Eric Idle’s Greedy Bastard Tour hits Calgary

Tonight, the Greedy Bastard hit Cowtown.

The Bastard in question, in case you’re wondering, is Eric Idle. For those of you buried under rocks since the day of your birth, Eric was one of Britain’s Monty Python comedy troupe, makers of several years of quality British television and such movies as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”, and “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life”.

Eric is self-described as the sixth most friendly Python, after Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Graham Chapman, and John Cleese. For those of you unawares, there are only six members of Monty Python. Having now met the man in person, he certainly is pleasant enough.

Eric is the only current touring (former) member of Monty Python. John has a successful acting career (although Eric’s is fairly prolific), Michael has done several series for the BBC (a documentary-like version of “Around the World in 80 Days”), Terry Gilliam is one of Hollywood’s more ecclectic directors, and Terry Jones has done some bit parts and a few books (he co-authored “Starship Titanic” with “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams). Graham Chapman died in 1989.

This time through North America (running October to the end of December), Eric’s running under the banner: “The Greedy Ba$tard Tour: Another Stupid Evening…”. For all those who think he’s doing it just for money, he’ll agree with you 100% of the way. As he started off when he came on stage: “This is to earn money so I can send my daughter through college … and my wife through collegen.”

Tamara, Nick, and I went in a group of three, but weren’t the only Critical Mass folk out. Steve was there with his girlfriend, as was John with his. I can only assume there were others, but we never saw any of them. It was good to see that the three of us weren’t the only ones interested in a good laugh.

We arrived at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Theatre (usually referred to as just “The Jubilee”) around 19:35, for a 20:00 show. Nick and I are Python fans — Nick even knows some of the The Rutles (Eric’s answer to The Beatles). Checking the coats (and stashing the camera), we headed in to find our seats.

I’d never been to The Jubilee before. It’s not at all what I expected. It’s attached to the Alberta College of Art and Design (known more informally as ACAD), but does not look at all like a school auditorium. It’s a three-tiered honest-to-God theatre, regularly hosting operas and ballets. Tonight, it hosted an “adults-only” show. Some of Python’s material, and some of Eric’s comedy, is not for kids.

The stage was simple: a small piano on the (audience’s) left side, and a coat rack, chair, guitar stand, and throw rug on the right. Music played softly as people entered the auditorium. With only minutes to the show, the music became louder, as The Village People’s “YMCA” started playing. Several people in the audience did the motions in the chorus. Then one of the actors (it wasn’t Eric) walked out on stage as one of the Gumbys — a Python character known for abject stupidity. He attempted the chorus motions. The audience laughed.

The music changed to the infamous “Spam” theme, sung by ancient Vikings. (Yep, another Python skit.) On came Eric, to a cacaphony of whistles, hollers, yells, screams, and a lot of clapping. After the crowd calmed down, he started into his routine, pausing only to introduce something never done before: the Encore Bucket.

This was a shiny, stainless steel garbage can. It’s Eric’s way of ensuring that he comes on for an encore. The idea is that you throw money in there (or women’s underwear — he’s trying to break through the Tom Jones Barrier), and if there’s enough, he’ll do an encore. In reality, all money collected goes to charity (Eric keeps the underwear). So if you’re seeing Eric Idle’s Greedy Bastard Tour, bring a few extra bucks for charity.

The only time he took a truly serious note was to mark that tonight is the second anniversary of George Harrison’s death. Harrison produced movies, and footed the entire bill for “Life of Brian”. As Eric put it: “The most expensive movie ticket, ever!” Eric and George had been good friends for many years.

As Eric’s opening dialogue went on, he explained that he had been to The Jubilee before — 30 years ago, with the rest of Monty Python, on the first (and last) tour of Canada. Eric has been through Canada a couple of times since (his previous tour was “Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python”). On his last tour, he was presented with none other than the Monty Python hook, a very long, crooked pole used to drag people offstage in their skits. The group had left it behind in Vancouver at the end of their tour 30 years ago, and Eric was presented it when he returned a couple of years ago.

As he said: “I can only imagine what this would fetch on eBay!”

