Busy December weekend

I think Alex and I need to stop packing so much into a single weekend. It’s gonna kill us.

Friday night was Light Night. Being fairly warm (thanks to a chinook), we went out in search of Christmas lights around town, camera in hand. There’s a lot to choose from, but one thing Alex and I noticed about Calgary — there’s a lot of people with too much money, and too cheap to put up lights. Something I think Alex and I will definitely work against next Christmas with our home.

We went around Glamorgan, Altadore, Garrison Woods, through another section of the city I can’t remember the name of, all the way out to Discovery Ridge, and then finally into Springbank. There were only a few places that had anything of consequence. One was a string of houses in Glamorgan on a cul-de-sac that took the whole idea of Christmas lighting very seriously. That was our first stop. Ironically, it wasn’t until our last (Springbank) that we really saw something noteworthy. First were two houses on the hill (we saw them from Discovery Ridge) that had a lot of lights in the rear. Then we saw a couple houses with “ME” and “IS”. It wasn’t until we took a wider look that several houses had similar letters: ME, RR, YC, HR, IS, TM, and AS. (Although the “RR” was out that night.)

But one house took the biscuit. You couldn’t see their front lawn for all the lights, toys, balloons, cutouts, and whatnot erected all over it. The light was enough to be almost blinding. No music, though, so at least the sounds wouldn’t drive neighbours crazy, but the whole setup was just … well, either amazing or ridiculous. Take your choice.

Saturday was a busy day, right from the start. Alex was working, having volunteered (one of four) to help out with a laboratory exercise, to help surgeons learn a new spine operation method. (Paid, of course.) This meant a (relatively) early start, and a long day in front of an x-ray machine.

We went to Denny’s on 16th Ave, just east of Crowchild, for breakfast with her co-workers Andy and Fred. (Andy is an x-ray tech, like Alex; Fred leads the Quality Control (QC) effort, whom Alex works with every Wednesday.) All three (there were four in total) were working in the lab. I was just along for the big breakfast. It was my first chance to meet Fred — I finally have a face for all the stories I hear from Alex.

Following breakfast, the three of them vanished off to Foothills (the hospital, not the mountains) and I headed up to Crowfoot Centre, to pick up my car. (Mini Canada had called in my car for a voluntary recall to upgrade my emissions.) This is about where my rather tiring day began.

First off, I somehow managed to arrive at the Banff Trail C-Train station with a mere dollar in change. (You need two for the ticket to ride.) Don’t you just hate being in that really uncomfortably position of needing an extra bit of change, and all you have is a dollar? Luckily, one of the other patrons there offered to change my $5 bill, and then gave me a dollar after realizing he didn’t have enough for the change.

I love Calgarians.

It was a bit windy at the station, but the Weather Network had said that we’d have a reasonably nice day. By the time I got to Dalhousie station, it was much windier, with snow pellets. I boarded a bus to take me to Crowfoot — the #147. When I got off at the Burger King there, I was staring into a wall of white. When I walked into the Chapter’s there about five minutes after getting off the bus, the front of my body looked like someone had taken a white paint roller to me.

My car was clean and shiny when I arrived, and was soon on the road. (The salt and sand from Calgary’s ongoing efforts to beat back winter were soon on my car, rather than the street.) I stopped at Chinook for the purpose of finding a particularly difficult to find present. I’d seen it there during a shopping spree Alex and I had engaged in to find her a dress, but couldn’t remember what store. Despite visiting every retailer in the building, I was unable to discover its location.

Thinking that perhaps I had the wrong mall in mind, I whipped down to South Centre. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to matter which mall I was in, the success was the same — nil. The frustration, not to mention my headache, was building.

But it was time for me to head home. Alex and I were going to the Diagnostic Imagining (Alex’s department) Christmas party, and I had to get ready. This is when I noticed that my door wasn’t opening. Again. (See 22 November 2004.) This meant I had to climb in the passenger side to be able to drive. I’m seriously going to tear someone a new hole for this at the dealership (I had asked them specifically to look at this problem.)

I stopped by Alex’s to get my gym clothes bag that I’d left there the night before. In doing so, I found yet another suprise. Either the Mini dealership had given me a very nice Christmas present, or some schmuck in the service department had left a battery charger in my trunk. Despite the drive, the door still wouldn’t open.

I popped home just long enough to grab a memory card with a photo I was printing for someone (a woman wanted a copy for her boyfriend for Christmas). Up to London Drugs. Three hours before I could get it back. By that time, I’d be at the party, and with the events tomorrow, there was no way I’d be able to meet up and deliver the photo the next day. I’d need to find an alternative (I emailed the original and apologized for the delay).

