Sunday, September 26th - Day 85 - Inspired in CowTown

Calgary Travel Blog

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Rolled into Calgary sometime in the afternoon, it was gorgeous approaching and seeing the mountains in the distance. Of course I'd forgotten to plug in my blessed celphone with google maps on it soooo... navigating was sorta hard, hehe

After pulling into a McDonalds and charging the phone briefly, I was back on the freeway and at the Hostel International downtown, or rather just on the outskirts. It was pasta night, $3. Followed by a pub crawl led by two of the guys who work at the hostel. Sure, this could be good. Met a couple good assuie dudes and a few people from Ireland, and as it turned out, we were all on the crawl.

It didn't end up being a 'crawl' perse... Certainly I didn't drink that much, although I did have more than the few sociable drinks I generally drink. But we ended up stopping at a place called Amsterdam Rhino, really nice and trendy. Wish I'd known it was $3 highballs that night because the pints were $6. Then after that it was on to a place called Roadhouse. Roadhouse is your typical woodfloor, wood wall, meat market. It was early but it was starting to fill up. I heard quite a ruckus coming from the other half of the club, partitioned by curtains adorned with the logos of a local radio station, as you'd expect. I walked back there to see what all the fuss was about. A semi circle of women sat drinking and cheering as some latino looking guy slid across the dance floor on his knees, tearing through his tank top (probably with a pre-cut through the seam no doubt). Oh, THAAAAT'S what all the fuss is about. Well then I'll just rejoin my gang of hostellers now, lol

I got back to my group of people, and amazingly enough, none other than Captain Morgan was in the house!! He was taking photos with people and promoting his rum. Well naturally I asked for free samples. He claimed they were coming later. Then things got out of control and he took me hostage with his flintlock. Thank god one of the aussies got a picture both for evidence later and cause it looked damn hilarious.

The dancefloor was madness. Just ask the Irish hosteller that ended up making out with one of our tour guides, lol, and just to be clear, it wasn't the one who has pledged his loyalty to his girlfriend far, far away. They were cool dudes, that one was from Quebec but has been working out here for a couple of years at different hostels. And the other guy was from France.

At one point some tiny little girl was talking to me. She started getting a little arrogant and big headed. The conversation was over for me, but she mentioned she was in Muay Thai (not to be confused with the oh-so delicious Mai Tai's.. although I'm sure she'd had a few of those that night). I couldn't resist, "Well I bet I still have better tougher abs then you". She delivered two blows to my stomach. I laughed. She thundered in two more as fast and hard as her little fists could deliver them. I laughed even harder. Then took out my camera and took a picture of her while laughing. She went ape-shit, throwing punch after punch into my torso with all the intensity she could muster! I was laughing my ass off but that was making her so much madder I was anticipating her moving to my face. I didn't want to restrain her, that doesn't often look good, so I opted to just keep backing up until her girls were able to reel her in and calm her down. I LOVE classy women.

An hour or so later, it felt like hometime even though it was only about 1. I was fairly good and drunk, and felt like some pizza. I hopped a cab and directed it to the Hostel International. A short distance later the meter read 5.74 and I was in front of a large tall building. "Hotel International" the cabbie said. "Nooo.. I said HOSTEL International, man..." "Okay Hostel International..." "Wait.. are you stopping the meter?" "No" "Why not? You took me to the wrong place." "I didn't understand you." "Well so what! This is your mistake, you should have had me clarify! I'm getting out, and I'm not paying for this" I don't know what he said as I was leaving but I think it was something along the lines of "You're right, this is my fault, I apologize. I dearly hope I haven't inconvenienced you too greatly this fine evening, good sir" Or maybe it was a bunch of belligerence and profanity. The lobby of the hotel was good enough to show me on a downtown map where I was and how to get home.

The night air was good for me. Walking and stopping periodically to attempt capture of things I saw that struck me right. Just my thoughts and I on that walk, I relished that time and made the best of it. I hadn't been meant to return home with my fellow hostellers it seemed. This was just as it needed to be.