I have to admit that I was a little skeptical as to the content of the show. I mean, I like Monty Python a lot, but would the show really be anything original? It was just Eric, and there’s no telling if the rest of the players would have the same comedic timing of Python. I was quite happily relieved to find that Eric’s happy band of six people (including himself) were quite up to the task. And even after many shows, his co-players can still crack up on stage.

We were treated to many classic Python songs, including “The Penis Song”, “The Philosopher’s Song”, “Sit On My Face”, “Eric The Half-A-Bee”, “I Like Chinese”, “Galaxy Song”, and of course, the “Lumberjack Song”. We hoped for “Every Sperm Is Sacred”, but not that night. (Tamara had never heard the “Lumberjack Song” before, but had it stuck in her head from the moment she heard it until well after we were home.)

The tickets weren’t cheap ($55), but it was worth every penny. The show was funny, and even localized. (They rewrote the “Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge” skit so that the wife was from Okotoks — something we found extremely funny, because Tamara’s from Okotoks.) They included some Canadian humour, including ye olde poke fun at Americans.

Two and a half hours after the show started, it was over. Nick and I ran into the autograph line so we could get things signed. We had hoped for the DVDs we had brought, but a sign read: “The Greedy Bastard will only sign purchased merchandise”. Thirty dollars later, I have a signed t-shirt. Hey, I might never get another chance to meet a Python.

I did get a chance to speak to Eric. I thanked him for coming to Calgary, and hoped he would return again. He looked quite tired (the show takes a lot out of you when you’re 62 years young), but was still the quintessential showman.

Even for a self-proclaimed Bastard.

Weekends, relationships, and parties

Friday night was not fun. Erin and I got together after work, headed down to her place to eat pizza and watch Indiana Jones movies. Or at least that was the plan. We watched the second half of “Last Crusade” (having started it a couple nights earlier), and had a great time. But as we started to watch “Temple of Doom”, things turned a slightly darker note.

We’d been discussing why I *hate* dancing. (It’s a long, sordid story that I’m not going to detail here.) Erin wanted to know why, but I didn’t want to tell her. She kept at it, repeatedly demanding to know. Suddenly, I found myself blasted four years into the past, and it wasn’t Erin who was asking me, it was Allison.

All the dread, fear, anguish, and pain that I had thought long gone washed over me like an oil spill washing up on a rocky shore. I felt completely helpless. For almost a half hour, I was unable to do or say anything. Erin was beside herself — she had no idea what to do. She’d never seen this sort of thing before, and didn’t know how to handle it. Not that I could blame her.

It’s a test. Not an intentional one, I have to say, but it is a test nonetheless. A test of how we deal with problems when they arise, and a test of how I’m able to adjust having someone else in my life again. Had this happened on my own, I’d probably have just gone for a walk, watched a movie, played a game, something to dull the mind. But not anymore, now I need to work it through. It’s a good thing — I’ve let these old issues sit far too long.

Saturday got off to a slow start. I didn’t sleep well at all. I ached all over, and memories of the night before were still far too fresh in my mind. But I looked at the day with fresher eyes — I wanted to have a good day.

Erin and I met up with her parents and Aunt Edie at Joey Tomato’s at Chinook a few minutes before noon. Erin’s father was parading around in shorts, despite the fact that the outside temperature was barely 10 degrees. (Later, I would agree with the choice of attire, since the temperature would rise throughout the day.)

Lunch was excellent, of course, though a little quieter than some of the meals I’ve had with Erin’s family. Well, quiet except when Erin’s dad was prodding me to rib Erin a little bit. Not that it takes much to get me to do it, I’m nearly convinced Erin’s dad loves it when I’m the antagonist.

After lunch, Erin, her mom, and her aunt went shopping. Erin’s dad and I sauntered across Macleod to the Staples. Erin’s dad wanted my opinion on a scanner he had put on hold. This was the first time I’d been left alone with Erin’s father. It’s probably the single most nerve-wracking thing for a guy to go through. Erin had already been left alone with my aunt, grandmother, and cousins, so it was only fair (certainly to a point) that I spend some time with just her father, even if under the pretenses of assisting in buying a scanner.

