Thursday, May 27, 2004

A Week in the Mindset of a Travelling Nutjob

Sat, Mar.27th; Union Station; Toronto, ONT ~ 8:45AM

My eyes are burning like red quasars and my breath must rival something akin to Shane MacGowan with a bad case of Monday morning halitosis and wood rot. My stomach is also indicating to me that I might be capable of unleashing a noxious weapon of mass destruction of my very own that would stop a charging rhino in it's tracks by ripping through the train car in a terrible travel disaster scenario on par with the Aum Shinri Kyo doomsday cult gasing in Tokyo. But I digress...I am alive, and I am on board. But heaven have swift mercy on these people if this 7-11 brand 'Louisiana Chicken' wrap ever kicks into overdrive. The hot Louisiana sun will have nothing on what will be unleashed from my ass in the wake of a spicy chicken meltdown.

Instructions for emergency exit proceedures:

"For those passengers riding in the Economies classes, there are four emergency exits. if you have any questions, our VIA attendants will be more than pleased to point them out to you. For those passengers riding in Silver and Blue classes...our attendants will be coming around personally to detail the emergency proceedures with you."

What the fuck? Don't the Economic classes get emergency directions too? How foreboding is that? Why don't they just come on the and make an announcement: "In case of emergency, the Economy classes will be automatically sealed in their cars and gassed immediately to save them from distaster and end their suffering quickly and humanely." Now, it’s not like I would need much direction in the even of an emergency mind you as I would devise my own emergency plan I’m sure; "In case of emergency, use the most kindly retired Australian Art Professor beside you to hurl through the train emergency window. Exit train and make like a tardy studen trunning for the school bus."

The VIA attendants, Josie and Carmen (who have all the friendly cander of Mafia hitmen), have come around to issue me plugs, goggles, warm towlette, and a "Rebut" bag. Hey, I just want to pass out! I'm not sure what kind of party you’re planning for later, but I sure don't approve of plugs (of any variety), goggles, or warm towelette (or anything with "ette" in it), and you can bet your sweet bippy that I sure as shit don't want anything to do with a "Rebut" bag, or participate in the "Rebutting" of anyone or anything. It just doesn't sound like my kind of party.

Why would anybody ever want to video themselves walking down the aisle in a train? That's about as exciting as videotaping drying grass as far as home movies are concerned. Can you imagine this guys personal vacation video library? "...and here's mother choking on a cheese danish in the dining car, oops! here come the attendants to the rescue! oh, oh, OH! and here's daddy trying to keep his balance while he's pissing in the bathroom when the train begins to rooooound the corner...ewww, GROSS!" Somebody had better alert the Oscar's Academy. ..the next Brian DePalma is on the rise.

The first travel announcement was made to point out some old dude who is waving madly at our train on the left hand side as it rockets through his subdivision of Toronto. This nut has shown up at the same location every day, dressed in VIA shirt, engineer's cap, and VIA license plate, just to wave at the same passing VIA "Canadiana Passenger" train. He has been doing this for TWENTY THREE YEARS! This is his legacy; his claim to we have been encouraged to wave back at him in order to "make his day". Now, if waving at the same passing train everyday is this man's greatest aspiration and accomplishment in life, and in fact really does indeed "make his day"...perhaps instead of waving back, we should be issued rifles in order to end his pathetically embarassing existence and put him out of his misery as we roll on by. To humanely save him from himself really.

Our second announcement is about the island that we are currently passing out on Lake Simcoe, called "Strawberry Island", and which happens to be owned by the Catholic Church and serves as the official refuge on the Popes occasional visits to Canada. Pardon? It's not good enough that he just stay in a luxury suite at the Regency Hotel that we have to sell ownership of an entire island to accomodate his Holy Popeness with his apparently equisite travel requirements? I wonder if the Catholic Church owns the nearby coal pits that line the shores of Lake Simocoe as well in case the Pope decides he wants to have a Holy Barbeque and Beach Volleyball Throwdown or something while vacationing on his island in Buttfuck, Ontario? Shit, for all that the Pope is aware of on what goes on around him these days, we could save an entire habitat and return Strawberry Island” to nature loving Ontaritonians and just house him up instead at the local 'Motel 6' and tell just him he's on appointed ground. It's not like he's going to open his eyes and be conscious enough to order extra Holy Towels from the Front Desk, or tune into the inhouse pay-per-view porn channel while kicking back on his coin operated vibrating bed with a pack of Old Milwaukee, now is he?

If ever there was an inspiration for Dream Academy's 'Life In a Northern Town' would be Washago. Native American for "Water Being Squeezed Out" (doesn’t that just sound wonderful? I wonder if the Indians have a name for what is currently being squeezed out of me?), there does not appear to be much life in the streets of Washago. Only a 1/5th of its summer population in the current off cabin season, there is currently no Salvation Army Band playing, no children drinking lemonade, and if the morning lasted all day here I’d probably end up sticking my neck into a bear trap. "Ah hey ma ma ma…life in a boring town."

Entering into Parry Sound. Man, for a place that is famous for producing one of the NHL's best hockey players, #4 ~ Bobby Orr, there sure are a fuck of a lot of baseball diamonds! “…You have just entered, the Twilight Zone!”

We have stopped over in Capreol, the bulging northern metropolis on the north-eastern shore of Lake Superior. Woo-ha. The only activity in town seems to be outside the local butchers shop. Apparently, as the sign in the window indicates, there is "No Loitering" outside the local butcher's. Huh? Why exactly? To prevent obstructing the heavy flow of traffic through the building? The only other presence I can detect on the entire street at the moment besides myself is the teenage girl across the street picking her nose and staring at me watching her pick her nose.* In all honestly, all that's missing from 'Crapopolis' so far, is some crooked toothed retarded boy picking a banjo outside the Canadian Legion Hall.

The good news is, that Capreol also brags being the birthplace of famous game show host Alex Trebek. Well, isn't that wonderful? I'll take: "Places I'd Most Likely Shoot Myself in the Head if Ever Stranded" for $200, Alex!"

* to note: this teenage girl must, in fact, be the second largest Nickel mine in the local area...and apparently, she has reopened for business.

Sun, Mar. 28th; Ennis, ONT ~ 7:30AM

Trying to make yourself comfortable enough to sleep in the Economy class seating is about as possible as trying to breakdance in a suit of armor. You need to be a contortionist in order to wedge yourself at the unnatural angles necessary to make yourself comfortable enough to sleep in your seat...or at least, have a Masters Degree in Engineering in order to be able to operate the seat settings properly. You inevitably wake like you’ve just managed to go 15 rounds with the Champ. With all the body twisting, bending and contorting last night, it was more as if I was trying to "Vogue" across the Canadian Shield than I was trying to sleep across it. Fortunately, it looks as if I have managed to escape waking this morning to a public humilation after having being witnessed pitching a tent under my thin VIA passengers blanket.

The landscape is something out of a Farley Mowatt novel. However, i'm getting sick of looking at rocks and trees. I feel as if I can already spot and correctly identify about a dozen different types of igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic,and sparkly whatchamafuckit rocks even as we quickly roll by. "oooOOOO look, more basalt and obsidian compound mixes!!"

I think I’m going to settle into my day with a coffee and cheese danish. Hopefully, the video guy will be around to capture the moment on video for me if ever I should begin to choke on my breakfast.

(Sioux Lookout, ONT ~ 9:00AM)
I'm not sure why they call it Sioux Lookout exactly, as there doesn't seem to be anything really to look at, per se. Originally (if I understand this correctly), in the 1700's during the wars between the neighboring Ojibwe and Sioux indians, an Ojibwe scout noticed the sun reflecting off the paddles of the attacking Siouxs approaching in their canoes and so raised the alarm "Sioux! Lookout!" (get it?) Then, that same scout managed to safely escourt all the women and children to a protected island in the middle of the lake so that the sneaky Sioux could be properly confronted and fought in battle. So basically, this famous Ojibwe dude screamed like a sissy girl in the face of impending danger, ran off with the women and children and left the real warriors to stay behind to fight the ensuing battle in his defence. Bravo! Way to go, Chief SmellsLikeSissyBitch.

From the train platform, I can see five city banks and pretty much nothing else. I guess the "Commerce of Jack Shit" is booming here in Sioux Lookout. There is however on the edge of town...a whole 75-80 ft or so away...a single theatre building that has also managed to have been plagued with whatever recent Adam Sandler movie is currently polluting the cinematic world. This movie theater is SO small that it would have trouble seating but a single Salvation Army band for a Sunday matinee. Superman wouldn't have been able to change into his tights comfortably in there!

The main industries here in Sioux Lookout are hunting, fishing, logging, and the 'Blueberry Festival' (huh?)...real rugged Canadian frontier stuff. I giggle (a manly, man’s man kinda giggle, of course) when I imagine the rough and tumble trappers returning from the deepest, remotest outreaches of the Canadian wilderness, paddling their canoes full of furs and fish in a hurry to make it back in time for the Grand Opening of the "Sioux Lookout Blueberry Festival". "Oh Mackenzie, you made it back from your portage! You almost missed the Loggers Union Marching Band in the Blueberry Parade!”

