Calgary's Bee Kingdom Red Hot Spring Studio Tour

Editor's note:

Thought I would repost this blog for the Bee Kingdom's Fall 2016 Open House November 12 and 13 at 427 22nd Ave NW from noon to 5 pm.  Everyone is welcome!
Bee Kingdom Open house

 

This weekend I got a chance to tour the studio of Calgary's Bee Kingdom Glass as it was their annual Christmas sale and open house.  You could get a great deal on original art by Calgary's hottest young visual artists -  everything from fun glass balls ($30) that would add some colour to any room over the winter, to fun, funky Scotch decanter and two glasses for $199.  There was something for everyone.

Everything is handmade in-house (sorry in-garage) and just to prove it the boys are giving very entertaining demos in the garage, which is actually their studio.   As a bonus, not only were they selling their work, but they are also giving demonstration on the magic they perform to make the art.  Trust me it is well worth the visit.

Personally, I love the little colourful, playful, cartoon, cherub-like figures that hang on the wall. Mine for only $450! Surprise your loved one(s) with an original work of art this Christmas. 

Coming off their successful Glenbow exhibition this past summer, the Bee Kingdom (Ryan Fairweather, Phillip Bandura and Tim Belliveau) are the young guns of Calgary’s visual arts community. 

Look out Dale Chihuly (the world’s leading glass artist) these guys are gunning for you.

For more information: www.beekingdomglass.com/

By Richard White, December 21, 2014

This is the living room picture window. How festive is this? 

  You would never know that this mid-century house has been home for the Bee Kingdom for several years without the sign saying "Let's just call it beesiness?"

You would never know that this mid-century house has been home for the Bee Kingdom for several years without the sign saying "Let's just call it beesiness?"

The back deck has a table of seconds for sale. You can't have the multi-coloured one in the fore-ground - we bought it. All under $100.

Scotch decanter sets are one of their biggest sellers. For you traditionalists, not all of them have antlers.

Some hidden gems on a shelf in the garage. 

I love these little guys...

Bee Kingdom studio demo. They make it look so simple.  Don't you just love the shoes? 

A view from the back alley of shoppers milling about in the studio after the glass blowing demo.

Chihuly's lovely yellow glass sculptures amongst the plants in the Dessert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix. 

Calgary: Military Museums

By Richard White, September 4, 2014

Why is it that we wait until we have visiting family and friends to check out our local museums? I have been hearing great things about Calgary’s Military Museums for years. I drive by often and worked for five years almost across the street from it, yet I have never been in.  A few years ago when a history-loving nephew was visiting, I dropped him off and went to work, rather than joining him to tour the museum. Shame on me!

With my Mom visiting, we thought it would be an interesting activity for a Sunday afternoon. In fact last Sunday, we checked out the exhibitions at the Glenbow Museum, another place that I don’t make time to visit often enough.

The Military Museums lived up to it billing as a first class museum. It is actually seven small museums or exhibition spaces in one:

  1. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Museum and Archives
  2. The Calgary Highlanders Regimental Museum and Archives
  3. The King’s Own Calgary Regiment Museum
  4. Lord Strathcona’s Horse Museum
  5. Army Museum of Alberta
  6. Air Force Museum of Alberta
  7. Naval Museum of Alberta

In addition, there is also the Founder’s Gallery and a theatre space, all located in a decommissioned school with major addition.  Though not a signature building designed by a famous architect the building is more than adequate as a museum space. And quite refreshing to see how modestly repurposed building can become a major public attraction without spending 100s of millions of dollars.

 

The entrance to The Military Museums is subtle in design and statement.  

Once inside the museum your attention is immediately captured by a large mural that consists of 240 separate images.  Each image tells a story that you can read at the video terminal. 

  I enjoyed the many personal quotes that captured the various wartime experiences.

I enjoyed the many personal quotes that captured the various wartime experiences.

  It is good to be reminded that only 100 years ago Canada was a much different place psychologically. 

It is good to be reminded that only 100 years ago Canada was a much different place psychologically. 

Mind-boggling

The exhibitions are very text-based, well researched with lots of very interesting stories and factoids. There are excellent supporting artifacts, visuals and displays.  If you read all of the text and watch all of the videos, I expect you could be there all day.  There is a mind-boggling amount of information to read and absorb.

The one thing that seemed to be lacking were “hands-on” experiences for kids. Where was the opportunity to dress up like a soldier? Perhaps a chance to walk in a military trench with loud noises of simulated gunfire, bombs etc. What kid wouldn’t want to climb up onto one of the planes or amoured vehicles in the Naval Museum of Alberta? A lesson could be taken from the Calgary Stampede where kids climbing on the Canadian Armed Forces vehicles on display is a very popular activity.

  There are numerous displays depicting life on the battlefield. 

There are numerous displays depicting life on the battlefield. 

  The collection of medals is impressive.

The collection of medals is impressive.

Balkans

The Naval Museum space is impressive.

Lessons Learned

One key lesson learned from the visit was the incredible role Canada and Calgarians played in WWI and WWII.  In many ways, Canada seemed to be a bigger player on the world stage 100 years ago than it is today. I had a similar aha moment at the Glenbow last week reading about the accomplishments of Lord Beaverbrook and his influence on the economy and politics of England in the early 20th century.

