A Wolf of the City

Bozley

Bozley

Our writing prompt was “Wolf” but the only thing I could think of was my dog Bozley, a “shepherd mix” who looks like he was crossed with a black bear rather than a wolf. No pedigree here except for home-grown Alberta special. He is 80 pounds of black and tan fur who doesn’t like to get brushed; a big stubborn teddy bear who yanks me around on our twice-daily walks and—of all things—growled at the veterinarian yesterday. Granted, the man was getting pretty close to poking around ‘back there’ but it was still wrong and garnered a muzzle for the rest of the appointment. That said, I love the big goof and I can’t imagine life without my Bozzy-Wozzy-Woogums.  

There is only one truly ‘wolf-like’ thing Bozley does, and that is pipe up with a good howl when the opportunity presents itself. We live close to the open land of a native reserve where we occasionally hear coyotes, but Bozley does not join in with others of kind. My dog sings along with the siren call of Ambulances. Long before our inadequate human ears can pick up the sound, Bozley’s ears will perk up  and we can see the tension in his throat and muzzle as he prepares to sing along. Starting with a staccato yip, yip, yipping that evolves into a series of longer howls, he’ll continue until the vehicle speeds past on its way to some emergency. Strangely enough, fire engines and police cars do not have the same effect—they do not play his song, they are not his pack.

All this would be less interesting if we did not live so close to a Fire/EMS station and a large number emergency vehicles zoom by on nearby Glenmore Trail. Often they are on their way to Highway 8, heading west out of Calgary. It is a busy road where too many drivers have suffered tragedy and the ditches are marked with homemade memorial crosses.

This morning Bozley howled again. He was outside on his leash while I shovelled the sidewalk and my neighbor ran out to see if everything was okay- bless his heart. Of course I was fine, but as the ambulance headed west I couldn’t help but think that somewhere, someone was not okay.

The tragedies continue and Bozley howls on– A Wolf of the City.

Tourist of the City–45th St. LRT Station

45th St.-- looking west

45th St.– looking west

If you are following my travels on the West LRT, then you know the first station I visited at 69th St was deeply trenched below street level and the one at Sirocco sat at ground level. The C-Train runs every 15 minutes during off-peak hours, giving me enough time for a quick look around at each stop. The third station heading east along 17th Avenue is at 45th St SW (aptly named 45th St) and this station is like a hybrid of the first two.  Nestled between the AMA building and the north side of 17th Avenue; the 45th St station is at street level at its west end (47th St) and is trenched below grade just a block east, where it goes under 45th St, leaving that important intersection unobstructed by the rail line.

It is a credit to the engineers and designers who had to tread the careful balance between functionality and cost effectiveness as they dealt with all the hills and elevation changes heading west out of downtown.  It is also a big relief to people like me who prefer that our modes of transportation do not go up and down too often like a roller coaster because that gives us motion sickness.

45th St.-- east exit

45th St.– east exit

The 45th St LRT station is very much a ‘community’ station serving the surrounding neighborhoods within walking and cycling distance because it does not have a park and ride and the only commercial building is the AMA. (Does anyone else remember when that was the site of the 17th Ave Drive-In Theater?) While standing on the platform taking pictures I saw that some finishing touches still had to be done on the station, but what I really noticed was how chilly it felt there because the cold air settled down in the trench and the sun never came high enough to warm things up. Thank you for the heated shelters while I wait for the next train to take me to Calgary’s only underground LRT station. Westbrook coming up soon. And as always, I like to add the City of Calgary infographic for those who are interested in seeing more.

Tourist of the City- Sirocco Station

Sirocco Station at night

Sirocco Station at night

I’ve been advised to not ride on the LRT too late at night, but driving past the Sirocco Station after dark, I was fascinated by the inner glow of this station and made a special stop. It was actually quite attractive in a ‘giant luminous larva’ kind of way. Then the C-Train pulled into the station, bringing its own white glow accented by blue and green lights on the individual cars. Moving forward, it activated the flashing red lights of the rail crossing signals and rows of smaller cherry lights on the barrier arms joined in to create an even more colorful display—complete with clanging bells and the traffic lights of the nearby intersection—it’s like Christmas all year round. Well, maybe not, but I am easily amused.

