Friday, October 06, 2006

The Calgary Misadventure

So you might be wondering why it's taken me until now to finally post something about my trip down to Calgary this week to participate in the Red Mile Revenge reading for October.

Well, to put it quite simply, the whole Calgary trip turned into somewhat of a misadventure. Now don't get me wrong because now that the misadventure is over I would have to say that I would not have changed anything about the trip at all. It was an experience.

Before I set out on the road Tuesday I thought it would benefit the driving if I were to swing by the local A&B Sound store and get some road music. I ended spending just over a hundred bucks on CDs. I'll probably be mentioning some of these new albums for my library before long, but in a quick summary sort of way I ended up buying music by The Killers, Queens Of The Stone Age, Beck, Broken Social Scene, The Dears, and TV On The Radio. When it came time to pay for everything I couldn't get my debit card to work properly so I decided to use my credit card instead. This detail plays a part in my story later on so make a note of it.

The drive down to Calgary was great. I grooved to the new Killer disc, stopped in Red Deer for dinner, and got to Calgary in what seemed like little or no time at all. In fact, the drive down was so good that it made me really look forward to the drive back, which I was going to be making at night when the Queen Elizabeth II Highway would be dead.

As per a visit I made to MapQuest before I left Edmonton my route through Calgary to my reading would involve driving south on the Deerfoot until I hit 17 Ave, where I would turn right and pretty much head straight to my venue. Little did I know that just giving a brief look at a road map is not the same thing as actually looking at it for longer than two seconds. I would have seen that the exit I chose really just led to a maze of roads passing through industrial areas, not nearly the straight line I thought I saw on the map beforehand. So after a number of random turns I found myself at the entrance to Stampede Park. And then...

My car broke down.

And I couldn't get it started again.

This was when I first saw how friendly the people of Calgary are. Not long after trying and retrying to get my car started again, a woman from the line next to mine at the gate offered to give me a push out of the way, which I took her up on because I was growing ever more embarassed by the sorry state of my car. The woman at the gate called the park tow truck driver over to take a look at my car to see what could be done for me.

The park tow truck driver looked and couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong with my car, only that he couldn't smell any fuel getting to the engine. His guess was that it was probably a problem with my fuel pump and that maybe letting the car sit for a while would benefit it enough to get it running again later. With the time that I had to wait I could actually go do my reading, but I would need a cab to get there.

I called a cab and it turned out that the venue was actually within walking distance from Stampede Park. I guess I wasn't that lost after all. Anyway, the reading went well. It was a smaller audience than some of my readings, but holy shit was Victoria's Restaurant a nice venue. And the food? Excellent. Wow! I think that if the Raving Poets ever hit the road for a one-off show in Cowtown we should really do it at Victoria's because that place totally rocked. For the reading I brought out "The Clifford Brown Downtown Scope", "Marionettes", which I dedicated to Selina Clary even though she couldn't make it down to the show, "Spectator Sport", and I closed with "Vitriol", a poem I had yet to perform for the people of Calgary for fear of being lynched.

Then after the show everything went surreal.

I got back to my car and tried it, hoping that the down time would have done a world of wonder for it. No such luck. The car still wouldn't start. So I called my uncle Keith, the only Calgarian mechanic I know personally. He said that I could tow the car to his shop and he would look at it in the morning. My aunt Tharon and uncle Keith offered to put me up for the night since it looked like I was stranded, but I really hate being more of a bother than I already am and uncle Keith was already doing more than what I required of him by offering to look at my car so I declined their offer and told them I would seek a hotel once the car was towed.

Second lesson in how friendly Calgarians are: my tow truck driver that night was Larry. He was very forthright with what was best for towing my car and along the way to where the shop was he pointed out all the points of interest in Calgary and we got to talking about the economic situation in Alberta was like, our war stories from our respective jobs, etc. etc. And then when we got the car to the shop where my uncle Keith works it came time to pay and it turned out that my credit card didn't have enough credit left on it to cover the entire tow. Stupid CD shopping binge! So Larry asked me how much cash I had on me and I still had sixty bucks kicking around in my wallet so we tried the credit card again, this time sixty dollars less and it worked!