Another aha moment came to me when I read a telegraph and realized it was not unlike a tweet in that the text was abbreviated to just the essential words.  While we always talk about how the world has changed, in some ways it is not that different. The abbreviations of a tweeter are similar to “shorthand” that was all the rage in offices in the mid 20th century.

You can look through a submarine periscope and see for miles....downtown looks like it is just a few waves away.

Another display that documents the hardships of life in the trenches. 

The science of shell making.

Outside there are several tanks and amoured vehicles, unfortunately you can't climb them.

Last Word

The Military Museums’ visit also reminded me that Calgary should have a Museum/Attractions Pass if it truly wants to be a tourist city. Why there is not a pass that allows a tourist to pay one fee to visit not only the Military Museums and the Glenbow, but Fort Calgary, Heritage Park, Calgary Tower, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, TELUS Spark and the Calgary Zoo is beyond me!  

Calgary has an impressive line-up of museums and attractions that are under appreciated locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. We really need market Calgary as a museum/attractions destination if we want to be more than just the gateway to the Rockies in the minds of tourists.

Melrose: Phoenix's emerging vintage district?

Richard White April 7, 2014

We started the day in downtown Tempe (thanks to the Red Lion Tempe's free shuttle). As not much happening here, we hopped on the Metro (light rapid transit) for downtown Phoenix. After jumping out at the Central Avenue Station, we started to flaneur.  

We were immediately attracted to the huge Janet Echelman's 145 foot tall artwork that looks like a tornado floating over Civic Space Park. Then soon we found architect Richard Meier's striking Federal Courthouse building which we were allowed to wander the lobby after getting security clearance.  

"Her Secret is Patience" by Janet Echelman is constantly moving as it dances with the wind. It has become a city icon. 

As we continued to wander, we found City Hall, the Sports & Entertainment District (convention centre, performing arts centre, baseball stadium and basketball arena, with the associated bars and restaurants) and the uber cool Klimpton Hotel.  However, what we didn't find was any street life i.e. retail or cafe animation.  To be fair, it was Cesar Chavez Day so city employees had the day off . Nonetheless, you would expect to see some street life.  Checking with the locals and found out there is no department store, nor indoor or outdoor retail complexes and not much in the way of a cafe culture.  

Approaching the he Klimpton as it seemed the most artsy, hip place on the edge of downtown, we were advised to walk about a mile up Central Avenue to the Roosevelt Arts District.  We did and still no luck.  So we continued past the Phoenix Arts Museum, past the Central Library, still nothing other than more office buildings and a few condos and apartments.  Central Avenue is like one long linear office park. Later we discovered most of Phoenix is like one giant office park with all of the main streets lined with office buildings of various shapes, sizes and designs.

Finally, we did find a hidden gem - Heard Museum with its lovely cafe, museum and museum shops.  We stopped for lunch and to regroup and have lunch - had a great chestnut soup (a first), pork posole and pork tacos (with a nice zing). We decided we'd get back on the train and see if could spot anything at one of the 29 stations - luckily, we had the $2 all day pass.

Once on the train, the passengers quickly realized we were tourists. Soon, a young man started asking us questions and giving us ideas on where we should and should not go .  We were soon calling him the  "Train Concierge" to the amusement of his friends. 

We jumped off at the 7th Avenue and Camelback Road station based on information that there were some antique and vintage stores nearby. Once off the train, a woman who had obviously been listening to our train talk started walking with us and sharing what might be open and worth visiting. It definitely looked promising. 

While the sidewalks were deserted, the street had a hipster look to it with no new buildings, no offices, mostly a hodgepodge of older, small retail spaces. Unfortunately, several were closed on Monday. However, soon we came upon Modern on Melrose and finally we were in flaneur heaven - a 16,000 square store with tons of mid-century modern furniture, home accessories and a salvaging yard in the back. 

Below are some photos from our 3-hour exploration of 7th Avenue which, we later found out known as the Melrose District.  

MOM's mid-century looking sign doesn't disappoint. 

Inside MOM are curated vignettes of eclectic collections of vintage furniture and accessories. 

MOM also has 12,000 square foot back yard full of salvaged materials from various sources.  It is a goldmine for interior designers and DIYers.

Across the road from MOM is Joe's Diner and figs. A little further up the street are more dining options - a couple of Mexican restaurants and what looks like an Italian Restaurant that hasn't changed for over 50 years. 

Qcumberz doesn't look like much from the outside, but get inside and you find it is jam-packed with vintage and kitchy artifacts.

A peek Inside Qcumberz.

Vintage signs add to the authenticity of the street.

Flo's offered great quality and great prices for a thrift store. 

Next to Flo's on 7th is Zinnias at Melrose, a huge well-stocked warehouse of antiques and vintage by several vendors. As well as. there is a vintage clothing store tucked in the back.  

Found this old teeter totter in front of Zinnias.

Inside Zinnias, Brenda and I both smiled when we saw these green legs on the blue ladder.  

