Jun 27

The Swimming Pool at the Palliser


Last week I stayed at the Fairmont Palliser, in beautiful downtown Calgary. I was in town on business, though there was some extra time for pleasure in the evenings. What do I mean by pleasure?


The swimming pool.


I generally despise swimming pools in hotels. They’re too cold and they stink and they’re lousy with undisciplined children. The Palliser is special. Children are quiet, and if they aren’t quiet you can point subtly at the signs that say, in classy Fairmont fashion, “Shut your yappy kids up.”


Whales and dolphins making whale and dolphin sounds, and birdsong, with backing synthesizer, fill the room at just the right volume. This music is the worst in the history of world, after hot new country, UNLESS you are in the swimming pool at the Palliser.


It is an unusually warm pool. The hot tub is spacious. Lovely tile! The steam room smells like eucalyptus or something.


I had forgotten my swimming trunks so I had to buy a racy new pair of Speedos at The Bay. They were the tiny sorts of Speedos I adore, the ones that are sure to make you look poorly endowed and French.


Normally the Palliser is full of pretentious business types like me. But last week was different.


The Sled Island Festival was on and the Palliser was the host hotel. It was pouring and cold outside, so the pool was full of 37 year-old men with beards and tattoos and a little extra around the waistline. The gentlemen broke several rules:


  • No diving
  • No drinking cans of Coors Light in the pool
  • No shouty cussing


Normally this sort of thing makes me want to call the police. Yet there was something about these musicians, or fans of musicians, that made me both happy and sad and not at all like writing a stern letter to the hotel manager. I was happy to see men only a few years younger than me enjoying themselves like twelve-year old boys. It was hopeful and inspiring. I was sad because I was incapable of it. Or so I convinced myself.


Since then I have been in the strange business of unconvincing myself. Why shouldn’t I be like a beardy musician? After all, I’m going to die one day.




I leave this afternoon, for a family holiday. We will stop for a couple of nights at the Palliser and I am going to wear not-Speedos and try intensely to act like a twelve-year-old with my daughters. No: ten.