Our dirt bikes bring all the boys to the yard. Damn right, they're better than yours.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My little brother: three years younger, ten times more badass.

After testing the waters a little over a year ago with a muted, single-colour tattoo of a truck on one of his forearms, my brother Nick has clearly to dived headfirst into the world of skin art, making his second foray to the tattoo parlour a big one with this pretty amazing four-colour leg sleeve. Obviously, he's got a few more colour sessions ahead of him, but it's looking pretty rad — not to mention tough. I felt like I had to write "FUCK" on my knuckles with a Sharpie or something just so I looked like less of a pussy standing next to him.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Papa's got a brand new coroner's bag

Well, if any of you had James Brown dying of pneumonia on your holiday wish list, looks like today was your best Christmas ever.

A damned shame.

Also, Merry Christmas, awesomelords.

Holiday in Edmonton: Reviewed!

All this Edmonton boosterism reminded me to drop a post about my trip back west. Before I even left here, the cab ride to the airport offered a hint of things to come, as I saw road signs advertising work in Alberta. As you’ve heard, the Wild Rose province is booming harder than the bass in a high school kid’s iPod. There are Help Wanted signs everywhere, fast food restaurants have closed due to staff shortages (I saw two Burger Kings and Dairy Queen shut down, apparently for this reason), and many places are keeping shorter hours – as I discovered when lunch plans at DADEOS were scrapped because the place was still closed two hours after posted opening time.
The service industry is stretched thin, and the most noticeable change in the city is that service suuucks, at least at the chain stores. Panago screwed up my pizza order in three different ways by forgetting stuff and delivering the wrong pizzas. Red Robin gets a mention for its shrapnel lunch special, where a server dropped a beer bottle, which showered my table with shards. The waitress watched my buddy and I pick glass out of hair, shrugged and muttered “oops” as she walked away.
Future Shop, however, failed on all cylinders. My first trip there saw approximately 400 sales people huddled in tight, eye-contact-avoiding circles, while a single bored cashier accommodated a line-up of roughly fifteen increasingly hostile shoppers. I joined the line to find out the price of box-set. It had no sticker and the eleven-year-old who looked it up on the computer told me – and I’m not exaggerating here – that the price was $1.60. I informed him that, like, maybe that wasn’t right, as it was a three-disc DVD set, so he told me I’d have to ask the cashier. After the line stretched out to about 20 people, a manager sauntered over to watch. The fuming woman behind me told him to get another cashier on; he agreed – seemingly taken off guard by such a revolutionary suggestion – and ran away to the back, where he presumably started another life among the boxes in the stockroom, as neither himself nor a cashier ever appeared. At least the frothing mad guy screaming at the people in the returns department absorbed some of the tension.
That was at the south side location.
A few later I ended up at the downtown store with a friend who was in the market for a new TV. He picked one out, didn’t bother to haggle, and off went the sales rep to the back to find it. Some time later, we’re informed that the store doesn’t have one in the back, and he couldn’t sell the floor model. Fine, OK, how about this other, similar model, then? Again, no dice, but if we wanted to come back in a couple of days he could have one sent here from the warehouse. Since my friend doesn’t drive and planned to cab it back to his apartment so the two of us could load it in, this wasn’t going to work. The sales guy’s solution? My friend could pay $50 to have it delivered in a few days. I suggest the rep knocks $50 off the price – sweet fuck all on a $1500 purchase – and then my friend would pay the delivery charge. Hmmm… he didn’t know if he could do this and suddenly assumed the look of slaughterhouse cow dazed by glancing sledgehammer blow. At this point the guy wandered off to talk to someone who could crack this Rubik’s Cube of commerce and we assumed he’d return with an A-OK. Seems like a no-brainer, especially when you’re getting commission, right? Guess not, and he too disappeared in the back to start a new life in the Peoples Republic of TV Boxes.
Really, the whole lack of service thing was more funny than frustrating, and it was interesting to see exactly what happens when people stop pretending to care about crappy jobs. It certainly didn’t harsh my Edmonton buzz, anyhow, and, on the upside I did have one of those faith-in-humanity moments that would give Jimmy Stewart a yuletide boner. I was waiting for my ride in front of Colin’s place one snowy night when I noticed a homeless dude sitting in the front entrance of the apartment across the street. A woman came in and started talking to him, and I thought, “The jerk is gonna kick that guy’s ass out in the storm,” but instead she gave him a smile, coffee and a bag of food, chatted him up and went inside.
It also needs to be said that Edmonton looked beautifully seasonal, like a city should in the winter: blanketed in fresh powdery snow (beats the blustery rain in Toronto). Regardless, nothing’s better than haunting those familiar haunts, keeping friendly with old friends and cramming in more than enough good times to remind me why the Edmonton’s worth being homesick over.
So, how are the cockles of your heart? Warm? Mine are toasty, and engorged with Christmas spirit – or maybe it’s the Neo Citron I drank a half-hour ago.
My forehead feels fuzzy.