Now the problem was that I was on the outskirts of Calgary with no money, a broke-down car, and no transportation to get me to some sort of lodging for the night. My plan was to basically spend the next hour or two walking back into town and to shelter. Larry, though, offered to give me a lift on his way back in because he knew that he would be passing by numerous hotels since his route back was right by the airport. So he drove me to the Sandman Inn.

At the Sandman the desk clerk asked me for my credit card so that I could get a room. I explained to her that my credit card had recently been sapped by a tow truck and my own CD-buying stupidity. She told me that it was fine if I paid up front with my debit card. Do you remember why I had to buy my CDs with my credit card in the first place? Yes, you guessed it, my debit card is a piece of shit. The desk clerk tried and tried, but could not get it to work. I asked where a bank machine might be so that I could just get some cash for the room because I had plenty of cash, albeit in my bank account. She told me that the nearest bank machine was a long way away in the Calgary airport. Then she decided to try the old trick of putting tape on the debit car stripe to make it work. And it worked. Oh yes, thank you Buddha for that one.

So I got myself a room, an expensive room because it was the only one left, a two bed smoking suite. And I tried to wind down, but I couldn't sleep at all because I began to worry that the car repairs would be more expensive than what I could afford. I was also worried that I was imposing too much on my uncle Keith. I was also worried about the cat that I was supposed to be looking after for my friend Nadine while she's on vacation. All this worrying meant that I could only sleep soundly for as much as one hour.

When I got up I checked out of the hotel quicker than any human being has ever checked out of a hotel (call me Guiness Book of World Records, seriously). I had a hike ahead of me. I had to find cash somewhere. So I walked from my hotel on Barlow Trail and McKnight all the way to 32 Avenue and 36 Street. I'm not 100% sure on those coordinates as I am a tourist in Calgary even at the best of times. It was a long walk that's all I know. It was probably three miles or so to where I finally found a bank machine and I took out a large wad of cash just to be safe. I then called a cab to take me to my uncle Keith's shop.

Once at the shop it turned out that the repair to my car was indeed the aforementioned fuel pump, which on my car is a rather simple repair. I apparently still had the original (and 30-year-old) fuel pump on my car so I can't really be upset at fate for making that part fail me at last. It took a few hours, but my uncle Keith and his coworkers got me on the road again for a very small fee compared to what I would have paid at some shop where people see suckers born every minute.

The drive back home was scary at best. Because of my lack of sleep I really found myself nodding off behind the wheel as I was getting closer and closer to Red Deer. When I got to Red Deer I was very tempted to just put down 60 bucks on getting a room at this motel that I passed just so that I could get enough sleep to make the rest of the trip back to Edmonton. After eating lunch, though, I found myself rejuvenated enough to make it back, though to ensure I stayed awake I put on some hard-rocking Queens Of The Stone Age and made sure to sing all the way back to E-Town.

Finally I got back home after all the walking, lack of sleep, lack of cash, and adventuring, and misadveturing, and it was 3:00 in the afternoon and I was just going to climb into bed and sleep because I didn't have to be at work until Thursday night.

But that wasn't to be because two hours after falling asleep I was called into work.

So I really didn't get much sleep until this morning. And now I finally have a day off and I don't intend to do anything but host a poker game and a hockey draft later tonight.

I'm glad the misadventure is over, but damn it was fun when everything was done. Thank you, Calgary, you restored my faith in humanity.

I'm almost wondering when the next time I'll be down the Cowtown way will be because I actually kind of miss it.


Mingus said...

Thank god your car is ok.

Michael said...

I know what you mean. That car and I go a long way back. If I am Han Solo then my 1977 Monte Carlo is my Millenium Falcon.