Easter in Calgary, Visiting with Friends, Eating Russian Food

Years ago, Easter weekend meant a trip to my grandmother’s in Toronto for a dinner with the rest of the family. It’s been a while since I’d been in a large family gathering for Easter, but this year certainly did put a new spin on everything.

I’ll get to that in a moment or two.

Friday morning started slowly for me. Usually, I’m up around 6:00 (sometimes as late at 6:30, if I manage to completely out-sleep my alarm clock), and I start to get ready for work. Recently, it’s included a trip down to the pool for 30 minutes of swimming (although I have yet to reach 30 minutes, I’m wiped out after just over 20 — I figure it’s going to take me a while before I’m even close to being in the same shape I was in high school). Then it’s a shower, make lunch, and head out.

Friday morning, I didn’t get up until 9am. I would’ve slept later, but the light in my room was overpowering. At least I didn’t wake up to an alarm clock. I skipped the morning swim.

One of the things on my agenda was attempting to clean the apartment. It’s been on the agenda almost since I moved in, but you’d be surprised at the lack of motivation to do that. Dunno why.

I watched TV for a while, before moving a few things around. The impact was negligible. Around 11:30, I decided to call Adile, one of my co-workers (and rapidly becoming a good friend). Adile’s an interesting character, to say the least. He’s 23 (aside from Rob, who sits next to me, I think I’m the second oldest in my department), has a masters in Palaeontology (he was working on a PhD before his funding ran out), and is a wizard with bizarre HTML layouts.

He also had a wad of furniture he wants to sell. A couch (made by Sealy), a matching loveseat, coffee table, dresser, and a desk. All for $200. Needless to say, I’m mildly interested.

We’d arranged the day before that he’d call me and we’d arrange a time for me to drop over. But after 11:30, I thought I’d check with him before trying to plan the rest of my day. (It’s a pain in the neck trying to figure out what to do when the person you want to get a hold of isn’t getting a hold of you.) He was still asleep. I remember being able to do that. He said he’d call me later, so I took the opportunity to do something else.

I went to work.

Relax, I didn’t actually do any work … at least not *work* work. I did my own thing. I’m helping a friend of mine with a website. It’s good practice for me. It also gave me a chance to read email (I actually get more email here than I did at Radical … and I dreaded coming back from vacation at Radical, reading email took hours).

Around 3:00, Adile finally called me and said I could drop by. I hopped in the car and made a beeline (as much a beeline as can be made in some of Calgary’s hurly-burly subdivisions) for Adile’s home. Adile still lives with his parents (I make no comments on that, for I did the same thing until I was 25) in Ranchlands, not far from where Stuart and Therese live.

The couch was an off-white, though parts of it were more off-white than others. It’s well-used, but not in bad shape. I looked at it carefully, and it didn’t look too bad. Even if it did get a little unsightly, a quick drop sheet eliminates that problem. Of course, this is still something I need to throw by my future roommate and see what he thinks.

I quickly returned to my apartment to shower and make myself presentable — Aunt Brenda and Uncle Mike had invited me to Easter dinner at Chez Znack. Before leaving Ranchlands, I stopped briefly at Crowfoot Village to pick up a 12 pack of Sleeman’s and a couple of bottles of wine (partly for dinner, and partly for partial payment for all my Aunt and Uncle have done for me).

I arrived in Whitehorn just after 5:00. Uncle Mike was out front adjusting the lawn sprinkler (spring has sprung here in Calgary, despite a few naysayers who keep predicting a “big dump”). Maggie (their Dalmatian) looked happy to see me.

The kitchen renovation was still in progress, though the trickiest part of the work was complete. When last I’d seen the kitchen, the counters were reduced to plywood, awaiting a layer of tiles. The tiles were now on the counter, though they had yet to be grouted. Tiles also adorned the walls in a backsplash following the length of the counter. It looked wonderful. The tiles are 6×6, coloured almost a sandy-grey. Some of the wall tiles are decorative, and add a nice touch to the design. It will be really interesting to see what the kitchen looks like when it’s done.

We were served fried scallops as appetizers. I’m finding I’ll eat most seafood now, though it all seems to taste the same. I have a sneaky suspicion that it won’t be long before I’m eat (shudder) lobster. We’ll see…

Between the appetizer and dinner, my phone rang. It was Greg Mayer, one of my friends and former co-workers from Radical Entertainment. He was in Calgary for the weekend visiting relatives, and we had made rough plans to get together during the weekend. We talked briefly, setting up a tentative time for the following day.

Dinner was turkey. I was looking forward to turkey. I love turkey. Especially with turkey gravy. On mashed potatoes. Mmmmm. And stuffing. Double mmmmm.