Ground level station

Ground level station

The Sirocco station of the new west leg of the LRT sits just west of Sarcee Trail on the north side of 17th Ave. It has good parking and is close to amenities like West Market Square, but it could not be more different than the 69th St terminal. Here at Sirocco, what you see is what you get—a ground level, walk-on station with the rail line running between two platforms. Look Mom! No Stairs!

The partially covered station carries forward the unifying design theme of the new LRT line with it’s elliptical shape and copper features. It is light and airy and largely open, but there are heated shelters available for those times when light and airy are highly over-rated. These new stations do a decent job of taking Calgary’s weather conditions into account.

Copper & Glass design

Copper & Glass design

I’m looking forward to checking out the next stop. Stay tuned for 45th St station.

Once again I’ve added a link to one of the City of Calgary’s infographic videos about the Sirocco station and the local amenities for those who are interested.

http://www.westlrt.ca/stationareas/siroccolrtstation.cfm

Tourist of the City- 69th St. LRT Station

East Entrance

East Entrance

What can I say? It’s the end of the line, or the beginning in my case, because I will start my exploration of the new C-Train stations here at 69th St and 17th Ave SW, at the far west end of the new leg of Calgary’s light rail transit (LRT). But don’t let the promise of ample parking fool you, the 700+ parking stalls available in the west parkade and around the east entrance near the bus loop are completely full by mid-morning on a Tuesday. I’m sure this is a sign that Calgarians are embracing their new transit corridor, but it speaks to the need for more capacity and I hope the city can keep up with the demand.

Plan B: I head to the Sirocco Station where there is a park and ride with a 450 additional spaces. At least here I can still find open spots in the reserved section. These stalls become available for general parking after 10 am on weekdays. I take a quick ride west and begin to explore the 69th St. Station as planned.

West Stairs to Platform

West Stairs to Platform

I drove past the 69th Street construction site fairly often over the past couple of years and I assumed from the size of the hole that this station was completely underground, but even though parts of the track run under street level, the platform area is not completely covered. The entrances at each end of the platform are heated though, as are many of the shelters around the bus loop. Good thing during a Calgary winter. The west line has been operating for over a month, but the place still has that new construction smell. In fact, construction barriers still exist around the station as workers put the finishing touches on the area. Some things like landscaping will not be completed until spring.

Even without the finishing touches, the design elements of the station are obvious. Someone decided these new stations should look good as well as being functional. Only time will tell if the elliptical shape of the stations or the combination of copper and glass will function as promised, but at least the station is pretty. Yes, I said it—I think this station is pretty—not grand or majestic, but better than just ‘nice’ and the simple curves will probably prove timeless. The ‘prettiness’ even extends to the parkade where the addition of curved accents and nighttime lighting elevates a potential eyesore to something interesting.

Parkade at night

Parkade at night

Inside each entrance the space is wide open with plenty of light and glass and those delightful pay stations. Much like the parkade, I wonder if there is enough capacity at the payment kiosks to handle the high volume traffic of peak hours, but I have no intention of visiting the LRT during rush hour to find out.
And then there are the stairs—at least 40 steps from street level down to the platform. I’m no slouch, and I believe that people should get more exercise, but I know that a long flight of stairs like this is not for everyone. My mother would have trouble going down that many steps with her bum knee and the escalator only goes up. The elevator is available, with its call button and handicapped access sign, but my mother does not consider herself ‘disabled’ and would stubbornly attempt the steps at least once. A ramp would be nice, but we can’t have everything, and maybe I’ll convince Mom to visit one of the other stations instead.
Parking issues aside, I like this station. It makes sense. It’s close to schools and colleges and the Westside Recreation Center. I may come back to explore the surrounding areas some time in the future, but for now I’ll stick to the stations themselves, next stop Sirocco.
Check out the City’s infographic videos if you like, they have interesting information about the new LRT line and the individual stations.

