Mercedes team building

We had 2005 planning meetings this week, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. They can be quite painful, if for no reason other than for going over projects all day. It really wears on the brain, and the body. Well, my body, anyway. I have to drink Coke to focus well, since these meetings have a tendency to cause my brain to tune out. At the end of Wednesday, I was exhausted. It also didn’t help that I was having to stay late to catch up on work I was unable to do during the day.

But as is typical with these annual meetings, we usually have an annual team building event. There were no green alligators or long-necked geese this year (see [[2003 planning meeting wrap party]]), which I’m partially thankful for. (That had been a lot of fun, but I felt quite hungover the next day … not that today is going all that swimmingly, I might add.)

Following the end of our work day, those of us on the Mercedes-Benz USA account high-tailed it over to Eau Claire Market and the Cinescape, an arcade/lounge attached to the Cineplex Odeon theatre. We didn’t know exactly what was in store for us, especially since Scott, Torin, and I were the first to arrive.

Somehow, though, we stuck out like a giraffe in a penguin parade, and a very helpful server by the name of Nigel came to our rescue. We had two pool tables, a series of tables, and an unlimited bar tab at our disposal, with food coming along shortly thereafter.

Let the party begin.

By 18:00, most of those who would be attending had arrived. Although the team numbers about 60, maybe only 2/3 of them showed up. While we waited for dinner, we played pool (I got smoked by Torin and Casey, who are both pool sharks) and chatted amongst ourselves. Some of the designers played darts (which, after Luke’s going away party — see [[Luke leaves Critical Mass]] — I had decided I was going to avoid).

Dinner was quite good — much better than I had expected. Salads, buns, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and chicken or salmon (or both, if you prefered). It tasted great, even standing up. While we ate, the rules of the game were explained…

Each of us were given $1,000 in Monopoly money (photocopied, mind you) and 40 game tokens. The idea was to bet each other on games and try win as much money as possible. We were divided into teams, and the team with the most money at the end won the bragging rights. (As it stands, it’s up for debate which team ultimately ended up winning, no doubt in part to the quantities of alcohol consumed.)

Not being a betting man, myself (I follow the wise words of Jack Burton: When the earth quakes, the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake, just look that big old storm right in the eye and say, “Give me your best shot. I can take it!” … no wait, wrong quote … I never bet my money, only my life). I pocketed the whole wad in my back pocket and played dumb the rest of the evening.

For those of you who know me, I can play dumb real well.

I finally beat Adrian in a game of air hockey. It’s taken a while. It was a hard-fought game, with both of us sending the puck in multiple directions off the table. The score came down to 7-6. It would be the last time I choose to challenge Adrian last night. (I would take Scott later on, but I can’t remember exactly who won … it was probably him.) I jumped in and out of games throughout the night, until all my tokens (including a healthy refill from Dan) were depleted. My trigger finger hurt.

Talking and boasting continued until the lounge closed, and we all headed over to the Barley Mill to continue. Now, true believers, this is where things get a tad hazy, because I’m not entirely sure how long we were there for. I do remember one beer and playing a game where you try to guess what three words have in common (quite a good game, I might add). But that’s it. I don’t think we were there very long before we all upped and headed for Chinese.

We lost two along the way, but Dan was still leading the charge. We ended up at Me and U, on the corner of 3rd Ave. and Centre Street. I’d never been there before, but it seemed like fun. Or would have. You see, as soon as I sat down and had my first cup of tea, my body started to rebel. I went to the bathroom and stood over the sink for about 10 minutes before Dan came to find me. I’d officially had the buscuit, and headed home.

I don’t know what happened. I honestly don’t think I’d had that much. Maybe I did, and just don’t remember. Either way, though, the walk home wasn’t pleasant. I wasn’t sick, just really dizzy. It wasn’t like any enbriated state I’d experienced. Mind you, my memory was a little off, so it wasn’t easy to tell.

Speaking of memory, mine was so shot that I didn’t wake up until 8:30, thanks to Tamara making noise in the bathroom. Crap. I hauled ass and was out of the house in less than 10 minutes, arriving at work just over an hour late. I depleted the Bistro’s supply of ginger ale. Ate several slices of banana bread. But it wasn’t until the greasy A&W lunch that I started to feel normal again.

