Surviving the 2015 Calgary Stampede

Here in Calgary it is Stampede season, which means we are about to be inundated by approximately 3.7 billion people who come visit the city for ten days in an effort to relive what they presume to be an accurate rendition of the Old Timey West. Two things happen when the Calgary Stampede goes on: 1) Citizens native to Calgary evacuate the city to the nearby mountains (this is also part of our zombie preparation plan); 2) Those not native to the city arrive. And they all wear cowboy hats, boots, and jeans. And we will resent them and all that they bring to us.

Now, I’ve only lived in Calgary for just over three years. But I understand it. I understand the intense fury, the violent anger that erupts deep within one’s soul every time they get stuck in a traffic jam on Deerfoot because some wildly inappropriately dressed tourists have crashed their car and are attempting to extract their mangled cowboy boots from the wreckage of their vehicle while simultaneously screaming Woo! Stampede, bitches!

I hate it as much as the next person, which is why I think I is time we all sit down and come up with a list of must-do’s and musn’t-even-attempts for both the locals and the tourists who have decided to eat as many scorpion pizzas as possible before riding the Zipper on the midway.

Taking Part in the 2015 Calgary Stampede: Tourists

  1. Okay, you’re here. We will all do our very best to accept that.
  2. Just because you can start drinking early and later than normal doesn’t mean that you should. Practice some self-restraint, if only for your health. We’ve had a heatwave recently, and no one, least of all any of us locals, wants to read about you keeling over in a pool of your own filth due to alcohol poisoning.
  3. If you have to drink excessively, please drink water too.
  4. Please don’t harass Calgary Police Services for doing their job. I get it, your buddy was just goofing around when he was tossing empty beer cans over the bridge, but it still isn’t right nor is it legal. If the police are arresting him, it’s because he was acting like a mighty morphin’ power douche. He could use a few hours in the drunk tank.
  5. Be nice to those volunteering at the Stampede. Yes, it is hot. Yes, it is crowded, and yes, maybe you totally can’t even right now, but neither can we, so just take a deep breath and relax.
  6. Yes, there is crappy beer on for cheap. Drink up that Kokanee and that Bud Light Lime if you want! But while you’re here, I recommend trying out some of our local flavors! Big Rock Brewery is become renowned across the world, and Village Brewing is a fantastic craft brewery! Trust me, you’ll enjoy the overall experience a lot more if you spend a couple extra bucks on a quality brew.
  7. Please don’t make cowboy or Ol West jokes. We’re heard them all, and none of them are funny.
  8. If you have to dress up, don’t go overboard. A hat just makes sense; it protects you from the sun. You don’t need the boots and the cowboy hat and the plaid shirt tied in such a way to emphasize your boobs (ladies, this goes for you too), and you don’t need to speak like you are from Texas. We sure as shit don’t.
  9. If we look unimpressed with you, it is only because we are. You are the twentieth person to comment about something ‘Western’ related today, and we are slowly dying inside. It’s best just to move on and forget about us.
  10. Please don’t comment on how we are dressed up in western clothes in our place of work. We don’t need to be reminded of this humiliating experience. True story. My husband works at a bank, and even he has to dress up.
  11. Did I mention not over doing it on the drinking? I feel like this is a really important point. I can‘t emphasize it enough. Don’t get alcohol poisoning.
  12. If you are here from PETA: Okay, we understand. A lot of people have issues with the rodeo aspects. Please don’t take it out on everyone going to the Stampede. Some of us are just there for the soft serve in the phallic cone.
  13. Be prepared to wait on hot, sweaty C-Trains with the rest of us. It is annoying as hell, and we all know it. There’s no need to complain loudly about it. And while we’re at it, follow basic transit rules. Make room, don’t hog seats with bags, make sure the elderly, pregnant, and disabled all have places to sit.
  14. Look out for each other. People usually go to Stampede in groups, but it is easy to get lost, either because of crowds or because you are completely smashed. Strangers looking after strangers is both heartwarming and an important part of ensuring everyone has a fun time. If you see someone who looks like they are about to keel over, help them get medical attention.
  15. Don’t be a dumb-dumb. Common sense hasn’t ceased to exist just because you are wearing spurs and a rhinestone belt buckle.
  16. Yes, it has been busy at our place of work recently, and yes, we can’t wait until Stampede is over. No, we’re not sure if we’re going to take part in the activities.
  17. Your short-shorts are inappropriate cowboy wear. You can either take this seriously or you can just fanny about, but don’t pretend you’ve found some happy in-between place. You haven’t. And those shorts would kill if you actually rode a horse. I’m talking full on chapped thighs.
  18. Finally, and I really can’t stress this enough. Don’t drink so damn much, unless it is water.