It wasn’t long before we finished dinner (with Jen rushing off to play her video game, pausing only long enough to ask me to come down and play with her when I was done). Turkey coma wasn’t far off…

“Turkey coma”, for those of you who’ve never heard of it, is Stuart’s term for the sleepiness that sets in after a good turkey dinner. A lot of people dismiss it as having eaten too much. In reality, it’s the turkey. There’s a chemical in turkey meat that acts like a natural sedative — it makes you sleepy. The more you eat, the sleepier you get. (And having wine with the meal really doesn’t help matters much.)

Just as I was about to go downstairs and join Jen in her video game, Aunt Brenda handed me a little gift — a set of frying pans. Just when I’d thought I was about to start paying them back for everything they did for me, they had to go and do something else nice for me. Like I said before, I love my family … even if I do feel like I’m going to be forever in their debt.

When I got downstairs, Jen was in the middle of playing her rented copy of Super Smash Brothers. There are some games where I can actually beat Jen. This ain’t one of ’em. As a team, we were unbeatable … though she could have won the match on her own. Against her, well, “total slaughter” comes to mind. She’d been playing all week, and I hadn’t. I got in a few good hits, but I was no match.

I decided it was time to leave when I noticed that Aunt Brenda had succumbed to Turkey Coma (she had been overseeing the carnage). Frying pans in tow, I returned to the sanctity of downtown Calgary.

I rose just after 9:00 on Saturday, again forced awake by the bright sun. Don’t get me wrong — I rather like it this way. The sun is certainly a more preferable way to rise in the morning.

My early wakening also afforded me the luxury of doing something I haven’t done since before I went to university — watch Saturday Morning cartoons. Although I watched them until noon, I didn’t get the same pleasure. Probably because most of them seem to be either Pokemon or Digimon. Nothing like the ones I watched when I was a kid: Blackstar, The Smurfs, Thundarr the Barbarian, Spiderman and His Amazing Friends, Pac Man, Alvin and the Chipmunks, He Man, Droids, Ewoks … the list is literally endless (I watched a lot of cartoons). Although Fox is bringing back Dungeons and Dragons @ 10:30 PST next Saturday.

Sometime after noon, Greg called. He was ready to get together. I still had to run through the shower, and I had to pick him up. Originally, I had hoped that Torre (another of my former co-workers, Torre left Radical just days after me (though I suspect his reasons for leaving weren’t as dire as my own) and has landed in Calgary) might join us, but Greg told me Torre was entertaining friends. I’ll have to make sure I call Torre up soon.

Greg told me where he was, and the basic direction I needed go. Looking at the map, it looked pretty easy.

After being in Calgary for nearly two months, you’d think I’d know better…

I was about a half hour late because what I thought was on the map ended up being something complete different, sending me off in a bad direction because I hadn’t expected the city planners to do something so stupid … or at least the map designers to mark it properly. Luckily, Greg wasn’t upset…

Returning with Greg to downtown, we stopped at the Barley Mill, a bar at Eau Claire Market. It’s got probably the best selection of draught beer in town, and is cheaper than Shank’s. Greg and I perched ourselves on the patio, and basked in the warm sunshine.

It was good to see Greg again. I hadn’t seen him since he helped bring me to Calgary. I know this will sound weird, but seeing Greg was kind of like pinching myself, helping me to remember that the last two years weren’t a dream. Call it a reality check if you want. But it was good to see him.

We talked for a couple of hours about virtually everything that we could think of. Greg had to be careful, though. I’m not a Radical employee, and he had to skirt the cool stuff that’s always floating around there. I could tell he was having a bit of trouble too — he almost looked like a kid who’s just dying to tell some other kid a secret. I found one of them out this morning on the ‘Net — Radical’s not making sports games anymore. At least not for Fox, who announced they were bailing out of the genre. It’ll be interesting to see what Radical does next…

My phone rang around 3:30. It was Aunt Brenda. Easter Dinner Part 2 was with the rest of the Western Clan (save for Nana) that evening, and I was informed that I would be picked up at 5:00 instead of 6:00. This meant Greg and I had to cut our visit a bit short. Luckily though, the time didn’t seem too short.

As we left the Barley Mill, Greg asked if it was possible to go by the Alberta Boot Factory Outlet. I had mentioned earlier in one of our conversations that I not only work but live fairly close to it (relax, I’m not buying cowboy boots), and Greg was looking to see what he could find.

The Alberta Boot Factory Outlet is on 10th Ave. SW, at the corner of 5th St. (just a block or so away from Cowboys — a local western bar). It’s large — so is the selection. But Greg’s criteria were tight … very tight. There was one pair in the entire shop that he liked. Really liked. I mean *really* liked.

