Tag Archives: Calgary

Hated Winter: From Snow to Rainforest

I grew up in Calgary, where winters were defined by snow and snowsuits, giant mitts and yes, that Canadian thing, tuques. As kids our tuques (toooq) were balaclavas. They had an inner piece that could be pulled down over the face. Today they’re called ski masks and have a big opening around the eyes. Ours had two eye holes and maybe a mouth hole. Pretty much  only burglars wear them now. It was nearly worth the risk of frostbite not to wear these horribly uncool and unfashionable items, even at the age of seven, even before seven-year-olds were that fashion-conscious.

There was just no way anyone wanted to wear these things. When nostrils started freezing shut and the air cut as we inhaled, and eyelashes froze our eyes shut, then we would reluctantly pull these things over our faces, dealing with the ice encrusting around the mouth hole every time we exhaled.

I didn’t have a snowsuit but I think there were thick pants over tights and two pairs of socks. Imagine being a kid of six, not particularly tall, struggling through a foot of snow and looking like the Michelin tire man. In my first grade I was late every day for a week because I just could walk any faster through all the snow. That was back when children were allowed to walk to school from grade 1 through 12 and the only ones that were driven were the teenagers who drove themselves.

Winter. How I hated it. My sister and I shared a bedroom in a split-level house, which mean all but three feet of our room was below ground. And the air vent didn’t really work. And the floors were cold linoleum on concrete. Cold. Icy icy cold. My sister and I both hate cold to this day. She has other reasons as she has arthritis as well.

In Calgary we would listen to the radio every morning in winter to find out the temperature and whether the schools were closed. They usually only closed them when the temperature, combined with the wind chill factor, got below -30.  Yeah, we were hardy little buggers. Walk or freeze. My mother would load our little metal lunch boxes with a thermos of hot chocolate and some sort of sandwich wrapped in wax paper, and a fruit or a cookie and off we would go.

I somehow don’t remember winter that well in my teenage years. By then I completely refused to wear those horrid balaclavas. Losing my nose was a risk I was going to take. I had a big puffy downfilled coat and some sort of hat or tuque but without the face part.

In art college I remember the tops of my ears being frostbitten one day because I walked from the college across a very major street to the shopping mall where I worked. I had my hair braided back and it was probably spring. That exposure was enough to do the ears in. My toes were also frostbitten when I got a ride by the Calgary hot air balloon club, in exchange for pictures. Again it was spring and the snow had disappeared from most of the sidewalks. In my runners I rode the balloon and everything was fine…until we landed in a farmer’s field still covered in snow.

The cold I hated the most was the one that seemed to freeze the marrow. Doing photography I would go out and shoot until my camera froze up. There are oils that are in the body for the gears and the lenses so that the focusing ring can be turned easily. When I could no longer easily focus I would go in. On days like that there was a cold beyond shivering that really felt like it was in my bones. It was a terrible deep ache that I could only alleviated by immersing myself in a very hot bath.

It was enough to get me to move to Vancouver, land of green grass and ivy in winter. But Vancouver was a different climate from Calgary. Calgary was dry. Vancouver was humid. I moved here and found mold growing in my shoes at first. Every time I crawled into bed it felt like I was in wet sheets. My face broke out in all these little bumps. After seeing a dermatologist, it was determined that I was using too much lotion, having come from a drier climate.

But Vancouver was warm, and sure it rained like it was time to build an ark, but it was nice. Yes, nice. I’ll take a two-week long deluge anytime. So when it snows here I whine. I whine a lot. Snow is for the mountains, not the city. If our temperature drops below 0, I whine. We’re not supposed to get temperatures that cold and believe me, our pipes are not that deep underground. Last year’s hideous, snowy winter caused my kitchen pipes to freeze. Luckily they’re plastic and we could thaw them with a space heater.

