March 2007
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Waking up to the sound of silence was blissful and welcome. I felt like a child at Christmas, sneaking out of bed, poking my head out the door to see what presents had been left … But the gift I was searching for was what lay beyond the windows of this lovely cabin (built by Robin and her ex). Disappointed I was not … outside lay the vision of fog-soaked mountains with slivers of rock pinnacles, glimpses of green patches brushing through. Tall sovereign coniferous trees reigned over the snow-covered earth surrounding our everything else. The sight was breathtaking, bursting with resplendent beauty, uncompromising in its stoic solitude. But the silence was broken with the creaking of the bed and then the soft pitter patter of feet making their way across the wooden floor, making a beeline for the outhouse. Ah, nothing more enlivening than stepping outside into the caverns of a mild winter morning, sinking into the snow path while navigating ones way to the outdoor toilet! I was grateful for the presence of Robin’s indoor composting toilet, in the middle of the night. I had my share of night escapades to the toilet in the freezing cold when I spent several summers camping in Iceland (summer = cold you say? Well, pitching tent on a glacier icecap and digging a toilet for our expedition is an interesting story in itself!).

By 10am, everyone had roused themselves, and slaDE made Robin, Rob and myself the fluffiest of vegetable cheese scrambled eggs for breakfast. Something about the freshness of mountain air peaks the senses — olfactory and gustative especially! The morning was spent hanging out beside the wood burning stove, reading and sharing stories. Before we knew it, half the day had scampered away and we made our way outside, wanting to explore the territory around us. We found ourselves hovering towards the snow-filled riverbed and exploring the vast array of rocks that lined the crust everywhere! They were so beautiful, rich in variety and minerals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much quartz outside of a quarry or mine. I felt like a child doing research for a science project, so fascinated was I, inspecting and wanting to take home each and every new colouration I stumbled upon. The boys were as happy to skip the rocks in the fast-flowing water as I was gleeful in taking interesting and inspiring photographs. The day was getting milder by the hour, and staying on top of the snow crust was becoming quite difficult and humorous at the same time. SlaDE was giving us tips on how to not fall through … the trick he stated was to keep moving and taking light-footed steps upon the banks. On the whims of saying this, he would fall in almost up to his thigh in white stuff :). I’m thinking that I want to wear gators next time we go for a jaunt.

We had developed a hunger on our mini-expedition, and so to follow, we savoured a nice afternoon ‘snack’ of my crockpot lasagna. In my opinion, there’s no better way to follow a hearty meal and fresh mountain air than with a peaceful nap. Upon rousing ourselves, newly energized, we headed out for another hike, this time along the road. With very little traffic, the sights and sounds of the mountains were peacefully renewing. Nothing like coming home to nature. (I must admit though, it was somewhat disturbing to have such fresh air be rudely interrupted by the diesel smell of the occasional passing truck. Yucky.)

A Thai chicken curry and red wine topped of our evening of conversation perfectly. What a lovely day!

Nature beckons Us

The day couldn’t go fast enough for us to get away. The 3 hour drive through the mountains would be a bit of a crap shoot as to which route we would have to take. The TransCanada passage through to Golden from Banff is notorious for road closures (mudslides / avalanches / landslides / heavy snow conditions, etc) and we were crossing our fingers that we wouldn’t be stuck in the middle of it all. An alternate route would be to go south when reaching the intersection of the ‘Golden Triangle’; this merging of roadways gives the driver the opportunity to either head west as intended, or drive south through to Radium and then north to Golden (of course, that means a longer trip, by about 1.5 hrs, give or take, dependent upon the weather).

I excitedly split my day at work in half with a trip to the close-by Interfaith store. With winter coming to an end (YAY!), this charitable volunteer-run agency is having their end-of-season $5 bag sale: they sell you a garbage bag for the said amount and you fill it with anything available on the racks / shelves. Basically and literally, a free-for-all!. I ran to this 2nd hand haven, taking an early lunch hour, in anticipation of filling a bag or two. A pack-rat’s dream, to be honest (sorry honey). And, ka-ching, did I ever make out like a bandit! Not to worry. Come leaving Calgary, I’m freecycling anything that can’t fit in the car (good thing my beloved knows how to pack really well!).