Thank god we only do this once a year…

Brunch at Banff Park Lodge

I slept horribly. I’m not sure if it was from the hiking we’d done yesterday, or the troubling thoughts running through my mind as a result of last night. I’d felt like Alex and I had been abandoned for breakfast, as well, with everyone but us having done up to Uncle David and Aunt Alaine’s suite for muffins, coffee, and juice. I suddenly felt like we’d been completely excluded. It left a very hollow feeling with me.

Alex and I headed up to the restaurant, which was where we’d agreed to go with everyone else for brunch. We sat there for a while, wondering where everyone was. The feeling that we were being shunned as a result of last night wasn’t going away. It wasn’t until they (Cathy, Craig, Mom, Brenda, Mike, and Nana — Jen slept in) appeared from Dave and Alaine’s suite that I started to feel a little more normal.

We gorged ourselves on breakfast. I started to feel better, and put off the negative thoughts as nothing more than paranoia. When brunch finally rolled to a close, Alex and I headed up to Dave and Alaine’s suite to bid a good morning, and farewell. I didn’t think we’d be seeing them before they headed back to Kelowna, so it was the best possible chance. (As it turns out, we saw them again that evening.) Pam and Sean were there, still wired from the events of yesterday, despite barely four hours of sleep. The large room (which contained a sitting area and small kitchen-like space) was littered with fruit and muffins, juice, and chocolate milk (for, guess who?).

Hanging around for a little while (and being joined by the others) to chat a bit, we then returned to our rooms to pack up. It took a bit of effort to get everyone put away (a few trips were needed for Mike and Brenda’s room alone). Once our stuff was away, we helped pack up the remainders from last night — plates and leftover liquor, wine, and beer. All of it went into Mike’s truck (borrowed for the purposes of transportation).

Packing complete, Alex and I departed to do some shopping. The only thing on our list? Jeans, for Alex. We hit several stores before tag-teaming almost the entire selection at The Bay (yes, believe it or not, there is a Bay in Banff). Jeans in hand, we stopped next at the Old Spaghetti Factory for a late lunch.

“Late” being the operative word. I didn’t realize what time it was until we left. We needed to be at Mike and Brenda’s house for 17:00 to help move a couch. We didn’t even depart Banff (Bamf!) until almost 15:45, having needed to take a sidetrip to take a photo of the Banff Springs from Surprise Corner. It was still snowing when we finally left the protection of the mountains. Calgary would be under a blanket of snow.

The couch had been moved by the time we got there. The group of us, joined soon after Alex and I arrived by Dave and Alaine, returning the truck, moved into the living room for pizza and a slideshow of the photos we’d taken. Craig, Mom, Mike, and I ran through our collective sets, describing them as needed.

It got to be late. I want to be up early tomorrow to hit the gym — I’ve got a weekend of overeating to work off. So we prepared to leave. That’s when I found out that Cathy and Craig are staying at a hotel tonight. I felt a little cheated, having found out at that point. I understood their reason (without having to ask), but suddenly felt like they were avoiding me. Yeah, there’s that paranoia again.

No biggie, though. I’ll see them tomorrow for lunch. Assuming, of course, that all hell doesn’t break loose.

Pam and Sean/Muck’s Banff wedding

The schedule had been for breakfast at 9:00. Cathy and Craig weren’t terribly happy about that (it is early, after all, especially after being out drinking most of the night), but were up and running before Alex and I. We barely pulled ourselves out of bed in time. Jen, of course, slept right through breakfast.

Melissa’s is a Banff (Bamf!) landmark, and right across the street from the Banff Park Lodge. It’s a small restaurant, but had been in Banff (Bamf!) for ages. The owners, as a result, also own some of the other local properties. Melissa’s also hosts an annual road race.

Packed full of food, we returned to the hotel to figure out our day’s activities. Last night, Mike and Craig declared that they were going to hike Sulphur Mountain. Having already done that this year (see [[Jazz Up Your Weekend at the Banff Centre]]), Alex and I were content to do differently. Based on a suggestion, we headed off in search of Johnston Canyon.

Johnston Canyon is a little, out of the way hike about 20 minutes west of Banff, along Highway 1A (note, it’s NOT off the Trans Canada). I love driving down Highway 1A, as it’s not only a nice trip, but the road is all twisty and windy. In a small car, say a Mini, it’s a lot of fun.

