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Qu rk

unexpected unusual Calgary

2012


CONTRIBUTORS Quirk

[k - wurk]:

An unexpected twist. Laura Lushington – Editor in Chief Melissa Renwick – Content Editor Steve Waldner – Content Editor Sean-Paul Boynton – Content Editor Shane Flug – Content Editor Ashley Dickout – Feature Writer Brandon Anson – Web Editor Derek Neumeier – Web Editor Jennifer Friesen – Art Director James Paton – Photo Editor Eva Colmenero – Layout Designer Kourtney Tateson – Layout Designer Katie Fisher – Layout Designer Andrea Dion – Production Lead Kate McMackin – Production Lead Gabrielle Domanski – Production Lead Kirsten Glowa – Production Lead Sharon Titus – Advertising Maria Bitter – Advertising Janice Paskey – Supervising Editor Kerri Martin – Web Support

Published by The Faculty of Communication Studies Mount Royal University Comments to: quirkcontent@gmail.com (403) 440-8744 www.quirkcalgary.com

photo: Jennifer Friesen / Quirk

Letter From the Editor We’ve all been called names in our lives. I’m apparently an overemotional, soft, brown-nosing, sex ninja with a tendency to be neurotic. But, there is only one label I have willingly embraced and even wrote on those elementary school questionnaires that asked you to describe yourself: Quirky. I discovered it one day while cheating at Scrabble and the definition grabbed me. Yes, I always was what my Dad likes to call, “a bit off kilte”. But, instead of trying to figure out how to assimilate, I took the label and ran with it; exclaiming to all my friends that it was ok if they thought I was a bit weird – I was quirky and it didn’t matter. And it doesn’t seem to matter to the city and people of Calgary either. Although we are labeled as “cowtown” or the “heart of the new west,” I believe we are constantly

evolving to the point that no one can actually pinpoint us to one term. The team here at Calgary’s newest magazine — Quirk — agrees. Throughout our first issue you will find stories highlighting the aspects of Calgary you may have not known existed. From a story looking at Calgary’s growing hip-hop scene (pg. 43) to stories about Calgary’s suburbia — kink anyone?(pg. 55) Or maybe just finding a good meal? (pg.10) Quirk wants to take you on a tour of the city you thought you knew and throw all your preconceptions out the window. Ready? We are. Your odd, unusual and QUIRKY editor-in-chief,

Laura Lushington


07 18 32 49 55

Food

Outdoors

Lifestyle

Steeping Tea

P. 7

The 3D Dreamer

P. 18

The Labryrinth

Strip Mall Cuisine

P. 10

Why They Busk

P. 23

No Trespassing: P. 34 Urban Exploration

All Scotched Up

P. 13

A Taste of Culture P. 15

Boutique Finds

P. 26

An Embalmer’s Tale P. 27 Let’s Meetup

Fly Fishing With Kevin

P. 32

P. 39

P. 29

What’s inside...

Music

Nightlife

Small Hip-Hop Scene, P. 46 Positive Messages

Kinky in Cowtown P. 55

I Think I’m Turning Korean

P. 49

Electronic Essence

P. 50

Bolstering Blues

P. 52

Calgary at Night

P. 58

Wicked Living

P. 4


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Wicked Living

Come inside Wicked Hostel, a rare independent hostel where you’ll find the owner, Jeff Jebson, living and working his dream job

story and photos by ANDREA DION

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s you’re scrolling the hotel list of accommodations, narrowing down the top 10 places to stay, have you ever considered other unconventional options? Hostel living can turn into a haven for long-term travelers looking to explore the nightlife, sights and culture that a new city has to offer. Right in the heart of the Beltline, a dreary outdated building houses a 63-bed hostel. Wicked Hostels - Calgary is an independently owned business that charges $32.50 per night, depending on the season. If this hostel was to be judged by its outside appearance, it may spark some initial hesitations. But fear not: once inside it has an

inviting vibe with bright colours casing the walls and a booming atmosphere of casual banter between guests and staff. Jeff Jebson, 31, is originally from Saskatoon and used to work as a market researcher. He dreamed of opening a hostel after a four-year stint backpacking. Although Calgary wasn’t his most ideal location, he said it had the most to offer: “I looked into Canada and Calgary only had one hostel at the time. I had been there on a few occasions and loved [the city], so I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to Calgary.’ “I wanted to open a [hostel] in Croatia on the beach. Problem is, I’m not Croatian, which is more difficult than you would think,” Jebson continued.

Jeff Jebson, owner and operator of Wicked Hostels, opens up his home and business to fellow backpackers who travel to Calgary.


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Image courtesy of Jeff Jebson

Image courtesy of Jeff Jebson

The common room at Wicked Hostels - Calgary is where all the guests come together to mingle and have movie nights where the shows are projected onto the wall.

The dorm rooms here at Wicked Hostels boasts quality pillowtop spring mattresses and co-ed rooms varying from private to 8 person rooms.

In June 2010, Jebson opened Wicked Hostels, located at 1505 Macleod Tr. S.E., right across the street from the Victoria Park C-Train station. It is both his home and business. “The main difference between staying in a hostel and a hotel is an easy question to answer,” Jebson said. “It’s a totally different experience, you go from hotel to hotel and get used to it. You check in, drop off your bag, and maybe go to the hotel bar later to have a drink. “Whereas in a hostel you walk in and instantly meet new people who are open to going out and trying new things; it’s very community oriented,” he boasted. As a newcomer to Calgary, finding somewhere to stay can amount to a simple choice of location and getting the opportunity to meet other travelers who are familiar with the area. Emma Holmes, a 25-year-old graphic designer from Newcastle upon Tyne, England, started her venture in the east of Canada, eventually making her way west to Calgary on a holiday visa. Holmes has been staying at Wicked Hostels for roughly two months now. “I have made amazing friends here in Calgary,” she said. “I went travelling before when I was in New Zealand and Australia and lived in hostels, so I knew that was the sort of thing I wanted to do when I came to Canada. “It’s really like being a family; you’re there for each other all the time. We’re all in the same boat right? If someone is having a bad day there is always someone to cheer you up,” she continued. How did Holmes come to the decision to stay at Wicked Hostels? “There’s only two hostels in Calgary. I saw this one was run by backpackers and there was a lot of stuff included in the price. It sounded like a

good deal and once I got here I loved it,” Holmes said. People from all over the world stay in hostels, and in some instances the option to travel can lead to an unintentional career opportunity. Paul Jensen, 22, is from the small Australian town of Nanango, Queensland, and has been working at Wicked Hostels since mid August, after coming over to the city to attend the Calgary Stampede. “I didn’t find the job, it found me,” Jensen said. “I had just been staying here for so long Jeff asked me if I wanted to work here. I said no, but eventually got sick of him asking so in the end I said yes,” he jokingly replied. Included in Jensen’s job benefits is room and board on top of his hourly pay. “The experience a hostel can offer is the atmosphere: everyone’s got a story to tell, or has been somewhere different like Ireland, Germany, England and Australia, all over the joint. “It’s a good way to learn about other places and decide where your next travel [destination] might be or where it will take you,” he said. “I’m still a backpacker at heart, even though I work here at the hostel. I’m so young and I do it for the social side of things. “I don’t have any family or any friends that I travel with, but I decided to travel alone so I’m not tied down to something. It makes me want to experience more,” Jensen said.


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Unconventional Places to Stay in Calgary Wicked Hostels Calgary • 63 beds and prices that vary with the seasons • Summer is the busiest due to the Stampede grounds being across the street • Six- and eight-room dorms ranging anywhere from $32.50 per night to $90 for a private room

• A few things included in the price are: free Wi-Fi, long distance calling to over 40 countries, and breakfast

• Located at 1505 Macleod Tr. S.E. • Tip: When picking a hostel check the online reviews before booking • www.wickedhostel.com Hotel Alma Calgary • Taking a new twist on hotel stays, Hotel Alma - Calgary is located right on the

University of Calgary campus 96 units available and it’s a public hotel In the summer student accommodations open up to facilitate the hotel’s guests Room prices average between $110 to $145 plus tax per night Guests get complimentary breakfast and access to campus facilities Located at 169 University Gate N.W. www.hotelalma.ca “It’s more cost-effective for scholars, professors, sports teams and conferences, because it’s right on campus,” said Tharan Al-Eryani, assistant manager for Hotel Alma Calgary.

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HI-Calgary City Centre Hostel • 94 beds; 14 six bed dorms and three private rooms available • Prices vary with the season, averaging $27 per person a night • What’s included: fully stocked guest kitchen, free Wi-Fi and pool tables to name a few

• Located at: 520 7th Ave. S.E. • www.hostelworld.com Mustard Seed Missional Housing • If you’re looking for something long-term, the Mustard Seed offers an opportu-

nity for students to live among the homeless within Calgary’s inner city $400 per month and includes 10 meals per week Dorm-style accommodations for men and women Access to a weight room and laundry facilities Located at 102 11th Ave. S.E. www.theseed.ca/student-missional-housing-program Allysha Beaulieu has been staying in the missional housing at the Mustard Seed since Sept. 3, 2011, and intends to stay until the end of December. She explained that the purpose of the program is to “live like a homeless person.” Each tenant is assigned one locker, forcing them to downsize what personal possessions they bring with them to the Seed.

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teeping

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What do you think about when you drink a cup of tea?

Love? Life? Or do

you just daydream while looking at the view outside your window? For some Calgarians, tea is just a gateway to a world of full of creative ventures. story and photos by LAURA LUSHINGTON

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or Jonathan Kane, tea and art have always had a love connection. As a Juilliard-trained classical ballet and contemporary dancer, Kane used tea for the calm energy and focus it gave him. As he worked in Europe for 13 years, including seven in Finland, tea became part of his health routine as an alternative to coffee, which he is allergic to. He moved to Calgary after applying for a job to teach dance at the University of Calgary. But after four years of being on the faculty at the university, Kane decided he couldn’t dance forever and took his appreciation for tea to a new level. Three years ago, he opened The Naked Leaf, a tea boutique located in Calgary’s northwest neighbourhood of Kensington. “I was trying to create a tea shop that I couldn’t find from what was already existing in Calgary,” Kane explained, basking in a sunlight glow from the store’s large windows. Over a cup of green tea, he described his philosophy behind the new store. It was not only to provide organic teas, but also to incorporate the local arts scene. And, from a stroll around the The Naked Leaf, it’s noticeable that Kane’s goal has come to fruition. When you walk straight to the magnetically held-to-thewall tins of tea, located in the shaded back corner of the shop, Kane will quietly walk beside you and begin describing how The Naked Leaf works. With your nose deep in a tin of Choco Chai, he’ll show you a few, tiny shelves of tins that you

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had just blurred by. From afar, they seem like a funky decoration, but as Kane describes their importance, their creative and sometimes unusual designs become quite intriguing. These tins, which you can carry your loose-leaf tea home in, feature the work of local artists. “If you look back at the history of tea, it was done in a more formal setting,” said Kane, noting Japanese tea ceremonies where the beauty of the tea matched the beauty of the art that hung in the room. “And it was always based on culture and art. Hence the art on the labels, which was trying to bring a little bit of that back into it and not just a tea bag. It’s something to enjoy, something to take time for.” Joan Cobb-Beaumont, local glass artist, has had a photograph of her stained-glass work, entitled Aspen Veil, featured on one of the containers. She said she hopes her image of a forest with distant foothills has been “A nice place to put your head when you’re having a cup of tea.” It has been one of The Naked Leaf ’s best sellers. Cobb-Beaumont, a softspoken woman who works at Kensington Art Supply, said she has received wonderful feedback from people who have purchased the tins. “The work actually hung in Jonathan’s shop for a little while so he could sort of draw the attention to [it and say], ‘Well, this is the real thing and this is where it exists on my tins.’ So, I think seeing both inspired people.” The importance of displaying local art on the tins is also shared by up-and-coming art-


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ists in Calgary who greatly appreciate the work Kane has done. “It’s so wonderful to see local proprietors promoting local art,” said Jenn Oxford, a 21-year-old Calgary street artist and Naked Leaf die-hard, “especially in Kensington — which is such a close-knit community and so close to ACAD (Alberta College of Art and Design).” “Especially with tea promoting art. I think those are two things that go very

Image courtesy of Jonathan Kane / The Naked Leaf

This photograph of her stained glass piece “Aspen Veil” is the first piece of art by Joan Cobb-Beaumont to be featured on a Naked Leaf tea tin.

hand-in-hand,” Oxford added — echoing Kane’s opinion of the classical importance of both tea and art. “Even historically, there are huge social gatherings around tea. With England, the high tea and afternoon tea. There were French salons in the 18th century and all these great thinkers and idea makers would come and talk and share ideas over tea. “I just think that art and tea are something that brings people together to talk about ideas,” she said. Oxford said she also uses tea to provide her with the focus she needs when

working on her pieces, much like Kane did with his dance. “I know, to make my morning tea, I’m always by myself and it’s very early in the morning and it’s just so comforting. It’s something that belongs to me,” she described, noting her newest addition to her tea shelf is a peach-blossom white tea. The tin it is encased in showcases the work of Sarah Slaughter, who submitted an illustration of a cheeky cat, meowing the word “fuck” in a speech bubble. But the tea tins aren’t where the local art stops. On the two main walls set across from each other, the majority of teapots, cups, and knitted tea accessories, that can be touched, are locally made. But be careful where you walk; you might run into a display of delicately painted teacups and saucers from England. Pick one up and Kane is sure to have the story of where it came from. There are also delectable body products like shower gel infused with tea. Even more impressive, is the rack of chocolate made by Calgarian Albert Kurylo, located on the large counter where Kane stands behind. The addition of tea leaves gives the $5.95 per chocolate bar a mellow kick that flirts with your taste buds. All these tangible tea products help Kane to express his overall mission for the store: “I try to get people to understand that tea should be a process that gives you a few minutes to calm down and focus on something else; if you’re really going to take the time to make it yourself and that beautiful cup you love to drink out of, that’s what our goal was, and is,” he said with a smile and sip. To see the art featured on The Naked Leaf ’s tins, visit it at 103 - 305 10th Street N.W. or at www.thenakedleaf.ca


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Strip Mall Cuisine

For those seeking to indulge their taste buds, flocking to a city’s urban epicentre often seems like the natural solution. However, amidst the cookie-cutter houses and streamlined strip malls of Calgary’s peripheral communities hide a variety of culinary treats waiting to be discovered.

story and photos by GABRIELLE DOMANSKI

Amici Italian Grill and Lounge 500 Country Hills Blvd. N.E.