But he didn’t buy ’em. Though if he had the money, he would have. Why didn’t he? One of his criteria was for steel toes, and I have yet to hear of a cowboy boot with steel toes. (I certainly wouldn’t want to go line dancing with someone who wore steel-toed cowboy boots … not that I’d want to line dancing in the first place.)

Greg agonized about the boot problem all the way back to his Aunt’s. I know what that kind of torture feels like. I’m on a restricted budget myself. I get paid this week (I think — the schedule here is a little strange), at which point I can start getting my life in gear.

I met my Aunt and Uncle out in front of my apartment building at 5:15 (I’d called earlier and asked for a short delay). Then it was off to a part of the family I’d never met before. This was my Aunt Alaine’s sister and brother in-law. They own a home in the western edge of Kensington. A nice home. A really nice home.

My parents had met Dawn and Ron before, when they went on a cruise about a year ago. This was good for me — it meant I wasn’t a complete stranger to them. We got there before the rest of the family, so we took the opportunity to look around a bit.

The house is amazing. It’s on a small lot, so it’s a very vertical house. If only the home builders in Vancouver knew how nice a place you could build on such a small lot… The main floor had the dining space, living space, kitchen, and a parlour. Only the parlour had doors, the rest of it was open space.

The kitchen was finished with cherry cabinets (wood, not colour). Ron mentioned that he’d never use cherry again — too high maintenance. Uncle Mike and I marvelled at the construction — it was gorgeous. As was the rest of the house. The upstairs had possibly the most efficient use of space I’d ever seen. Three bedrooms, all quite large. Certainly a liveable space.

The Tisdales arrived not long after us. It’d been almost a year since I last saw Uncle David and Aunt Alaine, about a month since I’d seen Pam (and Muck, her boyfriend … don’t ask about the name, it’s not his real one, and I honestly don’t know the story behind it), and a couple of months since I’d seen Darren. (I last ran into him out front of the Capitol 6 when Pure3D had gone to see Toy Story 2.)

Darren was a bit of a surprise. We were under the impression that he was in Indonesia doing some field work. We didn’t actually know he wasn’t there, and was in Calgary, until the night before when Uncle Mike was making golf arrangements with Uncle David. Apparently, Darren’s company didn’t get the permits they needed for the team … Darren hopes he’ll be going sometime in early May.

Our final arrival was Dawn and Ron’s daughter. Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say her name was “Randy”. It might be “Randyne”, or “Rian” or “Ryean” … all I know is that I heard “Randy” when someone said her name. For all I know, it’s not her real name. For some stupid reason, I never asked. (I’m certain someone will correct me on this.)

We stood about, chatting and snacking, until about 7:15, at which time we piled into three cars, and drove to our restaurant for the evening. This was Pam’s idea, and I’m going to give her full credit for sticking her neck out on this, and finding one gem of a good restaurant.

It’s called “Kremlin”, and like the name suggests, it serves Soviet cuisine. I’d say “Russian”, but that wouldn’t be correct. Several of the items on the menu are Ukrainian (such as the pirogies), of which Uncle David took extreme pleasure in ribbing Uncle Mike (whose heritage is Ukrainian). My family’s a little weird some times. (Have I mentioned the midnight excursion through a golf course on mountain bikes looking for elk?)

We all opted to get platters of food, so we could all share in the various tastes of the menu. The server/owner told us that because they had only four burners, they’d have to bring food out in shifts.

Oh yeah, I never told you how big this place was. Ever seen pictures of those small, quaint little Dari-Freeze joints? 50’s-style? That was what housed Kremlin. Tiny doesn’t even really come close to describing the size of this place. There were six tables. We had two of them. We dominated the place, literally. We outnumbered all the other patrons combined, and we certainly were louder than them.

The first round was pirogies. There were two flavours: Spinach and feta cheese, and pork and ginger. I much preferred the spinach and cheese — I found the pork a little bit on the mushy side. But they were very tasty, as was the coleslaw (or Ukrainian salad, I’m not exactly sure what it was) and the roasted nuts. I stayed away from the beets. Ick.

Round two was tequila prawns. (Doesn’t sound Soviet to me, but hey — it’s worth trying.) Yes, I eat prawns. Go figure. They were accompanied with some rice which added some excellent flavour.

We had to wait a while for round three, during which time we delved into a couple more bottles of wine (I cut myself off at about two glasses, opting for a bottle of Alexander Keith’s instead).

Round three was curried chicken and rice (supposedly basmati, but it sure tasted like couscous), appearing about a half hour or so later. This, again, was an excellent part of the meal, and was fairly filling. It was a good choice.

