19 September 2012

Friday's Top Five (a few days late) - Things I Love About My City

Hi faithful readers of five.

I was supposed to type this on Friday. But work got in the way, followed by a weekend of laziness, followed by more work. Kind of a crazy time right now in the life of Dani.

However, I made empty promises to Joanne that I would blog about last week's topic...so better late than never. Unless this post sucks. Then you could say "she should've just kept her trap shut."

Last week I ranted about the things I hate about the city. One week later, the piss-tang-hooker-tears -ass-smell remains. But I would be remiss and irresponsible if I didn't blog about the things I love about Edmonton. There is a reason why I live here, stay here, and love my city (even though the piss makes it hard to smell Edmonton).

5) There is alway something to do in or near Edmonton.
Seriously. This city is always busy. I've have travelled to cities where, once you were finished the tourist-trap stuff, there was nothing to do. But in Edmonton, we are spoiled by a bounty of riches. There is a festival every time you turn around, with new ones popping up yearly (like What The Truck). There is festivals for food, festivals for heritage, festivals for arts, festivals for everything you could possibly think. There is even a festival for winter.

Beyond the festivals, there are shopping venues galore. I once read that Edmonton had the most shopping centres per capita than anywhere in the world...or Canada. I don't remember the details, but it was impressive for this northern city.

And there are sports. We have a professional hockey team (which some cities in Canada would love to have) with the Edmonton Oilers. We have a CFL Football Team (the Edmonton Eskimos). We occasionally have a minor-league baseball team depending on the year. We have a ton of other teams in a ton of other sports. Plus, as if we were not spoiled enough, we have world-class atheltes who have trained/are training here. We host great world-class sporting events.

Plus, we are a close driving distance to mountains, provincial and federal parks, lakes, and other interesting small towns.

Add to that endless restaurants and fantastic parks.... Edmonton is always hopping!

4) The People.
It's a cliché to be sure, but we have great people in Edmonton. People who care about their city. People who care about their neighbours. People, who when tragedy strikes, like the deadly tornado in 1987, will roll-up their sleeves and pitch in to help. If there is a fundraising goal, the people in Edmonton will make that goal a reality. We might, in our daily lives, be generally indifferent to our neighbours. We might, in our daily lives, kvetch about God knows what. But when it matters, we come through.

3) The Changing Seasons.
Joanne might disagree, as she hates winter. But I for one like the weather (for the most part). First off, I like that we have four distinct seasons. I love being able to walk the same river valley path at different times of the year and have something interesting to look at, always changing depending on the state of the tree leaf.  And I love that for the most part, no matter what season, we have fairly moderate temperatures. Sure we have our -40's or +40's, which both suck. But those extremes are pretty rare indeed.  But there is so much beauty in Edmonton's landscape, that the changing seasons really do enhance the beauty.

2) Edmonton is a beautiful city.
Edmonton is a pretty city. It is picture-esque. It has some interesting architechure. It has a pretty river valley with rolling hills and lush green grass, with trees that change with the seasons. We have a beautiful skyline. There is so much prettieness to the city.

1) The River Valley
I LOVE THE RIVER VALLEY. I do. I love that we have so much green space, and I take advantage of that space weekly. Mark and I love to go for walks there. I used to go there all the time with Jo. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Ok, so my blog was a bit lame this week. But I got it out there! Phew.

Go mosey over to Joanne's blog and maybe Junior's blog too.

See you this Friday!

17 September 2012

Happy Anniversary to The Cockroaches!