When you’re driving around in most national parks, you’ll periodically see cars parked at the side of the road, for no apparent reason. Take the opportunity to slow down and look around. Chances are, there’s a good wildlife opportunity. In our case, it was a bull elk, grazing not 10 metres away from the highway. Although he didn’t cooperate (staying behind bushes), I did manage to snap a couple of interesting pictures before we headed on.

The parking lot at the foot of the Johnston Canyon hiking trail was nearly empty. Despite being almost 11:00, it seemed few were out for the morning hike. Being a bit chilly (the temperature was reading about 4 degree Celsius in the car), we made sure we were adequately bundled up before heading off.

The Canyon trail is quite interesting. Unlike most of the trails that I’ve been on, especially within Banff National Park, this one was paved. It wasn’t smooth pavement, to be sure (so don’t think that a regular wheelchair would make the journey easily … though you could probably take one quite some distance before you hit the stairs), but it was easier than compacted gravel.

Once you get into the canyon, the pavement stops and starts. In places where there is no pavement, there are extensive steel and concrete catwalks that run along the canyon walls. Never in my life would have I expected to see such a thing. There is one thing about building walkways and bridges over creeks and rivers, but to build a catwalk system into the depths of the canyon, sinking pylons into the canyons walls and floor, just so people could go look was just incredulous. It seems, to me at least, to be completely AGAINST the policies of Parks Canada, which I had always viewed as “minimal impact”.

In fact, there was even a work crew there adding a new catwalk section.

Rants about the impact on the environment aside, the Canyon is gorgeous. Despite clouds pretty much having obscured the sky, and some of the higher hills around the canyon, the inside seemed immune to the lack of sunshine. After a couple of turns in the canyon, it was clear why Parks Canada was installing the catwalk — there is no better way to see such beauty. The water there is clear; it looks almost like thick, turbulent air. If there is no glare from the sky, you can see every feature to the bottom, and sometimes it’s hard to tell that water’s even there.

Johnston Canyon is home to several waterfalls of various heights. There are two of particular note: the Lower and Upper falls. The Lower Falls features a large, deep bowl carved out of the rocky walls. Erosion over the eons has also carved out a small tunnel on the east side of Johnston Creek, though which you can see the falls much more closely. The Upper Falls, which marked the turning point for us on our hike, is the highest in the Canyon. There are higher ones in the Banff/Yoho/Jasper park system (Takakkaw Falls — see [[BC Vacation: Three Valley Gap to Calgary]]), but these you can get really close to, thanks to a catwalk that extends right out over the creek, facing the falls.

As we began our trek back to the car, it began to snow. It’s October in the mountains, which means winter. Last year, Calgary got its first snowfall on 29 October (see [[Calgary’s first heavy snowfall of the season]]). I don’t know if it’s snowing there now, but it’s certainly snowing here in Banff (Bamf!). The snow wasn’t the soft, fluffy stuff, either. It was those hard little pellets that bounce off your face. They sting a bit.

There was barely anything on the ground by the time we got to the car, but on the drive back it was clear that the snow would be staying around a while. So was that elk we saw earlier, except now he was just lying down at the side of the road, about 8 metres from where he’d been eating, out in clear view. He was staring at something — presumably his harem — but we couldn’t figure out what it was.

Arriving back in Banff (Bamf!), we went out in search of three things: food, fudge, and a navel ring (for Alex, not me). Food was at Bruno’s, because you simply can’t get better sweet potato fries anywhere else. We split a hamburger. As for fudge, we were thwarted at Rocky Mountain, which had mysteriously closed. We had to default to the Fudgery, which we think we’re going to stop patroning. Their slices are too large, and often quite dry. The ring was from the rock and gem store.

Showered, shaved, dressed, we left for the wedding ceremony at about 15:45. There were two possible locations for the wedding, one at the gazebo next to the Bow River, and inside the Whyte Museum in the event of inclement weather. Given that it was snowing fairly hard, and below the magic temperature threshold of 14 degrees, we were to be inside.

Incidentally, there was no irony lost that it should snow on Pam’s wedding day. Pam, who like her father (Uncle David), does not like the cold. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. To say simple say that would be to imply that Florida had only a few minor rain showers this year. Pam throws on fleece sweaters in the middle of summer when the sun goes down.

The ceremony was in a small room at the back of the museum, about 30 feet by 30 feet, part of which was taken up with a stairwell. Most of the guests were crammed into the room, waiting to see what would happen. A small podium on the west side, next to the window, would be the focus of attention. We gathered ourselves around it.