I’d never seen the Canon LiDE 80 before — it’s a new one to me. (Not that I’ve researched scanners for a while.) But it’s small, light, powered through the USB port, and comes with a negative scanning adapter (definitely a useful tool). I want one. I haven’t had a scanner in almost four years, and I have to say, I need one badly. I’ve got a huge pile of photographs and negatives just calling out to be scanned. I just don’t have $250 laying around to be used.

Oh well, things to plan for.

Dropping the scanner off in the car, Erin’s dad and I retreated to Chapters to wait for Erin, her mom, and her aunt. We shared a hot chocolate and cranberry juice, chatted, and waited. Didn’t take too long before we were all reunited. The reunion was short, as Erin’s parents and aunt had other things to do.

Erin and I took off to 17th Ave. This is one of Calgary’s prime shopping areas. It’s also home to Erin’s favourite store: I-Appeal. If Erin had the chance, she’d probably buy everything in the store to decorate her condo. But she had a limit of $20, keeping her to just two “decorative” elves. (I think they’re kinda creepily ugly, personally, but Erin thinks they’re the bees knees.)

Plans that evening were to attend a long-delayed housewarming for Fritz and Jin. This, of course, means I needed to bring a suitable housewarming gift. For some reason, I’m a big fan of glass flower vases — I don’t know why. As Fritz is a Designer (and certainly Jin is quite stylish), I needed something that would be suitable. Luckily, I-Appeal had just what I was looking for.

After a quick stop at Blockbuster (gift certificates), it was into Reid’s for some wrapping paper. We then wandered over to 8th St. to stop into Janice Beaton. It had been far too long since my last high-quality cheese fix. I tried to convince Erin that she needed to try some, but it seems there’s desire for cheese — and then there’s me. (I did manage to convince her a little later.) Of course, we had to stop in Bernard Callebaut (it’s almost impossible to pass it by) for a couple bites. A short stop at the house (to drop off the cheese and wrap the present), and we were off to Fritz and Jin’s.

Fritz and Jin moved into their condo in July (see [[Painting my house (among other things)]]), after waiting another year following their condo burning down (luckily, they hadn’t been living there at the time) in a collosal fire. Although housewarmings usually take place not long after moving in, Fritz and Jin had some things they had to attend to, first. So, almost three months later, they finally got to have their party.

Well, the first of a couple, anyway. They’ve got co-workers and Jin’s friends to deal with, as well.

Erin and I were the first to arrive. No big surprise there — our group of friends aren’t exactly the most punctual kind. It gave us time to chat with Fritz and Jin until the others started to appear. Doug, Jensenne and Jon, Virgil, Jon and Pearl, and Teak and Rose soon rounded out our little group. With the tour of the condo out of the way, we proceeded to scatter about the kitchen/dining/living space and chat.

Some of us hadn’t seen the others in quite some time. For example, I can’t really remember the last time I saw Jon and Pearl, but it had been quite a while. It was there that we found out for the first time that they’re getting engaged — they just have to wait for the ring. Good news, indeed.

Food was plentiful, if perhaps on the not-quite-so nutritious side — Asian snack foods. Tasty, but not exactly wholesome. Real food came in the form of pizza, which Fritz and Doug went to pick up.

This group is loosely known as the ABCs — the Asian Brother Crew. This is Chris’ name for the lot of us. The only missing members were Calvin (MIA, near as we could tell), Chris (still in Japan), Adrian (in Japan, visiting Chris), and Tamara (who, sadly, forgot). As it had been a very long time since the last time together, we marked the occasion with a photograph.

The evening would not end there, however. One thing we particularly like doing is bowl. Yeah, kinda hokey, I know, but it’s fun. Especially when we’re making fun of the way we play. So we all raced up to Let’s Bowl in the Northeast — our favourite lane. As it was 21:30 when we arrived, we figured on a decent amount of time to play. Or so we thought.

An hour and a half wait. For all the times we’d been there before, we’d *never* seen a wait that long. And we weren’t about to wait. A hurried conversation of where to go next drummed up Pacific Place (formerly known as Franklin Mall), which had bowling lanes. Best part was, it was only a few minutes drive away.

