“When this world turns its back on you,
Hang in and do that sweet thing you do.
You just roll with it, baby.”
– Steve Winwood
Never before had I seen mountains outside of photographs. So when it suddenly dawned on me that the clouds on the horizon were in fact snow covered peaks, I radioed Jake in excitement. Hot damn, we were actually doing it.
Calgary of 1991 was hitting a recession, so it wasn’t exactly the boomtown it later became. We only stopped long enough to fuel up because I couldn’t wait another minute to see the mountains close up. That anticipation would turn to anxiety the second we got past the foothills.
Driving in the mountains turned out not to be thrilling at all. It was downright terrifying. For my entire life, I could just about watch a dog run away for days, the horizon was so flat. Here there was chasm after certain-death-chasm around every turn. How are there not millions of cars off the embankments in these places? It was white-knuckle driving until we got past Banff and enjoyed some flat double-lane highway.
The village of Lake Louise is more or less a tourist block with scattered homes around it. It’s not really what anyone would call a town. If you wanted anything more, a half hour drive south to Banff was your only option. To add further isolation, the Chateau was another 5km up the mountain.
Chateau Lake Louise is a monolith as amazing as the mountains surrounding it. Let’s just say it’s a few steps up from a Motel 6. My senses were blown as I witnessed Victoria Glacier behind the lake. How was any of this even possible? And the air…it was more pure than anything I could remember without even a hint of contaminants. I felt like Captain Kirk beamed down to a strange new world.
Beauty aside, those radical differences also made it initially unsettling. This wasn’t a fun vacation spot. This was now officially my home. Everything familiar I had ever known…rolling plains, family, friends, all of it was miles away. I might as well have been dropped on Mars.
Once Junior Mint finished his shift, he helped direct me and Jake to Human Resources where we were “processed”.
“John Parrot.” It felt like I was enlisting for military service. Not a bad idea in hindsight. I could have used the free education and especially a haircut.
I raised an eyebrow. “My size?”
“Your job is prep chef. I need your size for the uniform.”
I give her the particulars and she returns with a set of chef uniforms. Even got the fancy hat.
She goes over a checklist and hands me a key. “This is your room key. It’s late so show up tomorrow.” Again she digs through a list and hands me and Jake another key.
“You’ll both stay in the hotel tonight. Your orientation is Monday at 9am. Information is on the sheet. Be suited up and ready.” She looks to Jake behind me. “Next…”
So I’m a chef now? This should be interesting. Jake comes back with his uniform and it seemed he was chosen for housekeeping. And as fortune would have it, we would spend our first night in luxury as the Chateau floated the bill for a free night’s stay.
I stood like a dumbfounded idiot towards the immense luxury before us. We were placed in a top-end corner suite facing the lake. Jake runs inside and claims a bed. Thank goodness there were two of them.
“Sweet Mother of…”
That room was big enough to host a regulation hockey game. And the best part? The view. I’d close my eyes, and when they opened it was almost a surprise the incredible beauty was still there.
“Think about it man, big shots slept here. Oh wow, I’m sleeping on a bed where Presidents have farted!” I marvel at the privilege.
Jake is checking the place out. “Holy —!! Check out this bar fridge!” Suffice to say, it wasn’t a cheap mini fridge. It was a balls-to-the-wall stocked with quality hooch.
“Don’t take any of it! They probably charge $50 for a beer in this place!” I warn Jake. The luxury then makes me wonder…
“You think our apartment is going to be half this nice?”