Before long, a man in his 40s spoke up. I thought it was the justice of the peace. It turned out to be Rod, Sean’s brother. It was then explained that Rod and Darren (Pam’s brother) were sharing the duties of officiating the wedding. (The story goes that they managed to squeak in through changes in Alberta’s officiating process. They had the ability to marry only Pam and Sean, and only today. Talk about specificity.)

It was a civil affair, so there wasn’t the same level of spirituality one would get in a church. Rod was an eloquent speaker, and had little difficulty with his part of the ceremony. Darren, not being quite the public speaker, had a bit of a waver in the voice, and stumbled at a couple of parts. For the record, so did Sean and Pam as they recited their vows. The vows, incidentally, contained the typical requirements: love, devotion, commitment through thick ‘n thin, and so forth. They also contained a couple of unique items: Sean had to keep Pam warm, and Pam had to make sure to find healthy chocolate milk for Sean.

With the ceremony over, the photographs began immediately. The photographer, who had been running around during the ceremony, now took control. First in order was a group photograph of the 90-odd people in attendance. It took a bit of organization, trying to fit everyone into the photo so that all could be seen. It wasn’t an easy shot, especially considering the small size of the room, but she managed to get all the guests into the shot. With that, the next round of photos with friends started. The family, which included Alex and I, retreated to a room downstairs to sip champagne and eat chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for our turn.

The family photos were done in two rounds: Tisdales and Wades. The photographer had us all line up very specifically, and posed us all for the scene. It was quite interesting, and I dared not move, lest ruin the picture. It didn’t take long, and the photos were over for us. The Wade clan came next, and the pictures were over.

Calling upon Darren and Ginny for a moment, Alex and I had our picture taken on one of the several rooms of the museum, against a backdrop reminiscent of the cliffs you see along the Trans Canada highway, just east of the east entrance to the Banff (Bamf!) townsite.

With that, we headed back to the hotel in the still-falling snow. After a quick stop at the hotel room (Alex wanted to change, and I wanted to ditch some of things I was carrying), we headed up to the Glacier Salon, site of the reception party. Although officially to start at 17:30, we were a little early. That ended up being a bit fortuitous, since Mike needed an experiment couple to practice on for the photos. Mike was taking pictures of every person who came to the reception.

The photos were at the fireplace that dominated half of the north wall. (The other half was a frosted glass wall, cut and etched to represent the surrounding mountains. It barely went up a quarter of the height of the massive vaulted ceiling.) Windows ran down the length of the east wall, to a dance area at the southern end. The bar also ran along the south wall, but jutting well into the room (separating the dance floor from everything else). The west wall was windowed (with blinds) and had the doors to the rest of the hotel.

Ten tables filled the room, one head table and nine guest tables. Each had eight seats. Cathy, Craig, Alex, and I were relegated to table #9 — the last one. It was probably the single safest move to make.
Guests were arriving, mingling, drinking, eating hors d’ouevres, and generally being merry. Not long after, Sean and Pam arrived, having had their photos taken at the Gazebo. I can only imagine how cold Pam must’ve been. With that, we were directed to our tables for the meal to begin.

The rules came out almost immediately. Like with most of the other weddings I’d been to in recent years, clinking of glasses was poo-poo’d. Instead, each table was given an envelope. In the envelope was a question about Pam or Sean, that had to be answered by the table. The table then had to present the answers (up to five options) to either Pam or Sean (whomever the question wasn’t about) to guess correctly. If they were stumped, they had to kiss. Otherwise, the table had to kiss. There were two wildcards.

As consolation for being the last table, we got the wildcard for Pam. Cathy and I immediately dived into a wealth of childhood trivia that we could use to stump Sean. The problem was that we had too much stuff, most of which was vague even for us. Everyone else at the table (who knew Pam, anyway) plugged away at the question, desperate to not have to kiss amongst ourselves. We finally came across one…

The story went like this: Many years ago, Pam had gone travelling in Europe. She had misjudged her budgetary needs, and ended up having to call home for help. What country was she in when this happened? The answers we gave were England, Germany, France, Italy, and the kicker: It never happened. Now I had to check with Darren because I wanted to make sure that we had the right country. Problem? Well, it was option #5 — it never happened. Leave it to my family to embellish. This is why we put on the fifth option. As it turns out, this stumped Sean, too. We were quite happy to have found a good one.

