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Keep Calm and Buy Booze in the Duty Free Shop

Every 6 months, I fly from wherever we happen to live, to Davenport, Iowa, to visit my Aunt Barby. She is my dad’s older sister, a retired school teacher, spinster, and she could use a daughter around every once in a while. I love her and I love to help her, but I seem to have a travelshitmagnet that activates on all my trips to see her.

1st leg of my trip and my travelshitmagnet is working on full battery power. Before I left Jasper, I deliberately updated my Garmin online, to prevent any weird “Recalculating” glitches hitting me mid-highway. Well, the update ended up giving the Garmin little hiccups, and during the drive through the city of Calgary this morning, every other word coming out of her was, “Recalculating.” All I could do was laugh through my tears, as I drove in circles.No problem no problem – the highways signs brought me to the airport eventually.

At the airport, I stressed myself in the long-term parking garage, trying to commit to memory, the exact spot that I parked my car, so when I return in 10 days I don’t find myself wandering around like a pathetic Gretel, sans Hansel, searching for the breadcrumb trail to my car. I had installed an app in my phone a lonnnng time ago, that is supposed to help you in this exact type of situation. Trouble is, I couldn’t remember how to use the damned app. Hashimoto’s strikes again. I finally took a picture of the concrete pole I was parked next to. No problem no problem!

Wheeling my luggage into the main terminal, I checked-in, went through Homeland Security (I love how you can walk behind the ticket counters at Calgary International Airport in Canada, and in a few steps, you are on U.S. territory…it’s like time travel or something – you don’t even need to get on an airplane, and there you are on U.S. soil). The flight was delayed. First for 13 minutes, then for 25 minutes, but finally we boarded. The pilot told us later, when we were airborne, that the flight was delayed by “weight and balance issues.” What does that mean? Do the fat people need to be divided evenly on each side of the aisle? Did the sports freak a few seats down really need to bring his hiking boots, his skiing boots, AND his snow shoes?! It was a small plane – 2 seats on each side of the row. And for some reason, most of the passengers decided to bring ALL of their luggage as their carry-ons. With few exceptions, it seems that most of them ignored the rules about what constitutes legitimate carry-ons (this explains the “weight and balance issues” the pilot was talking about). And nobody likes to put their bags under the seat in front of them, so all the overhead bins were taken by the time I boarded. No problem no problem- I don’t mind resting my feet on my carry-on. Let’s just get this damn plane off the ground – I have a connecting flight to catch on the other side! The poor flight attendants began to play musical-overhead bins when some of the bags were so big the bin doors wouldn’t close. Still, it seemed we were almost ready to take off. Until the female attendant discovered a pair of crutches hidden under a seat. She asked the passengers around, if everyone was comfortable with the crutches stretching under 2 sets of seats, and was told, “this is absolutely unacceptable” by some crotchety old lady. The flight attendant patiently began to rearrange the overhead bins again, and my poor seat mate finally nudged me and whispered, “help me keep an eye on my leather jacket – it’s changed bins 6 times. I feel like I’m playing a cup game on a street corner in New York.” Sure enough, I turned away just ONCE and I lost it. Good thing it wasn’t a small child or a puppy; later, when the flight landed, it took a few minutes, but the jacket was found at the front of the plane. During this musical overhead bin show time, the plane started taxiing down the runway, and the female flight attendant actually had to get on the phone and tell the pilot to stop. So he stopped. On the runway. I fully expected the traffic jam to cause other planes to honk their horns, but airline pilots are much more polite than the rest of us drivers.

My seat mate was a lovely old man from Medicine Hat (for my ‘Merricun friends, it’s the Canadian equivalent of the town of Mayberry. And my seat mate was Andy Griffith). He said he liked small towns, and never wanted to live in a big city like Chicago, but “it sure is amazing to visit the big city! And, oh my, what about those flight delays? And would you take a gander at the male flight attendant? His eyebrows are quite elegant, and his earrings are diamonds bigger than my wife has! And how do you stay so calm when you might miss your next flight?” I told him that there really weren’t any other options than to stay calm. I had spare clothes in my carry-on in case I missed my flight, and fussing wouldn’t make the plane fly faster. What I didn’t mention was that I had stopped at the Duty Free Shop and purchased a giant bottle of Grey Goose vodka, and it was happily nestled in my spare clothes, inside my carry-on. Every time I felt myself begin to panic about missing my flight, I pictured a shot of Grey Goose on the rocks, with a squeeze of lime. No problem no problem.

5 minutes before we landed in Chicago, the female flight attendant got on the intercom and lightheartedly told us not to worry, we were only delayed by 45 minutes, and we should all be fine, as long as the people who were not connecting to further flights would stay seated so the rest of us could run like mad beasts for our departure gates. Oh. And did we forget to tell you that we are landing in Terminal F and you need to run to terminal E to take a shuttle bus to Terminal C? That’s right, we’ll be landing in Terminal F-you. I had exactly 15 minutes to make it clear across the airport to get on the last plane to Moline, Illinois. Well, I ran like Hell and made it – the last one to board. It turns out, I needn’t have run, because we were stuck on the runway for an hour after that. This pilot told us we were “inexplicable delayed.” Not possible. Inexplicable is aliens landing their aircraft on the runway and us having to wait until they disembark their aircraft before we proceed. Inexplicable is a plague of locusts splattered on the windshield of the plane, blocking the pilots’ view. For the rest of the rational world, there is always an explanation. What was that pilot hiding? Somehow, I thought crutches were involved. During this time, I felt a hot flash coming on, so I aimed the overhead fan towards me. And I discovered my new seat mate forgot to brush his teeth…after drinking all night last night. And also, he forgot to bathe. And the fan kept blowing his aroma my way. No problem, no problem. I made it onto the plane, I’m almost at Aunt Barby’s. And there is Grey Goose waiting on the other side.

