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The Original Meaning of Spin

I've always wondered why the neighbourhood laundromat did not occupy a more prominent role in fiction. After all, we all have embarrassing dirty laundry, and we all spent our slim years in laundromats when we had more time than money. In addition, we've all left behind a few embarrassing articles of clothing, which in our worst nightmares were traced back to us.

The laundromat has also been known as a place to develop a love interest or two if you read Dan Savage. Although not terribly romantic, laundromats didn't offer much else to do while your socks danced around in the dryer. And you didn't dare leave because, according to urban legend, that's precisely when thieves show up to steal your sexy new knickers before they are even dry. But this scenario left the young, slim and beautiful version of you pondering the replacement costs, money that could have otherwise been spent at the pub.

Let's face it. The laundromat was never our favourite place, even if it came up with a nice little name like Chez Bobette. Loosely translated, this means "Knicker's Place." I thought that it was quite creative on the owner's part to stuff lost clothing items in the form of letters, lacquer them to keep their shape and then hang them on the line out front in lieu of a sign. (Did any of these clothes/letters once belong to you?) Cute, but inside it was the same hot air, swirling dust bunnies and the rhythmic thump of the spin cycle.

As we moved up the food chain in the labour force, we had to invest in more expensive clothes. And with these snazzy threads, we had to pay for dry cleaning. At least this time, someone else was doing the cleaning for us. But have you ever stopped to think what dry cleaning really involves? I've looked into it and believe me, dry cleaners have a dirty little secret that you should all know about. For further info, tune in for my next post.

Do you have a great laundromat story? Like have you ever come home with something that didn't belong to you? 

In my first year of university, I found a pair of men's briefs in my clean laundry back in my dorm room. Of course, I made the discovery just as my roommate walked in. It made for an uncomfortable conversation. She immediately asked who they belonged to and I told her that I thought that they were hers. We did eventually discover that I had picked them up in the laundry room by mistake....

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Like Riding a Bike

You can blame my absence on Steig Larsson. I've been wrapped up in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for two days, my time set aside for blogging. It has all the good elements of a great page turner without any melodramatic tangents.

Another very exciting undertaking in the last two days has been teaching my 7-year-old daughter how to ride a bike, her first ticket to independence. I can remember learning to ride a bike myself when I was 5. It was back in the days when parents didn't go out and show you things; in other words, you learned on your own. It took me a week everyday after school to learn. I had plenty of cuts and bruises to attest to the learning curve, but I was nonetheless proud of myself.

On my way back from a doctor's appointment, I happened upon a new and used bike shop, Guarantie Bicycle, at 857 Marie Anne (corner St. André) on the Plateau. Not only did I find a great used starter bike for my daughter at $40, but I also discovered that this shop repairs bikes and recycles them for scrap metal (Pinkie got dropped off there today). It also had a free tire pump outside (See picture below).

I took my daughter in the afternoon to show her the bike I had set aside. Luckily, it was the same shade of red as her helmet and the new Canadiens shirt that she just received from Tante Sophie, overshadowing the fact that it was a girl's bike without a crossbar. My daughter doesn't go in for anything girlie. Her smile reflected both excitement and nervousness. The man running the shop gave her a few lessons to get her used to the bike, its steering and hand brakes. Instead of trying to pedal, she used the balls of her feet to push herself forward along the sidewalk to work on her balance. Her shaky steering told me that her nerves were getting the better of her, but she wasn't about to give up, especially not in front of the man from the store.

Reader do you remember your first bike? Do you have good or bad memories of learning to ride?

When he went back into the shop to get the tool to adjust her seat, my daughter came over to confide in me.
"I don't want to do this right now," she said.
"Just sit down and take a break," I said, knowing that she would want to try again.
And sure enough not even two minutes later, she was back in the saddle. Her father showed up a few minutes later, and we took her to a back alley with no traffic. Still using the balls of her feet to push herself forward she did a few lengths of the alleyway and then started to pedal. I watched as her nervousness changed to enthusiasm and then beaming pride.

"Look mom, I learned to ride a bike in one day," she said.
"That's right. You've learned the basics, but there's still more to learn," I said, not wanting to mention that she had to fall down at least once to really know what it was to ride a bike.