Surviving the 2015 Calgary Stampede: Locals

  1. Can you get out of the city? Then do it. Jasper, Banff, Golden, Radium. Anywhere but here. Go, go, go. You are wasting time reading this. Just go.
  2. You can’t leave? You have to work? Okay, don’t panic. We’ll get you through this. First off, assume that wherever you work is going to make you play along with this nonsense. It’s best to just embrace the gingham skirts, the cowboy hats, and the boots now, before it’s too late.
  3. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. There are plenty of free pancake breakfasts for you to attend. You might as well get all you can out of the next ten days of terror.
  4. Yes, there will be country-western music playing everywhere. I find the best solution to this is to hum the Sailor Moon Theme Song. It’s easily accessible to the other poor sods who are trapped in the same scenario as you.
  5. Suicide pact with your coworkers.
  6. Are you absolutely certain you can’t leave the city? Can you fake an illness or an accident? Your employer would understand.
  7. Personally, I find wildly mocking people below my breath really takes the strain off of the whole experience.
  8. Extra visits to your psychiatrist. Remember: they will be filling up fast!
  9. Consider earplugs and/or horse blinders, just in case.
  10. If you do find yourself trapped in a crowd, proceed to windmill your arms and making a whooping noise. If they don’t get out of your way because you’ve hit them, they will at least avoid you do to possible insanity.

Of course, that might not be enough. That’s why I recommend The Treasure Hunt of Stereotypes. This is a game my husband and I play whenever we have to go to the mall. We came up with a list of stereotypical mall goers and began to tick off them as we saw them. This included: child on leash, teenage girl who can’t even, and depressed husband or father waiting for wife or daughter by change rooms. I have prepared the following preliminary list for your enjoyment, either at the Stampede, at your local mall, or just downtown around 17th Ave or Stephen Ave mall:

  1. Woman with cut off jean shorts that would offend anyone over the age of 70;
  2. Small child clearly forced into wearing cowboy gear, looking unimpressed. Bonus points if crying;
  3. A group of women wearing plaid shirts that have been tied above their belly-button, Daisy Duke-style;
  4. A drunk and sunburned frat boy. Double the points if he is carrying a can of beer;
  5. Someone wearing a pink, bejeweled cowboy hat;
  6. Someone wearing gaudy, bejeweled cowboy boots;
  7. Anyone using the terms ‘y’all’ or really, dropping their ‘g’s’;
  8. Anyone who announces, probably drunkenly, that they are absolutely getting a horse after their experience at the Stampede, because of course they are;
  9. Spontaneous line dancing. Extra points if it is on Stephen Ave;
  10. Someone arrested for chewing tobacco and spitting it everywhere without a care for those around them;
  11. White cowboy hats (you take a shot for each one of these you see. Staff members of the Stampede and/or Calgary do not count.);
  12. Any bar that changes its title to ‘Saloon’;
  13. Inappropriate racial stereotypes;
  14. PETA protesters;
  15. Piles of vomit at the midway;
  16. Country-Western music playing inside a mall or store that does not regularly play it;
  17. Random buskers with guitars or banjos;
  18. An idiot wearing spurs attached to their cowboy boots which you know they bought because they once saw Fieval Goes West and figured it was important to complete their outfit;
  19. Bigoted comments being spouted by drunks, probably at the ‘saloons’;
  20. A Stampede Princess (you lose a point if she isn’t wearing a bejeweled hat or belt buckle);
  21. A small infant, dressed in cowboy gear;
  22. Bolo ties. Bonus points added if the person wearing it is under the age of 45;

There you have it folks. This is, of course, only a basic survival guide. I would still recommend leaving the city or, worst case scenario, going full hermit until this is over and done with. I, for one, will be hiding under my bed until it is safe to come out again.

An Open Letter to the People of Alberta: Behold, Your New Premier (is me)

My Fellow Albertans,

The polls are open in Alberta, and to save you both time and aggravation, I feel it prudent to make my announcement ahead of the officially polling day.

I, people of Alberta, your noble Integrity Commissioner for the City of Calgary, am your new Premier.

I know, I know. You’re thinking What party were you running for? And Do you actually know anything about politics? And Your background is so shady that even crab grass won’t grow under your feet. How can you be our new Premier?


