Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Undead are, Surprisingly, Good Peeps ...

Having just returned from the Crappy Little Trailer in the Spooky Forest to the Gothic Mansion, civilization and the internet, the insomniac  is finally getting around to writing about last week's Zombie Survival Race in Cochrane. The sister-in-law had arrived from Israel earlier that week and was invited along, little realizing the somewhat underhanded purpose for said invite was to provide the insomniac  with her own personal meat-shield.

Devious or not, it seemed a foolproof plan. But after looking closely at the SIL and questioning why a Zombie would choose to run down a tall, slender quick-footed woman without an ounce of excess flesh as its prey over the insomniac - a short, pudgy treat with bad knees and plenty of extra meat on her bones, she started doubting the plan's effectiveness. Eventually concluding that Zombies are less interested in human flesh and more interested in large brains, she decided the plan was, indeed, foolproof.

She's not nearly as frightened as she should be.

Considering her situation, and all ...

The day was hot and almost cloudless; we arrived promptly at 10:00 a.m. in an attempt to avoid the high temperatures forecast for later. Even at that early hour, parking was already at a premium. There was a nice mix of Zombies, Runners and Spectators that day ... surely it was the thrill of seeing the Undead at such close range that lured people in such large numbers.

A few of the Zombies required chains,
for the protection of the spectators.
But they were treated humanely and given water.

Even a Zombie needs to stay hydrated ...

Looks like somebody indulged in a few too many
brains the night before ...

Or she has heat stroke. Hard to say.

It's NEVER too early to start training the offspring
how to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse ...

Ooooh look, Daddy!
It's a Zombie!

Pick me up! Pick me up!
It's a Zombie!

The Rocking Dead runners ...

Rock on soon-to-become-Zombies dudes and dudettes.
Rock on.

This group were both Spectators AND Zombies.

It's good to mix it up a little. Keeps everyone on their toes ...

He's with the military.
This is their new uniform.

No word of a lie.

This chap was an enigma.
Neither a Zombie nor Daniel Boone reincarnated.

Or was  he?

 Doin' it Gangnam Style ...

Exhausted from
doin' it Gangnam Style ...

The Horde, patiently waiting for the first of the runners
to make it to the pen after their 5 km run ...

Note the look of eager anticipation on this Zombie's face,
as she tries to capture the runner's strategically placed “life” ...

This dramatic video taken by runner TheJuicefoLife, captures the terrifying experience of trying to outrun the Zombies ...

After watching the race for a while, we headed to the food trucks. Trying to make a good impression on the sister-in-law, the insomniac  refrained from having the southern fried chicken on a waffle topped with bacon and maple syrup, and finishing it all off with a massive selection of sugary goodness from The Sugar Cube. Because if the SIL hadn't been there, you know that's exactly how it would have gone down.

A mobile candy vendor?
Does it get any better than that?

Look at those sugar-fueled smiles ...

Instead, we went to Avatara and indulged in some very healthy and extremely tasty fire-roasted organic felafel chips with hummus - which went down very well with a cold beer, and didn't contribute to the accumulation of any extra meat on the insomniac's  already well-stocked bones. Always a bonus ...

Avatara is a mere stone's throw away from the Gothic Mansion.

The insomniac  already knows the menu by heart ...

Obviously, the high point of any beer garden is the beer. Village Brewery  was in attendance with their mobile unit - the insomniac  tried Blacksmith - a sturdy, hand-forged India black ale, while the sister-in-law ordered Wit - an unfiltered wheat ale in the Belgian tradition. The entire collection of Village beer is available at the Sobey's Liquor Store in Cochrane, making it very convenient to stop on the way out of Calgary before heading to the Crappy Little Trailer in the Spooky Forest and grab a case or two. Possibly three.

The sister-in-law was the very first person in line for a cold beer.
Don't let her try to convince you otherwise.

The insomniac  never lies ...

They look like they could use a drink ...

Serving and protecting.

And drinking some beers ...

In spite of the blistering heat, it was an awesome event. And although there were a few comments from the Runners that the Zombies were too aggressive, there were an equal number of comments from the Zombies that the Runners were too aggressive.

The only complaint the insomniac  had was that EVERY table in the beer garden needed an umbrella. If she'd been smarter and hit the beer garden at 11:00 a.m. instead of waiting until noon, they might have gotten a shaded table and been able to stay long enough to enjoy a sample of each style of beer. Of course, the sister-in-law thought it a little chilly compared to back home, and was very glad she'd worn a long-sleeved shirt.

And by the time we left the event to head back to the trailer, the insomniac  had already decided that construction of a very high barricade to keep out the Undead Horde wasn't really necessary; right up until the spouse pointed out the large deposit left by the grizzly that had wandered up the road a mere 10 feet from his chair the night before. So the barricade isn't totally off the table yet ...

Maybe it is Zombie Scat. Again, hard to say.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.


PostScript: Unfortunately, none of the Zombie-related stock the insomniac  ordered to sell at the event arrived in time. It's now in the Attic filed under Giftware. Because Zombie-related stuff obviously makes for a lovely gift, right?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Visit to Vancouver

Have you ever noticed how the insomniac  just keeps going ON and ON and ON when writing about something she's passionate about? Consider this fair warning ...