I have become fascinated with a sub-species of passenger on this train. A class of species that I will name "Railcus Geekus". He has already crossed the country by train a total of SIX times in the past five months (a fact that he has made his own personal manifesto). Needless to say, he's quite the train trip efficienado* He knows all the In's and Out's of the meal choices in the Dome Car, the prime viewing locations for each passenger car, and every angle and breaking curve on the in-train miniature golfing course. I have not witnessed him staying put in his seat for more than 30 nanoseconds at a time before he’s gone again to hold court and spread his infinite wisdom throughout the Economic Classes. Like me, the elderly Australian professor across the aisle is doing everything in his power to NOT make eye contact with the Railcus Geekus that just happens to be sitting in the seat in front of him. If I ever manage to get that excited over a game of 'Whatizit?", I hereby give anyone the permission to instantly stone me to death on the spot with their stale bitesized blueberry muffins.

* Mental Note to Self: after the VIA train waver guy is dealt with, Railcus Geekus will become the next primary mark.

(Winnipeg, MAN ~ 4:30PM)
BY CHRIST, is it fucking FLAT as you pass into the Canadian prairies! It's as if God took an eraser and rubbed out all the rocks and trees right along the Ontario and Manitoba border. It's like we're travelling across an enormous brown pool table.
We have 40 minutes in which to wander the streets of Winnipeg and search out any alternative meal options. There is a near stampede to the Winnipeg ''Fork Market' located down the street from the train station. There is a virtual feeding frenzy going on at the market as we, the mutant Economy class passengers from 'Dr. Moreau's Train of Terror', begin to consume like locust all submarine sandwiches, fruit, bags of cookies, chocolate bars, newspapers, candy, bottle water, and men's magazines. You have to beat off the desperately rushing and famished train passengers with a large stick in the market place in order to navigate through the venders, aquire your smuggled booty, and be able to return to the train again with an entire supermarket concealed in your pants sneakily before it departs only mere moments later. Absolute chaos! I would have stepped over the body of the slow dude in black leather pants and elastic suspenders if it meant getting my takeout of fried rice w/ garlic chicken a second earlier. I never did remember where I stuffed the tin of Pringle’s chips I smuggled onto the train though.

Before departing from the Winnipeg train station, some passengers depart and new passengers board again. All the hardcore cross-country trippers (myself included) have relocated their belongings and seats toward the back of the train car as if we were trying to avoid a plague virus being brought aboard by the new passengers. It’s the “Move to the back of the bus” phenomenon that stipulates that riding at the back of the bus/train/car/etc is one of the oldest and time-honored fashions that is still very much alive and prevalent today. Mour father has done it. His grandfather before him has done it. Hell, even my great-great-grandfather has probably hitched a ride back into Merritton on the back of a horsedrawn carriage at some point in his life. This timeless fashion tradition will no doubt carry on for centuries and will forever cement itself into the very fabric of “cool mankind”. Long after buses have stopped being used and trains are a thing of the past and we all ride on huge rocketships across the galaxy, there will still be those passengers continuing to wage the timeless battle to claim the golden jewel of the Transit System: The Back Seat. “Please move to the back of the rocket shuttle!” And so we will begin our trip across the Canadian prairies.

The train is riding into the sunset which has lighted the islands of ice in the prairie fields. The passing fields have become a blur of zillions of bright fragments sparkling like stars in an infinite solar system. Along the horizon is a huge navy blue wall of clouds which giving the appearance that an enormous tsunami wave is washing over the landscape. It would have been enough to make Picasso go green with envy.

I am riding in the "Dome Car" (not to be confused with the "Domer Car" at the back of the train for the uber-kinky Dutch and Japanese VIP passengers) kinda makes me feel like Slim Pickens riding a missile out of the payload doors at 30,000 ft. All I need is the 10 gallon hat to wave as I begin my decent into the Saskatchewan countryside.

Mon, Mar. 29th; Arodassan, ALBERTA ~ 6:40AM

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the reclining position…” I didn't think it would have been possible to have any more of a restless nights sleep than that of the previous evening, but once again it feels like the champ has beaten me worse than a redheaded stepchild.

Mental Note to Self: Michael Moore's book "Dude, Where's My Country?" may make for some pretty interesting conspiracy theories but does it not necessarily make for an adequate pillow.

(Edmonton, ALBERTA ~ 8:00AM)
The only things I know about Edmonton previously was gained on my family vacation to one of the most amazing feats of consumer engineering ~ one of the commerical wonders of the world: the West Edmonton Mall. And let's just say that the Edmonton train station falls short of that mark (like something in the ball park of comparing the planet Saturn to that of this stale bitesized blueberry breakfast muffin). Needless to say, there is no indoor water park, no submarine rides, no indoor rollercoasters, and no 'Nights of Arabia' themed hotel suites. I suppose that you could ride the luggage conveyer belt if you were inclined for such amusement. Otherwise, you can get royally screwed by the shopkeeper when purchasing elevation relief maps in the station tourist center, or walk around in the brisk morning air in the stations parking lot like a convict released from lockdown for 20 minutes in the excercize yard.

There seems to be this strange magnetic force that attracts all rusted out cars, trucks, trolleys, trailers, campers, and buses from the across the entire country and deposits them in these designated automobile graveyards along the CN railway. I bet, if you were to line up these old rusted automotive skeletons end to end along the railway tracks, they would probably stretch a complete line from Winnipeg to Edmonton. It must be a matter of bragging rights among neighbors as an identifiable sign of status and wealth. Whoever has the most beat up junkers rusting on their property, ultimately achieves greater status and respect within the community among his peers.

Another mid-moring ride on top of the train in the Dome Car and eating seedless red grapes. I feel like a Royal Sultan, riding along in procession on my long metallic elephant on a backwater safari through the Canadian foothills. From my vantage point, I can shamelessly spy on the accumalated crap in the yards of the lowly country peasants that pass beneath me. All I am missing is a bulbous elephant gun to take pot shots at the rusted farm machinery. First of all on this fantasy safari hunt, I will take out the next Railus Geekus that pops his head up from the smokers car and mount it’s head above my seat back in Economy class.
I am having a strange hazy reocurring memory of running along the top of a train in an old episode of “The Fall Guy”. I want Heather Thomas to leap out from nowhere in short shorts and have “The Commissar of Cool” Lee Majors swinging from the railroad signals above the train as we round a mountain bend. At the very least, have Howie jump the train in a 4x4. Somebody que the theme music: “Well, I'm not the kind to kiss and tell, But I've been seen with Farrah. I'm never seen with anything less than a nine, so fine.”

I am almost of the mind now that all children below the age of twelve should automatically be checked in as baggage to be stored away in the baggage car with the other suitcases and animal crates. We are currently travelling through God's country and all I can hear is the whistling, whooping, and beeping of kids playing their Playstations as as they fixatedly manuever Pokemon through a maze of animated video gremlins. It's like listening to a train car of vacationing droids.

I just woke up and either we are now travelling through the Rocky Mountains, or the train has shrunken and returned to the Canadian Shield back in Ontario and everything is now suddenly "Super Sized". The cry of "Look! A mountain goat over by that rock and tree!" confirms both that A) I am indeed in the Rockies Mountains, and B) whoever called out that observation certainly isn't going to be a brain surgeon. Could you be a little more descript there, lady? We're only in THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS HERE!! IT'S ALL ROCKS AND TREES! You are going to to have broaden your field of reference for us, sweetheart. "Oh look! there's the brain aneurysm by all the red squishy stuff!"

This sure kicks the shit outta anything at Walt Disney's Frontier World! This is Bob Denver's wet dream. I can hear that train announcement: "And out your left window you will see Bob Denver chasing a mountain goat across the side of the mountain. Everybody wave to Bob, it would really make his day!"

(Jasper, ALBERTA ~ 3:30PM)
I've now been in Jasper for a whole 15 minutes and I already got my “schwerve on”. I know all the cool local gang hand gestures that all the rad dudes be usin’, I'm as barefoot as a hobbit on friday night, I can name at least TWO ski shops in town, i'm sitting on a weathered lawn chair in my short sleeves sporting a cold Kokanee overlooking seven beautiful Rocky-fuckin-Mountains, i'm high as motherfucker, and I may or may not have seen Bob Denver chasing a mountain goat across the side of a mountain. Yeah baby, i'm a local! I am waiting for Dex and T.J. from the movie “Aspen Extreme” to walking down the street in their poofy vests so I can go “hang ten” back at the Ski Instructor’s Chalet before shredding up some phatty slopes and chilling in a hot tub with a rich ski babe fluffer chick and drinking champagne. “Let’s compete in the ‘Powder Eight’s’, maaaaan!”This week, I no doubt will have manuelfuls of insiders information on the Canadian hippie ski bum in his natural habitat.

Mental Note to Self: the walkie-talkie squawks, squeaks, and staticy voices are not surrounding DEA agents closing in on my location, but just the late night rail crew working along the CN line across the street. That should prevent a massive heartattack later on as the party rages out of control.

