"Canada 2003" story # 25

Edmonton, Alberta           August 11, 2003

Leaving Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, the Julie-and-Johnny combination once again secured a ride for all four of us.
     We rode comfortably in the backseat of a Grand Marchi, driven by an older couple named Harry and Irene Opsall. Harry was a retired cattle-rancher. He told good stories and was talkative and very nice. He and Irene even invited themselves to get a christmas card from us.
     Johnny, Adam, and Julie barely talked at all. This upset me, so I began amusing myself at their expense. We were going to Edmonton, and I said Julie was interested in the West Edmonton Mall because, "like most girls, she loves shopping. She loves shoes. And pink shirts." Johnny chimed in to say half the stuff we were carrying were Julie's pink shirts. Julie turned red and laughed, embarrassed.
     Then, I educated Harry and Irene on the popularity of boy bands, like N-SYNC. I was going to say Johnny was a big fan and cheered at all their concerts. But, Julie pre-saw that this would be coming her way, so she interjected to tell Harry and Irene that I aspired to be in such a band. Darned Julie! I had to go along with this for the next hour.
     From Harry and Irene's stop, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Adam and I hitchhiked the six hours to Edmonton ourselves. Our subsequent driver, Marv the business owner, served us our first "road cokes" of the trip. Adam and I enjoyed our rye-whiskey-and-diet-cokes, until our next stop in Calgary.
     Adam and I got stuck in the urban expressway system of Calgary for hours. It didn't help that when we got out of Marv's truck I was so drunk that my peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches (normally works of art, occasionally masterpieces) were sloppy.
     It was a tough wait. It ended when Lori Heggie, in a van, saved us from Calgary and drove us on north to Edmonton. Lori told us about her eightteen-year-old daughter, who Lori was going to see because she'd gotten beat up again by her boyfriend the last night.
     Once to Edmonton, we got to meet Lori's daughter, Nichole, and Nichole's two-year-old, Keenan. I liked the daughter a lot. She was calm, and it seemed she could handle anything, such as the way her mom told her how to lead her life over-and-over without listening nor seeing what a strong, able young woman Nichole was. I was mad at Nichole's boyfriend. And the child in this, Keenan, was so tiny yet walked and played and gave Adam a high-five. Keenan loved marshmallows.
     Adam and I went from this Edmonton family of strangers to a second one. We were with Johnny and Julie, in the house of twenty-year-old Nadia Branco. Johnny had discovered Nadia on an internet website, where she signed up her name as a potential host for travelers.
     Nadia's dark-featured Portuguese family took us in. Nadia's father, Mario, was the first person I'd ever met - besides myself - who called everyone "Johnny." It was great.
     "You call all the guys 'Johnny?" I asked.
     "Me too."
     "And all the girls 'Michelle?"
     "Not me."
     Mario was a drivers' ed. instructor. He told, in his southern European accent, "Today, I was with a girl, driving. And one car pulled out in the intersection. And she pulled out. And, I said: 'Why are you pulling out, Michelle?' And she: 'Why do you keep calling me Michelle!?' And I: 'You don't have to pull out just because the other car does."
     Nadia said that one of her friends had hated it that her father called them "Michelle."
     Nadia's brother, Nelson, said, "He's been calling me 'Johnny' for years."
     Mario "Johnny" Branco had thought he was one-of-a-kind and was a little disappointed to meet another "Johnny"-caller.
     "I'm glad to see it," I said. "It gives me hope ... of a world where everyone calls everyone 'Johnny." I was so happy.
     I was even happier that Nelson "Johnny" Branco took us out for latin-dancing. In our first Canadian nightclub, shaven-headed Johnny had on his over-sized jeans and over-sized checkered shirt. He and I pumped each other up, then asked to short, curly-haired, dark-skinned Mexican girls, "Would you and your friend like to dance with me and my friend?" It was fun to watch, beside me, Johnny - normally a dominant, confident force on the dance floor - twirling girls with an intense, lost look on his face, eyes baby-deep in concentration.
     Julie didn't dance any, but her presence was felt. In a place where the other latin girls there had spent hours getting dressed up, Julie sat in her big, gray sweatshirt.
     On the ride back to Nelson's, Julie and Johnny told about the six-hour lift they'd received from Medicine Hat to Edmonton. They'd ridden with an especially dim bulb. Their driver was a born-again christian and a wanna-be preacher.
     He told my friends one thing he'd learned was to eliminate the "ism's." "Like socialism - I mean, we're all human!"
     He said this to Julie: "You know who you look like, exactly? Well, not exactly. But, like exact twins, ... only different. You know? You look like my cousin's wife, only the complete opposite. Like, she's heavy-set, and you're not so-much. And, she talks a lot, and you, you're quiet. Like exact twins. Only, different." You know?
     Johnny had to fall asleep during that ride, because he couldn't handle it anymore ...

