Posted in Dave Barry, zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Erratic Behavior: How I Lost A 500-ton Boulder (and other stories)

OK, how is everybody doing? I’m hanging in there thank you very much. The last couple of months have been action-packed and since I don’t have anything else to write about currently except the trend to go to wider skis and just kind of GS the runs instead of doing a bunch of nice linked turns, I’ll tell you about my July and August.

My ski epiphany was in March anyway so it’s old news and I haven’t made any turns since then, so I’ll leave all that for another day. Besides, where would I have gone skiing this summer without flying there and probably winding up duct-taped to my seat at some point? Life is complicated these days.

Anyway…where was I? Yes! Two months ago I found a 500-ton boulder that I had managed to lose at some point in the last forty years. We got a puppy five weeks ago. Shortly after that I had an unusual experience while unicycling. While all this was going on, I also began to learn some self-defense techniques. Last but not least we got a new vacuum cleaner. So basically, I’ve been swamped.

My challenge now is to weave all these threads into a semi-coherent narrative. Don’t hold your breath though.

The New Vacuum Cleaner: We got a Dyson DC35 shortly after that model came on the market in 2011. I think most people would agree that it’s reasonably cool and futuristic-looking and since then it has worked well for us, hoovering (!) up copious amounts of common household detritus such as asbestos fibres, depleted uranium tailings, graphene oxide powder, spent organopalladium catalyst particles and discarded baby teeth.

close up view of a Dyson DC35 handheld vaccum
DC35 poised to inhale discarded baby teeth

But after 10 years we suddenly decided to upgrade to the v11 Animal Absolute Pro (v11AAP). I note in passing that pretty soon, buying a vacuum cleaner from Dyson will be as complicated as ordering a beverage at Starbucks or learning medical terminology. It seems like currently there are about 30 different Dyson vacuum cleaner models to choose from and don’t even get me started on their fans.

I have a lot of carpet to cover so I’m only going to say two-OK maybe three-things about the v11AAP.

  1. The v11AAP is quieter, more powerful and easier to empty than the DC35
  2. Compared to the DC35, the v11AAP looks more like a futuristic space weapon (not that I’m stuck at the intellectual level of an 11-year old boy or anything).
  3. When you take your finger off the trigger, a deeply satisfying, transitory, thrumming vibration emanates from the guts of the thing. It feels like maybe a tiny fusion cloud is involuting and sending out gravity waves or something. It’s pretty righteous.
Armed and Dangerous

Kung Fu School: I’ve been learning a bunch of moves, holds, punches and kicks which are probably most closely related to Kung Fu. One is the Roundhouse Kick. The fellow who is teaching me has been doing this stuff for more than 50 years and has put his own spin (!) on many of the manoeuvres. No pun intended. He is fast, agile and deadly. If you ever meet him, don’t piss him off, whatever you do. Anyway, I relayed the following description to my daughter, about how to execute a Roundhouse Kick with your left lower extremity (actually, with my left lower extremity):

“Lunge forward with your right leg, turning it in at the hip and planting the right foot so that it’s pointing away from your target. Bend your left knee and kind of tuck it up behind you. Lean to your right so that you get a straight line from your left shoulder down through your femur to your left knee. Now swing that left leg rapidly around from the hip, pivot more on that right foot, supinate your left foot so that as it comes around it will strike with the outside, back edge of that foot and heel.”

Got it? Good.

My daughter’s response: “I dislocated my hip just reading that paragraph.”

The Unusual Unicycling Experience: I started riding my unicycle off the beaten track on bumpy dirt paths a few weeks ago. The upside is that if you fall off, the landing is better than on pavement. The downside is that you fall off more and you have to get back on without support. So it’s character-building.

That aside, one day I was riding along a grassy ridge, above the sightline of the adjacent road and the adjacent houses. I realized that something was amiss in my personal private area. I looked down and discovered that my workout shorts were on inside out. Nonplussed, I lay down in the grass, quickly wiggled out of my shorts, inverted them and put them back on. The only drawback was that I had happened to lie down in a patch of thistles. This was a bit unsettling. Never unicycle in a grassy field without bringing a goat.

My New Puppy “Sarge”: I already introduced Sarge aka Sergeant last time. He’s gained about 7 kg of mass in the month that we’ve had him. I may amend his name to Sergeant Neutron Star. He’s small and dense. More on him some other time. He has sharp teeth.

The Missing Boulder: About 18,000 years ago a mountain face up near Jasper, north of Calgary, cut loose and deposited a bunch of large boulders on to a glacier which was slowly heading east to lend support to the Green Party in an upcoming Federal election. That glacier collided with the Laurentide ice sheet (which was pretty much just roosting in place) and was diverted down in a southeasterly direction toward Calgary where it was able to weigh in (!) regarding an upcoming mayoral contest. Quite frankly, Geology is not my forte.

Long story short, when all that ice melted it left voters with a trail of boulders of all sizes littered in a corridor running about 350 miles from Jasper to Montana: sort of like the breadcrumbs in Hansel and Gretel but without the forest. The boulders are known as glacial erratics or just erratics.

When I first moved to Calgary in 1980, I lived in the north central part of the city. If you kept going north on Centre Street from where I lived, pretty soon you would run out of city and find yourself tooling along a gravel road flanked by fenced fields. Before long and off to your right, maybe 50 yards from the road you would see what appeared to be a fairly nondescript boulder sticking up a couple of feet above the grass.

Closer inspection would reveal a rectangular 500-ton erratic more than 10 feet high (11 feet to be precise), roughly 20 feet wide (23 feet actually) and about 30 feet long (OK, you win. 31 feet). It sat in a hollow about 7 feet deep. At this point you can ask yourself why I didn’t simply give the exact dimensions instead of giving approximate dimensions and then the exact dimensions. Great question!

Over the centuries the ground around the rock had apparently been hollowed out by buffalo. Lots of buffalo. If nothing else, the buffalo are creatures of habit. They supposedly broke up the soil as they rubbed their furry hides against the rock and over time the wind did the rest.

This is why the boulder/breadcrumb came to be known as Crater Rock. I would go there some nights after supper and attempt to climb on it along with other rock-climbing aficionados. (Trust me, I was no aficionado.)

This is not me but it is Crater Rock

The following year I moved away from Calgary, came back 6 years later, went to Med School, didn’t think about erratics during that time, then moved away again and didn’t return until 2002. After my return I occasionally asked random people over the years if they knew about this rock. Somebody told me it was in a park in the north end but you had to hike to it. That didn’t sound right and eventually I just forgot about the whole business until a couple of months ago when I was thrown off my unicycle, hit my head on a bread loaf-sized erratic and was seized by an inexplicable urge to find Crater Rock. I began to poke around.

Turns out that there are actually four erratics in North Calgary. I found out about them here:

By the process of elimination, by driving aimlessly around and finally, by drawing a line on a map from where Centre street stopped to where it picked up again a mile or so to the north, I finally figured out that Crater Rock hadn’t gone anywhere. The city grew up around it and it was still minding its own business, staying out of politics and sitting in a little park in Panorama Hills, not missing the buffalo at all. I was afraid it had been dynamited and trucked away in the name of progress. I went to visit it yesterday.

location of Crater Rock aka Buffalo Rubbing Stone
non-Crater Rock

My old friend hasn’t changed much, except maybe it’s a little more grey (like me) and now it sits on level ground.

Me and my rock: together at last

Sorry to be so maudlin but just remember this: even though not everybody was Kung Fu fighting, I might be.


Dave Barry fan and Medical Director at Rocky Mountain Analytical