The next day I spent some time marking local galleries and art museums on my downtown map so that I'd have something to do for the day. The night previous I'd gone through the local events paper and saw the Philharmonic was doing some of the best of Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson. Sounded promising. I'd purchased a ticket online.

I was told by the hostel manager that I could park my bike in the back yard to avoid any potential ticketing out on the street. I maneuvered through the back alley and was greeted by a homeless man and woman who were hanging out by the dumpster behind the hostel. 

I can't help but be curious as to why some one would be homeless. I mean sure, probably starts with substance dependancy, then loss of job, then depression, in a perpetual downward spiral. Or some sort of mental disability. Or both. But is it always the case? So the guy had gotten to talking to me. It was noon, he was pretty talkative. And intoxicated. He told me all about their lives there in Calgary. It's apparently easy to make it there. Lots of shelters, free food, welfrare cheques. The shelter lets you stay there for 2 months at a time, has several big screen TV's for sports and movies, and many people just sit in there 24 and 7 except for the couple of hours they have to leave during cleaning. Him and his lady friend enjoyed being out on their own and mostly camped out and told me about how once the 'crackers', people who use crack, moved into the parks, the city had to do a lot of deforestation so they'd have less area to hide and use, meaning they had to move. Mostly what I took from it all was the answer I was looking for. I asked him bluntly, "Do you enjoy it? Being out on your own?" "Well, I do.. ya know that old U2 song? 'Still haven't found what I'm looking for'? I found what I was looking for. I get to drink and smoke dope on the job any time I want..." "The job? You mean collecting bottles?" "Yeah, pickin'" he called it. Well, as long as he was happy. 

I was hungry, but my battery needed to be recharged. Oh speaking of which, I better go do that! So I went walking in search of somewhere to grab lunch to let the battery charge during that time. first thing I saw was the Art Central Bistro. Great decor, really nice spot. Good food. Great service. Had a nice chat with my server, very informative!

Walking around downtown now that it was day, it was interesting just how small-town it felt here. Rather than have condo apartments all over densely populating in downtown, there were sprawling residential areas as far as the eye could see. Well maybe not quite. I made this observation from the Calgary Tower. Not as nice as the CN Tower I imagine, BUT it does provide views of the rockies which is quite neat. I was pleasantly surprised to not be bombarded by tough guy after tough guy in the streets. Being a 'cowboy' town which hosts the stampede every year, I'd expected more of that. But it was surprisingly metropolitan and contemporary here. I liked it. On the walking street in the center of town was a horse made entirely out of salvaged metal bits. It was incredible. Even more so than the steal man I'd seen in Fargo.

 I continued wandering until I'd gotten to some galleries. I stopped in at the Gerry Thomas gallery. He apparently does sport photography as a profession, but naturally takes a great deal of other photos to express his artistic side. Many of the other artists displayed there had work that was a pleasure to see. Thank you to the kindly gallery manager.

I'd seen a guy walking around with a photographer bag and a much nicer camera than my own. Musta been a pro. He stopped a group of three women in front of the Calgary Tower and asked if he could take a pic up towards the tower with them in the foreground. "Oh not good buddy" I thought to myself. And sure as shit, while crouched low lining up the shot, one girl says "Yeah.. because girls love having their pictures taken from a low angle..." I couldn't but laugh as I heard that. Just look at all the pictures girls take of themselves. A vast percentage are taken, their cameras held up above head height facing down.

I skipped the Glenbow art museum. They were exhibiting Botero's pieces. Google him. His art is repugnant.

The Calgary Art Gallery had some great modern art on display. Needless to say I took many pictures, MUhahahahah! I appreciate that we aren't supposed to.. but unless some one sets up with a tripod, proper lighting, and all that jazz, they aren't going to be making prints posters to sell for  $20 in a kiosk at the mall. And the idea that I'd be taking from admissions is preposterous because I'm not going to be coming back frequently to admire the art again. They had a million cameras in the place and I wasn't asked by anyone not to take pictures so no harm no foul. I'm not a theif, I'm an appreciater. Is that a word? I'll look. lol, yeah didn't think so. But it makes sense. Let's start using it.

