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GayCalgary® Magazine

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Excursions Into the Wild

Letter from the Publisher

Publisher's Column by Rob Diaz-Marino (From GayCalgary® Magazine, August 2008, page 5)
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There are two definite times in the year when I go up to Edmonton with Steve, and they’re pretty close together: the first is for Pride, and the second is for Capital Ex (formerly Klondike Days). The weekend I went up with him also coincided with the BEEF! Bear Summer BBQ and Dance, and Buddy’s little known 8th Anniversary, both of which I was happy to be around for.

During the early afternoon of July 19th, Steve and I headed out to the BBQ event which was taking place in Victoria Park, and we had quite an adventure getting over there thanks to our less than perfect understanding of Edmonton’s layout. We knew that we needed to find a path from the Promenade (100 Ave NW), down the steep and forested hill to get to Victoria park, but there were a few things that we didn’t count on.

The first was that the city of Edmonton would provide a staircase directly onto an unmanaged pathway. We followed it because it did show promise for taking us down the hill, but it meandered on for quite a ways through several homeless people’s camps (thankfully they were out for the day, or I would have been scared), and finally down to the highway. As we emerged from the bushes, just to add insult to injury, we looked back and saw a big City of Edmonton sign that read “Private Property – No Trespassing”. Furthermore, the path had taken us way off course, all the way over to Government House Park. Though we were halfway down the hill, we had to backtrack majorly, but stuck to the road this time.

The second thing we didn’t anticipate was how big the Victoria Park golf course is. We walked along the highway past the driving range trying to find a place to cross and gain access to the park. Despite the huge nets that are hung up to contain the golf balls, we were humored to see that the bushes were heavily peppered with stray ones – we counted at least 50 before we gave up. Someone might make a chunk of change collecting and reselling these…ironic that the bush residents were probably out begging and harassing people for money instead. But I digress. We did finally find a crosswalk and a wooden staircase that took us the rest of the way down the hill, but right into the middle of the damn golf course!

We took a moment to get our bearings and concluded the only thing to do was keep walking in the direction we were supposed to go and hope that we eventually would get there. So we trekked across the large fields of the golf course, sticking close to the trees with our eyes and ears peeled. The scenery was actually quite beautiful, if only we didn’t have to be concerned about getting beaned in the head by flying balls. We could see the path that we were supposed to have come along, which angled down the hill toward the east end of the park. We followed a few paths up into the trees that we thought would take us to it, but meanwhile ended in little plateau golf greens. Damn you golf people and your cleverly hidden holes!

It was only a matter of time before the hillside path got close enough that we could hop the waist-high fence and reach it. We finally arrived in a place where they had park meeting areas, and as we’re looking for #5, we only encounter 1, 2, and then 6. What the heck? So we headed down another narrow and densely forested path in hopes that it would bring us to the other meeting areas. The path wound and split and merged, like a dark maze – I thought it was pretty cool, except for the complement of creepy 80 year-olds cruising us. But when we emerged, I saw a group of big hairy men playing Frisbee and I knew we had finally arrived!

By that time we were an hour and a half late, and having held out for lunch, we were starving! We chowed down on burgers (served up by the always sexy Darren, who organizes the bear events), and had a great time chatting with the Edmonton bears, and a few familiar faces from Calgary too! After the event wrapped up, someone was kind enough to give us a ride over to Capital Ex so that we didn’t have to walk all the way back downtown and catch buses.

Capital Ex is similar to the Calgary Stampede in many ways, but in many ways it is also very different. Granted the Midway and the rides are almost identical, and there were a number of the same bands, the same foods, the same exhibitors etc. But the fundamental difference seems to be that the Stampede centers around a rodeo, while Capital Ex centers around a tradition of panning for gold, as the former name “Klondike Days” suggested. In other words, Capital Ex doesn’t have as much of an agricultural component, which changes the dynamic considerably.

This is now our 2nd year visiting the event, and one exhibit we went back to see a second time was the gigantic tent full of thousands of live butterflies and moths. If you hang around for long enough, you’ll no doubt get a couple of them landing on you – they seem to like certain colours and patterns on clothing more than others. For the kids it seems to be a competition who can get the biggest quantity of insects on them at a time, or who can get them to stay put in the oddest places (noses, ears, foreheads, etc.) For homos – if you think rides are scary, having these things crawling on you might put you over the edge.

