Archive for June 2010

Lazy boy, sleeping in the sun…

June 29th, 2010 — 5:23pm

It’s much easier to write when you’re moving. I’ve been in Saskatoon two weeks now and I’ve written less than I did during my two weeks on the road. It’s just too easy to fill your day with languorous activity, if I might borrow the phrase, when it’s hot, humid, and static. But if Tennessee Williams could do it so can I.

I’ve started a new project photographing businesses along the highway side service roads south of Martensville. There are plenty of interesting sites so the work will last a while.

Here’s a sample:

Magnum Oil Company

The Magnum Oil Company

I damn near get blown off the roof shooting these things.

The VW is ok for crawling onto for a higher perspective, I haven’t fallen off yet, but I’m looking at the idea of a step van with a ladder. Permanent stand-up room is an added bonus but safety on a highway isn’t. I suppose wind resistance wouldn’t be either, mileage-wise, but I’d be using it on back roads at low speeds for the most part. It would double as a camper (I’d hang my Oaxacan hammock from the ceiling) and, something I’ve fantasized about for a while, would make an excellent camera obscura – a giant pinhole camera!

Seems a complicated way to save my shins from bruising, the purpose of fitting the ladder, hence I’m just thinking about it and haven’t even contemplated kicking tires yet. Soon though; one of the businesses I’ve pegged to photograph (Graveside Memorials) has one in their yard for sale. A step van used by a granite carver hey? Check the springs.

The rain has tapered off quite a bit. I’ve been able to leave up the pop-top all night and the puddles are drying up, although the paddock is still a mess. Bonnie’s looking at having it properly done, that is with a well-drained, firm surface. And I’m settling in with the notion that I’m here on the prairies and there’s nothing to be done about it; it’s hot, it’s dusty, it’s buggy and windy and all that. But you deal with it somehow. Just scratch and fan, spray, swat, blink, bathe, and siesta. So damned hot at mid-day! The Oaxacan hammock sounds like a good fit. I’d have to put bug screens fore-and-aft, and a roof-top vent. Maybe a translucent roof cum skylight… or a moon roof for starry nights… but I wouldn’t be able to walk on it… hmm.


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Baked Effigy

June 25th, 2010 — 10:59am

This is Liam, son of my friends Keith and Olya:



It was Liam’s first birthday on Wednesday.

That morning Liam and Keith tracked down Murray (had a little lamb) of Sesame Street…

Liam & Keith

Liam & Keith seek Murray

…because Murray was going to be baked in effigy.

It’s a prairie thing.

Bake a bunch of cakes, carve them into a shape roughly the same as that of Murray, frost the result orange, stick feathers in it and present it on a slab of wall board.

I make it sound easy. It is not.

There are days of debate and planning, hours of execution, the clean-up, and worst of all the disappointment, with all its psychological implications (yours), when your wee fan-boy blinks in bewilderment at the pinkish muck before him and murmurs in his baby mind, “hmm… vaguely familiar, and mildly disturbing somehow.”

Paparazzo and Liam

Paparazzo and Liam as Murray lies exhausted on the piano

Happy Birthday Liam!

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Good Morning

June 22nd, 2010 — 8:52am

Had a hell of a storm last night lashing the barbecue with hail and horizontal jets of rain. It came from the southeast but spun around all points of the compass. Bonnie and I persevered under surprisingly sturdy umbrellas and pulled off a good grill. Lots of laughs but dang I got my pop-top down in time but didn’t grab my wet-resistant E1 camera. Another lesson in preparedness – saw the dark clouds coming for some time and even had a warning from an acquaintance of Bonnie’s who had just arrived from Brandon saying they “couldn’t see a thing” for miles! Not a good photographer yet, but I’m learning. This is good country to learn anticipation in, and for anyone who’s ever lived here you know what I’m talking about!

But today is sunny, and the morning shines “as clear and calm as one always imagines tomorrow will shine.”

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So bizarre…

June 21st, 2010 — 5:41pm

Actually nothing bizarre about it at all. I just hear this preface in many conversations. Not peculiar to Saskatoon, pretty universal as far as I can tell. So bizarre.

I didn’t shoot a photo all day.

Lots happened: met some interesting people; saw some interesting things, but did not take any pictures. Just one of a driving range net, the top part in one section, about 50 feet up, loose and rippling in the wind. A classic example of the physical law of poorly maintained driving range nets, at height: the ripple law. Here’s the culprit:

Ripple Law in effect

Ripple Law in effect

This was down at Holiday Park golf course, by Gordie Howe Bowl. Gordie Howe was born in Floral, just outside Saskatoon, and Al Purdy wrote a poem called Married Man’s Song about an incident in a hotel there : “There are rooms for rent in the outer planets / and neons blaze in Floral Sask”. Why he’d want to compare this place to the outer planets I don’t know, it’s not as though we’re that far from the centre of the universe.