Tues, Mar. 30th; Jasper, ALBERTA ~ 9:00AM

I can see why everybody loves it here. I could easily get accustomed to living in these picturesque mountains; go down to the bakery for breakfast ~ mountains. Carefully maneuver your way through a herd of elk grazing in the street to use the bank interact machine ~ mountains. Lookout the bathroom window after throwing up a small liquor store after the pre-wedding suare ~ MOUNTAINS! Hell, with all these mountains I don't even mind my hangover so much.

(Old Fort Point ~ 11:30AM)
I've managed to hike approximately a 1/4 of this "easy hike for beginners" up the side of this friggin' mountain. Well, it's not even really a mountain so much as it is a wee goiter on the side of this larger more menacing mountain. Whatever, this little mid-day ramble up "Pussy's Hill" is hard enough and I have just about had my ass handed to me by Mother Nature for the second time in my life. I feel lucky that my heart did not suffer a massive coronary thanks to the $9.95 'Country Big Breakfast' I quaffed down this morning. The only thing at the moment keeping me moving forward is the fact that an 80 year old lady is quickly gaining on me up the side of this mountain trail. She is being egged along (well, more like being dragged along like a chained dancing bear through the streets of Bangladesh) by her family.
Although the combined years of her family still probably don't total up to a 1/1000th of her own accumalated years of hardship on this planet, or the fact that she's probably trekked across deserts and vast wastelands with Moses as a young girl, this old woman is making like Sir Edmund Hillary and making for the summit. I still refuse to be lapped by an old woman however, for God's sakes! I would never be able to live that down among friends. This old lady will vouch for me though when I state that the only thing missing from this afternoon of "bonding with nature" is a lash being taken across my back as I lug concrete bricks drawn by my own hair up the side of Pharoah Cheops tomb here.

(about 300 ft further up Old Fort Point ~ 12:15PM)
I am gracefully admitting defeat ~ OLD FORT POINT HAS OFFICIALLY KICKED MY ASS! I will have to be happy in my accomplishments that I did not suffer congestive heart failure on a mountainside and that I was able to maintain a lead on Gramma Moses in doing so. These triumphs are sure to win me some uber ski-babe fluffer chicks once I get the chance to brag about them at all the hotel reception lobby's and pub bars in town afterwards. "Hey, baby. I totally made it half way up 'Pussy's Hill' before quitting, and I tOTally kicked some old lady's ass on the way up too! yup, that's right! I’ve had more serious heart attacks before noon today than most people have their entire lifetime! WOO-HOO! whatta think of me now?"

In all honesty, considering that the scenery and atmosphere in Jasper National Park is instantly hypnotic from the roadside as well, I can say now that hiking up mountainsides sucks the balls. In fact, I HATE the walking uphill and the walking downhill parts entirely. If it wasn't for the "sitting down admiring the view" bits inbetween the uphill and downhill hiking sessions, the entire day would be just about intolerable for me. You see, I am a fat man. And as such, my body is more designed for the effective bouncing and rolling down mountainsides than it is for the actual clammoring along the rocky outcrops. I'm at unnatural odds with the environment already, and I play this game to win.

(Wedding Service; Jasper Lutheran Church ~ 4:34PM)
The service was wonderfully quaint considering the beautiful rustic surroundings. You can see the mountains from inside the church too! My only criticism so far is the eerie Clockwork Orange music that the church organist is playing is beginning to make my testicles retract into my chest* for fear of having creepy dudes with English accents and dressed in white jumpsuits suddenly leap out from behind the alter and begin to beat the wedding attendants with huge ceramic penises.

* not unlike the rocket scientist on the 'Jackass' video playing in the lobby of the hotel moments ago who was shocking his nads with muscle stimulators. What an odd thing to play on a hotel lobby television? I shudder to think what else they consider to be proper hotel “ambiance”.

During the services and administered ceramic penis beatings, I did manage to learn more about the Greek definition of "agape love" ("and....they called it....agaaaaaaaape loooooove..."). I learned that without this passionate devotion to one another, this "agape love", no relationship will be completely successfull or fruitful. The other form of Greek love, the "eros love" is only required to play the wah-wah guitar in the bedroom later on. And now that the formalities are over with, the fun part begins ~ WE PARTY LIKE GODS!! We hold direct competion with Bacchus himself over who can be the biggest drunken ass. "Hey Zeus! hand me that lampshade for a minture, watch this..."

And somewhere in the background, there are dozens of paws being rubbed together in anticipation of the slow moving buffet of delectable beer-soaked party patrons all trying to return down this moutain to their cabins again later on.

Wed, Mar. 31st; Jasper township ~ 11:30AM

Woke up alive and unmauled. Excellent!

...but there is a herd of elk in the yard. Uh-oh. There is no coffee to be had anywhere, beer supplies are dangerously low, and the morning is quickly wasting away. Everytime I take a few steps towards them, they lower their heads menacingly and grunt at me. (which i have taken, is elk for: "make my day, punk!”). They have a choice of at least SEVEN FRIGGIN MOUNTAINS FROM WHICH TO FORAGE FOR SUSTENANCE...WHY CHOOSE THE SICKLY LOOKING HEDGE IN MY FRONT YARD?! That hedge looks about as tasty as the 'Twig & Leaf Trail Salad' option on the "Healthy Lifestyle" menu at Astoria Hotel in town. I am trapped within paradise by a very part of that same paradise ~ what an odd turn of events. But still, it's rutting season and i'm not about to challenge a 350 lb horny bull elk that kinda resembles Pauly Shore with horns (also, I didn't bring any "protection"…nodnodwinkwink). If I was still inebriated and had one of those huge puffy blow-up Sumo Wrestler costumes I could just go up to them and just let them repeatedly ram me. That'd sure make the next audition cuts for "JACKASS 2: THE IDIOTS RETURN". I could be famous in hotel lobbies across the country!

Beer supplies at critical level. Damn friggin' elk herd. Go find someone else's sickly "Healthy Lifestyle" bush!

(The Bright Spot ~ 12:15PM)
I have finally managed to be released from pergatory of elk and I am sitting in a cafeteria waiting for sweet salvation in the form of a $6.99 'BREAKFAST CLUB SANDWICH' while listening to what sounds like the Devil sitting beside us in the next booth. Maybe Lucifer would also appreciate the rugged beauty of the place as well and comes up to spend vacation getaways at the swanky Jasper Park Lodge for a weekend of glacier trekking, skiing the canyons, and raping mountain goats? The talk over coffee and about a zillion cigarette's (I am the only non-smoker) is of a hike through the Maligne Canyon (which is apparently a bit more "low impact" than my death march up "Pussy's Hill" yesterday). I am sure going to be on the lookout for cloven hoove tracks besides those of grizzly bears, mountain lions, lynxs, or whatever other nasty flesh-eating beast is waiting to devour my body (and after feasting on Roast Venison and Big Rock Ale the previous evening*...I would no doubt smell like a deliciously marinaded "walking buffet" out for an afternoon stroll in the woods).

* most of which was expunged from my body around 3:30AM if i recall correctly.

(Maligne Canyon ~ 2:30PM)
I am about 0.7km into my 5.7km hike, and I have stepped into a pile of shit the size of a mobile home. Luckily there was no evidence of digested hiking boots or Mountain Equipment Co-Op fleece vests in the skat ~ so I carried on, albeit with a weary eye.

The ice canyons are incredibly beautiful like someone has dripped enormous blue candles down the canyon walls. My accomplishment today is much more enhanced of course by the fact that my heart rate has already returned relatively to normal and that I haven't felt the urge to upchuck my Vanilla Crisp 'Power Bar' yet either. WOO-HOO!

After this afternoon's 4 hour trek through the Maligne Ice Fields, I have this indescribable urge to wear Leiderhausen and sing "The hills are aliiiiiiive....with the sound of muuuuuuuuuuusic...". Of course, I’d be more akin to Clark Griswald from European Vacation than Captain Von Trapp, but I digress. Perhaps instead, I could just buy a poofy jacket or vest (everybody else here in Jasper has one, so I want one too). Once that's accomplished I think i'm going to dye my hair purple, strap toothpicks to my feet and hurl myself of the side of a mountain, and rename myself Chaz, or Dawg, or Bones, or something. Everyone has a cool nickname here too.

(Beauvert Lake Trail; Jasper Park Lodge ~ 7:45PM)
In lieu of watching the hockey game tonight, I decided to walk around Lake Beauvert in Jasper National Park at dusk to see the sunset off the mountains.
Luckily, I was advised by the park warden (well, he more of just handed me a pamphlet, grunted, and waved me off) before setting off around the lake that if I should encounter any cougar, wolf, coyote, bear, elk, etc…wait, "ETC?! don't you fucking think it's important to KNOW EXACTLY which wild animals I should be weary and careful of?! "ETC" is kinda vague considering the important dangerous circumstances, don't you think?!…on the trail , to:

1) Pick up small children immediately.
2) Yell!
3) Do anything you can to make yourself look bigger.
4) Fight Back Agressively
5) DO NOT crouch, play dead, run, or turn your back to the animal.

