2017: Year of the Blog

It’s a peculiar thing, being one of the people who never left.

The holidays are always exciting. Friends come home to visit in various combinations, and I find myself in bars more than usual. This year, I saw nine different former Edmontonians now scattered around the world. The holidays are also a time to see people who live here who I rarely see. All in all, I love a good winter holiday reunion. It allows me to indulge my fantasy that everyone lives here again (life is complicated, but I can dream).

There’s something about reuniting with old friends that gets me thinking about the concepts of place, home, and change. Over the past week, I explored the city with a fresh perspective. Friends and I had numerous conversations about what has changed and what has stayed the same. The biggest surprises to those who hadn’t visited for a while were the closure of Funky Pickle pizza, move of Metro Cinema into the Garneau Theatre, demolition of the old New City building on 101 St & Jasper Ave, and the changes around the arena district. I advised them to check out the piecemeal destruction of the old Garneau neighbourhood, new buildings on the MacEwan campus downtown, changes in the McCauley/Norwood/Alberta Ave communities, and the city’s ever-expanding suburban waistline. We looked at old houses and told stories that once felt so present, but nowadays exist as amusing and distant anecdotes from a previous life.

Then just like that, life resumed as normal. Celebrating the new year involved gatherings of friends who do live here. Today, I took the same bus that I’ve taken for years, through the same section of downtown that I have passed through daily since I was a teenager, but to a destination that was not normal to me until recently. Old things felt even more sentimental, and the new things highlighted the inevitability of change. Without the injection of a previous life into my reality, I looked again at a city that has been many things to me over the years.

Not leaving your hometown means moving daily within a world saturated with memory. I think that might be why I’m compelled to capture it.

On that note…

YEGuncovered.com is back! It’s my new year’s resolution. I’ve been so busy offline that it has been difficult to dedicate enough time to this blog. This year, I will be updating weekly on Mondays. Expect cloyingly sentimental posts about Edmonton-related things, on topics such as to-be-determined, buildings-I-love, and memories-that-strike-me.

Because I want to remember. I need to remember.

Until next week.

img_20160120_193413

img_20160120_100721

Photos by Ester Malzahn. Instagram: @thehoove

Advertisements

Save the Cloverdale Footbridge

If there’s one theme that keeps repeating itself, both here and in my head, it’s change. Keeping with this theme, I visited a part of Edmonton that might not be around much longer: the Cloverdale Footbridge.

The Cloverdale Footbridge, sometimes referred to as the “Downtown Footbridge”, connects Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir-Edwards Parks in central Edmonton (between Cloverdale and Riverdale). Despite its popularity, the City of Edmonton has plans to replace it with a new bridge as part of a new LRT route.

There is a campaign to Save Edmonton’s Downtown Footbridge (sign the petition! check the news!) that is advocating an alternate LRT route. I suspect part of the reason that the campaign hasn’t gotten off the ground is because people generally support LRT expansion. So do I, rest assured, but the proposed route is not anti-LRT. It’s actually smarter and more user-friendly.

Yesterday, I went down to the Cloverdale Footbridge on a gorgeous spring afternoon. I hung out on the bridge for a while, looked at the view, and enjoyed not having to wear a jacket. It’s still the early days of warm Edmonton weather, after all.

I approached from the west.

IMG_9344

The Edmonton Queen on your right.

IMG_9334IMG_9349IMG_9358IMG_9360IMG_9353IMG_9364

Memorial plaques on benches and picnic tables always catch my eye. What a lovely way to be remembered. I always wonder what the people were like.

IMG_9367

IMG_9368

The Cloverdale Footbridge is part of the Trans-Canada Trail, which is commemorated on the north end of the bridge.

IMG_9375 IMG_9370

Then there’s the bridge itself.

It was very busy – full of joggers and cyclists – although my photos might imply otherwise. It was great to see young families on bike rides together. One kid remarked as he passed, that he “hates bridges because it feels like they’re going to collapse”. Elderly couples ambled along, enjoying the view. There were a couple of people camped out on the benches in the centre of the bridge. Two people enthusiastically discussed which building was which in the view. There were joggers, and more cyclists. You could tell who was on a date. This bridge is loved.

IMG_9378

North entrance.

IMG_9396

South entrance.