Blood Rose

“I want something in a colour between light red and and dark pink,” said the teenaged girl.
Sharon felt the migraine start behind her eyes as bright shards of light radiated outwards to cast the girl in a sparkly halo that melded with the harsh fluorescent lights of the store. If she did not take more Aspirin soon, it would be too late. Dear Lord, what had possessed her to find a job in a clothing a store? No sane person should have to deal with adolescent girls carrying a hefty allowance, or worse yet, Daddy’s credit card. Usually the father’s money was bolstered by the extra cash from a mother striving to compete and be the “nice parent” and curry favour in the custody battle of a wilful daughter’s mind.
“Are you trying to match a particular outfit?” asked Sharon, pressing a finger against her temple to stave off a stroke.

“Nah,” said the teen. “My friend Ginny over there just thought a pinky-reddish colour would look good on me, ya know.”

“Of course,” said Sharon, staring daggers at the offending Ginny. “Something in dark pink would match your hair. A scarf maybe?”

“Gawd No!” said the teen. “It can’t be all matchy, matchy with my hair. I better get something more red then, and not a scarf because scarves are kind of old fashioned don’t you think?”

Sharon smiled—her descent into retail Hell complete, as she thought about the scarf draped around the shoulders of her jacket hanging in the staff room. “It’s nice, Mom,” Kara had said, when Sharon brought the scarf home—bought on deep discount with her first pay cheque. Bought to indulge herself and prove she was not just working to cater to Kara’s  ‘Dad Loves Me More’  guilt trips since the divorce.
“You don’t think it’s too old fashioned?” asked Sharon, modelling the scarf in the front hall mirror.

“Well, it’s not my style, but it suits you.”

Sharon had not pressed the matter further. Mothers did not really need to know every detail of what their daughters thought. At least Kara had approved when her mother got the job, although Sharon suspected it had to do with the employee discount.

“What do you think about a scarf Ginny?” the girl asked her friend.
Ginny glanced up from where she was systematically disorganizing a display of chunky bracelets. “No way Teena, too old fashioned. Do you want to go look somewhere else?”
Teena answered with a shrug, the kind of shrug that meant the girls would spend another ten minutes in the store messing up displays before leaving without buying anything unless Sharon intervened.
“Your friend says she wants something red,” Sharon called back to Ginny. “Nothing too pink because of her hair, I’m sure we have something in sweaters.”
“Oh wait, that colour is perfect,” said Teena, pointing at Sharon’s top. “What’s it called?”

Sharon looked down at her white blouse. A dark red bloom spread across her chest, the edges fading to a colour somewhere between red and dark pink as a steady stream of drops added to the pattern.
“Wow, your nose is bleeding really bad,” said Teena.
Ginny rushed over and said, “Hey Teena, that’s the colour of red you were looking for, and the pattern is cool too. We shoud get a picture.” Both girls whipped out their phones and began snapping photos.
“Excuse me,” said Sharon, pinching her nostrils. “I’m going to have to take care of this. Maybe one of the other clerks can help you find what you need.”

Ginny and Teena stared at their phones while Sharon stumbled off to the staff room with her head tilted back. Maybe the pain in her temple was not a stroke after all, merely an aneurysm—a fortuitous aneurysm it would seem, since it satisfied the fashion sense of a couple of teenaged girls while simultaneously ruining a perfectly good blouse. It took a box of tissues and trip to the medical clinic at the far end of the mall to stop the bleeding.

“You look like a murder victim,” said the store manager when Sharon returned an hour later.
“The doctors blame the Aspirin I was taking for my headaches. It’s a blood thinner.”
“Well, you can’t finish your shift looking like that, so you might as well take the rest of the day off.”