Last Word

This sign that greeted us as we entered Zinnias says it all and serves as our last word.

Postcards: "Off The Beaten Strip" in Vegas

Richard White, April 1, 2014

Most visitors to Vegas spend all their time on The Strip (aka Las Vegas Boulevard South from Sahara Avenue to Harmon Avenue) or on Fremont Street from Main Street to 5th Street in downtown. However, there is much more (and much more interesting) to Vegas than the glitz and glitter of these two streets.

As seasoned urban explorers, we love to look beyond the obvious. Recently, we spent three days in Vegas almost exclusively pursuing off the beaten strip gems and hanging with the locals. 

We even booked a room at the LVH (aka Las Vegas Hotel and Casino), which is located just off The Strip. It turns out the LVH is full Vegas history including being the first place that Elvis performed in Vegas, as well as being the largest hotel in the world when it was built 50 years ago.  It was a great jumping off point for exploring Vegas' Arts District, Antique Alley, Container Park and thrift stores.

We find that one of the best ways to get off the beaten path and hang with the locals is to head to the thrift stores as they are often in interesting places and full of colourful characters. Like, for example, the Vegas Goodwill where we (and everyone else) were greeted with a loud and enthusiastic  "Welcome to Goodwill," not your robotic "Welcome to Walmart" or the half-hearted "can I help you?" While in Vegas, we often had other thrifters giving us tips on other stores and places to check out (e.g. Container Park). 

Here are a few postcards of the real Vegas you will never find in the tacky tourist shops. We hope you enjoy them.  

This surrealist artwork was found on a warehouse wall in Vegas' Arts District.

This graffiti mural was found in an area with numerous street artworks that reminded us of Freak Alley in Boise, Idaho.

One night we wandered Freemont Street past Container Park and found this oversize fire hydrant. It was the gateway to the neighbourhood dog park.  We love fun things like this; too often urban spaces are too minimal, too subtle and just plain too serious. 

Along Main Street South there is a bohemian district with quirky art galleries, antique stores and tattoo parlours.  We found this guy in the back room of an art gallery. 

Container Park has dozens of repurposed containers (rail cars) which have been constructed to create a Learning Village on half a block and a urban playground with shops, pubs, restaurants, concert and playground areas on the other half. It is located on Freemont Street at 7th Avenue.  It is a funky place for people of all ages. This is a single container that is like a sky bridge or +15 (Calgarians will know what that is) that links two separate container buildings. 

Retro Vegas (aka Vegas' other pink flamingo) is one of the best vintage stores we have visited in the past few years. 

Not sure this is the finest thrift store in Nevada, but what the h%#@, Vegas is all about bragging rights.

Found this old cross neon light in the Arts District, to me this was more interesting than all of the huge glitzy neon lights on The Strip or Freemont Street. 

Adults enjoying the playground in Container Park at night.

Children enjoying the playground at Container Park during the day. 

JJC Clocks & Antiques on south Main Street is like a mini-museum.  

These repurposed chairs with their colourful duct tape seats were found outside a recycle DIY store in the Arts District. 

Found these ladies just outside the LVH (Las Vegas Hotel and Casino) at 10 am.  Asked if they were heading to work and they said "No, just finished!" 

Downtown Salt Lake City: More Than A Temple!

By Richard White, March 22, 2014

Flaneuring downtown Salt Lake City (SLC) was easy from our south downtown Red Lion Hotel. It provided easy access to all downtown attractions including the Central Library and the Leonardo (creativity centre), Temple Square, City Creek Centre and The Gateway Mall.  And of course, you are inside the free fare zone so all transit (buses and trains) are free – how good is that.

As good flaneurs, we headed out each day without much of a plan. One day we just ended up at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building’s Family Search Centre (and decided to check out my father's family tree), the Lion’s Pantry Restaurant, City Creek Centre (with a real creek running through it), Museum of Contemporary Art, Harmons grocery and Broadway Street merchants (vintage furniture, art books and rare book shops). Another day it was Deseret Thrift store, Temple Square, The Gateway Mall, Olympic Plaza, Capitol Hill and the 9th & 9th corner.

Flaneuring downtown SLC is unique as the blocks are extra long and the sidewalks and roads are extra wide. The traffic lights are so long you can take a quick nap and not miss the light.  Flaneuring is also difficult as there are no streets with contiguous shops; seems like there is something on every corner, but nothing along the way.  Or, you find something mid-block in a residential area where you would never in a million years expect to find a restaurant, cafe or shop. 

However, like all good flaneurs we just enjoyed the many churches and homes along the way. We met wonderful people who helped us with directions and suggestions.  One of the great things that defines SLC is that almost everybody says "Hi" as you walk by.  

Brenda's souvenir find from our street walking in SLC was this 1938 postcard. 

One of the quirkier things we found flaneuring were these orange flags at crosswalks.  It took me a while (Brenda figured it out right away) that you are supposed to grab a flag and wave it as you cross the street and then place it in the holder on the other side.  Given the number of pedestrian / car accidents I have been reading about lately perhaps this is a good idea for all cities.

