Thursday, January 27, 2011

Calgary Tower

I'm afraid of heights. You hear me? Scared shirt-less.

I had a couple of bad experiences as a kid, being dragged around to Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building, ski lifts, the Statue of Liberty and one of these towers in San Antonio. An awful, panicky feeling would come over me as I looked down from these great heights, imagining what it would be like to fall.

And what gets me is that my fear is usually poo-pooed by my friends. They laugh at me, tell me to get therapy and make me feel like an odd ball. I think everyone should be afraid of heights, it should be a basic, primal fear. You're in a life-threatening situation. If you fall, you'll die.

Have you ever been to The Grand Canyon? When you watch people dancing along the edge of the canyon, climbing trees that hang over the canyon, walking down trails in high-heels into the canyon, it's obvious that most people have no fear of heights. That just doesn't make sense to me.

I knew one day when someone came for a visit I'd have to brave The Calgary Tower. And so when Mom arrived just after Christmas, I took a deep breath and asked her if she'd like to check it out. Of course, she did.

I got online to find their schedule and came across a few facts that didn't help assuage my fears:

"Officially opened June 30th 1968, the 'Tower' has become the City of Calgary's most famous and identifiable physical landmark. One of the first Towers of its kind."

What's that now? The tower is 43 years old? Sounds like it's about ready to come down! And then there was this:

"Dare to try something that will take your breath away? Visitors to the Observation Deck are able to virtually 'step out into' space on the glass floor experience. Imagine standing 525 feet above the ground in the heart of Calgary and being able to look straight will be treated to the unusual experience of literally being suspended in mid-air."


(From the Calgary Tower website)

I wanted Mom to have this experience but I was hoping I wouldn't die in the process. I weighed my options and decided that showing my mother a nice time in the city was worth the possibility of having a heart attack. So off we went!

And as you all may have expected, it was no big deal. I didn't die. The glass floor of horrors was only a small section of the observation deck where little boys horsed around as if they were on terra firma. A baby waddled out there. Young lovers asked Mom to take a picture of them standing on it. Giggles and smiles- that's what the experience was like.

Did I walk out there? Hell no! A person could die doing that.

But Mom did:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Love This City

Whenever I have some thinking to do, I like to get out and walk around the city. I feel safer going out for a stroll here than I ever did in the suburbs. That weird, eerie quiet in all the neighborhoods I lived in was unnerving. I was sure people were watching from behind their carefully chosen drapes.

But in the middle of the city I can be invisible. I can walk and get completely lost in my thoughts, knowing I'm just another stranger among strangers.

Hmm...that may have sounded paranoid and sad. Hold off on your intervention. When you're a woman walking around anywhere alone you have to be aware of your surroundings. It's been drilled into our heads. As a result, in certain situations, my safety consumes my thoughts. I've found that isn't the case here in Calgary. So when I have a decision to make or a problem to solve, I hit the path along the river and let my brain go to work.

Sunday I was in the mood for a new route while I tried to figure out why I'm having so much trouble writing lately. I headed over the river to the section of Calgary called Kensington. It's a very cool, youth-oriented area with consignment shops, tea parlors, restaurants and head shops. Lots of skinny jeans, eyeliner and jacked-up hair. And that's just the guys. It's an active, interesting, vibrant place to walk around where I always feel COMPLETELY out of place. ha.

I put the deep-thinking on the back burner, determined to explore Kensington Avenue without turning around after one block due to my glaring uncoolness. "That's right! I'm old, but you will NOT drive me away with your hipper-than-thou attitude!"

I looked in the windows of a cupcake shop, a furniture store and browsed around a resale clothing store. The prices were unlike what I'm used to seeing in the states. A pair of (gorgeous) used gloves were $20. Purses were forty and fifty dollars. Still, I enjoyed running my fingers over these gems and peering at the vintage jewelry in glass cases.

Back on the street, I spotted a Starbucks on the corner that made my heart leap a bit due to its familiarity- an oasis in a sea of strangeness. Alas (why am I suddenly writing like the author of a Harlequin romance?), the interior was dark, so I assumed it was closed. Someone pushed open its door just then and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Yay!

This had to be the coolest Starbucks I've ever been in. I expected someone to stand up and begin reciting poetry at any moment, followed by the finger-snapping approval of the audience. Nothing unusual happened, though. I ordered a latte, couldn't find an empty chair and left. I plan to go back when it's not so crowded.

I felt good. Sipping my Starbucks booty as I crossed back over the bridge, I stopped to admire the ice sculptures the river had created all by itself and wrote, in my head, the first few lines of a new story.

This city seems to be good for me. I love it.

And now, if you don't mind, I'm going to pack up my laptop and head over to my new favorite Starbucks. I'm in the mood to do a little writing.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Banff and Lake Louise

I'm tired. We spent the day in Banff and Lake Louise so now I'm too tired to be witty or clever or even accurate.

These photos are out of order. But here's what we did: we drove up to Banff, went to the natural Hot Springs, had Bison burgers in town, cruised a couple of shops and then drove to Lake Louise.

Lake Louise is about 45 minutes from Banff and though it was snowing lightly in Banff, we didn't think it would be a problem. Wrong! the snow was coming down so heavily in Lake Louise that there was about 4" on the roads in town. We were worried about making it up the hill to the lake.

We did the mature thing and turned around. Back in Banff, the snow was still only lightly coming down and back in Calgary, it wasn't snowing at all. Oh well. Mom will have to see Lake Louise next time.

But we did get to see a HUGE herd of elk when we were driving out of Banff. We pulled over to take pictures.

Here's your assignment: figure out which photo goes with which activity. Go!

(The next 2 photos show a low lying cloud)