Walking to the Glenbow

Yesterday, I played hooky from the conference I’m attending at the University of Calgary and walked downtown. It wasn’t a drift–I had Google Maps open on my phone, trying to find my way through a snarl of highways and suburban streets–nor was it nonfunctional walking, because I had a goal in mind: the Nick Cave show at the Glenbow Museum. The show–all of the work on display, including the new Kent Monkman installation–was great. So was my dinner at a tapas place on 17th Avenue SW. So was my walk: the first time I’ve been able to stretch my legs this year (I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time at my desk, reading).

I hadn’t planned to write about the walk here. I didn’t bring my camera (my phone was occupied in giving me somewhat suspect directions) and took no notes. What do I recall of the experience now? Making a sudden shift from a down-at-heel postwar suburb (curling asphalt shingles on every house) to a prewar suburb, just by turning a corner–along with the smaller houses (no bungalows), one sidewalk slab was marked with the contractor’s name and the date: 1931. Poplar fluff drifting from an unseen tree, hidden by an apartment building. The smell of barbecues in Beltline, possibly a Friday night tradition in this city. An odd level crossing allowing pedestrians and cyclists on a recreational path to safely cross the CP line. And this strange assemblage on a telephone pole. Is it art or a sign for technicians who might be called upon to make future repairs? I can’t tell.

It was close to an epic or heroic walk–solo and longish–which I have discovered is very much out of fashion among walking artists. (“Epic” and “heroic” turn out not to be neutral descriptors but pejoratives. I can see a paper that needs to be written: “In Defence of Epic Walking.”) But then again, it wasn’t an aesthetic walk. And that’s okay.