A fount of literary inspiration is nestled somewhere deep in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. A little place they call Banff. The name is Scottish in origin, according to what I just read on the official website. An appellation borne by both Canada’s oldest national park and the main town within said park. In the vernacular of this great land of beavers and poutine, most talk of Banff centers around the park. Yet contrary to what some people (mostly east of Winnipeg) believe, a town called Banff exists. I present this morning to the fine folks of Planet Earth an exhibit of original photographic evidence of its existence.
Everybody knows there is no Walt Disney World in Canada. But there’s Banff, and that’s close enough. It’s a town where the streets are all named after woodland critters. Where you can buy a shot of vodka from a street vendor like you’d buy a hot dog in a different city where provincial liquor laws aren’t nearly as lax. If that sort of thing turns your crank. During the height of ski season, half the population suddenly becomes Australian…
…and if he protests and calls you every filthy name† in the book, hug him anyway. A smile is a friendly greeting to a dog who has interacted regularly with humans since birth. But to a wild dog who knows nothing of human civilization, a smile is always an invitation to a fight, irrespective of the smiler’s true motive⁂. How severely depressing it must be to go through life assuming every smile has hostile intentions behind it. I think we can all agree that the world needs much less depressing.
* Western Canada as a geographic region and sociopolitical entity is traditionally thought to consist of four provinces. As in, not two. Four. Out of those four provinces, two of them (who just happen to be the only two with oceanic coastlines, and thus potential ports to meet the all-important economic needs of a hypothetical new nation) have officially gone on record stating their desire to remain part of the Canadian family in spite of any current misgivings with the feds, and want no part of all That. The other two aren’t officially pursuing That either, but their respective governments are all too happily eager to milk That for all That’s worth in order to score cheap political brownie points with their constituents, because pathological misanthropy is the very heartbeat and lifeblood of today’s conservatism. I hence outright refuse to call That by its common name of Wexit. In light of actual observable reality, the Wexit label is a misnomer. Despite its origins as a satirical hashtag intended to ridicule the whole concept, Rednexit is clearly a more accurate (and therefore much more appropriate) term.
** The choice of pronoun here was deliberate. The Rednexiteers are another one of those angry white men’s movements who collectively kneel before the high altar of St. Cheeto of Mar-a-Lago. Like the Proud Boys. Or Super Happy Fun America. Or any one of those online incel gangs. Or whatever shady forum of the dark web Alexandre Bissonnette was involved with. If you ever meet a Rednexiteeress, you can bet your bottom dollar she became one largely at the insistence of her laid-off oil worker husband.
† Should the filthy names in question be racist or homophobic in nature, hug him twice. The predilection to blame all one’s problems on some marginalized minority group is one of the symptoms of Stage IV conservatism. As an aside, nothing says “my brain never graduated from junior high school” quite like the use of the word retard as a derogatory epithet. Or any portmanteau incorporating either or both of that word’s syllables. For fuck’s sake, if you absolutely MUST insult people, do it with class.
⁂ If the recent forty-third general election cycle is any indication, the Conservative Party of Canada is seemingly fond of using analogies involving dogs. I figured I may as well speak their language.
There’s an old koan which speaks of a fish and its relationship with water. A fish lives its entire life in water, but does not understand what water is. Water is such a ubiquitous and all-permeating part of the fish’s reality that the fish is completely unaware of it. It is unable to make any distinction between water and non-water, because it is oblivious to the existence of either. The fish finally understands when it is removed from the water, but dies shortly after. I reckon it must be the same way with people who live their entire lives surrounded by beauty…‡
‡ That last sentence is in all likelihood a steaming hot pile of horseshit, but I nevertheless thought it would make a swell introduction to these photographic and videographic mementos of my many travels to Wild Rose Country.
Every October for the last four years (time and the availability of a suitable location permitting), I have taken to constructing a makeshift effigy of myself for the purposes of offering it as an erotic sacrifice to the dying sun. Raw materials used to build the wicker man include three or four long thin pieces of wood to form the skeleton and plenty of dry foliage to stuff it with, and several items of clothing I own that have since become unwearable on account of being threadbare or having gaping holes in the crotch or what have you. The whole thing is held together with twine. A small log of rotting wood typically serves as the effigy’s head, preferably a log in such a state of decomposition that one can easily bore a hole in it without any special tools, but not so rotten that it falls apart the second you try to mount it on the effigy. This year I was unable to find such a log, so I had to improvise a bit…
Part of the tradition of building one of these wicker men is the inclusion of a handwritten list of everything you would like to lose in the coming year, which gets burned along with the effigy. This year I killed two birds with one stone and wrote my list directly on the effigy’s head. You can make out the words “WHATEVER CAUSES WRITER’S BLOCK” in this next picture if you tilt your head just right…
After dousing the whole thing in booze (this year’s poison: Bacardi), the magick happens with one flick of the Bic. It’s always a hoot to see what kind of eldritch ghouls manifest in the flames. Here’s the Grim Reaper peering out from the effigy’s innards…
Several ghouls can be seen in this next shot, if you know where to look. Methinks the prominent one on the bottom right bears an uncanny resemblance to the late great musician Nash the Slash. If you haven’t the foggiest who that is on account of the fact that you’re non-Canadian and/or millennial (or simply because you’re among the untold millions who wouldn’t know good music if it came out and bit ’em on the arse), you know what Google’s for.
The smoke had a distinct fruity smell to it. I’m not sure if that was because of the Bacardi or because of the discarded exoskeleton of last year’s soul, but the way it hit my nostrils definitely killed something in me. Something I needed to have killed. I found myself spiritually naked. Naked is good. Always. Walking around in the nude is most certainly liberating.