I was born in the clime of true winter but I never took to it. Perhaps my ancestors’ genes had some influence. But one half was Danish and the other Italian. It seems my sister and I take after the Italian side, while my older brother and my mother (born of Italian parents) would prefer to be of the Danish side when it comes to climate.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, environment, family, fashion, home, life, memories, people, weather

Terror of the Air: Cold War Memories

When I was a child growing up in Calgary, there was an air raid siren in our neighborhood, at the corner where the Chinese store was. Yes, we did call the little corner store the Chinese store, as it was run by Chinese, yet this was never a derogatory term. I believe the air raid siren was across the street by the gas station. It was very tall, with a thick pole about the width of two light standards. It had to be about 25-30 feet high, with a big megaphone shaped horn at the top and all of it painted bright silver (or maybe that was the metal).

The top of ours was something like this, though the pole was round.

Ours was similar in style though the pole was round.

This Cold War artifact was very present in our memories and daily life. For one they would test it yearly and it sounded just like those WWII sirens you hear in the movies. I think. I was a kid so it’s hard to remember exactly. But the testing didn’t continue through every year.

Yet I remember that we were told to hunker down should a bomb drop and hide under our desks. There was a film they showed us, grainy black and white. I think it was sometime before grade 4 and I remember it being about bombings, maybe about Hiroshima because people were running from bombs dropping and the only image that seared into my brain was that of someone being vaporized by the bomb and leaving a skeletal imprint on the building behind them.
 
We were a generation growing up with fear of a world war, reminded by our parents and grandparents who may have lived through the horrors. We were after the generation of love and peace, the anti-war movement but were influenced by it nonetheless. Love and peace and hippy power had invaded and surely we were protected from the terrors of war. Yet we had those ever present reminders like the air raid siren.
 
My mother also had a gas mask, one of those old style ones with a corrugated rubber tube and
Almost exactly like my mother's except it was a black hose and mask.

Almost exactly like my mother's except it was a black hose and mask.

then a red tin at the end. What that tin was for, I’m not sure. It couldn’t hold air and I had no faith that it had ever filtered anything. Maybe it was just to convince people they were safe. The mask could have been hers from the war but I it might also have been a second hand one she bought when she was spraying insecticides on her plants. We would play in it and pretend we were monsters but not that often, because it was hot and steamy in there.I think for awhile there was an old army jacket hanging around, either my mother’s or my father’s. Most of these items disappeared by the time I was twelve except for the gas mask that no one used, and the air raid siren, now silent and ominous of a former era.

One day, when I was a teenager the siren went off. I don’t know if it was a test or some valve or button failing after all the years. But that terrible wail filled the air. Most of us ignored it, after a glance to the clear blue sky, but I remember these two little kids, about seven, who crying in sheer terror ran helter skelter for home, sure that the bombs were about to drop. I don’t know what they’d been told about wars, what mind curdling films they had been shown, but obviously the horror of war was a real thing for them.

When I was sixteen and in school, we heard the siren go one day. We were at least ten blocks diagonal away from it, yet it was pretty clear. No one bothered paying attention. After all, where do you go if the bombs are dropping? There were no bomb shelters that had ever existed in our area, bombs were more lethal from what we knew, and radiation would get us no matter what. Shortly after that, the air raid siren disappeared.

I would have off and on through the years, nightmares that were end of the world scenarios. Sometimes the bombs had dropped, sometimes it was just deadly radiation and sometimes the Nazis were chasing and persecuting me. They obviously were a form of stress  dream but one that would wake me in the middle of the night.

We are a generation that has seen war mostly from afar (except those in the military) yet that terror is a reality for some people every day. War is still not the thing of the past and it is more deadly than ever before. Perhaps that’s why my dreams are still spattered with war scenarios and movie realities. It would be nice some day that war is just a make believe thing but I think it will be a long time until humanity evolves to that next level.

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, flying, history, home, life, memories, people, security

Thoughts on Alberta

I haven’t lived in Alberta for a long time so that now when I go back I notice the difference. I am just a tourist in the place of my birth. Calgary is an immensely spread out city. In the middle of the prairies there is room to grow like a slowly encroaching disease. Alberta itself is known as Big Sky Country. When you compare it to BC, which is mountainous all the way to the coast (we are part of the Rockies), there is a huge difference.

