Dear Friends and Relatives: Christmas 1995
Once again Christmas is long-past, which means any day now that ridiculous letter from the Paukerts should be showing up. And scoff you should, given the quality of previous efforts. But hold on! Maybe if you knew a little more about the effort that goes into this yearly epistle, you'd be less inclined to use it as a kleenex-substitute.
Not many people know this (nor care, apparently) but our yearly publication cycle begins way back in August when the usual irate group of Calgary citizens escorts Gary to the western edge of the city, waving pitchforks and shovels and wishing him (what could loosely be translated as) godspeed and goodluck. After a grueling trek into the mountains, Gary, wolves nipping at his heels, battles waist-deep snowdrifts to reach a small cave, located 10,000' high in the High Rock Range on the British Columbia border. There, eating only lichens scraped from the rocks, Gary waits for the CHRISTMAS INSPIRATION FAIRY to arrive. With only a marmot-skin loincloth to protect him from the bitter cold, Gary dances around the fire, striking himself repeatedly on the head with the traditional chunks of Rundle Limestone, a ritual guaranteed to attract the C.I.F., (not to mention numerous mental-health professionals looking for Ph.D. subject matter). Then one night, as Gary sleeps shivering on his pallet of stone, the C.I.F. appears and sprinkles Magic Inspiration Dust (TM) in his ears, AND THE WRITING BEGINS!
For the next few weeks, Gary scribble furiously, using only a piece of charcoal and scraps of birchbark. Each morning, the scraps are carried down the mountain by friendly woodland creatures to a 1960's-style hippie commune whose members transcribe the words and send them on to Barb in Calgary for publication. Yes, it IS a complex and tedious procedure. But we here at PCL Industries are committed to producing only the finest in Christmas Letter entertainment. Only in this way are we able to proudly present to you this, THE 9th ANNUAL PAUKERT CHRISTMAS LETTER. (Aren't you just wetting your pants in anticipation of next year's gala 10th Anniversary spectacular?).
This year's top news story is that, early in 1995, the vanguard of the SPACE ALIEN invasion force that we have been warning you about for years, landed at Gary's place of employ, Norcen Energy. These aliens, bent on controlling the minds of all employees, replaced senior management personnel with new managers who APPEAR HUMAN but are actually Reptilian Slime Beings from the planet Thalax. No, there isn't any PROOF of this, but it is the only theory which adequately explains the bizarre, incompetent manner in which the company has been run this year. Ok, fine, MAKE those funny sidelong glances at each other, see if I care. The point is, in 1995 Norcen became a very bad place to work. No less that 5 times during the year, people were laid off. The familiar drill is that everyone is told to go tremble in their offices while black-hooded outplacement consultants hunt down the stragglers in the hallways with their evil scythes. The combination of job insecurity and incompetent management is stunning and bad morale would be an improvement!
My response to this? When I'm not hiding under my desk, I've been looking for a new job! I'd hoped to keep working internationally, but that really cuts down on the number of possibilities. There WAS an excellent job offer last May, with only one problem: The company wanted me to work on, (and even travel to), Iraq. Any oil found, of course, would be split between the company and the government, headed by that famous Space Alien, Saddam Hussein. I would have had a hard time sleeping knowing that the profits I was making were killing Iraqis and furthering Saddam's nuclear weapons program! So the answer was no, but as of PCL press time I was negotiating an offer with Crestar Energy, (unfortunately just working western Canada for now, there go the frequent flier miles). I have checked, though, and unlike at Norcen, there are no flying saucers hovering over Crestar's building.
Katherine is 3-fingers old, ("I'M NOT A BABY ANYMORE"), and a promising first-year student at the highly-regarded academic shrine known as the Kid's Country Club Pre-School. You might say she likes pre-school - she has cried because she can only go 2 days per week instead of 3 days, like the 4-year-olds do. At home the computer mouse was just too attractive to play with, so now daddy has taught her all sorts of fun things to do on the computer. Big mistake. Now the house is filled with annoying 'boop's and beep's' as she plays computer spelling and drawing games. We're working on using daddy's calculator buttons to add numbers, too. She will be taught NOTHING of geophysics. I need my job and there's enough competition in this industry already. Katherine also likes to play baseball, football and hockey with Daddy down in the No-Longer-Evil, Developed Basement the size of Iowa.
So what did Barb do all last year?, they always ask me. Well, first of all, she finally had 4 hours per week to sit in the bathtub, sip champagne, and eat bon-bons and peeled grapes while Katherine was in pre-school. And she deserved EVERY MINUTE of it! Mrs. Consistent then did much the same as in past years, with the garden, and leading the Tuesday night Bible Study taking up what free time Katherine allows her. (We really should change the name of that study since it meets on Mondays now). After a week of my saying 'What should I say about you in the PCL this year,' Barb has vowed to do some wild and crazy things in 1996 so that I have more subject material for these paragraphs. Keep an eye out in your local Newspaper, too.