Erin and I initially lost everyone else. They’d gone around front, where they couldn’t get into the bowling alley. Erin and I went around back (actually by mistake). A few cell phone calls later, and everyone was assembled to play. Our hopes were initially dashed a wee bit when we realized it was five pin bowling instead of the usual 10-pin. It had been a long time since the last time I’d bowled five pin (see [[Bowling with Co-workers and a Review of the 2001 Academy Awards]]), and I was kind of looking forward to it.

And as it was Erin’s first time bowling in 14 years, I think she was looking forward to it, too.

I won’t recount the games — there’s no point. Erin did far better than she thought she would (I’m sure). I bowled okay, though I kept shooting to the left, for some reason. And right after we noticed that the display not only showed the score but also how fast the ball was moving, a few of us tried to get the fastest throw. Fritz won with 43.5 km/h. (I could only do 42.3 km/h.)

The game, and the party, broke up after that. Most of us were tired — it had been a long day for all. (Especially Teak, who’d played two back-to-back games of street hockey before coming to the party.)

Can’t wait until someone else buys a home.

Happy 30th Birthday Teak

It’s not every day that you turn 30. Unfortunately, it’s long since been my turn.

This time, it was for my friend Teak. You may remember Teak from a previous birthday of his, when Chris and I felt the need for a little revenge (see [[Revenge is Sweet]]). Having no reason to torture my friend, I felt it necessary to show my support for a fellow over-the-hiller.

Teak had reserved the upper floor of Soho, one of the trendier bars in town. Why the upper floor? Teak knows how to throw a party — he invited 250 people. Now the first rule of parties is to always invite a lot more people than you expect to show up, because about half won’t come. Teak planned for that, and the upmost floor was ideally suited for 100-130 people.

Tamara, Sheldon (Tamara’s new boyfriend), and I headed out shortly before 19:30 to rendezvous with the gathering throng at Soho. We were among the first to arrive. Such is the norm, really — most people seem to like doing what they did in high school, and be fashionably late.

In our haste to leave the house, I realized (much to my chagrin) that I’d forgotten my camera. I had only recently got it back from Adrian, who had taken it on his whirlwind trip to Japan and the Philippines. I wanted to take photos at Teak’s birthday — mostly for Chris, who’s still trapped in Japan.

Soon, members of the ABC (Asian Brother Crew) started to appear. Fritz and Jin were the first (after Tamara and I), followed soon after by Adrian. Doug appeared not too long after. A few others from Critical Mass (Karen, Mark G., Mark E.) also arrived, as did Arif (arriving with Teak’s girlfriend Rose), Arthur (with friend Tanya), and former teammate Bonnie (with partner Mandy). We were outnumbered, however, by the rest of Teak’s friends, a few of whom I vaguely knew.

Tamara and Sheldon didn’t stay too long before leaving. They didn’t quite feel like they fit in. (And I did?) I hung out for a while with the ABCs, talked with Bonnie and Mandy for a long time, and then had a long chat with Arthur and Tanya. I couldn’t stay too long, as my stamina isn’t quite what it usually is. But without knowing it, I’d lasted until after midnight.

Arriving home, I flopped on the couch to peruse the late night Saturday television lineup. But once Miao Yin had made herself comfortable in my lap, staying awake just wasn’t a possibility. I passed out. Explains the kink in my neck.

I’m getting too old for this.

Movie Ticket Prices and Acts of Piracy

A question: Who commits the greater act of piracy? Those who download movies off the Internet, or those who plunder the pocketbooks of the innocent who want to see the next blockbuster?

I’ve been finding myself asking that question more and more lately. For those of you who haven’t been to a movie lately (or a movie in Canada at one of the major chains), you probably haven’t seen the ads being played before the trailers, pleading with the general public not to download movies off the Internet.

They’re quite insulting, actually. They’re put out by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), although it’s not branded that way. It’s branded “Respect Copyrights” (http://www.respectcopyrights.org/), assumedly to draw attention away from the MPAA, which like the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), have been raising a serious stink about people downloading copyrighted material off the Internet.

I’m all for copyrights! I wholeheartedly believe and subscribe to it! I’ll admit to a few MP3s that I don’t own outright, but I usually go out to buy the album if I like the music. (Otherwise, I delete it.) I believe in copyrights because it’s my only defence when some shmuck steals the code from my site (including my name!) to (apparently) improve search engine traffic to their porn site. Yeah, I don’t get that one, either.