Okay, that all sounds like wise advise. I have no kids to look after (but I cannot guarantee that I will not leap into the arms of anybody else's small child with fright if they should be near by when confronted with danger). No issues with the yelling either ~ I plan on sounding off like a B-movie Scream Queen. "Do Anything to Make Yourself Look Bigger" is complimented with a diagram of the Internationally Recognized body posture to all fierce beasts of pray worldwide; "The Cactus Pose"; with your chest puffed out and your hands and arms in the air as if you were Hulk Hogan doing a ripping rendition of Jolson. "Fight Back Agressively" ~ I'd like to think that if I was ever attacked I'd be more swinging like a transvestite resisting arrest and not practising the Buddist art of passive resistance.

Hell, I'll be lucky if I manage to shit myself and scream like a little schoolgirl just before being devoured. Actually, I will go record now and suggest that in fact the "Shit n' Scream" approach to fending off predatory animals would be the better survival option than anything in this friggin' pamphlet. Shit, piss, puke, and whatever else you can do all over yourself in order to make yourself as disgusting and uneatible as possible would be your best survival option. To the beastie, it would kinda be like licking their Pogo before handing it to them…”Yeeeeeeeeeeeuk!”

Otherwise, just stay "three bus lengths from ANY wild animals". Yeah, right! How about three train lengths? Or three entire provinces even? Hey, I'm no Dr. Doolittle. I have no need to get up close and personal with them. I am more than happy to observe nature from a safe, respectable distance, through high powered field binoculars.

I will admit that walking through the woods at night is a creepy experience, especially when you have forgotten to bring a flashlite. Apart from the fact that every horror movie psycho-killer that ever sported a butcher's knife, a crossbow, an axe, a scythe, a machete, a chainsaw, a buzzsaw, hacksaw (or any other variety of "saw" for that matter), and that has either slashed, hacked, slashed, stabbed, sawed, sliced, or skewered any virginal woman or know-it-all geek at any summer resort or lake retreat (like this one) is racing through my head, I am trying to remain calm. This place still has a prehistoric ambiance to it. I am expecting a Tyranosaurus Rex to come charging through the underbrush in my direction at any moment (flash to 'Shit n' Scream' scenario earlier). Even the gates into Jasper Park Lodge that perfectly frame Mt. Edith Cavell along the skyline is like driving through the gates in Jurassic Park, except that I don't feel like a paleotologist, a paleobotanist, or a chaos mathematician ~ I feel like BRUNCH!

So basically, here I am in the darkness, dragging my feet along the trail, making random outloud outbursts like a terrets sufferer at a spirited ball game, and walking down the trail like a constipated Gene Kiniski in order to deter anything that may be eyeing me or may be considering making me their next meal. Yeah man, like I said: I'm a local. The good news is however, that I can now scratch "walking through the woods at night" off my list of "Scary Thing To Do".

Thurs, Apr. 1st; Jasper township ~ 9:30AM

(Most of the following was written almost exclusively at an altitude of 10,1357 ft above sea level, and with continuous servings of 'Twig n' Leaf' Salad from the "Less Than Healthy Lifestyles" menu on the car ride up. And let me openly state, I’m as stoned as a Sudanese prostitute).

The "manly men" have left early this morning to try their hand at alpine skiing so I am expecting a call from the local coroner to come and identify the bodies soon. Now, if I was ever going to consider taking my life in my hands and risk surviving the hurtling of my body down the side of a mountain at mach 3 like some kind of human torpedo, I sure wouldn't pick April Fools Day to do it, knowing what kind of cruel humor Mother Nature must be planning for me at the top of Marmot Basin. I mean really, who else could the joke be on?! Mother Nature is no doubt already waiting at the top of the hill rubbing her palms together in evil anticipation of my arrival. I think I'll take my chances with a nice leisurely drive through the mountain canyons like a retired senior cruising the Nova Scotia coastline on a Sunday afternoon.

(Athabasca Falls; Jasper National Park ~ 11:30AM)
We have witnessed the effect of sheer waterpower over the constant of time. The rock in this canyon is constantly being worn away with the immense power of the running waters of the Athabasca River at a whopping rate of 2mm a year. I know that’s a relatively miniscule rate in the grand nature of the universe, but I still wouldn't exactly want to be building any dream retirement house along the edge of this prime riverside realistate any time soon.

Every scenery angle here just screams out for a grainy video sighting of a hairy apelike creature fleeting back into the thicker undergrowth from the waterline.

(Columbia Ice Fields; Jasper National Park ~ 1:30PM)
You know, where else on this planet could you hike 4 km's up the side of a mountain glacier, rush into the porto-potty crapper along the cliffside, and emerge to the most beautiful scenic mountain glacial waterfall not 15 ft away? I will never be able to walk out from my own bathroom, or any other shitter, crapper, porto-let, or johnnie-on-the-spot for that matter without experiencing some dissapointment in the complete absence of glacial waterfalls. Is it too much to ask for glacial waterfalls after every dump? Maybe that might be just a little too aspiring for my list of "Things I MUST Have".

I think that elevation is going to be my next recreational drug of choice. I'm going to ziplock baggie as much friggin' high-altitude glacier air that I could possibly suck back on the train ride home to maintain this incredible buzz for as long as possible. Or I can sell it at a profit to health junkies outside the YMCA back home.

We were able to get up close and personal with a family of three mountain goats during lunch; that is, before the 'Greyhound of Death' tour bus came rolling by at 300 mph around the mountain pass. Who was driving this tour group hell bent through the Rockies with little regard to the animals and tourists around ~ Emerson Fitapaldi? "And you can out your left hand window and under our rear tire, the corpse of an indigenous slow-moving baby mountain goat..."

Another helpful tip was given to me today by another park warden in the event of encountering a wild animal: "speak softly, or perhaps sing to yourself" to presumeably calm the savage beast and yet refrain them from being startled into a premptive attack. Surely he jests! So basically, if the "Shit n' Scream" method of animal deterent fails, start whispering sweet nothings and make with the 80's power ballads.

So, just and try to remember all this if ever you find yourself being charged down and stomped into an early grave by an angry bull moose... "Take, these broken wings...and learn to fly again, so freeeeeeeeee..." Now with my singing voice, I can just imagine pissing off the moose even further so that he calls down his other fierce wild beastie friends to come and join in on the stupid tourist ass-kicking. "How do you like these broken wings, Mr. Mister?!" It's like "Survival American Idol" while hiking the trails up here in Jasper National Park.

(only another 1,345 ft higher up ~ 3:45PM)
Maybe it's the clean mountain air, or maybe it's the Kokanee coursing through my veins, but I am having a moment of fashion clearity: why exactly did Hannibal from the ‘A-Team’ wear his belt over his jacket? In what age or period was this ever fashionable? You don't exactly see all the 'Angels of Death' wearing this warrior faux pas on the front pages of 'Soldier of Fortune', do you? Perhaps this is a fashion statement that I can try to reestablish. This was a cool rugged outdoors mans man look if ever there was one! Tomarrow I will slip my waist belt over top of my jacket as I stroll down the main Conneught Dr. drag in town. And if any wanna-be outdoors fashion types so much as smirks or looks at me wrong, I’ll greet them with a well placed correographed punch to the schnozzola with a sound that resonnates crisply through the valley, like slapping a raw ham ~ "How's THAT plan workin' out fer ya, Encino Man?"

Fri, Apr. 2nd; Jasper township ~ 1:30PM

My body has once again (hey, it’s cheaper than bottled water) been refuelled with Kokanee, a $17 breakfast omlette,* clean crisp mountain air, and not the slightest stirring of any upright bi-peds in the vicinity. For the first time this trip, I am without wedding arrangements, without friend commitments, or polite social obligations. I am free to finally raise a little unchaperoned havoc in the heartland of Jasper National Park. Perhaps, I will don my Hannibal-style waist belt over my jacket and attempt to impress the local ski-babe fluffer chicks with a dazzling display of my blowgun marksmanship. Nothing says you are more deserving of meaningless casual sex than the ability to kill small helpless animals in a government protected national wildlife refuge. BOO-YAH!

* It has to be said: a $17 three egg omlette in Jasper is no different than any other $2.99 three egg omlette served anywhere else, except that it came with parsley. Now either that's pretty a fuckin' fresh sprig of mountain parsley that's been grown in the ass of Mother Nature herself that I'll be flicking to the side of my plate, or else these three eggs had better been laid by an authentic golden fuckin' goose!