The day was not without tears and frustration. My three-year-old son was green with envy when he saw my daughter with a new bike. His scooter was quickly cast aside. And then after dinner my daughter discovered that invisible force called momentum and how hard it can be to turn on an incline. She had her first accident alright, and I had to remind her that she was off to a good start but that it takes at least a week to learn to ride a bike.

I'd love to hear about your first bike.

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Freegans, Treasures and a Pot of Gold

I have yet to touch on the subject of Freeganism, an anti-consumerism movement which advocates alternative living with limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Although Freeganism, a portmanteau for vegan and free, is most often associated with dumpster diving for food, it is not limited to food foraging. It also encompasses recovering and reusing materials found in the skip. I have referred to this in the past as treasure hunting.

Last August, I wrote about a neighbourhood treasure hunter, a very young-looking 65-year-old woman by the name of Joyce. I ran into her again on Friday morning in the park. She set down her bags on a park bench, and we had a chat about her philosophy on recovering and reusing the preloved.

As I stated in my post last summer, Joyce collects mostly cans and bottles for the deposit money, but what she really likes to uncover are magazines and newspapers, which she passes along to a hairdresser who then passes them on to his clients with reduced mobility in seniors' residences. Although she gave me a few general ideas about what she discovered, I was curious about the specifics and her motivation for treasure hunting.

"I'm 65 and with all the changes in technology, I gave up on trying to find work. But I hated sitting around and doing nothing. That's how people get sick and old." she said.

Joyce's neighbours often put in requests for things they need. Recently, one neighbour told her that he needed some tupperware. Within a few days, she had found some.

"Do you ask them to pay for what you find?" I asked.
"Of course not. That wouldn't be right," she said.
"But you're the one who did all the legwork to find it," I said.
"No, I enjoy finding things that people need and then giving them away. It's true what they say, 'give and you shall receive,'" she said.

I sensed that Joyce had something more to tell, but I could see that she felt slightly ill at ease. I wanted to find out what what she had received, but I could wait. I told her that she could be a Freegan, a concept that she was acquainted with. Our treasure hunter said that she didn't forage for food and made it abundantly clear that she was not poor. Joyce did not see herself as a Freegan, but instead a good samaritan. She enjoyed giving her treasures away to those who needed them most. I felt that I had my opening now.

"So what's the best treasure that you have ever found?" I asked.
She took two steps closer, and her voice dropped to a whisper.

"Someone had moved, and they had left a pile of things outside on the curb that had hardly been used. I found two Lagostina pots without a scratch on them, a new Sony radio and a beautiful leather purse, which someone had thrown out because the lining had come unsewn. Can you imagine?!" she said.
"Inside was a smaller purse that was brand new. It looked like a gift that someone hadn't liked. The style was too young for me, but I'd find someone to give it to. When I got home, I pulled out the smaller purse and showed it to my husband. He opened it up, unzipped the side pocket and found an envelope. We both looked at each other in disbelief. I opened the envelope and inside I found 500 Euros or the equivalent of $600," said Joyce.

That was quite a reward for our good samaritan, but somehow I wasn't surprised by the discovery. In recent years, I've seen all kinds of valuable items hastily thrown to the curb, and it seems that they're being thrown away because the owner can't think of anything else to do with them. Anyway, it makes me feel better knowing that there are people like Joyce saving things from becoming landfill.

Freeganism is a solution to protecting our resources. I'm not suggesting that people dumpster dive for food, but it might be a good idea if we all  considered what we really need before we buy.

Reader have you ever picked something up curbside? Please tell us what your best find was.

I'll go first. In 1993, I found a colour TV and a top loading VCR. Both were very heavy, but well worth the haul, and they suited my post-Master's financial situation.

A must read:
50 Freegan Lifestyle Habits for the Jobless

Other green-related posts
The Environmental Working Group Updates its Dirty Dozen
Organic Produce Too Expensive or Unavailable: Meet the Clean 15
Mom Activism: A Reply from McDonald's Canada
Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber

Here's a funny video about a UC San Diego biology prof, a freeganist of 30 years, who shows some students how to dumpster dive. (2 min 30 sec)

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St. Dominique: Produce and Protest

Thursday afternoon could not have been a better afternoon for the opening of a new pedestrian market. It was a beautiful clear sunny day, and the shadows cast on the Saint-Enfant-Jésus Church were worthy of a European film. In fact, with the market teeming with people and the band playing in the background, the church had never seemed livelier or lovelier.

