Monthly Archives: October 2012

An Edmonton Thing

There are a few things that seem to be very popular in Edmonton.  Some make more sense than others.  I’ll give you a few examples.It seems to be an Edmonton Thing to:

1.  Run up and down a ridiculous flight of stairs outside in the park for a painful amount of time just for fun.  This, I suppose, is a good thing.

2.  Make a donair/shawarma in the messiest way possible.  Instead of using a pita for exactly what it was created for (ie. to fill that painstakingly crafted pocket) they like to just make it taco style.  While still using a pita.  Wasting the pocket!  And getting my hands messy.  Unacceptable.

3.  Have two restaurants owned by the same people/group and called the same thing but be entirely different in terms of decor, crowd and price point.  For example – Beruit Cafe.  On Whyte Ave it looks like a regular donair place with McD’s-style chairs and fast food.  North of the river on Jasper it has the same name (and sign!) but a full menu with $25 entrees and occasional belly dancing.  That was a surprise to walk in, sit down and have to walk right back out again because all you wanted was an $7 shawarma at their other location.  Smarten up, Edmonton!

4.  Pronounce coyote funny.  Yes, they have them in many different provinces but here we don’t have “kai-oh-tees” we have “kai-oats”.  Used completely unironically.  What I was to ask these people is 1) Do you think the name Wile. E. Coyote works with this?  2)  What do you call the movie “Coyote Ugly”?

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An Artsy Day in Edmonton

Every once in a while something else about being an adult (especially an employed one who finds herself enslaved to the man) gets me down for a bit.  This week it has been the realization that I am not free and THREE WEEKS of vacation is just not enough.  I want to GO somewhere (Russia, perhaps), I want to visit my family and I want to take long weekends to explore other parts of Canada.  It will be another year before I acquire a coveted 4 weeks of vacay.  That sounds pretty good, actually.  BUT – it will be 8 years after that before I get 5.

So I can whine and sulk about it (which I plan to do) or (and) I can make being in Edmonton feel like being a  vacation.  No, that’s cheesy.  But it is up to me to keep my life from feeling monotonous, to make sure that my evenings and weekends include me getting involved in the community.  That is something I’m already trying to do – climbing 3-4 nights a week, French classes on Thursdays, the occasional community event like classic movies at the Royal Alberta Museum.  But I can try harder.
Today was a good day to start trying.  The downtown farmers market moved inside city hall for the winter and I went in search of some pricey gourmet chocolate bars made right here in Edmonton.  Apparently Kerstin used to have a store here but then she moved to Germany and her sister kindly feeds the cravings of Edmontonians on Saturdays.  I’m new to this but I’m already a fan.  This time I went for “pumpkin pie”.  Yep, chocolate and pieces of flaky pieness and pumpkinness.
Conveniently, right kitty-corner to city hall is the Alberta Art Gallery (aga).  A lovely building that is even lovelier inside.
This was not taken by me.  I stole it from the internet.  But it has snow so that is accurate.
Until today I had always wanted to go inside but just hadn’t.  Sight unseen I bought a membership to encourage myself to go whenever I pass by (every few weeks) and get discounts on things like drop-in art classes and their acclaimed quarterly art parties running until 2am on Saturdays which always sell out.  It was a well-spent $65.  Their exhibits are well thought out and beautifully executed.  Plus I can hunker down for a tour every hour or so throughout the afternoon.  Without the tours I miss things in the art.  I am not always sure where to start thinking about and reflecting on it.
One of their current exhibits, “Beautiful Monsters”, looks at renaissance and baroque prints/engravings of monstrous creatures.  After the interactive tour (my fave!) I could tell the difference between these two styles and identify symbols in the paintings.  It made me want to dig deeper into Greek and Roman mythology and even Biblical mythology to better be able to interpret symbolism in art from this time.  A new hobby?
The second tour was upstairs and it looked at just one piece of contemporary art.  Good thing because it is the type of weird junk I would have walked up to, cocked my head to the side to look more contemplative, possibly paced around once and then walked out thinking “I don’t get it”.  However with an artsy mind to guide me we started talking big questions.  The piece was by Susan Sze – she made what appears to be a representation of earth and the cosmos from man made elements all balanced very precariously.  Perhaps a comment on our current state.  She represented some as already lost (blackened) but she left us a small way out.  Hopefully we can find it.
Add all this to climbing tonight I’d call it a great day overall.  I need creativity and expression back in my life. I’ve put back exercise and started to put back friendships/social life.  Now I need volunteering and art.  What else might be missing?
What elements do you need in your life?  Are they represented?
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So Much for Self-Sufficiency