(Mt. Pyramid Trail ~ 2:00PM)
There's NO WAY I could possibly survive a 8 km gradual incline hike to the mountain Lake Pyramid at the top, even if Pyramid Lake itself was hosting an all-nude ski-babe fluffer chick swim party. I can comfort myself that even after only 3 mins into the hike uphill, I am already high enough on the mountain in order to overlook the town of Jasper proper and the sight of Mt. Signal in the background that I have become accustomed to waking to each morning and revelling in through the bathroom window as I barf.
It's easy to get addicted to the lifestyle here, one only needs to open their eyes. Everything here just seems more pure, more crisp, more exhilerating. I would half expect to find half the town at the end of this trail sitting buck ass naked on a cliffside ledge spanking off fiercely to the majesty overlooking their Mt. Pyramid vantage point. The very buzz of clean mountain air and elevation is euphoric enough to put anyone over the edge of their pleasure overload point. And shit, why not? Everyone here in Jasper below me is fucking beautiful! Everyone looks as if they have just stepped out of a Mountain Equipment Co-op magazine spread; all snow-tanned and rugged bodied. Even the Jasper babies are beautiful and healthy in their $300 'Mountain Gear' fleece jumpers and $475 'Jack Wolfskin' buggy snugglies. Usually, the babies are being shuttled around in elaborate strollers or bike trailers that look as if they have been designed by NASA scientists to navigate the terrains of alien planets ~ their beautiful parents barely breaking a sweat in their labors. Souvenir shopping here is as dangerous here as it would be in the congested streets of Hong Kong with all the beautiful people pushing or towing their beautiful babies in little 'InSTEP' rickshaws around town.

Even the slacker/drifter types are beautiful, even though each one of them chain smokes like a retired Drivers Ed Instructor ~ It's like the nicotene instead gives them incredible beautifying properties. It actually sucks the wrinkles and character lines off their face with each additional desperate pull on their cigarette* It's like Jaspertarians have stumbled onto the Fountain of Youth here. Wether it's something in the piles of elk shit everywhere, the mountain air, or in the extortionate price of smokes, everybody looks like a greek god here! Even the minister yesterday looked as if he could crush pool balls in the palm of his hand. Even the toothless lady in the train station is sporting thighs that would crack elk skulls since she no doubt rides her $17,000 Norcross Mountain Super Bike double time from the other side of the mountain every morning just to root through the garbage cans along the VIA station platform.

There are NO fat or mishapen people here in Jasper! Every hiker, biker, or jogger that passes me on this trail as I sit and write this, looks as if their insulated gortex shorts were designed specifically for them! I am suddenly feeling very conscientious about sitting here a mere 3 mins up the entrance path to a mountain trail with cigar and pen in hand. I wonder if native Jaspertarians view fat people in the off tourist season much in the same way as if I were to witness a grizzly bear riding a unicycle go by on the path in front of me? Maybe I should be reaping in on this instant marketability with all the zeal of a Barnum & Bailey poster ~ "HAVE YOUR PICTURE TAKEN WITH A FAT MAN!! only $10.00!!"

* for which, each pack of 25 cigarette's costs $11.00. Meaning, that each cigarette burnt in mindless necessity equates to $0.44 each!

(approximately another 3 mins up the Mt. Pyramid Trail ~ 3:00PM)
Upon further thinking, Jaspertarians should be catering to the demands of fat out-of-shape tourists, like myself. I know if they were to sell oxygen bottles trailside along this mountain pass, I would have cashed all my bonds and a second mortgage by now in order to purchase more air. Picture it: "Holy shit! how high are we anyways, honey? I can't looooooong "Child's University Fund", daddy needs some fresh oxygen to reinflate his lungs before continuing on from the parking lot!" Imagine if these athletic beautiful people were to lend their trained hardbodies to give us poor underpriviledged fat people piggyback rides up and down the mountain trails, ski trails, or what have you. Now THAT's a vacation I want to go on!! "Club Carb Vacation Packages, on sale now! %10 off with every proof of purchase from 'Peanut Butter Gadorade Power Bars!"
Or is there something more sinister going on in this Rocky mountain Way? Was Joe Walsh trying to alert our attentions to something? Could we get much higher?

"Out to pasture
I think it's safe to say
A time to open fire."

What the fuck does that mean? Whom should I be opening fire on exactly? Perhaps it eludes to an evilness so foul that word of it's existance has yet to escape the National Park territory into the unsuspecting world around us. There is a "fitness plague" sweeping through the Jasper area like a virus, infecting all chubby, out-of-shape tourists, and inflicting upon them indescribably urges to gorge on $13 'Twig n' Pine Cone Breakfast Platter's' off the "Healthy Lifestyles" menu options*, and to force ourselves to low crawl up 'Heart Attack Ridge' at 6:30AM in order to be back for the big hacky-sack circle in the Jasper Town Park by noon. Soon, we are all mindless spandex-clad Solipcism saddists unleashed upon the normal urban world wearing a pair of sporty RayBan sunglasses. "We are the will be assimiliated!! Grow your your leaves and your reps...smoke your cigarette's...listen to your Dave another tube of imported 'fresh pine scent' snowboard wax..and shuttle your beautiful children back and forth across town in state-of-the-art aerodynamic baby-strollers...BE ONE OF US!!"

It's an inexplainable fitness infestation that has transformed the residents and visitors here into granola chewin' zombies in poofy jacket vests and colorful goofy wollen jester's ski hats. You can see it in their eyes, that's not the gaze of someone who has just funnelled an entire case of Kokanee, but rather of a slow-minded 'Discipline Disciple' who may drive 30 km/h around mountain valley roads looking for 'saber-toothed red squirrels' and 'great-horned possoms', or who will stop in the middle of a pedestrian walkway in the middle of town just to readjust the straps on their Birkenstock’s, but will instantly salivate and transform into a hyperspastic child after a breakfast of Mars bars at the prospect of hurtling themselves down mountainsides at light speed on two yard sticks strapped to their feet, or breakstroke down the Athabasca River by moonlight, or race mountain lions on their mountain bikes, or whatever else is it that gets their inner adrendaline-junkie juices a-flowin'.
* I would bet that these "Healthy Lifestyles" menu options wouldn't even look appetizing, or even be considered as "ruffage" to any of the local elk herds that apparently love dining on the sickly hedges in my front yard.

(The Dead Dog Bar & Grill ~ 7:45PM)
Ordered: a Guiness, and 'Senator' hot dog ("a big eastern weinie with cheese, bacon, tomato & mustard - mere $6.00") could I resist?

My only complaint of Jasper so far is that I wish they would make their "bear-proof" garbage cans a little more "stoner friendly". I would be a much less stressed person if only I didn't have to spend an entire hour fighting with the complicated handle/lever/thingee like I was trying to hammer out the fender of my father's old Toronado each time I wanted to throw something in the garbage. When I try and open these damn things, it must sound like an advancing army of robotic beavers making their way over the mountain. Enough to cause the "2 for $5.00 A&W Teen Burger Special" to involuntarily dispense itself from your colon in pure terror.

Sat, Apr. 3rd; The Bear Paw Bakery ~ 10:00AM

Cheapest breakfast yet: Vanilla Coffee and "Bear Paw w/ Raisin" pastry, $4.27. Of course, it also takes up proportionatley less space in front of me on the counter, but again I digress. It's cheap, eatible, and I am pleased. A gang of local Jasparian uber-dudes have sat in the seats beside me. Even though, the slopes have been closed today. But that hasn't stopped them from looking as if they were just taking a break from filming 'Cliffhanger 2', complete with squelching walkie-talkies and pigtails. "Hey, Pippi Longstocking!, How many stranded climbers have you got at the bakery...psssfft.... OVER!" Either that, or they are rejects from the "Hot Dog 2: Attack of the Mutant Fitness Zombies!" screen casting tryouts: "okay, now I want you to say: "cha, whATEver dude!"

In a few hours, I will be back on a train for the next two and half days swatting aside the 'Railcus Geekus' with clubs in the coach car. The boringness of the prairies becons me like warm death knowing I am no doubt going to have to endlessly suffer the next 24 hours fending off that neverending question: "...and where are you coming from?" This question should really be more simply put: "Hi. tell me your life story?" You know that desperate feeling you get when you get caught in a vicious circle, trapped in the constant "why...why....why..." questions, and you’re floundering helpless like a whale beached at low tide? Well, the Railcus Geekus can make you feel just like that with their endless drilling for ever more details of my personal adventures ad nauseum. And God borbid if one of them should respond at any point with "ooooh, what you SHOULD have done, is..." cause I'll kick his ass from here all the way to Saskatoon!

Maybe it won't be so bad. Perhaps, I could just create new stories and flaunt them around the train cars for amusement sake. "Oh yes! I come out every year to mud wrestle mountain lions...compete in the Jasper Lodge 'Grizzly Toss' competitions...that kind of thing...".

Mental Note to Self: When I next return to Jasper, (particularly the Columbia Lake ice fields) be sure to look for a small blue stone the size of your fist on a larger ground rock along the side of a trail extending from the higher parking lot. It’s my own little contribution to the ongoing changes of the ruggedly forming landscape over time.

Cue the train tunes, I’m ready to head home. Lightning Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, John Mayall, Steve Earle... i'm ready to finally be a-movin' home.

(Jasper Train Station; Jasper, ALBERTA ~ 11:45PM)
Another train station, another loaded knapsack of dirty laundry and souvenir rocks, another illicitely gotten bar menu stolen from the Dead Dog Bar & Grill, and a Ginger Snap cookie bag full of weed. Jesse James, EAT YOUR HEART OUT!!

