Tag Archives: alberta
Hiking the Berg Lake Trail in BC, Canada
We arrived at the Berg Lake Trail parking lot and joined the group of eager hikers gathered around the information desk. After a quick safety briefing, we watched a quick video, and then went outside to the big deck behind the building. There, standing at 3,954m (12,972ft), scraping the sky, was Mt. Robson. There was not a cloud in sight — a rarity for the area — and Robson looked as mighty as ever with a bluebird sky surrounding it. We jumped back in the truck and drove down the road to the trailhead.
So, we decided to cheat….
From the trailhead to the first campsite, and our first snack stop, at Kinney lake, is 7km. The trail is wide and well traveled by both hikers and mountain bikers. Michael had the idea to cheat a bit. We could mountain bike the first 7km, save ourselves some time, then lock the bikes at Kinney and continue on foot! I wouldn’t necessarily call it cheating — I heaved my 50 pound backpack up and onto my back, adjusted my helmet as best I could so the top of my pack wouldn’t keep knocking it over my eyes, and took my seat on a mountain bike for the very first time. It was hard; hard to keep balance with a heavy pack, hard to bike up hill with the weight, hard to go downhill without feeling like I’d fly over the handlebars. But of all the pain I was feeling in my back, my lungs, my legs, my wrists, it was my butt that hurt the most. We finally arrived at Kinney and locked our bikes next to the others on the bike rack, and my butt and I were relieved. (Read about the time we took bicycles around Tuscany!)
We stopped next to the lake for a quick snack, and then continued the hike up to our next snack stop, Whitehorn campground. The climb up was tough. There were stretches that were just straight uphill for what seemed like an hour! My layers came off and I wore just a t-shirt and hiking pants. We hiked through deciduous forest and the fall colours were just spectacular. The blue sky, the orange leaves, the brown of the trail, it really was autumn at it’s best. At Whitehorn, we sat down by the river, pumped some fresh water into our bottles with the filter, and chowed down on some nuts and berries.
The “real climb” begins…
Whitehorn is where a lot of people decide to spend their first night. Those people are sensible. We are not sensible people. Today we are hiking all the way to Berg Lake. We continued through forest and came to the bottom of a hill. Michael said, “this is where the real climb begins.” WHAT?! We had already biked and climbed 11km and 300m, and now the climb begins? Yes, because Berg Lake is another 11km and 700m up. See? Not so sensible.
I don’t have to go into detail. The climb was hard, I was sweaty, the end. We stopped by Emperor Falls on our way up. The falls were not as full as they are in the spring, with all the run off, but from where we sat, with the falls booming in front of us, and Robson standing high above, it was a pretty epic snack spot. (Read about another epic climb we did to the tallest mountain in Slovenia!)
Home, sweet home
We arrived at our campground, Marmot, where we would stay for the evening. We went down to Berg Lake and pumped some more water into our bottles. There, across the water, was the giant, and utterly bewildering, Berg Glacier. We were pumping glacial water into our bottles. It doesn’t get much fresher than that! The glacier rumbled and groaned. Tremendous cracks, like thunder, echoed across the lake and through the valley. I stood on the shore of the lake, unable to move my legs, and felt my chest vibrate with the sound. Whoa.
We set up our perfect little tent, inflated our Thermarests and air pillows (I know, boujee), and began making dinner. Tonight we enjoyed Indian food! Lentil curry over rice. Nothing beats a hot meal after 22km of hiking.
Head over to my Instagram account to watch a video of our adventure!
I slept well, considering the colossal cracking of the glacier continued through the night. This morning, we would cook some breakfast couscous. I prepared the mix at home by combining couscous, with cinnamon and sugar, and some dried fruit and nuts. I felt pretty fancy! But, like an idiot, I forgot to write down the ratio of couscous to water, so this morning we had to guess. After our breakfast of sweet couscous soup, we enjoyed tea and coffee down by the water. The bluebird, cloudless sky from yesterday, was now covered by a thick layer of clouds. The top of Robson hid behind them, and the glacier disappeared into the cover. After our lovely, lazy morning, we continued onto our next camp spot, at Adolphus Lake only 7km away.