Door was still not working. People were giving me strange looks as I hopped across my front seat.

Alex called not long after I got home. She’d finished early, and was heading home. I grabbed my things and headed to her place. She needed a massage after a day of moving around the x-ray machine, and with the night ahead, she didn’t want to be sore.

We arrived at Canada Olympic Park just after 18:15, in plenty of time for the 18:30 dinner start. Mark and Sang had saved us seats (thankfully) at Table 22. (There were a LOT of tables. The DI department is quite large.) People in attendance had dressed in a fairly wide range, from not-quite-casual almost all the way to near-formal ball gowns. I knew a handful of people (folks that I’d been introduced to at the hospital, or those who’d also been on the dragon boat team), but the majority were strangers.

Colette was the ring leader, and made most of the announcements. She also called tables, the numbers drawn at random, to go for dinner. Last year, Alex’s table had been called last. We were fifth or sixth in the list. Roast beef, chicken, lots of sides to choose from — all very tasty. While we ate, the door prizes were handed out.

This is where my luck truly showed through … or the complete and utter lack of it. We’d all put our names in the hat, so to speak, which were drawn at random. You were then given a random prize. I had made the mistake, however, of trusting my table-mates not to dupe me. I went to the bathroom when Colette started collecting the names. When I got back, Alex handed me two pieces of paper, telling me that she’d missed Colette when she’d passed by. Colette told me: “Only once, Geoff!”

I was confused. What was wrong with missing her? Easy … Alex and Mark decided to stuff the ballots with MY NAME. So if I got called more than once, I’d be the one who got in trouble. Gee, thanks, guys…

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried. My luck is that bad. In a 100 ticket lottery, I’d lose even if I’d bought 99 tickets. Alex and Mark were dumbfounded. I challenged Alex to draw my name out of the bag within 20 tries. She couldn’t.

We left not long after 22:30, having both run out of steam. It had been a long day.

Allowing a bit of a chance to sleep in, we ended up rushing to make it to Grace Presbyterian on time. (Yep, another Advent Sunday means another church.) This particular event wasn’t so much for the service, but for the cantata (a musical composition for voices and orchestra based on a religious text). At Grace, this would be a great event, as it is one of Calgary’s oldest churches (it turns 100 near year). There’s a big pipe organ, and a large orchestra was assembled for the performance.

The senior minister, Rev. Victor Kim, performed what he described as his “shortest sermon of the year” (received by much laughter), followed by the longest sermon of the year — the cantata. The choir came down from their perch in front of the organ, to a series of risers in front of the podium. The orchestra geared up, and the cantata began.

It was a 15-song concert (including the closing hymn of “Joyful and Triumphant”), with most of the song sung by the main choir. (The children sang two of the songs.) The entire choir participated, although several of the songs had solos. I’m not sure if the soloists were part of the regular congregation — if the are, then Grace has some seriously gifted singers in their midst.

The service started at 11:00, and we left just after 13:00. The air was cold and brisk, though not nearly as bad as the nasty cold snap we’d had a few days earlier (minus 20 is not pleasant, I don’t care who you are). We were going to go for tea at Steeps, but ended up hitting Janice Beaton (for lavender shortbread and some really nice cheese), then ended up stopping at a few stores and restaurants before getting to Fiore’s for a late lunch. Stops at several more stores (including Gravity Pope and Reid’s) took up enough time that getting tea wasn’t really an option anymore. We were wiped.

We rested a while at Alex’s before I went out again to go pickup Jen. Jen turned 16, and I had not yet got her a birthday present (yes, I know, I’m a lousy cousin). So I took Jen out for dinner, a couple games, and ultimately (which was the original reason) to see “Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence”, a Japanese anime film about … hmm, actually, I’m not going to describe it. That’s an entire email onto its own.

Alex, sadly, was not able to come out, which would have been good. I could have used her skill to help defeat Jen at air hockey. Mind you, that could have been retribution for the embarassment of letting Peter (at Sumo) know it was her birthday. There’s nothing like a bunch of Japanese wait staff singing “Happy Birthday” and “I Just Called (To Say I Love You)” — loudly — to make you feel like the centre of attention.

The movie was long, but good. I think I need to see it again to really wrap my head around it, though. The basic plot line was easy enough to follow, but some of the more intricate details were … well, reading subtitles and follow action with deep dialogue isn’t easy.

It was late when I finally got home. I was tired. Really tired. It’s been a long weekend. And it’s going to be a long week.