What I’m not for is watching these patronizing ads. The two I’ve seen feature movie industry workers, whom you’ve never heard of or would never know. One’s a set painter, the other a stunt driver. They both proclaim that piracy doesn’t hurt the big-wig producers, but them directly.

No offence to them, but I fail to see how this is possible. Let’s look at reality, here. Movies will continue to be made (unless piracy gets to the point where movie companies go out of business), and movies will always — *always* — need people to make them. That means set painters and stunt drivers (okay, maybe not in *every* movie). You can’t have a movie without people doing the work.

It’s the producers who get hit. Let’s face it — the workers have already been paid for their toils. It’s the producers and the movie companies that get hit because the box office take is that much lower, and the DVD sales will be affected. (I’ll bet that’s half the reason for the rumours that “Matrix:Revolutions” will be out on DVD before the end of *this* year.) Nevermind the spiralling cost of making movies (for any number of a million reasons) or the escalating salaries of Hollywood stars — really, USD$20 million a movie? Who are you kidding?

So piracy hits the movie makers where it hurts them most — their pocketbook. Do I agree with this? Heck, no — I want them to keep making movies. I love movies! I love going to movies! I love everything about movies! What I don’t like is the propagandist crap the movie makers are shoving down on us.

Why are they doing it? Money, of course. They can’t stop people from downloading. Maybe they should stop the movies from getting on the Internet in the first place? Yeah, that would make sense, and the irony is that almost 80% of the movies available on the Internet are from … ready for this? … people in the movie industry (statistic compiled by AT&T Labs). The movie biz is cannibalising itself. But who gets blamed? We do, of course.

Why do people download? Money, of course. They don’t want to spend money to see bad movies. The quality of Hollywood films has been in decline over the years. In the last 10 years, there’s been a huge influx of degenerative garbage dressed as a movie. Little gems do get made, but there are far too many so-so (and much worse) films.

Now combine the quality factor with the box office prices. Right now (in Calgary), it costs $13.95 to see a movie after 18:00 (except Tuesdays) at the premiere theatres in town (coincidentally, mostly owned by Famous Players). When we went to see “Matrix:Revolutions, The IMAX Experience”, it cost us $16.50. (And it wasn’t an IMAX print, probably just a 70mm.) Until that point, seeing a regular movie on the IMAX screen didn’t cost a cent more than on a regular screen. On 16 December, a few of us are going to see the “Lord of the Rings” marathon — 12 hours of movies. (Yes, we’re sadistic.) Ticket price? $50. I had better get a “I surived 12 hours of Lord of the Rings and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” outta that price, otherwise I’ve forked out over $16.50 for each of the three movies.

Hey Movie Industry! Wanna know why people download? Here’s a hint — $11 for a weekend matinee! Give me a freakin’ break. I was ticked when regular movie prices were that much. Since when should a matinee cost a mere three bucks less than a regular movie? (Unless, of course, regular price is $7 or $8.) Where’s the incentive, eh? And don’t forget the extra $10 for the regular pop and regular popcorn. No wonder I sneak in M&Ms.

I was interviewed by CBC Radio Calgary (don’t know if it’ll ever air — I’ll keep you posted) about movies and the things that bug me about them. Without getting into too much detail, the big things were the whole “experience” (e.g. theatres with a lot of kvitch), high concession prices, and my single biggest favourite, high ticket prices.

This is why I like to frequent the independant theatres. They get excellent movies, have *much* more reasonable prices, and don’t offer anything I don’t need or want. I also still frequent the “lesser” chain theatres, such as Cineplex’s Eau Claire theatre. It’s old, it’s not as nice as the others, but it’s a movie theatre — nothing more. (Yeah, there’s an arcade/bar tacked onto the side, but the theatre itself is just a theatre.)

It seems pretty plain to me. Want to reduce piracy? Reduce the prices. This was something I learned in *grade* school. I don’t need any fancy MBA to tell you how it works. You can increase the number of patrons by lowering your prices. The trick is to find out when it’s maximized — something the major chains (for whatever reason) aren’t doing. They figure: raise the price, make more money!