* * *

Last week, the insomniac  and the youngest took a mini-vacation to Vancouver; the primary reason for the trip to deliver Mme. Polaire's winnings from the latest giveaway. It's always nicer to present in person rather than mailing, provided enough points have accumulated in the Air Miles Account to do so; however this generally limits personal presentations to winners living within a 1000 kilometre radius of Calgary.

Arrangements were made with Mme. Polaire to meet at Granville Island Market for lunch. After some confusion on the insomniac's  part as to the actual meeting place, we eventually connected and enjoyed lunch together at the market (the insomniac  had Bratwurst and Sauerkraut on a Bun, if you're interested), along with the youngest (who barely uttered a word, as she generally isn't even out of bed by 12:30 p.m. let alone being forced to eat at that unreasonable hour) and Mme. Polaire's mother.

When she was younger the insomniac  briefly contemplated moving to Vancouver, but being Canada's third rainiest city combined with her aversion to wet feet and using an umbrella, ultimately decided against it - even if it does get fewer than twelve days of snow every winter. Because of the moderate climate, ivy grows rampant on absolutely anything that remains motionless for longer than five minutes. This adds a romantic appearance to many of Vancouver's older buildings - the Sylvia Hotel, built in 1912 and the hotel of choice whenever we visit - being one of them.

R-L: The delightful Mme. Polaire in her Nevermore Dress
and the insomniac.

Being romantically obscured by rampant ivy ...

Completely engulfing the Sylvia ...

For her winnings, Mme. Polaire chose four items from the Attic: an antique metal spiderweb, a Gothic metal welcome plaque, Edward Gorey notecards and a Bela Lugosi mug.

In return, she presented the insomniac  with an enormous gift bag overflowing with the following: black and silver damask fabric, Hallowe'en gift bags, two CD's, a sugar skull mouse-pad, a sewing pattern we'd both admired, some little spider ornaments, a small gossamer bag filled with silver charms of skulls, spiders, owls, bats and the like, a book called Cabinet of Curiosities (which may or may not have already been read - one can't quite remember), a charming note written on exquisite antique Victorian mourning stationery, a beautiful necklace and matching brooch set of Death the Bride made by Mme. Polaire herself, a tin of homemade shortbread (consumed within 10 minutes after our return to the hotel), and lastly, a selection of chocolates which, as you can tell by the empty packaging strewn about, lasted only slightly longer than the shortbread.

It's glaringly obvious who got the better end of the deal here, isn't it?

Mme. Polaire - 4 items.

The insomniac - 400.

Although the primary reason for visiting Vancouver may have been to meet with Mme. Polaire, another important reason was the insomniac's  longing to visit perhaps her most favourite store ever - Salmagundi West. The word salmagundi can be defined as either: 1) a dish of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, and seasoning;   or 2) a general mixture; a miscellaneous collection. As one has never run across an anchovy or onion in the place, she surmises Number 2 was the reasoning behind the name selection.

The Salmagundi Tin Collection, none of which are for sale.

And not for lack of trying, either ...

Salmagundi is in an oddly shaped Victorian Italianate building on the corner of Trounce Alley and West Cordova Street in the historic district of Gastown. Despite the fact she has visited the store many times through the years, the insomniac  can never seem to locate that particular corner on her first try, and must always walk down Water Street, turn right on Cambie and then backtrack in order to find it.

The J.W. Horne Block, 1889

Lovely window detail ...

The insomniac  first discovered Salmagundi when she was seventeen. As an employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway, she used her train pass at every opportunity - Vancouver more often than not her final destination. Back in the early 70's, Gastown was full of antique and vintage clothing shops, and Blood Alley was home to many talented leatherworkers and silversmiths. When she stumbled upon Salmagundi, she felt as though she'd found the most wonderful shop in the whole world.

And while she may have difficulty remembering important things (like Mme. Polaire's mother's name, which she managed to forget less than ten seconds after being introduced) somehow she remembers her very first purchase from the store - a Victorian doll dressed in a white gown and bonnet, which was packed away just a few short months ago. She also purchased some black and gold deer hides, and remembers telling the shop owner she had no idea what she was going to do with them. Although she likes to think that particular purchase was the beginning of her love affair with leather and beadwork. It was  the 70's, after all ...

Over the years she visited the store many times, always managing to leave with treasure(s) small enough to fit in her suitcase. And although she never knew the owner's name, she always felt she was remembered every time she returned, no matter how long it had been since the last visit. And then came a long period when the offspring were young, we had no money for trips and there were no visits to Salmagundi. 

Finally, when the youngest was twelve, the insomniac  took her to Vancouver, eager to share her favourite store with her offspring. She was bored after fifteen minutes. In order to placate her, her Sainted Mother purchased her a book, which she loved, and some candies, which she didn't.

The hand stitched books of local artist Charles Van Sandwyk ...

A few years later, another trip was made to the coast; the insomniac  chatted with the owner about the lovely Victorian brass letter holder she ended up purchasing, along with a few more beaded flowers to add to her already large collection.

