Getting out of a Locked Room

I remember loving riddles as a kid but never actually being very good at them. What gets wetter as it dries? What word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it? I would sit there and rack my brain trying to come up with the most complex answer. Then the riddler answers, “towels,” and “short,” and you laugh because it was so simple all along!

Speaking of riddles, the newest location of The Locked Room just opened in Calgary! These guys were the first Locked Room in the city, and this is already their third location! If you aren’t familiar with how this activity works, you and your friends are locked in a room, and you are surrounded by clues you need to use to help you get out of the room. The Locked Room has three locations and a total of twelve rooms with different themes and puzzles.

I had the chance to try out the Hipster Hangover room with my friend Ryan. We arrived and watched the quick briefing video. We closed our eyes and were led into our room. The story of the Hipster Hangover is that we were at a giant party the night before and drank ourselves into a stupor. We passed out in the laundry room of someone’s house and now have to find our way out.

In each room, there is an emergency key that can unlock the door in case a team member needs to leave, and a button that summons an employee to the room to deliver a hint. There are cameras in each room so the employees can make sure you are treating the room nicely and being safe, and so they can check on your progress. We figured out a few things on our own, but needed the hint doorbell once or twice. We continued to overthink things and had to remind ourselves that it shouldn’t be THIS hard.

We were able to escape the room in about an hour and fifteen minutes. We were pretty darn proud of ourselves. The production value of the room was so spot on, I actually felt like there could have been a party there the night before. The clues were difficult, but doable, and each time we figured out how to open another lock, we could hear the employees cheering for us at the front desk. The Locked Room is about $25 per person. Each room is built for different sized groups and so calling ahead to book a room ensures you get the right size room and right level of difficulty! Thanks for the rad riddle, Calgary! I can’t wait to go back and try another room!

Listening to Tim Williams play the Blues

You know when you’re northbound on 14th St. SW? You know when you pass Heritage Records and you see that big, ol’ mural of that cool looking old guy playing a guitar? Did you know that the cool old guy playing a guitar is international Blues legend, Tim Williams? Did you know he plays Blues guitar every Tuesday at Mikey’s Juke Joint? For free?

It’s true! Every Tuesday night, Mikey’s boasts Blues night with Tim Williams. Ryan and I rocked up around 9 pm, took our seats at a table near the stage, and ordered our drinks from the breezy, hip young bartender. Our ice-cold beverages arrived at our table and the music began.

Tim Williams was born and raised in California. As a musician growing up in Southern California in the ‘60s, the stories this man tells are not surprising. He introduced the song Summer Land by saying, ”back when I was in school in Santa Barbara, [this beach] was full of a bunch of crazy musicians and painters and artists drinking wine and dropping acid and watching the sunset. It was too good to last… Anyway, this song is about that.”

It is hard not to smile while he plays. His voice blends beautifully with the music, and his fingers move effortlessly on the strings. He played covers of some of his faves, introducing each song— the time period, the songwriter, the story— and played some of his own tunes too. “I wrote this song from out of nowhere” he said, “I thought, it’s either start drinking now and watch daytime television OR write a song. So I wrote this song.” The song was titled ‘Rehearsal for the Blues.’ For something written in a dingy hotel room in the middle of Camrose, Alberta, this song was beautiful.

Then he played his cigar box guitar. This instrument really is a cigar box, with a piece of wood stuck in it, and a few extra pieces attached in specific ways. Tim plays this guitar with a slide on his finger. I have never been to the southern US, to the Mississippi River, and am not a connoisseur of the Blues scene, but I feel like Tim Williams playing a cigar box guitar is the real thing. Thanks for the Blues, Tim! Thanks for the rad musical evening, Calgary!

Mikey’s Juke Joint is located at 1901 10 Ave SW and hosts Tim Williams every Tuesday night at 9pm (unless Tim is out of town).

Eating Village Ice Cream on St Patrick’s Island

On an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in the city, my friend, Chris and I did what any Calgarian would do on an unseasonably warm afternoon in the city: went for ice cream! The city of Calgary has a plethora of ice cream places. My Favorite Ice Cream Shoppe in Marda Loop, Peters’ Drive-In on 16th Ave NW for a delicious milkshake, and Amato Gelato in Kensington, just to name a few. This afternoon, Chris and I decided to stay downtown and wandered towards East Village to Village Ice Cream!

