Visiting Friends in Calgary, Deciding to Leave Vancouver

I get by with a little help from my friends.

In this case, it was Stuart and Therese, two of my oldest and closest friends. I ventured to the wilds of Calgary to say “Hi” and check out the sights. Well, at least so far as Calgary has sights…

The flight left Vancouver at 6:00pm. WestJet is not the most comfortable airline in Canada, but when you’re travelling a mere hour, comfort is a minor issue. However, when arriving just after 8:00pm (Calgary time), I was realizing just how much a comfortable seat makes a difference. Luckily, Stuart was there to pick me up and whisk me away to a comfortable car.

Calgary was cold. Really cold. About -20 C. Okay, so it’s like the rest of Canada right now — I live in BC. If it drops to 5 C people start to think the next Ice Age is coming. I’m beginning to be that way. I found Calgary quite cold, a little too cold as a matter of fact. My nose hairs froze almost instantly (leaving that rather awkward feeling in your nose), closely followed by my fingers and my feet.

Calgary was under a fair amount of snow. Not as much as they’d had earlier in the week, but still more than Vancouver had all last year. In a strange way, it was neat to see all that whiteness after so long of green … that feeling faded soon, however. White’s kinda … bland.

We arrived at Chez Therese and Stuart about a half hour after leaving the airport. I hadn’t seen Therese for over a year — six hours on New Year’s Eve 1998. That was it. It was nice to be reunited with old friends again. I was promptly fed a tasty meal of … actually, I don’t know what to call it except for hamburger casserole, but with ground turkey instead of beef. It was a good welcome.

[Ed. Note: What I did not originally write in the email was that I told Stuart and Therese that I was leaving Allison and Vancouver. They were the first ones to know (I had only made my mind up on the flight to Calgary). Therese, of course, had to be melodramatic and asked Stuart to pinch her. At first, I thought she was going to try and talk me out of it. I was very relieved when I found that they were not only happy, but excited to know I was getting out. There’s more on this in the next log entry.]

We talked continuously for what seemed like hours. Now that I think of it, it was hours — Therese and Stuart both had work the next day, and I had an interview with an Internet startup somewhere in Calgary the next morning. So it was off to bed.

But not off to sleep. Although I suspect Stuart and Therese slept well, I had a minor problem … Tao and Te, their Siamese cats. Siamese are genetically bred not to sleep when everyone does. And their favourite thing to do when other are sleeping is playing. With ping pong balls. All night.

The next morning, I showered and changed into my interview outfit. Therese and I would then hunker down for the 30 minute trip to the University via the Calgary Transit system. It was then I realized just how much I don’t like cold weather — it cut right through my business suit. My thighs froze almost instantly. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Luckily, it wasn’t long before the bus arrived.

My instructions were simple: Take the bus to the C-Train. (That wasn’t too hard to do, and I had Therese with me in case I got confused.) Take the C-Train to the Sunnyside stop. Walk west from the Sunnyside to 10th St., and turn left. Walk until I get to Kensington. Turn right, and walk until 14th. Look for the old Bre-X building. Of course, it’s only known as that by infamy. The sign on it now is “One Nineteen”. (Although there is a “Bro-X Minerals” in the first floor.)

I nearly froze to death getting there.

The interview was an offshoot of an interview I conducted some weeks ago for an article Allison and I worked on. The idea was, in theory, to get a job with an eCommerce company. The interview was a bit odd — the three guys at the table literally pulled me apart trying to find out what I knew. It was destined not to be a good lead. (And so I found out today, it didn’t pan out at all — I was rejected.)

No loss — it was, if anything, good experience for interview later on. Allison got a good lead on a job at her old company, which not only looked good, but should pay me more. I still haven’t heard anything from them, but at the very least, I’ll be better prepared when I go to see them.

After the interview, I went to track down Stuart’s office. It wasn’t quite as cold when I left, so I could at least get there without losing the feeling in my extremities. Finding the building (after having to call Therese to make sure I was at the right building), I found Stuart was still knee-deep in work. I hustled out and off to humour myself for an hour or so.

Calgary has built itself around its harsh weather — the malls cover almost the entire downtown, and you can get around without having to go outside (at least for any distance). Very convenient. This is particularly interesting around lunch, when all the business towers empty into the food courts. It’s quite strange to watch the flood of people … it’s almost like watching an anthill.

I returned to Stuart’s office at 1:00 for lunch. We disappeared to some weird place called “Burger Inn”. They serve, well, hamburgers. And ostrichburgers. Not to mention buffalo, emu, venison … basically any kind of meat you can get in the province. Good burgers, though…

Stuart then passed me off to Therese at the University so he could get back to work. Therese had work to finish, so I just hung around for a while until she was ready to go. Then it was back out into the cold to get to the C-Train again. (At this point, I was ready to flinch every time I went outdoors — that cold is just brutal. Of course, I’m probably just turning into your typical Vancouver wimp.)