From where I am standing on the train platform, I can see perfectly 'Old Fort Point' (or 'Pussy's Hill' as I prefer to call it) where my heart almost collapsed 1/2 way up it's side . From here, looks pathetically low along the horizon. The wind is savagely blowing dirt across it's side in the distance like a wild Tatooine sandstorm just as it did on Tuesday's Death March. It's kinda ironic that I should end my trip here, reminded of my near fatality on that hike when I first arrived. My momentus climb to the bottom of a mountain! I will be better equipped (like with specially implanted super strong cybernetic limbs) and more physically prepared when I return in order to complete my climb to the top of this cursed hill (otherwise, I'll hire a 'fitness zombie' for the afternoon and have him piggyback me to the top). Well, maybe I'll just settle for the beautiful glacial waterfalls after every dump. Let's not get too carried away here... "FIRST, the glacial waterfalls outside the bathroom! THEN, the $6,000,000 cybernetic make over!"

(same friggin' train platform; Jasper Train Station ~ 1:45PM)
The train is already an hour late behind schedule. No doubt, largely due to the eight car private hootenanny, aptly named "Roots on the Rails" aboard this particular train. And where there's musicians and an open bar, there's bound to be unexpected schedule fluctuations. Should make for an eventful journey home.

The passengers in 'Economy Class' on this particular train look even more mutantesque than those on the ride up. I's like riding in a train car with a bunch of "C.H.U.D.'s". Luckily, I already know the mysteriously vague evacuation emergency proceedures: Use most convenient passenger's head to smash window in panic, use senior citizen tourists to break your fall out the window, loot and pillage the 'Silver & Blue' classes ~ check!

Our new VIA attendant is named "Brenda". She kind of resembles an older Jamie Lee Curtis; except that she’s a bit sweatier (no doubt because of the large bag of travel pillows that she is lugging down the aisle behind her like noble Sysyphus forever rolling his rock uphill). She is for some reason wearing weight-lifting gloves? Travel pillows constitute as “weight”?

Finally, we are rolling homeward. Goodbye, mountains! Goodbye, fitness zombies! Goodbye, damnable herds of elk! Goodbye, creepy bear statue at the end of the train platform! Hellooooooooo nerdy Japanese toursist with spaceage luggage and intinery clipboard who look more like someone who would be anxiously waiting to read my water meter, instead of transfixing on the incredible majesty around him. Perhaps the top button of his checkered dress shirt is cutting off his circulation and preventing oxygen to his brain. Or maybe he's constipated. Either way, he looks as alien here in Jasper as that creepy bear at the end of the train platform.

I would like to try and slip into the first private eight cars of the "Roots on the Rails" tour group later on. They are coming from Vancouver originally, so I would have to either disguise myself as a body-pierced sex vampire, or a lesbian health care worker. Hmm, perhaps I can ambush one of these guys dressed in the 10 gallon hats and tan rawhide jackets outside the 'Dome Car' bathroom one night and steal their ID badge ~ it worked in old Clint Eastwood movies.

I just tried to get a drink of water from the fountain at the front of the car and realized it was going to be impossible to fill one of those dispensable paper cups under a tap that explodes like a high powered hose ~ how utterly useless. It would be better served to hose down elephants or put out forrest fires than it would be to dispense cold refreshing quantities of essential tap water to wet the thrity gullets of us in the lowly 'Economic' classes.

We have been advised to move our watches ahead one hour since we've crossed another time zone, plus an additional hour to compensate for the recent Daylight Savings time. Okay, in my complete sleep depraved dementia, I have carefully calculated on my handy travel calculator that I can expect to wake up tomarrow sometime in the year 2006.

(Edmonton Train Station; Edmonton, ALBERTA ~ 7:15PM)
It's a madhouse. Picture three zillion arriving and departing passengers all trying to squeeze through the miniscule station house the size of a modest igloo. I think i'm going to fuse my ass to my seat instead and let the other passengers ride the luggage conveyor belt. I just have to remember to get off at Saskatoon in order to complete my travel fantasy of having dropped a deuce in each train station bathroom between Toronto and Jasper.

It looks as if we'll be doubling up on the seats tonight ~ crap! First, they keep the emergecy evacuation proceedures from us and now they expect us to share seat sections? "the horror....the horror...." I hope that I don't get stuck sitting beside anyone who is even remotely curious about what I do for a living and who will insist on sharing his oppinated views with me in grave detail. If I end up sitting beside someone who begins ANY sentance with "let me tell you how is it...", I will likely end up beating him senseless with my plastic recyclable coke bottle. “LET ME SHOW YOU "HOW IT IS", YOU PRICK!" Perhaps I should add the label "Volatile Behavioral Swings" under my seat number and destination in the ticket hanging above me from the overhead compartment.

Okay, i'm sitting beside "Fire Marshall Bill" now. Oh goodie. So, I guess I can look forward to dousing myself in gasoline and torching myself across the prairies this evening before this Jim Carrey nightmare drives me insane.

Brenda the VIA attendant has asked me to move my knapsack from the overhead compartment. Huh? But that's where it always goes! All the way from Toronto to Jasper, and then from Jasper to Edmonton again. What gives? Apparently, it is now in violation of the weight requirements on overhead luggage and there is the chance now that it could be bumped off and hurt somebody during the night. You mean, this possible occurance wasn't an issue back when were weaving our way through mountain valley's and across rugged bridges in the ROCKY MOUNTAINS, but it is now, all of a sudden, a huge concern just as we are about to depart across the FLAT prairies? Are they anticipating running over cattle and having the resulting turbulance possibly knocking my knapsack flying into the lap of Fire Marshall Bill beside me causing him to choke on his Mr. Noodles and Bagel Chips? Or maybe, it's that back in the higher elevations of the rocky mountains my knapsack was not as heavy in the thin mountain air at that altitiude and therefore not posing much of a threat to anyone since it only weighed about as heavy and a bag of bunnys (remember Brenda lugging the bag of heavy travel pillows?). Therefore, as we hurtle off through the prairies and slowly returning to normal sea levels, my knapsack increases in weight proportionately like Dosie O'Dowell as she works her way across the 'Food Pavilion' at the CNE Fairgrounds. I should have been a travel physicist.

The announcement has been made that the overhead cabin lights will be extinquished shortly and that our attendants will be coming around with more "plugs, goggles, and towelette's". Man, this REALLY spooks me out! It sure sounds like some kind of party they are planning here, huh? The "Roots on the Rails" private classes has probably got this all arranged already: slip rohypnol into the complimentary night caps of the 'Economy' classes, give them their complimentary "plugs, goggles, and towelette's", dim the cabin lights, and let the party begin. Shit...I am terrified of waking up tomarrow morning smelling like Brut cologne, plugs inserted where they shouldn't be, goggles over my eyes, a towelette stuffed up my ass, an irrepressable urge to pee, and not the faintest idea of the previous evenings events. NO WAY, MAN! This dude is pulling an ALL NIGHTER tonight ~ the likes of which haven't been seen since the night before my last graduate year final exam!

I have retired to the 'Dome Car' to enjoy microwaved cheeseburgers and the passing of darkness outside the window. Now, if only little Webster here could manage to refrain from swinging his feet in the vicinity of my coffee cup and manage to control his enthusiasm before I am forced to pildrive him into the aisle.

I think in all cross country modes of travel, there should be a strictly enforced curfew for children beneath the age of 14. Either check them in with your luggage, or abide by the mandatory onboard "Childcare Policy". And this "Policy" would consist of all children under the age of 14 to be strapped into their seats after the mandatory late, late, curfew of 4:30PM ~ with warm towlette's stuffed into their little mouths, and googles afixed over their little eyes to lure them to sleep like canaries who have had their cage draped over with a towel for the night.
I will even go futher and insist that this “Policy” also take into it’s power the mandate for all children to learn and witness their heritage ~ to spend their waking time strapped into their seat, with their eyelids propped open with toothpicks so that they have no choice but to watch this great country go by outside the window like some weird Clockwork Red & White Canada Socio-experiment set to a Steve Earle soundtrack. "YES, you even have to watch the prairies!! NO, you can't play with Zelda or watch 'Grumpier Old Men' in the Dome Car!!" Once a day, they’ll march the children through the train cars to stretch their little legs before returning them back to the constraints in their seats with perhaps some Gordon Lightfoot on their walkmans for some added Canadian culture ~ just to enhance the experience.

I am attempting to sleep in the Dome Car tonight since Fire Marshall Bill has made himself comfortable laying across my seat and i'm now listening to some guy in the smoker's quarters below me regale the nicotene junkies with tails of his Grizzly Adams adventures hiking the trails of Bristish Columbia. Judging my his physical body stature, the fact he has chainsmoked half a pack of DuMaurier's since he began this story, and by the huge phlegmball lugie he’s hacked up into the ashtray, i'd say he didn't make it 3 ft up ANY trail, embankment, path, clearing, or sidewalk during his entire vacation! If he were to have actually attempted to navigate his way up the side of any mountain, he'd be sucking air like a goldfish out of water. His very lungs would collapse in on top of themselves. He probably has an emergency cigarette taped to his bicep that reads: "Please light in case of collapsed lung or heart failure!" at this moment, I would bet that he's regurgitating what he just watched on the "Outdoor Life" channel in the hotel lobby television at the Jasper Park Lodge.
As I try and fall asleep I can watch the random lights shoot by in the passing darkness of night outside the window. I can imagine that I am currently travelling at light speed through a galaxy of stars. It's like being in the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon as it jumps into warp drive. “Punch it, Chewie!!”