I decided after the last price hike that enough was enough. When prices hit (or more likely, exceed) $14, I’m not going to evening shows anymore. Matinees and Tuesdays only. One day, not at all. Why? A guy’s gotta have a line. These prices are unsustainable, and if the only way I can protest it is not to go, then so be it. I’ll wait for a rental.

You want to talk piracy? Lemme show you the hole left in my wallet.

Jim and Luke’s 26th birthday

You’d think I’d have learned from my jaunt out on Thursday night (see [[2003 planning meeting wrap party]]). I guess I did to a point, but I made one key error: I went out to celebrate Jim’s birthday.

For the record, Jim’s a great guy. He’s a lot of fun — he has no inhibitions to speak of, he lives more on the edge than most (especially when it comes to skiing), and lives for the moment. He’s a great web developer, he’s inquisitive, and is always interested in pushing the boundaries of website development. Unlike most people, Jim doesn’t really have a shell to come out of — he wears pretty much all his internal organs on his sleeves.

What’s all this mean? Well, when you receive an invitation from Jim, asking you to attend an evening of drinking, you can immediately know where it’ll likely head. The fact that today is Jim’s 26th birthday made events of last night all the more … necessary.

I arrived at Jim’s apartment (a two-minute walk from the venerable Rose & Crown pub) shortly after 20:00, the approximate time we were asked to arrive. Upon entering the apartment to the loud calls of Scott (who’d arrived mere moments before me), James (already quite well into the bag), and two of Jim’s friends (whose names I’m drawing a blank on), I was informed of the house rules:

  1. No smoking inside. (No worries there.)
  2. No throwing large objects.

Other than that, there were no other rules. But there was a bit of preparation.

As each person arrived, they had to roll dice. For most people, it was three. Women only had to roll two. Mia and Lindsay got away with only one — Mia was on antibiotics, so was taking a (wisely) careful approach. The number you rolled were the number of drinks you had to have before the night was over. The rules (as stated by Jim) meant that all ones were actually sevens. Thusly, the drink minimum was six, and the maximum was 21. Jim (and Luke, the co-birthday boy) each had to drink 26, because that’s their new age.

I rolled a 17. Figures. James rolled a 20. He finished even before we left for the Rose & Crown.

To ensure that everyone had their share, you strung the number of candies (taken from a candy necklace) onto a piece of dental floss, which you wore around your necklace. For each drink you finished, you ate one of the candies. Beers and shots counted as one. For pints, it was in groups of three: first pint was a single drink, the next two were two drinks each, for a total of five.

I don’t know if anyone every really put that rule to the test.

With most of the group assembled around 23:30, we departed for the Rose & Crown (Mia and Lindsay had come and gone by that time). It was cold, but the alcohol kept us (somewhat) warm. Luke bypassed the pub, saying he needed food. He never came back. We kept going at the Rose & Crown, talking drinking, and eating nachos until … well, until you couldn’t hang out any longer.

I stopped around 1:30 or so. I was out of money (I had budgeted myself as a limiting device) and feeling kinda tired. I also didn’t want to relive Friday when I woke up later this morning. So it was off towards home, stopping at Canadian Pizza Unlimited for a little repast, and at the Mac’s to pick up a litre of Gatorade and a small bag of chips. (Gatorade restores the salts, etc. your body loses while drinking.)

Falling asleep on the couch, I awoke only when Tamara came crashing through the door around 4:00. I don’t wholly remember her return. I just rolled over and went back to sleep. I haven’t slept that well in a long time.

Aside from being really tired, I had a much better day than on Friday. Oddly enough, it felt really good to just laze around for a change. It’s been a while since I outright relaxed. I can only imagine what kind of a day Jim must’ve had. But something tells me that he wouldn’t mind if it was not so great — he almost certainly had a great time last night.

As for me, I think I’m going to remain sober for a while yet to come. Two nights of debauchery in such close proximity isn’t good for me. I might begin to like it.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, no, I didn’t finish the 17. I might have actually had 13 drinks, including shots. Even then, I’m not too sure. It was probably less — I cheated a couple of times.