Edmonton to Calgary (canola fields)

Edmonton to Calgary (canola fields)

Calgary is in the foothills, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. You come out of Banff, if you’re driving from BC and the sky just opens up. It is rolling hills and flat patches. There is nothing but sky and fields. I can see how someone growing up in the mountains or heavily wooded areas could find that great blue expanse disconcerting. I find it noticeably different in comparison to Vancouver.

Calgary, years ago, built their downtown core fairly compacted with buildings set close together. It made the downtown darker and colder than the outlying areas. The city center is also in a dip or a bowl and the city rises up out of the bowl on all sides. Keeping the downtown in that dip served to concentrate the center but the rest went its own way. There are major thoroughfares that crisscross the city north to south and east to west. They have such names as Sarcee Trail, Crowchild Trail, Deerfoot Trail, John Laurie Boulevard, Shaganapi Trail, Edmonton Trail, McKnight Boulevard, etc. Many, as you can see are reminiscent of the First Nations bands that originally occupied that area.

These roads are two to three lanes (there are others I haven’t named) and though they have lights at intersections, those lights are spaced very widely apart. Many of these freeway style roads are bordered by giant boulevards. It would be better to call them small inclines rather than boulevards because they often slope up (or down) and are 20 to 30 feet wide. Many of these roads are also bordered by large walls, used to keep sound out of the residential areas.

I grew up in the northwest (Calgary works on a quadrant system of street names and numbers split into NW, SW, SE, and NE) and at one time it was bordered by Spy Hill, or Nose Hill. I believe there are still houses on the other side of the area but it is protected land. Once I believe it was ranchland and may still have be partially privately owned but it is the only true hilly region (small part of the foothills) in Calgary. We used to go up there and do bow and arrow shooting at targets or just explore.

Just these major “trails” alone in Calgary take up a lot of space. Without them it would take far longer to go from one side of the city to the other. The last time I was there it took two hours one day to go from NW to SE, and I’m not sure we even hit the farthest reaches of the city. I cannot fathom how I managed to live on one side of the city and used to take the bus to work on the other side, before they had rapid transit.

One place to go for hikes is Bragg Creek. I went with my friend for a hike. Some uphill and some flat Picture 141spaces and a very nice view from other parts. Bragg Creek has a meandering creek that has never been particularly high from what I remember. Farther away is Elbow Falls. We didn’t go that route but did a three-hour hike (or a bit less) which gave us good cardio but was not hard. Runners are all you need but watch out for the bugs. Something bit my arm while we were walking though it neither itched nor swelled up.

Back in Calgary, one thing I did notice was the very high price of food, comparable to what I’ve seen in Seattle. Onions here are between .69 and .79/lb. In Calgary, $1.49/lb. Other fruits and vegetables were similarly expensive. Ouch.

The weather was hot, pulling in a short and fierce windstorm that killed two people and injured about 100 others and yet we missed it going from building to house. It lasted no more than a half hour. It poured one night, growing toward thunderstorm, but that never happened. Thunderstorms are common in Alberta and tornadoes are not uncommon in the southern parts of the province.

After so many years, I saw the differences in weather and land and city structure. I still prefer my home in Vancouver where usually the summers aren’t as hot, nor the winters as cold.

Leave a comment

Filed under cars, driving, life, memories, nature, travel, weather

Fashion and Discipline

Back in the bloom of my youth I went to a typical high school and dressed like a typical teenager. That involved a lot of jeans and T-shirts. Alberta had a junior high school system as well, which covered grades 7-9. It was fairly conservative and run by a principal reviled by most, Archie Wilcox. He was known for being draconian and supposedly had influence in getting his job through a brother on the school board. He was so nasty that at one time his tires were slashed and this was in a day before people were carrying guns or even knives at school. And when he started having an affair with one of the teachers and all of the students knew about it, we laughed at him. He was not loved at all. One day he was addressing the class in his lover’s classroom and his fly was undone so we all snickered at him. He nearly blew a gasket, not knowing what we laughed at.