Sharon hung up her jacket and scarf in the front closet at home and stared at her ruined blouse in the hall mirror. If she got it into the wash quickly she might get the stains out.
“Hey Mom, you’re home early,” said Kara, glancing up from her phone as Sharon hurried past. “Cool shirt, by the way, much better than that scarf you brought home last week. I’m glad you finally figured out what’s in style.”
Sharon stopped short on her dash to the laundry room. “You think this shirt is a fashion statement?” she asked, pointing at the blood splatter across her chest.
“Of course,” said Kara holding out her phone so Sharon could see. “That’s the latest design trending on Instagram. It’s called Blood Rose.”

Sharon stared at a picture of her blouse, artfully cropped to cut off her head and colour enhanced to bring out the pinky-reddish tones of the blood splatter which vaguely resembled a flower.
“I’m impressed Mom,” said Kara. “It’s totally new, you must have got the first one.”

~Minkee Robinson

this story is the revised and edited version of a writing prompt entitled ‘somewhere between light red and dark pink’ and the original freefall version can be viewed on the blog Free Fall Friday Fragments (see side bar) where I, and other writers submit the raw material that comes out of our freefall writing sessions.

Open Meadow

A path stretches before me,
into the distance, across an open meadow,
no tree, nor mountain to mark my destination.
Above, the sky stretches blue in every direction,
clouds rise up like a staircase.
I see shapes in the clouds,
my mind works to create meaning.
The chaos of life, refined and defined
by the parameters of my imagination.
I lie down to gaze up at the endless blue,
my senses tuned to the frequency of discovery.
Counting cloud sheep until I fall asleep and dream,
of endless landscapes to explore.
One step, one word at a time.

~Minkee

this poem is the result of a freefall writing/photo prompt. It has been edited and revised into its current form. To read the original, check out the right side bar to access the ‘Free Fall Friday Fragments’ blog where I submit the raw material.

A tourist of the city.

Riding the C-Train (Light Rail Transit/LRT)Image

The start of a new year has inspired me to start some new adventures. Of course “adventure” is a relative thing, so anyone expecting me to blog about travelling the world or bungee jumping will be sadly disappointed.

Starting this blog is actually my first adventure because I’ve never blogged before. The desire to write about something new and interesting (to me) is the motivation for the next phase of my adventure, and it will be the subject of this segment of my blog. I have decided to check out all the LRT stations that are part of Calgary’s transit system.

In December 2012, Calgary transit opened the new west leg of the C-Train with much fan-fare and an inaugural drive by the mayor. A lot of people took the opportunity to ride the new west LRT for free and check out the new facilities for a day, and on Monday December 10, 2012, the morning commute changed for a lot of people living on the west side of the city. Whether those changes were for the better depends upon whose opinion you listen to, and I do not plan to wade in on the politics or controversies of public transit in Calgary. No one solution works for everyone and hopefully some  adjustments can be made to optimize the schedules and routes as problems are revealed.

I’ve ridden portions of the LRT in the past as a commuter, but not recently, so I know that even the stations I think I am familiar with will hold some surprises. And most importantly, I’m not taking the LRT as part of a daily commute, but exploring them with the eye of a tourist—a tourist in my own city.

On January 7, 2013 I rode the entire length of the rail from 69th St SW all the way to the last station in ‘Saddletowne’. I had never even heard of Saddletowne, but I got there in less than an hour. This trip will be the first of many and it gave me some insight into the diversity of the stations and the city as a whole. My goal is to check out the LRT stations individually (new and old) and to write about them over the coming weeks and months, starting with the newest ones in the west and travelling the whole line to the north east.  I will take some pictures and share my thoughts about what I do or do not like about the stations I visit.

I thought this would be a solitary quest, but as soon as I mentioned my idea of “riding the rails” it caught the interest of other people, so on my first cross-city adventure I was accompanied by my sister-in-law and my niece. Other people may join me for future explorations, I hope they do, but the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are mine.

Someday the scope of my explorations may expand beyond the west to northeast stations. A quick look at the C-Train route maps tells me there is an equally mysterious northwest line starting somewhere named ‘Crowfoot’ and extending all the way south to ‘Somerset-Bridlewood’.

Oh, the places I will go. Won’t you come along?

~Minkee