An Early Christmas Cab in Calgary

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Winter conditions hit Calgary this week...
Winter conditions hit Calgary this week...

Winter conditions hit Calgary this week...
Winter conditions hit Calgary this week…
CALGARY – LIVING – “Where do you want to go?” asked the cabbie rolling down his window. We were experiencing 
a major onslaught of the first snowstorm — in September — simply blasting the City of Calgary.

My wife, Margaret, and I were standing at the entrance to the Marriott Hotel ‘s island for taxis
dwarfed by the rising height of the Calgary Tower adjacent to our location. ”We’re going to the Port o’ Call Hotel near the airport,” replied Margaret.

Snow in September, a Calgary reality
Snow in September, a Calgary reality
“Let’s go,” smiled the cabbie. “I’ll be happy to take you there.”
We shook the snow from our coats and got in the back. It became obvious why the cabbie wanted to drive our dispatch. He’d been working a long,  feverish day behind the wheel since dawn.

It was time to log out.

Our destination was merely a few blocks from his own residence.

Meaning he could cater to our journey then be gleeful about getting home as accumulations of wet snow and strong gusting  winds showed no signs of stopping.
It was a Monday where the morning Alberta newspapers invited readers to pause in knowing  this was the day in Italy (September 8th) in 1504 when Michelangelo’s famous work called David,  hand sculpted from local Carrara marble, was unveiled for the first time during the Renaissance in Florence. Standing akimbo, and naked, armed only with a sling David, of course, slew the raving madman Goliath. Michelangelo’s masterpiece became a valiant metaphor symbolizing the  ‘giant’ issues, political underpinnings, a Florentine Nation saw in their
upwelling against inequality issues and aggressive neighbouring provincial threats. A rather memorable news bulletin as we sipped tea and coffee beginning our day.

I thought of the beautiful colour photo of David in the paper while Margaret and I had stood
waiting on cabs. Pausing to look way  up into the lofty height of the Tower. All one could see was a dreary charcoal grey storm mass of thick 
clouds and the amazingly endless reams of tumbling snow that were soaking us 
to the marrow having dressed for an Autumn day with some sort of normalcy. The Tower, by the way, is 191 metres tall. It rises to 1,228 metres above
sea level as Calgary’s airport is
1,084 metres above sea level. The Tower claims to be the highest one of its 
kind — in the world — with a 360 degree
Observatory at the top.

As far as living above sea level goes our town of Thunder Bay is 199 metres above sea level. But to connect the
Arts and Music of our hometown to this –on a clear day– particularly beautiful and 
enticing area not far from the foothills
of the Canadian Rockies one recalls a song sung by Rodney Brown entitled Map of Dreams. It is such a perfect exceedingly adroitly written tune. About the Welsh pioneering free spirit David Thompson who first recorded and trail-marked sequences of rivers and landmarks here, in what would become Fort Calgary, in 1787 making his camping in tents with 
both Peigan and Blood (members of the post-Clovis originators) along the Bow River. His guides and translators, Thompson referred to as his 
Blackfoot Confederacy. Thompson’s breathtaking work as a cartographer is
uniquely captured in Brown’s composition performed with the Thunder Bay Symphony accompanying him on the CD: Fort William.

However our journey had begun the week before as we transferred planes in 
Winnipeg from Ontario. Then landed in Alberta and rented a car to drive north of Airdrie to rendez-vous with our lad, Galen, in Olds for a first time visit 
in the season of fall. The weather could not have more blissful. Everywhere the wonders of summer’s 
green spaces joyously abundant with rainbow settings of flowers basking in 27 C temps.

There were wonderful little gardening skills showing themselves so vigorously green and charming in the manicuring of hedges around the perimeter of dwellings. So much so it was a continual reminder of the civilized spectrum of botanical beauty Victoria, BC exemplifies.

As well, here and there, outcroppings of things neatly shaded in greenery that the holly bushes and sprawling plants and English ivy and clinging tomato plants and corky textured deciduous trees
 gave the region a feeling of being a place like San Francisco. But, without an ocean nearby.

What we had the opportunity to see, and attend, were the Opening Weekend of 2014 games in Alberta’s Junior Hockey League. Two things were most impressive. The initial viewing of the Olds International Rink revealed a dedicated ‘wintry gardening’ their Zamboni crew had mustered preparing an exceptionally fast skating format for the players. The crew had been at it since early August.

That surface sponsored one of the best kinds of Opening matches with the
home side of Olds almost making a phenomenal comeback. They were down 3-1,
before realizing a kind of second wind, mounting a noble finale.

Their last 
shot was headed into the Alberta Kodiaks’ net as the last seconds ticked
away. The puck was caught by the Kodiaks’ goalie as they held off a rally. Final score 4-3. There were certainly no losers in this “barn burner of a game” as Albertans would say.