There had been a media display on a flat screen. Some one had set up a camera in some sort of box and recorded the scene of a small lake in front of the mountains for a year. The seasons, changed, the people came and went, everything fading in and out perfectly together while chill music played in the back with overlayed news broadcast clips. It was incredible.

When back out on the street I noticed an older gentleman carrying a painted canvas in one hand to the back of his minivan. Back on the stairs leaving the gallery, his poor wife clung desperately to the railing as she feebly descended. I take it back, he was not a gentleman.

Returned to the hostel to get ready and put on some spiffier clothes, albeit, out of season, haha. Glad the weather here has been nice because I'm still wearing the casual summer attire when I head out. Finally got to have a real conversation with my room mate from Venezuala. Good guy. Our other room mate, an engineer in his 40's is the meriam-webster dictionary definition of 'socially awkward'. Although I'm a bit left of center, this guy takes the cake. I can't help but feel a little sorry for him. However, realistically, it doesn't take that much discipline to curtail things a bit so that you're at the very least being thoughtful of other people. IE: opening the blinds in the morning because you want natural reading light while lying in bed while others are trying to sleep, now in a brightly lit room, rather than just go to the common area like a normal human being.

I got to the Epcor Center (some corporation sponsored this arts building) and went straight to will-call. "Nope, don't see your name, I suspect you aren't here to see 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', are you? You want the Michael Jackson songs, just follow the yellow brick road all the way through the building and you're there!"  I hoped I wouldn't be late. I was now cutting it close.

the orchestra was still warming up their strings and fingers or something like that. It dawned on me, why did I pay $67 for the best seat in the house? I'm not watching people perform, and although I'm sure the acoustics are trained to be reflected to this very spot, it's probably pretty close to still incredible even in the nose bleed section. Oh well, Michael Jackson's understudy, performing in his absense, did a little bit of dancing here and there, doing his best to be entertaining. Also impressive was that although he was realistically bass and baritone, he was managing to sing waaaayy up there. Not quite like MJ, but still pretty good to be enjoyable. The songs were great, and one I'd heard many times before but never realized was the Jackson 5.

Also impressive was the guy's interactivity with the audience. Sometimes people playfully screamed out this or that and he rolled with it, even when requested to do songs they had no way of recreating like "Bad". Seeing the REAL fans getting out into the aisles and doing the choreography from Thriller was pretty hilarious. Whether the allegations were true or not, no one can deny that Mr. Jackson left a profound impact on the music we listen to. This stuff is old but so good... I am definitely going to support the artist when I get home and steal his discography from the internet. lol! Proved to be a fun evening!

After that I met up with the Aussies to catch the final of the Aussie Rules football game at a local pub. Aussie rules were pretty easy to understand on the account that there are almost no rules and it really a free for all kind of game like our idea of rugby when I was 10 running around in the field after our soccer ball had deflated. Ended up a tie.. .There is no shoot out, no overtime, nothing. They have to play the whole match again one week later! Insane!! The guys apparently run around 40 km's a game! And now they have to do it all over again! Eric Banna from Munich and Black Hawk Down and.. well okay, The Hulk (didn't wanna mention that abomination of a film, but it's probably what he's most famous for) was on the tube momentarily while he screamed for his team, the saints. I'd been informed by one of the aussies that we were to cheer for the Magpies, and I did so with great fever, enciting several brawls! Jus kidddinnnnggg!

About to head out and stroll around, catch a few more galleries before going to the flames game tonight, then meeting up with some of the other hostellers at nightclub called Ship And Anchor. But I intend to blog this evening tomorrow before heading to Edmonton!

