Subversive Shorts

I was chatting with my nephew about university and its associated hi-jinks, and he mentioned Bermuda Shorts Day.  It’s been an end-of-term tradition at University of Calgary since the 1960s, but there was a kerfuffle this year because the administrators prohibited the campus pub from serving alcohol during the event.

My mind boggled.  It’s a university end-of-year party and they’re shutting down the pub?!?

I guess I’d understand it if I pretended to be a responsible adult for a moment.  A massive piss-up isn’t healthy for the participants or pleasant for those who have to clean up afterward, but still.  The twenty-something rebel inside my brain was scandalized.  It’s university!  End of classes!  It’s supposed to be a piss-up!

The funny part was the apparent implication of Bermuda shorts as culprits, as if none of these mature and responsible students would ever even consider partying hearty except while under the influence of evil garments.

I made some crack about ‘subversive shorts’, and my nephew laughed.  “That sounds like a title for one of your blog posts,” he said.

Well, dang, he’s right.

So what constitutes subversive shorts?  Judging by the news photos in which they’re wearing either long pants or Daisy-Dukes, these kids wouldn’t recognize real Bermuda shorts if they crawled up their legs and gave them a wedgie.  But that’s okay.  I wasn’t sure what was so special about Bermuda shorts, either, so I looked them up.   Turns out the only defining characteristic of Bermuda shorts is their length, about 1” above the knee:  How anti-climactic.

But I speculated that since the military have worn them for so long without causing chaos, there must be something else about them that incites people to the kind of uncontrolled drinking and mayhem that the U of C apparently fears.

When I envision Bermuda shorts, my mental image isn’t of the restrained and dignified version described in the Wikipedia article.  I tend to think of them in bright madras plaid, which might be enough to incite violence among those opposed to plaid.  So maybe the psychotropic component of Bermuda shorts is loud patterns paired with pasty white legs:

Okay, now I need a drink. And those aren’t even Bermuda shorts.

Okay, now I need a drink. And those aren’t even Bermuda shorts.

But maybe this is all merely the deranged imagining of a heavily medicated mind.  I’m currently stoned on antihistamines, so my brain function isn’t to be trusted.

In fact, neither are my optical functions:  A few days ago I served myself a slice of pizza at the table before turning away to replace the pan in the oven.  Hubby’s laughter made me turn, only to realize that the plate I’d seen in my mind wasn’t actually there at all.  My hot slice of pizza was lying in the middle of a naked placemat.

And get this:  I had modelled those loud shorts only a couple of hours earlier.

Coincidence?  I think not.  The shorts must’ve subverted what was left of my brain.  An uncontrollable drinking binge can’t be far away.

Loud shorts:  Love ‘em or hate ‘em?

* * *

P.S. The first VBBC (Virtual Backyard Book Club) discussion starts today!  Check it out here!

Crazy Cones And Cockroaches

Yaaaa-hoooo!! It’s Stampede Week here, and the usual happy insanity reigns.

I love the Calgary Stampede. If I had time (and if I wasn’t too cheap to pay the daily $18 admission fee), I could easily spend days there. The free exhibits are fascinating: circus acts, horseshoeing contests, tractor pulls, Superdogs, team penning competitions, art shows, native cultural displays, live bands, extreme BMX/motocross/snowmobiles; you name it. There’s even the Cannon Lady getting shot out of a cannon several times a day.

The giant midway doesn’t really attract me, though. The rides are expensive, and I can’t quite get over the knowledge that they’ve been knocked together in record time by sleep-deprived carnies fresh off the road. Or worse, fresh off their last party. I know they have a stellar safety record, but… I’m just sayin’.

The rodeos are fun to watch, too, but I rarely go to them. Tickets are pricey, and there are so many other things to see and do that I just can’t fit it all in. Not to mention I can’t help giggling at the thought that rodeo is clearly a sport designed by men, for men. A bunch of guys giving each other prizes for their ability to stay up for 8 seconds…? Boys, I hate to break it to you, but an 8-second ride ain’t gonna do it for the ladies!

