According to Google Search, Sam Gunsch* and Shayla Huber* appear in The Ephemeral Tourist
precisely one time each. Sam’s count is not correct because I’ve written about too many poker games for him to appear only in Groundhog Weekend
, but I must have given him an inappropriate blog-fake name which I cannot remember. Shayla appears in The Squirrel Wars
, and it is strangely synchronistic that these separate posts both refer to rodents in their titles.
Email records do not go back far enough, but I reckon that it was 1997 when my office manager at the Alberta Environmental Network advised me that he had successfully filled our summer student position. Sam treated the news with an odd ominousness, as though he had hired someone I knew and did not like. I asked him if he had hired an ex-girlfriend of mine.
He hadn’t, but he was
concerned that he had hired someone who reminded him of Anna Nicole Smith and he was concerned that in doing so he had inadvertently created a work environment that would be too difficult for me to work in. I assured him that I was sure I could handle it.
Shayla did not remind me of Anna Nicole Smith, though she was attractive and blonde and I did develop a crush on her over the course of the summer. I have no memory of the project she worked on. Only that she had a white and blue travel mug branded for the environmental club she had helped found at Concordia College, that she intervened for the squirrel’s life as depicted in The Squirrel Wars
, and that we sort of hung out together at the end-of-the-summer party at Tim Hobbema’s family farm where the biggest bonfire I have ever seen in my life lit up the night. When the flames burned down Shayla and I discussed the possibility of us running through the fire together unscathed.
Since that night, I have seen Shayla Huber only one other time - two or three years later - at a chance meeting in West Edmonton Mall. She had just completed a summer landscaping and was as tanned as a swimsuit model.
Ten years later, Shayla must have Google searched herself and found her mention in this blog. Prior to the invention of FaceBook, my strategy for making connections with lost acquaintences was to use their real names in a blog post in hopes that Google Search might one day direct them here. Sometimes it worked!
Edmonton BeerGeeks Anonymous is an association of home brewers and beer fans who meet monthly and convene social events to share information and celebrate the apparently growing practice of making your own craft beer. Over the summer they hosted the beer equivalent of a pot-luck party somewhere in Ritchie, and they have convened five beer-tasting events aboard the High Level Bridge Streetcar, the last of which was last night.
Mississippi Malik received two tickets to the final High Level Streetcar event for his birthday - from Beatrice Cassidy is my guess. I imagine that they both had forgotten about them as Beatrice had made a date to meet with another of my favourited OKCupid prospects for that evening, and Malik texted me on short notice asked if I wanted to join him on the streetcar.
At 7pm sharp, the Edmonton Radial Railway Society's antique Australian streetcar rumbled west from Old Strathcona towards the High Level Bridge. The rail lines it uses run through the neighborhoods on the south escarpment of the North Saskatchewan River ~ my old stomping grounds when the focal point of the south side environmental groups was the Environmental Resource Centre
"That house there," I said to Malik as the streetcar rumbled past Lyin' Pete Theodore's house, "that's where the crooked first contractor we hired to build our house lived. When we sued him we learned that title to the house is in the names of his wife and his dead father. That fact always suggested premeditation to me," I added.
"Across the street from Lyin' Pete Theodore's house was the old Environmental Resource Centre where I used to work when I was with the Alberta Environmental Network." Malik made a comment that he didn't expect this would turn out to be a guided tour of my personal history.
"That house there," I continued, "That's where Mark Twitchell - the guy who was inspired by the Dexter
t.v. series - killed that guy he lured to the garage."
"If you go south on 105th street," I added, "You'll get to the south side Rosie's Restaurant where Donald Smart was a dishwasher. He's that guy that killed Jo-Ann Dickson and stuffed her torso in a suitcase." I was about to add that I once worked at the Alberta Environmental Network with this girl, Shayla Huber, who had gone to school with Donald Smart and she had wondered if the bullying he'd suffered at school as a scorned pre-vocational student had anything to do with his crime, but at that moment the streetcar entered the Duggan Street Tunnel and we were plunged into a distracting darkness.
Eventually the Australian streetcar stood perched in the middle of the top of Edmonton's High Level Bridge. BeerGeeks filled cups of Ribstone Creek Lager and passed them around. We drank our samples. Malik discussed the volumes of beer he has brewed with Ribstone Creek Staff. And we all watched the sun set from one of the best vantage points in the city.
At one point, Malik said something that I only caught the latter half of. It sounded like, "... something something
Shayla Huber in Rankin Inlet."
"Wait a sec," I halted. "Did you say 'Shayla in Rankin Inlet'?"
"Oh hey, yea," Malik replied, "That's right; I saw your comment on that on her FaceBook page. That was kind of weird..."
"How do you know Shayla Huber?" I asked. It turned out that Mississippi Malik and Shayla Huber attended school together, dated for a while in the early '90s, and still see each other from time to time when he is passing through her part of British Columbia.
That was a funny thing.