In this stalag (Simon Fraser Junior High) we were not allowed to wear jeans and one day my homeroom science teacher said, “I need to talk to you about your jeans.” I heard, “I need to talk to you about your genes,” and looked at him confused until he elaborated. I was wearing a pair of light blue not quite jeany material but the cut was too jean like. So I was told I needed to change.

Our homeroom in grade 9 had a rep for being bad and unruly. I’m not sure why but we were definitely feisty (maybe it was one of our boys who slashed Wilcox’s tires). One day I was going down the hall, looking back over my shoulder, and ran into the doughy bosom of Mrs. Acton. She, like Wilcox, was old school, and was his right hand man from what I recall. She wore her hair in a bun, seemed always old and was built  like a battle tank matron.

She looked me over from the sharp edge of her glasses and told me to go see the principal about my top. It was what we called a pop top, sleeveless, and short. It showed about an inch of my midriff. So I went to the principal’s office where he told me I was not conforming to the dress code (or something…I don’t quite remember). I do remember saying back to him, “But this doesn’t affect our learning any,” and I repeated it, unrepentant. Wilcox bubbled a bit and I remained adamant. So I was sent home to change.

I wasn’t as knowledgeable or set in my opinions as perhaps I am now (though I like to think I’m always listening to the other side). Home was a 20-minute walk each way. I arrived home and told my mother what had happened. She agreed with me that my dress didn’t affect my learning but she made me change anyways. So grumpily I complied. (The part of this that may have also influenced her was that my sister had had problems with Wilcox–due to illnesses, I think, and my younger brother transferred to another school because of this principal. He was definitely not someone my family cared to associate with.)

In later years, I thought maybe the instructors were worried about the boys not learning if they were staring at girls in midriff tops. The truth is, that as teenagers everyone is trying on and forming their personalities and sexuality. Girls will show off their bodies if they can. People will wear what they consider sexy, especially if they’re trying to attract the opposite sex.

Now I’ve heard that some schools have banned T-shirts that portray slogans. To make it fair, they ban all slogans to be sure the racist or bigoted ones are gone too. Some ban certain tops, or jeans so low they show the butt crack or underwear, or skirts so high they show the butt. Will it affect learning in general? No. I’m all for banning racist, prejudiced and bigoted comments from a learning environment. Teenagers also like to push boundaries, theirs and others. But what about the clothing  now that I’m no longer constricted to wear, or not wear by teenagerhood, school and all that entails?

Well, I work and I’ve almost always worked where the dress code was lax (or been self-employed). When I worked in a department store we weren’t allowed to wear jeans or dresses that showed our arms (I don’t think that part lasted long). Most places, unless they’re dealing a lot with the public, don’t care if you were jeans, shorts, skirts or T-shirts as long as they’re clean, not so old they’re scruffy and torn, and decent. Decent usually means no short shorts and no bellies showing. Some places may required little to no cleavage showing. It varies depending on the profession.

But as to schools and teenagers…well, they’ve never been the epitomes of fashion. Not that some people ever grow up to have a fashion sense. Teenagers are great experimenters in all aspects of their lives. With their individualism comes trying on everything from attitude to clothing. Too many, I think fall to peer pressure but some go their own way. And should some aspects of their clothing be banned? Well, they should probably remain decent but decency in dress has to be defined. Is a skirt two inches below the butt indecent or okay? Is a top showing some cleavage or a navel fine? Fashion and styles have changed (and come around again) from when I was a teenager, but not that much.

Some of the issues are still the same. The conservative people and administrators will still see certain fashion items as wrong, slovenly or indecent. My mother always equated jeans to working on farms because it was only farmers who wore them when she was growing up.