Speaking of rides to remember, I noted a few years ago that the Stampede is a prime opportunity to get the gift that keeps on giving. Syphilis was the big winner when I wrote that post four years ago, but in true Stampede spirit we’re diversifying. Now gonorrhea and chlamydia are getting their fair share of erm… exposure, too. So before you ride that cowboy, you might want to slap a latex saddle on his pocket bronc.

If you’re looking for a slightly less risqué adventure, the Stampede offers lots of scope for risky business of the culinary variety.

Last year’s scorpion pizza was a big seller, and this year foodies were eagerly anticipating the cockroach pizza. Alas, they were doomed to disappointment: Apparently the shipment of dead cockroaches from Vietnam got delayed at the border. (There’s a unique first-world problem.)  But our indomitable pizzameister promises they should be in soon, so the pizza might get its cockroach crunch before the end of Stampede.

I dunno; I expend a considerable amount of effort to avoid eating food containing cockroaches, but I guess that’s just me.

And in case your stomach wasn’t upset enough after the rides and cockroaches, you can also get a cup of mini-doughnuts topped with cheese curds, gravy, and jalapeños. I’m not sure why you’d want to, but you can.

Or, if you’re looking for a treat that’s both risky and risqué, how about a Crazy Cone:

Oh dear...

Oh dear…

The last time I saw something like that, I was in a sex shop. (Doing research on Lola’s merchandise for my novels. Honest. That’s my story and it’s sticking to me.)

Anyway, no Stampede Week is complete without the requisite crazy-citizen stunt, so here it is:  Some folks’ll do anything to get high…

What’s risky or risqué in your neck of the woods this week?

Dear Autumn…


Dear Autumn,

I’m not quite sure how to tell you this.

I know we’ve been seeing each other for fifty years, but I have to admit that for me it’s been more out of habit than any real affection.  And lately I’ve realized I want… more.

Maybe I shouldn’t have read all those self-help books, but it’s too late for regrets and what-ifs. Now I can’t help analyzing our relationship, and the more I think about it the more I realize what a vicious, controlling bastard you really are.

Oh, you hide it well. You pretend you’re all about new beginnings as you usher the kids off to a new school year. You’re everybody’s favourite season, with your handsome colouring and irresistible scent. They don’t realize you’re hiding your heartless personality behind that pretty façade.

Well, I’m onto you. You’re a actually the sociopathic poster child for dysfunctional relationships. You act sweet, but you sneak into my garden and kill my plants when I’m not looking, you force me to wear ugly bulky clothes, and you systematically isolate me from all the things I love.

Plus I’ve finally figured out it’s no coincidence that my dearest love, Summer, always vanishes when you show up. For years I thought it was just Summer’s way, to love me and then leave me with memories so sweet I couldn’t help but fall for him all over again when he reappeared.

But now I know that you’re the one who drives him away. What do you hold over him, you son of a bitch? What leverage could you possibly have that would make him disappear without a trace for months at a time?

I’ve got news for you, Autumn, I don’t care if Summer has other lovers. I don’t care if he loafs around and goofs off work. I don’t even care if he sometimes burns me.

All I know is that Summer encourages me to get out and have fun with my friends, he likes it when I wear shorts and tank tops, and he’s out there with me every single day in my garden.  Summer encourages me to eat right and take care of myself, too. He brings me all kinds of delicious healthy fruits and veggies, but he’s not a stick-in-the-mud – he makes sure I get to enjoy lots of treats like ice cream and cold beer, too.

And then you come along and spoil it all.

Well, I’ve finally had enough of you. It’s over between us. Pack up your pretty clothes and get the hell out of my life.

Oh, and by the way? Take your rotten sidekick Winter with you when you go. He’s all sparkles and charm until he convinces me to go out, and then he gives me the cold shoulder. And you can tell him this for me: that white-on-white look went out with the last episode of Fantasy Island in the 80s. It doesn’t make him look sophisticated; it just shows he has no imagination. You two are real pieces of work, you with your garish wardrobe and him with that weird monochrome thing going on.

Both of you can go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.

With the utmost sincerity,


* * *
A couple of days ago I was bemoaning the impending loss of my garden and I took this photo:

I thought this was bad...

I thought this bit of snow on the roof was bad…

This morning I woke up to this:

Snowpocalypse.  This is AFTER I went out and knocked the snow off our trees.