We joined the line outside the shop. Honestly, I am not one for lines, (who is really?) but there is something about the line at Village that is unlike any other. A certain buzz flows through the crowd. It’s the kind of buzz that only exists among people about to buy delicious and creamy ice cream. I have a rule that I must try three flavours before ordering – today,  Earl Grey, Chocolate Coconut Milk, and Snickerdoodle. They were all so good, but Snickerdoodle won me over. Usually for me it’s a Cardamom cone at Village, but the Snickerdoodle was just too good to pass up! Chris doubled up his scoops and had Village Vanilla Bean and Snickerdoodle piled high on a freshly pressed waffle cone.

With ice cream in hand, we hopped in the car, motored over to the riverfront, parked by Fort Calgary, and walked across the Skipping Stone Bridge. St Patrick’s Island is a relatively new park in the city that opened its bridges in August 2015. With a giant toboggan hill that doubles as a movie theatre in the summer, a huge playground, and “The Point” which has some of the best downtown and river views, St Patrick’s Island was the perfect place for a stroll and to eat our ice cream. We ignored the looks from the other park-goers when seeing our fingers turning red in the brisk weather. We walked through the trees and along the river, watching the geese slide about on the ice. The sun shone through the branches. It was a magical place to enjoy our ice cream.

As the sun went down, it began to feel a bit more like February. We walked back to the Skipping Stone Bridge as I took the last bite of my cone. Perfect timing! Thanks for the ice cream and the beautiful walk in the park, Calgary!

At Happenings 3 at Arts Commons

When I hear “gallery opening” or “art exhibition”, I am immediately intimidated. Maybe it is because every art exhibition I have ever seen in a movie includes a demographic of people I might not fit in with, or perhaps it’s because when you Google “gallery opening” the first links that pop up are “art gallery opening etiquette” and “10 things you shouldn’t do at an art gallery”. I am not an impolite, or uncivil person, and I do know how to act in public, but any event for which there are that many rules intimidates me!

Arts Commons wishes to change this negative perception that sometimes goes along with galleries and art exhibitions with its own kind of celebration of art. It is called Happenings. On February 29, my friend Ryan and I attended Happenings #3 in the Upper Centre Court of Arts Commons. This was unlike any gallery opening I could have imagined. We walked in and it smelled sugary sweet; my attention was immediately drawn to the person making cotton candy on one side of the court. Across from him was the adult colouring station, and next to that was a silvery stage showing off some delightful live music. We made our game plan: we wanted to hit up everything we could!

The nice thing about this event was that it had an anything-goes itinerary, during which people could come and go as they pleased and hit up the activities they were most interested in. For Ryan and I that was cotton candy, buttons, and having our portraits drawn by a local artist, Kelsey Fraser. We were too late to see the film, The Peel, but from the looks of the line-up to get in, I can only guess it was a total hit.

The man making the cotton candy flowers was covered in sugar. Sugar wisps hung all around his face, his hat, his arms, the ceiling straight above him. We watched as a stick and some sugar was miraculously spun into a strange fibre-glass-like treat. We put our names down to have Lindsay Sorrell create beautiful, personalized monogram buttons. We waited patiently in line for Kelsey Fraser to do a blind contour drawing of us and paint it with watercolours.

Happenings #3 was free and it was the perfect way to spend a Monday evening. Happenings #4 will be on April 19 and Happenings #5 is on August 18. Arts Commons isn’t telling us what you shouldn’t do at an art gallery, but instead asking us what can’t you do at an art gallery? Thanks for inviting us to celebrate some art, Calgary!

In the Mountains

If you ask a Calgarian their favourite part of living in Calgary, I can confidently say that the majority of Calgarians would say “the mountains.” I know the mountains are not in Calgary, but the fact that they are essentially our back yard, makes them a very good reason why Calgary is awesome. Did you know that the Rocky Mountains are the youngest mountain range in the world? I always think of the Rockies as teenagers, which somehow makes them endearing. I love the mountains.

We were heading west on Highway 1. First stop: Goat Pond. I first learned about Goat Pond in an acoustic ecology class when my professor made the bold statement that Goat Pond has the best echo in the Kananaskis. I am not an echo expert, but when I first yelled over the water, towards the mountains, at the top of my lungs, I was pleasantly surprised with the almost perfect repetition that came back to me. Today, we were lucky. The water was absolutely still. Not even the slightest ripple. It looked like a mirror. It was stunning! We stood for a while in the sun and let it warm our faces.

Next stop: The Banff upper hot springs.  After paying our way in, we donned our swimmers and waded into the warm water. What a view! Perched on the side of the mountain, and fed by natural springs, the upper hot springs are a majestic place to go for a soak. One of my favourite aspects of Banff is the number of people from all over the world in one place. The hot springs are no different. We heard languages and dialects from everywhere!