It is that time of year again.  At least for Otto.  He hit the 16000 km milestone (happy birthday, Otto!) about 800 kms ago.  For his birthday Otto always demands new oil and sometimes to change his shoes/wheels.  When physics_dude offered* to show me how to change said oil and said wheels I decided that it was a life skill that I should acquire.  Fast forward to me standing in the automobile oil aisle of Canadian Tire with my Mazda3 manual in hand** perusing the surprising number of types.  Apparently my car is made especially to take the one kind of oil that is the most expensive and one that only two companies offer (and only one in the large-size format).  Add that to the cost of a new filter and the hassle of tracking my own oil changes by keeping receipts for insurance purposes and it wasn’t long before I gave in and decided to let the Mazda dealership do it since the cost will be about equal.Oh well, that still leaves the summer-winter tire swap, right?  Sort of.  After wrangling Otto into a tight spot physics_dude very patiently talked me through the steps of taking out my jack and various tire-related tools, jacking up one corner of the car and removing the nuts.  Thankfully there was some extra power available because whoever screwed those nuts on last time was NOT a femininst.  They were trying to make damn sure I wouldn’t be changing my own tires.  And, yes, once tightened appropriately I could wrestle the nuts off myself.  After many instances of success and self-congratulations we went to pull the wheel off the…um…wheel area and it would.not.budge.  Even with kicking.  Whatever dastardly forces were sealing the wheel would not let go and we gave up, defeated.  You win this one, car dealerships.  $130 later my oil and wheels have both (all?) been changed.

Seriously, though.  What would have happened if I had been on the side of the road with a flat?  I would have had to pay $150 for someone to come and fix me up because it wasn’t do-it-yourself friendly.  When I left the dealership with my keys this morning I also left behind a few instructions including “easy on the torque”.  When spring hits I will be changing my own wheels and the dealership will be getting a piece of my mind if not.

Have you successfully managed to change your own wheels?  Did you hit similar roadblocks and what did you do about them?

*I’m remembering it as he offered.

**A manual that, it appears, was subsequently left behind somewhere in Canadian Tire.  How do I DO that?

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Joshua Radin

Ever since a group of SLPeeps watched “Adam” instead of studying for CASLPA I have been hooked on Joshua Radin’s music.  And his voice.  His voice is like really smooth crack (if I knew what that was like).  He did almost the entire soundtrack for the film and it just fit so organically.  Now he has another record and he’s touring.  Last night he played a packed show at a church in downtown Edmonton that I attended with Shae and ShanWow.  Mr. Radin was just as weirded out about being god’s house as I was so it was ok.  The show started with Lucy Schwartz as the opener and A Fine Frenzy sandwiched between the two.  The name Lucy Schwartz didn’t sound familiar but I was able to sing along with one of her songs; she lent some female vocals to the Adam soundtrack and is a good performer in her own right.

A Fine Frenzy was a band for which I had high hopes and had to deflate them somewhat to enjoy myself. The singer is a very talented vocalist but her aspartame-sweet and flakey demeanor at the start made her come across valium’d.  As the show progressed and her music picked up the tempo whatever she took beforehand appeared to wear off and it got much better.

Now for Joshua Radin himself.  The whole concert from start to finish was 3.5 hours!  We definitely got more than we paid for.  He played a good selection of his oldies-but-goodies and his brand new album.  And since I purchased his new CD (yes, CD, no LPs for the hipsters in the crowd) and Shae got a t-shirt we were able to meet him after the show. Unfortunately a brief handshake and CD sign was not enough to make him fall hopelessly in love with me.  Good thing Shae was there to help me tone down my big ear-to-ear grin before meeting him; don’t wanna be a big fangirl.  His new stuff is good stuff and you should get it!

He is making his way east – Toronto friends, see him if you get the chance!

Shae and me waiting in the cold for the concert
Me and Joshua
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No-Gun Thanksgiving

My first Alberta thanksgiving involved shooting.  This time I took it to Saskatchewan for some berries and a little couchsurfing.  It was the first time I had ever driven for 8 hours (8 whole hours!) all by myself.  CBC radio kept me company but when that ran dry in a few places I found out that the most played songs on all radio stations are something by Justin Bieber and Gangnam Style.  I think I learned some Korean.

While the end point was Regina I stopped for a night in Saskatoon to break up the drive Friday and to check out this city that I hear so much good about.  Of course, couchsurfing helps to make the city.  A friendly guy and his group of roommates (4 siblings) hosted me for the night.  In less than 24 hours I met some great people, watched a live beat poetry performance and drank less than a 1/4 of a local beer.  Woops.  I thought I’d just wing it and have a been all nonchalantly.  But it was awful and I felt like vomiting in my mouth with every sip.  Right.  I hate beer.  The magoo-glasses poet was followed by a bearded man sitting on a milkcrate and crooning in his Jack Johson-esque voice to some unexpectedly grunge guitar stylings.  (Google “These Hands” if interested).  The next morning included a communist breakfast with very scrumptious eggs and a trip to the Saskatoon farmer’s market where I bought my very first Saskatoon berry pie.

The end of the road was Regina, home of another kind of Barry.  And some cold weather.  I thought Regina was south of Edmonton.  Regardless we kept warm with a fire pit and roasted marshmallows, talked French grammar (they were very patient with me!) and sat around with uncle C on the guitar and sang songs I remember from my camp days.  Basically a picture perfect cheese image of the perfect family holiday sans any football.  There’s something to be said about watching Corner Gas in Saskatchewan as well – it lends some…context.  I’m always searching for some Canadiana – other than maple syrup – to bring with me while couchsurfing and I think the first season of the Dog River gang may just be it.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Edited:  The only photo I took the whole time.  A life dream of mine to get sucked into the “vvoyd”.  And a void it is.  All the roads were closed for construction and we crawled through this gloomy town for over half an hour. This is usually a blink-and-you-miss-it variety.