(photo courtesy of Creations Photos)
Today is a special day in my heart.  September 17th has a special meaning and I don't want today to go by without The Cockroaches knowing just how special they are to me, and just how much I love them. Seldom do we celebrate our friendships, because every day we have with them are special and treasured. But for me, September 17th has a special meaning that is worth celebrating.
One year ago today, a group of friends gathered to celebrate. It was Mark's birthday week. But it was also the wedding day of two individuals who, of their own making, had decided to part ways from the rest of us. Rather than walk away peacefully, they took the cheap and immature way out, with lame excuses levelled at us to justify their own immaturity. Looking back, they were probably looking for an "out" for a while, and the excuses they created made it easier to walk away.
That prior year was emotionally exhausting, and we were drained.
So when an opportunity came to gather and celebrate, Wendy and I jumped on that. She herself was suffering from two personal losses and needed her spirits lifted. I wanted Mark to realize he was loved by those close to him. Monica and Nick and Nicole and Mike had just gone through the landmine described above that Jason, Wendy, Mark and I had experienced in the previous Autumn. So it was time to celebrate us. The fact that the Saturday happened to fall on said wedding day was pure coincidence.
Wendy and I planned it out. We would get together at Boston Pizza (Mark's favourite joint). Afterwards, we would take the party to Casa Konoza, eat ice cream cake, and play Rockband with our online musical group called The Cockroaches. It was going to be an epic night.
It turned out much more than that. Wendy said our group was solid that night. Our little group was together. We supported one another. This was what was important, not them. We laughed, we cried, we sang, we laughed some more. It was one of the best nights ever.
We had no way of knowing that night what would happen less than two weeks later, when Wendy passed away. For some, it was the last time they would see Wendy. When she passed away, there was a fracture in the collective Cockroaches heart.
Since September 17th, 2011, we have gathered as friends and supported each other. We were there to help Jason in his dark days. We were there to celebrate Mark's and I wedding on the bright days. We've gathered together as often as we can, strengthening our bonds. And most importantly, we have never forgotten Wendy's happiness that she had the day we became solid. I take comfort in knowing she was at peace with the situation that was, and was happy with us. We were solid.
So for me, September 17th is a day in which I want to personally mark as an anniversary. It is a day of love and gratitude for Mark, Jason, Monica, Nick, Nicole, Mike (and later on, new members to the roaches with the additions of Steve, Travis, Laura, Kevin...and whoever else wants to be part of the awesomeness that is The Cockroaches). It is a day of love and gratitude for Wendy, who is forever a member in spirit. We may come, we may go, but our love is solid.
On Friday, we are going to gather, celebrate Mark's birthday once again, and The Cockroaches will sing once more. I will love and cherish every single moment of that day.
Happy Anniversary Friends! 
Cockroaches Forever!

7 September 2012

Friday's Top Five: Things I Hate About My City (Edmonton)

Hello faithful readers readers of five! Today's weekly top-five deals with things I hate about living in Edmonton (and about the city of Edmonton generally).  I generally try to be an upbeat person about the community in which I dwell. But there are things that, quite frankly, the city of Edmonton can do to be a better city. We have world-class events that put us "on the map."  But there are things that I am embarrassed about once people actually arrive here. We have our warts, and it is time to remove them.

5) NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) Syndrome & WOOTD (Waste of Our Tax Dollars) Syndrome:  We want ourselves and children (if any) to grow up in a vibrant community where they have access to recreation, schools, and amenities. We want our homeless to have shelter. We want roads built.

But when it comes to actually build something that will help with any of the above, the battle-cries come out. Affordable housing sounds great until someone proposes building it in a neighbourhood outside of the inner-city. Roads and bus routes sound great until it goes through your neighbourhood. Attracting tourists sounds fine until a multi-million dollar art gallery is proposed. I understand that there are real issues to consider, such as property values, usage factors, cost factors, design factors and so forth. And it is always important to gather input from all concerned.

However, we need to realize that sometimes, money needs to be spent to create a nice design vs. another concrete palace on the cheap that looks drab. That we need proper infrastructure to move around, even if it means 2 months of traffic snarls or noise. That we all share the responsibility of ensuring our citizen's are housed, not just inner-city and older neighbourhoods that are stretched to capacity.

If you want to yell "not in my backyard" or "what a waste of tax dollars", then do so. But then come to the table with a solution. Remember, lack of building infrastructure now means you will have to do it later and at a higher cost (read: light rail transit construction). And city/provincial planners: be realistic with costs, needs, and urban planning.