Come 4:30pm, I was walking out the door and ready to become a traveling nomad, ready for the adventure which lay before us. The night before we had packed everything and set aside the food that we wanted to contribute (I made a kickin crockpot of lasagna), giving us a head start on getting out the door with plenty of daylight for the first few hours of our drive.

Apart from the meandering stomach car-sickness which befell me, it was a spectacular drive with plenty of groovy tunes, fairly clear non-icy roads, cloud-topping skies icing the mountains with an ethereal glow and a car-filled with laughter and smiles. We truly savour our road-trips and getaways … one of the reasons why we’re so well-matched … we can spend weeks at a time 24/7 in each others presence without getting bored or bitchy. Now THAT’s compatibility!

The sun was just beyond setting when we crawled up the steep icy-slope to Robin’s driveway in the woods. It was difficult to see and appreciate the view around us {which we knew would be spectacular}, so we waited in breathless anticipation for the morning to come. In the interim, we enjoyed several hours of camaraderie around the etched glass, wood-burning stove (brrr, it was cold! thank goodness for the heating pads on our mattress).

ESP and the great outdoors

I wish the ESP program I learned today, for work, was as interesting as the normal coined phrase involving Extrasensory Perception. Not so … alas, it involves something a bit more benign. ESP stands for Environmental Scheduling Personnel …. a payroll software program that I must learn in order to coordinate the hours of my department’s Dental hygienists and staff before the data is sent off to the CHR Scheduling Office.

I’ve never been a fan of dealing with accounting (sorry Ed), and am somewhat ambivalent to this aspect of my new job, especially after the 2 hour training that I suffered through ;). But, again, it’s hard to turn my back on the 5 minute walk to work and the relatively shining wage that I’m supposed to receive (with a 70 cent raise April 1st!).

After my class, I took the LRT (Light Rail Transit) south to meet slaDE~ close to where he is working at the moment. From there, we were going on an extra special shop, for the weekend! Robin had invited us to her cabin in Golden, BC for the weekend and we were over-the-moon excited at getting away and expeirenicng the glories of nature. Her cabin is more like a house, but without all the well-loved amenities, such as running water and indoor plumbing. Regardless, slaDE~ and I were looking forward to the step-back into nature and the beloved mountains that we have come to love since our early childhoods.

Comedy a no-no

Freecycle is unique in that you never know what can be stumbled upon. I actually saw an ad a few days ago for a 1964 Mercedes Benz … I was on it like a bee to honey, but the possibility, with 5000 Calgary members, is that there might be someone quicker than you in responding to the object of your desire (and there is no guarantee that the first respondent is going to get it anyway, depending on the story you weave / your request).

Seeing an ad for free ‘Comedy Cave‘ tickets led me to respond with the usual tenacity I have when I see an item of interest. I was happy to be the recipient of these tickets, and more than enthusiastic to share in a night of laughter with 2 other friends. SlaDE~ and I invited our partners in crime Rob and Robin from the LRC Community. We met at the venue and treated them to a spare rib dinner prior to the show start.

The show itself started out funny enough with two hilarious improv artists stirring up gregarious laughter (with only 12 people in the audience this quiet Tuesday evening) amongst us. But then they brought on “The Avocado Doctor’, who blew us away with boredom and disbelief, as he performed a skin graft from a lemon to a banana. And then to follow, on the other spectrum, was a crude rude un-funny dude named ‘Daddy Makk’ who started out as a promising means of mindless entertainment but crossed the line, in my mind, and starting dissing David Suzuki, Al Gore and the Global Warming crisis. None of us found it mildly amusing, and contained ourselves from walking out mid-performance. The rib dinner was about as spectacular. To be honest, our company was far better value in our evening out than the experience of the ‘Cave’. Not sure if we’ll dabble with those comedy dudes again. Once bitten, twice shy = no-no a no-go.