IMG_9374 IMG_9381 IMG_9386 IMG_9402 IMG_9416

View from the east side.

View from the northeast.

The scene from the centre of the bridge is stunning:

IMG_9392

One of the best views of the city. I even used it as the preview image for my introductory post, not thinking at the time that I would be back so soon.

IMG_9408

I love you, North Saskatchewan River.

Two geniuses using the river wisely on a beautiful day.

Two geniuses using the river wisely on a beautiful day.

Something I really enjoyed about my trip to the Cloverdale Footbridge was looking at all the bridge graffiti. It’s a piece of our intangible cultural heritage that may soon be lost.

Note: Pardon the shifting colours in the following photos. I edited them so you could see the text as best as possible. Turns out carving your initials into a bridge is not the best for photography on a bright, sunny day.

Some of the graffiti had dates:

IMG_9379 IMG_9388 IMG_9389 IMG_9404 IMG_9412 IMG_9417

Some of the graffiti was mysterious:

IMG_9420IMG_9427

So mysterious. Do you see it?

So mysterious. See it?

Ah, there it is. Possibly etched decades prior by the rumoured witches of the Dogpath (or, a kid having fun).

Ah, there it is. Possibly etched decades prior by the rumoured witches of the Dogpath (or, a kid having fun).

Some of the graffiti simply made me smile. I hope things worked out for them:

IMG_9428

Infinity is a long time.

Infinity is a long time.

At one point, I saw this guy’s relatively unique full name and might have found him on Facebook. Bet you, or he, didn’t see that one coming.

IMG_9419

Overall, the bridge is covered in graffiti. I wish I knew the stories behind all of it.

IMG_9418IMG_9387IMG_9424

And finally, hidding oh so humbly on a pole…

IMG_9432

Saving the footbridge makes sense to me. Please consider lending your voice, and pay the footbridge a visit while you can.

Introduction/Welcome to YEGuncovered

That brings me to the question: what is YEGuncovered?

I grew up in Edmonton during the 1980s-2000s. I remember finding travel books about Canada while I was growing up, and looking up Edmonton. It was inevitably some variation on the tale of an oil town with nothing to do and only a gigantic mall. That mall. “West Ed”. I used to go there on the bus in junior high to drink milkshakes. Never forget the fire-breathing dragon.

But from where I stood, a lot of stuff happened. Slowly, and on a smaller scale, but it happened. Does anyone remember when the Rolling Stones came to Edmonton in the ’90s and it was a Really Big Deal in the news? I remember an article about Mick Jagger being spotted jogging in the river valley and a countdown to the show. My family walked around outside the stadium (we didn’t have tickets) and my brother climbed a tree and looked in.

Over time, especially during the boom of the late 2000s, the city started changing. Often for the better. There’s a lot more to do than there used to be.

But while some of it is good, a lot has changed, too. A lot of things that used to be here are gone. There are so many cranes downtown. Recently, I saw from the bus that the building formerly known as the best laser tag ever (Laser Quest) is now a pile of rubble. I spend a lot of time trying to connect what I knew with where I live now. Memory is fascinating and terrifying.

This city isn’t easy to love but it has a lot of character. Both good and bad.

So, I’m going to write about it. Throw in some photos. Maybe talk to some people. See where things go. Do it over summer 2015, from May to September, and maybe keep going if I still have things to say.

Oh, memory.

Some weekends, I volunteer as a costumed historic interpreter at the John Walter Museum (open to the public from 1-4 pm on Sundays, throughout the spring-to-fall months, free admission).

IMG_8096IMG_8108

The museum itself:

IMG_8099 IMG_8095 IMG_8074 IMG_8083 IMG_8101 IMG_8075 IMG_8070

Yes, those are scones you see. Come about halfway through the afternoon (2:30-3 pm) for maximum likelihood of catching the (free!) fresh baked goods from the wood fire.

John Walter was one of the founding pioneers of Edmonton (you know, other than the people who had already been there for thousands of years), a successful entrepreneur who ran everything from a ferry company to a lumber mill to a coal mine. Eventually, he made a million bucks and built a mansion (now one of the three houses in the museum).

There was a thriving community called Walterdale where the Kinsmen Sports Centre is today. In 1915, there was a flood that devastated the community.

The Kinsmen field and High Level Bridge in the distance.

