fact that they won’t put Kobe beef in them, but there is one piece of burger technology they have perfected.  Everywhere you go, every chain, has a tamago burger.  First you take a regular burger.  Then you add a fried egg.  Then you’re done.  You’re welcome.   

But next to the second greatest hangover cure in the world (after Aquarius), was another burger-vation.  That is an innovation specifically related to burgers, by the way.  They would put a pineapple on my burger.  I love pineapple.  Pineapple makes me consider the possibility of a loving god who understands my taste buds.  So now I had to choose between tamago burger and pineapple burger.   

Some of you are probably thinking “Pick both!”  That’s a dangerous option.  What if the savory glory of the egg is compromised by the pristine tang of the pineapple?  In the past, I have melded such diverse ingredients and created chimeras of fantastic taste splendor, such as the Unholy Cheeseburger Pizza.  But that day was not the day to see if fried egg and pineapple mix.   

Mostly because they probably don’t.   

Instead, I had them put on fried onions, bacon, aged cheddar, and I went with pineapple.  

The Burger as Art

The Burger as Art

Some of you might not like the fruit, but let me tell you, this was as good as pineapple gets.  Imagine the best possible outcome for this burger.  Now add 25%.  That’s how good it was.   

 Tommy Burger was high end casual dining.  While it wasn’t the cheapest burger I’ve ever eaten, it didn’t break the bank.  It was worth every penny.  It was one of the best.  Top three, actually, after Freshness Burger and Hawaiian Kitchen in Koichi, Japan.  But if you’re not willing to leave the country, you may have to make due with Tommy Burger.  

 You know, which is like making due with a Rachel McAdams/Jessica Alba threesome.  

So Far, so good...

So Far, so good...

What? No Amy Smart? I'm out of here.

What? No Amy Smart? I'm out of here.

 

Tommy Burger gets 5 stars from me, and if you don’t go check it out, you are either a vegetarian, or you hate yourself.   Which most vegetarians do.  

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

Ratings Breakdown:

 Full Stars; Food, Drink, Staff, Price, and Atmosphere.  

Five Star Total

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

If you are a Calgary restaurant, and you’d like to have Joey review your restaurant, send an email to joey.stadelmann@gmail.com.