Calgary

Last night I got back after a 5-day excursion to Calgary, ostensibly for work but with an extra 36 hours or so thrown in for a city visit. Little did I know I’d develop a sinus infection while there. Anyway, here’s the extracurricular summary:

Beer sampled: the rooftop at the National on 8th with my now-Cowtowner friend Andrea. I had a flight of 6 locals. Beer Revolution, where I tried two local pints while having an excellent (pizza) lunch with a colleague. I also had a coffee at Kawa which, once the sun’s over the yard arm, serves a very solid beer selection; alas, I was there too early.

 

 

Coffee drunk: I had a nice little espresso at Cucina, another at Kawa, a cappuccino at Phil & Sebastian‘s Simmons Building location, a latte to go from P&S which I drank sitting by the Bow River, and…like, 8 coffees over 3 days from Monogram, which happened to be right next door to my conference hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

Food scarfed: The Catch’s Oyster Bar for some crab cakes and oysters when I landed. CharCUT for dinner my first night, since it was in my first hotel. Small world confirmation: the bartender had also gone to Dal, and her boyfriend used to work at Bishop’s Cellar and, as such, has probably sold me booze at some point. My last night there I went to Modern Steak in Kensington, which was outstanding and had a nice Irish bartender. I walked home, along the Bow for a while and then across the Peace Bridge.

 

 

 

 

Movies watched: Sicario and Eye In The Sky on the flight there. Hyena Road and most of Stories We Tell on the flight back. I had to take my headphones out for the last twenty minutes of the flight because my ears weren’t popping (never did) and I was in such severe pain.

Random thoughts thunk:

  • The Le Germain is a much better hotel than the Westin.
  • Downtown Calgary is pretty compact, but the walkability is marred by highways and rail lines bisecting the core.
  • I skipped the private rodeo organized by the conference, partly for health and partly because I despise rodeos, and don’t regret it one bit.
  • While I generally prefer an aisle seat when flying, when flying into Calgary I will always try for a window seat so I can see the mountains when I land. We did this time, and I also happened to get a smashing picture of Winnipeg from the air halfway through the flight.

Bloody hell

  • Rob Ford: 47.1%
  • George Smitherman: 35.6%
  • Joe Pantalone: 11.7%

This is also how I felt on the 8 Nov 2000. Rob Ford may be far less powerful than George Bush was, but he’s much closer to home.

Calgary had their election a week before Toronto. One of those cities elected a progressive young Muslim, the son of an immigrant, to be mayor. The other elected a fiscally & socially conservative white guy from the burbs. It’s like we got each other’s leaders.

Yankee swap anybody?!

Where to next?

4,634 days ago I moved to a place I never thought I’d end up: Toronto. Growing up on the east coast of Canada, you’re trained to dislike Ontario in general, and Toronto in particular. Of course, that was an uninformed opinion, typical small-town distrust of big cities. I was excited as soon as it became a real possibility, just as I’d been excited to move from my tiny home town to Halifax for university. Living in the country’s biggest city became a thrilling idea. Anyway, I’d been offered a good job in Toronto straight out of school, and you didn’t turn that down.

I was lucky enough to move here with other people from university and lived here with my friend Brock for my first year. Brock had lived here before and made the transition a little easier. So did making a lot of good friends at work, mainly other transplanted Maritimers. I really started to love it here: countless live music venues, huge record stores (back when that was important), movie theatres showing all kinds of movies and all the sleepless energy of the big city. For god’s sake, the stores were open on Sunday! Nellie joined me in Toronto the following year, by which time I was in love with the city.

My jobs moved progressively further downtown (except for one blip up to Markham), and so did our apartments. We discovered more advantages of living here: new foods, nicer clothing stores, the film festival, better beer places. We got married, bought a home, adopted cats, got better jobs. Toronto was our home now, rather than a stopping point until we figured out what else to do.

After thirteen years here, though, I’m beginning to fall out of love with Toronto. It still has lots of what we like, but some of Toronto is wearing on us: the pollution, the dysfunctional waterfront, the paralyzing. I also find myself comparing Toronto to other Canadian cities, greener places with more character.

So what would it take to make me move? Career aside, I’d still want a city with a diverse population, good movie theatres (and maybe even a film festival), great restaurants and progressive politics. I’d also like to live in a city with good parks and nearby mountains. A few years ago live music venues and record stores would’ve been major factors, but things change. I suspect that soon movie theatres won’t matter much anymore either, as long as I have broadband.

The career point is the kicker, obviously, but supposing we got a great job offers in another city there are three places in Canada I’d consider moving to:

Halifax: home sweet home, obviously, but it’s changed from when we were students. Or maybe it’s just that we see more now than we did then. It’s a small town, but it’s laid back and comfortable while getting ever so slightly more cosmopolitan all the time. Plus, it’s close to family. However, if they hadn’t done away with the Sunday shopping ban three years ago, Halifax would’ve been a non-starter.

Calgary: true, Alberta’s a very conservative province, and the freaking cowboy/stampede culture would drive me batty, but I could put up with a lot for living 90 minutes from the Rockies.

Vancouver: I think this one tops my list. The green space, the proximity to mountains and wine country, the incredible restaurants, the weather (rain doesn’t bother me, given where I grew up) and the attitude of the city makes it feel like home every time I visit. So if somebody could hurry up and offer me an amazing job there, I’d appreciate it.

(By the way, apologies to Montreal. You certainly have your charms, but moving there from Toronto would feel too much like the same thing, just with a much better hockey team. Likewise, Ottawa: I like your green space and many of your inhabitants, but I…iiiii…zzzzzzzzzz…zzzzzzzzSNRK!!! Huh? Wha? Oh…uh, sorry, Ottawa, you put me to sleep there.)

And, of course, I haven’t even mentioned cities outside of Canada. I’d be here all night.

"Is he giving squinting lessons?"

Activists in Calgary plan to protest the arrival in their city of George Bush. Oh, kids. Bad move. Don’t give him attention in any form. The opposite of love isn’t hate, you ninnies, it’s indifference.

George W. Bush can expect a cordial welcome tomorrow inside a Calgary convention hall as the wildly unpopular former U.S. president gives his first public address since leaving office, but outside, a gauntlet of protesters don’t plan to be the least bit polite.

Local activists have been ramping up their anti-Bush efforts in advance of the $4,000 per table invite-only event titled a “Conservation [sic] with George W. Bush.” The media is banned from hearing Mr. Bush talk about “eight momentous years in the Oval Office” and “the challenges facing the world in the 21st century.”

Politics aside, this strikes me as odd. A former president he may be, and an interesting public figure to be sure, but how can anyone possibly consider it a worthwhile use of $4,000 to listen to George Bush talk? You’re better off paying for Lindsay Lohan to speak: she’s about as insightful, her entourage takes up a few less hotel rooms and she brings her own DJ.