I arrived just in time to hear borough councilor Richard Ryan say a few words to officially open the market place, which was later followed by some upbeat music from the band. A few stalls were open selling kale, homemade ketchup, strawberries, honey and baked goods. The offerings were similar to those at the Sunday market just off Duluth, decidedly upmarket and not as focused on sustainable produce as I had hoped. But as we know, these things evolve, and the produce sold here may be very different by season's end in October.

I did, however, notice that the market merchants did not form a straight line along St. Dominique, which in previous weeks had been painted green. In fact, the centre of the market curved into the park to increase its distance from the church's entrance. Then I noticed about 20 mature demonstrators who were protesting on the church steps. I went to pick up a leaflet that was being distributed and spoke with two of the demonstrators.

"We are not protesting the market, " said a woman in her seventies. "We just want the market to take place in Park Lahaie and not on St. Dominique Street."

The demonstrators disagree with the closing of St. Dominique. They argue that the street is part of the church's religious heritage and should be respected. Its closure not only makes parking difficult for churchgoers, the elderly and workers at the neighbouring seniors' residence, but it also impedes access to a place of worship. In addition, the protesters claim that the street closure dissuades family and friends from coming to visit residents.

What better place to make your concerns known than a public square.

What do you think reader? Is the complete closure of St. Dominique unfair to elderly residents or is it green progress, making our borough more citizen-centred?

The culture of protesting is something that I have always found refreshing about Quebec and seeing these seniors stand guard outside their church, charging borough mayor Luc Fernandez with "Ageism!" was heartwarming. I love to see people stand up for themselves. And I can't help but think that the demonstration was unexpected.

But there is room for compromise on both sides, and I'll be watching this situation to see how it progresses over the summer.

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The Bixi: Success For All?

Just about everyone's heard about the success of Montreal's bike share program and that it's star, the Bixi, has now been rolled out in London, Melbourne, Minneapolis and Washington, DC--Arlington, VA. In 2009, the program's first year of operation in Montreal, the Bixi was used 1.14 million times.

I became a subscriber last September like many other people on the Plateau-Mont-Royal. In fact, of the 10,775 people who bought annual subscriptions in 2009, 34% lived on the Plateau. This might explain why you can't swing a cat without hitting a Bixi station. Unsurprisingly, 32,098 bikes were checked in and out at the Mont-Royal station, making it the busiest in the city.

As I reported last year, the Bixi has reduced the number of cab fares in the city, so I wondered if the Bixi had hurt business for bike retail shops in my neighbourhood. We went shopping yesterday for bikes for our kids at ABC Cycles et Sports at 5584 Park Avenue, and I asked the owner, François Sylvestre, what effect the Bixi has had on business.

"It's been good for business," he said. "People who tried the Bixi decided that they liked cycling and wanted to buy a better bike for themselves."

This surprised me. Given the number of bike thefts and the convenience of having a Bixi station at every corner, I assumed that most people would prefer the worry-free Bixi option to having their own. Not so.

"I agree that the Bixi is convenient. I use it myself on occasion," said Sylvestre. "But as for thefts, most bikes are stolen at night, and that is when people have to take extra precautions, like bringing their bike inside or putting it in the garage."

Was it true that the Bixi's success was win-win for everyone in cycling circles? I decided to stop by at D'un Sport à l'Autre at 173 Bernard West to find out.

This is by far my favourite bike shop in the hood. It's the thrift shop of bike and sports retailers. In other words, there are plenty of treasures both used and new if you have the time and don't mind getting poked with pedals and handlebars in the process. In addition to vintage sporting goods and unique objects (see left), you'll find used cycling accessories, such as good quality seats and helmets, at a fraction of the price.

So has the Bixi put a dent in business? Apparently, not. "As you can see," said the clerk, "we're diversified, and no, there has been no change in our volume of business since the Bixi has come out."

And there's my answer. The Bixi has not had a detrimental impact on area sports retailers. If anything, it has made cycling even more popular, and with new cycling paths and more Bixi stations, I'm sure that it will get even bigger.

My question to you reader, if you had a bike share program in your city, would you drop your current means of transport and take a public bike to work or school?

