Brief and Casual

Drinks with Leslie on Wednesday was inspirational. The trip to Airdrie was surprisingly short. I’m guessing the expansion of Calgary is rapidly closing the gap. It seemed I wasn’t on the open road for more than a minute before I had to suddenly cut across four lanes to make my exit.

Leslie and I haven’t seen each other in decades and I was graced with the unique position of drinking with a friend who hadn’t heard twenty years of stories. We talked about Chad quite a bit. And writing. Hence the inspiration.

The ride home was a little melancholly. The night air was warm and traffic was light. I could have ridden away for days if I’d had the opportunity. The glacial progress of the setting sun gave way to the brisk flicker of streetlights whipping past at 150 kph. I have a terrible time keeping to the speed limit on my bike these days. If I don’t get out of third gear it feels like a wasted trip. Plus the bike just rumbles happily at that speed. It seems to be made for it.

Thursday was cleaning and rearranging. It was supposed to be all cleaning but I got the majority of it done anyway. And I like the layout of my bedroom better. Now I just need to get rid of the last few pictures and my two ammo boxes stacked in its corner. Not sure if I’m going to hang the pictures or throw them out. They’re all too large to fit into the trunk for storage and I have to put them somewhere. So many of them don’t fit into how I want my place to look, though. Putting them up would just look wrong.

The ammo boxes are my tool boxes now, so I need to keep them … somewhere. Not sure where yet.

Friday was more drinks with good friends and laughter. Some faux pas on my part for talking too much, but I never do know when to stop. Discretion never was my strong suit. Part of that comes from living a life where few if any consequences would matter, and part of that comes from my philosophy of straightforward communication. I confess some of it comes from my love of pulling triggers and pushing buttons as well. I do need to learn more caution, however, when it’s more than just myself in the story.

I have, in fact, been making apologies this weekend for saying too much. Yes, that’s apologies plural. I’m really not very good at discretion.

But Friday night was good. Really good. I was able to talk with a new friend about things she already understood without my having to go into entire libraries of background information and a glossary. It was fantastic to just talk without having to stop and clarify every two sentences.

It was also excellent seeing the Dargies again after too long an absence.

I just have to remember there are discretionary points at which I should probably just stop talking.

Saturday was the rest of the cleaning and a much larger shopping trip than I had planned. In Thursday’s rearrangement I finally decided to get rid of the floor lamp that’s been balancing precariously in my living room for the past year. The top was completely free floating and stayed put only so long as there wasn’t a stiff breeze. The light had to be turned on full brightness or there was this metalic, electronic hum that made my eye teeth ache. And full brightness was far, far too bright for my little condo. It had to go.

Which meant I had to find a replacement. So I went in to Ikea Saturday morning for a little shopping. I found two replacements in the form of a pair of holmos. Don’t look at me funny, that’s the Ikea product name for them. But I have to say, there’s nothing like a pair of holmos to brighten up a room.

And the holmos were cheap, too. I got them for $20 each.

The trip itself wasn’t cheap, however. I came away with two dozen new glasses for other people to drink out of. My original Ikea glasses are Joel sized, just over a liter each. Numerous people have given me raised eyebrows and casual comments about “size” that got me thinking people other than me might feel a tad uncomfortable about drinking from a half pitcher. So I purchased a dozen relatively “normal” sized glasses for other people to drink out of.

And frames. I bought frames as well.

After having hung most of my pictures and putting away the rest I knew I needed to cull the frames and pictures that I already have. But then I also have all these Paul Chadwick prints that are being wasted by sitting in storage all the time, and I found a set of frames that might just fit them and get them out. So, yeah, after struggling to figure out which old picture frames I wanted to throw out because I don’t have room for them I brought five more home.

People should not allow me to shop at Ikea by myself.

Saturday’s party was pretty good. Not wild or crazy, but still fun. I got several drawings done up on my couch but there’s still tons of free space to work with. I’ve decided that drawing on my couch is now going to become the casual activity for future gatherings. When we start gaming again any unconscious or otherwise disabled character will result in the player picking up a couch cushion, shuffling through my bucket-o-markers, and drawing something new. I already love the stuff I have now and I’m dying to get more. It’s kind of like tattoos for your home. Each new image you receive has you yearning for more.