Our last stop: The Rimrock in Banff. Just around the corner from the hot springs, sits this beautiful gem of a hotel, where we enjoyed both our fairly-priced beers, and a stunning mountain view.. A curling rink a few stories down, caught our eye. We asked our server if the rink was open to non-guests and she gave us the good news; yes! With the warm weather the  ice was not entirely frozen, making it almost impossible for the rocks to slide. We did our best, and laughed that our best wasn’t all that good.

The sky turned and it began to snow. We hopped in the car and began our drive home. As we passed Canmore on the highway we saw about 20 elk just hanging out in the clearing near the road. Stunning views, natural hot springs, beer, curling, AND wildlife?! Thanks for the day trip to the mountains, Calgary!

At the Palomino’s Cowboy Brunch

On Friday, a treacherous fog rolled over the entire city, and an icy cloud and snow storm had we Calgarians believing it was winter. On Saturday, the sun was shining, the air was crisp, and it was as if the clouds were scared of us — not a one to be found. I heard a rumour once that Calgary is the sunniest city in Canada. I can’t remember where I read it, or who I heard it from, but it is days like this that have me believing that to be true! The Core was all abustle on this Saturday afternoon. My mom, dad, and I parked by the iron horse on Stephen Ave and walked the block to 7th Ave. We turned the corner and found ourselves at my favourite weekend breakfast place: The Palomino Smokehouse.

“Breakfast?” you may ask, “but Beth, the Palomino is a barbecue house that serves ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and the like. You must be confused, they don’t have breakfast.” You’re right! They don’t have breakfast. They have the weekend Cowboy Brunch! Which, in my humble, barbecue-loving opinion, is the best brunch in town. We rocked up and walked through the door. It was us, and perhaps only 10 other groups sitting at tables scattered around the bar. We found our seat. It was my parents’ first time to the Cowboy Brunch and they needed a moment to take in the atmosphere. Rock and roll paraphernalia hangs in every empty space on every wall and every pillar. Posters, neon signs, old aluminum beer advertisements, and plates signed by various famous barbecue lovers hang in every corner.

Our server Natalie was so friendly. She remembered me from the other bazillion times I have been for Cowboy Brunch, which made me feel very important. David Bowie sang for us through the speakers as we waited for our food. My plate of pulled pork Eggs Benedict arrived and I felt like a Care Bear with pure joy bursting from my chest; this is what the Palomino breakfast does to me. I wanted to take a photo of the food to share it with and wow the world, but as soon as the plate appeared, I started eating and only remembered the photo as I dove in to lick the plate clean, when it was too late. The server came back to ask if we needed anything else. I couldn’t even dream of fitting another thing in my stomach. We paid our bill and left the Pal— out into more of that glorious sunny sky. Do I sound like a broken record? I’ll never tire of that colour of blue. Thanks for the brunch, Calgary!

On the Ship and Anchor Patio

Calgarians are indeed a unique kind of Canadian. Some might say we are crazy for living through such long, cold winters. I say, by virtue of our mid-winter respites, we are a bunch of neighbourly optimists. Would we let a few measly days, weeks, or months of below 20 degree temperatures spoil our hopeful and positive disposition? Well, we might if it was months of constant below 20. But no! No matter how cold and icy it gets, no matter how chilly that wind blows, we know that right around the corner is another glorious Chinook to thaw our fair city. Or, that tomorrow the sun will shine so brightly against a clear blue sky, that the temperature will not even matter. And on that day, what will we do? Flock to the streets and drink on patios!

On Saturday, February 6, Joe and I decided to take full advantage of the balmy, 11 degree weather we were having. We donned our lighter, but still super warm, winter coats and head to a Calgary institution, the Ship and Anchor, on 17th ave. We joined the three other groups on the patio, sat at a picnic table directly in the sun, and ordered our first patio beers of 2016. The Ship is a place of no judgement, so I ordered my patio fave — a Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboy with a side of clamato juice. Heaven. I’m in heaven. One very beautiful thing about a day like this is that while the sun shines and warms your face, the weather is just cold enough to keep your beer perfectly chilled. Just glorious.

Tim Huss played some tunes for a packed house inside the bar, and Joe and I were lucky enough to hear his sweet Canadian songs through the speakers. Between the song about the Heinz Ketchup factory and the song called C-A-N-A-D-A, I felt that my day couldn’t be better.

