This morning, I woke up in Fort McMurray, Alberta; it’s the furthest north I’ve ever been, unless you count being on an airplane. Then I drove four-and-a-half hour to Cold Lake, Alberta, passing rolling fields full of cattle, giant bales of hay and oversized load vehicles. My soundtrack: an odd mash-up of Kanye West, the Spring Awakening cast recording and LCD Soundsystem. I arrived in Cold Lake with a pair of CF-18 Hornets doing circuits and bumps. I’d arrived in my spiritual home, and I felt like Tom Cruise at the beginning of Top Gun, when he’s chasing the F-14 down the runway and pumping his fist in triumph.
You may not know this about me…but before there was The Phantom of the Opera, before there were the Minnesota Vikings, before there was Pearl Jam, there was aviation. That’s right: I used to be fascinated with aircraft, and at one point may have chosen “jet” as the very first word I spoke on this planet. There was a time, not so long ago, that I could identify virtually any aircraft I saw; when I was in a car, the other cars on the road weren’t mere automobiles but rather make-believe airplanes representing countless different airlines. My family and I used to travel to airshows instead of baseball stadiums; I have, at various points, seen the Red Arrows, the Thunderbirds, the Snowbirds and the Blue Angels perform. Oh, and I know every word to Top Gun from start-to-finish, and it’s not just because of a lingering man-crush on Tom Cruise.
In the midst of this airplane obsession, which featured many a trip to the Thunder Bay airport to watch F-18s take off and land, Cold Lake became a sort of Mecca for me. I’d never been here before–because really, what reason could anyone possibly have to visit Cold Lake unless it was for work?–but now that I’m here I feel like a kid again. In fact, upon arriving, I drove straight to the Cold Lake museum, guarded by an old T-33. Of course, the museum was closed “for the season” (Cold Lake has a season?), and so resigned, I drove into town and checked into my hotel (whose hot tub is on the fritz…honestly, it’s like they’re anticipating my arrival). Now I’m doing something I haven’t done, literally, in years: watching MuchMusic, or at least listening to it in the background.
Fort McMurray, meanwhile, is a place which caters to oil workers; as evidence, look no further than the fact that some of my coworkers stayed in a hotel with free access to the Playboy channel. Oddly enough, the place reeks of money, right down to the cost of your average Fort McMurray hotel room (upwards of $200/night). And while it would take a particular kind of person to live here, it’s in a beautiful spot. It doesn’t inspire the same feelings of awe as being up in Northern Ontario, but it’s close. As for life on the road, it quickly turns into a series of routines, like watching lots of t.v., doing a lot of reading and eating every single meal in a restaurant. This might sound appealing, but it quickly becomes monotonous. Believe me: I love spending other people’s money, especially when there aren’t any strings attached (Partner, you have no idea how much better this is). But eating restaurant food, in addition to make you pleasantly plump, actually makes you yearn for home-cooked meals.
Before I can do that, however, I have five more presentations to go. It’s been a good week so far; I’ll keep you posted as it becomes necessary.