Sunday, December 02, 2007
Landed in Edmonton just after lunch last Friday. First time there. Flying in, looking down at a landscape alien to someone raised in the ruggedness of Northern Ontario, resident of Toronto, past resident of Tampa and Charlottetown. I haven't been everywhere, man, but I've been a lot of places. Ireland, Scotland, England, quite a bit of the States, Puerto Rico, all over Canada except for the Prairies and Manitoba, which I learned is part of Central Canada, according to Grabia anyway.
Flatness as far as I can see, dotted with tiny frozen lakes, and then the city, encroaching on the prairie, subdivision by subdivision. Nothing and then a cul-de-sac and then, here we are, the land of milk and honey.
So confirmed by the fact that the parking attendant offered us a free newspaper when we left the airport. So excited was I that we immediately had to pull over so I could change my boxers.
Friday afternoon Andy and Van toured me about the city. Up to the city from the south, along the river and then into Edmonton itself. To Rexall and Commonwealth Stadium and then downtown, past City Hall and the proposed site of the new arena. Along the way Andy pointed out the sites - Whyte Avenue, the Journal, the bars and restaurants of note, including a Chinese joint (Wong's?) where the 80s Oilers used to hang out. After a quick stop by Grabia's favourite opium den for a little pick me up, we moved along to West Ed.
I have to apologize because my recollections of the West Edmonton Mall are certainly coloured by being completely high. Like Alice down the rabbit hole I was assaulted by a bizarre and freakish world. An amusement park with a roller coaster, a water park, a skating rink, a replica of one of Christopher Columbus' ships. Right .... as if.
Among the fun facts that I learned - Boston Pizza is not a chain out of Boston, but out of, you guessed it, Edmonton! I sampled the "Meteor" at one of 78 Boston Pizzas that I saw in my stay. I believe there were a half dozen meats along with some cheese on that sucker.
After I recovered from a mild coronary episode we attended the Golden Bears' game vs. UBC at Clare Drake. With both rosters stacked with former junior players, a carnival like atmosphere (including two guys who berated the UBC goalie nonstop for about forty minutes) and four dollar beers, lets just say, um, Go Bears! After the game we retired to RATT, the University of Alberta pub. We were joined there by Mr. Debakey, Allan and Colby Cosh, who took a couple of photos of yours truly and our little gathering. Good times and good company as we celebrated Andy's 33rd birthday. Andy, with three gin and OJs (irk) lined up in front of him, declining a drink. A few minutes later, asked again, and now with only two left - "Of course, of course, fucker!"
I have to admit I bailed early (12:30) brought down by jetlag, age and the fact that I'm a gigantic pussy.
Saturday was spent mostly relaxing with friends as Andy recovered from a fairly massive hangover. When we got going we headed to The Sherlock Holmes pub downtown for a pregame meal (very good), some pints (excellent) and a few laughs. Andy showed me the pics in the back, you know the ones you see in many pubs, where hammered patrons make asses of themselves. This being near the hotel where visiting teams and media stayed back in the day, the pics included ones of Ron MacLean, Jari Kurri, noted arseholes Al Strachan and Bobby Clarke and numerous other hockey types.
The friend who I stayed with told me about going to the pub back in the 80s on a bitter winter night. The fellow in front of him, some guy in a long coat rushing in out of the cold, failed to do the old "hold the door open for a sec" thing. Mick went in, a little put off, and sat down with his buddies, who suddenly looked up, a little open mouthed. There was the guy in the long coat who apologized to Mick profusely - the door had slipped and he felt badly because he knew it must have been a pisser. The guy in the long coat, of course, was Wayne Gretzky.
After the game, Andy and I jumped on the LRT (nice) and were downtown in minutes. We went to Brewsters, struggling a bit with a cool night and a bit of a wind. Now, I know I missed the cold weather - this was nothing - but I was quite surprised by Grabia who urged me a few times to "save myself" and to "remember me to the lads". Finally as the big baby blubbered curbside I was forced to fireman carry him for a bit. In the end, I dragged him the last two hundred metres by the scruff of his neck.
At Brewsters we settled in for pints of stout (me) and some sort of girly drink (guess who). Joining Van (Andy's girlfriend) and a number of his pals, we enjoyed the remainder of the night. Truly astounding was Van's capacity for alcohol. 287 martinis, certainly a world record.
After a struggle that I have engaged in everywhere but here in Toronto, in London, New York and Chicago, trying to get a cab on a Saturday night, our evening ended, as we stumbled into our taxis and bid each other adieu.
Next time, and there will be a next time, I will hit a few more establishments, including the Black Dog (sorry Craig). That was my one regret from my trip but so it goes.
Final impressions of Edmonton - I really enjoyed it. The things I found offputting - the sprawl, the car culture, November, are the same things that are offputting about any city in North America so big whoop. These things don't reflect poorly on Edmonton at all.
Indeed Edmonton is my favourite type of city, in the Dublin, Halifax, Edinburgh tree of cities. Large enough to have the big city feel - great food, a varied nightlife and culture, a lot going on - while still small enough that people are friendly, you can get around quickly and easily, you don't feel overwhelmed by people and traffic. I don't really have an exact comp :) - St. Johns and Halifax are smaller, Dublin and Edinburgh, with due respect, are Dublin and Edinburgh - but I have good friend who counts Edmonton amongst his favourite towns and I would agree.
I will be back. Thanks to everyone who I met for showing me such a great time and for making me feel at home. A special thanks to Andy and Van for taking a lot of their weekend to show me a great time and to show me their city. Thanks guys!
Posted by Black Dog at 11:11 AM