The road to Edmonton
We’ve arrived into a hot end of summer, cool evening nights. My Betta fish, Eduardo, the the cory cats, Johnboy and Jim Bob, made the long drive– they’re doin’ fine.
My girlfriend and I turned the drive to a new city into a lovely road trip– Salmon Arm, Golden (check out Mary’s Motel in town instead of staying at a place right off the highway!), stopping to pick yarrow, goldenrod and sage along the way. Drove to Brooks so that we had a day at Dinosaur Provincial Park– it’s like Mars on Earth. Love it. We ducked up to Tyrell Museum then drove along the 56 northbound. We were watching out for a place to stop and have a picnic and were lured into Rowley. There were faded painted signs along the road showcasing museum schoolhouse, etc.
It’s a long story…too long to detail completely for a blog, but it was the oddest experience, ever. I was reminded of The Twilight Zone/Stepford Wives/Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but M was thinking more along the lines of The Hills Have Eyes. It was a ghost hamlet, but there was this little field area covered by RVs. In the near foreground a troupe of little kids on baby quads buzzed across our line of sight. We caught sight of people moving about slowly, in a kind of dreamy conviction, in and out of the saloon where live music was playing. There was a grassy area with about 12 picnic tables and we set our cooler upon it, and organized our little lunch.
An older woman with lots of makeup and bright red lips was walking with a man in his fifties. The woman leaned toward us, we who had sat at a picnic table and prepared our sandwiches, and said pointedly,
“They make pizza on Saturday.” She nodded firmly.
M and I smiled, slightly quizzically.
In the near distance I heard the burring sounds of numerous quads. This time a grown-up sized quad was being driving by a teen. Hooked to the back was a wooden flat deck, and a youth was standing in the middle of the deck, in a slight crouch, arms held sideways, prairie surfing. “Look!” I said, excitedly.
“Don’t point!” M warned, sotto voce.
The surfer quad pair were followed by the small school of baby quads. People kept going in and out of the saloon doors. A group of three woman moved toward the picnic tables, and closer to us. We, who were wide-eyed, eating our cheese bun sandwiches….
“They have pizza here the last Saturday of every month,” the toughest woman stated. “You better put away your lunch things and go order a pizza.”
Our faces frozen, morsels of bread slightly dry in our mouth, we nodded in a friendly way.
“Does anybody live in this town?” I asked.
“It’s a heritage town. Six people live here, and the Saloon is open twenty-four hours, seven days a week,” she said proudly.
“Neat!” I said enthusiastically. A six-person town! You didn’t see that kind of thing so very often.
“They make pizza,” she reiterated. “You order it in the Saloon, then you line up there,” (she pointed and we looked and sure enough there was a line growing on the other side of the street). “They’re pretty big, so you can probably share one. You better go and order it.”
Really, it had become rather unbearable.
“Or there’s gonna be a lynchin’!” I joshed.
The toughest woman did not think this was funny. She held out a slip of paper. There was a short list of pizza selections and square boxes you could tick off. (M thought it looked like a Yahtzee scorepaper.) “You fill in your order on this, then you go pick up your pizza at the community hall. You better put away your sandwiches and get your pizza.” She sauntered off, toward the line up.
M was freaked out by now and I was waffling between indignation and weirded out. “They’re pointing at us!” M hissed. Facing each other from across the picnic table, she had a view of the hall and I kept my eyes on the swinging doors of the Saloon.
“Let’s just eat our sandwiches and go,” M said.
“We’re not ordering their f-ing pizza,” I spluttered. “We’re not going to drink their Kool-aid! Is this a town or not? Don’t they want tourists? There were signs! And there was a post office sign. Why is there enforced pizza? Are these private picnic tables?!”
“There’s more of them than us,” M pointed out.
True, I thought.
Our sandwiches, no longer delicious, were swallowed hastily. We left town. But I stopped to take a photo of the Rowley Pizza People standing in line at the community centre.
That’ll learn yah! I thought, Nina Simone streaming through my mind.
For other-worldly experience check out Pizza Night in Rowley every last Saturday of the month during the summer. Order it, certainly. But I don’t know what will happen if you eat it….
*Note* We looked up “Rowley, Pizza Night” in google and it all made more sense after that, but the (dis)embodied experience M and I had that day was freaky far out!