We walked through forest, across gravel flats, through a swampy field, and yelled “HEY BEAR” the whole way. I love a good wildlife sighting, but I just wasn’t keen to cross paths with a bear today. We arrived at the campsite and set up our home. The whole reason we came to Adolphus lake, is so we could cross the provincial border back into Alberta, where, under the Jasper Parks rule, we could build a campfire. We went on a mini adventure around the lake, and on the way back to the camp, collected a bunch of firewood.
This evening, we had the place to ourselves. We built a big, beautiful fire and set up a couple of logs around it so we had a table and two chairs. We played dice! I kicked Michael’s ass. My achilles tendons were starting to fatigue after our long day yesterday. I took off my boots, held my feet to the fire, and massaged my calves a bit. The sun went down and we climbed into bed. Once our headlamps were off, it was pitch black. There was not a sound around us. Now this is private.
When, I woke up this morning, and looked up to see the fly of the tent pushing on the inside walls. I put my hand up to push it off, and a HUGE layer of snow slid off the roof of our tent. I zipped open the door and stuck my head outside. Greeting me this morning was a thick, fluffy blanket of snow, coating the ground, hanging from the trees, covering our tent. It was still snowing. The magical flakes floating down were big and fluffy, and landed on the ground without a sound.
Our breakfast couscous was much less soupy this morning. We packed up some snacks in our little daypacks, hauled our food up into the bear hang, put our big backpacks in the tent, and left for an adventure! My achilles tendons were so tight as we started walking. I popped an Advil — extra strength — and hoped it would numb the pain.
A nice day hike
We hiked back to the BC side of the valley, and took a left towards Snowbird pass. The climb was difficult and my achilles were giving me such a difficult time. Then I had the thought, “they are ‘achilling’ me,” and I laughed. The clouds continued to move, and before we knew it, the valley was socked in. Our day trip to Snowbird ended with lunch just below the cloud line. We still had an epic view from our snack spot, looking out over the Snowbird glacier and down the whole valley from where we came. On the hike back down we saw mountain goats! They sat, high up on a sheer rock face, just hanging out, escaping the wind. Now that’s the kind of wildlife sighting I like — from afar!
Collecting wood for the fire
We continued our walk back to camp. On the way was a huge, dead tree, laying next to the path, with so many perfectly dry branches for a fire, so we began collecting some. I was able to balance a bunch of wood on my daypack, and Michael took a few armfuls. Here, I thought we were only a few hundred metres from camp. Turned out, we were over a kilometre away. I trudged through the mud and snow with an enormous bundle of wood, laughing at our premature firewood collecting.
Meeting new neighbours
We arrived back at our tent and met Andrea and Phillip, two folks from Edmonton who are on the last night of their eight day trek along the North Boundary Trail. They confessed we were the second couple they had seen on their entire journey, but it wasn’t hard to know; they couldn’t stop talking, telling us stories of what they had seen, the rivers they crossed, the meals they ate, the wildlife they ran into, the sunsets and sunrises they enjoyed. I was happy to be the first to hear it all!
Both Andrea and Philip, and Michael and I were enjoying our last night in the backcountry. My favourite thing about the last night of a big hiking trip is eating ALL THE FOOD you have left. We had such a feast — noodles, Indian food, miso soup, chocolate — and enjoyed the gigantic fire we built with all that wood. The snow began to fall, the wind picked up, and when the sun went down, we retired to our tents.
We were up early this morning. Not as early as Andrea and Phillip, but early for us. I climbed out of the tent, and went to the bear hang to retrieve our food, then, I set up the stove and began cooking while Michael packed up our camp. Today the breakfast couscous was perfect. TOTALLY perfect! We enjoyed our breakfast and warm drinks under the skirt of a huge fir tree, staying out of the snow for as long as we could before hiking through it.
The path was covered in snow, thankfully, we could follow Andrea and Phillip’s footsteps to stay on the trail. My achilles are absolute hell today. I popped another few pills and tried my best to hike through the pain. We were only a few metres from the border of Alberta and BC, and across the path were fresh bear tracks. The tracks were on top of Andrea and Phillip’s, and oh, so perfectly clear. For me, this is the ultimate bear sighting.
Back to the truck….
We walked all the way to Berg Lake, where we stopped for a quick snack, and then continued on all the way to Whitehorn. Here, we stopped, took out the stove, and cooked up our last pack of noodles for lunch. A couple sat nearby and we chatted with them. They had also just come from a multi-day camping trip to Berg Lake. They looked to be in their 60s! I hope to continue to be as active as I age.
