I took the opportunity of what might possibly be my last warm lunch break of the year and wandered over to check out the city’s newest tourist attraction. About a week ago, Edmonton’s diagonal outdoor elevator, otherwise known as the funicular, opened to public use, replacing the wooden stairway that previously led out of the river valley and towards the Hotel Mac at the top of the hill.
The view from this spot has always been great, but with the additional of a platform I can see myself wandering in this direction more frequently, maybe lunch in hand, in the coming months… but perhaps in April… it’s supposed to get really cold again tomorrow and maybe throw some snow our way.
But hey, at least you can now hitch a ride up the hill if you’re walking in that.
I timed it for an interesting moment. I had just walked up, set my camera onto the leg overlooking the Leg, pressed record, and about ten seconds later: blink! The holiday light display turned on.
In mid-December, around 4:30 pm the holiday light display of the Alberta Legislature grounds comes to life. With a bit of the dusk light still in the air you can get a sense of the decorations. I imagine it’s even more spectacular at full dark, but (a) my camera isn’t that good, and (b) I just caught a bit of this as I was making my way to catch the train back home for the evening, and I wasn’t handing out any longer than I had to!
Last year while out running, avoiding the ice-covered sidewalks of our usual routes, we took a turn through a side pathway, into a neighbourhood not far from where we would have otherwise travelled, and… there was a Griswold house.
You’ve seen the movie, right? Chevy Chase, as the bumbling Clarke Griswold hosts his slapstick family holiday gathering, terrorizes his yuppie neighbours, tolerates his red neck cousin-in-law, avoids throttling his mother-in-law, and of course, decorates his home in a visible-from-orbit display of holiday lighting that has become the yardstick by which all future lighting displays will ever be measured.
We found someone who is competing for the local title.
He’s put up his display again this year, and on our way home from some holiday shopping we drove the you-just-gotta-know-it route to find this house.
“You need to see this house.” I told Karin.
“No… you just can’t understand how many lights this guy has up until you see it.”
“No… it’s brilliant, awesome and insane all in one.”
Afterwards in the car: “Okay, you were right.” She says. “That was pretty awesome.”
One house. Sixty-five thousand lights. Music. Characters. And a power bill that no one will envy in January. Many props to this guy, whoever you are: you’re making this crazy world a little bit more magical.
There’s a ton of construction downtown this year, which is exciting.
But there’s a ton of construction downtown, which is kinda putting a big giant “MEH” on the annual decoration efforts.
Work on the new LRT means Churchill Square has more plywood barricades than food trucks. Work on refurbishing the downtown library means that what was once a brutalist architectural eyesore of an old building will be replaced by a promising work of post-modern shape of angles and glass and modern style, but is now a concrete skeleton with some jutting steel and a crane looming over the whole thing.
The New Years fireworks have been moved away from City Hall.
And there is definitely no fifty-foot-tall tree in the square.
I took some early morning video to share what it looks like on Jasper Avenue, Churchill Square and in front of City Hall this month.
There is a bit of effort. It doesn’t quite look like the holidays are skipping our City this year. Fortunately there was some forethought put into (permanently?) lighting the larger trees, and the ice rink in front of City Hall still beckons wee skaters to show off to the mayor sitting in his office overlooking the spectacle.
It’s a subdued, meh-kinda holiday season downtown… but by necessity for a brighter, fresher version in a year or two.
The Kid herself got it into her skull that we NEEDED to go to the Festival of Trees this year.
Every year, the University Hospital here in the city puts on a fundraiser wherein hundreds of holiday trees are decorated, displayed, and auctioned. We went four of five years ago to take in the heady kick off to the month-long xmas season, to walk around and ponder the effort and the splendour, but while it’s a feast for the eyes and camera lens, the Kid has never had much patience for it.
But apparently kids talk.
“Dad. They have a ‘Kids Only’ store there.” She says. “Only kids can go in and buy presents for their parents.”
“So you want to go?”
Of course, and she reminded us every other day for two weeks about it.