Granted times have changed and these days there are more and more cases of guns in schools (remember I’m talking mostly Canada here–gun mileage in your area may vary) so the range of what is acceptable may have changed with more “worldly” attitudes, but I think as long as the essentials are covered, in all positions (such as bending over or walking up the stairs in a short short skirt), then teenagers should be allowed the freedom to find themselves and experiment.

Of course, I don’t have kids. I could be singing a different tune if I did.

3 Comments

Filed under Culture, fashion, life, people, sex, shopping

Weird Pets

rabbit, bunny, pets, Dutch rabbit, animals

Dutch Rabbit Wiki Commons

The other day we got talking about the weirdness of some pets. I have a friend whose cat will eat any flowers she brings into the house. One of my cats loved bread and would eat a whole loaf if he could. Another friend had a cat that loved fruit. It’s known that cats will eat corn, olives and melon. What appeals to their taste buds, I don’t know. But other animals can have just as many odd habits.

I grew up in a household that had dog, cats, rabbit, budgie and guppies (a turtle at one point too). My particular pet was the rabbits. I had several successive Dutch rabbits. They remain small with (the most common colors of) grey or black hindquarters, white upper torso and black ears with whtie on the face. The paws, including the hind ones will usually be white. Kind of the same as the tuxedo cats.

In Calgary we kept the rabbit in a hutch outside. It had free run of the fenced yard during the day and when weather was really cold, we’d bring it in though it probably would have been find in its hay. Rabbits are easy to train to use the litter box and are fairly calm though if they’re startled the sharp digging claws that they sport can do some damage.

I think I had three rabbits in all but maybe it was only two. I remember Snuffy and then the male. My mother named him after the Minister of Highways because they were both odd. I didn’t know what she meant at the time but now might hazard a guess.

Gordon Taylor was a bit different for a rabbit. Rabbits are naturally timid, but Gordon had to stand up to his own with two cats and a German Shepherd. In the summer I’d see one of the cats chasing the rabbit around the yard and whereas this might give concern to some, we soon learned not to worry because the next few seconds would see Gordon chasing the cat around the yard.

It could be that the cat was running in terror because Gordon, true to his species, was a very amorous bunny. I don’t know if he ever tried to hump the cats but we have pictures of him hanging on the Shepherd’s tail (all that he could reach) and trying to make mad passionate love to it. The dog pretty much rolled its eyes and ignored him.

Gordon’s odd penchants ran to food too. As I teenager I would sometimes eat a raw wiener (why on God’s green earth, I don’t know) and one day I was doing this and holding Gordon. He leaned over and took a giant chomp out of the wiener. I stood looking down at him in shock, saying, You’re not supposed to do that. You’re a vegetarian.  Not only did he swallow that piece but he took another bite.

Gordon also was very fond of chocolate. We had to put him in a kennel once when we went away. I greeted him with a chocolate bar, which he nearly swallowed whole. I didn’t know then that chocolate isn’t good for animals, especially dogs, but if it did Gordon any harm, he never showed it.

Being a cocky little rabbit with a big dog attitude, Gordon also loved to race around the yard. Sometimes he’d kick up his hind feet and squirt. I don’t know what this signified but he did it to me once. I was so mad I picked him up and dunked him in a tub of cold water. He never did it again.

Gordon died mysteriously, his neck broken. We don’t know if a dog got into the yard (ours would have said something) or if he hit the fence. He wasn’t savaged and his skin was unbroken.

I stopped having rabbits for pets after the last one died, a little female, in a way so gruesome I still shudder (and won’t relate here). But after that I said no more. Rabbits rarely died natural deaths and it was too much. Still they were gentle and interesting pets and definitely had their individual personalities and predilections, like Gordon Taylor. He gets to go down in history as one of the quirkiest pets I had.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_rabbit

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, life, memories, people, pets

World Fantasy 2008: Part II

A big part of these conventions are the parties. Because World Fantasy is a professional con there are few but advertised parties and launches. SF Canada put on a party on Friday night, which I oversaw and I’m pleased to say that we never ran out of alcohol and that I had to actually return some. I could have ordered more of some things and less of others. We’ll know for the next one but it was definitely a success with over two hundred people passing through the suite.