  The City Creek Centre has an simulated creek running through the shopping centre.  At first I was told this was actual water from the creek that runs through this area, but someone else said that this water is treated.  However, there is a creek along the sidewalk next to the LDS Conference Centre that I am told is water from the actual creek that used to run from the canyon in the mountains to a river on the edge of downtown.

The City Creek Centre has an simulated creek running through the shopping centre.  At first I was told this was actual water from the creek that runs through this area, but someone else said that this water is treated.  However, there is a creek along the sidewalk next to the LDS Conference Centre that I am told is water from the actual creek that used to run from the canyon in the mountains to a river on the edge of downtown.

The LDS Family Search Centre is free and open to everyone.  You get a tutor or coach who will assist you with your search which is invaluable as they know the software and the things to look for.

Brenda is thinking about what to wish for, before adding it to the Yoko Ono "Wish Tree."  It is surprising how difficult it is when you are asked to make a wish, write it down and place in in public place.

Fun Flaneuring Finds beyond the Temple:

  • Even hipsters in SLC wear a tie and suit.  I used to think it was only hotel managers and bankers who wore ties, but in SLC it seems all the men in downtown dress up as if they were going to church.
  • The "brothers" and "sisters" at the Family Search Center are wonderful - so helpful, friendly and patient. No attempt to push their beliefs or propaganda on us. Brother Badger spent three hours helping us find some information on my father’s family ancestry.  He never made a comment about religion and never asked for a donation – in fact there was no donation box in sight. This experience changed my image of the Latter-day Saints' culture.
  • A man-made creek runs through the new City Creek Center fashion mall creating a surreal experience. As you flaneur the space you move from outside to inside, back to outside then inside and back out. I was shocked to find it was a ghost town at noon hour on a cold day in March.
  • Bill is the best! Bill, aka the Chief Visitor Information Officer at the SLC’s Visitor’s Information Centre, is a wealth of knowledge, especially if you are looking for off the beaten path things to see and do.
  • The Ken Saunders Rare Books is a hidden gem with books piled everywhere including the floor.  You could browse here all day and still only have scratched the surface.
  • Yes, the Green Ant vintage store has green ants - actually two. It also has some unique vintage artifacts.  Owner Rod Green has a good eye for vintage and is a great ambassador for the city. We will be forever indebted to him for the hot tip about Em’s restaurant.
  • The Yoko Ono “Wish Tree” at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art was an unexpected hands-on experience. Everyone is invited to make a wish and write it on a small tag with a string for hanging it on the tree. In fact, the entire DO IT exhibition was engaging and thought provoking, exactly what contemporary art should be.
  • Harmons, in the middle of downtown, is huge yet still has a community feel with its loft café where you can chill out at a patio table or lounge on the soft chairs and couches.  It is home away from home.
  • 9th South Delicatessen, in the funky 9OO East and 900 South district, is located in charming house from the 19th century.  We had a great Rueben sandwich and their delicious chicken noodle soup plus some very tasty lemon tarts. But the highlight really was chatting with a local family (mom, grandma and preschoolers) about life in SLC and their family’s proud history as one of the first settlers in the area. The young attractive Mom was pregnant with her 5th child, and while she thought that was enough, one of her tween children thought they should have ten. People in SLC are very friendly; love to say Hi and chat.
  This is the fun 9th South Delicatessen. Painted bright colours and divided up into several rooms it is like walking into a doll house. 

This is the fun 9th South Delicatessen. Painted bright colours and divided up into several rooms it is like walking into a doll house. 

Ken Saunders Rare Books is where the real treasure hunters head. Step step carefully and be patient, but there are treasures to be found.  Brenda found a great 1938 Utah postcard. 

The Green Ant is a funky, quirky vintage store at the front and an art gallery at the back.  It is part of the Broadway bohemian neighbourhood.

Harmons brands itself as "your neighborhood grocer" and we certainly got that feel.  Looking from the loft cafe; this is the main floor as seen from our bistro table where we were enjoying an afternoon coffee and treat.

More Fun, Funky, Quirky Finds

  • Found Eborn Books while taking photos of downtown buildings, art and street furniture. There it was - Utah’s largest used and rare bookstore right on Main Street and I knew nothing about it.  Scored myself a first edition of Walter J. Phillips & Fredrick Niven’s “COLOUR in the CANADIAN ROCKIES.”  
  • We discovered Mod a-go-go after visiting the Cathedral of the Madeleine and wanting to kill some time before a musical rehearsal as to begin.  This part vintage home accessories and furniture and part local art gallery shop is a real find for lovers of mid-century design.
  • We also loved Hatch Family Chocolates and Avenue Proper both located in an old grocery store building off-off the beaten path in the Avenues neighbourhood.  Hatch has great chocolates as you would expect but also homemade ice cream. Avenue Proper is a brew pub (the smallest in Utah) and restaurant.  I drank by through their menu of eight beers as they offered $1 two ounce pours. 

Eborn Books is fun place to bibliophiles to browse.

MOD a-go-go is a great find for those interested in mid-century design.  

Hatch Family Chocolates has lots of tasty treats including these nutty chocolate covered salty pretzels. 