Now: the essentials of my trip to Edmonton – by the numbers.

Duration of trip: 10 days
Amount of snow: 2-3 feet
Estimated average temperature: -10
Earliest I woke up: some time after 10am
Times I made my brother cousins or friends drive me around: too many to count
Visits with grandma: 3
Times I accidentally came across a picture of myself in the Journal: 1 (Ed did an anniversary issue that re-ran a pic of Neal and I drunk in Santa costumes)
Jokes made about grandma’s Christmas-themed vest: 1 (“Why, I see you’re celebrating Vestivus this year!”)
Number of times grandma asked me to dust the top of the fridge: 1
Loads of grandma’s laundry I folded: 2
Pairs of big old grandma underwear I folded: don’t want to talk about it
General awesomeness of grandma: 10 out of 10
Christmas dinners: 3
Pizza dinners: 3
Restaurant meals: 11
Lunches that involved drinking three or more pints: 1
Lunches with SEE alumni: 1
Steaks eaten: 1
Tom Clancy games played through on Colin’s Xbox 360: 1
Title of game: 6 as in Rainbow Six: Vegas (die terrorist scumfucks!)
Number of time Colin made me watch the (admittedly cool) trailers for Halo 3: 6 (at least)
Oilers games I considered attending: 1
Oilers games I attended: 0
Price of single-seat ticket to said Oilers game: $175
Items of Oilers swag I bought instead: 4 (socks, gloves, book, hat)
Long walks downtown: 2
Shopping trips down Whyte Ave: 3
Old friends bumped into while shopping on Whyte: 3
Whyte Ave ratio of hipsters to non-hipsters: 1:1
Percentage of those hipsters wearing either a second-hand blazer, aviator glasses or a headband: 75%
Percentage of hipsters who probably paid too much for a bad haircut: 90%
Trips to West Edmonton Mall: 0
Trips I wanted to take to West Edmonton Mall: 0
Items bought to avoid paying extra tax in Ontario: 1 (extra memory for laptop)
Trips to the south side before correct memory was purchased: 2
Condescending computer tech-nerdiness level of guy who sold me the memory: 100%
Trips to the movie theatre: 0 (oddly)
LRT trips taken: 1
Nights drinking at the Black Dog: 1
Drunken post-Black Dog trips to Sam Wok: 1
Amount of food that ended up on table: roughly 15%
Gateway geeks I dined with while there: 3 (Dan, Leanne, Cosanna)
Books I convinced Dan to write that night while we were drunk: 1
Nights drinking at the Garneau Pub: 1
Number of changes made to Garneau Pub since I was there in the summer: 1 (got rid of one of the pool tables in favour of more tables)
Metal nights attended at Filthy McNasty’s: 1
Metal night I thought I’d attend at Filthy McNasty’s (or anywhere else for that matter): 0
Awesomeness of going to metal night: 666 (they played Maiden)
Parties: 2
Latest running party: 5:15am
Number of high school friend couples that had babysitters that night so they could drink: 4
Hangovers: 1
Duration of hangover: 2 days (a new record!)
Volume that I tell myself the partying was cranked up to: 11

Lastly, have a good one, friends, and I hope everyone checks in with a Christmas update.