Other parties included book launches for authors by RedJack press, Tor books, Borderlands, and others that I can’t recall. Because we weren’t leaving until Monday we attended the dead dog Sunday party which had a fair number of people and drinks. The parties were good, noisy and lasted until the room closed around 2 am.

The other place to meet people was in the bar, as always. I met Jetse De Vries, former editor with Interzone, a noticeable man for his long wavy hair, tallness and great rolling, Dutch accent. He was talking about the Netherlands for World Fantasy in 2016 as it would be the 500th birthday of Hieronymus Bosch. It’s a ways off so who knows. I also met Jenny Blackford from Australia, one of the awards judges for next year, and we discussed Greek mythos.

I met Mark Kelly of Locus, recognizing his name before I linked it with his reviews, Bob Brown, an antiquarian bookseller in Seattle, writers Mark Rich and Liz Bourke, and artist Mike Dringenberg. I met many SF Canada members in person including Leslie Carmichael, Claire Earmer, Lorna Toolis, Richard Bartrop, Dom Benoit, Den Valdron, Carolyn Clink, Celu Amberstone, Candas Jane Dorsey, Marcelle Dube, Dave Duncan, Matt Hughes, Alison Sinclair, Cath Jackal, Marie Jakober, Ed Willett.

Publishers that I met in the flesh included Virginia O’Dine and Dominic Macquire of Bundoran Press (Prince George), Gwen Gades of Dragon Moon, Karl and Stephanie Johanson of Neo-Opsis, Jacob Wiseman of Tachyon Press, Diane Walton of OnSpec, Champagne Books, Flash Me Online. I said hello again to Patrick Swenson of Talebones, Brian Hades of Edge, Peter Halasz sponsoring the Sunburst Awards auction, Brit Graham Joyce, Karen Abrahamson, Chris Lotts, Janine Cross, Rhea Rose, Linda DeMeulemeester, Eileen and Pat Kernaghan, Derryl Murphy, Nina Munteanu, Rob Sawyer, Darrell Schweitzer, John Douglas, David Hartwell, Bruce Taylor, Nancy Kilpatrick, Leslie Howle (of Clarion administration) and a few others. There were so many people and conversations that I don’t remember everyone but it’s a good place to meet people and talk about art and writing.

World Fantasy special guests included David Morrell, dark fiction and thriller writer and creator of Rambo, Patricia McKillip, who sold her first novel at the age of 23, Todd Lockwood with a lovely body of artwork, Barbara Hambly with an impressive number of books, Tom Doherty, publisher of Tor and other ventures and Tad Williams as emcee. During the presentation of the World Fantasy awards he gave a very funny speech about the beginning of fantasy writing, with such things as it all starting in the US and William Shakingspear made an indent. He claimed that Canadian writers were really just geographically confused Canadians and that no one knows if Charles de Lint is real but that his footprints have been found deep in the forests.

Tad’s history of fantasy began in the times of cave men and came forward to present day. I do hope this speech will be printed somewhere as it was extremely well done and had people laughing. The awards presentation happened on Sunday. My friend Kij Johnson was up again for a short story but she did not win. Ellen Datlow, who did win, has nine World Fantasy awards. A bunch of us joked about her forming her own Easter Island. Following is the list of winners at the convention:

Life Achievement: Leo and Diane Dillon; Patricia McKillip

Novel: “Ysabel” by Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada/Penguin Roc).
Novella: “Illyria” by Elizabeth Hand (PS Publishing).
Short Story: “Singing of Mount Abora” by Theodora Goss (Logorrhea, Bantam Spectra).
Anthology: “Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural” edited by Ellen Datlow, Editor (Tor).
Collection: “Tiny Deaths” by Robert Shearman (Comma Press).