We got a chance to sit down and have a casual conversation with the organizer of the exhibit, and found out that it isn’t just local to Edmonton – he takes it all around the world! Taking advantage of the butterflies’ cycle of life, they flash-freeze the insects to transport them to the next destination, where they are thawed and continue to reproduce. Unfortunately, Capital Ex has the exclusivity on the exhibit so we won’t be seeing it at the Stampede anytime soon.

Otherwise, we tried out the gold panning thing to see what the craze is about. You offer up your ride tickets to receive a pan of rocks, sand, and silt that is guaranteed to contain at least one nugget of “gold”. The premise is that, by adding water to the dirt and shifting the pan, the denser gold will sink to the bottom while the worthless lighter materials can be gradually removed from the top. I learned the technique on a childhood trip to Alaska with my parents, and applied it with some success, to find my guaranteed single “nugget” (which is more what I’d call a fleck) of gold. Some people spend the whole day collecting gold, which they can redeem for prizes that get better the more they find.

I’m sure the die-hards looked on at me and shook their heads for my lack of ambition, but honestly I was happy just getting a new pencil with smiley faces on it in exchange for my single nugget.

The Calgary Stampede

Even if the novelty has worn thin for you these days, I’m sure all of us who grew up in Calgary have special memories from the Calgary Stampede.

Before I met Steve, I remember walking through the Artists Exhibit area with my ex-Girlfriend, where a guy had a booth boasting he could make virtually anything you requested as a wire sculpture in under 10 minutes. We were intrigued; my ex asked for a dragon - the result looked more like a tyrannosaurus, but hey, not a bad tyrannosaurus at that. But this prompted me to go out to Home Depot and buy a spindle of wire, taking a lot more than 10 minutes to create a proper-looking dragon – I used the entire continuous strand from the spindle, not cutting it a single time, and shaped it with my bare hands. I wanted to tell the guy what he inspired me to do, even show a few pictures, but sadly I didn’t get a chance to go back that year and I haven’t seen his booth since. Nonetheless, the Calgary Stampede is capable of inspiring a lot of things, but most importantly awe for those people that experience it for the first time. Someone told me this month that they never really get tired of the Stampede, simply because they can enjoy it through the eyes of others.

Steve and I stopped by a number of times this year to look at the scenery, check out what’s new and what’s back, and generally take in the experience. Things have been shifted around quite a bit with the Stampede Casino no longer on the upper level of Big Four building – it gave way for all of the video game booths, including a large stage where we stayed a while to watch a round of the XBox Battle of the Bands.

One of Steve’s favorite things to do is check out the old photographs of Calgary that they have on display, marvel at the way certain roads and areas of town used to look and figure out which landmarks are still standing. It can be pretty shocking to see how desolate today’s Downtown Calgary looked, only 100 years ago.

I try my best to keep Steve away from sampling a lot of the novelty foods, like the deep fried Oreos/Coke/Cheesecake and such – though every now and then, in a moment of weakness I say “what the heck” and even try it for myself. I have to say, I am a fan of those mini-donuts.

Of course, another activity for Steve is photography. This year we lucked out at the Grandstand show and got a spot front, centre, and slightly raised above the standing crowd – which resulted in some pretty amazing photographs! This year they had some stellar on-stage pyrotechnics, death-defying motorcycle jumps, a bagpipe-toting comedian, and the always jaw-dropping Trans-Alta fireworks display.

As for me, I still enjoy going on the rides from time to time, but have avoided it for the past two years as I keep forgetting to think ahead and pick up a Magic Pass at Safeway. Speaking of thinking ahead, perhaps one of these years we might also get our acts together and submit my dragon sculpture and some of Steve’s photographs to the arts and crafts exhibition. It would only be fitting.

A Wild and Wonderful Taste of Zoogala

One of the really fun things about being media is that you get to experience some pretty amazing things, on the hopes that you can bring tales of your adventures back to your readers. GayCalgary and Edmonton Magazine has worked with the Calgary Zoo to showcase Zoogala for the past several years, and this year we were delighted to get a special tour – a taste of what some Zoogala attendees can access.

