Disc (Frisbee) golf in Canmore

Heat arrived in Calgary this weekend. It’s been warm here for a few weeks now (off and on, anyway), but this was the first really hot time in the ol’ town. Which, of course, is a perfect excuse to flee the city for a day.

A few people in Calgary (like, half the resident population) are out this weekend. Half of Critical Mass took today off so they could get a nice four-day weekend (counting tomorrow’s national holiday). I suspect the rest of Calgary ain’t much different.

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Ex-girlfriend gets married

Today, I got a rather interesting surprise: an email from an old friend, still living in Vancouver. It appears that a couple of weekends ago, my ex-girlfriend (and ex-fiancee) got married.

When I read this rather interesting piece of news, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad. I no longer harbour feelings towards her, one way or the other, but I found I still do for her family. I grew quite close to them when we were together, and perhaps the most pain I felt when I left was from my betrayal of their trust.

No doubt I am no longer a consideration in their lives, nor should I be. I suppose that thought/feeling alone makes me sad. What is my future? I have a good job, a home, a nice car, I exercise regularly, have more friends than I really know what to do with, and have led my life as I choose to direct it. In fact, the last three years have been extremely good to me — the death of my father notwithstanding.

But I come home to an empty house. I’ve got a roommate I hardly see anymore (a boyfriend and a new life outside of Critical Mass have contributed to that), and two cats. Though I love them all, they won’t share in my experiences or adventures. I have no-one to hear my victories in battle, no shoulder to cry on. Almost three and a half years. Longer than I was in any relationship.

The closest I’ve come to that sort of a relationship is with Chris — possibly my dearest and closest friend. (Anyone willing to tell me I’m full of crap when I start doubting myself can’t be anything but a close friend.) Since he’s moved away, the hole in my life seems to get bigger. I try to fill it with things: new websites, trains, work, exercise. Not even the largest freight train can span the gap that I sometimes feel splitting me apart.

Such was the feeling I got when I found out my ex is a married woman. There are a lot of people who believe I should feel a lot of animosity towards her. I did, three years ago. I had a lot of anger. Back then, I honestly didn’t believe that I’d feel any different as time went on. But the saying is true — time does heal all wounds.

Today, I sit here and type nothing but best wishes for her and her new spouse. I hope that their lives together will be long and fruitful, that her family is happy and well. Perhaps this is the end of a chapter of my life — the last few threads tied off that allows me to move on. I don’t think this was holding me back, but that’s the strange thing about the subconscious: you never really know.

Critical Mass Reckless Summer Reunion

There are certainly worse ways to spend Friday the 13th. There are certainly more healthy ones. But when Critical Mass decides to throw a party for its employees, you can be sure of two things:

  1. There will be a lot of laughs.
  2. There will be a lot of drunk people. (That kind of leads back to #1.)

(I should point out, for the record, that the New Year party was extremely tame. I have no idea why specifically, but it was the first time I haven’t seen at least a few co-workers completely loaded.)

Unlike last year’s little surprise (see [[Critical Mass 5th Anniversary Surprise Party]]), the staff knew that this party was coming. What they didn’t know was where it was going to be. There were many theories: Sylvan Lake, Calaway Park, Banff, even whitewater rafting. Most were discounted due to distance, cost, and safety. One location that had circulated a few times was COP — Canada Olympic Park. I assumed it would not be there, since I assumed (rather poorly) that there was little for us to do there. Little did I know…

Our morning began a little earlier than usual. For me, it was with a little more responsibility — I had to take a staff photo. In the six years that Critical Mass has been in business, there has never been a staff photo. This was the first time since the Kelowna trip (see [[Download Overload, the Critical Mass Kelowna Getaway in Westbank]]) that we’ve had everyone in the same place at the same time.

Since we laid six people off last week (including my roommate), we are without an “official” photographer. I guess I’m the next in line (can’t imagine why), so I was asked to take the picture. To allow this, Darrell (the VP of Operations) arranged for me to gain access to the roof of the next door building and shoot across the parking lot. Two great things about this: the angle is perfect, and the sun in the morning is great.

The bad thing? Organizing that many staff is like herding cats. Which is why I was very happy to be just outside of comfortable shouting range.