The year had a pretty scary start with word coming from Colorado that Grampa Paukert needed quadruple bypass surgery. Gary flew down and hung around for a couple days while Dad went through this. Gary, (a.k.a. Mr. Squeamish), managed to spend the night with Grampa in the recovery room without passing out, despite the 14 miles of assorted tubing coming out of him, (Grampa, not Gary). If it is possible to 'fly through' a quadruple bypass, Grampa did, and 11 months later was in the batting cage getting ready for a Rockies Fantasy Baseball Camp in Tucson in January.
In July, Gary, and his friend James Smith, joined 700 other lunatics from the province of Alberta who endured a 19-hour bus ride in order to participate in the 1995 Seattle Promise Keepers Conference. The Seattle conference was one of 13 held in stadia across the U.S. this year involving nearly 1 million Christian men. In Seattle, over 64,000 of us sang, prayed, listened to 8 fantastic speakers and cheered as we launched paper airplanes, beachballs and giant styrofoam 747 gliders from the 3rd deck of the Kingdome, (what did you expect?, there was a crital mass of testosterone there). The teaching, though , was consistently engrossing and life-changing. Gary is counting the days until PK Seattle '96, or a possible Vancouver edition, of 25-30 conferences planned for 1996.
'Only' two trips abroad this year, one to Argentina and one to Trinidad for the annual 'Geological -Conference-Held-in-a-Tropical-Site-So-When-Its-A-Big-Waste-Of-Time-At-Least-Everybody-Gets-a-Good-Tan. It was and I did. Though Trinidad was interesting, it comes in about last on the list of nice tropical spots. To pay for all that warmth, in November, Gary traveled with friend Robert Oggy to the Heart of the Canadian Football League, Taylor Field in Regina, Saskatchewan, to watch our Calgary Stampeders play in the Grey Cup against Baltimore. That the Cup now resides in the USA for the first time ever tells you that the Gary/Robert Championship Curse is as effective now as it was in 1991 in Winnipeg.
In September, for the first time since a certain child was born, Gary and Barb got to go backpacking again. Thanks to our volunteer babysitter, (sister Anne from Colorado), we took off with friends Dave and Laura Godard to the Ghost River Wilderness for a weekend. Strange but true fact: Our packs weighed the same as 4 years ago, but we were carrying more weight. How could this be? Our bodies puished us for weeks, but it was great to be back in the backcountry. Barb played a funny joke on Gary by falling in a boulderfield, almost breaking her arm and coming within inches of a fractured larynx. She wanted to see if her true love, (she continues to insist that it's me), would run the 10 miles back to the car to save her life, but the joke was on her: Gary is old and fat and would have croaked long before she did!
(Psychiatrist's note: PCL author apparently cannot decided whether to refer to himself in the first or third person. Call authorities and recommend he get immediate treatment).
Ever more DREADED VACATION RECAP paragraph: Yes, back to our nomadic ways in 1995 we loaded more equipment than was used in Desert Storm into the Pathfinder and headed south. First stop: The Akamina-Kishenena on the North Fork of the Flathead River in far S.E. British Columbia. This area was flooded out in the great flood of June '95 so we spent more time driving IN the rivers than over them. Once safely removed from civilization we camped in some great country - all the while trying no to think about the fact that the A-K is the area into which they dump any and all wayward Grizzlies that start bothering people in Yellowstone N.P. (We saw a few juvenile delinquent bears loitering on street corners, but managed to remain un-eaten). On across Montana and into central Idaho where we followed the Lolo Trail - a series of 4WD roads which run along a 100-mile ridge that Lewis and Clark followed on their 'Way to the Western Sea.' Camping at 8,000 feet in September in the northern Rockies, we were daring it to snow on us, but not this year. On beyond Idaho to Hell's Canyon on the Snake River and then up into northeast Oregon's Wallawa Mountains, where we didn't get to do near enough hiking. Katherine's range is about 3 km now, so we'll be back again when she's older. We finished up taking advantage of the Erickson's in Tri-Cities, Washington and the Olson's in Spokane, the back to Canada.
You did it! You stayed awake through another PCL. See, if you drink six or eight cups of coffee beforehand, and exercise vigorously during the reading, ANYONE can stay conscious. We hope this finds you happy, healthy and having been major-ly blessed of God in 1995. Don't forget to visit, because, after all, we do miss you all terribly and it gives us an excuse to clean up the house.
Gary, Barb, Katherine, Kootenai, & Toquima.
P.S.: We are excited to announce that the PCL will soon be available YEAR-ROUND (groan) to those of you with computers. Check out the up-to-the-minute PCL goings on at our Internet Website at http:\\PCL.pointless.trash.com! Just kidding, BUT, we would love to hear from any and all, E-mail style. We're at 76355.3470@Compuserve.com at home, and Gary is (was?) at email@example.com at work. Guaranteed virus-free, (not to mention our computer)!