Bonus Flaneur Find

The bonus flaneur find was a recommendation by Rod Green at the Green Ant who suggested we should have dinner at Em’s, located mid-block on Centre Street, a quiet residential street behind Temple Square on Capitol Hill. We took his recommendation and had a great meal, so great we went back again the next night and were very tempted to go back a third night but decided that was ridiculous! Em’s might be the subject of its own blog so I won’t give you any details here other than to say – “if you are ever in SLC, you should go!”

Em's restaurant has a cozy atmosphere, great food and service.  The menu is surprisingly extensive for a small bistro. Don't let the white tablecloths fool you - it is casual and good value. It is fine dining, but won't break the bank.

Last Word

After five days of flaneuring SLC's greater downtown, our take away memory will be that it is more than just the Salt Lake Temple, Temple Square and the entire Temple campus. While it is not yet a Portland or a Calgary as an urban playground, it has lots of urban gems to offer if you are willing to explore.

If you like this blog, you might like: 

Street Walking in Portlandia

Calgary's Rail Trail Stroll

Winnipeg vs Calgary: Urban Hot Spots (part 1)

Thank You!

We would like to thank the Salt Lake City Red Lion Hotel for hosting us for our stay.  We loved our view of the city and the mountains, as well as the wonderful early morning light.

It was a great location to wandering into the downtown or just a quick drive to the major city attractions like the Zoo, Heritage Park and Natural History Museum. I am sure our trip would have been even more enhanced if we had come later in 2014 when the new Aquarium and the Zoo's African area were opened at the Zoo.  




The dirt on the Museum of Clean

By Richard White, March 20, 2014

The concept of clean dominates our everyday lives like never before in the history of mankind.  We wash our hands several times a day and brush our teeth and floss at least twice a day.  We shower and bath daily.  We have numerous TV shows and books about how de-cluttering our homes will make us happier and healthier.  Children today learn about the importance of a clean planet and clean environment in elementary school.

Well, one man has taken the concept of clean to a higher level and created his own museum to house his personal collection of over 5,000 clean related objects and to share his encyclopedia of knowledge of the subject of clean both globally and historically.

Mr. Clean cardboard cut-out. 

Who is this guy?

Don Aslett, chairman of Varsity Contractors Ltd. (a janitorial services company he founded with his brother in 1957), is so committed to the importance of the concept clean in our society that he bought and renovated an 75,000 square foot, six-floor old warehouse building in Pocatello Idaho’s Old Town to create his Museum of Clean.  His commitment to clean includes renovating the building to LEED Platinum standards; this means the building’s renovations and operations are of the highest standards for both energy efficient and environmentally friendly use and recycling of materials.  

 In addition to collecting over 5,000 clean related objects going back 2,000 years, he has written over 35 books, including Clutter's Last Stand and Do I Dust or Vacuum First? Aslett is an octogenarian who would put most GenYers to shame, working a 14-hour day, seven days a week.

More often than not, when you visit the Museum of Clean, Aslett will be there and don’t be surprised if he gives you a private tour of all or part of his collection.

Don pushing Brenda in his wheel-chair garbage can. The museum is full of fun and kitsch. 

About the Museum

The Museum of Clean is pure clean fun for all ages with over 5,000 fun and quirky artifacts.  Young kids and even teens love to get “vacuumed off” before they enter the 30 foot high, green “Kids Planet” cage, where they will learn all about saving the planet. Then there is Noah’s Ark where everyone gets to learn everything they wanted to know but were afraid to ask about “importance of water.”

There are over 50 hands-on activities; this in not a “stuffy museum” with grouchy security guards telling you to be quiet and not to touch.   Test your skills using different floor polishers - it is not as easy as it looks, perhaps grandma can show you how!  Seniors get to reminisce about the good old days of hand-ringer washers, hanging clothes outside to dry and bathing once a week (sometimes in the same water as your other siblings).  There is also a great film on the history of clean that will bring back memories – good and bad!

Dads might be interested to know that Cadillac used to make a vacuum or he might like showing off his muscles trying to lift the 60-pound vacuum cleaner with one hand.  Kids love the “cleaning windows” activity area. This can come in handy when you do you next get around to cleaning your windows at home or in the car.

In addition, there are over 30 photo stops, so make sure your phone is fully charged as photography is encouraged.

Top ten reasons you should visit the Museum of Clean:

  1. It might well be the most fun you've ever had in a museum?  
  2. The whole family gets in for 15 bucks.    
  3. Where else can you see a prison toilet and a model used by Queen Elizabeth the First to do a #2?    
  4. The kids can literally get their nosed dirty, learning about what life was like for chimney sweeps in the 19th century. Bet they don’t complain about cleaning their room after that.  
  5. You think your life sucks. Try owning over 300 vacuums, most are pre-electric and one weighs over 60 pounds.
  6. Husbands will love and wives will hate the rocking chair vacuum.
  7. Kids are responsible for making sure their parents don’t run in the museum.  
  8. Don’t worry you don’t have to take your shoes off at the front door.
  9. You get to see a garage that is more cluttered than yours!
  10. Don Aslett is a really nice guy.

As part of the extensive collection of mops, there is a mop bra.