Pictures in hand, we boarded our busses for our unknown location (which we would soon find out was COP). We were grouped into five teams: Green, Blue, Red, Yellow, White. (These are representative of the Olympic colours, of course.) This not only organizes us, but creates the groundwork for the competitive in-your-face attitudes that we generally lack in the office.

Okay, it’s a chance for us to completely mock each other.

The line at the bar formed as soon as the busses arrived. It took less than a few minutes for us to be kicking back in the main tent, drinking our beverage of choice (usually one of Corona or Heineken), and getting into the groove of the day. Pat and I both remarked that in some ways, the day was reminicent of the Kelowna trip — starting the day off with beer.

What I would find was that as the day went on, the more I felt like I was not in Calgary. The company had whisked us away to parts unknown to engage in a weekend of total debauchery. It wasn’t to the same scale as Kelowna (I’ll be very impressed if we ever see that again), but there was so much energy from having the entire day to do (pretty much) as we pleased that everyone seemed to forget that we were (at the core) just co-workers.

We began our mini-Olympics around 10:00. The events were fairly simple, and none too difficult. (They were designed to be played by the dozen or so pregnant women currently at the office.) They included Bocce-Curling (get your ball the closest to the target), Cookie Stacking (stack Oreos as fast as you can in 30 seconds, using only one hand), Channelz (using five half-pipes, run a ball around an obstacle course, moving the ball from one channel to the next every 20 feet), Memory (remember what a bunch of articles are), and Balloon Toss (tossing a water balloon between two people, increasing the distance every throw).

Oh, and there was one other event. As we arrived, 10 people volunteered for a “special event”. No-one knew what it was until it started: a Scavenger Hunt. A lot of people who didn’t volunteer wanted on, and a few who did volunteer wanted off. The details of the whole thing are still sketchy. We didn’t see the Hunters until just before lunch.

Although I was part of Team Yellow, I spent most of my time running around between the various events, taking pictures. I gotta say: drinking beer and running don’t mix well at all.

Participants were well-behaved. For about five minutes. I mean, come on! Put a bunch of people (mostly men, admittedly) in the vicinity of filled water balloons, and well, you’re gonna have some trouble. Suffice to say, every team that left the Balloon Toss went to their next event armed. It’s a good thing we had a sunny, warm day — a number of people got a wee bit damp. (Fortunately, our adolecently-minded staff had the decency not to aim water balloons at the women in white shirts.)

Things calmed down a wee bit come lunchtime. That’s when everyone put their guns down and loaded up on food. (You’d be surprised how much acting like buffoons works up an appetite.) Nothing overly fancy — just hamburgers and salads.

After lunch, we were left to our own devices. Some people went off wandering, some played mini-golf, and some went to play beach volleyball. The rest sat around and chatted. Resuming my photo run, I proceeded to find interesting things to take pictures of. For some reason, I started with beach volleyball.

The five courts are wedged in the last curve of the bobsled/luge track. Unlike most of the other courts I’ve seen, these had more than the 2-3 inches that you end up driving your foot through into pavement. I took the opportunity to run around a bit and get a few action shots of people playing.

My first memory card full, I took a moment to rest before heading back to get the second one. That’s when Ed suggested I come play with them. Still being inebriated enough not to know any better, I hopped out on the court.

Now, this wasn’t a particularly bright idea on my part. My head (along with the rest of my body) was still swimming in ol’ ethyl. The actions of volleyball — whipping the head around following the ball, diving, rolling, yelling — combine against your brain’s better judgement to stay in one place and lie down. Needless to say, it’s quite the argument my body got into.

While in the midst of a set that I don’t really remember, I caught a glimpse of water balloons arcing over the trees. The angle required to get the balloons over the trees was so great that the balloons never came close to the courts. That didn’t stop me from annoucing (rather loudly) that if anyone hit my camera with one of those balloons, it would be the end of them.

That statement would be my downfall.

About 20 minutes later, Allard (my boss) caught us in between serves to borrow my little camera. Or rather, I thought that’s what he was looking for. In reality, he was checking to make sure I was camera-free. I hadn’t seen the audience on the hill carefully hiding my big camera.

Next thing I know, there’s a line of people standing on the hill. They were in plain view. You know those old cowboy movies where the angry Indians all stand in a line at the top of a ridge? It was like that, only with water balloons. And no Indians.