Vibe: Neighbouring a Sobeys, a flower shop and the deserted remains of a former Blockbuster, Amici Italian Grill is tucked away in one of the many strip malls lining Country Hills Boulevard. Those who enter are greeted by tables adorned with checkered cloths,

candles romantically flickering, a brickwork archway and rows of empty wine bottles that work to complete the rustic Italian atmosphere of this family restaurant. Co-owner Tony Misuraca has been in the food game for years, working first as a meat salesman. Teaming up with Daryl Jeffery and opening Amici’s doors in 1999, the restaurant became the first family eatery to cater to the blossoming community. Top eats: Pizza and pasta top the venue’s list for most popular dishes, but their veal plates also draw customers. Highlights include creamy Penne Vodka ($16.95) and the Scaloppini Montanara ($20.95). The authentic Tira-

misu ($6.50) is a melt-in-your mouth mascarpone layered between fluffy, espresso-soaked ladyfingers. Final word: Serving customers for over a decade, Amici knows the secret to longevity in Calgary’s northeast. Misuraca says Amici draws people from the community rather than all city cor-

ners. “We know that for people to come out once or twice a month you have to make it affordable for them and also very good.” With Amici meaning friends in Italian, the welcoming and familial atmosphere of the place is evidence of the strong communal ties it has established.


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Angel’s Drive In 8603 - 47 Ave. N.W.

Vibe: A solitary building stands around the corner from Bowness Park. Surrounded predominantly by residences and down the street from a school, the sky blue colour of Angel’s Drive In is impossible to pass by unnoticed. Although it may not look like much at first glance, upon entering, patrons are transported back to the rockin’ ‘50s. Vinyl seats, a ceiling covered with records and posters of classic cars add to the vintage feel. Upon immigrating to Canada from Lebanon, owner Zaher Najjar’s family

settled in this northwest community and by Jan. 1, 1999 opened Angel’s in its current incarnation. Top eats: Boasting all of the expected diner fare, Angel’s has earned itself a reputation for burgers, cooked to order and a tasty variety of thick and creamy milkshakes. With homemade sauces garnishing every burger, one can’t go wrong with a Mushroom Burger ($3.75) featuring sautéed mushrooms and a mushroom sauce made in-house. Although these succulent variations are sure to fill

you up, every beef burger can also be made into a double. Final word: Najjar summarizes the drive in’s focus on freshness, stating, “[It’s] not fast food, it’s your food fast. We’d rather you wait for your food than your food wait for you.” As an added bonus, the venue plays host to a collection of vintage vehicles every Wednesday night. So whether you’re a car aficionado or looking for a blast from the past, Angel’s has you covered.

Tu Tierra

Bay #30 - 8316 Fairmont Dr. S.E. Vibe: Tucked away in a short strip mall beside Ten Thousand Villages and a Napa Autopro, the sign of a former Chinese restaurant now bears the red, white and green of Tu Tierra. The tall pagoda towers above and beckons patrons driving down Fairmont Drive. Owners Diana Rios and Hector Delgado met in their hometown of Mexico City at a very early age and after moving to Calgary and establishing a small Mexican food store, decided to open up a larger venue in March of 2009. As soon as customers enter, their eyes and ears are greeted with warm colours, traditional Mexican knick- knacks and lively Latin music. The sunny and casual atmosphere provides an escape for customers who have grown tired of the unpredictable Canadian weather.

Top eats: Promising authentic and fresh Mexican cuisine, the packed dining room provides evidence of the dishes’ success. Using traditional Mexican ingredients such as citrus and sweet and peppery annatto, Tu Tierra’s menu features dishes ranging from chicken, beef and pork burritos to tacos and tostadas. The Enchilada de Mole ($12.49) in particular elevates the taste experience. With a delicate touch of cocoa powder complementing the lingering heat left by the chili peppers, this dish will leave you dreaming of a return to Tu Tierra. Final word: According to Rios, “All the recipes are 100 per cent Mexican, there is no TexMex. The authenticity of the dishes is what we bring to our customers.”


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The British Chippy 233, 2335 162 Ave SW The Shoppes of Bridlewood

Vibe: With authentic British fish and chip shops being takeaways, The British Chippy successfully recognized the need for their patrons to have a cozy place to enjoy their traditional fare. The small dining area fills up quickly, so it’s recommended to call ahead and place your order to avoid waiting in line. Simone and Gary Hodgkinson opened The British Chippy just two years ago after settling in Bridlewood with their young family. The couple may be new to the restaurant business but Gary’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have long been owners of fish and chips shops in England. Top eats: Coated in homemade batter and fried fresh to order, the fish is accompanied by chips made

from organic spuds and a lemon wedge to taste ($12.50). But aside from the signature dish, the many meat pies ($9.99) also find popularity among chippy-goers. For those with a sweet tooth, the Banana Fritter ($4.99) covered with powdered sugar and curls of chocolate make for the perfect conclusion to a filling meal. Final word: Simone admits the inspiration for The British Chippy was because she and her husband “missed fish and chips homemade with love and attention.” As Mancunians, the couple knows how real fish and chips should look and taste and it’s that authenticity that makes The British Chippy one of a kind.

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Up All Scotched

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[and someplace to go]

The Calgary Scotch Club is a new guy's group in town. Sure, it begins with beer, but ends with decade-old scotch and Scottish cuisine like haggis. Conversation ranges from the strength of the scotch to sports. The Club pursues expensive and hard to find scotch at local retailers around Calgary. Quirk Magazine spent time with The Calgary Scotch Club at their November scotch tasting and got a sense of what these men are all about.

story by BRANDON ANSON photos by JORDEN DIXON

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ith the late-night hockey game on the TV and haggis in the oven, Dwayne Blume, 48, offers a beer to those who begin to filter into his southeasthome. Shortly after 8 p.m., when more than a dozen friends have gathered in his kitchen, Blume begins reading from a paper printout and thus another scotch tasting of the Calgary Scotch Club begins. Founded in April 2010, the Calgary Scotch Club consists of 16 members — all men. They come from several walks of life with ages ranging from late 20s to early 60s. Robert Ronca, one of the hosts of tonight’s meeting is a retired teacher and the other host, Blume, works as a golf course general manager. The club is split up into eight groups of two who hold each month’s tasting. Hosts are responsible for the preparation of any foods to pair with the scotch, as well as the two bottles of scotch for the tasting. “We usually keep it fairly high end [and] try to get unique scotch,” said Travis Adlington, a member of the club since its inception. Ronca and Blume set the tone for the evening with two rare and hard-to-find scotches: a 10 and an 11-year-old Ben Nevis, the latter bottled by A.D. Rattray. The 10-year-old Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask distilled by Ben Nevis from Scotland is labeled as discontinued online with prices around $100.


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According to www.masterofmalt.com, it was distilled in July 1996 and bottled in November 2006 with only 361 bottles being produced. After the history lesson, Blume poured each member a glass. Silence fell across the room as the members took their time to savour their first sips. After a short moment, members began to discuss their reaction to the scotch. A general consensus amongst the men was that they enjoyed it. Adlington called it “potent and wellreceived.” During the first pour, a member identified only as MJ, referred to its smell as “inhaling a bonfire,” after nosing his glass of scotch. “It does open up if you let it breathe,”

said Blume. The assembled scotch lovers quickly finished the bottle. Far from a room full of drunks, the men had a way to lessen the impact of the full-bodied single malt scotch. “A drop of water softens it up a bit,” said Blume.“Most of us drink it neat.” For those non-scotch drinkers, neat means without water or ice, which was how I took my Ben Nevis. “Sharp cheeses and dark and milk chocolate complement the scotch well,” said Blume. “We try to have one sort of fruit or vegetable, this month it’s grapes.” The 11-year-old Ben Nevis bottled by A.D. Rattray, was $92. Ronca stepped up to spin his yarn on how he came across

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the rare bottle at Willow Park Wines & Spirits and its origins. “I was looking down at the bottom shelf and I see this bottle sort of pushed back, so I got down and looked, and lo’ and behold, it was Ben Nevis,” Ronca recounted. The members shared a laugh and soon their glasses were full with the sweet and spicy scotch. Unfortunately, you will have to wait if you want to test your taste buds against these succulent blends – the club only adds new members if old ones drop out.

Robert Ronca pours scotch from the evenings second selection — an 11-year-old Ben Nevis bottled by A.D. Rattray. Ronca recounted how he discovered his scotch selection for the evening: “I was looking down at the bottom shelf and I see this bottle sort of pushed back, so I got down and looked and lo’ and behold it was Ben Nevis.”

Travis Adlington takes his first sip of the Ben Nevis scotch, experiencing the first powerful punch of the single malt. Adlington referred to the scotch as “potent and well-received.”


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A Taste of Culture

Is it time to shock your taste buds with something new? Why not try some foods from around the world found in local Calgary markets to spice up your meals. story and photos by SHARON TITUS

Unimarket Latin Foods 128 50 Ave. S.E. 2405 Edmonton Tr. N.E.

Is it Colombian sausages you’re looking for? Are you thirsty for carbonated drinks from Brazil? Maybe you’d like to try some different hot sauces from Mexico? Then Unimarket, which opened in 2008, is your one-stop shop for Latin food products. As Spanish chatter fills the store; the staff is welcoming and say “Hello” no matter where they are. While the brightlycoloured walls and exotic decorations add to the playful atmosphere, the staff are always available to help you with any ingredients you might be unsure of. Unimarket on 50th Avenue near Chi-

nook Centre is quite large with six to seven aisles, freezers in the back and a produce section. If you’re not familiar with making a Latin meal then you could pick up some frozen empanadas — a stuffed pastry, tortillas or arepas — a Venezuelan type of meat-filled dough pocket. Some of these items are also served from a counter, hot and ready to eat. Three sets of couples originally from Colombia took over and now run all three locations, two in Calgary and one in Red Deer. Co-owner Richard Ospina says the Edmonton Trail location is a block from the Hispanic, Our Lady of Guadalupe church so it’s packed on Sundays. “All the basic stuff like sugar and salts

[are sold] here too but [they’re] brands from our countries,” he says. Polar and Alpina are just some popular brands that can be found in various places around South and Central America – but they’re here at Unimarket. He also explains that bulk imports from the United States and Colombia make their prices cheaper. After taking my own tour through the store to pick out some items like black beans, tortillas, Mexican Coca-Cola, frozen empanadas, hot sauce and churro mix to make at home, it all came to just over $20. With locations in two city quadrants and a vast amount of products, their clientele differs. Each location also has its own parking at no cost.


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Edelweiss Imports 1921 20 Ave. N.W.

On the left side of Edelweiss rests the café area where you can stay and enjoy a hot lunch. Their menu includes different foods like perogies, cabbage rolls, schnitzel and bratwurst for less than $10. Edelweiss Imports also has its own bakery on site. Baked fresh every day are cakes, tortes, fresh loaves, buns and pretzels ($1.25 each). And while the bins with baked goods empty fast, the counter to order can also have a long line. Close to the café are all types of meats and sausages where staff pay close attention to what you want and how thin or thick you would like your cut of meat. They also offer samples on top of the counter in case you’re unsure what they taste like. One of the aisles is lined with both

chocolate and candy. You can see an assortment of Haribo candy and a stand with an assortment of the German-made Ritter Sport chocolates. On the righthand side are popular gift items like beer steins, cuckoo clocks and candles. House and kitchenware items located at the back of the store also seem to grab a lot of attention. Marianne Kundert opened this store in 1994 to expand and add from its previous location. The business has been passed down from Kundert’s family, which was originally owned in 1982 in Brentwood Town Centre. “In Germany they have what they had called a Gästehaus in their family. It was kind of like a hotel and restaurant and

[my mother] had been brought up in that and was a wonderful baker and cook. We always said we wanted a nice café where you could go and have a nice coffee and have a nice piece of torte,” she says. Many products are purchased from around Canada and a few large shipments are made directly from Germany every year. In between stopping for coffee or lunch, or touring the gift shop, Kundert says customers come for more than just the groceries. “The sights and smells remind them of their homeland,” she says. Located close to the University of Calgary, Edelweiss Imports also has a large parking lot available for customers.

Italy and first opened Lina’s Italian Market in 1994. “I said I’m not going to work for anyone else. I’m going to open up my own [market,]” says Castle. “I said we should put this and that and created a monster.” Customers seemed to walk in knowing exactly what they were looking for whether it was the assortment of cheeses, the fresh meat offered in the glass displays at the back of the store or sweets from the dessert bar. The aisles are stacked with more authentic products like the different varieties of olive oils, balsamic vinegars and tons of Italian-branded pasta. Fresh produce and kitchenware items also seem to

be some popular items customers have with them at the tills. “They are familiar with the Italian food and can find their main course and desserts and pretty much all they need for an Italian meal and if you’re Italian you usually cook for yourself at home,” explains Castle. Also located at the front of the store are gift baskets created by the market including everything you’ll need for a full Italian feast. Whether this option is for yourself or a guest you may want to take the easier way out if you’re in a hurry. Lina’s Italian Market has its own parking lot, making it a convenient stop if you’re looking for authentic Italian items.