Anyway, down there by Gordie Howe Bowl is an old industrial area. There used to be an oil refinery on the north side of 11th, the local main drag. And the original Western Development Museum was in an old hangar on the other side, with stock yards out behind; the aerodrome converted to something “useful” after the war. This is my personal history of Saskatoon, for the most part pretty ragged ’round the edges but the way I like it. The WDM hangar had metal trusses up high, and old airplanes hanging from them, and the clerestory windows lit them up like angels descending from a little boy’s heaven.

It’s hot. 26 C I think. The fan on this MacBook winds up quite fast when editing photos.

Had lunch at the Broadway Café, still the busiest restaurant on the street despite the best efforts of the theme eateries. Had a Chicken Salad Sandwich with a side of cottage cheese. Doubling up the protein for my chores. Yup. Gitten ‘er dun.

I’ll take some photos of Broadway. It’s quite the festival venue since Fringe took off. The Jazz Festival starts on the 25th.


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Roberto, il cuoco unico

June 19th, 2010 — 7:58pm

Bit out of touch lately. Sorry.

I’m adjusting to life in the country. Finally got my gum boots ($13.99 at Peavey Mart) and now I can visit the back 40 proper-like. Kinda’ like not having to fret about how I smell; horse, dog, bug spray. Nobody else seems to mind either, apparently.

Thought I might make supper tonight and bought the ingreediments for that porpoise, but it’s 8:30 and Bon & Kelly are still fencing. Guess I’m not fully adjusted yet.

Here’s my sister Bonnie tending to Dixie and Bella…

Dixie, Bella and Bonnie

Dixie, Bella and Bonnie

OK they’re in, time to don the cookie togs; it’s a special Italian dish with broccoli and plenty of mushrooms. Very good. Mmm.

A presto!

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June 17th, 2010 — 8:46am

C'est vrai, il fait poo

What if today was your birthday, it had been sunny all week, and then … this? My advice would be go for a walk and find a flower, put an umbrella over you both, take out a sketch book and draw. Just draw that one little flower over and over again until it becomes signature. Then write Happy Birthday in your new script and try not to get it wet on the way home; that’s what I would suggest.

Mind you I wouldn’t do it myself. I’d go back to bed.

Heppy Bidet Leelee. :)

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June 16th, 2010 — 6:19pm

Just down the street from each other:

Smoke Haus

Smoke Haus

Cherished Memories

Cherished Memories

You notice these things when you’re from out of town.


Took the VW to the car wash today.

Hey! Hey! Hey!

Hey! Hey! Hey!

On my second 2 bucks, 5.85 minutes worth, the machine flashed “YOU’RE A WINNER!! You get 6 minutes FREE wash time!!”


All I had left to do was rinse, but now I could wax. I even managed to get a tire scrub in. On all four tires! And even then I had a minute left over, so I just shot it in the air. The other washers didn’t appreciate that, but wuddya’ gonna’ do? I’m a Winner!

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Saskatoon Saskatchewan

June 15th, 2010 — 12:52pm

I arrived about 6pm last night. Raging winds, which are just picking up again as the sun rises higher and the ground radiates, for days. Fascination with these large processes never wanes but my tolerance for their incessant product, wind, certainly does.

I had a difficult time photographing in Medicine Hat. It felt like the project had petered out around Pincher Creek and had completely dissolved by Fort Mcleod. Getting through the next few days was tough. In these big-box communities people don’t have the same enthusiasm for life, just ambition and appetite. The highways were jammed with trucks hauling frozen food, furniture and carpets.

I went down to Manyberries for a rest. Met Don Hanson outside the Southern Ranchmen’s Inn, his chocolate collie Annie on the bench seat beside him.

Annie and Don

Annie and Don

Don remembers the experimental station my parents worked at in 1948, remembers social events there. He’s a musician and plays “anything with strings”, but his singing voice isn’t what it used to be. He rode his bicycle to and from town for years and still weighs the same he did at 18. Annie’s his constant companion. There’s nothing left of the station now, it was slowly dismantled over the years.

The Southern Ranchmen’s Inn looks as though it’s been around for a while. Barb and I chatted about history but I never asked its age. Its authenticity is vital; it’s still very much alive and functioning, not a museum piece kept for tourists.

Inside the Southern Ranchmen's Inn

Inside the Southern Ranchmen's Inn

Had supper there, and a couple beers.

Thought I’d go to Elkwater in the Cypress Hills but I didn’t want to leave just yet and, though invited to camp in Jeremy and Joyce’s backyard (no photo dang it), ended up tucked between some overgrown carraganas and an abandoned farmhouse just outside of town.



Teased the meadowlarks ’til sundown, had a good sleep, and continued the competition in the morning. I love meadowlarks.