Somehow, instinctively, I knew to run. It didn’t matter — apparently, I’d earned the privilege of being the prime target. Two balloons bounced off me, but one made a direct hit in the front, followed moments later by one in the rear.

Neil ran past. (Although he still claims his innocence, I have witnesses as to his involvement.) Picking up the two balloons, I chased him all over the courts. Then Neil got smart and stopped. Before I could do anything, he’d burst the balloon in my hand, and stepped on the other. Now balloon-less, there was only one other thing I could do: chase him.

For all I know, I had a blood-curdling rebel yell as I chased Neil up the hill. Someone yelled out: “Tackle him! Go for the legs!” Remembering snippets of high school gym class, I dove and grabbed the legs. From what Arthur tells me, it was a textbook tackle. All I know is that the whole effort wore me out, and there’s no video evidence.

I walked around damp for most of the afternoon (like I said, it’s a good thing it was warm), constantly shedding dried grass and sand from the escapade in the volleyball court. Although I can’t say I was the wettest that day, you could put me in the top rankings, I’m sure.

The winners of the games were announced towards the end of the day. I wasn’t particularly paying attention, having reached what I can only assume was the bottom of my bottle, figuratively speaking. Team Green won, partly due to their skill (I can only assume) and subterfuge (which was widely known). Hey, it’s just a game…

We returned to the office to begin the *second* event of the day. Thought we were over, didn’t you? Ha! If there’s one thing Critical Mass doesn’t know, it’s when to stop. Hmm… that’s not necessarily a good thing…

Vicious Circle was our next port of call. We didn’t all arrive at once, but before long a large portion of the company had packed themselves into a seat somewhere. And at Vicious Circle we sat, talked, drank, snacked, and took strange pictures of everyone who was there. And then suddenly, almost without warning, people began to filter out into the night.

Torin, Adrian, Jim, and myself headed to Ceili’s — I’m not too sure why. We ran into a couple of people from CM, but after a quick search for anyone else in the building, we found outselves alone. This meant it was time to vacate. The problem, however, was that during our search, Jim decided it was time to get another beer. (For those of you who think *I* was far-gone, you needed to see Jim.) We didn’t much want to wait for Jim to finish his beer. No problem for him — he just slipped the 3/4-full pint into his pants pocket.

Out the door and down Stephen Ave. — we were headed to SkyBar, where we knew the rest of the crew could be found. We didn’t get much further past Penny Lane when I caught a glimpse of a familiar face: Sean, aka Muck, aka my cousin Pam’s boyfriend. Pam, of course, was right there. We talked briefly (the others were waiting for me, and I couldn’t very well wait around too long) before resuming our quest to SkyBar.

When we reached 1st St., Jim disappeared. We were across the street from Murrietta’s, one of the cooler bars/clubs downtown. That night, they had a live band playing p-funk (basically, horn-driven music). Jim blurted something about it, and next thing we knew, he was gone. We waited around a couple of minutes, but Jim was gone. (James and I would discuss this the next day — James received two completely unintelligable voicemails from Jim over the course of the night.)

Torin, Adrian, and I continued to SkyBar. There we ran into Cyndy, Ashifa, a couple of Marks, and other people I don’t quite remember now. SkyBar cover was $15. We weren’t objected to it so much as we were STARVING. Conveniently enough, Saltlik was next door. On the order for a late-night snack: a peppercorn steak.

It was midnight when we hit the streets again. I’d been up for 18 hours, had at least that many beers over the course of the day, been water-bombed, run ragged, and my feet suddenly decided to tell me they were ready for revolt. As much as I would have liked to go up to SkyBar, my body cried out in defeat. It was time to go home.

The lights were off, and nobody was home. (Except the cats, of course.) I assumed Tamara was out having her own breed of fun that night. For some reason, though, I felt the urge to look for a note. I found one on my computer keyboard: “Back in a few days. Enjoy your weekend!” I laughed, though probably more from being too tired. I crawled into bed next to Spaz, who was rather upset that I was making her move.

I can’t wait for next year!

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Railway Days at Calgary’s Heritage Park

Okay, before you all say “oh, there’s Geoff and his trains again!”, I would like to emphasize — for the record — that I only did this because the Society was desperate for people.