Lina’s Italian Market 2202 Centre St. N.E.

Greeting you at the front of Lina’s Italian Market are cookbooks, like Pasta by chef Theo Randall, to inspire your traditional Italian meal. The market features a meat and cheese deli and an in-store bakery. A cappuccino bar on the left-hand side takes up a quarter of the store with plenty of seating. It seems like there are some frequent customers gathering for coffee and some hot meals like lasagna, cannelloni, pizza and others offered daily from the café counter. You can enjoy lunch here or take home a hot dinner for around $5-10 per serving. Lina Castle is originally from Bescata,


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A Good Taste Of Britain 152, 200 Barclay Parade S.W. 3625 Shaganappi Tr. N.W.

A British flag hangs outside this small and quaint store. The first thing I notice at the front are bins labeled ‘crisps’ or chips as we call them here, specifically an assortment of flavors by the brand Walker — one you won’t find in most grocery stores in town. Along the right side, the shelves are packed with rows of different types of sweets, teas and soft drinks. The colourful array of chocolate bars and candies would

catch any child’s eye. The Curly Wurly candy and Fruit Pastilles are among some of the favorites in this store, says Dave Walker, owner. You can pick an assortment of small candy packages or chocolate bars ranging from $1-6 depending on the size and kind. Also sold are British baked beans, which are different from those sold in Canada. Covered in a tomato sauce, they’re especially popular for English breakfasts, spe-

cifically on toast. Walker, originally from Warrington, Cheshire, a northwest town in the U.K., took ownership of the already existing store with his wife Anne in 1995 and relocated it to Eau Claire Market. They eventually expanded into the opening of a second location in Market Mall. The store gets a variety of customers visiting with specific needs. “Either they’ve visited Britain or their grandma was from Britain or they’ve been over here and they’re missing it,” says Walker. Walker explains that it’s not only the candy and food that keep customers interested but also the expansion of the store that includes gifts and sports memorabilia. If paying for parking at Eau Claire Market is an issue for you then the location in Market Mall gives you all the free parking you’ll need.

Lambda Oriental Foods Market

1423 Centre Street N.E.

The aroma of fresh seafood welcomes you to this large market, carrying everything from exotic fruits to candy, rice, noodles and frozen products. “Our customers come for the Oriental rice because they don’t just want an American kind,” says Francis Wan, store manager. A wall on the right-hand side by the entrance is lined with Chinese herbs and teas for helping with health, dieting, fatigue and just for pleasure. The large produce section offers different vegetables and fruit including a particular type of football-sized Chinese cantaloupe that has a yellowish-orange shell and a medium sweetness. Wan says the cantaloupes are popular with customers because its hard to find in Calgary. Seafood like lobster, shrimp and crab is imported from Halifax and kept in large tanks where you can pick and choose exactly what you would like.

Kids may enjoy an aisle lined with chocolate and candy in odd shapes and sizes and tons of different flavors. Many products are imported from both China and Vancouver and the selection is much wider then that at a well-known grocery store. The in-store, self-serve bakery also makes this market unique. The large bins hold different buns flavored from a choice of coconut, pineapple and more — priced at $1 a piece. Fried doughnuts, dumplings and other sweet pastries stuffed with meat and fruit also seem like popular choices. After choosing exactly what you want, you can proceed to the till. Originally located in Chinatown 20 years ago, the market later moved further up Centre Street so it could be bigger than those located directly in Chinatown. It is less crowded, and offers a free parking lot for its customers, providing a more convenient shopping experience.


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The Dreamer l

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Once an orphan during the infamous Duplessis era, Réal Fournier

now lives in Calgary’s Webster Galleries, where he creates unique 3D paintings inspired by the wild dreams that helped him cope with a tough childhood story and photos by ASHLEY DICKOUT

Alain Gagné painted this portrait of his friend, Réal Fournier, and gave it to him as a gift.

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taring through 3D glasses, Réal Fournier, 59, brings his images to a three-dimensional existence with each stroke of his paintbrush. For Fournier, the love and joy that goes into his paintings are a direct result of the hardships he endured while he was young. He transforms his pain into art, as an alchemist transmutes worthless metals into gold. Fournier is widely known for his unique 3D paintings. However, the most unique and compelling thing about Fournier is not his paintings, his books, his poems or his ability to analyze dreams; it’s his unexpectedly positive view on reality, in spite of his dark childhood. Fournier was born in Victoriaville, a small town between Montreal and Quebec, in 1952. Because his mother had severe post-partum depression, Fournier spent most of his youth in and out of foster homes and orphanages, repeatedly separated from his five brothers and one

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sister. Fournier doesn’t like to talk about his father. At six, Fournier and his siblings were sent to live in an orphanage in Nicolet, Quebec, where Fournier would experience some of his best and worst memories. The best was learning to draw, the worst was living in an environment soaked with abuse. He was one of the famed Duplessis orphans, a group of at least 100,000 foster children governed under Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis. This period in Quebec history is referred to as “La Grande Noirceur,” or “The Great Darkness,” due to the severe child abuse of the orphans. “There were a lot of bad things going on; physical abuse and things like that,” says Fournier. “That’s why in 1960, the government banned all of the orphanages. Unfortunately, it was mostly the nuns who were accused of those things, when it was actually the priests, the ones who were in charge, who were the abusers.”

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However, it was this toxic environment which acted as the catalyst for making Fournier the talented painter he’s become today. Fournier first aspired to be a painter at seven years old, after seeing an older boy’s impressive drawings at the orphanage. His artistic passion quickly became his escape to a mystical, fantastical world. The moment Fournier would feel the intense insecurity of not feeling safe, he would draw to lift himself up: “It really was my therapy. When things got too tough, I was just flying away — drawing. It was my escape. I probably created a fictional life for myself when I was young, but that was amazing because it gave me all the tools I have now.” Fournier has always found great meaning, comfort and inspiration through his dreams. He never had to deal with any of the pain he was going through when he was young because his dreams fought all of his mind’s battles for him. “Every time I’d go into dream time, I’d wake up the next morning and everything would be fine. I was no longer feeling that pain and I’d know what to do,” he said. “Since I was a little kid, I remember in my dreamtime, I was always going to the same place, where I was laying down on something and there was this lady who would always say, ‘Don’t worry, in the morning everything will be fine’.” His friend Hervé Doucet, says Réal is “an idealist if there ever was one, a relentless worker combined with a will of iron — this man is on the road to a bright future.” Fournier’s dreams continued to guide and protect him all the way through into his adult life. He graduated from high school and received his teaching degree in physical education at Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He taught primary school, in the village of Laverlochèr, Quebec, for 10 years. His best friend, Michel Trépanier, said “as a physical education teacher with security of employment, a stable income and young students who adored him, Réal was tempted to ignore the little


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voice within, calling him to his artistic vocation.” Although Fournier never stopped drawing since his days at the orphanage, he was only painting occasionally while he was a teacher. Then one night, a prophetic dream caused him to leave and give up his teaching career to pursue a full-time career as a painter. In the dream, Fournier is a 14-year-old boy standing in a church where everyone is fighting and shouting at one another. He looks behind him to see another young boy walk into the church. As the boy walks closer, Fournier

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screamed in astonishment as he realized the boy he’s looking at is a younger version of himself. At this point, his dream becomes lucid. Lucid dreaming occurs when a person is fully aware they are dreaming, while immersed in their dream. Their experience becomes a conscious one, where the dreamer fully experiences and remembers everything — the same way they would with any moments they experience while awake. Next, the boy in Fournier’s dream said, “Come close to me Réal, don’t stay with these people who are fighting. Come

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outside the church; I have a treasure for you.” As Fournier followed the boy outside, he is handed a bag that Fournier dumped on the ground to see what’s inside. Three things fall out of the bag: a little black book, a smurf and a gold coin. When Fournier reached out to touch the book, it began to magically dance about until it grew to seven feet and then began to twirl open its pages. As Fournier admired the pages of paintings in the book, he said “Oh wow!” and began to cry hysterically. The young boy asked

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Fournier why he was crying and Fournier responded, “Because, I would love to be the artist who made these beautiful paintings.” The boy replied: “You are that artist Réal. It’s now time for you to bring these paintings back [to] earth.” Fournier then asked the smurf what his message was for him and the smurf responded, “Your joy as a child will be back again.” With this, Fournier woke up at 3 a.m. to write the dream down so he would remember it. The next morning, he began thinking he should give up

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teaching to become a painter; however, he wasn’t ready to make such a bold move without knowing he’d have great security in his life. He thought about the three objects that fell out of the bag and realized that the gold coin was symbolic for financial security and that the large book filled with his paintings meant he would be successful. Knowing that the joy he experienced as a child would be back, as well as that he’d be guaranteed security, was all Fournier needed to leave his old life behind. He immediately went to see the director at his school and said, “I’m leaving my job right now, because I had this dream and it’s time I quit.” In disbelief, Fournier’s boss told him he was crazy and they continued to argue for nearly an hour, as Fournier tried to convince his boss that this abrupt decision was based solely on a dream and nothing else. When Fournier’s boss told him that he at least needed to stay until the school year was over, Fournier grudgingly accepted to stay until the end of the school year on the condition that he receive a form saying he’d be losing his pension, his job — everything that provided him with a sense of security. His boss reluctantly agreed to give Fournier this form, all the while telling him he was crazy and that he was making a big mistake. Fournier recapped his experience of losing his security, when his boss handed him the papers a week later: “That day, I remember where I was sitting at the desk. I was so

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“If you asked me to redo my life, I would ask to be brought back to all the different places I lived in, because I want to be a better painter. All of those experiences are the millions of different images, actions and emotions that I use when I paint.” - Réal Fournier nervous, my hand was shaking so bad that I couldn’t sign the paper; I had to hold my hand to sign it, it was so tough.” Fournier quit teaching in 1988 to begin his career as a full-time painter. His first showing in an art gallery was in 1989 at the Galerie d’Art Annie-Maurice in Quebec. While Fournier continued to showcase his work in many different galleries, he received an invitation in 1995 to paint large canvases at Webster Galleries Inc., in Calgary. His work was such a success that Fournier was invited to live there permanently with his common-law partner, Linda Gaudet — where they have

lived ever since. Although Fournier’s paintings are usually replicas of what he sees in his dreams, there are times when he wakes up with a blank slate. “Sometimes I have no idea what to paint, so I say, ‘Who am I today?’ Then I close my eyes while I make curvy lines and when I open my eyes, I see some shape, and then I build it.” Fournier makes a very conscious effort to ensure his paintings always deliver the same message: “I want to show people what a child is — it’s pure joy! Just be there, have fun in your life ... a child doesn’t worry, he just goes along with

his life. If adults could live this way, I don’t think there’d be any war.” Fournier said he never allows himself to experience any emotions other than joy and love when he’s painting, because any negativity will greatly affect his painting. As a result he doesn’t want to transfer any negativity to onlookers.

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Fournier began imaging how to paint from 3D comic books he used to read when he was a child. Although he persisted in trying to perfect the technique, he could never quite accomplish it — there was always a problem where an element would “pop out” that wasn’t supposed to. After trial and error with no success, Fournier abandoned his project for four years. However, five years ago, Fournier experienced the kind of dream most people wish for; a dream that gives you the solutions to your problems. “Suddenly, I had a dream where a man told me how to paint in 3D, so when I woke up, I had the solution because I had experienced it,” said Fournier. After years of giving up on trying to paint in 3D, Fournier listened to the technique that the mysterious man in his dream had given him and he’s happy he did. The man’s advice fixed the problems he was experiencing and now he’s a successful 3D painter. “I work wearing 3D glasses to create multi-layers. The multilayer painting becomes three dimensional once you put the glasses on,” said Fournier. Fournier is adored and


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respected by many people inside and outside of the artistic community. Réal Fournier, Retrospective, is a biography filled with prints of Fournier’s paintings, as well as loving words written for him by his closest friends. One of these friends, Charlotte Lapointe, wrote: “He has never ceased perfecting this genre; every year, something new appears. I knew this would never end — a creative spirit does not stop creating.” Fournier’s friend and the owner of Webster Galleries Inc., John H. Webster, described his work in the book, saying: “Réal’s introspection interweaves with his symbolism laying in every painting, often leading the viewer to new personal revelations. The colourist aspect of Réal’s work is always intriguing, creating another vibration of interest over and above the composition. Almost a healing for the purchaser you might say … I can see his work being considered a Canadian treasure in the near future.” Despite his hardships growing up, Fournier wouldn’t trade his difficult past for anything. With conviction, Fournier says: “If you asked me to redo my life, I would ask to be brought back to all the different places I lived in, because I want to be a better painter. All of those experiences are the millions of different images, actions and emotions that I use when I paint. They are my gifts, my source of energy to paint the beauty of what’s inside a child. “Learning resilience at a very young age was what made

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me a successful painter in my life. Rich people who have everything have a harder time dealing with negative emotions because they don’t have the coping tools that I learned while in the orphanage.” Fournier learned that making the best out of every situation was the attitude that would serve him best in life— an attitude that he carries with him today. He explained this mindset saying: “Let’s say you lived in 10 different foster homes. That means you’re given 10 different ways of thinking in your life, or of raising a child. Every time they change your home, you would have the opportunity to meet hundreds of more friends. “Your job as a human being is to know yourself better and better. You get to know yourself better by measuring yourself in really hard situations. I did that when I was young.” Now, 24 years since he quit teaching, everything Fournier dreamt about has come true — the success, the books showcasing his paintings and the return of his child-like joy. Fournier shared: “If I was not doing something I liked, I’d always get this feeling that something was missing inside of me. When I started painting again, that feeling of always being joyful just came rushing back.”