Another thing has occured to me in my sleepless dementia: everyone in Jasper must be loaded! Edmund Fitzgerald said it best; "The rich are different, they have more money". That about sums up my Jasper experience pretty accurately. EVERYTHING is so expensive in Jasper! Whether it be the $11.00 cigarette's, the $17 breakfast omlette, the $6.85 box of granola bars, or the $300 pair of insulated fleece-lined hiking boots with handwoven lacings and bingings made from %100 pure genuine dried Alberta mountain squirrel intestines. How in the hell can anybody afford to live out there and remain fashionable in the process, for Gods sakes?! Perhaps all Jasper citizens have little counterfeit currency presses all hidden back up at their mountain cabins?
It costs you money just to cross the street in Jasper. Every time you look at the mountains and sigh in wonderment, there's a park ranger there with his palm open to collect the 'Scenery Tax'. Every time you stop to observe a herd of elk in your front yard, there's the "Wildlife Viewing Tax". Step in a big pile of shit along a trail ~ “Shit Stepping Tax”. Hell, they probably even have an "Altitude Tax" for every time you just begin to enjoy that mountain air buzz.
Okay, enough bitching. I'm off to sleep with the Champ.

(Sun, Apr. 4th ~ "Somewhere West of 'It', MANITOBA ~ 7:30AM)

“A train moving out of the station,
somewhere south of it.
A satellite making connections
Somewhere over it.
One makes a long lonely howl,
One is silent.
A new design waits to be launched somewhere west of it”

Spent the night in the Dome Car and my body is sore from Vogueing all night in my seat. If 'Fire Marshall Bill' is still stretched across the seats, i'm going to wake him prematurely by clubbing him with my super weighted knacksack. Seriously!

(Melville, SASK ~ 7:55AM)
I remember seeing a fleeting glimpse of Melville on the way up but the only thing I could make out in the darkness was the illuminated wind sock blowing from the station flagpole like an 80 year old Boston Marathoner's penis, languidly flipping and flopping around in his running shorts.

I only previously know of Melville through the Canadian masterpiece album 'Melville' by the Rheostatics. But after looking around during the daytime, i'm not so sure what exactly inspired them in the first place. Surely, the wind sock alone wouldn't be the source of such incredible musical beauty and imagination?

“Pass that cup over here;
this is boring,
and I don’t even do this anymore
to believe the nonsense I’m hearing.
A certain amount of booze is all it takes
To relax me,
Then it’s back to my parents home in a tax.”

The only other possible clue hinting at the Rheostatic’s inspired “tribute” album would be “Alf’s Equipment & Service Center”. I am struck with no answers here, only questions like: I wonder what kinds of equipment Alf services? I wonder whose equipment Alf services? These very questions form the basis of the true Canadian philosophical equivalent of the age old mantra “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The very queary powerful enough to suck your brain into the black hole abyss of your very spiritual being. OMMMMMMMMM!

“this is the science of truth,
is the science of love,
is the science of

Otherwise, all I can say about Melville from looking out my window, is that it is the birthplace of famous NHL tough guy Syd Abel, the third member of the infamous 1940’s Detroit Red Wing “Production Line”. And after witnessing the remote nothingness of his hometown, I can see why he was so tough: it was learned in his desperate fight to get himself out of this cultural vacuum called Melville.

Regardless, I am pleased to have been prepared culturally and musically and I just happen to have the album with me. I will never listen to this album again without thinking of that flapping wind sock.

(Rivers, MAN ~ 10:50AM)
I finally got some shut-eye while ‘Fire Marshall Bill’ disappeared into the Dome Car to “ride the sunset”. Who is this guy? Ra, Egyptian god of the sun or something? Anyways, we are currently now in Rivers, Manitoba. Having passed entirely through Saskachewan…woo-ha. Rivers is named after the popular Canadian folk singer, Joni Rivers? Who the fuck is that? Popular?! Psst, whatever! Perhaps the fact that they have named a city (for lack of a better word) after her in the middle of Buttfuck Nowhere, Canada may lend to the mystery of how popular she really was. “Hey, she was pretty good! Let’s name a town after her!” Too bad nobody’s heard of the town either. Another lost slice of Canadiana.

As further testament to the healing properties (not that you’d get that impression after rereading this again) of this trip, it appears as if the blind passenger with the cane at the end of the car has remarkably regained his eyesight this morning and is now navigating his way down the aisle unassisted. As for myself, I feel ill. I have already scared most passengers into the dome Car with my volatile sneezing. They are no doubt blocking off the doors between the cars with matresses from first class to prevent the spread of disease from my seat. With each sniffle, those remaining twist their heads and stare in my direction with more than a mere look of concern. “WHERE’S MY LOVE?!”

In the wake of SARS, the avarian flu, and the recent broadcast of the Steven King made for television plague movie, I am surely being marked as a “carrier” by the other passengers and unless I can stifle my outbursts, I can surely expect to be left railside at the next convenient stop.

(Winnipeg, MANITOBA ~ 3:15PM)

"They came down, 1988, a thousand spacecraft
like petals on the earth,
and they watched like spies 'til they found someone
who no one would believe."

More reboarding after the half hour layover in Winnipeg and I have survived another stampede of those passengers carrying on to Toronto (who I have now nicknamed "the Dirty Dozen" for appropriate reasons). It really is a desperate wave that washes over the Fork Market at 4:00PM every Sunday afternoon as the Canadian Passenger train pulls into the station. Before you know it, this otherwise sleepy downtown marketplace is overrun with tired, cranky, bedheaded passengers all searching out anything other than cheese danishes in preparation for the next 24 hours of the train travel through the neverending Canadian Shield once again. It's one part 'Road Warrior', one part 'Cannonball Run', and a whole lotta flannel pajama pants. The blind dude is using his cane to beat off ugly feral children dressed in aniaml skins in order to buy fudge, 'Fire Marshall Bill' is being worked over by the 'Dixie Chicks' (the trio of lesbian health care workers from Vancouver on the "Roots on the Rails" tour) for the last National Post weekend paper, and Slim (the part-time cowboy in black leather pants and elastic suspenders whom you may remember from the trip to the market last layover in Winnipeg on the way up ~ except this time, I was ahead of him in line at the Chinese Take-Out vender!) is hastenly trying to decide what to include on his Club Sub as Dom DeLuise dressed as 'Captain Chaos' takes a bead on him with a crossbow. Absolute anarchy once again! Definitely the most fun of the train trip itself. It’s like we get to be pirates for one half hour. For 30 WHOLE minutes we get to plunder and pillage the venders and salesmen of Forks Market! “Ahoy matey, would that be Chocolate-MINT fudge there ya be havin, boy-o? ArrrrrGH!”

For sport, I have stored up all my noxious Garlic Chicken (clevered concealed in my underpants and smuggled onbaord from Forks Market) gas and let loosed in the bathroom with a foulness so rotton that the State of Denmark would seem like a Bahama's Vacation in comparison. What the hell, i'm getting sick of purposely getting up, putting on my shoes, and walking to the other train cars just so I can release my sphincter valve between cars and vent some pent up fumage in the brief ventilated areas between train cars only to turn around and walk back again. The other passengers must think that i'm some Alzheimer’s case who can’t remember where to find his seat. Anyways, the sport is now in timing each passenger as they enter the bathroom afterwards, and from the moment I hear the door being locking into the OCCUPIED position, begin to time the duration that they are capable of managing inside up unto the point they inevitably, and hurriedly exit from pergatory gasping for air like a trapped miner escaping a gas leak. Yes, I am a sick individual to be sure. But it's not like it's going to escape these pages and be openly admitted to at any parties or anything.

It's a full moon out over the Shield tonight. I hope I am not mauled by some Sioux werewolf out on a stroll while i'm "visiting-the-end-of-the-platform" (the VIA slang term for “smoke your pot over there”, a saying my VIA attendants have become oh, so familiar with as I exit the train) at the next brief train stop. This would certainly enhance the on-board tourist information announcements on the train; "and just at the end of this platform only last week ladies and gentlemen, we had a passenger mauled to death by an indigenous Sioux be careful out there!!"

After my quick "visit-to-the-end-of-the-platform" (no mauling), I am ready to proceed onward into the Shield yet again. Rocks and trees, HERE I COME!! I am currently feeling uncharacteristicly conspicuous and guilty for having "visited-the-end-of-the-platform" and in my unconsciousness, I feel like a sitting duck about to be amushed by some super special Delta Force drug task unit ~ with a fatigued Patrick Swayze coming through the train window with a machine gun, and Chuck Norris snapping my neck between his legs with a snap as if he was only breaking dry kindling. And if i'm to go down in this ill-fated predetermined destiny, I am going down with my stolen menu and Ginger Snap cookie bag of dope clutched in my sweaty hands after first having given Steven Seagal a swift kick in the balls.