First day on the job

After a four day weekend, I was refreshed and enlivened to begin my first day at my new job with the Calgary Health Region. My official title with Community Oral Health and Education was that of a Secretary to the Departmental Manager. Not really concerned with titles, and not nearly as exciting or interesting as my temp job with Sexual and Reproductive Health, but hey, it’s short term (a year or less?) and the pay was really great. Not too fussed with the Union Benefits, and all that entails …. I can’t beat the benefits slaDE has through his work.

My first day was really a piece of cake, with my boss only in the office for a short time before going home sick. A ho hum day really. I do like having my own desk and phone, with an extension to boot. Nice to be contactible during the day, for a change, as I’ve yet to succumb to the seduction / necessity of owning a cell phone (hey, Guatemala doesn’t count!).

Dinner with Champions

We were excited to be invited to the Awards dinner for the 2007 Visa Canadian Bobsleigh, Skeleton and Luge Championships. It was held at the Four Points Sheraton, across from Olympic Park, in way too small a room for all the athletes that showed up. The sense of being included in with such a clan was quite special. The meal was buffet-style and informal. Seeing all the athletes shine in their glory-moments was remarkable. Awards well earned with a lifetime of dedication and passion. Very memorable indeed.

Corpse Bride

The Corpse BrideWhat a wonderful fantastical Tim Burton movie …. ‘Corpse Bride‘ is a stop-motion claymation film that I recommend to ANYBODY.

Corpse Bride carries on in the dark, romantic tradition of Tim Burton’s classic films Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Brilliant voice cast behind the characters. I would love to watch it again!

Watching this movie was reminiscent of our time on Waterloo Street where we would lie in bed (we didn’t have a tv = a good thing) with my Mac Powerbook laptop and snuggle up, bag of popcorn and feature film, happily tucked in for the night. The simple life can be so sublime :).

Competition a go-go

Tonight there were a ton of spectators cheering on the competitors. It was both surprising and fun to see the number of television stations broadcasting the event. Indeed, an impressive spectacle.

I spent much of the time filming the races, from many different vantage points. Kinda cool to try an capture a single frame of the bobsleigh, while it hurtles down the track at 120km/hr. Not exactly the easiest thing to do without a tripod or a full understanding of the camera’s potential (new camera with little knowledge on all its functionality). Taking movies was a whole lot easier!

Being the lucky person that I am, I again found myself in a position benefitting from being in the right place at the right time. The Management was looking for eager participants willing to be ‘forerunners’ both at the beginning of the race and during each official run. I was more than happy to be part of the 4 person crew needed, and enjoyed the thrill of a complimentary sprint through the circuit. The reason that they use a forerunner bobsleigh to precede the competition runs is to ‘rough’ up the ice a bit, thus not giving any teams an unfair advantage over the other contenders. It’s amazing how slight variations can increase ones time on the ice, whether it be a weighted bobsleigh, greased / heated runners, etc.

My second time down the course was such a different experience from the first. I think it was kinda like one’s first skydive … everything is no new, exciting and scary, that the 60 seconds fly by without any recognition of what’s going on around in one’s periphery (other than the sensation of the experience itself). This time, I braced my shoulders and neck to withstand the g’s of going around the 14 tumultuous curves. I anticipated the hairy ride and thus didn’t come out of the sled, walking like a cripple. What surprised me about this time was the sensation of my stomach dropping out through some of the steep turns. I rarely feel that in a roller-coaster ride, and haven’t had that perception in any sort of a skydive. Wicked fun!

At the end of the evening, the Monk-Paes team managed 6.02 and 6.06 50 metre starts and 57.7 and 57.9 second finishing times. A thrilling experience surely not to be forgotten.