Now, most people would end dinner there. But we were having too much fun, and dove into dessert. First off were fruit and chocolate crepes, followed shortly by banana and chocolate egg rolls (topped with ice cream). The last round was fruit pirogies. Oh yes, please understand that we didn’t get full orders each — these were platters as well.

Then came the bill. A quick batch of math, and I dove into my wallet to dig out enough to pay for dinner. Imagine my horror when I realized I was $20 short. I was about to ask to be let out and raid a bank machine when Uncle David told me to put my wallet away (he did the same for Darren, Pam, and Muck). I said it before, and I’ll say it again — I love my family.

Three and a half hours after entering, we all staggered out and found our ways home. I practically collapsed onto the mat on the floor until I could move again. Ouch.

Sunday in downtown Calgary is quiet — nothing opens before noon. Which is fine with me — gives me time to sleep in and do other things. Like sleep.

I went out walking around downtown, popping in and out of whatever stores happened to actually be open (a large number of them declared they were closed for Easter) before I ended up back at Critical Mass, again to do some work for a friend.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning up. I made more headway on Sunday than I had in the past week. Probably because I had nothing better to do. I was waiting for Stuart and Therese to get back from Edmonton so we could get together. I was in no rush.

At a little after 5:00, Stuart called. They hadn’t left Edmonton yet, and wouldn’t likely be leaving for a while. I suspected they were having worlds more fun than I was. Instead of dinner with friends, I went over to the Subway (barely a block away) and got something to get me through until morning.

It was a good weekend, but I should think I would call it Thanksgiving Weekend, rather than Easter. I had a lot to be thankful for: My family, my friends, my freedom.

Hmm… sounds like a good motto.

Kicking Back in Calgary

If it were possible to work like a dog, my name would be Rover.

Bow wow.

I’m working on the latest and greatest version of a website we’re doing for one of our Fortune 500 clients. There are nine people on the team: Three designers, two project managers, a production person, one and a half programmers, and one web developer — that is, me. Our project was due tomorrow. Despite the approximate 200 hours I’ve put in during the past two weeks (no, I’m not kidding), that’s just not happening. There’s still so much to do.

So yes, I’ve been busy. For quite a while. Been working my tail off. (Yeah, there’s that dog reference you’ve been waiting for me to spring on you.)

I’ve pulled a few near-all nighters. I usually end up pulling ’em with Dave, one of my colleagues, and the guy who hired me. We get really goofy around 2am or so. Usually we’re loaded up on Coke or Pepsi and adrenaline (from playing Unreal Tournament). You’d be amazed how much I can actually get done when it’s just Dave and I plugging away at our seemingly endless list of problems.

So Friday rolls around. I’m planning on being here during the weekend, to finish more work. (I’ve got lots of it — enough to last at least another week.) Nancy (my project manager) calls me to discuss a few things. I let her know I’ll tackle them during the weekend. The conversation goes like this:

Me: Yeah, I’ll fix it over the weekend.
Nancy: No, you won’t. Look, Geoff, take the weekend off.
Me: Can’t, too much work to be done by Tuesday. [Tuesday’s our deadline.]
Nancy: Geoff, go home for the weekend. Don’t make me make you…

She called back at about 5:30 that evening. Dave and I were engaged in a serious game of blowing each other up with high explosives. The phone call went like this:

Nancy: (Sternly) You’re still here.
Me: Uh, yeah? I usually am… (oooh, you little weasel, I’ll get you for that!!)
Nancy: Go home, Geoff. Now.
Me: I’m not doing work!! Honest! (HA! Take that, Dave!!)
Nancy: Then what are you doing?
Me: Playing video games with Dave. (You missed!! You missed!! CRAP! You didn’t miss!)
Nancy: Oh, well, that’s fine. Just don’t do anything productive, okay?

I got a cool project manager.

Not working this weekend wasn’t easy. I had the urge to come back and fix things. Yes, I’m dedicated to the project. I want to see it work well. Call me weird…

So Friday night, Chris and I met a friend (and co-worker), Sylvie, at Eau Claire Theatres to catch the Friday premiere of the most anticipated movie of the month. No, not “The Cell” — “Godzilla 2000”, of course! There’s nothing like watching some guy in a massive rubber suit trash models of Tokyo. Especially when it’s presented on the big screen! (We saw “The Cell” the following night with Dave.)

It was a weird night. As we left the theatre, I suggested to Chris that we pop into Pongo, a trendy little neo-Asian restaurant on 17th Ave. As we walked down 4th St. towards Pongo, we encountered two young ladies who were (assumedly) on their way to the Palace. They required some assistance.