Mental Note to Self: Be sure to ask Jon bon Jovi to write the closing credits theme track for the movie based on my life.
I am now suspecting that the girl at the 'Country Submarines' vender booth back in Winnipeg has part of an elaborate plot to kill me by slipping hot peppers into my Club Sub. “I'LL BE BACK FOR YOU...and your friends Donna and Kelly, and Brenda! oh, and Steve because he's such a loser, and..." Again, I digress. Lost in the mountains of my mind.

I will return out west one day, and I vow to be in better physical condition to be able to explore and enjoy it more properly, and not just from a strategically placed bench. I will definitely retake that preliminary mound of earth at the foot of the real mountain ~ well, at least more than 3 ft. up the path. I will be like a Canadian Crocodile Dundee, only in a 'Jack Wolfenstein' fleese vest and with a Swiss Army knife attached to my belt; "You call that a pocket knoife, mate? Now THAT'S a pocket knoife!" They will write folksongs about my prowess in the forbidden rugged interior, Sasquatch will quake in fear when they sense my presence (which, if the sulphur bombs I have let go in the bathroom tonight for sport are any indicators, will be about two nano-seconds as I step off the train). Ski babe fluffer chicks will line up outside my chalet and around the block, and there will be a mysterious ill-tempered marine colonel at the end of the local bar raving about my exploits: "You don' seem to want to accept that you're dealing with an expert in guerilla warfare, with a man who's the best with mountain bikes, with snowboards, with HS BARE HANDS, a man who's been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land to eat expensive omlette's that would make a billy goat puke!"

But in all honesty, if you want to witness the absolute beauty of nature and experience the thrill of tackling Mother Nature's best attempts at natural obstacles; you have to earn it yourself. That means no more Twinkies for morning break, no more Diet Coke IV-drips, and no more Mars Bar salads. I am hoping that I have caught a small dose of the Fitness Plague and that I will wake Tuesday morning in my own bed with an indescribeable yearning for granola. Maybe, I should start my lifestyle change by beginning with Miso's strictly rationed kibble diet. At the very least, I should start smoking again! When I do return out west, i'm going to be one fit, rough n' tumble motherfucker! And I will EXPECT beautiful glacial water falls outside every bathroom!

(darkness on the edge of nothing ~ sometime or friggin' other)

I STILL HAVE IT! I can still roll a joint all incognito like in the very heart of conservatism and not even so much as raise an eyebrow from 'Fire Marshall Bill' beside me. IMPROVISE! ADAPT! OVERCOME! They are my mantra when it comes to rolling stealth joints. It is a endless marketable talent of mine that as of yet, remains untapped. If ever there was a Canadian Olympic Cigarette Rolling Team', I'd be the first candidate for Captain. “Okay teams...we have to first break up that tobacco with our fingers! tighten it up in the pockets, watch those stick and roll, STICK N' ROLL!” It's the only skill I aquired in university that has proven useful in my later adult years. Well, that and chugging pitchers of Guiness and being able to make a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese blindfolded. I call these the "Essential Life Skills for Terry’s Recipe for Success!"

"Give me a deep kiss, i am longing for distraction.
Let me touch your tits, and keep you occ-upied
If this comes as some suprise,
I am an alien."

Only one more day to go.

Mon, Apr. 5th; Hornepayne, ONT ~ 7:45AM

My VIA attendant thoughtfully woke me this morning for my morning wake n' bake out on the cold icy platform which happens this morning to be in Hornepayne, ONT. My bedhead is shamelessly blowing in the breeze. I am however comforted to know that I do NOT, in fact, have the worst bedhead in my train car. The hair on the head of the french ski bum sitting at the front of the train car has curled and molded onto his head like serpents coiled at odd angles. It's as if someone has dropped a furry octopus on his head. A total Clairol experiment gone bad!

Slim, in the leather pants and elastic suspenders, is up early this morning and I am suprised to see him already shuffling through the train car. Geez, I can't believe he hasn't been sucked up into a black hole vortex of discomfort with the chafing by now. I can't believe a cow died so this moron could wear leather pants with a elastic suspenders on a TRAIN TRIP. What a descretionary insult for the cow!

'Fire Marshall Bill' beside me is already awake and is attempting to confirm contact with the real world at the nearest outpost through his walkman, dialing fixatedly through the static as if he were searching for enemy transmissions. He's waving his walkman around in front of the window looking for better reception as if he's trying to dry his fingernails. “Hello, Tokyo?! there anybody out there? i need some information, first..."GIV' ME ZEE INFORMATION!"

There is an old man whom I haven't seen yet shuffling down the aisle in his slippers. By the way he's dragging his feet, I am half expecting a trail of fire to suddenly ignite behind him with the fiction he is generating in his shuffling. Obviously, this guy is either sore and tired from this long trip, or he's still unconsciously in the tourist mindset of trying to avoid dangerous wildlife encounters by making noise, and remaing ever ready to spring instinctively into the customary "Cactus Pose" at a seconds notice if needbe. And by the pained way he's shuffling this morning, it's no wonder he's putting out the deterent noises so outwardly as he would surely need as much time as possible in order to escape any predators in the vicinity whom should happen to attack at any moment.

Train Mystery #1: why does the bathroom constantly smell like Pez candy, despite my attempts to change that? Every time I open that door in the morning, I instantly get a sugar fix with the sweet aroma that permiates from within. I wonder if I am increasing my chances of getting diabetes each time I open that door? Can you really contract diabetes through train bathroom deodorizers?
Slim (the doofus in the leather pants and elastic suspenders) has added to holiday apparell by accessorizing a hunting buck knife fixed to his leather pants. What the fuck is that for exactly? If this was Canadian Airlines, they would have detected, apprehended, and have hogtied in the airport lobby waiting for the Home Office officers to arrive at the scene. At the very least, I figured that the Dome Car would be put on 'Orange Alert' or something by now. But maybe within the contours of the rugged Candian Shield, a bucknife attached to a belt would be considered acceptable fashionable train attire (not that there's much else you can do to improve upon the already ultrahip leather pants and elastic suspenders). I am sure it will come in handy if we are derailed and attacked by a savage scalping Indian war party or something, but I don't think that's going to happen. Maybe he's prepared and armed himself for the eventuality that he may encounter an animal on the train platform that he could kill and skin for noshes on the remainder of the trip back into Toronto (although, I don't favor his chances catching any such small animals wearing leather pants and suspenders). I don’t know how secure I feel being on a train with some moron in leather pants, elastic suspenders, and a buck knife.

(Capreol, ONT ~ 3:30PM)
We are back at the 'Crapopolis' train station again. The thermometer registers that it is 0 degrees, but it more feels like Spring already. Sadly, it looks as if the second largest nickel mine in Capreol has closed since my last passing, as the teenaged girl picking her nose is nowhere to be seen from the train platform.

RIGHT FUCKIN' ON!! The folk performers from the "Roots on the Rails" tour have come back to our Dome Car to graciously play sad songs on old accoustic guitars. I guess it was wise to listen to my instincts and follow the dudes in cowboys boots through the train. There's nothing like songs about trains, loose women, and whiskey to make a train trip complete. The two Cowboy John’s lead me afterwards into the forbidden realms of the "Silver & Blue Classes" to see their private performance for those segregated preffered beautiful passengers in the Viewing Car (the coolest train car by far due to it’s extreme location at the farthest end of the train).

First Class passengers stare out at me from their private booths as I pass through the corridors of sleepers and private seating like living museum exhibits. I am half-minded to stop and begin interrogating them like a German border guard: “Your papers. ze are nots in ze order!" Or maybe I could just stand outside their curtained off sleeping cabins in a Halloween mask ready to scare the living shit out of them when they emerge all groggy from their slumbers (most First Class passengers are STILL asleep at a little after noon!) That would be fun ~ giving some old retired Presbyterian minister a massive heart attack in fright as his souvenir from his cross-country trip through Canada.

I did listen to Cowboy John #1 play a tune about railroads on a Martin T-something guitar that Johnny Cash himself once used to play "Sunday Morning, Coming Down". Sadly, this is about as close as i'll ever get to Johnny Cash now. BEAT THAT ALEX TREBEK!!

What the fuck are "Jacking Pads"? (sign by the railside). Maybe, I don't really wanna know. The CNR employe's can keep that secret to themselves.

We are projected to arrive in Toronto two hours late. Luckily, to avoid a mutiny by the tired passengers, they orchestrated this annoncement to coincide with the handing out of free complimentary packets of "Fruit Cream Cookies" in an effort to reduce the risk of civil outbreaks of squabbling amongst passengers and to prevent the VIA attendants from being lynched by the angry mob. Of course, my VIA attendant delivers the message with all the concerned indifference of a “community Service sentancee at a volunteer Soup Kitchen "Hey fatboy, we're going to be two hours late...have some free cookies!"
So, i'm just going to enjoy the sunset over Lake Simcoe and contentedly enjoy my complimentary empty carbohydrates while I still can.

I wonder what my chances are that Miso hasn't found a new owner in my absence already? I wonder if my landlord will bring me complimentary packets of Cream Cookies? I wonder if they have built glacial waterfalls outside the bathrooms at work? I wonder....

...ah, fuck it. I'm home.


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