One of the over 50 hands-on activities.  

Yes, this was the cadillac of vacuums in its day.

The Kid's Planet at the entrance to the museum allows children to run off their excess energy.

Prison toilet

Last Word

Don’t just believe us - Trip Advisor, American Automobile Association and American Association of Retired Persons have all made the Museum of Clean their #1 pick of places to visit in Pocatello, Idaho.

Our #2 pick is to visit Main Street, Old Town, Pocatello (just a few blocks away) to check out the early 20th late and 19th century architecture, neon signs and ghost signs (those old painted billboards that have faded over the years).  It is a photographer's dream with some great old neon signs.  You can print out self-guided walking tour maps on the Old Town website. Best time to visit is on Saturdays from May to October when the farmer's market is in full swing. 

The Paris building is one of numerous restored buildings in Pocatello's Old Town. 

One of the many faded advertising murals that were painted on the sides of buildings in the early 20th century.

One of the many historic neon signs that are being restored as part of the revitalization of Pocatello's charming Old Town.

YYC: Flaneuring the fringes - TransCanada Highway

By Richard White, February, 26, 2014

For Calgarians and tourists alike, exploring Calgary’s urban street life means all too often we head to the same places – 17th Avenue, Inglewood, 4th Street or Kensington, or maybe the Design District or Stephen Avenue.

Nothing against any of them, but I thought it would be fun to flaneur the fringes of urban city centre, beyond the Downtown core, beyond the streets of the Beltline, Mission, Kensington/Sunnyside and Inglewood.  To flaneur where no flaneur has gone before, to off-off-the-beaten path places in YYC’s urban fringes.   

Part One (this blog) will take us along the TransCanada Highway (16th Ave. N), while Part Two will explore 19th Street NW (south and north of the 16th Ave. N) and Part Three will wander the west of the Beltline. 

16th Ave N aka TransCanada Highway

When was the last time you explored 16th Avenue North? Ever wonder why it isn’t like 17th Avenue South in terms of shops, restaurants and cafes?  While the “urban picking” is sparse, there are some hidden gems along the Trans Canada Highway.  If you take transit, grab the LRT and get off at the SAIT/ACAD stop, wander the campus, as there are lots of interesting new buildings and then head to the north side of 16th Avenue at 10th Street and walk east.

Phoenix Comics (1010 16th Ave NW)

Since opening this location in 1994 (it also has a southwest store), Phoenix Comics has evolved into one of the top comic bookstores in Western Canada.  Their goal is to have every in-print volume of every title in stock every day.  They also carry out-of-print comics, graphic novels of all genres, Manga and games like Dungeons and Dragons. Every Friday they host two free “Magic: The Gathering” tournaments.  Selling over 1,000,000 magic cards a year, it’s no wonder Phoenix Comics has been dubbed by some as Calgary’s “Magic Place.”

Don't judge a story by its street presence. Inside this unassuming store is the motherlode of comics and magic cards.  

Phoenix Comics is three floors of nerdy, geeky fun. 

Aquila Books is the opposite of Phoenix Comics. It appeals to the intellectual geeks who love history.  Perhaps we should call 16th Ave N Geek Street!

Aquila not only has lots of hard to find books but also artifacts like two vessels hanging from the ceiling, the furthest one being an Inuit kayak. 

Aquila Books (826 16th Ave NW)

Two blocks east, Aquila Books is possibly one of the best Canadiana bookstores in Canada. Owner Cameron Treleaven is respected as one the most knowledgeable and connected booksellers in the world.  He specializes in books dealing with Polar Exploration, Western Canadiana, Mountaineering, Canadian Pacific Railway and early voyages.  Recently, he published catalogues on Mount Everest’s 60th Anniversary and bios on Robert W. Service and soon Lucy Maud Montgomery.  It is a fun place to flaneur antique maps, prints, photos, letters, postcards, scientific equipment and bookcases – and yes, books too!    

The Audio Spot (632 16th Ave NW)

Another two blocks away is The Audio Spot. Opening in April 2013 in a house on the highway (a reminder that at one time it was just a regular residential street), it’s owned by Marilyn Hall, owner of The Inner Sleeve in Marda Loop.  It’s 90 percent vintage “two channel” stereos from the ‘70s and ‘80s with a little new equipment mixed in.  There are also lots of records and three separate listening rooms, making it a great place to hear some “blasts from the past” in an authentic setting.

GuitarWorks (602 16th Ave NW)

Established in 1987, GuitarWorks opened this its first store on 16th Avenue.  It has since grown to four stores with this one being its flagship acoustic guitars store – they offer over 18 different brands of guitars.  It is not just another music retail store, as everyone who works here is passionate about music and plays the guitar. They offer free personal (one-on-one) shopping experience with one of their staff.  If you are a picker, this is a fun place to check out.

The Audio Spot offers an authentic '60 / '70s experience. 

The collection of turntables is really quite amazing.  

Guitar works is also in an unassuming building, but once inside it is full of guitars and other string instruments. 

Something for everyone?