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Banff and a Canmore Family Yarn

A trip to Alberta would not be complete without going to Banff and the Rockies. Driving through the foothills with my cousin Rina and her husband, I learned for the first time that Banff was in fact where both the maternal and paternal sides of my family connected. My maternal grandmother and great aunt both lived and worked in the 1960s in Banff, which was also where my cousin Rina was born. Our paternal grandfather was the Post Master of Banff in the 1950s, when the post office was in the Parks Canada building across the Bow River bridge on Banff Avenue. It's pointless to describe the beauty of Banff and the Rockies. Even my pictures don't do them justice. I highly recommend that you go and visit for yourself, especially if you love seeing animals run wild.

The surprise this time around was visiting the now very upscale Canmore. Thirteen years ago, I drove through Canmore with my mother on our way to Lake Louise, and we stopped in at a roadside coffee shop. My mother told me that my cousin Rina might live in Canmore, as her father was from there. I got up to look in the phone book when my mother grabbed my arm.
"Just a second. We'll ask her," said my mother, pointing to the waitress who was on her way over.
"Mom," I said in protest. "This is embarrassing."
"This is small town Alberta. She might know her."
After the waitress took our order, my mother asked her the $100 question.
"Well, there are quite a few with that surname in Canmore. In fact, there were a few in this morning. But I think I know who you are talking about," said the waitress.
I looked at my mother in disbelief, while she nodded.
"Does she have blue hair?" she asked.
"She might very well," I said, thinking back to Rina's sense of style.
"Yes, she moved to somewhere that starts with a C," said the waitress.
"Oh...Camrose," said my mother.
"That might be it," she said.
Years later, Rina told me that she did in fact have a blue streak in her hair and that she and her husband were then living in Carstairs.

This time when we drove through Canmore, I didn't even recognize it. Million dollar homes lined the streets, as did high-end shops. I doubled over with laughter when Rina showed me a few remaining hold-outs from days of yore. A certain monsieur with lumber piled in the front yard and a 1970s Cadillac parked at an angle sans driveway.

Rina's father came from a large family, and when she left Vancouver for Canmore, her mother gave her a little advice.
"If you date anyone in Canmore, you better ask him if he was born there," said her mother.
The comment was lost on my cousin until one weekend on a date, a certain young man started to talk about his uncle Frankie.
"What a coincidence! I have an uncle Frankie too," said Rina, suddenly remembering her mother's advice.

For a young woman new to town, this was not an easy situation. On the one hand, her paternal grandmother was Scottish and professed lineage to the royal family, but on the other, granny had a still for making gin in her bathtub.

Tell me reader, what would you have done in a similar situation?
Shrugged off the fact that you both had an uncle Frankie.
Tried to determine if uncle Frankie was one and the same.
Said good night to the charming young gentleman and run like hell.

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Review: Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber

Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment
(Second Edition)
Sandra Steingraber
Da Capo

In the original 1997 edition of Living Downstream, Sandra Steingraber was the first to compare data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries. In the last ten years since this edition was published, there has been rapid growth in the understanding of environmental links to human cancer and new published findings that corroborate the evidence Steingraber compiled in 1997. With a Ph.D. in biology and a Master`s degree in creative writing, Steingraber has been the recipient of many awards, including Chatham College`s Rachel Carson Leadership Award in 2001 and a Hero Award from the Breast Cancer Fund in 2006. Living Downstream is both a personal story of  Steingraber`s battle with cancer and her investigation into the potential sources of carcinogens released into the air, land and water in and around her hometown of Normandale in West-Central Illinois, as well as in other areas of the United States.

Thirty years ago when Steingraber was a 20-year-old college student, she learned that she had bladder cancer and was surprised when her urologist asked her whether she had ever been exposed to textile dyes or worked in a tire factory or the aluminum industry. The author later learned that bladder cancer was considered a quintessential environmental cancer. In other words, there was more evidence linking it to toxic chemical exposure than to any other type of cancer. However, although bladder carcinogens had been identified, they continue to be used by industry even today. The obvious question, of course, is why have these chemicals not been banned. The reader quickly discovers that cancer causation is complex, as is proving the source responsible for this disease.