The first question, which I missed, was “Hey, do you guys have sisters??”

Chris answered the question correctly. The answer is “yes”. They assumed (rather poorly, at least in my case) that our sisters would have asked our opinions as to their appearance before going out clubbing. Cathy has never asked me such a question (she’s smart enough to know I’m utterly clueless about most of these things). These two poor girls, however, were too drunk to notice that I’m clueless.

Okay, maybe not the blonde. She knew enough to ask only Chris.

Anyway, they literally wanted us to check them out. They invited us. Only in Calgary, I tell you … only in Calgary. I’ve never in my life been invited to purposely ogle, and then offer words of encouragement. It threw both Chris and I for a bit of a loop.

Our interrogators walked onto their destination (after momentarily chastising us for not going with them — I believe their exact words were “You’re going the wrong way!!”), and we headed towards ours. But the weirdness didn’t end there…

As we arrived at Pongo, three jock-types leaned over and asked if we would flip two women “the bird” as we walked in. We were told that “we know those chicks”, and that it would be in good fun. Chris and I don’t play those games, especially if we’re single, they’re single, and there’s a hope in hell of *something* happening. (Hey, we might be silly, but we ain’t stupid … most of the time, anyway.)

We were running out of excuses not to when one of the women piped up: “Hey, I’ve got a beer glass, and I ain’t afraid to use it!” Chris ended our conversation with the jocks: “No offence guys, but she frightens me more than you do.”

On Saturday, Chris and I wandered about Calgary, wandering mostly aimlessly. It was great. I hadn’t been out of the office for so long, I’d forgotten the sun was even out. We walked in and out of malls and shops, not looking for anything in particular (though I did buy another CD recommended by my “source” at A&B Sound). While we were there, we ran into our newest friend in Calgary, Shannon. She’s a long-term A&B employee looking to get out.

Chris and I have become career counsellors for Shannon. She’s been offered the chance to get a job at the Calgary Sun. But she’s been out of the loop for so long, she’s not sure how to get the job. So Chris and I are working to improve her portfolio and resume. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do something for her.

Only in Calgary would someone you really only got to know that day call you up for help in getting a better job. Only in Calgary…

Anyway, I’m late at the office again, having taken a chainsaw to some really nasty software bugs in the code. I had a few minutes to whip of a “hello, I’m alive” message. I hope y’all are doing well, and hopefully we’ll talk in the not-too-distant future…

Moving into my First Calgary Apartment, Mother’s Pizza

I hate moving…

I’ve been doing a lot of it lately. I’ve moved three times in the past four months. Makes the moves I did in co-op seem trivial (I moved only every four months). But this time I’m not going anywhere for a while.

For some strange reason, the apartment management wanted to finish a few things around the apartment. Although a “new” carpet went in (although it feels good, I can’t really tell if it’s new or not), they wanted to shampoo the carpets. I don’t quite understand that one, but who am I to argue something like that? Especially when I didn’t that close a look at the carpet in the first place…

On Saturday, I got up to a phone call. It took a moment for me to realise that it was my phone ringing. It was my parents. They’ve been looking at a new motorhome. Their existing one is a RoadTrek 190 Versatile. It’s essentially a converted (and slightly extended) cargo van. Very comfortable inside, and nice. But not for my parents anymore. They wanted something a little larger — a Class A RV.

Class A RVs are purpose-built vehicles. They are effectively homes on wheels. Very comfortable, and the ultimate things for travelling everywhere. I’d been sticking my nose into the dealerships around Calgary for them (there are quite a few here), getting details and offering my opinions.

They had recently been looking at 29′ Landau model built by a company called Georgie Boy (http://www.georgieboy.com). I’d never heard of them before, but based on the number of dealerships they have in Canada, I can understand why. Mom had sent Aunt Brenda a blurb about how they were looking at a used one that looked not all that great. I had concerns.

This is what the phone call was about. Dad was concerned that I was concerned. I voiced them as well as I could, using one of Dad’s phrases: “If you’re going to do it, do it right the first time.” I was worried that they might settle for something they didn’t quite want. I wasn’t too keen on learning that the (rather expensive) motorhome they bought wasn’t what they wanted. So I dug up a local dealer (I love the Internet!), threw some clothes on, and went to take a look at one.

I had a quick (literally) stop at Registry Unlimited, where I picked up my brand-new Alberta license plate. I am now officially an Alberta resident. My hate of ICBC increased again when I found out I have to mail my old BC plates back — at least Ontario has the wherewithal to have the out-of-province registries accept the plates and send them back.

Whipping out my map, I looked to see if I could find South Highway Drive SE. It wasn’t on any of my maps. But there was a place in the South East quadrant of the city labelled “Blackfoot Trailer Park”. It seemed like a decent candidate for having an RV dealership nearby.