The second point noted was the delightful attendance of some 1,003 in a town
where the total population
is just over 8,000. That kind of ratio shows the traditional focus of the
sporting scene as Canada’s longest season
of winter enters in every year.

Other days involved research at the well lit, generous and newly stocked and recently rebuilt Olds Library.
Its staff, its access to information and cross-referencing plus educational 
themes via 
books, computers and micro-film (to virtually anywhere)  could be rated as second to none. Its ease in 
accessing major collections, via the internet,  along with its eagerness in  accepting  recommendations for new 
material and its cordial and sunny
entrance brimming with stacks of good used books for re-sale made our stay.

What I found was something I’ve
been meaning to read for a long while. Mitch Albom’s The Five People You’ll 
Meet In Heaven. A good title for
the heavenly, peaceful time we shared among readers.

There was a park we had bookmarked. It is Centennial Park’s Remembrance
Monuments. The founders have built a very solid and cherished site where
Veterans are honoured for their dedication going back to both
World Wars and the Korean War. To these townspeople this park is an embodiment of equal parts diligent landscaping, with fine symbolic rows of 
royal red poppies swaying along paths. Standing solidly were   hand cut monuments 
immortalizing dates collected in maintaining our Commonwealth’s involvement 
in wars with  the eternal echo of voices sounding in hymns from Ages Past.

Being away from one’s own timberline, out of touch with workout chores like wood splitting or grass cutting, necessarily fosters more time to read in the interim of travel.

Having picked up a recent copy of England’s The Economist magazine, in Winnipeg, made me aware once more of its brilliant content, with aptly relevant stories. Here were dispatches of newsworthy developments in places around the globe. They became passport entries for readers to Israel, Quebec, Peru, South Dakota, China, California, Vancouver, Ukraine, New Hampshire, Cambridge University. To a journalist writing about Gandhi’s historic era, and influences in India.

And particularly the very 
recent discovery of Lord Franklin’s Arctic ship in our Far North. A story that was readily researched and fittingly posted by NetNewsLeger’s fine Editor James Murray.

Then the vast impending vote to come in Scotland next 
week on September 18th. The home driven nature of this story was made very relevant as Margaret and I drove an Alberta highway, seemingly well away from any cosmopolitan politicking, when a farming truck came alongside before tanking an off ramp road. However, the driver smiled, gave a thumbs up motioning to the sticker on his rear window. It was a large decal of the National Flag of Scotland complete with the Rampart Lion’s crest.

But the possible scenario of a three centuries ancient  
Act of Union dissolving in a few days of political voting would have been unimaginable anytime earlier in our contemporary history. A separation Vote, like our own political persuasions with Quebec, would be a really total collapse and erosion of  
the binding matrix of masonry that’s bonded the Scots to Victorian Britain for so long. The analysts of the Economist and their perceptive treatment of virtually all subjects under scrutiny 
made for a weighing of plus and minus reporting that went overtime in being nobly objective.

Something I had written down in a notebook seemed apropos.

“For those who 
belong nowhere. To those who belong to one place. It’s almost too much to 
belong anywhere else.” It will be extremely revealing watching for the final result of the United Kingdom’s future holdings.

In the end as our cabbie made the last steering -wheel pull inside the 
warmth of his car heading to our car park he was actually splicing through 
a blinding, ominous snow force that engulfed our rush hour commute while
he navigated us to our temporary lodging.

He safely parked at our entrance. I remembered a downtown Municipal bronze of a horse wearing a heavy thermal winter blanket where a passer by had written a sign. It said, ”Save a horse. Ride a cowboy in the snow.” Nothing like Western Canadian humour, eh?

But our cabbie had with his driving expertise brought us safely through Calgary’s earliest snowstorm in September. For 
Calgary had never seen this kind of old Man Winter’s excruciating–much too 
early for plants or animals– snow in all the annals of keeping Weather 
records here. While we began exiting our cabbie curled down his window again and called out, while thick snowflakes gathered quickly on his brow, ”I wish you two — from Lake Superior — a very Merry Christmas!’

”And, you…besides…” we called back in harmony.

Earlier we went for tea at James Joyce’s Restaurant in a zone of 
Stephen Avenue. As we entered there were downy, sheep’s wool 
flakes landing on our shoulders I thought of Joyce’s introduction to a 
novel he wrote.

In   1910 he wrote, ”SNOW…was general over Ireland that week. Every quilted green field and farm was engulfed by its 
snowy element.”

After we had lunch we began walking to the must-see indoor Devonian Gardens, not 
far from the Restaurant, in advance of making our way to the Marriott’s queue of cabs, another of Joyce’s lines was recalled by Margaret.
”They lived. Laughed much. Had loved being with others. And, then, left for home.”

Ronn Hartviksen

Calgary weather offers contrast
Calgary weather offers contrast