With less than a week until Valentine's, the word love seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue. It's hard to escape the amorous sentiments that are attached to the middle of February and I am no exception. This year somewhere between the stereotypical 'Be Mine' cards I find myself considering the various types of loves in my life and one in particular: Edmonton, formerly known as the City of Champions.
I was born and raised here on the 53 parallel and it's the only place I've ever truly called home. Sure, I've had my flings with other cities, summering in Vancouver, months abroad, but Edmonton is always home. And I've always blindly assumed I loved the place I live. Lately though it's starting to feel a bit like Stockholm Syndrome rather than an unabashed love for the Capital City. I find myself wrestling with the question: Do I like Edmonton purely because I like the life I have built here or do I really love city itself?
So, unlike most people writing love letters this week, I thought it necessary to consult a counsel of my peers. People whom in some form or another find themselves also in a love / hate relationship with the city, but yet are actively making it a better place to live.
Here's their breakdown of the best and worst of Edmonton, and (as promised) my love letter to the city.
A local comedian who has openly declared his love for Edmonton, written a comedy album (Local Comedian) inspired by it's landmarks and who despite of a few stints in other cities has called Edmonton home since 2005. He's currently running Booty Goose and you can find more of his work here.
Why Edmonton: I felt like in Toronto there was a lot of people doing the same thing and I had a really great opportunity with the space and people I was working with here and the people who supported it. Edmonton supports it’s arts community to a fault and that’s one of the best things about us.
Why Not Edmonton : I like living here at times, and at times I hate living here. It’s a very small community. It's a big city, but I live in Old Strathcona and it gets repetitive and the winters can be terrible.
Worst Place In Edmonton: Outside the Rack on a Friday night at around midnight.
The outgoing artistic director of Rapid Fire Theatre and one of the co-chairs of Make Something Edmonton when it was started in 2013. Amy is a born and raised Edmontonian currently in the process of moving to Vancouver.
Best Views In Edmonton
1. The refinery in Beverly or Goldbar Park, it’s a terrible view that million dollar homes have.
2. Purple City
Feelings on Winter: Honestly I hate some days of the winter, but once I got snow pants everything changed.
Why Edmonton: When you go to a house party and there's 60 pairs of boots in the doorway, and everyone is here, and there's that feeling that people aren’t flippant or wishy-washy. Even if it’s minus 30 and you have to walk for 20 minutes just to get there. There's this level of commitment that is tied to risk-taking, 'I’m going to do it, I don’t have any reasons to believe it will succeed, but I’m going to do it'. And if you throw enough excitement and commitment, it is achievable here.
On Leaving Edmonton: I think many people that so really love the city still need to leave for careers or personal reasons and there's this sense of shame in that. I don’t think you have to only love one city in your life.
An extremely talented photographer who is one of the original collaborators for Still In Edmonton, a blog and Instagram account whose mandate is "We love it. We hate it. We're still here." Find more of his work here.
Best Places In Edmonton
YEG vs YVR: We’re the same size as Vancouver proper but there’s this feeling of camaraderie. That it’s much easier to communicate and work with other arts disciplines and because we don’t have an ocean to stare into, we just have each others eyes.
Why Edmonton: Jobs and community are why I live here. Community mostly. There’s a line at the end of Into The Wild, “Happiness is only real when it’s shared”. I think that sums up my feelings about community. And that’s all we really have here. In those cold winter months huddled up inside just trying to keep warm together.
My Dearest Edmonton,
I write to you from within the heart of downtown thinking fondly of the juxtaposing world outside my door. The yet-to-be-born Ice District pulled into existence by the ballet of cranes dancing tirelessly. The centuries old Legislature looming with it's own grandeur mere blocks away. The constant collision of two extremes co-existing, with neither claiming to be the 'real' Edmonton.
I've spent hours wondering down your streets and considering if I'm still in love with you or if I'm merely tied to the familiarity of your skyline. And after careful deliberation here's where we stand.
I love the community that resides within your city limit signs. I've always joked I'm from the small town of Old Strathcona but maybe the real answer is I'm from the small town of Edmonton masquerading as a big city. We show up in droves to make you better regardless of the temperature. We're here and we've decided to make the best of it.
I love your roughness at the edges and how we have no interest in gentrifying them out. We collectively mourn the losses of our dive bars, greasy spoons and local haunts and do our part to save old brick buildings, falling down churches and struggling businesses. We have thrown ourselves into making minus 30 fun. Amy described Edmonton as an 'urban barn raising community' and while we may not be building literal barns we are certainly fighting to raise community.
I started writing this by wandering down streets and listening to the hum of our city, but I think that's the wrong place to look for love here. There are of course physical places I love (Fort Edmonton after close, the view from the Peace Dove, and the Legislature grounds at midnight), but really I love the will-power and wanting of our citizens to make you ever better.
Mat said it best and so my final words to you are his:
"Yes. I am in love in with city of Edmonton and our Facebook status would be in a relationship, but it’s complicated. And in-love in the traditional sense that you make it work. That it’s not as glorious or glamorous as the movies suggest. But at least we’re not pretending. "
Happy Valentines Day, Edmonton.