Snowpocalypse. This is AFTER I went out and knocked the snow off our trees to keep them from breaking. Trees are down all over the city, and we’re having power outages.

But just because I can’t bear to leave this post with such a repulsive image, here’s what I rescued before the snow started to fly:

Summer's last gift. Now you know why I love him. :-)

Summer’s last gift. Now you know why I love him. 🙂

They Lied. As Usual.

Calgary’s location in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains makes the weather so changeable, it’s virtually impossible to predict.  In fact, the stats show our weather forecasts achieve approximately 40% accuracy.  So we use this easy rule of thumb:


Today they promised sunny and 15 (that’s 59 for you Fahrenheit folks).  It’s 9 (48F), windy, cloudy, and spitting rain.  But the other thing you’ll always hear about our weather is “If you don’t like the weather, stick around for 10 minutes”.  It’s early in the day – there’s still hope…

Calgary Flood 2013

Well, it’s been an interesting week.

In case you haven’t heard, Calgary and most of southern Alberta suffered a major flood.  For those who got in touch to check up on us, thank you for your concern.

Fortunately, Hubby and I are high and dry, and the whole experience has been surreal.  If not for the TV and internet coverage, we’d never know there was anything wrong if we didn’t leave our neighbourhood.  It rained, yes, a little more than usual, but we’ve had times when the storm drains on our street couldn’t keep up with the rainfall, and that didn’t happen this time.

Then the sun came out, our streets dried, and there was no hint of the devastation happening all around us.  Our power stayed on, and although the water tastes like mud, the City assures us it’s safe to drink.

But entire towns have been destroyed.  The town of High River (population 13,000) is about an hour south of Calgary.  It was evacuated on a moment’s notice and parts are still completely submerged.  It happened unbelievably fast.  Here’s a timeline of the flooding:

Here in Calgary, about 25 neighbourhoods were evacuated, including the main downtown business district.  They’re saying approximately 200,000 people have been displaced across southern Alberta.  This video gives an idea of the flooding in Calgary:  To put it in perspective, the flow rate of Niagara Falls is about 1834 cubic metres per second.  The Bow River (one of two rivers that run through the downtown area) peaked at about 1700 cubic metres per second this past weekend.

So far, about 75,000 Calgarians have been allowed to return to their homes.  The cleanup is beginning, but the damage to homes and businesses and infrastructure is staggering.  Downtown, our major business district was completely shut down, and it may take months to restore service to some areas.  Streets have been swept away, and our light rail transit tracks look like an accordion in places.

But the good news about all this is the way our city has pulled together.  Within hours, (an online buy/sell forum) was crowded with ads from people offering food, clothes, lodging, child care, pet care, volunteer labour, heavy equipment; you name it, people were offering it to total strangers for free.

Home builders are offering their show homes for habitation.  Management companies are offering temporary office space.  Despite one highly-publicized instance of price-gouging ($20 for a bag of ice), most businesses are behaving themselves, and many are offering free supplies to those who need them.  And there have only been a few isolated instances of looting.

I was impressed with the way the City and emergency response teams dealt with the crisis.  Of course, in a time of extreme emergency not everything will go perfectly, but in general people were well-informed and given as much notice as possible.  Emergency centres were set up quickly and efficiently, and communication was clear.

I don’t have enough good things to say about the dedication and professionalism of our police, fire, and other emergency personnel.  Our mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has distinguished himself.  He’s been tireless in keeping us up to date, and his plain-spoken style has been very popular.

Just to give you an idea of his personality, here’s what he had to say when he found people had been canoeing on the incredibly dangerous Bow River:

You’ve gotta love a guy that puts it out there like that.  Now it’s a Calgary meme:  “Don’t be a Nenshi noun”.  (And in happier times, here’s a little video of Mayor Nenshi reading “Pete the Cat” for the Calgary Children’s Festival before all this blew up:

The best part is, out of all this damage and destruction, the death toll so far is still in the single digits.  That may change as crews get access to areas that are still submerged, but so far it’s hopeful.