Finally, we arrived at Kinney Lake, and never did I ever think I’d be so happy to see that damn mountain bike again. The ride down was much easier than the ride up; my pack was lighter and much smaller, and I had the greatest motivator of all — desperation to get off this dang mountain! We flew down the hill, passing other hikers as we went. And then, lo and behold, passed Andrea and Phillip! Ok, now I understand why the bikes feel like cheating.
When we arrived at the truck, my face was speckled with mud, my achilles tendons were tight as can be, my shoulders were raw, my lungs exhausted, and the biggest, goofiest smile plastered across my face.
To read how to do the Berg Lake trail check this out!
Looking for more to do in the Rocky Mountains? Click here!
Head over to my Instagram account to watch a video of our adventure!
Drinking Fireball and Ice Fishing
In May 2012 I began a list of all the things I want to do and the places I want to see. Over the years I have been adding items to this list. Some people might call it a bucket list. I don’t like to call it that because bucket lists seem to be something people write when they have only a little bit of time left: they are sick, they are dying, they are worried about a zombie apocalypse, or an asteroid hitting Earth, etc. Mine is a to do list.
When my friend Chloe found out one of the items on my to do list was to go ice fishing, she called up a gaggle of fishing friends, and we headed out to a big ol’ frozen lake near Edmonton. We woke up at some godforsaken morning hour, and our convoy drove out of the city before the sun even came up. We arrived at the trout pond, and found a spot to park the cars near the water. Unfortunately, for Kurt and Ryan, the driveway to the parking lot was invisible in the snow and they missed it entirely, driving right into the ditch. All the boys got out of their cars, hitched the car to one of the trucks, and helped push it back onto the road.
We drove one of the trucks out onto the ice. I sat on the tailgate with Chloe and James. The ice auger was revved up, and the boys began drilling holes! I was handed a rod with a lure and a worm that was still wriggling even after being ripped in half and shoved onto a hook, and was told to drop it down the hole. I did and just like that, I was ice fishing! Ryan asked what was in my pocket. I pulled out the flask of Fireball I brought in the event I got cold sitting outside all day. We exchanged a high five, and each took a swig. It was 8:30 am.
I heard a commotion nearby and James, who was also ice fishing for the first time today, reeled in the first fish of the day! He was a happy man as he pulled that fish out of the water. The seal was broken, and all of a sudden fish were being pulled up steadily. Six beautiful rainbow trout were fooled this morning by our lures and wriggling worms. I caught none of them. All hope was not lost though, for when the biting slowed, we packed up our gear and, after pulling Kurt’s car out of the ditch for the second time, headed to the next lake.
The clouds disappeared when we arrived. The auger was out again, drilling holes through the ice to the water. I lowered my wriggling worm and lure into a hole, and set up my chair to face the sun. Then I fell asleep. I was so cozy all wrapped up in layers, the sun warmed my face, the Fireball buzz was at a nice sustained level, and not one fish nibbled my lure. I woke up when Ryan exclaimed: He caught something! He pulled up a fish from the depths. It wriggled and writhed, and even though he ended up throwing it back (it was too small to take home) we all cheered and high-fived. It was an exciting moment!
To be honest, I think ice fishing is kinda boring if you aren’t catching anything. That being said, drinking cinnamon whiskey in the sun on a bluebird day, with an amazing gang of buds, is an absolutely beautiful thing. I had the most splendid day out there on the ice, and what’s more, I was able to cross something off my to do list!
Walking on the Ice at Abraham Lake
There I was, driving along highway 93, on my way to Abraham Lake, and out of the corner of my eye, I see a lynx! It was going for a casual walk along the side of the road. It was far too slippery, and there was a very big truck with a very big trailer following very close behind me, so I did not stop. Instead, I took a selfie so I can always remember how excited I was to see my first lynx.
I turned from highway 93 onto highway 11. I was still beaming from the lynx. As I drove, I looked out at the surrounding land— it is so beautiful here. Then, lo and behold, what catches my eye? Two lynx. I stopped and reversed back to where the two cats were by the side of the road. Holy moly! I rolled the window down, turned my music off, and just sat and watched them. They were playing. Their paws were so big, they were so furry, and I could have died. I went from seeing zero lynx in my life to seeing three lynx!