All Hail the Mighty Soapbox

This is my soapbox. That’s why I write open letters wherein I complain to people, places, things. Basically any noun that really grinds my gears. On very few occasions have I ever found myself so truly enraged by something that I felt the need to take it to the streets. Nope, the good ol’ written word is fine with me.

Calgary Expo ran into some issues on its first day today wherein a booth put up a Pro Gamer Gate banner. Now, there are always two sides to the story, but as I have wondered many times, why does a group that insists it stands for ethics in gaming journalism use the title of a group of people that is equated to the harassment of women? I’ve heard it is because they want to stand their ground, that they aren’t their title. This is true, and noble in its own way. My big question has always been “is this the hill you want to die on? Are you so passionate about the term ‘Gamer Gate’ that you are okay with your actual cause being ignored in favor of the attention ‘Gamer Gate’ gets for its bad apples?” No one has ever given me a satisfactory answer.

I guess I just think that when you are passionate about something enough to start a movement, you should probably throw that energy into the movement and not something as simple as the title.

But, that being said, who am I to judge? I just like playing games. That’s it. I don’t care if people are paying for reviews. I usually just go by what looks visually enticing.


An Open Letter to Ben & Jerry

Dear Ben and/or Jerry,

Listen, I get it, guys. We are America’s hat. We live in a country that is under snow 95% of the year. The other 5% consists entirely of room temperature water hatching mosquitos. Sure, we’re the second largest country on earth, but I can appreciate why you might not view Canada as a market to conquer. Still, it doesn’t help that the majority of our media is siphoned from our southern neighbours. We get to watch your sultry actresses spoon Americone Dream into their mouths while battling eyelashes at their White Russian scooping sugar daddies. I have to say, it sort of sucks. I know, I know. It’s a matter of priorities. You probably make a lot of money one the steadily expanding bellies of the American market.


The Languid Tale of Tina Louanne Sparkles

The Languid Tale of Tina Louanne Sparkles

There comes a moment when every person has to serve his or her country. Sometimes you are hired as an elected official, sometimes you join the military, and sometimes you waste the time of a person you presume might be trying to get your passport for illicit purposes.

Our story begins way back in August 2013 where in a mysterious person randomly messages yours-truly on Facebook with a simple codeword: Hi.


The Pros and Cons of Writing on a Computer vs Writing by Hand

The third instalment in the now named Writer-Not-Author series of blog posts. Previously we addressed the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing and the pros and cons of pantsing versus plotting. Now we shall take another step back in the creative process and address why No Pants Everyday is applicable to both categories.

There is this remarkable trend in post-secondary education where every professor seems to think it is their sole responsibility to remind the student population that statistics, research, and even the Pope have declared that it is more efficient to record information by hand instead of a computer. They fail to take into account the highly elaborate slides that they use each class and refuse to post online for the students because “it encourages you to attend class”. Fortunately, I am at least partially deaf to these recommendations. However, it does seem vital that we question whether or not the same can be applied to creative writing. Are we better authors when we write by hand? Do we get more done when we are at a computer screen, or is porn the distraction they claim it to be? Let’s break it down!


Yet Another Open Letter to the City of Calgary and the City Council “Art? I am the art!”

Dear City of Calgary Council,

Integrity Commissioner here, thought maybe I would chime in on this whole ‘funding for public art’ issue that has been troubling some of you for the last little while.

Of course the drop in oil prices has us all panicking and retreating to our Campbell’s Soup-Stocked emergency shelters and panic rooms. We have to examine things that are important to us as a city. Running water is obviously a yes, as is electricity. Ring road? Maybe not as high on the priority list. There are the library renovations down town – high on the list because books.

But where does public art fall on this ever-changing list of wants and needs? Some would argue it falls no where on the list because public art is about as useful to the city as a fingerless glove to a hook-handed public official. Others might argue that public art is a means for our city to show visitors where our values lie. We find some level of importance in 50 foot mesh heads and giant blue rings that absolutely bear no resemblance to one of the various hoops that are taken out by the carnies every time Stampede rolls around. Nope. It is definitely art.

The issue here is that the Calgary City Council is viewing this as a black and white matter. Either we put money towards public art or we feed the orphans. Allow me to provide an alternative: Have the orphans make the art. Ha ha ha! I jest, of course. Everyone knows we ship those free-loaders to Red Deer.

But seriously, folks. You know that art can be cheap, right? Your 17 foot sculpture of Naheed Nenshi’s skeletal structure doesn’t have to cost $45,000. The problem is you folks are awful at haggling which is exactly why every time your middle-eastern friends come round to your house and see your Persian rug they relentlessly mock you for it. Because you paid for it. Someone forgot to teach you folks how to haggle. Well, don’t worry because I am here to supply you with a series of potential public art projects that are cheap and can, for the most part, be made using basic supplies found around your house!