This would probably look nice in the trailer, too ...

Then last fall while discussing favourite places to shop in Vancouver, Mme. Polaire mentioned the owner had cancer and was in palliative care. Shortly thereafter the owner passed away, and it made the insomniac  very sad to think such a treasured institution might end up closing its doors. But before she passed, she gifted the store to a longtime employee - someone who “gets” the store and plans to keep it alive in the way in which it was meant. And this time, the insomniac  has made a point of being on a first-name basis with the new owner - something she regrets not doing with the former.

The new proprietress. Anne Banner and her daughters ...

L-R: Ariel, Anne, Honeybear and Kali

Following are just a few of the pictures taken during our recent visit. There could have been so many more ...

Do you also find the store mascot somewhat creepy?

Didn't even get a chance to look through these ...

Isn't he adorable?

It looks exactly as it did the very first time
the insomniac  walked through the doors forty years ago ...

Yes, it is ...

The infamous Chinese herbal chest in the basement,
every drawer containing something different.

Zombie Mints, expanding brains, candy cigarettes just like Dad's ...

Sadly, due to poor lighting, the insomniac  was unable to capture the gloriously gold-framed picture of Nosferatu under the staircase - next to the accordian and the rose-painted screen divider. But you can well imagine.

This time, the youngest made her very first Salmagundi purchase of a silver fox skull necklace. Her very first purchase with her own money, to be accurate. And though she spent considerably more time looking through the drawers of the Chinese cabinet than on her last visit, still remarked upon leaving, “You know you spent over an hour in there, don't you?” So her Sainted Mother took her across the street to New World Designs, and purchased her a new Hell Bunny dress to go with her new necklace in order to placate her.

She was sufficiently placated ...

Should you ever visit Vancouver and have, at the minimum, an entire day to kill, you really must visit Salmagundi West. And if you go in October, perhaps you'll run across the insomniac  at the 40th anniversary gathering, which Anne has so graciously invited her to attend. This time, she'll be travelling alone and plans to set aside enough time to examine everything to her heart's content. Unless Mme. Polaire would like to accompany her - one has the impression she's a kindred spirit who'd be more than happy to look through every little cupboard and drawer before getting bored. And she probably wouldn't even mention upon leaving, “You know you spent over three hours in there, don't you?

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Now if you'll excuse her, she's just remembered that caramel chocolate bar with black sea salt was the only one left uneaten. No sense letting it melt up there in the attic. Goodnight, my pretties.


PostScript: Probably goes without saying the insomniac  didn't exactly go home empty-handed, either. We'll save that for another post.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Zombies are Coming! The Zombies are Coming!

A mere month after writing, one's worst nightmare of encountering a Horde of Zombies now seems inevitable. While not currently  inhabiting the abandoned building next door, the ravenous hordes will be out in full force on July 20th at Calgary's first 5 kilometre Zombie Survival Obstacle Race. Although the insomniac  herself won't be attempting to elude the bloodthirsty throngs while trying to negotiate a course filled with mud, water and obstacles (one suspects even a zombie prefers a bit  of a challenge from its prey), she is eager to observe how the other 2500 participants manage to avoid being consumed by legions of the living dead. For future reference, you understand ...

The event is being held at the Cochrane Agricultural Society Grounds, a mere 15-minute drive (roughly a 4-day lurch) from our temporary home in The Spooky Forest. A little too close for comfort.

Being renowned for her Creative Gift Basketry Skills, the insomniac  volunteered to make another for this event. Having learned a few important lessons from her previous effort, it went much smoother this time around. Still, at the end, cellophane was all that was available, ensuring the contents of this gift basket are no more visible than they were in the last one. 

Raffle tickets for this and various other prizes can be purchased at the event; all proceeds being donated to Kids Cancer Care, the charity of choice for the 2013 Zombie Survivor Event.

There might  be some tasty brains in those little cement heads ...

Although the very idea of 200 zombies should be enough to give any sensible person pause, the insomniac  plans to squelch her unease by methodically working her way through the medley of offerings from the various food trucks who will be in attendance, and who apparently have no qualms whatsoever about attending a function with so many of the undead. None of the mobile eateries appear to have brains on the menu though, so there probably won't be much of a lineup. *

Should that prove ineffective, the plan is to then proceed to the End of the World Party (and the beer gardens), and share a cold one while having a heart-to-heart with whomsoever is in charge of the Undead Horde, in hopes of convincing him/her/it that the abandoned building on the neighbouring property really wouldn't be all that suitable for their next base camp once the race is finished, and really isn't worth the 4-day stagger to check it out. And should that not end well, the final plan is to slip away before nightfall and commence construction of very high barricade around the trailer.

For more details, visit the Zombie Survivor Calgary Website and Facebook Page. Other than the zombies, it promises to be a fun event.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Depending on how much shut-eye she manages to get the night before, it might be difficult to distinguish her from the rest of the stumbling horde. Goodnight, my pretties.


* When you think about it, the 2500 participants are sort of a mobile eatery themselves, aren't they?