Zoo keeper Garth Irvine was kind enough to give us a good chunk of his time, taking us behind the scenes with a number of animals. He lead us off the beaten track in the Destination Africa building, to feed the Giraffes – part of the behind-the-scenes circuit of Zoogala. The massive creatures bowed their heads down to look at us as we walked along the sunken path skirting their indoor area. They gently pulled carrot sticks out of our hands by wrapping their rough tongues around them – the amount of grip they had was impressive, and demonstrated how they are able to pull leaves and even strip bark off trees to eat. We would have also gotten to see a hippopotamus named “Sparky” up close, but Sparky was busy relaxing on the far end of the pool and didn’t take much interest in us.

We couldn’t resist going to see the bears, for obvious reasons. I have to say, it’s surreal to see them up close – they have such small eyes proportional to their bodies, and I could definitely see the distant resemblance to the canine family. We were kept on a very short leash for our own safety, and even the bear keeper fed the 850lb. Grizzly through the fence with tongs as a safety precaution. As the Grizzly got up on its hind legs to snap up a treat, it gripped the wire fence with its 4-5 inch long claws. The inventor of the teddy bear must have had a death wish for their children – these particular bears were pretty docile, but to run into one in the wild would be terrifying!

July Online Poll - Redneck Calgary?

After our dilemma last month, we decided to ask our readers whether they still felt that Calgary is deserving of its Redneck reputation. 70% voted yes, 25% voted no, and 5% weren’t sure - so the yeses have it. Sorry Calgary, I guess you haven’t changed as much as we’d hoped. Visit the GayCalgary.com website and vote your opinion on next month’s poll!

August 2008

Considering that August is supposed to be the slowest month of the year in the GLBT community, we sure don’t feel any less busy as we’re going to press with this August edition. As ARGRA was over in June, it seemed that July was the real slump.

Our trip together up to Edmonton was on the only weekend that we could swing it, and regrettably none of our regular volunteer photographers were available to cover the ISCCA shows at MPs and the Calgary Eagle on the Saturday and Sunday that we were gone. Unfortunately this doesn’t help with our somewhat slim photo section this month.

Steve and I are celebrating Steve’s birthday and our 7th Anniversary early this month – how time flies! As soon as this magazine is put to bed, we are off to the WCPC campout for the first time in the 3 years we’ve sponsored it (the last two years met interference from press deadlines and the summer flu bug). We have been warned that there is something special planned for us, and as we will be celebrating our Anniversary, we can only wonder what’s in store. I’m sure we’ll have plenty to write about for next month’s column.

GayCalgary Online

What’s wonderful about building up a database (and being a nerd enough to appreciate it) is all the amazing things you can do by linking data together. Last month I linked the Events Calendar system with the Photo Archive so that photos are now being associated with the actual events that they were taken at. This is a more intuitive way of grouping photos, rather than simply by date - “AFQOL - Cut-a-Thon” is a lot more meaningful than “09/03/2007”, don’t you agree? So now you’ll be able to look back at past events in the GayCalgary Online Events Calendar to view the photos that we took! In addition, the Photo bulletin on the main page of the website now lists recently added photos by their event name.

Last month I did get some time to categorize and post photos from March 2008, which included events such as Calgary Cares, Apollo Western Cup, the St. Patrick’s Day Irish Auction, and Femme Fatale Carnivale.

The unfortunate problem we’re running into now when sorting through old photos is that there isn’t events calendar data to link them to. As a result, we will likely need to go back through our old editions of the magazine and piece together the past event history. This isn’t too bad, as we needed to go back anyway to complete our database of magazine articles. So this coming month you might see us concentrating on posting recent photos, just so that we can avoid tackling this necessary trek into the past until it is absolutely needed.

We want to hear what YOU have to say about the topics in this article, and any other articles in our magazine. Visit the chat forums at www.gaycalgary.com and write your heart out! Or write us a letter to the publisher by E-mailing publisher@gaycalgary.com, and we may publish or respond to it in the magazine!

(GC)



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