  • Take some hockey sticks. I mean, like, all the hockey stick. Heck, take the Edmonton Oilers ones (they obviously aren’t using them). Okay, now super glue them together to form a deciduous tree, like a maple or something. Maybe an elm. Now, take all the hockey pucks, and I mean all of them, and super glue them to the trees to form ‘leaves’.
    • What does it mean? This particular piece, entitled “The Hockey Pokey” represents the effervescent love of hockey that all Canadians share. Or something like that.
  • For this one you are going to need some condiments. A lot of condiments. I’m talking relish, mustard (both grainy and yellow), ketchup, sauerkraut, sautéed onions, jalapeños, everything you can think of. Now you’re going to take some bed sheets and just soak them with condiments. Arrange the soaked bedsheets in a ball like structure so they look a globe, with each condiment-sheet being a different country. Shellac the heck out of it so it doesn’t start stinking up down town. Place on a stack of used sofa cushions for display.
    • What does it mean? I call this piece “Condiments of the World”, get it? Ha ha ha! It’s like ‘continents’ but not! The pun basically makes the whole thing. It represents our unity as a multi-cultural society through food! Or something like that.
  • This one has multiple purposes. You know how we used to have those cow statues everywhere? Well, in this particular piece we will shave the head of all the City Council members for charity, preferrably the Alberta Children’s Hospital (I guarantee this would raise a good wad of cash, this negating the need to ever discuss where we will get funds for public art again.) We will then take the hair and, combining it with a paste made up of old root vegetables and Q-tips, we will create a new cow statue.
    • What does it mean? I don’t know. I figure the general public would probably get a kick out of seeing the whole of the city council being bald. Plus charity. We could call it “Our Beef With City Council!” Or something like that.
  • This next one is great because it involves recycling. We are going to take some wine bottles. Basically all the wine bottles everywhere. Also all the empty liqueur bottles. We are going to smash the hell out of those bottles. We are going to take that crushed glass and create some pretty-ass looking layers of colour in a giant clear tank. It will be like one of those sand art bottle things you can get from mall kiosks during the holidays, only it will be made from all the empties that the people of Calgary have accumulated. The scene to be shown in the glass? Well, I think we could put it to a vote, let the public decide! After all, it’s going to be out in the open for everyone to see. Personally I am in favour of having art that shows my cats. Just my cats, doing cat stuff.
    • Seriously, What does it mean? “Through the Looking Cats” would be a delightful play on words that would show our love of literature. Or something like that.
  • What? Not enough? Okay. Um, let me think. How about we take all the plastic bags we get from an average trip to the grocery store and knit those bastards into a giant 20 foot tall touque that can also double as a kids park or, or! We put it on top of that giant mesh head outside the Bow. Nailed it!
    • I don’t get what it means. I know. Art is hard to understand sometimes. “Touquing it to the Next Level” would be the first of many major art projects that will be added to the Mesh Head, hereby known as ‘Leslie’. By the time we are done Leslie will represent the inscrutable spirit of Calgarians everywhere. Or something like that.
  • Geez, you people are demanding. Okay. How about this. Next to the Giant Blue Ring we place a Giant Red Octagon, a Giant Orange Triangle, a Giant Yellow Square, a Giant Green Isosceles Triangle (for diversity), and on the other side a Giant Indigo Oval, and finally a Giant Purple Star.
    • But… Why? I don’t know. Okay? At least it will be a rainbow and people will stop laughing at the single blue ring. Or something like that.
  • I am almost out ideas, but of course I saved the best for last. We’re going to need 76 lbs of wild flower seeds, two 20 foot watering cans, a giant marionette hand and a series of ropes and pulleys. To pull this off someone is going to have to be hired to live in the miniature mushroom hut and dress up as an elf. They’ll have to be very good at yelling at children and the elderly but not use racial obscenities. Colour-blind candidates are preferred, hopefully with no family connections and the ability to still legally enter the US.
    • I… What? I call it… “The Reckoning of Saint Bacon and the Whinnying Quartet”. Don’t ask questions. It’ll cost about $200 but I can make it work on less. In the end it will amuse, bemuse, and even terrify those who see it. No one will ever question Calgary again. We will be known as the city that lived. Others will bow in fear and admiration of us. Or something like that.

You’re welcome, Calgary.


Kathleen Sawisky, esq.

Integrity Commissioner (?)