I arrived to Abraham Lake with a lynx-inspired smile on my face. Almost as soon as we checked in to the lodge, we wrapped ourselves up in our best frozen lake attire, and wandered down the hill towards the lake. The ice is so cool. Huge, broken slabs of glacier blue ice stretched along the shore. As we slipped and slid down the hill, we both regretted not wearing our traction aids. We reached the ice and slowly, ever so carefully, took a few steps out onto it. I was nervous at first, because I have seen enough internet videos of people falling through ice to know it’s funny to see, and not funny to be the one falling, but as we continued to walk, my confidence level began to rise.
Abraham Lake is unlike any other lake I’ve visited, and that is because of it’s frozen bubbles. Decaying plants on the lake bed release methane gas, and as the lake begins to freeze, these methane bubbles get trapped under the surface of the ice. Looking down through the surface one can see how thick the ice actually is— maybe three feet thick in some places! We came across our first bunch of bubbles! How cool! Wow, nature, you look good! Then, we heard a huge boom. Not a crack, more like a thumping. Twice. Thump thump. I gasped. We froze on the spot. Again, thump thump. The ice was shifting under our feet. No cracks, no movement we could feel, just huge, almost glacial shifting. The thumping sounded like a heartbeat, and you can bet your bottom dollar if I was high in that moment, I probably would have started to cry and gone on a rant about how mother nature is “like, totally alive”.
We continued to wander and slip around, gasping at how cool the bubbles were. No matter how many bunches we saw, it just did not get old. As we walked and chatted, we relaxed a bit. Perhaps our confidence level was too high? Perhaps we stopped walking so tentatively? I took a step, and the ice cracked under my feet. The ice cracked under Michael’s feet too. We stopped, dead in our tracks, unable to move. Holding our breath, we began to slowly shuffle backwards. We reached a spot where we could see the ice was super thick again, let out our breath, and got the F back to shore.
Snowboarding at Canada Olympic Park!
I have traveled around the world, and when people find out I am from Calgary, Canada they ask me two things: Where the F is that? and Do you ski or snowboard? In fact, dear reader, I do not ski or snowboard, but not for a lack of trying on my parents’ part. When I was a kid, they really encouraged me to love skiing, taking my sister and I out to the mountains on weekends. Then, when I realized I may look cooler on a snowboard, they enrolled me in lessons. My sister remembers those lessons ending with a quick trip down the hill on the medic’s snowmobile for me. Needless to say, this was one horse I was not tempted to get back on. I would live my entire teenage life feeling a bit left out when my friends went out to the mountains on ski trips, but I came up with all sorts of excuses— too expensive, I don’t want to slow my friends down, I have no gear, etc.
I was recently inspired to try snowboarding again. I was inspired to challenge myself to try something (somewhat) new, and something I thought I would be bad at. I signed up for the three evening beginner’s snowboard lessons at Canada Olympic Park.
On day one, I was full of the craziest concoction of fear and excitement! Fear that I would be the only adult in a beginner’s class, fear that I would fall and break my neck, fear that I would look uncool. Excited that I may actually like it, excited that I may be kind of good at it! I picked up my board and boots from the rental shop, and headed out to the hill. As I walked by the chairlift, I shuddered. Flashbacks of the panic I once felt loading and unloading from the chair haunted me. I found my way to the meeting point and found my instructor, Alexander. He introduced himself and the 14 year old girl sitting next to him. The others joined us, and I was pleased to find out I was not the oldest person in my group. We began the lessons with basics— how to hold the board, how to tighten the bindings, how to put the snowboard on the snow so it doesn’t slide down the hill. We hopped on the magic carpet (the more fun way to say ‘conveyor belt’), and head up the bunny hill. The first few runs were a success! I felt stable and confident. I didn’t fall once! And of course, as soon as I said that aloud to Gavin, one of the other beginners, I lost balance and fell, on the carpet, going uphill. The 8 year old skier behind me laughed her ass off.
Day two had breezy beginnings. We did a few warm up runs down the bunny hill, and Alexander took us through some basic heel edge stuff. I wobbled down the hill, nervous about the speed I picked up as I went. Meanwhile, the under-12 Sunshine Racing group FLEW past me. Our evening ended with the chairlift. I confessed to Gavin how nervous I was. He laughed, not entirely sure why I would be so scared. I boarded the chair with ease and I didn’t even fall while unloading! Success! The 14 year old girl in my class was boasting and bragging that she was at the hill all day, and she had been on the chairlift “like, so many times” already. I told her I couldn’t come to the hill because I worked all day. She said, “it sucks to be an adult.” When the lesson was over, she complained that she couldn’t stay because her mom was there to pick her up. I said, “Oh, too bad you can’t drive yourself. Sucks to be a kid. Plus, I’m going to eat chocolate cake for dinner because I’m an adult and I can do whatever I want.” In hindsight, I shouldn’t have let a 14 year old get under my skin so easily.