The Society, of course, is the Rocky Mountain Rail Society. But you’re thinking I was up working on 6060 all weekend, guess again. I remained in town … at Heritage Park. The Park is a recreation of life in a prairies town/city circa late 1880’s to around 1910 or so. Depending on where you are in the Park, you’ll see roughly appropriate recreations. (I think only a few things in the Park are authentic — most were rebuilt from pictures and plans.)

One of the things Heritage Park has done for the last 17 years is hold something called “Railway Days”. It’s a draw that brings out more people to the Park, and causes the local modellers and rail hobbyist organizations to come out and show off their things. Naturally, this brings out the Society to show off what we’ve got, raise a few bucks for funding, and hopefully snag a few more members.

Don, who organizes all the local events (I sometimes wonder if he actually sleeps at nights), asked me to be there most of the weekend — all of Sunday. I didn’t have any firm plans otherwise, and agreed. I arrived an hour early Saturday morning, expecting to have to go through the rigamarole of setting up the displays. Everything was already in place when I arrived.

I had an hour to kill. This gave me an excellent chance to wander around the Park. I haven’t seen much outside of the roundhouse, coach house, and the main street. I didn’t go for a huge walk, but got a better idea of what the Park is like. Luckily, the weather was infinitely better than last year’s (for once, I have no entry to link to!) — it was bitterly cool and rainy the entire weekend, keeping the people away. On Saturday, we had bright, sunny skies, and though it started off a little cool, warmed up very nicely.

We were put into the roundhouse, along with the other commercial interests. This was a little disheartening — we’re not commercial. We’re non-profit. We sell things, yes, but just to earn some money so we can pay for projects we need to do. As it stands, we only made $600 for the weekend, and our profit margins on that stuff is quite low.

Of course, we’re not there so much to make money. Our goal is to raise awareness. We’ve been around almost 20 years now, but we’re not known outside the rail community. Even within the community, we regularly get stories that 6060 has been permanently retired and put up on static display. It’s particularly a challenge when we’re told this to our faces at trade shows.

It’s so much easier when you can roll your steam locomotive into a town, pop open a door and announce “We’re here!”

Fortunately, we didn’t have too much trouble with people finding us. As the roundhouse is a fairly major attraction, and we were right next to the door, we had a steady stream of visitors both days. Last year, we were in the Coach House, which is virtually buried behind the railway tracks and beyond the roundhouse. Unless you happen to see the signs, you are definitely going to miss it.

Oh yeah, assuming you haven’t already figured it out, Heritage Park has its own self-contained railway. It’s nothing particularly fancy — a big loop with a turntable and roundhouse, a siding for storing the “freight” train, and two stations. Two locomotives ply the rails on Railway Days (usually, it’s just one), both 0-6-0 switchers. They’re painted as CP 2023 and CP 2024.

It’s with some irony that in a CP town, Heritage Park ended up with two small steam locomotives originally from (of all places) the US Army. Both started off with the Army, moved to New Westminster in BC where they worked the docks until the mid-60s. They eventually found their way to Heritage Park where they were fixed up and put to use. (They were originally US Army #4012 and #4076.)

Heritage Park does have two actual CP steam locomotives: another 0-6-0, #6144, which now operates with a diesel engine; and CP 5931, one of two preserved Selkirks (see [[CBC TV 50th Anniversary VIA Rail train, Canadian Railway Museum]]) — the largest locomotives used in Canada. (There is widespread belief 5931 could run again, but the politics behind doing so dwarf the massive engine by many times.)

Amidst people coming and going (and Don running around to help out with the presentations), I made a couple of opportunities to go take pictures. When you’ve got two steam locomotives double-heading (basically, running end-to-end), you make an effort. Especially if the weather’s good.

Early afternoon arrived, and we had so many people at the booth that I didn’t see a need for me to be there anymore. So making sure all was well, I ducked out to enjoy the rest of my afternoon.

Sunday, it rained. It was raining when I got up, it rained off and on until just before lunch, and then rained pretty much consistently for the rest of the day. Naturally, this staved off the numbers of people we’d seen the day before, but it wasn’t *so* bad. It gave us more time to watch the videos we show constantly.

I spent all Sunday at Heritage Park. It wasn’t the most rivetting way to spend the day, but at the same time I can certainly think of worse things to do.

Besides, I got to watch the trains.