Fournier’s artwork can be found in numerous collections across North America and Europe and sells for $400-$11,000.

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Why They Busk

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They are both street musicians who know it can’t be a stable full-time gig. Meet Brad Saunders who busks for charity and Rob MacLean who performs in between working odd jobs. Despite the unpredictable cash flow and imposed restrictions, these two men have unlikely motivations behind their street sets.

story and photos by SHANE FLUG


24 A guitar case with a cushy, burgundy interior rests on the beige tiled floor of Heritage C-Train station. Like a mouth, it lays open, hungry for change. Its owner is busy singing covers of past and present radio hits like Ben Harper’s “Steal My Kisses” and Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song.” Brad (Riddles) Saunders is a street entertainer – or busker. Like a lot of other public spaces, Calgary’s C-Train stations can be a venue for free live music, where local musicians can entertain up to two hours at a time. Buskers are a common sight, but Saunders has drawn his motivation from an unlikely source. He has busked to raise money in support of a humanitarian mission to help build a house in Tijuana, Mexico. “I just wanted to go to another part of the world and do something nice,” he said. Originally from Nova Scotia,

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Saunders has a girlfriend, a daughter and a painting business. He said he also performs at Friends Church, where the missions to Tijuana are organized in partnership with Amor Ministries. Citing former Matchbox 20 front-man Rob Thomas as his main inspiration, Saunders relies on a repertoire of covers consisting mostly of acoustic pop, which rarely fails to entertain the crowds. “Certain songs are going to be really upbeat or really sad,” he said. “People relate to them.” And when people can relate to the songs he plays, Saunders said he is more likely to end up with a case full of coins. Not every day is a winner when it comes to getting that guitar case fed with coins from passersby, but when the time and place is right, it can net a fair chunk of change. Highertraffic stations like the Chinook C-train station are seen by

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buskers as a spare-change gold mine during the rush hour; a station where Saunders said he once made $350 in a mere two hours one Boxing Day. During our first meeting, we agreed to meet at Chinook during the after-school hour, only to see that a violinist was already performing in his intended spot. As we climbed down the concrete entrance steps outside, he said that showing up to Chinook only to see another busker performing is a common occurrence this time of year. With Chinook already having been claimed, we went one station south to Heritage. Over the course of his twohour performance, fewer than 20 people stopped to drop change. “3 A.M.” by Matchbox 20 was one song in his set list. The line in the song’s chorus, “I must be lonely,” seemed appropriate for the quieter shift. Saunders said he feels

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sometimes that with the advent of the iPod and Calgary’s hustle and bustle, live musicians aren’t always appreciated. Before our second meeting at Chinook Station, the spot appeared to be already taken once again, this time by 40-year-old Rob MacLean. After greetings and a handshake between us, he said he just so happened to be jam-buddies with Saunders, who arrived shortly after. As the two buskers worked their fret play together, one group of young teenagers stopped to enjoy the sounds, eventually busting some fun and silly hip-hop dancing moves. Brody Watt, one of the teenagers, said he admires the courage buskers have to perform for complete strangers and try to make an income out of it. “If you’re good at something, never do it for free,” he said. Although some buskers perform just to supplement

Brad Saunders, left, and Rob MacLean play together once in a while and did so inside Chinook C-Train station. It appeared that veteran buskers knew each other’s names and faces quite well. Not seeming to be the most territorial type of personality, MacLean said he’s open to sharing his spot with other arriving buskers.

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Brad Saunders’ shift during our first meeting inside Heritage C-Train station wasn’t a big moneymaker — maybe enough to pay for a meal and one drink at a restaurant. Fewer than 20 people dropped something in his case.

their cash flow, or for a cause like Saunders, others have made it their main profession. Married with two kids, MacLean said that although he has worked odd jobs to support his family, busking has been the only job he’s constantly come back to. “[At] a lot of jobs, people won’t hire you because you’ve got long hair and a beard,” MacLean said with a laugh. “People always try to make you feel guilty because you don’t have enough money or you’re not playing a role in society.” But, busking has its perks. MacLean said throughout his life, mainly with the help of connections with friends that worked in the music industry, he said he’s met KISS, heavymetal legends Iron Maiden and Judas Priest as well as a percussionist who performed for Bob Marley. MacLean plays his own original folk songs and brings the cheaper guitars in his collection to busk, because there might be small risks involved with strangers potentially

damaging equipment, though he said it’s not a major concern for him. As easy as these two make it seem, to busk in Calgary isn’t as simple as grabbing an instrument and performing. Depending on where they play, buskers require different permits in order to perform. According to the city, in most public spaces such as Stephen Avenue or parks, buskers need to apply for a free ID, but must have a license when selling something, such as CDs. For Calgary C-Train stations, buskers need to apply under the Musicians in Motion program. Wannabe buskers undergo an audition, which Bintan Le, Calgary Transit marketing coordinator, said is just to ensure “the musicians can actually play and they’re not a nuisance to our customers.” A criminalrecord check is also required and the yearly permit costs $25. On average there are 25-30 licensed buskers in the program per year. One setback to busking in Calgary is not being allowed to

use amplification like buskers in Vancouver are. “It’s really hard for musicians to be heard,” MacLean said, who added that singing at an audible level could strain his voice. Le said there are concerns that amplification would potentially lead to noise level where commuters wouldn’t be able to hear safety messages on the P.A. system. As far as city rules, he also said that with amplification, buskers at

different spots could potentially just tend to “outplay each other and it becomes a big annoyance more than anything.” MacLean said it’s good when artists like Saunders can perform for charitable causes, “but it’s also good that people also understand that if you’re a musician or you’re actor or you’re an artist, you take care of number one first.” “Music’s kind of a weird thing,” he said. “I think it’s not a business, it’s a consciousness. But I’ve been giving it away and I don’t ask for anything and people just give me what lands in the case and I accept that for my day.” For MacLean however, despite the uncertainty of how full (or empty) his case can get and the no-amplification rule, he likens sharing his gift as its own charitable gesture by making audiences feel youthful, saying, “Every child is born with innocent eyes and we as people can go back to that inner child.”


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An Embalmer’s Tale

One 27-year-old’s fascination with embalming underpins his new career. But, he attests there’s more to the art than putting makeup on dead bodies. story and photos by MARIA BITTER

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ressed up in a black bowler hat and black suit, Misque Tszchun Ng stands out among the casually dressed students at Mount Royal University. “An embalmer must always look presentable and professional at all times,” Ng said. He is one of 30 students taking the embalming program, which is the process of preserving deceased human bodies in order to present them at funerals. Although his career interest may be morbid, Ng’s personality is far from somber. “Did you check out my watch?

It’s pretty cool, I got it in Chinatown,” the 27-year-old happily stated. Born in Hong Kong, Ng moved to Canada when he was nine. While in Asia, his childhood ambition was to become an embalmer mainly because he had a relative that worked in the funeral industry. His uncle used to tell him stories about the different cases he worked on and how he would transfer bodies from place-to-place after a death occurred. “His stories fascinated me, and I decided that I wanted to work in the funeral industry when I grew up.” Ng saw his first dead body at the tender

age of five when somebody jumped off a building in Hong Kong. “I was surprised and interested at the same time — I asked my mom is he dead? Because I just couldn’t understand.” He brushed it out of his consciousness for a while during elementary school, but during his teenage years, his fascination with mortuary science began. This led him to explore different fields — not only the scientific portion but also how people grieve and treat mortality. After working as a cook for 10 years because he needed a job, Ng decided it was time to do something with his life –

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“A lot of people say ‘you must love dead people’ but in the end when you pack up and go home, you feel the satisfaction that you have helped someone, or a bunch of people get closure.” - Misque Tszchun Ng either get his Red Seal, or make a drastic career change. With that, he enrolled in the Funeral Director and Embalmer Certificate program at MRU in Sept. 2011. One of the main reasons Ng chose the program was his interest in people’s perception of death, and how everyone seeks to understand the meaning of life. He said that he was used to seeing dead bodies because the media in Hong Kong didn’t refrain from showing graphic pictures of an accident, or of diseased people in newspapers. It was his fascination with mortality in general that makes him comfortable around a dead body. “It’s a restorative art, and it’s an interesting look at humans in general.” “No other animal holds as much respect and dignity for their dead as we do, and that’s fascinating,” Ng elaborated. Embalmers in Alberta spend two years in school learning the process of sanitation, restoration and preservation. They also have to complete an internship and write a provincial exam that grants them their certification. Patricia Rye, student and program liaison for the Funeral Services and Continuing Education programs, mentioned that the majority of students range from 18-25 years old. “I think that it’s popular among that age group because the majority of students have had a positive experience at a funeral home when they’ve lost someone,” Rye said. “They find qualities in themselves that they want to share.” Jason Trout, 33, worked in a funeral home shortly after high school. He eventually left that job to work in the oil industry because he wanted to make more money; despite his hopefulness to someday

return to the funeral services industry. It wasn’t until 2007, when his wife got a job in Calgary that he decided it was time to get his certification as a funeral director and embalmer.

Misque Tszchun Ng studied for two years to learn what he calls the “restorative art” of embalming.

“For me, it’s being able to bridge that gap for people at their time of need,” Trout explained. “It’s definitely about service to people.” “It’s nice to help and facilitate the business end of the ceremony and the whole process for them.” Trout added that most people don’t know what the process is like after someone dies, so he likes to help them understand what will happen next after a

loved one’s passing. Due to my own ignorance of the embalming process, Ng slowly took me through the steps in the middle of a crowded coffee shop. “We wipe the bodies down and do a thorough external sanitation, clean all the cavities, set the features of the face (eye closure, mouth closure) and massage the body to break up rigor mortis (stiffness of the limbs). “One of the big parts is arterial embalming, where we draw the blood from the body and inject a fluid into the veins to give the skin a normal colour.” After that, they apply special make up to the face, and dress the body. Ng said that one of the many misconceptions people have about embalming is their lack of knowledge surrounding the process; they don’t know the science behind it or what the point of the process is. He continued to explain that many people believe they just put makeup on the face and that’s it. “That’s one part of the process, but that’s certainly not all we do. That’s Hollywood giving people that idea.” “A lot of people say ‘you must love dead people’ but in the end when you pack up and go home, you feel the satisfaction that you have helped someone, or a bunch of people get closure.” To Ng, helping the family move on brings him a sense of comfort and fulfillment. “When you come to terms that your loved one has passed away, and you remember them fondly with our help, then we feel we did a good job.”


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Sidewalk Access

Two Calgary boutiques offer rare finds from New York, L.A., and local Calgarian designers. story and photos by KIRSTEN GLOWA

COCO+VIOLET

17 - 2500 4th St. S.W. OCO+VIOLET prides itself on bringing new styles from L.A. and New York to the streets of Calgary. With glistening floors that are reminiscent of a purple skating rink and shimmering chandeliers that hang from the ceiling, this boutique is a far-cry from its Calgary counterparts. COCO+VIOLET co-owners, Helen Nguyen and Hien Huynh aim to target a wide demographic, from ages 18 to 60. “We care so much about our store, our customer’s style and what we can do to dress them,” says Nguyen. Because the two owners travel to runway shows and visit designer stores in L.A. and New York, they offer fashion forward clothes such as Equipment Femme shirts, which

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have been labeled as the quintessential casual button-down shirt. According to Nguyen, celebrities like Nicole Richie and fashion editors like Anna Wintour from American Vogue sport them. Ranging from $200 to $350, the silk dress shirts are available in a wide-range of unique colours and patterns like an army green, a heather grey or patterns featuring birds or owls. According to Nguyen, COCO +VIOLET is also the only store in Calgary to house the denim line GoldSign jeans — which can be custom ordered for fit, wash and design. Offering each article of clothing in only one size, it’s unlikely you’ll see anyone rocking the same top as you.

Eleven : Eleven

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wner Lana Selbee opened Eleven : Eleven in February 2009, naming the boutique after the old wives’ tale that wishes come true when the clock strikes 11:11. Selbee focuses on selling items from Canadian designers with a concentration on Calgary talent, including Kirsten Summersgill who is the innovator behind Pout Clothing and Ruby Ellen Johnson, from Ruby Ellen Designs. According to Selbee, Eleven : Eleven was created with self-awareness and environmentally consciousness in mind — underpinning the reason

233 10th St. N.W.

the boutique also focuses on selling environmentally friendly clothing made from designers who use organic cotton or recycled clothing. Every item in the store has a story: “You wouldn’t go to the mall and know who the designer was, where they got the fabric from and how long it will last,” described Selbee. “At Eleven : Eleven you will know all these answers and honestly cherish your pieces because you will know its life story and know that it was made out of love.”

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Let’s Meetup!

A wings and beer night draws everyone from a Hong Kong computer programmer to a flamenco guitar player from British Columbia. It’s all part of an international forum that’s in place to bring strangers together.

