In the loop

There is some really really nice housing in Marda Loop. I wish we had zoning more like this everywhere.

The area could still working on having actual high street zoning so that the whole of the mainstream all the way to and then along 14th could actually have retail and active frontages but overall it's a good hood in yyc,

Reader Rock Garden

Some shots from my visit to the Reader Rock Garden.

William Reader was really important in the history of Calgary and his advocacy to keep the rivers public has had an enormous impact on the way I view public space and the way so many Calgarians experience their city.

It's a nice place. Not enough people know it's there.

East Village, Inglewood and Ramsay wanders

Some of these shots overlap with stuff I'm going to include in my Calgary Bay essay — I swear I'm working on it and it will actually happen. I was at the confluence and felt like it made sense.

I generally love Inglewood and Ramsay. They're nice fun communities, though a bit too nimby we love single-family homes for my liking.

YYC wanders

Some shots from wanders around various bits of Calgary.

The +15 dude is simply the greatest. Full stop.

I did a Chinatown tour a while back and it included the murals tucked away in some of those back alleys there. Not a particularly nice space — basically garbage, freight and parking — but has a lot of potential and is a unique aspect of the area.

Also, hit up the off to the side pathway with the peaceful wandering path and great views of the city and chances to take lots of water shots.

Get lost

Where I attempt to go on a hike. Feel anxious about highway driving — it's pretty terrifying. Have trouble finding the hike but feel all lugubrious. Ask for directions. Happen to be asking the author of the trail guide book I'm holding. She's super friendly. The hike turns out to be really pretty.

A year and a bit later I decide to edit the photos because I'm back to dealing with those sorts of things.

My phantom wing

Phantom Wing is your school experience reimagined. There is a party complete with vinyl and pink fairy lights in the girls bathroom, the lockers hang like keyboard keys from the ceiling and there’s a Rube Goldberg Machine style fountain in the court yard. The project is what happens when artists get to take over a school and reimagine it.

The project itself is gorgeous as will be the arts space that is slotted to be built afterwards. If you haven’t taken in any Doors Open YYC events and you’re in the Calgary area it should top your list.

They didn’t transform just any school. King Edward School is one of Calgary’s historic sandstones schools that was built during the boom years around 1912. I was lucky to attend Ecole King George Elementary School, one of these fine buildings. My experience there was made better by the knowledge that our school had a history. Our classrooms were almost a hundred years old (and are now 101). We studied there just like the kids of 1912 did, just like the kids of 2112 would.

Our school felt more like a castle than an educational institution. It had creaks and open spaces. The main entrance from the schoolyard had “Boys” written above it while the side entrance by the gym read “Girls” an homage to the time when boys and girls were separated. The basement was terrifying. In second and third grade there was a general consensus that it was inhabited by Bloody Mary and was to be avoided at all costs. There was a rumour that the ghost of a WWI soldier inhabited the art supply room. We had a bell tower.

It is great that these spaces have been repurposes and often times for uses by arts groups like the Alexandra Centre in Inglewood and the future Cspace building. However, it’s also a shame that fewer and fewer kids growing up in Calgary get to experience learning in one of these historic classrooms. They either get shiny new schools in the suburbs or those built during the ’60s and ’70s, a time when architects forget about the value of natural lighting and windows. We got to have our ghosts, our stories and a constant reminder of the grandeur of history. They will not.

It is increasingly rare that our city’s historic schools are actually schools and today’s kids are missing out on the chance to learn and grow in these spaces.


Muddy basement blues and comfort food

The last week has been strange. It has been heartbreaking and sad watching the devastation take out places I love. It was surreal that the flood just happened over night. Friday the city was taken by a collective sadness as we watched the destruction that nature has wrought on us. Then there are the moments that make me love this city. The City has done a pretty remarkable job. Where else would you hear about volunteers getting turned away?

Today I went to a flood relief event at the Hillhurst Sunnyside farmers market. It embodied both of the truly overwhelming things that the flood has made me feel. It was the first time I’ve really been to one of the reentry centres. It was weird seeing people dumping their stuff into bins. There was an old kennel and somebody tosed a muddy snowboard away. I wonder whether they’ll be on the hills come winter? There were piles of damaged fitness equipment that didn’t fit in the bins in the corner of the parking lot. Pieces of insulation and cardboard, bubble wrap, a glove, and mud liter the sidewalk and parking lot. This is what the flood feels like.

Then there was the relief event itself. I got food from the Hoodoo Foodoo food truck for whatever I was happy to donate. The guy who was manning the truck told me that he’d spent all day giving out food to Sunnyside residents. I think to myself this is a small business owner who is going above and beyond to help. The amount of time and ressources that food trucks have put in to help has blown my mind. I am overwhelmed by how impressive this is. It almost cancels out how sad I am thinking about all things that people have lost.

The turnout at the show is solid. It seems like a lot of Sunnyside residents are here. That sense of community is strong now more than ever. A few people attend in mud spattered clothes. Inside the reentry center has more food than they know what to do with. All the proceeds from the beer garden will be donated. These bands are giving their time. The food truck was giving resources. I offer the pictures I take of the event to the HSCA for whatever good that may do. Everyone is helping in whatever way they can. This flood may have been terrible but our response has been breathtaking.