One of the highlights of Saturday was having Julie visit, someone I also haven’t seen in over a decade. Although I could have done without Leslie and Julie bringing their nineteen year old “kids” with them and making me feel incredibly old. (I jest, the kids are great… intelligent and quirky just like their parents)

Another highlight was the gift of two road signs created by Mike Dargie himself. A pair of his own road side variations, one “caution: pirates” and one “need head”. The Pirates, I think may find a home on the washroom door. The “need head”, of course, makes the most sense on the bedroom door. I know, it’s terribly college-dorm-room in it’s theme but the signs are fun.

Sunday morning was cleaning all over again. More than just cleaning up from the party I also found myself vacuuming all over again. I’d only just vacuumed on Thursday night and here it was, less than 72 hours later, and I swear the dust bunnies were breeding giant mutant offspring because there were rolling tumbleweeds of fluff collecting in the spaces I know for a fact I’d vacuumed clean on Thursday.

I had the place completely cleaned by early afternoon, though, and it felt great. All the garbage was gone, all the laundry done, and the dishes either hand washed or clean and drying in the dishwasher. All the tech and pens and whatnot was put away. My refridgerator is now packed with food and booze, however, and while I can bring the food to work the booze is just going to wind up staying there until someone comes over to drink it. I’ve been taught that drinking alone is pathetic. I tried it once, just to check, and yeah it’s pretty sad.

Sunday afternoon was divided up by the brief visit of a friend in my dark cool hiding place. Conversation was had and ice chilled beverages were consumed. No sooner did I drop friend off at home than my continued reverie was interrupted by yet another call. Scott offered his apologies for losing his battle with tequila Saturday afternoon and thus missing the party. By way of consolation he offered to ride with me to Cochrane for ice cream and I readily agreed. I’d been trying to think of a good excuse to take my bike out and this was a perfect opportunity.

Like a good Doctor with his Tardis our grizzled badger had a companion with him, a young lady who’s name I’m very embarrassed to admit I’ve forgotten, and keep forgetting despite having met her three times now. She’s a good foil for Scott, as any Doctor’s Companion should be, and we paired up for a volley of “poke the badger” with reasonable coordination. Badger retaliated with a debasement of Simon Pegg movies and Douglas Adams books, the humors of which he apparently finds tiring. We rebutted with a simple defection and she rode back to Calgary with me. That’ll teach the grizzled tuner to besmirch the names of such luminaries.

It was pleasant having a rider for the trip back. While I barely know the woman her presence was notable and welcome. Legs against my hips and arms around my chest, it was the most physical contact I’ve had in months. It’s kind of sad when something so brief and casual actually becomes noteworthy.

It probably would have been a lot more relaxing if the bright yellow “low fuel” light hadn’t been glaring at me for the latter three quarters of the trip. There aren’t any gas stations that I’m aware of on the number 8 highway, and when I took a brief detour into Lakeview for the one gas station I knew was there I found, much to my annoyance, it was closed. I wasn’t terribly worried. I’d managed a good half hour into Golden with that yellow light glaring at me last summer so I knew I actually had plenty of fuel left. It was just embarrassing to have forgotten to fill up before embarking on our trip in the first place.

I feel bad for having just dropped her off and not stopped to chat a while, but I wasn’t entirely sure how much longer my bike would keep running.

Monday was a test of my reserve, and I cracked a bit. I was curt with a few customers and outright stoic to one in particular. I think I’m definitely ready for a vacation. The weekend was very nice and relaxing, but the two days were far too short. Sixteen days off won’t feel much longer, I fear, but I’m ready for them all the same. Just four more days to get through without scaring or scarring any more customers and I will finally be able to relax.

Just four more days.

The Condo is clean again, now that I’ve cleared away dinner and washed the pans. The stove is wiped, all debris put away, and I’ve reduced the lights down to two holmos and a candle. My little netbook is barely visible on my dining room table even as I type away at it. Radio Paradise has been delivering some lovely Morcheeba, Black Keys, Pink Floyd, and Dengue Fever tonight.

The home is dark. The home is light. The home is soothing and serene. The home is mine, and sleep awaits.