So Friday evening we coordinated a hot pair of precious free hours and we wandered the twinkling hall, taking in the festive gush that slapped us full in the face before it had honestly kicked in that, oh… right, it’s December again already.
I had plenty of time to nab a few minutes of colourful footage while the Kid disappeared into the ‘Kids Only’ store, where she lingered for a solid half hour and (of course) didn’t buy a single thing (“you wouldn’t have wanted anything in there, dad”).
Nothing quite screams “HOLY CRAP IT’S CHRISTMAS AGAIN!” quite like wandering among a couple hundred decorated trees, with five hundred strangers. Either way, it beats the mall.
I’m not oblivious to the fact that my audience is minuscule.
I’ve been writing and posting content here for nearly seventeen years, and in that time I’ve covered more topics than I can remember. This blog, in other words, has been a mishmash of randomly documenting with no central topic, save one: the author.
Having a small audience in inconsequential. Sure, there are outlying posts, a handful of things that I’ve written with just enough search engine optimized keywords peppered throughout that one of my eight thousand pages of information gets a slightly higher ranking and the resulting traffic blows out of the water any other relative stat on this page.
Having a small audience is not anywhere on the list of things that are going to prevent me from randomly documenting here today, tomorrow or in the future. In fact, having a small audience allows me a great deal of flexibility in deciding what I do want to write about today, tomorrow and in the future.
For example, if I decided I want to spend my lunch hours wandering around downtown taking random video footage on my new camera, uploading that to my Youtube channel, and then posting the results here whilst I wax meta and poetic on the nature of running a blog… well, I can do just that.
Or, if I want to keep on walking past the train station after work, take the long way home by walking over the river rather than riding over it, and as I go I happen to wander over the new bridge… and happen to capture a couple minutes of nice footage of the sun setting on that bridge… and I happen to post that footage to Youtube for everyone to see… well, I can do that too.
Every once in a while I get meta here, actually. In the never-ending search for an enduring idea, I dabble online with this concept of trying to own something of value on the web, even if that something is analogous to little more than a tent pitched in a remote hinterland compared to the big-city lights of all those other websites that are likely listed in the recent history of your browser even as you read this.
This past summer I climbed up the pass of a remote Canadian mountain, hiked to the small tent-pitching campsite twenty-five kilometers from the nearest flush toilet, hiked with all our food and supplied on my back, and… I was not alone.
That kind of space didn’t have a big audience either, but it was cherished so much more because of it. I may not be a mighty forest ranger camped up and atop the pine-specked foot of an ancient glacier, but me and my kind, posting random glimpses here and safeguarding a remote corner of the web for whoever happens to wander by, we have a kind of kinship with those folks.
So… enjoy my randomness, my solitude, my simplicity. And remember to pack out your trash when you leave.
One thing that I’m feeling like I never did enough of was post some of my video footage from my older cameras. I’m not claiming to be some epic videographer, but then that’s the point isn’t it? I’m just a guy with a camera that he lugs around in public and takes photos and videos. My footage is what most anyone who spends fifteen minutes poking at the basic camera settings could accomplish.
Plus, I often go wandering in some odd and interesting places and have given up being shy about recording the world around me.
So my resolution with the new GoPro, the Hero6 that I picked up just one week ago, is to share more of my footage. That is, not even sharing so much the highly produced and edited stuff… rather just posting more clips here and there of some of the better stuff.
Maybe a one minute reel of me walking around somewhere curious.
Or a few shorter clips strung together of a photo expedition.
Or the raw pieces of one of my running-with-a-camera adventures put end to end with some royalty-free music overlaid onto the clips.
It doesn’t count for much, but I know its the type of stuff that is useful when I buy a camera answering questions like: how will MY footage look because I’m NOT a highly paid stunt photographer with a team and a lighting rig and the option to only show you the best four seconds I captured after two straight hours of shooting. I’m just a guy who pulls his camera out for fifteen seconds here and there when the opportunity arises in real life. How will my video look?