It was somewhere in the middle of a blizzard, in 1988, in a tavern in Nanton Alberta when the fight broke out. I was playing pool with a college buddy who lived in the area, on a raised platform at the back of a local bar. A group of five Hutterite lads were at a nearby table getting their drink on. They were well into a full afternoon of power drinking and the empty draft jugs were piling up. My buddy had departed briefly to the washroom when the floor waitress brought up three more jugs for the Hutterites. One of the lads stood up and punched the waitress in the side of the head.
A large yellow debris tube hangs from the Hotel Arts during my recent visit to Calgary. There are tarps and construction workers. The sidewalk is blocked. The shit has hit the fan on the second floor. Apparently a fire broke out during the Stampede madness. I love the Stampede. I never go. It’s the one week of solace from the usual tourism on slot here in wee Fernie. We all need a break. They should stay home one weekend or two and burn their own shit.
Granville Street is littered with visual carnage. There are masses of every kind of folk wandering the concrete. The tweekers eating out of public garbage cans, street musicians, business people carried on the wings of a Jean Patou vapour trail. There is every kind of garbage and biodegradable substance from pizza husks to poodle shit.
The parking lot at the Blue Moon Tavern had beat down snow and if you looked close at the mounds you'd find road dirt, blood, teeth and puke. Every crystal had a tale to tell about what had spilled out of the tavern and what immoral act had been flung and dripped into the frozen ground. The Blue Moon is a mandatory road stop on the way to Columbia Falls.
Through the darkness and blizzard we ploughed along, in a trusty old Suburban with no heat and no speedometer, towards the Bavarian city of the Rockies Kimberley. I was nestled in a sleeping bag with a flask of scotch to help numb the cold, surrounded by some of my British friends who were oddly jovial despite the notion of freezing and falling into the arms of sweet Death.
A dwarf at the Calgary airport loaded my luggage on the carousel behind the Air Canada counter. This is not the first time this has happened. He has struggled with my heavy baggage before. I always look to this as a positive sign of good things to come. In olden times he would have been beaten with a shillelagh and forced to give up the location of
a) the magic rainbow and
b) the pot of gold.
The morning Michigan sun beat down warm and hard on spectators and dwarfs alike. It slowly rose through the trees and drew razor shadows up from the Michigan University campus. The opening ceremonies were about to begin and beads of sweat formed on dwarf foreheads like the dew on the perfect grass surrounding Ralph Young Field. I was sporting my newly acquired Fernie Fix press pass, moving slowly through the hordes of dwarf athletes taking photos at a machine gun rate. To say I was in awe would be an atrocious understatement. It's August 10, 2013, Lansing Michigan, the World Dwarf Games.
I was recently visiting an artist friend at the Gushal Artist Residency in Blairmore, Alberta. My friend had built an experimental time travel machine which of course I had to try. Only downside to the machine is you return without any memory of where it sent you. I did however, return adorned in some strange clothing with a taxidermy specimen of a Oreamnos Americanus....mountain goat. (see photo) and have since had a reoccurring dream of a Wilford Brimley type looking evil dude chasing me through an old west town with a fancy hammer. Most disturbing.
The burger ring map I am creating has designation rings for up to 7 hours of driving time from Fernie to the particular purveyor of the acclaimed burger. I have gotten in my car and driven up to 7 hours to eat a great burger. I love the road and good burgers. The current winner in the 3-4 hours burger ring is the Brewer's Burger at MickDuff's in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Ralph Klein's going onto glory brings on memories of Calgary long ago. Turn the time machine to the winter 1988. Olympic mayhem has beseeched the city. I am a college reporter taking in the madness with my laminated press pass. I have access to almost everywhere, and there is free liquor anywhere you can set-up a card table. At some point during the pre-Olympic festivities I find myself at the St. Louis Hotel drinking free draft with the King Ralph and the rest of the media vampires, nestled in for the weeks to come. I remember eating a hotdog and thinking what a great hotdog it was.
Recently I toured with my super group,The Death Ballad Love Tellers, featuring Victoria musician David P. Smith and Edmonton musician Ben Sures. We've been doing this project for three years and this year at the end of our February tour we recorded an album of handwritten Death Ballads in Victoria. This year's shows were especially good and the recording/ touring process was rewarding.
You drive out onto the first American pavement past the first set of white roadside crosses. The first rolling yellow hills. The first patch of Big Sky. The first important intersection you come to on Highway 3 is what locals call the Four Corners. To the rear to the South, highway three to the border, duty, rubber gloves and taxable love. To the North, Whitefish, Occupy Costco Calgary Chapter Kalispell. To the East, a labyrinth of backroads and Leather-face farmhouses.
The first time I entered the Arts Station, the building was across the tracks near some large poplar trees. It was boarded up abandoned and scary. Friends and I would scamper up the tree with packsacks full of stolen whisky and sawed off pellet guns. We'd crawl along the roof and enter through a broken window. After some some generous imbibing we would run about shooting at each other with our altered air pistols. If luck was on your side you'd escape without a pellet imbedded in the back of your head.
There is nothing closer to welding without a face shield, than driving into the Southern Alberta sunrise at mid morning. At the end of the burning road, not a magic Irish dwarf on a pot a gold, but a conservative shopping netherworld, where the trees are held down with cable, and the Wild Rosers chase the freaks through the grain and barbwire, the lovely and potent Lethbridge, Alberta. What's that early morning pong? Is that meat rendering, is Leatherface boiling tourists in the piggy barn? It's smells like... Lethbridge.
Firstly, welcome to my Blog. We will be travelling together to places of culinary excellence, diners that offer that special plate of weirdness, taverns with mason jars of home pickled turkey gizzards, places dripping in booze infused barbecue sauce, tables where folks wait fork in hand with a tear of drool running down their chin while they wait patiently for that plate of deep fried goodness to arrive and stop their hearts. There will be calories incurred, and gallons of beer will be used to wash down the spicy wonders.