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ervousness sets in to my stomach as I open the door to The District – a pub in downtown Calgary. Scouring the room, I look for a sign indicating, “Meetup,” which is supposed to lead me to the wings and beer social group. According to the organizer, they were supposed to be here at 7 p.m. — it’s now 7:30 p.m. I’m fashionably late, yet there’s still no sign in sight. As a newcomer to Calgary, I decided to unearth new ways to meet people. That’s when I found Meetup, an online forum where people who have the same interests can get together. With over 9.5 million members in 45,000 cities, Meetup is the world’s largest network of groups. I turn towards a table of ten guys and two girls, and a friendly face emerges from the crowd. “Hi,” the face says. “I’m Kevin,

I organize this group.” Kevin Heumann, tall, skinny and redhaired immediately jumped up to find me a seat and introduced me to everyone at the table. As organizer of this group, Heumann says that Meetup is for people who need to get out of their routine and join groups of like-minded individuals. “About half are [new] people to the city looking to meet people,” he says. “The other half are people who just want to get out and do something different.” The smiles and warm welcomes that I receive validate that we’re all in this for the same reason – to meet new people. The group looks like any other group of friends in the pub and the relaxed atmosphere makes the nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach disappear. As I make conversation, I discover that I’m in the company of an osteopath

story by KOURTNEY TATESON illustration by JACK SIMPSON

from France, a computer programmer from Hong Kong, a flamenco guitar player from British Columbia and Nicholas Tatchell, a 34-year-old information technologies technician from England. “Why’d you join Meetup?” I ask Tatchell. “When I came to Calgary almost three years ago, I didn’t know anyone,” he says. “I joined Meetup because someone at the hostel where I was staying recommended it to me. I didn’t have any other options to meet people so I joined Meetup to have some sort of social life.” He’s now a member of 12-15 groups. Tatchell says his first Meetup was with the Calgary immigrants and newcomers group. “They’re some of the best friends that I have today,” he says. “I had to force myself into situations that weren’t always comfortable, but we exchanged phone numbers and once I started hanging with these people outside of Meetup, it was like we’d known each other forever.” I chat with Tatchell, the osteopath and the flamenco guitar player until the other people around the table begin to leave – two hours later. I cue my leave with the appropriate “goodbyes” and “nice to meet yous.” And realize that I’m looking forward to the next Meetup, thinking that an outing with the Calgary snowboarders club or an evening with the Calgary boardgames group may be in order.


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The Labyrinth

Descend into Rat’s Nest Cave. There are tight crevasses that force you to inhale like you’re getting fitted for a corset in the Renaissance, cold drip-water falling from limestone rock, cliff edges with no bottom in sight and rats, lots and lots of rats, which scare off all but the most determined. story by MELISSA RENWICK

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here was no warning of what was to come. The only thing heard was “lights out,” and in the blink of an eye, there was darkness. Like a cartoon character, my eyes bulged out of their sockets as my head cranked from left to right searching for a crack of light, but there was none to be found. Not a moment later, sound had also vanished. But rather than panic, stillness rushed through me. The world had been put on pause — my mind was blank and numb, allowing consciousness to fade in and out like a pulsing heart. A sudden flash caused kaleidoscopic patterns to dance across my eyes as they slowly adjusted to the light. My unreciprocated con-

versation with darkness had been cut short, as I was instantly reminded that my journey wasn’t over; that I was buried deep inside Rat’s Nest Cave — 90 metres underground. Flashback three hours prior: myself, along with four friends, found ourselves clad in white helmets equipped with headlamps and oversized jumpsuits — concealing the harnesses snugly wrapped around our waists. Standing on the south-facing slope of Grotto Mountain (located a few minutes outside the town of Canmore), we gazed up at the entrance to a subterranean world unlike anything we could have conjured up in our minds. It was our first time caving and we were buzzing in anticipation.

Jennifer Friesen / Quirk

Guide Lindsay Walker offers a quick lesson on the limestone found on Grotto Mountain, which forms Rat’s Nest Cave.


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Jennifer Friesen / Quirk

Danny Wellborn, Jesse Schick and Kendra Wilks hike-up Grotto Mountain, ascending to Rat’s Nest Cave’s entrance.

Lindsay Walker, an unassuming petite blonde who works for Canmore Caverns Ltd., was our guide for the day. After giving a brief (albeit thorough) synopsis of how to attach our carabiners to the ropes once inside the cave, she led by example. With the help of a rope that fell from a dark, barred metal gate, we pulled ourselves up the slope which led to the cave’s entrance. Once piled inside — CLANG, the door slammed shut, sealing off the outside world. Sun light leaked through the metal bars taking away from the mystery of the cave. However, it did illuminate the dozens upon dozens of rat droppings littering the limestone ground — unraveling the mystery behind the cave’s name. “Alberta is known to be rat free, but there’s one species of rat that lives here — the woodrat,” Walker said. “And they live inside this cave. They look sort of like a chinchilla, with a bushy squirrel-like tail and cute little bear ears. They don’t look anything like sewer rat, which is what most people think of.” While nearly 3,000 people enter the cave each year, there are some who are so spooked by rats that they refuse to enter the cave, despite the coaxing by the guides. It’s a fitting response, especially since our provincial government proudly states “Al-

bertans have enjoyed living without the menace of rats since 1950.” After gazing around at the clay and mud encrusted rock, it wasn’t long before the thought of rats drifted far away. Ancient native tribal drawings were painted on the walls, showing some history of the cave as holding a sacred status and being a hunting site for Alberta’s aboriginals. As we inched further inside the entrance, a huge black hole loomed through the darkness. Thirty-four different species of mammal

bones have been uncovered from the depths of the excavation — unfortunate animals which had fallen in the pit over a 7,000 year span. A narrow down slope to the left of the apparently bottomless pit was the designated route. One-by-one, we crawled forward, weary and watchful, lying flat as not to smash our heads on the overhanging limestone which was damp with drip-water. Once the crevice opened, there was room to stand upright, allowing the vast

Melissa Renwick / Quirk

Jesse Schick gingerly slides down Rat’s Nest Cave’s first crevasse making his way further underground.


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sights and musty smells of cave’s first cavern to sink in. The vast and open chamber caused heads to spin in continuous 360s, eventually coming to a halt when Walker motioned toward the display of bones that rested on one of the caves limestone shelves (the bones are placed in open sight to allow visitors a close-up look). “A lot of people like to do adventure sports — white water rafting or mountain biking — but the cave is just so different from everything else,” Walker explained. Her words rang true. The cave whispers idiosyncratic secrets, causing thoughts to reflect inwards. Rather than feeling the need to outcry: “Whoa bro, that was seriously gnarly,” it’s almost as if the silent dialect between you and your comrades is honoured. A common language is formed through a mere glance into each other’s eyes. From that initial cavern, comfort and ease settled in. Limits were tested as we slid down the intricate channels like our jumpsuits had morphed into toboggans. It wasn’t long before the cold, damp air was welcomed, rather than dismissed. Arms turned into rubber, quivering as they attempted to haul tired, deadweight bodies up, down and through the cave’s different landings. “Rat’s Nest is a lot of bang for your buck in terms of cave systems,” explained Walker. “You have your vertical pitches, you have small, small spaces, you have big spaces, you have formations, you have water pools [which one cave diver has dared to explore] — it contains a lot of the elements you would look for in a cave, in one small area.” The most memorable part of the trip was the “tight squeeze.” The space is so small that it requires you to slither like a snake, arms lodged and locked under your ribcage, Jennifer Friesen / Quirk

Lindsay Walker, crawls down to fetch a cookie that slid out of writer, Melissa Renwick’s pocket as Danny Wellborn looks downward to offer light.

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because rather than widening, the passage gets tighter midway through. This is also the only point during the adventure-tour that I started to hyperventilate with anxiety. Panic set in by the thought of becoming lodged between the two walls, never to return to the world which continued to move above me. Once through, my breath restored itself to normal. Panic averted. Although the squeeze didn’t unveil any uncharted passages, digging tools were discovered — tucked away in a small crevasse. Walker said that the tools are used to push the cave’s known 4 kilometre limit, as it’s potentially over 40 kilometres long. Like a ghost, Canmore Caverns owner and operator, Charles Yonge, emerged to join in on the last leg of the journey. Well-versed in geology (cave deposits being the focus of his PhD thesis at McMaster University), Yonge described how caves offer an opportunity to trace global climate change through the cave deposits, known as stalagmites. As our informal geology

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lesson continued on, we began to notice familiar formations and caverns — our time underground was coming to a close. We climbed out of the cave from the same way we had entered, scurrying around on all fours, peeping around stupefied like a bunch of woodrats. Hearts raced as grins extended from ear-to-ear. Jesse Martin started caving seven years ago, joining the Alberta Speleological Society in the fall of 2007. When describing how caving makes him feel, he shared that “there’s a thrill when I enter a place where (it feels) no living thing has ever been before. I also tend to appreciate how things [are more] beautiful above ground after spending a significant time underground.” “The discovery aspect is really what turns all cavers on,” Yonge said warning us that “caving is addicting.” Spoiler alert: he was right.

Jennifer Friesen / Quirk

Writer Melissa Renwick and Kendra Wilks take a moment to catch their breath exiting one of the caves many tight squeezes.

“My unreciprocated conversation with darkness had been cut short, as I was instantly reminded that my journey wasn’t over; that I was buried deep inside Rat’s Nest Cave, 90 metres underground.”

Melissa Renwick / Quirk

Lindsay Walker motions to the mammal bones resting on a ledge inside Rat’s Nest.


Taking photos, leaving footprints You drive past them every day — the neglected and abandoned places of Calgary. While some want them to disappear, there is one group of people who hunt them down to discover their secrets shrouded in shadow. story by STEVE WALDNER

photos by MARK ENGEL


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t’s shortly after 7 p.m. when the van in front of me pulls over — the way ahead barricaded by a chain link fence crowned with barbed wire. I follow suit, turn off my car, and get out. The air is crisp, refreshing and the full moon illuminates the near kilometre-long building sitting 150 metres away from the other side of the fence. I walk beside my guide as he confidently strides along the fence line. “The best way over a fence,” he tells me, “is under it.” With that, he slides his bag under a two-foot gap under the fence right beside a long abandoned piece of train track, lays on his back and pulls himself through. I follow him; much less gracefully, but still manage to squeeze through. As we walk along the train tracks that pull up beside the foundry, he tells me about its history — what it was used for, how many people were employed in it, and the sequence of events which led to its current state.

Part explorer, part historian, part photographer

Mark Engel is my leader during this two-man expedition. During the day, he works as a plumber in Calgary, but that isn’t why he’s guiding me tonight. Engel, 27, has another calling that takes up his time — urban exploration. Urban explorers have one code: “take only photographs, and leave only footprints.” Abandoned hospitals, factories and mines, among other locations, are the subject of Engel’s interests. Urban explorers hunt down these abandoned places, all but forgotten by the world,

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infiltrate, document and share them through images. But what is the appeal of urban exploration? For Engel, his motivation is simple. “Curiosity. And seeing what’s around that dark corner,” he says. “Also, seeing how the buildings are put together, seeing how the building practices have changed.” It’s easy to see Engel’s enthusiasm for urban exploration — his eyes light up when he’s talking about some of his more memorable explores, the intense experiences he’s had, and some of his close calls. “I used to be all sad, but then I realized that life is as good or as bad as you make it,” he says. “I have fun. I like to say ‘live a life worth remembering.’” It’s easy to see this is a philosophy he practices as well as preaches. All his stories, from his exploits as a photographer to his camping trips, share the same unbridled excitement that I can’t help but find contagious. It’s this same excitement that saturates his voice when he tells me how he goes about finding new places to explore. During the hunt to find sites like the one he has led me to, Engel often finds himself acting as a mix between detective and historian. “When I’m coming to a new area, I’ll pull out my phone and type in a bunch of search terms about wherever I’m at,” Engel says. “You find out about the area’s history, about the kind of industry they had, and you know what to look for. So if there’s a town with a logging industry, I’ll look for logging mills.” In the case of the building he

has taken me to tonight, it was, in its day, touted as a state-ofthe-art magnesium foundry. It closed its doors in 1991 after only a year of operation due to an unfortunate combination of economically-unviable processes, the collapse of the magnesium market and a loss of major investors. Since 1994, the massive foundry has sat idle and generally unused.

The Traceless Entry

We are at the building now, and begin walking along its side. He points to a door up a small flight of stairs. “That’s

the easiest way to get in, but it’s got motion sensors that set off alarms there now, so we aren’t going in that way.” Traceless entries are part of the code of urban exploration — the building must be left exactly as it was found. The “entries” to these buildings are a large part of the discussion between urban explorers — often times the creativity in managing a traceless entry is as interesting as the explore itself. We continue walking down the building until we reach another s e t o f stairs – this time we

An urban explorer’s need for undetectable entrances and exits are rarely as easy as an unlocked door.


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While abandoned structures are generally forgotten about, they are prized among the urban explorer community.

climb them. Once we reach the top, we shimmy along a set of rails 15 feet off the ground — that I assume were used to transport materials around the side of the building. Engel then opens a small, three-footwide hatch in the side of the foundry, tosses his bag in and motions to me. “You go in first.” I toss my bag in, crawl after it. He comes in after, the window slamming shut behind him. For a moment, we’re covered in complete darkness. We find our flashlights and turn them on. It takes a second for me to get my bearings, but when I do, the first notion that crosses my mind is just how massive the building actually is. It’s only on the drive home that I realize what it reminded me of — the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings. The place has the same massive, deserted feeling imparted by the mines shown in the film. Seeing these places

from the outside is one thing, but witnessing them from the inside is another story. The fact that the foundry (aside from the concrete floors, railings and the rust-spotted girders lining the ceiling) is completely barren doesn’t help to hide its grandeur. Between the haze of magnesium-ore dust and sheer distance, our LED flashlights can barely illuminate the end of the section we are in. We walk to a set of stairs and start climbing up. After eight flights, we reach the top floor. I look over a railing and have to step back immediately. It’s a straight drop from where we are to the bottom floor. Again, my light hardly illuminates the bottom. My guide stops at a ladder leading to the very top of the foundry. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I think to myself, looking behind us. The railing is only eight feet away from the ladder – and beyond that

is an inevitably lethal drop. But I didn’t come this far to admit defeat. When Engel is clear of the ladder, it’s my turn. My mind runs through a number of terrifying scenarios such as the anchors holding the ladder to the wall giving out and causing the ladder to fall backwards, hurtling me towards my unfated doom. It’s amazing how

many of these scenarios I find myself going through in the fifteen seconds it takes me to climb the ladder. Finally, I reach the top, pull myself over and let out a deep breath. He leads me out another door to a small balcony on the outside of the foundry. The only thing keeping us from a 150-foot drop is some

Steve Waldner/Quirk

Engel’s passion for photography goes hand-in-hand with his passion for exploring the unknown.