2003 planning meeting wrap party

There were green alligators, and long necked geese,
Some humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees,
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as your born,
The loveliest of all was the Unicorn.
— “The Unicorn”, The Irish Rovers

There are all sorts of smart things one can do on a school night. Getting drunk ain’t one of them.

For those of you no longer in the scholastic world, a “school night” is no different than those you experienced at school. Basically, most weekday nights (not counting Friday) and Sunday night. So named because you have to get up early in the morning, file yourself off to a building, and concentrate on things that you might not otherwise like doing.

For the last three days, I’ve been in all-day meetings. We’re planning out the 2004 projects for Mercedes-Benz. Now that I’m part of the lead team, I now participate in these meetings. They’re great, don’t get me wrong. We sort out all sorts of issues and really get a good feel for the direction we want to take the account.

But they are draining.

It’s like having a Martian Brain Sucker attached to your skull all day. By the end of it, you’re exhausted. The advantage is that you feel really good about the work you’ve done. All in in all, it’s a good experience.

‘Course, the best part is the dinner that follow the last day. That’s when the MB team goes out for dinner. Well, “dinner” is a subjective term, since we eat a little and drink a lot. (The amount of drinking varies, usually inversely proportionate to how smart you are about when to stop.) But it’s all fun.

To make things more interesting, I didn’t leave right at the end of the day. You see, irony of ironies, the site that I worked on directly (and for which we were having the dinner), MBUSA.com, was down. It had been down since about 11:00 that morning. All because of a database edit. A fairly simple thing, really, which is why we were so utterly puzzled when the “fix” didn’t work.

When 17:00 rolled around, the fixing was still at full speed. I got the skinny on what was going on (I only knew during the day that there was a problem, but not exactly what it was) and tried to understand what part of the problem was. (There was a lot of Java discussion, which I don’t possess enough of an understanding to truly grasp.) In a nutshell, there wasn’t much I could do to help.

So I went out to get drunk.

Well, that wasn’t so much the intention so much as the result. And lest ye be thinking I’m turning into a raging alcoholic, please rest your fears. Now I know there are a number of stories that always seem to start: “So we went out to get drunk…”, but that’s not always the case. I don’t live my entire week like that — I wouldn’t have made it 31 years if I did. Just that the drinking stories are usually the most fun.

The Wildwood Pub is one of the nicer places in town to meet. It used to be a lot better. Sadly, as I found out last night, their beer quality has begun to sink dramatically. Peter, our newest copywriter, was telling me to avoid the stuff. I should have listened. Between Peter and myself, we tried every variety of beer they had (there’s only six or seven of ’em). They were all bad. We both switched to Keith’s.

I think I ended up being the only technology person in attendance. (Most of the others, sadly, were trapped at the office trying to resolve the site problem. The fix, in case you’re wondering, was to restore a previous backup of the database.) So I guess I felt a responsibility to represent. [Insert cliched reference to LA gangland-style comrades here.]

That might have been what possessed me to drink beer a little too quickly. Either way, a good time was had. So good, in fact, that eventually, it was down to just five people: Dan (the Managing Director — the Big Kahuna, if you will), Mabel (Dan’s assistant), Jason (Project Manager), Daryl (Account Manager), and yours truly. That was when Mabel convinced us that we had to go somewhere else.

We retreated to two cars: Mabel’s and Dan’s. I rode in Dan’s — I’d never been in a Mercedes-Benz before. (Hey, he *is* the Managing Director. He kind of has to own one.) It’s nice … the rear seats are brutally cold, but it is nice. Don’t know if I’d ever own one, though.

Mabel and Dan zig-zagged through Calgary. I’m not entirely sure I knew where they were going, but we eventually ended up at Mabel’s apartment, where she ditched her car. The five of us continued in Dan’s to our destination: Aussie Rules.

Aussie Rules is an Australian bar. (Or at least, it’s supposed to be.) Now before you think that’s a little strange, here’s something else to make you scratch your head: It ain’t the only one in town. Yes, there is another one: The Flying Emu (okay, so technically, it should be a New Zealand bar), just down from my old apartment.

So you think I’d see kangaroos, drink Foster’s, and eat barbecued shrimp, right? Nope. We listened to dueling pianos.