I should have bought a bigger bottle. After waiting at the luggage carousel in Moline, through 3 airplanes’ worth of luggage, I decided to face the fact that, while I was running to catch the plane to Moline, the guy who was carrying my suitcase to the same plane, stopped to pick his nose. Maybe I was spared having to spend the night in Chicago, but my luggage will be spending the night there. We’ll be reunited tomorrow, and all will be well in the universe. Actually, I’m not stressed. I’m safe at my Aunt Barby’s house, I have spare clothes in my carry-on, and I have a double shot of Grey Goose on the rocks. No lime, but no problem no problem!

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When Life Hands You Crap, Make Frosting (just remember to wear an apron)

ugh. I am covered with tiny chocolate polka-dots. Head-to-toe. This is the precise reason I avoid AllRecipes.com; the recipes are hit or miss. I followed a promising recipe for chocolate whipped cream frosting, for the damned cakes I made for Hanna’s damned band fundraiser dinner, and the recipe struck out…all over me. The result was so bad, I ended up making a curdled chocolate butter-like substance, that dribbled brown water. Lesson #1: Always wear shitty clothes when you cook. Lesson #2: if you are a fool and forget Lesson #1, always wear an apron to minimized roadkill on your clothes.

Let’s talk about Hanna’s band. First of all, it is taught by a geek who never got over being in band in high school, and still revels in the glory that is bandgeekdom (I am allowed to diss band geeks because I used to be one – most of us grow up, eventually). He is soft and fleshy and lumpy. He is pasty-faced with a personality to match. He has about as much music skill as I do, which does not qualify him to teach band, but this tiny town is desperate and beggars can’t be choosers. Hanna, who has a huge ego and doesn’t need any encouragement to increase her God Complex, is a pretty decent flautist. But by Jasper High School standards, she is the Queen of the Universe. The band teacher kisses the ground she walks on. I would like my children to grow up well-educated and humble…at this rate, Hanna is getting neither. The worst part of it all are the fundraisers. Here we are in Canada’s largest national park – world famous, it is. And the Jasper High School band sells bird feeders in the fall, as a fundraiser. Birdfeeders are illegal in a national park, just like hummingbird feeders, fruit trees, and salt licks. If you put out an artificial food source, you interfere with the natural food gathering process of the wildlife in the park. So the birds and squirrels will flock to your garden, and the coyotes and cougars will flock after the birds and squirrels. Bears like bird feeders too. Next thing you know, Parks Canada will have to kill an animal because it will bother some Jasperite in his/her yard. Just last year, they had to kill a bear for walking into town and eating the apples off of a tree in a local person’s garden. I personally think the human should have been put down, instead. If you grow it, they will come, assholes. Oh, and even if bird feeders were not a problem to own, tell me how many one can buy, year-after-year? Apparently, it is a years-old tradition for the band to sell bird feeders – and only bird feeders. I’m guessing the folks in town who want to own bird feeders have enough of them…I’m going to suggest the band sell fruit trees next year.

So the 2nd big fundraiser is this Turkey Dinner. First of all, what is so special about turkey? Why would anyone pay MONEY to come eat a Thanksgiving dinner they probably made better themselves, back in October? It’s March, people, have some originality. So they scramble to sell tickets, but not really. Hanna, as per the usual, hasn’t even brought any home to try to sell – and the dinner is tonight. Next, they sent home a letter asking for volunteers. Apparently they have nobody to work the event. They need everything from dishwashers, to servers, to cleaner-uppers, not to mention actual customers to eat the dinner. Also, desserts. Must have lots of dessert. They originally had about 11 turkeys to cook, so I emailed to offer to cook the turkeys via our hotel kitchens, but they don’t need that. And as you can probably tell by the tone of this entry, I’ve become slightly negative about this place, and I am no longer in the mood to help out. My new motto in Jasper is: “I Connaught.” I came up with that little beauty as I was driving down the main street here (Connaught Drive), one day last year, watching the town sprinklers water the trees and grass…in the pouring rain. Talking to myself, I asked, “Town of Jasper, why don’t you send a person to turn off the sprinklers in the event of pouring rain?” And I replied, “I Connaught!” I tried for 6 months to make friends, get involved, volunteer, and the message was, “Welcome to Jasper; we don’t need you…except for the last minute emergencies…which is every time we have a function…when we realize we suck and we only have about 8 volunteers total…and we have to make sure we make it as last-minute and inconvenient as we can…because that’s how we do things in this wonderful town.” Markus, being the nice person representing our family now, volunteered us to make a dessert. “Us,” haha. So I made 2 chocolate cakes and 2 tropical cakes (pineapple, coconut, almonds, vanilla cake). I put them in disposable cardboard pans so I don’t have to return to pick them up (that’s the key to being a grumpy Anti-Volunteer–disposable containers). And it looks like they’ll be topped with some simple buttercream frostings. And tomorrow I leave this armpit to drive to Calgary, then catch a plane to Iowa. To think a trip to a tiny town in Iowa feels like I’m going to Vegas…the bar has been getting too heavy to hold high up here, lately, sigh. The travel will revive me, make me nicer, give me new strength to return. Because, return I must. What do the firemen say? “If you go, we go.” That’s how our family is handling survival in the Great White North. We’re in it together, and we will one day get OUT together. IN the meantime, I must go change my clothes and hope the chocolate polka-dots come out in the wash…Image

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