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grated flooring and three small, yellow rails. There’s another ladder in the middle of the balcony. Despair. After a while, it looks like we aren’t going to be going up it and I’m flooded with relief. He explains to me how, directly attached to the balcony, is a conveyor belt that brought up fresh material, which was then fed into the building and distributed into eight six-storey hoppers. I’m absolutely blown away at how much he knows about how the foundry worked, despite the fact that by the first time he visited the site in 2003, it had been shut down for over a decade.

An International Community

Engel is part of a unique community that spans much further than Calgary. Urban exploration has formed in a unique way — while there are local groups that explore,

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the real community is found online through a number of websites and forums, both public and private. While one of the main online communities in Calgary, urban explorers of Alberta (www.uea.ca) has become inactive due to a perfect storm of redevelopment, overexploration and members moving away, the Internet has allowed for urban explorers from different cities and countries to share their pictures, experiences, exploration sites and even make travel plans to see what other cities have to offer. “I have a couch on four continents that I can sleep on,” Engel explains. “After you prove yourself and prove that people can trust you, you’ll get invites to private forums, and that’s where you can make these connections with people from other places.” Engel, or Fyrephreak, as he is known online, posts the

pictures from his explores on his website, www.fyrephreak.com. “Anyone worth their salt in the urban exploration world would recognize my name,” Engel says. We go back inside, and he continues showing me around, stopping only to snap pictures — this proves more difficult than I imagined. When I tell him about the trouble I’m having, he laughs. “A lot of the time, when you’re doing stuff like this, the normal rules of photography don’t apply,” he tells me. As we continue through the foundry, I notice that when he walks on the grated flooring, without even looking, he lands every footstep on the girders running beneath. I ask him if it’s habit. “Yeah, if that floor goes out, it would be bad,” he says. “I mean, people have died doing this.”

A Dangerous Hobby An

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Industrial structures provide unique images which are trophies as much as photographs.

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Detroit named Seth Thomas was hit and killed by a subway train while exploring the train tunnels. Engel’s friend Siologen is currently in traction from falling down a subway shaft and shattering his hip. Another explorer fell into a drain pit while exploring a drain, lost all his camera gear but counted himself lucky to escape with his life. Exploring the abandoned runs with high risk, not only in dealing with security — quite often, time takes its toll on sites and things like floors, ladders and stairs can become potential hazards. Depending on where he is exploring, Engel often takes respirators to protect himself from asbestos. As well, while not particularly dangerous, he has had awkward run-ins with others who have gotten into these buildings for far more dubious reasons.


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This sign, a favourite of Engel’s, could be a motto for urban explorers.

“We were doing an explore in Edmonton where we started hearing this CLANG, then it would stop and CLANG, every 15 seconds,” Engel recalls. “We were on a switchback staircase, looked over, and there were two copper scrappers ripping pipes out of the wall. They were just covered in asbestos, and they didn’t have any masks — we just left them alone.” Colin Donlevy has gone out exploring with Engel several times over the past decade, and has seen a few of the hazards that urban explorers can face. He recalls a time he and Engel explored an abandoned mine where he nearly met disaster. “There was a rickety ladder that the brackets holding the ladder to the rock were still solid but the ladder itself was very rotted and on the way down it was fine, and on the way back up it gave out and I was holding onto the bracket. That was a good lesson to respect the fact that these places are old and things can give way.”

A Dying Scene

Eventually, I’ve taken all the pictures I can and I’ve been given as close to a full tour as I’m going to get. We start walking back to the road we parked on. Before I get in my car, I take another look at the foundry, even more impressed by its moon-lit exterior then when I arrived. I remember my guide telling me that places like these are disappearing around Calgary and to get a good urban exploration experience,

explorers have to get further and further away from Calgary. During the boom of 2005, Calgary’s economy was strong enough to warrant the demolition of several of Calgary’s best exploration sites. However, Engel believes that in time, the buildings that are key to urban exploration will return to Calgary. “It disappeared because the economy got so good; it’s expensive to tear down

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buildings and redevelop, but in Calgary they could do it. When the economy is shitty, people will move, won’t be able to maintain or tear down their buildings. You see this kind of thing happening all over the place in North America, especially America.” I’m only 15 minutes down the road when it really hits me just how amazing the experience was — to see and experience a place that has been completely left behind by the world. I imagine that what I felt in the foundry was what archaeologists felt when exploring some newly-discovered ancient ruin. One thing is for certain; this curiosity is contagious. Over the next few weeks, I can’t help but find myself drawn to older, abandoned buildings I’ve never noticed before, and wondering what stories are hidden behind their boarded windows and barred doors.

Urban exploration photography often calls for working in complete darkness and getting creative with light sources.


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On The Fly With Kevin To understand fishing in Calgary, you have to understand my fiancĂŠ, Kevin Dwornik. He

makes his own flies, spends Sundays on the Bow River and practices putting up his ice tent in his basement. When I can, I join him and try to understand his passion for the sport.

story and photos by KATIE FISHER


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At first, fishing with Kevin was an activity that tried my patience more than anything else. We would spend eight hours without a single nibble. These days, Kevin pulls fish out of the water in no time at all; he says it’s because of his homemade flies.

Tying flies is something I could never do. It requires a steady hand, a sharp eye and plenty of patience ‌ none of which I have. Kevin enjoys tying flies because it relaxes him after a long day at work and lets him express himself. But it does take a lot of time, which quite often takes away from our evenings together.

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When we do get to go fishing together, we always do something different. In the summertime we like to go rafting on the Bow, where we always catch plenty of Whitefish. Sometimes, we will go camping on the forestry trunk roads where we also catch lots of Whitefish and, if the time is right, brown trout and rainbow trout.

In the winter, we go ice fishing on Chestermere Lake. I used to believe that Kevin’s fish finder did most of the work until I went out with him and broke a sweat in -30 degree weather, all thanks to a hand powered auger and four feet of ice.

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For now, Kevin is counting down the days to the holidays when we will have the time to go ice fishing. He’s ready, are you?

Following in Kevin’s Footsteps: If you don’t have someone like Kevin to go fishing with, here is a checklist of things you will need: - An Alberta Sportfishing license - A fishing rod (depending on the type of fishing, you will either need a fly fishing rod, a casting rod or an ice fishing rod) - Fishing line (they come if different weights based on the type of fishing you are doing) - Lures - A small toolkit that includes small scissors and needle nose pliers. All of these items can be purchased at Bass Pro Shops, Canadian Tire, The Fishin’ Hole and Wholesale Sports.

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scene, positive messages

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The Calgary hip-hop community has steadily grown to the point that roughly 200 men and women from throughout the city turned up for King of the Dot’s Frost Bite rap battle show this past November.

story and photos by SEAN-PAUL BOYNTON

“HOLD IT DOWN!”

In a city known for indie rock and

The crowd is starting to settle, the various voices dying to a whisper, yet the room is filled with a buzzing anticipation.

cowboys, an emerging community of hip-hop artists and fans are slowly making themselves heard, not only due to their talent, but

The source of the command is about to give his introductory remarks to a camerawoman, until someone in the back cracks a joke and the room starts to ripple with laughter.

also through a focus on positive

“I SAID HOLD IT DOWN!!”

energy. Sean-Paul Boynton spends

The jokester turns down his head sheepishly and the room is finally silent.

a weekend discovering the hopes,

The silence is important. In the middle of the massive Distillery concert hall, two rappers are about to battle each other using nothing but their wits and shared gift of crafting rhymes off the top of their heads – in other words, freestyling. There are no microphones, no beat to keep time. There must be silence.

difficulties, and determination of the Calgary hip-hop scene.


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Local rappers McNight (left) and New’l face off during the King of the Dot Frost Bite rap battle. After an intense three rounds, the two will willingly embrace and congratulate each other.

The rappers are inside a makeshift cage crafted with metal gates, along with a multitude of supporters, five judges, a host, the camerawoman and a photographer. Outside the cage, there are more than 200 people, equal parts male and female, trying to catch a glimpse of the action. Everyone knows each other, exchanging easy and appreciative handshakes and hugs and smiles. I stand inside the cage, attempting to get a good vantage point and trying to make sense of everything around me. Is this the local hip-hop community I’ve been searching for? What rock have I been living under that has pre-

vented me from being witness to this scene? Why have I not heard of this? Before I can find the answers, the camerawoman counts down from three to two to one to action, and it begins.

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he day before the rap battle, I’m in the home of local rapper Juan “Don Juan” Ramirez, who’s set to take part in the event. Ramirez is a regular participant with King of the Dot, the Toronto-based battle rap league that’s putting on tomorrow’s Frost Bite show. Footage of his battles has gotten high ratings on the league’s YouTube page. “There is so much amazing talent in

this city that is still not recognized and it’s kind of hard to take, because when you go to these King of the Dot battles, it’s all concentrated in one room and it’s incredible,” he says. Born in the small Guatemalan town of Panajachel, Ramirez fled the country with his mother and brother at the age of two due to the political and domestic turmoil of the time. He still remembers running across the border into the United States in the dead of night. In 1991, after a year seeking refuge in a California church, Ramirez and his family moved to Calgary. Now 23, Ramirez exerts a positive energy that appears to have been hard

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won. He makes cryptic references to his past that suggest he was involved in gangs and even drug dealing, with his early music containing allusions to the gang lifestyle and aggressive threats of violence that are common in what’s known as gangsta rap. His outlook recently changed after what he calls “a huge wake up call.” “I experienced a lot of violence, both as a victim and a perpetrator and I was heading in the wrong direction,” he remembers. “And then my brother was involved in a car accident that almost killed him. I had to think about what I was doing and why I was doing it and also look at what I was doing with my music.” Since then, Ramirez’s music has

moved towards what he calls “a more personal and holistic style,” and he says the change has brought him greater success. His base of supporters has grown and he has left the gang lifestyle behind him. But what qualifies as “successful” for a rapper in a city more known for cowboys and, more recently, indie rock than hip-hop? Smiling knowingly, he agrees with my skepticism. “In Calgary, you can say, ‘I’m a musician, I play in a rock band,’ and people will go [enthusiastically], ‘Oh yeah?’ But if you tell people you’re a rapper, it’s like [cautiously and almost condescendingly], ‘Oh…yeah?’ No one expects to find any hip-hop here, especially local hip-hop, and when I meet people it’s almost like they’re saying, ‘What are you doing in Calgary?’ We’re not a hip-hop city.” He looks at me and flashes a smile that immediately broadcasts his optimism and his determination: “At least not yet. But we can get there.” Earlier in the day, Joa “Black Mamba” Miranda is sharing his own struggles as a rapper in a city not known for hip-hop. We’re driving through downtown and although we don’t mention it, I know we both see the same sight as we pass by one music club after another: marquees announcing upcoming shows for rock band after rock band, with no name that could be recognized as being a rapper or even a DJ. When we walk past the Distillery later, not one poster for the Frost Bite event can be seen. Like Ramirez, Miranda’s journey to Calgary was long and arduous. Born in the south central African country of Angola, Miranda and his sisters were sent to South Africa by their parents in 1995, just before he turned 16, to escape the Angolan civil war. After completing high school in 2000, Miranda found himself moving in quick succession to the United States, Toronto, then Hamilton, before finally coming to Calgary in 2007. Here, he met Edivaldo “Eddy Mayor” Dasilva, also from Angola, and later Congo-born Orphee “MC Budidi” Landa. The A-Squad Boyz — short for Afro-Canadian Squad — was born. Coming from homelands of violent

unrest, Miranda and the A-Squad Boyz were soon faced with a different kind of war: one between hip-hop artists and Calgary promoters. “We were knocking on every door, talking to anyone we could, trying to get something booked and it was hard,” remembers 32-year-old Miranda. “It was anything we could do to try and find a way in.” Things started to pick up, enough at least that people began talking. For Miranda, however, something more had to happen. “We just got tired of chasing people down. I thought to myself, what if I could organize my own events, invite other artists down, pay them out of my own pocket ... do it all myself?” So he learned the skills of event organization and self-promotion. He then truly understood the nature of the scene. “I’ve found much more success once I started doing it on my own,” he says. “We’ve been able to reach a level in the scene that not many others have, simply through doing things our own way, on our own terms.” Those terms, besides taking event planning and promotion into their own hands, include the A-Squad Boyz’ unnerving stance against violence, alcoholism and drugs. Their music is also built on positivity and their events strive to create what Miranda calls “simply a safe, fun, positive environment built on love for the music and for each other.” But as he says, it’s hard to keep what he calls “the troublemakers” out of the way. “We were putting on an event at Lord Nelson’s [Bar] and we were rocking it and everyone was having a great time,” he remembers. “Then this drunk guy starts hitting on some girl, who wants nothing to do with him, but he keeps persisting. Then her boyfriend steps in and tries to get him away calmly, but this guy just goes nuts and starts a fight. The whole night, everyone’s good time, was ruined because of one guy.