Artist: Edward Miller
Special Award—Professional: Peter Crowther for PS Publishing
Special Award—Non-professional: Midori Snyder and Terri Windling for Endicott Studios Website

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, life, myth, poetry, Publishing, Writing

World Fantasy Convention 2008: Calgary

World Fantasy took place in Calgary’s downtown at the Hyatt Regency this last weekend. Although the hotel had an exceptional collection of paintings and heavily focused ungulate statuary everywhere, it was still a very expensive hotel. I haven’t been in a hotel in the US in the past five years that charged for internet and $1 for local calls. Internet cost $14 a day, an exorbitant fee, and the hotel price was high even at convention rates. We found Calgary pricey for food but cheap for alcohol, if you were buying it in stores but comparably priced to Vancouver in the hotel.

The con hospitality suites were smaller than I have seen at other cons and the air conditioning (hardly needed in Oct. in Calgary) was on high for most of the convention. The dealers room and art show were also small. From one discussion with a Seattle antiquarian dealer, the hoops and paperwork besides shipping costs are prohibitive and discourage international exchanges. The dealers room did have an interesting array of publishers. Some of them were Redjack, Fitzhenry/Red Deer Press, Tachyon, Edge, Talebones/Fairwood Press, OnSpec, Electric Velocipede, SFC table of members’ work, Sunburst awards, used and new booksellers, and other dealers that I don’t remember off hand.

 The dealers room used to feature books and some jewellery. This is a professional convention of editors, publishers and authors (and some fans as well) and fan paraphernalia is not allowed. The books are still there but the jewellery is not. It seems the WFC board has put a stop to it after so many years because it is a “serious” convention. I let them know that quite a few of us “pros” enjoyed buying our piece of con jewellery over the years and that we missed it. Does serious mean no fun? After all, the jewellery could be juried to fit certain criteria as well.

As often is the case with these cons, I get to few or no panels. I went to one on Friday and then left halfway through to see another. Unfortunately both were clunky, with no real flow and very short to no answers by the pros on the panel.

Saturday, I missed half of one, which had George R.R. Martin, Tad Williams and Steve Erickson talking about killing significant characters in a novel. They may have been more focused in the first half but it wasn’t bad for flow and was funny. Tad Williams, one of the special guests and emcee for the World Fantasy awards is a very funny guy.

The other panel I attended was “Why do we write dark fiction?” with Graham Joyce, Nancy Kilpatrick and David Morrell. It was moderated well by Nancy and thought provoking. Very interesting panel that had many of us thinking of their childhoods and surreal experiences.

Because this is long, I’ll continue tomorrow with more on WFC.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, life, myth, news, Publishing, travel, Writing

Calgary World Fantasy Convention

I’ll be writing later on the convention. I’m in Calgary and there is no place that has wireless for free, very different than Vancouver, where it is free nearly everywhere. This is also the first hotel (the Hyatt)where they charge $13.95 a day for wireless usage! I’ve never been in a hotel before that charged, not in recent years.

It’s cold and clear today but above 0. I ran into John Douglas nearly right away. We had tried to contact each other but my email had changed and I lost his. I met him years ago in New Orleans WFC. He’s an expat Canadian who was working for Avon books at that time. We’ll catch up soon. The only way I have internet is by the good graces of David Hartwell who snuck me up into the “Regency Suite” where internet is free.

And now I must go down and collect my coat and find a drink before the evening’s parties. There is an open mic reading at 10 and I’ll read a couple of poems then.

Leave a comment

Filed under fairy tales, fantasy, horror, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Traveling

I’m in Alberta at the moment, visiting family and getting ready to go to the World Fantasy Convention at the end of the week. My chances to get on the internet are sporadic.

Calgary (and Edmonton) in October are cold. It’s hovering near 0 (celsius) and crisp. However the sky is clear but a weaker washed out blue this time of year. The trees are almost all bare and the ground is yellow and brown and golden. In some fields where the hay was cut long ago the remaining stubs have turned a bleached whitish yellow. They almost look silver and it’s kind of pretty. There is a touch of green left in some grass but it too has mostly yellow with the cold. Quite a contrast from Vancouver.