That evening, we were going to go out with a group of Therese’s colleagues and friends to go see “Scream 3” and then go see a band called “Plastikman”. Therese’s car, which had been having a few problems, only made it a couple of kilometres before Stuart had to pull over. Therese had been telling Stuart for roughly that distance that there was something wrong with the car.

Although I don’t know exactly what happened, it looked like an electrical problem of some kind. Basically, there wasn’t enough power to keep the engine running … something that smells like a bad alternator. Either way, we weren’t going anywhere. While Stuart tried to get the car to start again, Therese and I attempted to get a hold of their friends and let them know we weren’t going to make it. We were less than successful.

About an hour after all this started, the CAA truck finally showed up. Because the cab was so small, only one person could fit in with the driver. That person was Stuart. This left Therese and I to hike to the nearest warm place (a Safeway) — about half a kilometre away. Through shin-deep snow. In the freezing cold. By the time we got there, neither of us could feel our feet, and my ears (now exposed to the cold due to my recent haircut) were about ready to fall off.

We were at the Safeway about 45 minutes before a cab finally showed up to whisk us away (Calgary seems to have a severe shortage of cabs in the winter). By that time Stuart had already returned from dropping the car off.

We returned to Therese and Stuart’s, where we decided to order pizza and watch a movie. This meant going outside again. And into a car that had no heater. I froze. (As you can tell, I’m not a huge fan of the cold anymore.)

We rented “The 13th Warrior”, a movie starring Antonio Banderas, filmed in BC, and based on the Old English epic poem “Beowulf”. Despite my degree in English, which involved Old English literature, I completely missed the references. That could also be because the movie sucked.

The next morning, we met Geoff (another one — it certainly makes for awkward conversations when trying to figure out which Geoff is the subject), Jeanine (this is a total guess on spelling, I probably have it wrong), and Sean for dim sum.

Dim sum is one of life’s little pleasures. It’s the sort of thing I’d love to do on a regular basis … except every time we try, we always end up not doing it. I don’t know why, it just seems to end up that way.

After dim sum, we traipsed through a local bakery for the dessert we didn’t get (the dessert cart mysteriously vanished during our repast), and then headed off to the Eaton’s Centre. (The Eaton’s is gone, obviously.) Apparently, it was a good day to buy clothes. Everything was on sale.

Not in a buying mood, I followed our little troupe around the mall, looking for anything that might pique my curiousity. Sadly, the only thing I found was a good deal on a CD I seem to have lost a few years ago. I guess I’m just not the clothes-buying type of person. But that’s just me, I guess. I suck at fashion (I need other people to dress me), and can’t buy decent-looking clothes to save my life.

On the bright side, I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes.

Returning home, Stuart, Therese, and I sat down to watch “The 13th Warrior”. Therese had passed out about 15 minutes into the movie the previous night, Stuart joining her about half-way through. So we watched the movie from near its start.

Then it was off to dinner and a movie. We went to Red Devil, a small chain that’s now in Calgary. It’s a barbeque joint, priding itself on hot sauces. Overall, pretty good food — really good calamari (and I’m not a fan of calamari). We were there for about two hours, laughing, drinking, and eating. It was almost like old times (except that we were missing a few others).

Then it was off to our entertainment for the evening. We opted to see Leo’s newest flick, “The Beach”. Yeah, I know, what possessed us to see that? Well, strange as it may seem, it’s actually not that bad a movie. First off, this was done by Danny Boyle, who brought us such cinematic gems as “Trainspotting”, “Life Less Ordinary”, and “Shallow Grave”. Unfortunately, this movie didn’t start getting interesting until Leo’s character started losing his mind.

Mind you, that was the point — it’s very similar to “Apocalypse Now”, and features many references to the movie. We were amazed at the number of people who really didn’t seem to get that point.

Heathens.

We started late the next day. Really late. It was Sunday, and darn it, we were sleeping in. When we finally got ourselves up and running, we went out for lunch to Arden’s. As in Jan Arden, the singer. She owns a restaurant in Calgary. It’s quite good, really, and showcases a lot of tasty fare. Best philly cheese steak sandwich I’ve had since the Copper Penny in Kingston. (Of course, there’s also Dix here in Vancouver, and it’s also really good.)

After lunch, Stuart and Therese dropped me off at my relatives, where I could have a chat (albeit a brief one) with my Aunt and Uncle. Sadly, Uncle Mike was off playing basketball, so I was only able to speak with my Aunt Brenda. Our meeting was short-lived, however, as I had to get to the airport to catch my plane. Therese and Stuart reappeared not long after.

The flight back was a little more pleasant than the flight out, although I’m not sure why. Probably because I was returning to Vancouver. It’s always nice to return here. It’s a lovely view from 20,000 feet up.

I’m home again, and quite comfortable where I am. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and the only snow is a few hundred feet up a mountain.

I like it that way.

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