Dinner was wonderful — filet mignon or chicken, depending on which you wanted. (I have to say that the chicken was really tasty, although I had gone for the beef.) A cream of asparagus soup started us off, followed by a salad that I can’t quite describe. Dessert was a deadly-rich slice of chocolate cake…

…along with some entertainment. Sean wasn’t about to make it through this reception alive, not if his family had anything to say about it. Which, of coure, they did. So they launched into a skit, putting Sean on a mock trial, where his family (led by his father as judge) set about to embarrass Sean, and flog him senseless with pool toys. A little jerky at times, it had the desired effect, and proved that in fact, the Tisdales weren’t the weirdest family in attendance.

Pam and Sean’s friends then conducted the Albertan equivalent to the Newfie induction ceremony. (To become an honourary Newfoundlander, you have to drink a shot of screech and kiss a cod.) To be an Albertan, it seems, you have to down a bloody caesar (celery was apparently optional), wear a red clown nose and proclaim that “I vote PC”, whack a rubber rat with a baseball bat while chanting “rat-free province”, and kiss a pack of raw beef (covered in cellophane, of course). I wouldn’t have gotten past the caesar (I hate tomato juice).

Dancing began shortly thereafter. Alex had asked if I would dance with her this time (having completely stood her up at Jon and Pearl’s wedding — see [[Jon and Pearl’s Wedding]]), and was determined to do so. Sadly, the one song that I thought would be good — “What a Wonderful World”, by Louis Armstrong. Sadly, Alex wasn’t in the room at the time. So I requested something more appropriate (so I thought): “Lost Together” by Blue Rodeo.

Due to song planning, “Lost Together” came up at a non-dancing time (namely, the cake-cutting). It also didn’t help that Alex wouldn’t have danced to it, anyway. That left me feeling quite hollow, having finally worked up the gumption to do something about it. I hate, loathe, and despite dancing, and have done so since I was a kid. I have no idea why. So needless to say, it takes quite a lot of effort to ask someone to dance.

We ended up leaving early, before almost everyone else in my family, at 23:45. (The party went on until almost 3:00.) I felt bad for leaving early. This is my family. Leaving so soon just seemed … wrong. But I wasn’t feeling particularly great — the whole dancing issue had hit me harder than I thought (the only song we’d danced to was “Home for a Rest”, and it far from compensated). Going to bed, I honestly wondered what others would think. I worried what they’d say. Something didn’t seem right. But I didn’t want to mention it — just in case I was imagining things.

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Thelton McMillan leaves Critical Mass

A couple of weeks ago, we received a note in our inboxes that Thelton McMillan, the President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) had left Critical Mass. Needless to say, this had come as a bit of a shock to the staff, who had not expected something like this to happen.

The reasons for the departure were a bit nebulous, since we weren’t entirely sure what was truth and what was made up to soften the blow. The official story was that Thelton had done what he was hired to do (restructure Critical Mass into a professionally-managed organization; we were previously more fly by the seat of our pants), and had run out of challenges. Not able to extend himself further, he felt it was time to move on.

To a large extend, Thelton will be missed. Good leadership is hard to find, and that he was, despite his initial introduction to Critical Mass.

When I returned to Critical Mass after my stint with the CBC TV 50th Anniversary VIA Rail train (see [[Home for a rest]]), Thelton had come on to replace Di during her maternity leave. The Friday of that week, I got my first formal introduction … when he went on a massive rant about Critical Mass’s value system, respect, and responsibilities.

He almost instigated a mass exodus. In the span of a few minutes, Thelton pretty much managed to piss of the department with the worst morale in the company. He never apologized for what he said, nor should he have. There was a new wind blowing at Critical Mass, and we were just figuring out what it was.

Over the course of a few months, Thelton turned that relationship around. It took a lot of trust (and to be sure, there were those who never did fully trust him), but the results that came around as a result of his initiatives were undeniable. Politics within the departments aside, the transition went pretty well. (As some of you know, I had pretty major issues with how the transition went within Technology.)

So tonight, many of us came out to bid Thelton a proper farewell. (Especially those of us who have benefitted greatly at his generousity when buying rounds of drinks at various Critical Mass events.)

Departing from Critical Mass shortly after 17:00, Scott and I drove down to 15th Ave. and 5th St. SW, about a block from Bungalow (the lounge formally known as Pongo, since redesigned and reopened), which was our destination. There, we found John, one of our DBAs, trying to find the bar.