Day three felt amazing. It was the culmination of all the little tips and tricks Alexander had been giving us the last two nights. I only fell once getting off the chairlift, face first, and had to army crawl out of the way to safety. We worked on our edge swapping, and began fine tuning our skills. I was actually getting the hang of it, successfully snaking my way down the hill.
If you had told me a week ago that I would be successfully edge swapping, excited to get on a chairlift, and looking forward to the next time I go snowboarding, I would have laughed right in your face and called you a dirty liar. But look at me now! I challenged myself to try something new, something I thought I would be bad at, and I feel like a million bucks.
The Perfect Weekend in Canmore
Saturday, November 28
Today, Joslyn and I head out into the mountains for an adventure. We started in Goat Pond which is my favourite place near Canmore. As we drove up the side of the mountain, Joslyn was so surprised by the cars driving the other way. Some of them were spotless. She commented on how clean they all were, and I joked that maybe there was a mountain car wash at the top of the mountain. How very Canadian… We parked and went for a quick walk around the pond. It was beautiful. The most beautiful, clear, blue-skied day. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.
We drove on along the road towards Spray Lakes. I haven’t ever driven past Goat Pond before, so I was excited to be exploring. Up the road, we saw a gathering of vehicles. “I bet there’s wildlife over there!” I exclaimed! Joslyn joked, “wouldn’t it be crazy if it was a moose?”
It was a god damn mother moose and her calf! As we drove up, we saw clearly that these two moose were licking the salt off the car parked on the side of the road. It was AMAZING! We pulled over to the other side of the road and were taking pictures frantically, giddy, giggling, and screaming with excitement. We wept. I was so happy to be seeing my first ever moose. What a time to be alive. The mother moose kept looking over at us, curious perhaps. She looked up, then went back to licking then looked up again, then went back to licking. Then she began walking towards our car. Oh. My. God. Is she going to jump on top of the car and into the sun roof and attack us? No, in fact, she was just craving that mineral and began licking our car! A moose car wash! There IS a car wash at the top of the mountain! We sat in the car, laughing our heads off, crying tears of joy. I saw a moose! Happy first moose, Beth. The moose and calf walked into the forest and disappeared. We smiled and we waved goodbye.
We arrived back at our cabin, physically and emotionally exhausted. After Joslyn had a nap, and I had a giant bubble bath— I know, I am royalty— we finished our night off in Banff at the Grizzly House for a fondue frenzy! We cooked our beautiful chunks of meat and wiped the garlic butter splatter off our wine glasses. Our dessert course came and we quickly finished the fruit and cookies for dipping. A few drips of chocolate remained on my plate and without the slightest hesitation, I lifted the plate up and cleaned it off with my tongue. I said to Joslyn, “do you think boys are trying to pick us up right now?” as I licked chocolate off my plate.
What a day we had in the mountains today!
Blue sky? Check.
A bubble bath fit for a queen? Check.
A fondue extravaganza? Check.
Red wine with my girlfriend? Check.
Methinks this was the perfect day.
At ATP’s Slipper: A Distinctly Calgarian Cinderella Story
You know that feeling when you are with a group, and someone begins telling a story and it feels like everyone in the group was there except you? The storyteller says, “remember that time that hilarious thing happened?” and then everyone else agrees and they start finishing each other’s sentences, and all laughing like crazy, and you just stand there, wondering what the joke is, and then when you finally get the chance to ask, someone says, “oh, you had to be there.” Being on the outside of an inside joke is not a very nice feeling. Chalk full of rib-tickling inside jokes that anyone who lives in Calgary will laugh at, ATP’s newest production of Slipper: A Distinctly Calgarian Cinderella Story is the perfect play for every Calgarian.