So I stopped by a couple more galleries. Awesome. At one, the host asked if I was an artist. Must have thought I was a struggling artist, bumming around in my cargo pants and hoodie with running shoes on, lol! "Uuuh.. Yeah. I am. Although I haven't done any art in a very long time. But yeah, I guess I am" It was like breathing the first breath in a long time. I was awakened. What a realization. i've strangled my creativity, to conform, to keep things simple, and my experiences during this trip have helped who I am emerge; be reborn.

Looking at the paintings was maddeningly inspiring. I'd stifled my creativity for so long. Why? I don't know, time, different goals, ideals, whatever. I knew what I wanted to do when I got home. Workshop, train myself in different mediums, then go to town!

I went to a few more galleries after that. Just awesome. Some of the techniques, the talent out there, incredible.

I checked my watch, looked like I should be getting back to the hostel to get ready for the hockey game. Apparently I like penis. That is a fact. My own anyway, ha! According to a buddy, cheering for the flames denotes an affinity to penis.

And what a game! Exhibition but still, a few great plays, tonnes of excitement, it was awesome! I had pretty damn great seats. Not being to a game in.. ever really, being 4 doesn't count, hahah, but I was 6 rows up from the glass, so I got to see everything.. Except what was down at the other end. I'd say row 9, right in the center is the best. Maybe when I go to the next game haha, whenever that may be!

After that I headed to 17th ave. i'd been told by some staff at a department store that it was a great place for nightlife, especially post-game. The hostel staffer had said Ship and Anchor, and it was packed as I passed on my bike, but I figured I'd tried this place called Melrose. I was glad I did. It was chill and cool, great place to be. I was on my own as usual, although a buddy from highschool had said he'd come out despite the overtime he'd been working. His girlfriend was studying for an exam anyway. I saw a table of three people having some awesome laughs who looked entertaining. Well then, that's who I'll sit with. I went and got a refill of my Lemoncillo and Sprite, double in a collins glass garnished with a lemon, fucking smashing drink! Never tried it before. Walked over "Hey, how's it going? Couldn't help but notice you guys look like good people having a hilarious time and I'm travelling on my own, may I join ya?" Like that I was in. The conversation was all over the place, but very entertaining. My new friends had to leave as one was working at 7:30 am, which worked out perfectly as my buddy arrived shortly thereafter. We shot the shit, the venue wasn't really his scene and I was neither here nor there for staying, so we went left. 

Before that though, I'd noticed some guy having his bachelor party. Now I realize, it's the last night of 'freedom' generally, and the buddies feel the obligation to drag you out and get you to do all kinds of things you won't get to do again... But it's usually taken with a grain of salt by the groom, I'd think. Not this guy, he was the one out there doing all the schmoozing, the macking, I thought it was rather pathetic and struck up a conversation with a table of people based on the topic. They agreed wholeheartedly.

We went back o my buddies place briefly and he showed me some of the photography he'd been doing. It was amazing, some of the filtering and after effects he'd been using. Just awesome stuff. His photos have some 10,000 plus views on flickr. He's JUST started looking into selling some prints. I'd say high time. Sure you can do art for fun, but if people are willing to pay you for it, I don't see why not.

Then we hit a place called Morgan's where some live rock was being played. Pretty cool kind of place where people aren't pretentious. I liked it. Melrose was a bit the opposite, which was why I found my company there so good to be around. I suppose I should have known with a place named Melrose, haha!

Ended up that some of the younger Calgary flames showed up. I didn't know but my buddy has been a fan of them since god knows how long and he recognized them all. Then I got a picture with a guy who looked like a young Sting or Billy Idol, lol, I was warned by my buddy not to for the sake of a potential punch landing in my face. "Dude, you'd be surprised how much you can get away with. See this face? Hasn't been punched in many years!" Billy Idol was flattered, "that's a first! Usually I hear 'Sting'" hahah!

Okay, it's time to depart. Calgary was a good time. Seeing all the art here... definitely needed. I look forward to firing it up.

Take care, Ride safe.

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photo by: Vikram