I will hopefully have time to write more and post but it could be sporadic this week.

Leave a comment

Filed under environment, family, life, travel, Writing

The Ark: Spiders and Snails and Slug Trails

It’s raining here in Vancouver and some people might think that’s normal West Coast weather but we usually get a summer and intermittent periods of sun throughout the year. However this year, we had a particularly wet and cold spring, with the first ten days of June being the coldest on record. July was hot and dry and glorious.

And now…it’s raining like there will be no tomorrow. Time to build an ark. I mean, it’s torrential downpours lightening to heavy rain. Okay, so we are in a rainforest but still, there should be a good long summer. Back in 1998 I think we had a summer of no rain and no sun. It stayed cloudy and hazy the whole time. Plants barely grew and many yellowed and died in the ground because there just wasn’t enough heat or sun.

But back to that West Coast ark. The animals that would first board it, or slither onto it would be snails and banana slugs. There are the ubiquitous snails that crawl over our plants and the sides of houses. If one hankered for escargot (a fancy word for garlic flavored, butter dipped rubber), you could just pluck them from gardens. And slugs, when I first moved to Vancouver my friends in Calgary didn’t believe me when I said there were slugs up to a foot long. After all, the biggest a slug gets in Calgary is about two inches, if it’s massive. (They’re a different breed too.) But these natives to the coast are slimily large and have a high ooze factor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_slug 

The first banana slugs I ever saw were when we visited cousins in Kelowna. We were talking on the sidewalk as the sun started its descent and I kept looking back to the side of the stucco house. There were two large black things on it and I swore they had changed position. I finally pointed them out and my mother said, oh they’re giant slugs. She was joking but in fact they were and remain the longest I’ve ever seen, being each a foot long. Eyewww.

Then I spent a year upgrading hiking trails along the Baden Powell trail in North and West Van. That’s when I saw the rainbow of slimy critters. Sometimes they looked like glossy piles of pooh…until they moved. They were white, yellow, black and brown, sometimes with spots and averaged between 6-8 inches. I used to “accidentally” drop rocks on them. I was young and they disgusted me but I now realize they play an important part in decomposition and recycling of organic wastes into new soil. But they are so so slimy. Settle has had slug races in the past and you can buy life size magnets.

Slugs remind me of my younger brother’s wicked experiments when we were kids. He’d gather up a bunch of garden slugs and put them on the sidewalk in the hot sun. Then he’d surround them with a ring of salt. Death by salt or by sun. Usually they would try to swim the channel of white salt. They got their payback the day he was puttering in the garden. He went to take off his garden gloves and pulled them off with his teeth…getting a mouthful of slug. Hmmmm.

I also wrote a kids poem, a cautionary one about a slug that likes beer too much. You can leave a pot of it in your garden and they’ll just slide on in and drown drunk. Of course you’re left with the gooey stew to get rid of then.

I can’t forget that on this West Coast ark, besides snails and banana slugs, there would be wolf spiders. I once had arachnophobia (somehow cured by working those hiking trails) but wolf spiders still creep me out. They’re the size of small mice, have long eyestalks (okay it’s probably their mandibles but they look like eyestalks), are hairy and move fast, way too fast. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_spider I usually find one in the tub, it having gone for a drink and getting trapped by the porcelain sides (It’s not true that they come up from drains, and I have a hair catcher on mine, though I wouldn’t put it past the buggers to push that hatch over.)

The other night I caught a bit on the Discovery channel of a computer re-enacted piece on prehistoric times. When the oxygen was super rich and the planet super warm, there were dragonflies the size of eagles and spiders the size of your head. Yeee. Keeping that in mind, wolf spiders don’t seem so bad but they still give me the heebie jeebies.

I’m hoping we’ll get sun again because there has been so much rain that all of these denizens are creeping and slithering about. If I had to board an ark with them, they’d get their own hermetically sealed section.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, environment, humor, life, memories, Writing