It has been a difficult time, and it’s not going to get better fast.  I feel lucky that we’ve been unaffected personally, but I’m heartsick for those who have lost loved ones, homes, and belongings.

But we’re a bunch of tough, big-hearted people here in Calgary, and we’ll get through it together.  Here’s the proof:!/photo.php?fbid=607082619316759&set=a.580614995296855.1073741828.580215498670138&type=1&theater.

CEMA put out a request for 1,000 volunteers; the only requirement was that they be 18 or older and able to meet at McMahon Stadium at 10 AM.  They hoped for five or six hundred.  Instead, the stadium was thronged with over 2,500 eager volunteers.  Our food banks are overflowing with donations and our volunteer sites are inundated with people wanting to help.  Bands of volunteers are roving the communities, helping total strangers.  One man even drove his hydro-vac truck all the way down from Prince Albert and is going door to door pumping out people’s basements for free.

The flood was and is a disaster, but it has made me proud to be a Calgarian.

we are calgary

* * *

For anyone who’s interested in more background information, here’s link to a Wikipedia site: and a map of the affected areas:

I’m Disturbed

Okay, stop laughing.  I realize you already know I’m disturbed.  What I meant was:  I’m bothered.  Alarmed.  Perturbed.  Ruffled.  Unnerved.  (Yeah, and addicted to my thesaurus, but that’s a post for another day.)


Last week I was walking past a transit bus shelter near our house.  Some discarded packaging lay on the bench inside.  Apparently one of our fine upstanding citizens considered himself* too important in the grand scheme of things to dump the wrapping in the garbage can only a few feet away.

But that wasn’t what rattled my cage.  No, it was far more subtle and sinister.  As I neared the shelter, I caught sight of the label on the packaging:  “MACHETE”.


So tell me.  If you needed to go out and buy a machete…

Now don’t get ahead of me; I don’t have issues with the need for a machete, even in a large urban area like Calgary.  A machete is a perfectly valid purchase.  It’s a tool.  Hell, I have one.  It’s under the bed…  Um, never mind.

Kidding.  I’m kidding, already!  (It’s actually by the back door.)

Anyhow, I’m not arguing the need for a machete.  And I realize not everyone who requires a machete necessarily owns a car.  In fact, there’s a logical argument for the possibility that if he could afford a car, he’d probably buy a chainsaw.  Or a katana, I guess, depending on whether he planned to cut down rampant underbrush or unwanted neighbours.

But my question is:  Why would he take it out of the package before boarding the bus?

And if you were the bus driver, would you seriously consider stopping to pick up some machete-toting dude?

“Oh, well, he’s carrying a big honkin’ sword that’s capable of cutting my bus in half with a single stroke, but that’s okay.  He probably needs it to chop his compost.  Gardeners are nice people.  I’m sure it’ll be fine…”

Yeah, right.

Here in Canada, it’s not technically illegal to carry a machete, or any kind of bladed tool other than automatic knives like switchblades.  I’ve personally schlepped a pair of axes down the sidewalk in small-town Manitoba without raising too many eyebrows (long story).

But since our laws also contain handy-dandy catch-phrases that prohibit “weapons dangerous to the public peace”, I’m thinking our proud new machete owner might have some ’splainin’ to do unless there was a patch of jungle near the bus shelter.  I didn’t see one, but maybe our intrepid machete-master cleared it before I arrived.

So let’s think about this for a moment.  I prefer to believe our transit bus drivers possess a modicum of common sense.  I’d like to think they wouldn’t allow some machete-wielding freak to get on their bus.  It’s enlightened self-interest if nothing else.

But if there had been a kerfuffle of any sort, I would have read it in the news.  We’re a tough bunch of rednecks around here, but I’m pretty sure a machete on a transit bus would rate a couple of lines near the back of the paper.  But no.  Nothing.

So somewhere in our fair city, there’s a guy who thinks it’s a good idea to carry an unsheathed machete on a transit bus.  And there’s a bus driver who’s okay with that.

I’m disturbed.

And I think I’ll bring my machete the next time I take the bus.  ’Cause one machete-wielding freak obviously isn’t enough for this town.


*Note:  For brevity, I used masculine gender throughout.  I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge the culprit may have been female.  Heaven knows there are days…