Written and directed by Calgarians, and sticking with ATP’s MO for all new Canadian plays, this play is so, truly Calgarian. Slipper is performed in panto style, so requires audience participation. Every time someone on stage says a specific word, the audience yells back with such enthusiasm it hurts. Two lucky audience members were even called on stage to help the story along! The evil stepsisters— hisssssssss— could not have been funnier and, more modern – we all know people who speak like just like that. Their ability to speak over each other was perfectly rehearsed and added to their joint personality. All of the actors did such a great job including the audience and reacting to our responses.
I love theatre that includes some kind of magical aspect and I’m a sucker for the effects that make it so. The magic, the smoke, the clothes! Vancouver-based Jenifer Darbellay really outdid herself with costume design. It was all such a spectacle! And once the fog from the fog machine cleared, the story of Slipper modernized the traditional tale of Cinderella, bringing it decidedly into this century. A play full of jokes, magic and an excellent moral? What more could you ask for?
Slipper: A Distinctly Calgarian Cinderella Story is the perfect show for anyone of any age who likes magic, enjoys laughter, and loves Calgary. Thanks for the fun evening ATP! Thanks for being the muse, Calgary!
Slipper: A Distinctly Calgarian Cinderella Story runs until December 31!
At the Brewmaster Feast with National and Whistler Brewing Company
Living in Calgary I’ve learned many things: the incredible power of community, the strength that comes from diversity, and the absolute magic of a chinook wind. When Calgary shows us its teeth and temperatures reach below 20 degrees, Calgarians flock indoors and wait patiently for that warm wind from the west. And what better activity to partake in, while escaping the frigid cold, than a beer tasting? My good friend, Natasha and I walked into National on 8th and entered the Tap Room. What caught my eye first was the inadvertently sexual promotional video for Whistler Brewing Company being projected on a screen at the front of the room. Men pulling pints, hoses squirting water, malt and barley being poured into giant barrels— all in slow motion…
We took our seats at one of the tables, took turns trying on the Christmassy table decorations, and allowed Don, the rep for Whistler Brewing Company, to take us on a trip down memory lane and tell us about the origins of the brewery. In 1989, when the Whistler Brewing Company originated, it was one of the first craft breweries of its kind in British Columbia. They pride themselves on keeping the perfect balance of tradition and progression, and brew authentic craft beer that really speaks for itself.
The tasting began. The chefs at National on 8th took turns explaining to us what we were eating, and Natasha Pieskar, the brand manager for National, explained each food and beer pairing. The evening is a blur of decadent AF food— foie gras, bacon-wrapped paté, elk carpaccio, halibut in Dugléré sauce (whatever that means), white bean cassoulet, and that’s only half of it— and deliciously paired beers. My favourites were the Chestnut Ale, which was sweet and caramel-y; the Cashmere India Session Ale, which was citrusy and grapefruity and paired with the crab and truffle ravioli; and the Black Tusk Ale, which has an entire trophy case dedicated to it and its many national and international awards. We also learned about all the in-house prep the kitchen team at National does. House-made bacon, mustard, paté, sauces, all of it was made by this incredible team!
Natasha and I ate it all and felt like royalty. The food plates kept coming, the beers seemed bottomless, and the company around us was such fun. We sat next to Hayden and Jill, two beer connoisseurs who were just as excited as we were by the plates of food adorning our table. It was all just so delicious. Once again, the team at National wowed me and my tastebuds. Next time I am buying beer, you can bet your bottom dollar I will be walking out with a few bottles from the Whistler Brewing Company.
Thanks for the food, National, thanks for the beer WBC! And thanks for the escape from the cold, Calgary!
Partying with Margaret Cho
There is always so much to do on a Saturday night in Calgary. The Saturday night activity seekers know this. They go find a rad DJ playing sick tunes and dance the night away, or they head to one of the many bars in the city with their pals, and have a drink or two, or maybe they want to take in live music, theatre, or comedy show at one of the many venues in the city. But I ask those people this: why, fair Saturday night activity seekers, choose only one activity, when you could go somewhere and do all three?!
On Saturday, November 19, Calgary welcomed, with open arms and legs, the hilariously vulgar, and borderline offensive comedian, Margaret Cho, and the fine folks at Arts Commons threw a wild pre-show party to whet the appetites of the audience. What you are about to read contains stories of female musicians singing about scissoring, drag queens and their ‘tucks,’ the funky fresh stylings of a funky DJ, and a whole bunch of dick jokes. Please be advised that this blog post, much like the live show, contains mature content. Audience discretion is advised.