Yes, dueling pianos. Perhaps one of the stranger things to see in a bar. Two pianos (baby grands), facing each other. Two player/singers. But it’s not a competition — they play together, banging out whatever songs people request (or whatever they feel like playing). Mabel led us to the table right in front of the stage so we could get the full effect.

We came at an opportune time (which I can only assume was in the vicinity of midnight), as these guys had been playing (and drinking) for a couple of hours. They were definitely well into their silly stage. While they did play great music (they actually did a couple lines out of Gowan’s “A Criminal Mind” on a request I shouted out; they wouldn’t touch Gordon Lightfoot), they also did a pub favourite. This was Mabel’s request.

At some point in your life, you’ve probably heard The Irish Rover’s “The Unicorn”. If you listen to it the way the Rovers do it, “The Unicorn” is a very nice song. If you listen to the way the Dueling Pianos do it, “The Unicorn” is an Olympic event.

When the request was made, one of the two pianists (a guy about 40 lbs overweight, I’d guess) climbed up on top of the piano (I assume it can easily handle the weight of someone on the lid), picked up a microphone, and hopped over to the top of the other piano, and prompted demanded everyone stand up.

Incidentally, I assume they’ll only do this song after people have been drinking long enough.

So here’s how it goes. It’s all about a couple of the verses (here’s a link, in case you want to know what the lyrics actually are), repeating the chorus often, making the audience mimic the animals mentioned in the chorus, and following the direction of the singer (for example, when he yells: “Where’s the bar?”, you point at the bar). If you manage to get to the end with all the motions without laughing yourself to the floor, you’ve done pretty well.

I didn’t make it. But I didn’t land on the floor.

Anyway, without going into excrutiating detail (‘cuz you know I could), we had a blast at Aussie Rules. Before we knew it, there was the Last Call. At the time, it didn’t really click with me what the time probably was. For some reason, I decided that whatever time it was, it wasn’t really that late. It didn’t feel that late.

Time flies when you’re drunk.

We upped and left (paying the bill, of course) and headed towards downtown, dropping Mabel off along the way. Then it was over to the Mercury, another Calgary establishment. I have no idea what time it was when we arrived. It couldn’t have been too late — the place was still serving. Dan decided we needed some Irish Whisky to finish off the night.

Dan drove us home. I live somewhat close to Dan, but saved him the trip through Sunnyside by having him drop me off at 2nd Ave and Centre St. From there, it’s a 20 minute walk home, which I really needed. It gave me enough fresh air to remember to drink a couple glasses of water and take a couple Tylenol to stave off the inevitable hangover.

Tamara had been home barely 30 minutes before I walked in. She laughed. I was a wreck, and she knew it. (Technically, I knew it too, but just wasn’t willing to acknowledge it.) I had the water, pills, quick run through the bathroom, and crawled into bed somewhere around 3:00.

Well, I assume I crawled into bed. I don’t really remember that step, but since I woke up in there, that’s about as close an assumption as I can make. My alarm — Chris’ stereo which clicks on at 5:20 playing the Tragically Hip’s “Music at Work” album (the entire thing — that’s over 45 minutes long) — didn’t wake me up. Not even remotely. I forgot to set my secondary alarm. Luckily, I have a backup.

It’s furry, has four feet, and purrs. She also meows really loudly in the morning when she wants to be fed.

At 7:37, I bolted out of bed in a bit of a panic, threw my head under the tap to get the bedhead down, dressed, shaved very quickly, ran a toothbrush across my teeth, and was in the process of about to run out the door when I realized Tamara was still asleep. We carpooled. I don’t drive to work usually, but considering we had to be at work for 8:00, I made an exception.

The hangover kicked in around 8:30. And it got progressively worse all morning. The more I moved, the worse it got. Fortunately, nothing so serious that I was ready to … well, y’know, but I sucked back a few aspirin with ginger ale to try quieten the body. It wasn’t until I had a greasy lunch at A&W that I started to feel normal again.

Well, as normal as anyone can feel after mimicking a chimpanzee in a Australian bar in suburban Calgary at some ungodly hour of the night because I’ve had too much to drink for my own good.