The author reminds her readers that of the 80,000 synthetic chemicals currently in use in the U.S., only about 2% have been tested for carcinogenicity, and only five have been banned under the U.S. Toxics Substances Control Act since 1976. We also learn that the U.S. environmental regulatory system does not require exhaustive toxicological testing of chemicals before they are marketed. Legal limits are set on chemical releases, but, as we recently learned with bisphenol A (BPA), trace amounts can be more harmful to humans than higher doses. Moreover, we are often exposed to many contaminants simultaneously in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we ingest and the land we inhabit.

Often compared with Rachel Carson, Steingraber makes some compelling arguments in favor of the precautionary principle, or the better-safe-than-sorry approach to chemicals. She also advocates the principle of reverse onus, which holds producers responsible for proving that their products will not harm the public, as is the case for pharmaceutical companies.

Sandra Steingraber has the expertise in science to give her the necessary authority to present an investigation of this scope and the impeccable writing to make it accessible to a wide audience. Although some environmental texts can be dry, Steingraber`s writing and personal story make for a compelling read. Her drive and commitment to finding the missing pieces of the cancer jigsaw puzzle are humbling. I only wish that she had included a map of Tazewell County, Illinois, which we repeatedly visit throughout the book. A few diagrams of some of the molecules she describes would have also been nice.

In short, if you have ever thought that the environment may have played a role in the death of a loved one and would like to know more, then this is the book for you.

This review has been cross-posted at Feminist Review.

Are there any products (food, health and beauty products, cleaners, plastics, drinks, etc.) that you suspect cause cancer and avoid at all costs?

For instance, my husband does not trust artificial sweetners because they are synthetic. He believes if you cannot cook with them, then they are not good for you.

Other Reviews:
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Aya: The Secrets Come Out
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Review: Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike

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The Badlands

Located at an hour and a half east of Calgary, the Badlands are considered one of the richest dinosaur fossil beds in the world. At the bottom of a canyon sits the town of Drumheller, home to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and a number of dinosaur and fossil-related tourist attractions.

We stopped here for lunch with the hope that the rain would stop and we could hit the 25-km Hoodoo Trail in search of hoodoos, or tall thin spires of rock. At a restaurant just off the main street, I discovered that a vegetarian may have a hard time finding a veggie burger outside of Calgary or Edmonton. While looking at the pizza menu, I discovered "the Albertan," which was topped with barbecue sauce, ground beef and green peppers. Yes, beef appears to be the mainstay of the Albertan diet, and the further north you travel, the more likely you are to find barbecue sauce served on a wide variety of meats.

The rain did not let up, but we nevertheless set out for a walk across a long suspension bridge. On the other side, amidst the scent of sage, I took a few steps and felt myself slide down the incline. My cousin Rina was about ten feet ahead of me.

"I think we should turn back," she said. "There's a long slide print here followed by what appears to be a butt mark. Let's look for hoodoos elsewhere."

After a 15-minute drive, we did indeed spot some small hoodoos from the road. We stopped and were disappointed that they were so small, but after slipping and sliding up some inclines, we saw some spectacular formations, which sometimes resembled frightening faces. According to Blackfoot mythology, hoodoos were giants whom the Great Spirit had turned to stone for their evil deeds. At night, the petrified giants were known to awaken and hurl rocks down on any human passersby.

Although we were satisfied with these hoodoos, we continued on the trail by car with the hope of finding even larger ones until we hit a gravel road. My cousin said that gravel and dirt roads were dangerous if we didn't have a four-wheel drive vehicle.We headed back and eventually came upon Horse Thief Lookout, which gave us a spectacular view of the canyon below.

Afterwards, we drove across 11 single-lane bridges and eventually ended up in the little ghost town of Wayne, Alberta. The wooden sign read "Welcome to Wayne, pop. 2,789," which was crossed out with 27 written next to it. In its heyday at the beginning of the 20th century, Wayne was a coal-mining town. The main attraction today appeared to be a large sheep pen with pallets nailed together forming a makeshift fence. In addition to a few trailers and small homes, there was the Rosedeer Hotel and the Last Chance Saloon, a pretty big bar for just 27 people, unless of course, they serve sheep.

As the rain continued, we left the Badlands and headed back to the highway. Large Hutterite colonies are another common sight from the highway in the farmland surrounding Calgary. I was told that some colonies welcome outsiders, while others require you to make an appointment in advance. Although an odd site to this Easterner because of the religious cult connotation of large groups of people living on compounds, I was nonetheless curious. The prosperous Hutterites originally hailed from Germany, but persecution forced them to leave a long line of countries before finally settling on the Canadian prairies. We saw a colony from the highway and decided to pay a visit. Two 10-year-old Hutterite boys with European accents sold us some radishes and potatoes.