The Wrong Kind of Girls opened the pre-show. They are “Canada’s preeminent queer-feminist-ukulele comedy band” (Check out their website). The songs they sang were hilarious, poking fun at tropes and stereotypes surrounding sexuality, making fun of awkward moments in and out of the bedroom, and even had scissors to demonstrate with! I bought another glass of wine when their set was over. On my way to the bar, I passed Lyndon Navalta, an artist currently in residence at Arts Commons, making buttons for people. ‘Cheeky Buttons’ they were called, and cheeky they were! Folks walked away from his table proudly sporting buttons on their lapels— “saucy bitch” and “power bottom.”
The music became louder and I turned my attention back to the stage. The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Chinook Arch was introduced. Four drag queens, who towered over the audience in their 6-inch stilettos, took turns on stage, lip syncing for their lives, dancing, posing, even cartwheeling. I stood there in awe, just marvelling at the quality and persistence of their master tucks.
Last, but not least, DJ Donna Dada brought the pre-party to a funky close with some tunes that were impossible NOT to dance to. The queens came back out and danced with the audience, people were bumping and grinding on each other: it was a party.
Selene Luna opened for Margaret Cho. She marched out on stage, and immediately had the audience laughing. She talked about politics, she talked about trying to have sex on a memory foam mattress, and she talked about Mexico, where she is from. My sides were splitting. Margaret Cho came out and I think my mouth was gaping open for her entire set. The jokes this woman made were racy, vulgar, and deliciously provocative. There is nothing I love more than a Korean-American woman regaling me with stories about the biggest penis she has ever seen. My face hurt from smiling and my sides hurt from laughing.
Thanks for the pre-show party Arts Commons, and thanks for the delightfully vulgar evening, Calgary!
Doing Embroidermation at the Esker Foundation
We have all heard of embroidery. Embroidery is that beautiful needle and thread-based pasttime your mother/grandma/great grandma/women on Downton Abbey did. It has recently made a bit of a comeback in the world of the hip arts-and-craftser. We have come a long way from embroidered doilies, pillowcases, and aprons though. If you search “sassy embroidery” on Etsy, you are sure to find some hilariously vulgar and confusingly sophisticated home decor. We have also all heard of the art of animation. What you may not be aware of, however, are the many different types of animation. Some know animation as big-budget Pixar movies done entirely on computers, others know it as a raunchy flip book their older sibling showed them, and some know it as the stop-motion animation film of your Barbies you tried to make as a kid. “Embroidery and animation are great,” you might be thinking, “but where the ‘F’ are you going with this, Beth?” Well let me tell you.
One fine Saturday afternoon, I found myself at the Esker Foundation with my fine friend, Natasha. We were there to take part in the Embroidermation workshop. That’s right, Embroidermation. This is the art of animation in which each frame is embroidered. Folks, we live in a world where anything is possible. We were introduced to Project Space artist, Caitlin Thompson, who took us through examples of Embroidermation, a term coined by animator Nina Paley, and I was in awe. Everything from a 5 second looping hand-stitched GIF to a full length machine-stitched music video. The music video for Tharsis Sleeps, a song by heavy metal band, Throne, was part of a cool Kickstarter project and those who donated were gifted one of the frames from the animation. Once I and every other participant picked our jaws up off the floor, Caitlin explained how the workshop would go.
Each participant was given a printed image of an animation frame Caitlin designed, a booklet with the instructions of different embroidery stitches to practice, and the instruction to stitch whatever we wanted! Total creative freedom! The printed image was of flowers, and the original animation had the flowers opening and closing. I began simply with a backstitch, and spent some time figuring out how to make lines. Caitlin explained that this stitch is perfect for words. I surprised even myself as I started to stitch legible letters to spell how I was feeling: H-O-O-R-A-Y-! I polished up a blanket stitch, a satin stitch, and a fly stitch. There I was, sitting in a direct sunbeam, chatting with Natasha, stitching away. How civilized.
The time came for Caitlin to collect our frames and combine them to make an animation. It was absolutely bizarre and kind of hard to watch, because the stitches were totally random, but because we embroidered on top of a printed image from an already made animation, you could see the flowers in the background, opening and closing. Thanks for the Embroidermation, Esker! Thanks for the crafty day, Calgary!
The Esker Foundation has multiple workshops and events to take part in. Head to eskerfoundation.com to find out more, and sign yourself up!