Fear and loathing in Edmonton

* Remember when Bill Welychka was cool, before he went all Much More Music?

The car skidded a bit, "What the hell are you doing?" I yelled snapping awake. I turned to the driver's seat where my friend Ashwak was looking behind the car. Of course since we were on an open highway we were doing around 150 kilometres an hour.

"Wow." He said as he continued to look behind us.

"Look forward you crazy bastard!" I yelled at him as we swerved onto the shoulder of the highway. I checked to make sure he hadn't undone my seatbelt while I was sleeping, in some sort of plot to kill me by driving into a moose.

"Where are the mountains?" he asked, looking forward and easing the car back onto the road, never slowing below 145 kilometres an hour.

"What the fuck. What are you talking about? We're in Alberta of course there's not any mountains we're two hours away from Edmonton. Mountains."

"I'm so used to mountains." he protested, "Where did they go?"

"They didn't just disappear, they are behind us somewhere." I explained.

"I just noticed they were gone."

"Pull over you crazy bastard you're going to kill us all and I haven't even got to see Sloan yet. Just pull over to the side of the road and let me drive. Right there, there is a stop."

The '95 Dodge Colt slowed to a stop and my door swung open and I tumbled out. Ashwak stood up and stretched, after he exited the car. We switched places and I struggled to reach the pedals. "How can you be this tall? Jesus I can't even touch them with me toes." Luckily the seat slid forward. Now that I was driving Ashwak changed the CD. He removed Matthew Good's Underdogs and slid in his own selection. Soon Aqua filled the car.

Why were we here? What had prompted us to pick up and drive ten hours to reach this place, this wheat ridden stretch of land where the only life for another hour was probably the inbred family we had passed whose truck had gotten a flat tire. We had last stopped at Jasper National Park. It was only a few hours ago but already the mood of the trip had changed. It had turned ugly.

In Jasper we were still fresh-faced youths, with tickets to Edge Fest in our pockets and money on our debit cards. We parked with flair and walked into a restaurant that had at one point been an A&W but now was named Alberta Burger. The World Cup was on the television. The locals were arranged through out the restaurant watching some slavia beat another slavia. After purchasing a burger and a chicken nugget meal from the clerks manning the counter we settled down to plan our next step, careful not to block anyone's view of the televisions.

"What are we doing here?" I asked not for the first time.

"Eating."

"Isn't there something else? Something more to this all."

He shrugged and ate a French fry. "Like a metaphor or something?"

Exactly and what was the metaphor that we were reaching for? We were just driving through the Rocky Mountains for fun? Was it really just a way to "pay tribute to Hunter S. Thompson while watching a couple of bands play music?" Was I talking aloud?

"Look if you're going to keep up an internal monologue with yourself at least keep it internal. That fellow over there with the plaid is starting to look at us." I glanced over at the giant.

"I always favoured Bulgaria myself." I said with a smile.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Ashwak hissed at me. This was getting ugly and beyond attempts to copy a literary style it was apparent that it was time for us to depart. "Finish your drink and let's go."

My friend was on the same wavelength as me.

"What are we doing here?" I was getting sick of asking that question but the answer never seemed to reach me.

"We're waiting for my friend from Simon Fraser."

"And then we'll go to where we're staying tonight, right?" I asked. Having a place to sleep other than the Dodge Colt was important to me. While the locals in Edmonton had more teeth than those in Jasper there was still a sense that a plan was needed to survive this coming evening.

"Yes. They're going to meet us at Denny's, we'll eat and then we will go to where we're sleeping.

"Explain again about this place?"

"Okay a girl who lived in the same dorm as me at SFU her best friend's sister won the lottery. So she has ten million dollars. Now we're just going to sleep in here apartment for tonight on the floor. It's a big penthouse on the top of a building somewhere here. We're here at Denny's to meet my friend and her best friend. Then we're going to the apartment to drop off our bags then we go to the concert."

It sounded like a plan. Enter the catch.

"...and then she reported the lost wallet to the police."

I swallowed more ketchup-covered hashbrowns. "So we can't get into the apartment because you're friend's sister lost her wallet and keys last night?"

"Yes."

The impending crisis was averted by the arrival of none other than�.

Ashwak interrupted my train of thought, "Hey that's Bill Welychka."

We all turned and looked at who was entering the restaurant. It was indeed a Much Music VJ and it was indeed Bill Welychka. Our having nowhere to sleep was forgotten by all, except me.

"It isn't." one of the girls who had joined us said.

"Yeah it is." I said.

Bill was sat down in another part of the restaurant, away from our prying eyes.

It was obvious that he too was in town for Edge Fest. What could he be doing at Denny's? Only students who were spending their summer's worth of minimum wage would be eating here. Not a Much Music celebrity of the calibre of Bill Welychka, nor for that matter someone whose sister had just won ten million dollars. That thought brought my mind back to where I was sleeping tonight, a problem that was fast becoming an obsession of mine.

"I'm going to talk to him." Ashwak declared, standing up and leaving the table.

"Ask him if we can stay with him." I called after him.

With Ashwak, the common link between the girls and I, gone the conversation dried up. We sat there in silence, them thinking what a wet blanket I was being about the room and me thinking that the whole ten million dollar penthouse was not going to be all it was cracked up to be.

Ashwak returned excitedly, "It is Bill. I talked to him. He's staying at the hotel across the street and he just came in for some breakfast. He's going out to stadium after this for the concert."

"Can he get us back stage?"

"Can he get us a room?"

Finally it was time to leave. Nothing had been resolved with the exception that we had come to two conclusions. The first conclusion was that it was really cool to be eating at the same restaurant as Bill Welychka. The second conclusion was that our waitress was a bitch.

We left the Colt in an empty parking lot, or rather a place where a building used to be and now it was just an open lot where you left your car and paid for the privilege. Then we took the LRT, which is the Edmonton version of the subway, to the Commonwealth Stadium. When I was young I had seen one Royal figure or another drive around the track at the stadium and wave at the commoners. I remember sitting in the stands watching that, but I don't remember waiting in line to get in. To get into see Edge Fest however a line had formed around the stadium and even though we were an hour early we were near the back. While I certainly would not call anyone in the line Royalty they weren't common either. The number of died green heads with pieced body parts outnumbered the people who looked like they were still sane.

Enter our other friends.

They had gone on the same odyssey across the prairies that we had, leaving Kelowna after us and driving in a giant van of some sort, which I never did see. Then the line began moving. We gripped out tickets and were pushed and pulled into the mouth of the open door of Commonwealth Stadium.