Only a handful of people had arrived. The group had doubled 20 minutes later, and double again 20 minutes after that. Thelton and Christy arrived about 15 minutes after we did. Scott had to leave about 18:00; I had to leave before 18:30. It could have easily ended up being a major bender (had I not had existing plans, no doubt I would have hung around to the bitter end). Instead, I had a chat with Thelton and Garth, getting a feel for Thelton’s plans.

I bid adieu to Thelton as I headed out to my car. I don’t know when our paths will cross again. I only hope that they will.

Picking up Alex from home, we headed out to Banff (Bamf!). The entire Tisdale clan (extended or otherwise) along with friends were gathering. Tomorrow is Pam’s wedding.

The drive out was filled with conversation, but after a long day, I was happy to get there and get ourselves squared away. Too bad that ended up being more difficult than it should have been.

It appears the staff at the Banff Park Lodge are a little on the dense side. Aunt Brenda had booked four rooms: one for Brenda, Mike, and Jen; one for Cathy and Craig; one for Mom and Nana; and one for Alex and myself. We were the last to arrive, but there were no rooms left under Brenda’s name. Two were gone, and the remaining two had been switched to Cathy and Mom.

I piled back into the car to run out and find Cathy and Craig at the St. James Gate, an Irish pub about two blocks away, where everyone was meeting starting at 20:00. We had passed C&C on the way over, so I knew they’d be there.

Alex’s introduction to C&C was on the sidewalk outside the pub in the cold weather. Not exactly an ideal situation, but you can’t always control everything. Cathy was certain that we were in room 105.

The four of us returned to the hotel, Cathy going to retrieve Aunt Brenda. As the story boiled out, Uncle Mike (who had arrived earlier) checked in at the front desk, and was assigned to #105, despite his wife being in #104. He’d even dumped his things in the room.

Keys in hand, bags in room, car parked underground, and introductions more or less complete, Cathy, Craig, Alex, Mom, Brenda, and I all headed over to the pub. The room in the back was already fairly full, but we managed to squish into a table.

We had a couple of drinks, chatted a while (Mom and Brenda left after about a half an hour), until just after 22:00, when Alex and I decided to head off in the direction of the Hot Springs. (There was another minor reason that was the initiator, but it’s not particularly relevant.) Jen came with us. It was raining a bit as we drove up, chatting with one another. I dropped Jen and Alex off at the building and went to park the car. They were waiting for me when we arrived. Despite Jen being a couple inches taller than me, she still qualifies as a child.

I was the first out of the change room. The pool was empty. For a moment, I thought it might be closed. But it turns out, on what seems to be an uber-rare event, there was no-one else in the pool. The springs didn’t close until 23:00, and it being only about 22:25 or so, the pool was all mine.

Well, for about two minutes, which is when Alex joined me, followed a couple minutes later by Jen. For about 10 minutes, the pool was all ours. We were then joined by a pair of women, who stayed primarily at the cooler end of the pool. We went from the hotter section to laying in the “children’s” area and back. I finally bailed about 23:50, when nausea began to set in. Top sign you’ve been in too long…

The evening was much more comfortable with the benefits that come from relaxing in that pool. I almost wish I lived in Banff so I could buy and annual pass, and go to the pool whenever I liked. Such as it is, I can’t.

Maybe this means I need a hottub…

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Family arrives in town for a wedding

Tonight, my family arrived in Calgary. It’s time for another family wedding (no, not mine), which means the relatives from far-flung reaches of the universe come together.

Pam’s getting married on Saturday. She and Sean (aka Muck) have been together for about five years (since before I moved to Calgary, anyway), and finally decided to get engaged in late January. On Saturday, this all comes to fruition, and Darren and I get off the hook with Nana for a while longer. (Potentially longer still, if Cathy manages to get pregnant any time soon.)

Cathy, Craig, and Mom arrived on an Air Canada flight earlier today, picked up at the airport by Aunt Brenda. From there, they spent part of the day resting, and the rest shopping. (Cathy, it seems, was on a mission and dragged Mom all over Market Mall in search of jeans.) Craig slept off and on in the car. He’s a napper.

I had yoga (this being a Tuesday), so I wasn’t able to bolt over right after work. I had hoped to bring Alex with me and get her introduced to Cathy and Craig a little earlier (rather than Friday, which I fully expect to be a bit of a shock), but she had a meditation class tonight.