The sun began to disappear behind one of those great, 17th Ave trees, and without that direct sunlight, it was too cold, so we changed picnic tables. Twice. Then the wind began to blow. We started shivering. The server asked if we needed anything. We asked for the bill. She laughed and said, “yeah, it isn’t warm.” I think she was impressed by our dedication. Joe decided it was actually our denial that kept us out there for so long. I think it was our Calgary spirit. The optimists! The neighbourly! The sun-loving, beer-drinking, patio lovers who have been kept inside for far too many months. Thanks for the patio beer, Calgary!

At the Little Prince: The Musical

At 7:00 on Thursday evening, my friend Joe and I were walking down Stephen Avenue, on our way to Arts Commons. We were heading to Theatre Calgary’s world premiere of The Little Prince: The Musical. We entered the bustling lobby amidst the other theatre-goers, checked out The Little Prince merchandise table — (The Little Prince jewellery anyone?) and promptly found our seats. I was excited! The world premiere! It was sure to be unforgettable. Dennis Garnhum, the Artistic Director of Theatre Calgary, who was clearly just as excited as I was, prepared us for the spectacle we were about to see.

In many stories themed around magic and believing in something fantastical, it often turns out that the grown ups in the story don’t understand everything because they just do not believe in magic anymore. For example, in The Polar Express, the parents can’t hear the bell because they no longer believe in Christmas magic, or in Hook when adult Peter returns to Neverland and is unable to fly because he knows it’s something humans should not be able to do. Whenever I read or hear a story like this, the same thing always happens: I think, “Challenge accepted!” I refuse to be one of those grown ups that doesn’t believe in magic. From the first scene in The Little Prince: The Musical, I was captivated. I believed! With each sensational and wondrous set change, each incredible costume that was introduced, each enchanting song, and each stunning lighting trick, my breath was taken away. Theatre Calgary have created a world in which anything and everything is possible. A world in which everyone belongs. I sat in the audience and I was the kid who was ringing The Polar Express bell and listening to its sweet, sweet sound. I was the kid who was flying high above Never Neverland with my best friend, Tinkerbell. With laughter, and surprise, and with tears of pure joy filling my eyes, The Little Prince taught me that “the essential is invisible.” Believing in magic was the easiest thing I did all day.

The Little Prince: The Musical runs at Theatre Calgary until February 28. Now, in the words of the Prince himself, “draw me a sheep”.

Skating at Olympic Plaza

On December 23, my two friends and I bundled up in our -15 best and head downtown. We walked down Stephen Ave, towards Olympic Plaza. We said hello to the Famous Five, gave them each a quick, but meaningful high five for fighting for our right to vote, and then found the skate rental building perched next to the rink. We walked up and told the man we needed to rent skates! He asked if we just needed three? I said, “well, we need two each…” and smiled. The man burst into raucous laughter! Woah! Do jokes get you a discount? He asked for our foot sizes. I lowered my voice and whispered to him my embarrassing, ogre-like foot size, 11. He gasped and shook his head. “We don’t have skates that big.” Story of my life. As I took the size 8 hockey skates the man handed me, images of all the falling I would inevitably do flashed through my mind. We paid our $12 each (the joke did not get me a discount) and walked to the ice just as the Zamboni began its rounds. The view was perfect, the ice fresh and slick from the Zamboni, the icicle lights twinkling over the rink, and the Calgary Tower silhouetted against a sky of classic, Calgary blue. Lacing skates is hard. Lacing hockey skates is hard. Lacing hockey skates in -15 is hard. We were already very cold by the time the Zamboni finished.

With trepidation, I stood on the ice, getting a feel for the clunky shoes underneath my feet. Then a 5-year old girl, helmet off-kilter, hot pink snowpants wet with snow, and mittens on idiot strings, skate/walked by me at a snail’s pace and screamed to her dad, “catch me if you can!” She giggled as she went by, seemingly not even moving, she was going so slowly. Fearless she was! I took her lead and pushed off. I wasn’t really skating, I was walking on skates, but I was doing a damn fine job of that. I sped up with each lap I did, feeling more and more comfortable. As I turned each corner, I stretched my arms out like an airplane and made zooming sound effects. I am 26. I’m an airplane. Only one speaker around the rink was working, so each time I flew past, I heard a snippet of a Christmas song and it filled me with Christmas cheer. An hour on the ice, over 30 skating selfies, only one toe with any feeling whatsoever, and not a single fall, we triumphantly returned our skates and walked back to the car. Thanks for the skate, Calgary!