The following day I spent going ’round in circles. You can see the Sweetgrass Hills in Montana all through this country. Well, the hills are in this country. Not this political country, the one drawn by the 49th parallel, but this real dirt and grass country, and I wanted to go there. I kept turning around when I was going north, kept turning right when I was heading east. It was nothing in particular, I just felt that south was the natural direction, that there’s something down there. It’s nothing political.

Sweetgrass Hills from Red Rock Coulee

Sweetgrass Hills from Red Rock Coulee

I was a number of miles down 41 toward the Wild Horse border crossing when pragmatism and a promise turned me back; I’d promised to spend time in Saskatchewan. There’s a reason we make promises even if we can’t remember why. I forced myself back along the southern highway east and then north. I didn’t want to go: like a little boy sick to death of clip-on bow ties and being good in the pews I kicked and screamed the whole way, but I wanted to find out why I made that promise.

I can so far report that meadowlarks sing just as well up here.

The author...

The author plays knock down ginger on a one room school house out of a sense of revenge, to undo an unbearable knot of repression, or just for the hell of it.

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June 12th, 2010 — 10:48am

I shot the last bus stop this morning, thank gawd.

I’m in the shade of a willow in a parking lot on the northside strip leading to the number 1 highway in Medicine Hat, using the free WiFi from Medicine Hat Lodge and wondering what to do next. My reason for being has dizapperated!

Perhaps I’ll try a little fishing and just relax for a while. Maybe back in Jaffray. Or maybe I’ll try the Livingston area; heard it’s pretty nice there. And who knows, maybe a certain someone’ll walk by.

Medicine Hat, end of the line

Medicine Hat, end of the line

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Sittin’ here in limbo…

June 11th, 2010 — 9:24am

Monarch, in the Bible Belt. Bethyl Free Reformed church on one side of the street, Reformed Congregation in North America on the other. This place could be hoppin’ on Saturday night as they gear up to bring down blessings ‘pon their particular brand of salvation. Of course I might not quite understand the subtleties involved, but still…

Bethel Free Reformed

Bethel Free Reformed

Reformed Congregation in N.A.

Reformed Congregation in N.A.

It was 4 degrees when I got out of bed this morning. One is never entirely out of bed in a Westfalia I’ll admit, and I do still have my jammies on (damn right!) with another pair of fleece pants, an MEC light fleece over my “Been to Yahk and Back” t-shirt, and a Pioneer heavy fleece over that, topped with a fleece-lined corduroy hunting vest (love that kidney flap), but I’ve only got one pair of socks on! I’m roughin’ it!

And outside, these damned Albertans are walkin’ around in short sleeved shirts! But considering the fact their “camping” consists of lounging in centrally heated rumpus rooms on wheels it’d be a snap darting over to the auxiliary vehicle (a full-sized 4×4)* to pick up another 6-pak and look like you can take it. It’s only, what? 15 seconds? 30 tops? Pfft. Pansies.

So I freeze in righteous indignation.

By the way, I brought my espresso machine with me. Hehe. Figured I might attract a little female attention with it, you know, in one of those “mountain-culture” hangouts with all the finely outfitted Main Street mountaineers parading their right stuff from site to biffy and back? “Hey babe, know where I can plug this in?” Yes, electricity is not an option by the glaciers, but we could, you know, find an outlet behind the A&W or something. Maybe?

California dreamin’. But it sure is nice to wake up to a hot, frothy cup of cappuccino after a night of toasty zzzz’s in my down bag – sipping smugly in the comfort of my bench seat while watching the locals outside, growing goose bumps on their pallid limbs, through the ample picture windows of my little 3-walled log cabin on wheels. Capiche?

So. Yesterday, as I was saying, I took a lot of photos. Just overwhelmed by all this space and broad panoplies (not entirely out of context) but I don’t have the time to think out the best way to describe it. I’ll work on it today and be ready before my next post.

Here are some samples:

Big Somethin'

Big Somethin'

…and lots of it.

At first I thought this was an ad for a restaurant (hadn’t had breakfast yet) but it’s for a denture clinic…

Says: 'Eat What You Like In Comfort'

Says: 'Eat What You Like In Comfort'

Wolfgang gets a haircut in Don’s Barbershop, Fort Mcleod…

Don and Wolfgang

Don and Wolfgang

And by Orton, Alberta is…

Windy Rafters

Windy Rafters

Dinner and Barn Dance
2nd & 4th Sat., 6:30 / 8:00
Ph. 403-533-2130 Email: wrbarndance (at) mail (dot) com

I’m not a dancer, barn or otherwise, and it wasn’t Saturday but I thought maybe I’d have a look. There was no one around. But if there was I’d like to think some shiny little heifer might have had a go at me, teach me a step or two. In the barn.

One last look at Fort Mcleod.

Larson's Tire Shop

Larson's Tire Shop

And that’s that. Time to get out of my jammies. Thanks for tuning in. Y’all come back now, twang.

* A math quiz on every fender. The answer is 16 by the way.

PS comments are always welcome.

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