Cool runnings, man

In honour of the competition Thursday evening, I just HAD to find a copy of the movie “Cool Runnings” for slaDE and I to watch before his big debut! Gosh, how I love the Library … after several attempts of getting it before someone else managed to, I had my sticky little fingers on it. Yippee!

We both had seen it before, but this viewing, of course, had extra special meaning (and I was thinking that perhaps slaDE would pick up some tips on riding the sled from a beginner to winner! :).

Here’s the blurb from the back of the dvd:Cool Runnings

You’ll love Cool Runnings — an outrageously funny comedy hit inspired by the true story of Jamaica’s first Olympic bobsled team. They were four unlikely athletes with one impossible dream. Now with the help of an ex-champion as their coach (John Candy), four Jamaicans leave their sunny tropical island home and enter the chilly Winter Olympics to compete for the gold in a sport they know nothing about – bobsled racing!

The irony behind the unfolding story about 4 improbable men, without any sponsor, who fly to Calgary, Alberta to participate in the XV Olympic Winter Games at -25 degrees Celsius, is quite remarkable; and the irony didn’t fall short in its similarities! At least the weather here in Calgary is warm and sunny.

PS If you get a chance to watch the film, everything about the track, it’s starting point, etc is real. It was like being at the track Tuesday night, all over again! However, the Calgary skyline is far less developed in 1993 (when the movie was released) than it is today.
PPS I love John Candy (a true blue Canadian Comic), and truly miss him and his marvelous talents.

Official Trials

SlaDE~ and I were tingling with excitement at the thought of his hurtling down the bobsleigh run at COP, twice, without having to pay anything other than the membership fee with joining the National Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association. Pinch me … is this for real? Was slaDE really about to partake in the 4 Man Bobsleigh official training (2 runs) with the Olympic caliber race to follow, this Thursday?

We arrived at the Ice House, awaiting Sarah and her direction. No one had arrived yet, so I was happy to snap away at the innards of this really cool indoor playground (kind of like a water-slide emporium, but with concrete slides featuring ice rather than water). The Ice House is where the athletes train after the track is closed (due to the warming weather and expensive outdoor track upkeep — did I mention that COP uses a coolant system along the whole tracks length to keep the ice fast, as well as watering it down before a race? ). Inside the clubhouse there was a mini-museum housing many trophies, medals and different sliding rigs. Quite interesting to view the history of the sliding sports … something that I’ve never really had any interest in before this felicitous occasion.

From the Ice House, we made our way to the Sled Shed; this is the storage area for all the bobsleighs. Half a dozen groups were already making their way up the hill with their sleds assembled, and Sarah’s crew hadn’t quite all arrived! It was a bit of a scramble but the sleigh was pieced together, and we made our way to summit. At the top, there is a multi-windowed locker room, of sorts, where all the athletes drop their gear, hang out, warm-up and keep warm, awaiting their turns down the run. I was privileged and surprised at gaining admittance. I tell you, the sight before me in this athletic enclave was incredible. I’ve never seen such big thighs and muscles in all my life, let alone contained within one small rooM! And to be honest, it wasn’t just the men who were built like cabooses.

A successful bobsleigh team consists of powerful racers with both the agility of a gazelle and the speed of a cougar, and additionally with the endurance of a camel and the skill of a jet-fighter pilot. Pretty impressive actually. I was fascinated by the teams and their starting sequences, capturing the 3 to 6 second sprints before hopping stealthily into the bob. A good push and start can shave fractions of a second off the overall time, and more often than not, this can mean the difference between placing and no medal at all.

Sarah’s team did fabulously, (with 50m start times around 6.06 and run times around 58.7) especially considering the experience level of her teammates, combined. I was very proud of slaDE and the natural skill he displayed in ‘falling’ into the runner (sprinter, pusher) crew position. In my experience, I’ve found that he displays an intuitive talent in anything he finds enjoyment and / or passion in (i.e. look at his yoga abilities just after 4 months … egaDS!).