But, I was even happier the next day, when I got to chase animals.
     Nadia took us to Whyte Ave., a shopping/bohemian street, and around town a bit. We skipped North America's biggest mall in West Edmonton, because it was just about the last place in all of Canada we wanted to see.
     It was while we were cutting across the University of Alberta's courtyard that I got three separate chances to chase down a jackrabbit. The jackrabbits were much faster than I, but they turned very wide corners, so I hoped to shield myself behind pine trees and maybe cut them off. I did a lot of running and not much rabbit-nabbing on my first two tries. Once, I saw the jackrabbit sort of skipping, in a show-offy fashion, as if to taunt me like I wasn't a real threat. That just made me madder.
     Adam "Johnny" "Rohr-ski" Rohr helped me with the third rabbit, and he sent it hopping right at me. It was coming right for me. It was kind of scary. I prepared my hands to nab'em! But, at the last second, he turned away.
     Ahem ... did I say it was "kind of scary?" Um ... yeah, that whole line was a typo. I mean, I didn't write that. Not an experienced animal-chaser like me. Oh, no. That was, um ... aliens made me write that.
     Yeah, so ... I must say that rabbits are among the best animals to chase, for all those animal-chasers out there, and I know there are many. They're much better than grizzly bears. I wouldn't be scared of grizzly bears, either, of course. Oh, no.
     I bet Nadia's father doesn't do that!
     ... And I was even happier!!! when I got to lock lips with a local Canuck chick that night!

On the way to the Black Dog pub that night, we brought Nadia's "Trainspotting" soundtrack CD for car music.
     Johnny wanted us all to have our own theme songs for the night, so he said the first song on the CD would be his, the second mine, etc.
     We anticipated the first song. A marching, happy-energy beat with a strut to it started off. "Bop-bop ba-da, bop-bop ba-da-duh-da-da. Bop-bop ba-da, bop-bop ba-da-duh-da-da ..." The first line began: "Well, here comes Johnny in again ..." Johnny and I erupted happily, and began marching/strutting to the song in our seats.
     The song continued. "Well, I'm just a modern guy ... I've got a lust for life! (Bop-bop ba-da-duh-da-da.) Lust for life!" The song was called "Lust for Life." None of the following songs were any good (Julie's song sounded like a floating butterfly/another one sounded like a porno.). But, the night was starting out right.
     At the bar, Johnny and I met two really drunk girls. One was called Tamara, and there was either a connection between her and I, or else it was just the fact that she was really drunk.
     Tamara had a pug face, like a bear. It was flat and wide and cute. She had smooth, light-tan skin, short hair, and admiring eyelashes. We danced a salsa beside the bar, and she tried one of Adam's innovative "Charge" manoeuvres on me as I spun her, but with inprecise accuracy. We kissed afterwards; Tamara was a fun one to kiss.
     She sobered up quite quickly, and she was a cool girl. Sipping at the bar, she said she was my age, she loved Canada, and her favorite thing about Canada was "northern Ontario," where she was from. Outside the Black Dog, we kissed good-bye.
     But, the significance of this event was not lost on anyone! The other Canada-trekkers watched and took notes. Our Canada-crossing love slump had died and was put to rest!
     First hook-up of the trip! (Better late than never.) That's big, baby! That's big!!!

- Justin "Johnny" Breen
with Lucas "Johnny" Seipp-Williams, Adam "Johnny" Rohr, and Julie "Johnny" Zollmann

Thanks to Harry & Irene Opsall; Marv; and Lori, Nichole, & Keenan for the lifts!
Much thanks to Nadia, "Johnny" (Mario), Maria, and Nelson Branco for the place to crash!

NOTEABLE WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS: three lucky jackrabbits

"I'm worth a million in prizes ... I've got a lust for life! (Bop-bop ba-da-duh-da-da.)" - Iggy Pop, "Lust for Life"

"The only logical response to an animal that lives obsessed with avoiding capture is to chase it." - Jose Ortega y Gassett

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