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“The next thing you know, you’re hearing about how [the fight] was because it was ‘a black event,’ when it was just one guy being negative. It’s hard to keep away that negative energy, whether it be the troublemakers or the stigmas.” This past summer, Miranda and Dasilva fully realized how hard it could be to avoid that negative energy, when group member Landa was found murdered on the side of a road outside Okotoks. The details of the crime are murky and no suspects have been found. Despite the shocking loss to the group, Miranda and Dasilva continue to soldier on in creating music together, determined to maintain positivity in the face of senseless violence. “Orphee used to say, ‘We aren’t just a hip-hop group,’” says Miranda, visibly struggling to hold back tears despite his calm smile. “We are a family and we have always tried to take care of each other, no matter what. There’s so much more for us to accomplish and we’re doing this not just for Orphee, but also for the city in general; to push it towards a positive community and bring people together and hopefully be recognized for that.” As we continue to walk down Stephen Avenue, Miranda continually diverts attention from himself to the community at large. He’s made it to a higher level than most of his peers, yet his disposition is humble. In a way, it has to be. “Just because we’re making noise in the scene, doesn’t mean we are necessarily known to the average person here,” he says. “There’s still a long way to go. I’d like to have my own venue one of these days and maybe my own promotion outfit that can put on even bigger and better shows. People tell us we’ve made it, but I don’t think we have.” He stops to rub his hands against the autumn chill and takes the opportunity to change his tune.

“There I go being negative,” he smiles knowingly. “You can’t be like that in this town.”

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s I meet more and more members of the community, I begin to realize how important focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative is to them, not just because it sets the music itself apart from the typical gangsta tendencies of mainstream hip-hop, but also as a survival mechanism for the scene as a whole. I get this sense when I sit down with the members of veteran Calgary hip-hop group Dragon Fli Empire outside the CJSW radio station at the University of Calgary, a day after the rap battle. A born and raised Calgarian, Adam Hicks, better known as DJ Cosm, hosts a hip-hop show on CJSW every Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. that focuses on Canadian talent. On this particular night, he rattles off a list of hip-hop shows coming to town in the near future that appears to be enormous. Not that these are all local artists, but still, if this much hip-hop is coming to Calgary, why is it still so relatively unpopular? “It’s a tight-knit community that talks to itself,” says Hicks, “because it doesn’t want anything negative or damaging to enter into it, which I understand absolutely.” While this strategy has helped make the majority of hip-hop shows here a positive experience for those who take part, it does little to help the scene gain ubiquity. “There have been countless times, even to this day, where people will come up to us and ask where we’re from, even if it’s a local show,” laughs Tarik “Teekay” Robinson, the Dragon Fli Empire MC who has called Calgary home since moving from Halifax at the age of one. “But honestly, if it means that we’re opening people’s eyes to what’s going on in their city, I don’t mind repeating myself.”

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Robinson and Hicks also talk about the importance of positivity within the community, and a listen to the 10-yearold group’s music reveals that the duo can almost be regarded as trailblazers in that respect. Robinson’s refusal to stoop to the level of violent stereotypes in his lyrics, coupled with the bright backdrops supplied by Hicks, have set the stage for relatively younger acts to follow suit. For Robinson, their approach simply makes sense. “I think the fact that I do what some call ‘positive hip-hop’ helps in a city like Calgary, as it bridges the gap to exposure in the greater music community,” he says. “Some people are put off by aggressive language and because Calgary’s hip-hop community is so small, it seems like you can only become a bigger artist if you are accepted inside and outside of that circle.”

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ould that interconnectivity explain why the Distillery, the headquarters of the Calgary Beer Core collective of local hardcore punk and metal artists and fans, be playing host

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to a battle rap event? I keep waiting to witness a condescending look from one of the staff members towards the festivities, but it’s all smiles and accommodating attitudes. Has the theme of positivity already made an impact? Can everyone really get along?

“I SAID HOLD IT DOWN!” No time for questions. The battle is about to begin. “Don Juan” Ramirez is in the ring for the first battle of the day, facing off against another local rapper, Wizeguy, who is filling in at the last minute for an Ottawa rapper who failed to catch his plane. They both stare at one another intently, sizing their opponent up. The tension is palpable. Host Zach “Sketch Menace” Wilcox, local battle rap champion and King of the Dot Calgary division president, asks each rapper to introduce themselves to the camera. Ramirez speaks kind, graceful words about how the community “is

about love” and that he’s here to have fun. Then Wilcox gives the first shot to Ramirez and the rapper’s face immediately changes. This is war. Ramirez lays into Wizeguy with a commanding first verse that’s interrupted by loud, rumbling “Oooohs” from the crowd. His barrage of insults is far from the positive approach he and other artists alluded to, yet the people love it. Could this idea of positivity be futile? Wizeguy is clearly tired and, as he admits, “stoned out of my mind,” and his rhymes are weak and unrehearsed, yet he’s able to win some favour with his humour and self-deprecation. Ramirez lays into his foe even harder for the second round, with Wizeguy struggling to match his energy and inventiveness. It’s at the end of the three-round battle that Ramirez presents a final devastating blow, filled with intricate internal rhymes that drop like small grenades through his now barking, growling de-

livery: See, I been like you, man, I felt it deeper inside I couldn’t sleep at night, dragged into the deepest divide Deceit combined with grief is like a thief when he hides He takes your pride like a shadow then it creeps in the night The difference between you and I is the fear in your eyes You need to try and clear your mind ‘til it’s clear as the sky So from the Red Mile to Pit Street, right now to this week Your shit’s weak so flow like the Saint Laurence up shit’s creek Take you high and hang you off the mountain face of Mist Peak ‘Til you hit the ground so hard it drives your body down six feet And when I’m done, ain’t nobody here will have heard of you Funny how you said you wouldn’t die here, ‘cause I just fucking murdered you

Despite coming from the violence of his native Angola, Joa “Black Mamba” Miranda of the local hip-hop group A-Squad Boyz has helped spearhead a move towards positivity for the Calgary hip-hop community.


48 The crowd goes nuts; this battle is over. After a brief off-camera deliberation amongst the judges, Wilcox announces Ramirez as the winner. In the midst of the cheering, Ramirez steps over to Wizeguy and they embrace. It’s a genuine moment of paradox: these two local artists, who minutes earlier were shooting gratuitous, deeply personal insults at one another, are revealed to be somewhat like friends, or at least to have respect for each other. Is this aggression all for show? After two more battles, Wilcox calls for an intermission. I’m able to get him away from the crowd and I ask him the same question. “All these artists know each other and respect each other, but battle rapping as an art form has to ignore that and go straight for the gut,” says the born-andbred Calgarian. “You have to one-up each other with insults, but these guys really don’t mean it. Outside the ring, they’re equals and often friends. It’s just a way to test your abilities; there’s

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no animosity between winners or losers. It’s fun.” As a tattooed, longhaired Distillery busboy passes by us, I ask what Wilcox thinks about the hip-hop community finding a place in the city. “The fact that we’re being hosted by what’s considered a metal club is not lost on me,” says Wilcox. “It means we’re being accepted not as a totally different scene or entity, but as Calgary musicians who are just as hungry as they are. That’s huge, that’s positive.” I ask him where the Calgary hip-hop community can go from here and although he says the same thing as everyone else — “Nowhere but up” — I question his optimism and wonder if the community can do anything to get to the next level. “It’s not about what the community can do anymore,” he says. “We’re here to stay. The people who want to check it out have to ask around, go on the web, visit the King of the Dot website or the Hip Hop Canada website and just join

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in. There’s always something happening; it’s just a matter of finding it.” I want to ask more, but it’s too late. Wilcox has a show to host. The beats being spun by the DJ slowly fade out, the crowd is starting to huddle around again, and it’s now that I can see how large this turnout really is. If this many people in the city are plugged in to what’s going on in the scene, imagine how many more wish they are. But could the scene’s focus on positivity prevent it from promoting to those people on the fringes, dying to get in? Could the fear of negative energy be a negative attitude in itself?

“HOLD IT DOWN!” The answer is right here. This community is living, breathing, excited beyond compare, and constantly growing. It’s about to begin.

Despite his positive approach to his music, Don Juan inhabits a murderous rage when battling other MCs.

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I think I’m turning Korean

It’s not easy to be a Korean music fan in Calgary, but a ‘K-pop in Calgary’ Facebook group makes sure we don’t feel like a lonely boat in a sea of English music

story by EVA COLMENERO photos by JENNIFER FRIESEN

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n a multicultural city like Calgary, the music the majority of people listen to doesn’t seem to be as diverse. Mainstream or indie, all the music has something in common — its lyrics are in English. Boring. But there’s still hope for our city. Apart from the string-filled music heard in Chinese restaurants, or the Bollywoodreminiscent tunes blasted in Indian ones, there is one Asian music import that has some very dedicated followers in our city: Korean pop, also known as K-pop. Most people would lift an eyebrow in disbelief at the prospect that Korean music could ever be popular; how many people would understand what they’re listening to? As a fan, I can answer that quite easily: most of us don’t understand Korean. In fact, most of us fans don’t have a definite answer as to why we like this music in the first place. Yet there is something about K-pop that is addicting: the catchy pop sound, the electronic tunes, the harmonized voices within each group as they dance in synch to complicated choreographies, all mixed with the pristine, humble and approachable image the singers portray. It is perfected 90s Backstreet Boys music with a modern attitude, professional choreography and “ideal

boyfriend image” marketing. For Calgary university students Mikki Tu, 18, and Kacey Bui, 19, their love for K-pop started in their native Vietnam. They say K-pop is immensely popular in Vietnam and they would frequently get together with hundreds of fans to dance and sing to Korean music, despite not knowing how to speak the language. “In Vietnam it’s easier [to be a K-pop fan],” says Bui. She says in Calgary, there are not all that many K-pop fans to get together with. Even though Calgary isn’t the mecca of K-pop, nor is it the city with the biggest Korean population in Canada, the K-pop fan base has increased in Calgary in the past few years. The Facebook group “K-pop in Calgary” has 101 likes and counting. K-pop mostly has word-of-mouth marketing outside of Asia and considering the fact that most K-pop fans don’t use Facebook for their music needs, 101 is a good number. Although the group has been around since June 2011, they have organized a couple of flashmobs since then with more on the way. One is already planned for February 2012. As for DVDs, CDs and other merchandise from K-pop artists, all your shopping needs to be done online. There are many sites where official merchandise

can be bought, including YesAsia.com and DVDHeaven.com. As years have gone by, Korean albums have become bigger — they look more like books now — and this has increased shipping costs as well. The smallest albums cost about $12 on their own, but with shipping the total can be between $18 and $50, depending on how fast the customer wants their purchase to fly over here. iTunes has made things easier for us but sometimes albums are not available to be sold in Canada. So it’s a choice of either spending the money on the physical album, or downloading it illegally on the Internet and feeling guilty afterwards. However, with the globalization of K-pop, more and more artists have been flying over the Pacific to perform for their North American fans. In 2011, I had the opportunity to see two Korean pop concerts — one in Vancouver and one in New York. Calgary’s K-pop community is still too small to have a concert of its own. Now, all I have to do is wait until my favourite groups come to North America again to experience the rush of seeing them live, along with thousands of others fans from across the continent. The next concert can’t come soon enough.


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SIDE OF BEATS

Exploring Calgary’s underground electronic music scene: the rhythmic music, colourful flashing lights and costumed masses that create this controversial world story and photos by DEREK NEUMEIER

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t’s Sept. 18, 2010. A wave of excitement circulates through the line of over a hundred excited, chattering people that my friend John and I are standing with. All of us are waiting to get inside the Symons Valley Ranch social hall to attend an event called Subculture. My arms are folded and I keep shifting my weight from foot to foot, not because I share the excitement of the crowd, or because it’s a frigidly cold fall evening — but out of nervousness. “Relax,” John says, sensing my unease. “There’s really nothing to worry about.” Easy for him to say; I’d never been to a rave before. For weeks he’d been telling me stories of Calgary’s underground electronic music scene. I was enthralled by his adventures and eager to open my mind and experience something new. But when we got to the front of that line, paid our $60 ticket and stepped through that door I entered a world that was unlike anything that I could have expected; a deep, colourful world that goes far beyond a simple genre of music. In the year following that one life-changing night I’ve explored that world even further, immersing myself in everything from small local events to the biggest electronic party in Canada. The more I delve into it, the more I am moved by it. However, a sharp divide between what the scene is actually like and the general public’s opinion of it often confronts me.

Raves: what’s in a name?

One common misunderstanding is the difference between a rave and an electronic music concert. The word “rave” carries strong negative connotations, with people often viewing raves as events of wanton chaos, where there are no rules and those in attendance are at a constant threat of danger. Because electronic music is almost always the type of music played at raves, association tarnishes its reputation. I erroneously held the same belief before entering Subculture. The security team that frisked me and Skrillex playing at Flames Central, one of Calgary's most popular venues for checked my ID immediately surprised me. On-site were medical staff, security and others that together electronic music.

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Colourful costumes are common at the annual Calgary Electronic Music Festival.

formed a rather large team of professionals and volunteers who were tasked with keeping the event safe for everyone. DJs, like other musicians, are professionals that want to share their music live with their fans. While illicit raves that disregard common safety rules certainly do exist, there is a very large consensus throughout the entire scene that such events are frowned upon, and that participant safety and happiness is focus number one.

The community: welcome home

No matter your age, skin colour, clothing style or personality, whenever I go to an electronic music event I feel like everyone is inherently accepted, so long as they are respectful towards everyone else. Costumes and props are also common themes, as people use the non-judgmental atmosphere of the events to decorate themselves in uniquely expressive ways: everything from glow sticks, electroluminescent wire, masks and colorful furred clothing all the way to full-blown costumes are welcome. One image that I will forever remember as a symbol of the community’s openhearted acceptance is of a man in his late 30s that I saw at Subculture. Wearing a bland dress shirt tucked into khaki pants, dress shoes, glasses and – get this – tiny plastic devil horns on his head, the man watched the DJs happily by himself, nodding his head along with the music and sipping on a glass of water. Despite being old enough to be the father of some of the younger concert attendees and not interacting with anyone, people came and went around him respectfully, even though he stood out.