As I departed the Registry’s parking lot, my phone rang — it was Stuart. He was out test driving cars (I think this is one of Stuart’s most favourite things to do). But he was nearly done, and wanted to get together (assumedly for some moderate mayhem). I asked if he was up to helping me move. Albeit a bit reluctant (who isn’t?), he agreed to come by and help out. But first I needed to find a Georgie Boy.

I never did. The trailer park was a trailer park, and nothing else. Upon returning home, I found that the dealership is not far from Medicine Hat, quite a ways from Calgary. A little too far for my limited time that day.

Uncle Mike and I started loading up his truck with the smaller things in my collection of junk. This included boxes of books, speakers, a large sack full of CDs (I suspect the cases are mostly broken at this point, though not due to any mishandling on our part), bags of clothes … basically anything I didn’t have to worry about. But there were certain things that the truck would not hold. Like my TV…

For those of you who don’t know, I have a home theatre. I acquired this when I was living at home a couple years ago. The centrepiece is a 50″ rear-projection TV. It’s big. Not horribly heavy, but big. And you can’t lay it down flat (that would be bad, very bad). This necessitates a second moving vehicle, one with some vertical clearance in it.

Originally, I was going to move on Saturday, except that the building told me they were going to shampoo the carpet again. This meant the carpet would be wet. Not exactly ideal for moving stuff around. As such, we didn’t do anything but load my uncle’s truck.

Stuart arrived just as we finished. Not having anything else to do (moving-wise), the two of us opted for going out and doing … stuff. The first stop was at Revy. During my previous move, one of the casters on my stereo cabinet shattered, and needed to be replaced. Luckily, this wasn’t a big deal. My dad built the cabinet, so the casters were standard hardware. The ones I found were almost identical, save for the mounting plate, which was brass instead of silver.

Then we headed off for IKEA. I needed a bed and/or a couch (I gotta sleep on something) and wanted to see what IKEA had. First we ducked into the Chrysler dealership to view the new PT Cruiser. It’s a beautiful little thing — the only reason Stuart would every buy a minivan-like vehicle. Very stylish. We followed up with a quick stop at a nearby Volkswagen dealer (Stuart’s mildly obsessed with finding a silver Jetta, though with good reason) before finally ended up at IKEA.

The IKEA in Burlington (Ontario) is usually a zoo on Sunday. The IKEA in Richmond (British Columbia) is usually a nightmare on a Sunday. Stuart and I breezed through Calgary’s. Wasn’t even an issue. I love this city — people are civil here.

I found a couch, but I didn’t get one. It dawned on me kind of all-of-the-sudden like that I shouldn’t even be considering these things without discussing them with Chris, my soon-to-be-roommate. So no major furniture until then. I found a couple beds, too — but there were a bit pricey for what I wanted.

Leaving IKEA, we drove more-or-less aimlessly until we ended up downtown. I directed Stuart to my new apartment. I wanted him to see what it looked like. The carpet was bone dry. It looked like they hadn’t even been there yet. I was a little annoyed.

The aimless driving took us most of the way down in the South West without actually finding anything interesting. Except for Tom Jones’ new album. He covers “Little Green Bag”. Actually, the whole album is cover tunes. Great stuff.

Remembering that there was an outlet mall in the North, I asked Stuart if we could scoot up there to take a look. The mall was without content — we stayed only long enough to get the heck outta there. Outlet malls are not nice places.

Then we started The Mission. Stuart had been wanting to find something in the North of Calgary for some time, but hadn’t really had the opportunity before. Today, he did. And we were off, in search of The Most Fabulous Object In the World … or at least Calgary. We drove back and forth, in search of an address we could not find. Eventually, we hit the proverbial jackpot — we learned that the address was in the Beddington Village Mall.

It’s a non-descript mall, though it looks significantly better than its neighbour across the road. It’s got a Safeway, a London Drugs, a few other neat little shops … one special place that Stuart and I have been pining for for the last 15 years.

Mother’s Pizza.

Hmm… it just dawned on me that some of you have probably never heard of Mother’s. This was, bar none, the best pizza on Earth. It was a chain that was quite popular (at least in Ontario) until about 15 years ago, when they went out of business. Stuart tells me it was because they mismanaged their funds. Little Caesar’s went around buying up Mother’s locations, eventually wiping them all out. It was a sad day when their restaurant in Oakville closed. Stuart and I have fond memories (indivudally — we didn’t know each other back then) of going there for birthdays and watching black and white movies of The Three Stooges, Little Rascals, Abbott and Costello, and Laurel and Hardy.