Another year older, another day wiser…

I now have some pictures to go along with some of this so I suppose it’s time for an update.

Well, long past time, I’m sure. I haven’t written a lot of blogs in the past couple of years and… that’s something I need to fix. I really just need to open up a text window and start typing away.

I turned 44 a few weeks ago. I’ll spare you the existential angst I went through at the turn of double four… suffice to say I didn’t think I’d be where I am at this age. Then again, I didn’t have any firm idea of where I’d be at all so the outcome really isn’t surprising. It’s hard to be surprised when you don’t have any expectations.

It is, however, easy to be disappointed when you don’t have any expectation. And that revelation… surprised me.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Turning 44.

I have a wealth of friends, more than any man’s share I’m sure, and they all went to great lengths to ensure I enjoyed my birthday. Ronya, in particular, went to amazing lengths.

First there was a dinner party at Shane and Dianne’s place on Friday night with the tribe. Lots of candy and cake and a bit of Scene It: Disney style. We were all kind of curious as to why every single answer had to be prefaced with the word “Disney’s” until we got our first question about Toy Story, the answer to which was “Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story”. It pretty soon became a running joke that every answer was “Disney’s Something” unless the clue was digitally rendered in which case it was “Disney/Pixar’s Something”. It’s amazing how often copyright issues turn even the simplest things into lame jokes.

Playing Xbox at the Chinook Theater

Playing Xbox at the Chinook Theater

Saturday morning a small collection of us showed up at the Scotiabank Theater in Chinook Mall to play some Xbox. Ronya had rented out the the theater for a couple of hours and we got to play Left 4 Dead, Halo 3, and Dead or Alive 4 on the biggest projection TV screen in the world. DOA4 is even better when the jiggly bits are each bigger than you are, but Left 4 Dead was just creepy with zombies twenty feet tall and 130 decibels loud.

Playing DOA4 on the biggest widescreen ever.

Playing DOA4 on the biggest widescreen ever.

After the Xbox we transitioned over to my favorite pub, Limericks, for a lunch of my favorite greasy, cheesy food. It was a bit touch and go at first, though. It took me three tries to finally find a patio chair that wasn’t broken. The food, weather, and company very quickly made up for it, though.

After lunch… well, I had a nap, didn’t I? I’m not getting any younger, you know. An exciting day like that will take a lot out of a man my age.

After my afternoon nap we ventured up into the far northwest to Tony and Mary Ann’s’ place where we grazed on fine food and alcohol. My friends got to enjoy doodling on me like a curved, spongy white board for a while. Dianne had purchased me a plain white t-shirt and then made we wear it while everyone doodled on my with markers and fabric color pens. It’s an odd feeling being written on and it kind of made me appreciate what it might be like to be a notebook. Ronya drew epaulets on both my shoulders but many people felt they looked more like irradiated penises aiming for my ears. Others wrote across my back that I was offering free hugs… after a mail in rebate. I think my favorite bit was the pocket that got drawn on my chest, complete with pocket protector and a varied selection of pens.

Being a human sketch pad tickles

Being a human sketch pad tickles

As the dye dried on my shirt we then dove into Rock Band: The Beatles, drinks well in hand to best adapt to the mindset of the band. I have never, and probably will never, sing for Rock Band but I was given to understand that the addition of two other singers and the potential for harmonizing made the game both more interesting and more difficult. For me it was just cool playing with six people all at once.

We played through the storyline of the entire game. The best I can say is it’s definitely worth playing through once, but beyond that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of replay-ability. Perhaps if they actually had the whole library of Beatles tunes instead of just the 35 selected tracks, or if they had even just built the game around all their chart-able hits, it might have been worth going back and playing some of them again. But some of their track choices, while providing and interesting perspective on the band’s development (you could actually *feel* the disintegration of the band’s normal cohesion throughout the last set) weren’t compelling enough to go back and play again.

That being said if they made the tracks available for download for regular Rock Band I’d be willing to download about half of them.

Playing Rock Band Beatles

Playing Rock Band Beatles

Last but certainly not least, Ronya’s family pooled money together to buy me the Carcassonne Big Box, a collection of the basic Carcassonne game and five of it’s more popular expansions.