Despite a nasty traffic situation (namely, slow drivers in the northeast), I arrived just after 19:00, just in time for dinner. Ham and scalloped potatoes. Jen was absent, being engaged in a volleyball game. Apparently, yoga combined with a harried drive out to Whitehorn put me in a slightly hyper mood (probably also combined with seeing my family for the first time in eight months). Cathy thought I was a tad strung out.

Dinner barely finished, Uncle David and Aunt Alaine appeared at the front door. They were running solo from Darren and Ginny, and Pam and Sean (undoubtedly up to their arse in getting things ready for Saturday). This was ideal timing for the group of us to move into the living room and chat for a while. It was probably our last chance to chat as a loose family until after the wedding. I suspect Uncle Dave and Aunt Alaine will be more than a little busy for the near future.

At about 21:30, Cathy, Craig, and I packed up to go to my place. They’re staying with me tonight before they go off to Jasper tomorrow. The squeeze into my car was a little tight, but we got everything in. Once at my place, we piled their things into the house, cracked open the case of Moosehead that Craig had brought along, and started chatting. Basic topics were houses, Christmas, Alex, things to see and do in Jasper, and the highways from here to there.

It’s late, and I need my beauty sleep. Tomorrow will be another long day.

Thanksgiving 2004

If I had a list of top ten bands that would never play Calgary, KMFDM would have been on list.

But more on that in a minute or two.

Today began fairly normally for a Sunday: Alex and I rose, ate, showered, and prepared for the various tasks of the day. Then we went to church.

Yes, church. Specifically, the Knox Presbyterian just off 33rd Avenue. Naturally, you’re asking why we went. I mean, this is *me* after all. Church-going isn’t exactly my thing. In fact, until today, the only reasons I’d been to a church, aside from tourism, was for weddings, funerals, and one Easter mass when I was a kid. Aside from that, I’m more likely to sleep in on a Sunday morning.

We went for two reasons. First, it was Thanksgiving, which (admittedly), was more of excuse to go than a reason. Alex wanted to go, having not been for quite some time. This was her first chance to bring me. It’s signficant because this church was where Alex’s father used to be a minister from 1978 to 1988. Many of the congregation still know Alex, even though she hasn’t really been there very much.

The church is a modern design, due to a fire that destroyed the previous building when Alex was a child. The new one is an average size, holding about 250 parishoners (a bit of a guess). The main hall is contained in a 70 to 90 degree arc, with the altar, choir space, and organ at the apex. The outer curve opens into the atrium through two doors (there is no central aisle, which Alex thought was a poor design — no central way to walk down the aisle for weddings).

The new minister, a man named Murdo, is quite a pleasant person. I met him just before going in for the service, having spotted Alex and I in the Nantex (the atrium space). He wore white robes with a brightly coloured stoal, representing the Christian Creation myth.

The service was nothing particularly fancy, going fairly quickly (about an hour). There were four hymns (none of which I sang, as I can’t remember how to read music; and my voice is listed as a weapon of mass destruction), a couple of passages from the Bible, a few songs from the band (which many of the longer standing congregation seem to barely tolerate through gritted teeth), and a simple skit that Rev. Murdo guided many of the younger people through.

The parable was one about how 10 lepers (or to be more PC, people afflicted with a skin disease) asked Jesus for mercy, which was how they begged in the time. Jesus instead told them to go see the priests (which, in lieu of doctors, declared whether or not someone was fit to rejoin society). All were cured, but only one — a Samaritan — returned to Jesus to give thanks.

That was the Reverend’s point — that we don’t really give thanks enough. Some of us certainly not to each other, but most of us not to Jesus and God. (This is why, of course, that many say Grace at dinner.) This brought a group confessional asking for forgiveness for not giving thanks.

The formality of such a thing was a little awkward. Such are the joys of being an Christian agnostic. I suppose it would have been much worse had I been in a Roman Catholic mass.

The service over, we stuck around for a bit so Alex could talk to some of the people she knows (and to listen to an upcoming child prodigy, who could play one of Mozart’s more complicated piano pieces having only played a couple of months; Alex loves Mozart). Having met up with just about everyone we needed to, we headed off in search of lunch.

So am I going to make a regular habit of attending services? Not likely. I’ve never been much for organized religion. I’m more of a tourist.