Now this isn’t some place called Mother’s, this *is* Mother’s. Probably the last of its kind. It’s been 15 years since I last had Mother’s, yet I can remember the taste as if it were yesterday. We felt like Indiana Jones, unearthing the Ark of the Covenant in the Well of Souls … at least without the snakes. And the Nazis. And the sand. You get the idea…

We were a little apprehensive at first. Was this in fact Mother’s? Would it taste the same, or were we headed for supreme disappointment? There was only one way to find out. We ordered a couple of slices.

The anticipation was murder. Everything looked right. It was the same logo. The same boxes. The same smell … well, almost. The lobby of the Mother’s restaurant in Oakville reeked of mushrooms.

The pizza arrived. It looked like Mother’s. Hopes were high. We sat down, Stuart immediately diving into his, only to be repulsed at the high temperature. My slices were moderately cooler, so I bit into mine.

It was Mother’s Pizza. After 15 years, we could taste it again. It wasn’t exact, but it was pretty darn close. The major difference was that my pepperoni was underneath the cheese rather than on top of it. When I order from them again, I’ll make sure to correct that little oversight.

Fully happy with our conquest, we returned to my Aunt and Uncle’s, where Stuart dropped me off. He had plans for the evening, and I didn’t…

The next day was moving day. I got up earlier and headed out to Brentwood Village in the Northwest. A new store called Linen and Things was opening, and I wanted to see if there were any deals. I should have known better than that… I did find one thing that looked promising — a two-tier vegetable and rice steamer for $50 (with a coupon, regularly $60). I called Aunt Brenda first to see if she thought that was a decent price, given the one that she uses. She recommended I check out Costco.

Returning to my relative’s home, they gave me a little slip of paper. Costco members can “sponsor” a new member by giving them this little piece of paper. That, plus $45, gets you access to a warehouse full of stuff that you’ll probably never need. But they had the same rice steamer as Linen and Things … for $40. Already this membership was paying off.

Then it was off to get a van. I had zipped into Budget earlier in the morning and reserved a panel van to help me move. I figured it was big enough to hold the TV (that was my primary concern), based on a rough measurement. I thought it would be a quick pick-up, and I’d be off.

I should really know better by now…

They brought out a one-ton truck. I thought something was amiss when the clerk asked me if I new how to drive a delay-start diesel. (Most vans aren’t diesel.) I asked them to bring out the van I asked for. That was my mistake. I should’ve just taken the truck. It took them nearly 20 minutes to bring me the van.

By the time I got back to my relatives’ home, Stuart was there waiting. I didn’t have time to pack the remainder of my stuff in the basement, and opted for a quick haul of the main bulky stuff. Uncle Mike had a basketball game at 4:00, and I didn’t want him to miss it.

Sidetrack time … sorry, but there’s something here I need to say.

Two months ago, I felt very alone. I had a lot of friends at Radical Entertainment, but aside from them, I was alone. I went out to Calgary to visit with Stuart and Therese, at which time I decided I was going to leave Vancouver. But in order to leave, I needed a place to go. I intended to ask my Aunt and Uncle if I could stay for a couple of days, during which time I’d find some place to stay.

I didn’t even get the chance to ask — they offered. Three weeks later, I arrived with a truck (partially) full of junk. Without even a pause, they moved the contents into one of their (spare) rooms. For the next month and a half, they gave me a roof over my head and food on my plate.

I wasn’t alone. If only for that reason, they (and my cousin Jen) helped me through one of the saddest and depressing points of my life. Through their selflessness, their caring, and their help, I am able to stand out on my own again, and be the person I need to be. For this, I will be eternally grateful for all they’ve done. I hope that I can at some point be able to pay them back for all they’ve done … certainly at least for all the beer they gave me.

All my family has stood behind me. My sister Cathy was right there from the start of all this — were it not for her, I might not have been able to get the gumption to do what I did. I told her early on because I knew that if I wavered, she’d fly out and haul my butt out of the province. If anything, the threat of her coming out there got me out.

My parents were there all the way. There was no question of my actions — they understood. As did all my family. I know that a lot of you may argue with me on this, but I have the best family in the world. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

And for that matter — I have the best friends in the world. They’ve all been there for me. Not one negative word (at least not told to me), and many offers of assistance. From ex-roommates to former co-workers to my friends at Radical to my closest circle of friends. I thank all of your for all that you’ve done — even if it’s just a letter or a joke to cheer me up.

Okay, enough of this sappy stuff…

The TV was a problem. I measured wrong. (Figures…) We had to get creative to get the TV in the van. It fit once we got it inside, but the door was a little lower than the inside. In 15 minutes, we were packed and headed towards downtown.