Getting back to the highway proved a little problematic. The rain had made these gravel roads muddy and slippery. My cousin was noticeably nervous about getting stuck in the mud far from a paved road outside a Hutterite colony. I wasn't sure why until she showed me this video when we got home.

PS, The Hutterite woman is a man, and if the refrain of this video is not your cup of tea, just cut to the last minute of the video to find out who did not assist these brothers in mud and how they eventually got themselves out.

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Prairie Towns

I must admit that I love prairie towns, and I had my cousin Rina drive me through a number of them. Yesterday, I said that store fronts were rarely brick, but as I discovered, there are brick store fronts, but only in the more affluent towns; otherwise, clapboard or stucco is de rigueur.

Yesterday, we managed to pinpoint several shared characteristics of small towns in Alberta. On a main drag anywhere, you will inevitably find angle parking, a hardware store, a Chinese restaurant, a bank, a small grocery store, an auto-tractor parts shop, a liquor store and a tavern, saloon or "hotel." In the better-heeled communities, there will also be a pharmacy, hair salon (usually called "the Cutting Edge" or "the Cut and Curl"), and a barber shop because men don't like the feminine smell of girlie hair salons. In Stettler, the heartland of Alberta, we found a fairly affluent area, as it had a jeweler on its main drag selling diamonds and Rolex watches. That was proof that oil money has helped keep Stettler happy and healthy.

On our way back from Viking, we saw the ornate spire of a Ukrainian church from the road and decided to go in and look around the small town of Holden. Many of the businesses on the main street were abandoned, and we found a hardware store that was being converted into a home. As I got out to take pictures, the owner came out to see what I was up to. I told him that I loved the facade of his store, and he told me that they were slowly converting it into the family home. As we talked, I noticed a few doors open a crack to see who the newcomers were. Clearly, a Montrealer rolling into town to take pictures was a rare occurrence.

The picture below is the main intersection of Holden. On the left hand side is an abandoned hardware store and directly across the street is a small food store. The statue at the centre of the intersection is a memorial to all the local boys of Beaver County who died in World War #1. By today's standards, the middle of an intersection is an odd place to put a war memorial, which suggests that it was probably erected before cars had taken over the streets.

I found it hard to overcome the desire to take pictures here. The light and the skies created some amazing and unique photo opportunities, and apart from the wind, there is also the silence of the prairies and the feeling of being utterly alone.

As we stopped to take pictures of an abandoned homestead, I said to my cousin Rina, "It feels as though there is no one here for miles."

"Well," she said, "that's because there isn't anyone for miles, unless you count the gophers."

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The Badlands

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Alberta: Prairie Sky

I arrived in Calgary on Tuesday and reconnected with relatives from both sides of my family. I may never have mentioned that both my parents were from Western Canada. On Wednesday, I drove to the tiny town of Viking, the home of the famous hockey-playing Sutter brothers, the birthplace of my mother and the cemetery where we were going to bury her ashes.Tiny prairie towns look very different from those in Quebec and Ontario.The main streets are much wider, and there's a noticeable absence of brick on store fronts.

Alberta has many coulees, or small valleys, and sloughs, which are shallow pools of water that reflect the deep blue of the sky. The countryside is punctuated with oil wells, abandoned homesteads (See picture below), farm equipment and a lot of modern Cargill grain elevators.  I also saw a lot of horses, buffalo and deer, obviously on farms. But let's get to the heart of the matter. About 80% of what you see on the prairies is sky, a spectacular panoramic sky. As we drove further east towards Saskatchewan, the terrain became flatter, and the clouds seemed to travel at the same speed, giving the impression that we weren't moving forward. This frozen-in-space feeling explains why the drive across Canada seems endless when you hit the prairies. I told this to my uncle.

"After a few hours of driving on flat prairie, you want to get out and push up and down on the bumper of the car,"  he said.
"Sorry?" I said, every bit the daft Easterner.
"To make sure that something is moving," he said with a laugh.
I walked away scratching my head.

Today, we are going to the Badlands, about an hour and a half east of Calgary, where the prairie opens up into canyons.

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