The Movie Poster Shop (112 16th Ave NW)

Continuing eastward will get you to this unassuming shop. It is a mecca of posters from original Calgary Stampede posters to those of Star Wars and the Rat Pack movies – 6,000 posters in all.  I am told people spend a whole day here, enjoying this one-of-a-kind experience.

Don’s Hobby Shop (1515 Centre St. North)

Continuing east, veering south off 16th Ave onto Centre Street and you will soon find yourself at Don’s Hobby Shop. Here you will find everything from Superhero toques to magic and juggling equipment.  Maybe sign up for a FX Makeup Class or pick up some joke gifts for your next dinner party. Definitely worth a visit.

Peters’ Drive-In (219 16th Ave NE)

Head back to 16th Ave, continue two blocks east and reward yourself with a milkshake at Peters’ Drive In (maybe a burger and fries too). These are thick, creamy, old fashioned milkshakes (real ice cream, real fruit) that make you work for every swallow. They offer 30+ flavours of milkshakes including Toasted Marshmallow. As they can sell over 4,000 milkshakes on a hot summer day, be prepared for a line up if the weather is nice.  This Calgary icon has been serving burgers, fries and milkshakes since 1964.

You can't miss the kitchy entrance to the Movie Poster Shop. 

Don't be afraid to wander off 16th Ave., the flaneur always takes the path least travelled and is rewarded with places like Sketch.  

Just down the street from Sketch is this hippy house, how cool is this!

Across the street from Sketch in the historic Balmoral sandstone school built in 1913 on 5.4 acres.  They don't build schools like this one anymore.  There is an immediate sense of authority as soon as look at the school.  The power of architecture is evident here. 

In addition to being a popular drive-in Peters' is also a quaint picnic spot for families, construction workers and young adults in the summer.  

Last Word

Even though the 16th Ave N aka the TransCanada Highway is 6 lanes, it really doesn’t seem like a highway as it is divided and you really don’t notice the three lanes on the south side.  It is not much different than Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, which is a successful pedestrian oriented street. 

The fact that 16th Ave shops are all on the north side of the street means you are walking in the sun, even in the middle of winter.  It was -20C the day I flaneured it and I found it very pleasant.  I do think there is an advantage to walking east to west on 16th Ave N facing the west bound traffic as you can anticipate the cars going by.

 What 16th Ave N needs to make it a more attractive pedestrian destination are more condos on the neighbouring blocks to the north. More density and diversity will attract more local retailers and restaurateurs to locate there, which in turn will attract more people to want to live there. It is the old question, which comes first - the people or the shops?

If you like this blog, you might like:

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It wouldn't be the TransCanada Highway without at least one Tim Hortons!



Ramsay: Calgary's FFQ Industrial District

By Richard White, February 16, 2014

Just when you thought Ramsay couldn’t get more funky, it did!  Just this past week “Passage,” a quirky new contemporary art gallery opened. 

While still lamenting the loss of Dennis Oppenheim’s upside down church “Device to Root out Evil,” I am excited by the creation of a new FFQ (fun, funky and quirky) art gallery space in the Dominion Bridge building on 24th Avenue S.E. 

The space is a narrow (20 feet at most?) “passage way,” part outdoor and part indoors, making for a very dramatic and inviting entrance to the offices that call the Dominion Bridge site home. 

The current exhibition, “IN DUST: REAL” which opened February 13, 2014 and is curated (this is not just a lets hang some art and call it a gallery project) by Colleen Sharpe a former Glenbow art curator features works by Aran McCormick and Joanne MacDonald.  I love the way the exhibition reflects the space with numerous references to industrial artifacts. 

Unfortunately "Device to Root out Evil" has been removed from the Dominion Bridge site.  It was my favourite piece of public art in the city. 

This was the entrance to "Passage" on the opening night.  How cool is this? Reminded me of the orbs that floated down the Bow River at night a few years back. 

Joanne MacDonald's welded steel sculpture "Community" sets the tone for the exhibition with its fun dancing snowman-like stature. I love the interplay of the object and the shadow, which is another repeated element in the exhibition. 

Aran McCormick's collage/still life with  bucket, rope and wire has a lovely whimsy that appealed to both Brenda and I.  

This is close up of Joanne MacDonald's "Suspended Element 26" also has a sense of playfulness that you wouldn't expect from industrial elements. There is a "nesting" element to the piece that I found intriguing. 

Aran McCormick's "Suspension III" is indeed an old wooden ladder suspended from the wall with a bucket on the end and paint on the floor.  The pop of colour on the floor foreshadows the next piece in the exhibition. 

At the back of the gallery were McCormick's colourful "Fly Wheel Series" digital art on vinyl. 

This is the back door, which provides a context for linking the site's industrial sense of place with the art in the exhibition. 

DIY Fun

But Passage is not the only radical thing to happen to Ramsay recently.  Have you heard of or been to Salvage? It is located at the east end of 24th Avenue just down the road from Passage. You go past the Burns Visual Arts Society (named after the Burns building in downtown Calgary where the society was first formed) veer left into the junkyard and there you will discover a huge warehouse full of FFQ things to look at, or purchase.  It is like a scene out of Canadian Pickers.