I had the elevator booked from 2:00 until 4:00. There was another unit moving in from 12:00 until 2:00. I hoped they would be done. They weren’t. A huge Allied moving van was still there, and wouldn’t leave until nearly 2:30. It was problematic.

Moving in didn’t take too long, we managed to move in quite quickly, dumping virtually everything in the living room. It was where we had space. I’ll sort out the rest of that stuff later…

Almost as soon as we were done, Uncle Mike shot back out to make his basketball game. Stuart and I still had the van, so getting back wasn’t a problem. It also let us stop and get something to eat for lunch (though it was nearly 3:30 by the time we got to eat). A stop at Harvey’s solved that little issue.

We dropped the van off and returned Stuart to his car. He had things to do, and I had some more stuff to still pack. Aunt Brenda coerced me (like it takes a lot of effort) to stick around for dinner (my Last Supper, so to speak) before heading out to my new apartment. That gave me time to finish packing and put everything in the car. Then it was time for me to leave.

I moved the last of my things into the apartment (albeit with a little difficulty — I had one box that was quite heavy). Then I got to stare at my new life. An apartment with a lot of junk and no furniture, save for the TV and the stereo cabinet. The first order of business was straightening a few things out. I put the foam mattress (loaned from my Aunt and Uncle) in my bedroom and unpacked my sleeping bag. Then I got down to the serious stuff, and washed a few dishes (also loaners).

Then I plugged in the TV. I wanted to know how well it had survived the trip across the Rockies and across Calgary. Not only the TV work, but I had basic cable (the building manager seemed to indicate there was no cable). At least I could watch the X-Files…

For the first time in almost two years, I was the only one in the apartment. I was on my own. Considering I slept on the floor, I slept pretty well…

So I’m the process of getting settled, though I don’t know how long it’ll take. I need to get a lot of things — something to put my clothes in, something to sleep on (other than the floor), at least one chair, and a light or two. Maybe then it’ll feel more like an apartment, rather than a collection of junk…

Which reminds me — some of you might want to contact me now that I’m settled. Grab a pen and paper, ‘cuz you might want to know this:

[This information is not available on the web … sorry.]

I won’t move for a year and a half. I promise.

I hope all of you are doing well. I hope to be writing/speaking to all of you soon!

My First Entry from Critical Mass

It is said that the best things come to those who wait. I can safely say that I’ve got good things coming.

It’s been a month since my somewhat dramatic departure from Vancouver and I entered into obscurity. It’s high time that you all found out what the heck happened since then. Some of you already know, but this is for everyone else…

The destination was Calgary. Reason: I have family here (relatives — my parents and sister live in Ontario) and I have friends here. Calgary is also an ideal location for getting a job, particularly if you’re in the high-tech industry. I arrived here in late afternoon on March 1, and have been here ever since.

The job hunt was important, and it began almost immediately. My first (and only) interview with a company was only two days after arriving. I continued to search through the Internet (Workopolis, Monster.Ca, and various other sites) and landed a few interviews with headhunters (ack!).

Things picked up when Critical Mass (the company I interviewed with) called to check my references. Three weeks after arriving in Calgary, I landed a job. I am now a Web Developer at Critical Mass, developer to the stars … or at least American companies with a lot of money.

I started on Monday. I would’ve sent this email then, but I didn’t have a computer. I didn’t get a computer until nearly noon yesterday, and then I got buried under a rush job. They don’t waste time around here trying to break newbies. It was daunting to say the least — I knew no-one, had no idea what I was doing, and was being thrown into a project I new nothing about.

It was great. Really. I enjoyed it.

Except for the fact that I worked until 23:15 last night. On my second day. At least my name is getting around…

I’m realizing that my web development skills are going to accelerate about 100 fold in the next few days as I learn all these neat tricks Critical Mass has developed over the past year or two.

CM parallels Radical in many ways — lots of people (estimates are around 160), they occupy most of a building except for a quasi-architectural firm on the first floor, the average age is in the mid-to-late 20’s, and the talent here is amazing. I hope I can live up to the competition.

But it’s definitely not Radical. Maybe in time I’ll think of them as being the same, but for now … well, it’s a living.

I have a new apartment in downtown Calgary. It’s nice, and has a view of the north and of downtown. It’s really close to a lot of things, including work (a five minute commute on foot) … my roommate (and one of my best friends) Chris joins me in a few weeks.

Hmm…

You’d think that after a month, I’d have a lot to write about. I guess not. My log entries will hopefully be a tad more frequent. Oh, and as I do with each new email address I have — any of you who would prefer not to receive these (relax, they only come every couple of weeks or so), please let me know.