The Kinsmen field and High Level Bridge in the distance.

The Walterdale Bridge, back in 2013. It will not be around much longer - construction has already transformed the area.

The Walterdale Bridge, back in 2013. It will not be around much longer – construction has already transformed the area.

John married a woman named Annie (née Newby), who has an intriguing backstory. Originally from England, she came to Canada as the nanny to two boys. She had traveled with the family all the way from the east coast to Manitoba, when plans went awry. One of the boys died, so what did the family do with Annie? They left her there, of course!

Annie met up with another girl about her age, and they travelled around working a series of jobs, before Annie ended up on John Walter’s ferry one fateful day. What I wonder is: what did she do on her “road trip” between Manitoba and Edmonton? I want to know.

There are a lot of reasons to love and loathe this city. Sometimes both. Mostly both.

I wander around a lot, taking photos.

20140810_124426 20140809_16355120150322_164449 20150317_110059 20140811_203350_Richtone(HDR) 20140810_214040_Richtone(HDR)20150228_145019 20150430_212258 20140627_165511 20150404_124405 20150404_132528IMG_8309Allow me to indulge you in my rollercoaster of emotions about this city. I guess that’s what YEGuncovered is.

11949853051162234570break_carlos_katastrofsk_.svg.med

Because this is the Internet, you can also check out the project on other social media platforms:

Facebook: YEGuncovered (page)
Twitter: @yeguncovered

Jane’s Walk 2015: Riverdale

…Then, after Packingtown, came Riverdale.

I journeyed across town to meet up with Allan Shute, the Riverdale Historian and my trusty and extremely knowledgeable co-lead. Allan is a walking encyclopedia about Edmonton’s, and especially Riverdale’s, history.

Meeting up with Allan to plan the walk each year is always an adventure. Inevitably, he knows everyone. Last year, we had a very interesting conversation with a dog-walker who had a documentary made about him. This year, we met at the Little Brick Café, but not before we ran into some neighbours and discussed local goings-on. The Little Brick Café played a starring role in this year’s tour – in previous years, we could only look at it from over the fence. This year, it has been transformed into an adorable café which I highly recommend everyone checks out.

Full disclosure: I am not from Riverdale. I am from northeast Edmonton. I spent some time in Riverdale in my teens, and know a lot of people from Riverdale. Early in my Jane’s Walk fanhood, I stumbled upon the Riverdale Jane’s Walk, and connected with Allan Shute, the Riverdale Historian. Now, I help him with the Riverdale walk each year.

I remember a family bike ride when I was… maybe ten years old, and stopping to rest in Riverdale. I remember a field of long grass with a path cutting through it. I remember my dad remarking that the area was going to change. Now that I know more about the area, it must have been the remains of the Dogpatch (sidenote: the entire Hidden Communities site is one of my favourites).

My dad was right. A few years later, it did change – the “Brickyard” condo development was constructed on that field of grass, and the neighbourhood boomed (and with much resistance and struggle against overambitious development).

2015 was my first year being promoted to “walk leader”, which means I mostly took photos but did a spiel about Jane Jacobs at the beginning of the walk. I also got a sweet, fancier version of the Jane’s Walk shirt. It has Jane’s face on the back! That is so great! The small things bring me joy.

There were a lot of people out this year. We checked out some houses, and then went to the Little Brick Café, in the former Little house of the Little Brickyard (which spawned the Dogpatch).

Here are some shots of our day in Riverdale:

IMG_9170

An original Little house.

IMG_9178

Helen and Julien looking at heritage things.

IMG_9179IMG_9206IMG_9155IMG_9210Two descendants of the Little family – Arlene (left, below) and Sarah (right, below) – were along for the tour. Arlene raised her kids in the Little Brick Café house, and spoke about her memories. It was very touching.

Arlene (left) and Sarah (right) Birmingham. A member of the Little family, Arlene raised her kids in the Little Brick Café house. She spoke about her memories. It was quite beautiful.

Arlene (left) and Sarah (right).

It is interesting to have a relationship with Jane’s Walk, and see the event expand each year. The Riverdale walk is always a bit different, and Allan and I already tossed around some ideas for next year.

Stay tuned for more as YEGuncovered (a summer 2015 project) gets up and rolling.