We’ve played the game almost every day since we got it and I’m nowhere near tired of it yet. The game box itself contains an interesting feature that appeals to my detail oriented nature: the interior of the box is formed in such a way that each set of tiles ( the basic and each of the expansions ) has it’s own precision fit storage slot. This way you can pick and choose which expansions to use for the game you’re playing. (ie. if you’re feeling particularly adversarial you can put in the princess / dragon / fairy expansion) The tiles themselves are watermarked with a little symbol depicting the expansion they’re from so it’s easy to sort them all out later and put them back in their respective holes.

Yes, I’m so anal I’m gushing about the organizational packaging that came with the game more than the actual game itself.

But the game itself is great fun as well. So far I think I’ve only won two actual games but I don’t care, it’s just fun to play.

Big thanks to all my friends and family, and to my tribe, for setting up an awesome birthday weekend.

Tripin' but not Tripin'

Did some motorcycle maintenance this afternoon. Lubricated the drive chain, which seriously needed it. Of course it wasn’t until after I’d liberally coated the chain in lubricant that I noticed it was in serious need of adjustment. So I got out the tools and maintenance manual, loosened up the rear wheel axle, adjusted the tensioners on the chain until it had the right amount of slack, then tightened it all up again. I have to say I’m honestly proud of myself. I’ve never been much for mechanics, and I’m constantly terrified I’m going to screw something up. But I took the bike out for a short test drive and it all seems to work just fine. Better, in fact, as the proper tension seems to have resolved that slight fluctuation in power I used to experience in lower gears. I confess, though, that I’m still worried I may have misaligned something that will only reveal itself in a catastrophic chain failure at highway speeds. But that’s just how my mind works. Constantly worried I did something wrong.

I’ve done a few more rides on the motorbike in the past week. So far an hour is about all I can handle before my ass feels like it’s been sitting on a narrow hardwood bench all day. Perhaps it’s something my body will adapt to, but right now I can’t help but think it’s a simple problem of too much weight on too small a seat, neither of which is changing anytime soon. My body is just too freaking heavy.

I had been toying with the idea of riding to Saskatoon this coming weekend for my high school class’ 25th reunion… but tonight I’ve decided there really isn’t sufficient reason to go. I’ve had a few of my classmates asking if they’ll see me, which is nice and all… but these are people who’s names I barely recognize. And it occurred to me tonight… the vast majority of my close friends through high school either didn’t attend my school or were in a different grade. The only two guys from my actual classes that I hung out with, Brendan and Alan, aren’t on the reunion list. The rest of the people on the list are just names I kind of recognize. I’d be standing around in a room of people reminiscing about things that never involved me.

It’s not that I didn’t do anything in high school… I remember toga parties where the primary entertainment was listening to, and joking along with, Monty Python albums. There were drinking parties outside in the summer… driving up and down main street for hours meeting up with other kids and racing… there were drive in movies (remember drive in movies?)… and gaming sessions. Endless, tireless gaming sessions. There were the long weekends with Rocky Horror midnight shows… tons and tons of shit I did with my friends to the point where my mother didn’t know where I was most weekends. But none of it was ever done with any of the people actually showing up to the reunion. About the only thing I have in common with those people, beyond the common academics, is some band practice. The only truly interesting class to me, my computer science class, involved Brendan and Alan… the only other extra curricular activity of note was the photography club, of which only Brendan and I were members.

And in all honesty, as interesting as it might be to see how some of these people have changed (and in all likelihood how many of them haven’t) it just isn’t worth the expense. Particularly now when the money could be put to better use elsewhere. The cost of the reunion, combined with food and lodging, would just nicely replace that beat up laptop I’m currently not able to use due to a dead $150 power adapter.*

Which is sad because… it would be nice to see some of my friends from 25 years ago. But there’s no “Twenty Fifth Reunion Of The Random Strange And Interesting People Joel Used To Hang Out With” committee so I guess it’ll have to wait until the 30th or something.

And I have no idea why this should keep me up in the middle of the night, but here I am typing this up at 4:30 in the morning.

* On a slightly related note some friends have come forward with offers of assistance so it looks like there might be a hot tub at the BBQ after all… more news if and as it happens.