How you can explore this world

With a rotation of more than 10 local electronic DJs, Klub OMFG, which takes place on Friday nights at Republik, is the easiest foray into the scene. But as a popular club night it’s just a baby step; to get deeper into the underground world isn’t so simple. The most effective method is through word of mouth and meeting people already familiar with the scene. Like a wounded animal being hunted by predators, the scene is defensively elusive, mostly because of the public misunderstanding; one must gain enough trust to truly enter. The annual Calgary Electronic Music Festival, hosted at Shaw Millennium Park every summer, is an afternoon event that is familyfriendly and opens its doors to everyone and even has kid-centric activities such as bouncy castles and face painting to go along with the rhythmic beats and heavy bass drops “We want the city of Calgary to have an electronic festival that’s family-oriented and still opens the eyes to the scene,” said Nikki Love, an organizer for the festival. “There’s a culture behind it, and it’s not always bar-related. There’s something for everyone.”

Final beat

In the past year that I’ve spent exploring this underground and often-maligned scene, I’ve met many wonderful people and experienced a sense of community unlike any I’d ever felt before. Even if I can’t achieve much awareness here, I can rest assured knowing that the vibrant community will exist and thrive, something that it’s always done.

THE TUNES “Electronic music”

is a very broad term considering what DJs are capable of creating with turntables, synthesizers and musicediting software at their disposal. The knee-wobbling, bassheavy rhythms of dubstep are the most prominent sounds of the underground, but drum-and-bass, trance, electro and house are also commonly heard.

The trick

is gaining enough experience to not only figure out what type of music you enjoy the most, but finding the places to hear it. Once you find DJs that you enjoy, the best course of action is to follow where they normally play and what other DJs they like to perform with.


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Bolstering Blues

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Darren Johnson keeps the blues alive at The Blues Can, a new venue opened by a former busboy of the now defunct King Eddy

story and photos by JENNIFER FRIESEN

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rooning about long nights and lost love, blues music makes the body swing and pulls tight on your entrails. On the stage of The Blues Can in Inglewood, Darren Johnson bathes in a warm spotlight. With Louis Armstrong’s growl and a bite like Tom Waits, he makes you

feel like he’s bending the notes for you alone. He pulls his face like a melancholic mime and tugs his neck taut. Georgia’s name bellows from his deep frown, and the melody that follows warbles hard and low. “With Georgia on my mind…” he sings.

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Darren Johnson laments the women in his life with words as gruff as sandpaper and unrelenting guitar twangs. Singing the blues for the past decade, he plays at The Blues Can every Monday night.

Singing professionally for 10 years and running, Johnson moved to Calgary with his family in 1986 and has been calling it his home ever since.

A Louisiana twang hits and the ground dark wooden floors and said to himself, “You shakes. Snow-covered boots stomp the floor- know, this would make an absolutely fantastic boards on each beat. The bodies of the audi- blues club.” ence are lost to the song. Other blues clubs have emerged since Here in Calgary, hidden in a sea of country 2004, including Kaos Jazz and Blues Bistro and rock ’n’ roll, blues music has been alive and the Red Onion, but they continued to for decades. The King Edward Hotel, more face closures due to distant locations and lack commonly known as the King Eddy, became of exposure. one of Calgary’s first blues bars in the 1980s. But The Blues Can celebrated its first year Declared the “Home of the Blues,” those in business this past October. It’s one of a walls saw the likes of BB King and Otis Rush handful of places to go for blues in Calgary. over the last 25 years it was in business. Smith said that the success is partially due to However, in its central location 2004 the King next to downEddy was closed “Blues doesn’t thrive in the suburbs. It town and the amdown by health biance it exudes. thrives downtown. [The Blues Can] has authorities, leav“Blues doesn’t ing nowhere for thrive in the subrough wooden floors, and it’s an old, old, urbs,” he said. the local blues artists to go. “It thrives downbuilding. Blues isn’t suited to linoleum, Greg Smith town. [The Blues used to bus Can] has rough Arborite and lots of big windows.” tables at the wooden floors, King Eddy durand it’s an old, - Greg Smith old, building. ing Saturday afternoon jams. Blues isn’t suited There, he said to linoleum, Arhe got “caught up in the inner sanctum of borite and lots of big windows.” the King Eddy.” But when the doors closed, Darren Johnson plays at The Blues Can evhe said that the city was left with a vacuum. ery Monday, so long as he’s not on the road. Calgary’s blues community continued to di- He said that the blues chose him. minish as the local players moved on to Win“It’s just who I am; it’s not like I picked nipeg, Vancouver and the East Coast. it,” he said through a smirk. “People always “When you have no venues, you have no have the blues. You might not get dumped scene,” he continued. all the time like me, but I think blues is just To bolster interest to the blues, Smith one of those core emotions that people can opened his own club in 2010. Laughing, he relate to.” explained that when he walked into the vaAs a long-time blues enthusiast and jazz cant space in Inglewood, he took one look musician, Cindy McLeod joined the blues around at the wide, cavernous ceiling and


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Where To Get The Blues: resurrection in Calgary as well. Merging with Maurice Ginzer, the two created the Calgary International Blues Festival in 2005, which is a weeklong event that now runs in February and July each year. Next July will be the eighth year running. “It was once very strong, but there has always been a really good blues scene here,” exclaimed McLeod. “But the venues were going away. “A lot of people think that blues is something that happens in divey bars,” McLeod laughed. “They think it’s blue-collar biker music, but that’s not true. It’s really everyone’s music. Everyone can identify with it.” McLeod said that the blues in Calgary has “ridden a lot of storms,” but the festival has grown faster than she had ever expected, with people travelling from Europe and the southern United States – the birthplace of

blues as we now know it – to take part. Smith is also seeing an upsurge in the local blues scene. Having made contacts with travelling artists, he remarked: “They’re bringing them back one by one by one. Trying to get a little circuit going that includes Calgary instead of excluding it. We’re on the upswing, but it’s going to take a while to recover.” The Blues Can is the only venue in Calgary that plays the blues seven days a week. As the crowd sat at low tables on a Monday night, they swayed to the beat of each woman Darren Johnson lamented. At the end of the set, the groups turned back to one another. Sipping on their pints, the music was still reverberating through the room.

The Blues Can

1429 9th Ave. S.E. Mon-Sun 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. Blues music seven days a week

Mikey’s Juke Joint

1901 10th Ave. S.W. Mon-Wed 11 a.m. - 12 a.m., Thurs-Sat 11 a.m. - 2 a.m., Sun 5 p.m. - Close Blues music played awpproximately three days a week, always on Tuesdays with Tim Williams

The Shamrock Hotel

2101 11th St. S.E. Mon-Sun 10 a.m. -3 a.m. Blues music played most often on the weekend, including Saturday afternoon jam sessions from 3 p.m. – 8 .p.m

The Ironwood

1229 9th Ave. S.E. Mon-Sun 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. Blues music played occasionally, not on a constant basis

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Kinky in Cowtown A Q&A with professional dominatrix, Lady Seraphina

story by KATHRYN MCMACKIN photos by JENNIFER FRIESEN


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lad in a demure black and lace top, it is hard to imagine the woman in front of me is a professional dominatrix. But then again, that’s the exact point Lady Seraphina wants to make. “Normal, everyday people can be into kink,” said the dark-haired beauty. Take Lady Seraphina for example. She says she’s been kinky for as long as she can remember. Lady Seraphina first dipped her toes in the kink lifestyle at 19, after the topic came up while chatting with someone at a club. Six years ago she left her day job and became a professional domme. Since then, she’s hosted “Urban Sex” on CJSW 90.9 FM and been a resource on BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism, and masochism) for the Calgary Sexual Health Centre.

As a professional dominatrix, Lady Seraphina – who prefers to go by her professional name – says her clientele ranges from men and women in the trades, to those involved in the military, to corporate Calgarians. “I play with some of the best people you could ever want to meet,” she says. The types of play vary just as much as the people requesting it. Lady Seraphina says she has clients that ask for a reasonably innocent spanking, while others visit looking for something a bit more risqué, like bondage or caning. A list of tribute (pricing) and services can be found on her website, calgarydominatrix.com. And while the play scenes involve plenty of kink, Lady Seraphina has strict rules about sex: as in, there is none. What she does, however, is help people.

Custom-tailoring each session to the client, she says she’s able to provide them with something they might not even know they need, an element of her job that she says is often overlooked. “People tell me all sorts of things about their lives,” she says. “They get to unburden themselves. They get advice. And I take them through what can be a very cathartic experience or a very mellow experience.” In addition to her clients, Lady Seraphina reigns over a “household” that includes three full-time male slaves, one part-time male slave, her “wife” and her husband — who she says doesn’t necessarily want to play, but supports this aspect of her. Lady Seraphina’s guidance doesn’t end in her playroom, as the domme took the time to chat with me about kink and Calgary.

What is kink?

As the lifestyle is so private, what resources are available?

are looking for and sets out for it, you will find a partner who’s also into it.

Kink is anything titillating and nonstandard when it comes to sex and sexuality. When I say sexuality, it’s a broad range of things that doesn’t necessarily include sexual intercourse.

Where is the line drawn between non-standard and kinky? You can dabble. There may be people who are into just a blindfold, or a feather, or a quick spank on the bum. No one thinks of this as being particularly kinky, but it’s still a level of that.

How would you describe the kink lifestyle in Calgary? There is a very small, active group of people who are very open about it. And then there is a huge scene of people who are private about it. People in all industries, people in all walks of life can be into this. The difference is how much freedom they have to be open about it…. In Calgary, there are a lot of people who play privately and there are a lot of people who play semi-privately.

There are several groups and organizations that put on social events and workshops. And some of the swingers clubs here – yes, we do have swingers clubs in Calgary – on specific nights turn into a BDSM club, because we don’t have a large-enough public scene here in Calgary to have a club that is [strictly BDSM] all the time. The bonus with this is, because swingers clubs are private members clubs, you can actively play there.

Why would someone in the lifestyle choose to seek out a professional domme? Usually a need for discretion: let’s say, due to their work, where they can’t be out of the closet. Professionals usually have a lot of equipment, which is a big investment. So you get to play with tools and equipment you might not encounter otherwise.

Are all the different facets of the lifestyle available in Calgary?

I would say yes, but sometimes you have to look for one thing harder than others. I can’t say all, because there are so many different facets. For someone who knows what they

Besides the sexual aspect, what does the kink lifestyle have to offer Calgarians?

The psychological aspect is massive: the guidance you can get from being active with a domme, or the guidance you give as a domme, the non-judgemental aspect, the acceptance and the stress relief for a short period of time from putting yourself in someone else’s hands. And the honesty that’s required. Hiding things makes no sense in this lifestyle. In other parts of your life, you have to be careful what you admit about yourself. Here, you don’t.

Is anyone welcome to join the lifestyle? Generally, yes. Sometimes you have to be pre-screened for certain events, because a lot of these [events] don’t want someone showing up that is going to be disruptive, or someone who is coming for the excitement of just looking at the freaks. They are looking for people who are, other than brand new, interested and willing to behave appropriately.

Editor’s Note: Answers edited and condensed.

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Ways to get kinky: Sign up online

Websites like collarme.com allow individuals to connect with others with the same kinky interests. The Canada-based fetlife.com is a free site with a worldwide presence. “It’s Facebook for kinksters,” said Lady Seraphina

A.S.K.

The Alberta Society of Kink aims to bring people in the kink and fetish communities together for various social events

Educate yourself

Before taking the first steps into the kink scene, be sure to do your research. Lady Seraphina advises newcomers to check out Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns, written by Philip Miller and Molly Devon. The book uses humour and diagrams to allow a view of the overall scheme of the lifestyle without being intimidating. Any questions can be tweeted to @LadySeraphina.

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Calgary at night Photos by JAMES PATON

1:00 a.m., Night falls on downtown Calgary. Princes Island’s pedestrian bridge shuffles thousands of feet daily as commuters make their way in and out of downtown. With the wind-chill at -28 C this commuter quickly makes his way out of the wind that flows over the Bow River.

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9:45 p.m. (right) Canada Olympic Park comes alive at night with the sounds of metal slamming against ice. During the winter months you can see various countries practicing their craft at the bobsleigh track at C.O.P.

12:45 a.m. (left) A rare sight in Calgary, a telephone booth in use during a late night in Calgary’s downtown core. Lights from a car shine brightly into the booth illuminating it in the dark. 2:25 a.m. (left) Patrons at Earls downtown drink their last drink before the night is over. They don’t have to go home but they can’t stay there.

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10:35 p.m. (right) A late night security guard sets up for the night. A long shift entails coffee and sandwiches to try and stay awake.

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with yo u. ” “Frankly my dear….I don’t give a quirk.” “ May

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“Itwas the

the

Quirk up Donny!”

best of times, of times.” it was the

Say hello to my little Quirk.

“SHOW me the

“Shut

tupid is as tupid QUIRKS”

“You have to ask yourself one question punk… ... do you feel quirky? Well do you…

QUIRK!”

wish

“I I knew how to quirk y o u .” – Jack

Twist punk?” – Dirty Harry

“Et tu

Quirk?” – Julius Caesar

ng

i nk

i dr

cla ss e

s.”

ilde

– Oscar W

“Nobody quirks with the Jesus”

“Luke….I AM your QUIRK!”

......the curse of the s i beautiful k uir “Somehow I feel this is the beginning of a Q quirk.” “

Quirk

mostly

comes out at night….mostly.” - Newt

C

“Make it quirk.” –

aptain Jean Luc Picard.... of the USS Enterprise 1701-D


All i want for Christmas is... A turntable and

records

www.heritagepostersandmusic.com

-1502 11 Ave SW -403-802-1846


Quirk Calgary