{Edit: This argument does not apply to the downtown arena proposal. My objections have nothing to do with NIMBY. Perhaps a little bit of on WOOTD, but that's for another post}

4) We forget we live in a winter city:  Hey there city planners, did you know we get snow for 6 months, sometimes longer? Really? Are you sure? THEN WHY THE HELL DON'T YOU PLAN FOR IT?  Hey there city drivers, did you know we get snow for 6 months, sometimes longer? Really? Are you sure? THEN WHY THE HELL DON'T YOU PLAN FOR IT?

Every year it is the same damn thing: it snows. We blow our snow budget by the time November rolls around. We are lucky to have 20 snow removal machines on the roads at any given time. We don't build bus stop with shelters. Good luck seeing a removal truck in your neighbourhood until March. And salt major routes? Why do that, when sand will work (not)?

In the meantime, every driver drives like it is summer. Proper tires? Bah. Drive slower during a blizzard? Bah. Remember the difference between daytime running lights and regular headlights? Bah...who needs to be seen from behind?  Because goodness knows everyone loves to spend hours trying to get home because of you...

3) Piss poor construction planning: I live in Castledowns. I work near-ish Bonnie Doon. To get home, I have to go north. This summer, the following roads were under construction:
  • Fort Road 
  • 82nd Street
  • 97th Street
  • 127 Street
  • 127 Avenue
  • 153 Avenue
  • 167 Avenue
  • Scona Road
  • Jasper Avenue just as you come up MacDougall Hill
  • Kingsway area
When my route home is under-construction, and all the alternate routes I can take are under construction...exactly how am I supposed to get home again? I get it. Roads need to be built and repaired. I'm all over that. But when you are repairing one geographical area, can you at least give drivers of said area some alternate options?  Plan better you morons.

2) Public Transit: Given that the cost to park and drive, it is no wonder why people prefer to take public transportation in Edmonton. But unlike every other major city in Canada, our city had no vision or care for public transport in the past. And now we suffer. Oh do we suffer.

Yes, we are finally building light rail transit to areas that desperately needed. But our transit needs in the meantime suck. When my bus arrives downtown to catch my connection, during peak times, it takes 20 minutes for a bus that goes to Northgate. Then when they do come, all 4 buses at once, they are packed, and I get  to pay to stand. Could we not stagger it out a bit?  Plus, there are no direct express buses to Castledowns from Downtown, so we all herd like cattle to the already overcrowded Northgate. When all is said and done, it takes me 1.5 hours to get home by bus. It takes 20 minutes by car. This is but an example of piss-poor planning.

And when we do get on a bus, there seems to be a lack of courtesy and awareness by people. Seniors standing while some young kid sits there in their little iWorld. I stand because I wouldn't want to ask the Coach purse or Safeway bag or backpack to move. And hey there menopause lady, when it's -35, it is perfectly alright to open a window, and then argue with people who want to close it because you can't take off your 4-layered jacket. And hey bus driver, where's the fire Jeff Gordon?

1) That stank smell on the corner of 100th Street and 102 Avenue on Churchill Square: What the hell is that smell? It's like some urine-tang mixed with ass and the tears of a banged-up prostitute. It's so horrible. And at a major event area, you would think that someone, someone, would try to clean that up a bit. Maybe through a Mr. Duck down the sewer? Mr. Clean on the sidewalk? A shot of Febreeze in the air? On the positive side, I have managed to reduce my gag reflexes to two heaves.

So that my friend's is my rant on the City of Edmonton. I do love my city. I do. But the core issue in all of these is lack of proper planning. Maybe we can fix the way we plan? What say you Mayor Mandel?

I will post (possibly next week) the things I love about Edmonton. I truly do love this city. I love it more than I hate it. But I could love it more. Just sayin' is all.

Go see what my friend Joanne has to say at her blog, A Warm Cup of Jo.  And my buddy Junior, when/if he gets around to it, will blog about NYC on his blog Juice With Junior. {Edit: Joanne's husband also has a rant to so share on The Wayward Yankee}

Till next week!

And remember: comments are my she-ra sword!