We didn’t end up eating until we got back to Alex’s condo, but we did stop at Wal-mart to pick up yarn and a couple of patterns. (Yes, Alex has taught me to knit. Now I just need practice.)

Being Thanksgiving, we were invited to Mike and Brenda’s for dinner. We came armed with dessert — a four-layer pumpkin cake that Alex and I had made the night before. (Well, Alex made most of it, I contributed by cutting the cake layers and toasting the pecans.)

Dinner was the usual turkey (not that I would ever complain about having turkey), mashed potatoes, creamed onions (a Tisdale favourite), stuffing (of course), and steamed vegetables. Under a small ocean of gravy, naturally.

The cake pretty much all went down, save for one piece. (Nine people, ten slices.) Alex and I declared that the recipe is a success, but needs modification.

We left not long after 20:00, mostly due to Alex’s allergies (Maggie and Alex don’t really get along, and Alex forgot her inhaler). This worked out well for me, since I had a concert to attend.

Yes, you knew I was getting to this eventually.

Dropping Alex off at her place, I stopped off at home only long enough to change (crappier pants and a black t-shirt) before heading over to the warehouse. It was about eight degrees, which I felt warm enough to go without a jacket. (Mind you, I drove to the adjacent block, rather than walk the whole way.)

The line was … interesting. There were two lines, one which seemed to have a lot of goths (wannabe and actual), and the line filled with fans old and new. It was interesting, since I was half-expecting to be one of an extremely small number of “preppily” dressed folk. But it seemed I wasn’t alone, and several others, much more snappily-attired.

I should probably describe why I was wondering about attire. KMFDM is not a mainstream band. They’re a little more fringe (though not too far from mainstream), which naturally means that those who dwell more on the fringe are likely to come out. Hence, more leather, dark clothing, large boots, piercings of all varieties (and visibilities), and various states of mental abilities (some, sadly, lacking much more than others).

It took nearly 45 minutes to get in the door. The staff at the Warehouse are notoriously slow. Tamara, Todd, and Andrea arrived at 19:30 to avoid the line. When I finally got in, it only took about five minutes to find them. The Warehouse is small — only about 100 feet by 30 feet — so there’s not a lot of room to hide in.

That space filled to the point of illegality. If the Calgary Fire Department had shown up, no doubt they would have shut everthing down for having violated the maximum allowable number of people.

The opening act for KMFDM was DJ Acucrack, a duo from Chicago. Two guys, two Apple PowerBooks, and a mess of samples. The bass was enough to vibrate the hair on my arms. The treble was nigh-deafening (I knew almost immediately that I had made a fatal mistake not having brought ear plugs). But the beat was excellent. They played three sets (or songs, if you like) over the course of about 45 minutes to an hour.

We had about another 45 minute wait until KMFDM came on. Which was a blessing, since the sounds coming out of the speaker system during the wait were slightly more than irritating. Almost as irritating as the idiots who felt it necessary to force their way through the crowd without asking for people to move a little. They knocked Tamara almost completely over once.

KMFDM entered the stage without any fanfare or lead-in. There were five: two guitarists (who played pretty much the same chords for the hour and a half set), a drummer (with about 18 cymbals), Sascha Konietzko (the lead singer; En Esch doesn’t seem to be with the band anymore), and Lucia Cifarelli (backing and quasi-lead singer). They began almost immediately into a tune I didn’t know.

Officially, KMFDM seems to stand for “Kein Mitleid fër die Mehrheit”, which translates to “no pity for the majority”. (Due to the fact that they’re German, there has been confusion in the past about what KMFDM actually means, leading to a rumour that it stands for “Kill MotherF*cking Depeche Mode”.) Their lyrics typically discuss the rejection of and resistance against incompetent rule in capitalist society, and are often laced with self-deprecation (one of their songs, “Sucks”, features the lyrics: “Our music is sampled / Totally fake / It’s made by machines / ‘cuz they don’t make mistakes”).

They didn’t engage in banter with the audience, pausing only to take quick drinks of water before diving into the next song. Of the entire set, I only recognized a few songs: “A Drug Against War” and “Light”. Otherwise, most of it was newer than when I’d last listened to KMFDM. They were good, but after 90 minutes, my hearing was shot (I’m officially too old to go to these sorts of concerts in tiny venues without earplugs), and was happy to leave. It was worth my time, and is now something I won’t feel the need to relive again.

Quite a spectrum for a single day, eh?

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