The past week has been overwhelmingly contradictory and strange. The City is rebuilding at a remarkable pace. Nenshi has proven to be the leader we all knew he was. There could easily be a best memes of flood 2013 list. There are smiling volunteers in orange vests standing next to the dumpster filled with the muddy remnants of people’s lives. There is loss and there is remarkable kindness and giving. I am proud of my city. As Nenshi said, “today, you won’t see Calgary at its prettiest, but you will see Calgary at its best.”

A summer of bicycle commuting

Driving and riding a bike never came naturally to me. I am grateful to my father for all his patience in teaching me these essential activities. I imagine there are some kids that get on a bike for the first time and are off to the races. I doubt I was one of these. However, I learned and continue to ride a bike, not because it is a natural thing for me to do but because it is very useful — and because breaking out of your comfort zone is often a worthwhile endeavour.

Last summer was the first time I ever rode with cars. I was out for a ride with a friend who works as a bicycle mechanic and was far more confident than me. The every time that cars whizzed by us or impatiently waited behind us I thought to myself, “I am going to die, I am going to die, I am going to die.” But then I didn’t. It was actually quite fine. And actually quite fun.

Then this summer I got a job downtown. I had originally planned on taking the bus but was alarmed by how expensive Calgary Transit is after having effectively free transit through my university tuition. They do not offer student passes and $90.00 a month to sit on a crowded lurching bus seemed a bit steep.

Then it occurred to me: bikes are free and they never leave without you. Thus began my summer of cycling to and from work.

The first time I rode to work was scary. I didn’t know the route very well, or what to expect. I also didn’t feel comfortable riding with cars, not that there were a whole lot of them in residential areas in Calgary’s inner city in the morning hours.

Every day I got better and more confident. Awkward pedal strokes became confident, and I stopped noticing what I was doing. Riding on the road became second nature to me — for the most part, there are some roads I choose not to ride down because they are either too fast, or too narrow and busy for cyclists — it was something I just got up every day and did without thinking about it.

The other upside is that I no longer worried about finding time to go to the gym or feeling lazy and inactive. I worked out for an hour every day and never had to consciously make an effort to be fit. My commute became my workout. It was a much more comfortable and effective use of my time. It also took me less time to ride my bike home from work than it took to ride the bus home through rush hour traffic.

I had five near collisions this summer — as in ones that given a few inches and seconds could’ve resulted in at minimum road rash. One was with a car that ran a stop sign. I managed to swerve and avoid them with only a bruised leg. This was the only time I came close to being hit by a car. Other cyclists were responsible for two. The most frightening part of my commute was hyper aggressive cyclists who ignored speed limits (yes they have these in busy areas), didn’t own or use bells, lacked patience, and passed when they had no business doing so. The other two were pedestrians who were not paying attention to their surroundings and were either on the wrong side of the pathway or stepped right in front of on-coming traffic. I also almost hit an off leash dog in a high traffic area. In some ways Calgary’s pathways can be more trying than riding on the roads. During rush hour they are extremely busy multi-use areas that are more likely to create mishap than the roads are.

Tenth Street bike lanes

The Tenth Street bike lanes have come under a lot of fire from various people in N.W. Calgary but I actually quite like them. They are a whole lot better than having nothing in place — and this is true of most places where bike lanes have been put in however excellent they are. They take a road that would be intimidating to ride down and making it comfortable. You have enough space that you are out of the way and the only concerns you have are people turning, hopefully stopping at stop signs and buses.

As a driver I love bike lanes because it means that cyclists are nice and off to the side and I don’t have to worry about passing them or getting caught behind them going five km/h.

Buses are the biggest downside of this kind of bike lane. It forces cyclists and buses to share a space that really shouldn’t be home to both of them. Cyclists in other cities (London, U.K. comes to mind) have been trapped in bus blind spots, and injured or killed.

There is also the annoying tendency for drivers to ignore the existence of bike lanes and act like they are right hand turn lanes. They are not. Unless your car is a transformer and can magically resemble the bicycle symbol stay in the car lane.

The bike lane disappears in Kenzington and is quite confusing. This design does not make sense. It is not intuitive, and thus is not effective. The lane also only goes one way in Kenzington. That is the big problem with the Tenth Street bike lane, the lay out doesn’t always make sense. It is confusing to drivers, with lanes coming and going in strange ways and bike lanes moving over a street with no clear link between the two.
Divided bike lanes may be nice one day but undivided ones are a whole lot better than nothing. In the meantime Calgary should do what it can to make cycling as safe as possible. It’s not very hard to put down some paint to create this type of bike lanes and they do help.


People watching at the airport

1.      A guy who seems to be lost or bored or both with a suit bag on top of a rolling suitcase.

2.      A gentleman (level of gentleness yet to be noted) laying down across the length of  three chairs wearing tracksuit bottoms and converse with a Goodlife bag serving as a pillowcase.

3.      Two children who are running up and down the moving sidewalks. I am glad they have found their hamster ball.

4.      A girl with a Nalgene bottle covered in stickers and a MEC backpack.

5.      Somebody wearing an inconveniently large sun hat.

6.      Employees wearing colourful vests and ear plugs.

7.      A couple with bicycle panniers that are waterproof and yellow.