Calgary interior designer Alykhan Velji along with Kelly Kask owner of Reclaimed Trading Company have a passion for salvaging and reclaiming materials from “off the beaten path” sources - cedar doors from Calgary’s old courthouse, old growth fir from a cannery in BC to name a few. 

They, along with their colleagues, then either rework them into home décor items or make them available to artists and scavengers to work their magic. Never before has the old adage “one person’s junk is another’s treasure” rang so true. 

Last spring, while in Portland, we fell in love with the “The Good Mod” and its amazing collection of reclaimed industrial products.  Our immediate reaction was “Why can’t Calgary have a place like this?”  Now we do! 

The entrance to Salvage is just a hint of what it is to come.

The wall of chairs was impressive. 

The Good Mod in Portland had a wonderful whimsy about it especially in how they displayed their chairs. 

Just one of the FFQ objects that had been created out of various salvaged objects. 

This bench would look good on our deck! 

How cool are these?

This is Salvage as you walk in or look back. 

Calgary’s Industrial District

While Beltline, Bridgeland, East Village, Inglewood and Kensington seem to get all the media’s attention as Calgary’s hipster communities, Ramsay is just quietly evolving into Calgary’s funky and quirky industrial district.

Caffé Rosso has, for a long time, been the funky foodie hangout in Ramsay. However, it now has competition with the opening of Red’s in Ramsay at 1101 8th Street SE.  

If New Urban Developments (Dan Van Leeuwen, President and CEO founded New Urban in 2008 as real estate development firm focused on inner city urban revitalization projects) can pull off the transformation of the 11-acre Dominion Bridge site into an industrial village (needs to retain a unique sense of place and design that “shouts out “industrial, not just another bunch of generic condos that look like they could be anywhere) for artists and artist wannabees, Ramsay could be the “sleeper” in Calgary’s quest to become a hipster haven.

In the 20th century the creative types converted warehouse streets into hip new communities. It looks like in the 21st century the "creative class" which includes developers is discovering old industrial sites and bringing them back to life. 

I encourage you to grab a coffee at Caffé Rosso and take a walk around Ramsay; it is a very interesting place to explore for anyone interesting in Calgary's history and our sense of place, or in treasure hunting and flaneuring. 

I encourage everyone to be an everyday tourist in your city or town. Get out and walk a different neighbourhood with the curiosity of a tourist. 

Caffe Rosso has the "industrial" sense of place that needs to be retained in any new development of the site.  I am thinking the steel tower could be converted into a signature artwork for the site.  Perhaps we also need to preserve the above ground telephone and utility poles as part of the authenticity factor.  

Old metal drums lids have been transformed into FFQ artwork at Red's in Ramsay. 

Sam Hester has been adopted by Red's as their local artist, commissioning artworks for both locations.  Hester's fun and colourful visual stories makes for a fun and quirky entrance at Red's in Ramsay. 

The Ramsay community celebrates its industrial sense of place which includes the railway the runs through it. This image in on Red's window is an example of how the community continues to showcase its history in fun ways. 

Struck out in Memphis

By Richard White, February 3, 2014

Too often we judge the success of our vacations by the quantity and quality of the “treasures” we bring home.  We love to find something unique at that off-the-beaten-path vintage or second hand shop or the out-of–the-way boutique or flea market.  We pride ourselves on being able to find an artwork/artifact we love everywhere we go.

In Vegas, we found an artwork in the trash can next to the bus stop after visiting nearby thrift store.   We expect someone purchased it at the thrift store for the frame and just threw out the artwork. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. 

However in Memphis, no matter how hard we tried, we stuck out in our quest for that unusual souvenir.

Downtown

We scoured the streets of downtown Memphis, but there were not many shops of any kind to be found.  First, we checked along Main Street – nothing. Then, we headed to South Main and found few shops, mostly restaurants.  However, we did find Memphis’ historic Central train station, which was fun yet sad to explore.  It was a vivid reminder of how the world has changed - what was once a vibrant meeting place and an economic engine for the city has been reduced to two Amtrak trains a day and a lone staff person keen to chat with us about the past.      

We did check out A. Schwab which is a Beale Street institution, but it seemed too touristy for us.  However, it is a great place to wander, with lots of artifacts from the golden years of Memphis and Beale St. especially if your time is limited.

South Main the area near the Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Hotel is Memphis' hipster district. 

The interior of Central Station is a sad reminder of days past. 

Flaneuring the side streets around South Main, we did find an alley with some very attractive architectural concrete figurines, but they were way too heavy even for me to carry. Alley “shopping” can be lucrative, like when in we found a weathered corbel from an old building in Washtucna, Washington – a great salvage find.  What we also found was a number of interesting warehouse loft conversions happening in the area – a healthy sign for future vitality.

This is the figurine we would have loved to have brought back for our garden. 

Vintage Trolley Experience

Deciding we had to head further afield and having read about a new hipster area called Cooper/Young, we took the $1 a ride Madison Ave trolley east as far as we could and then hoofed it the rest of the way.  Riding Memphis’ vintage trolley is a “must do” experience as they creak and grind their way along the tracks through the downtown.  I expect their maximum speed is no more than 10 miles an hour – it seemed I could walk almost as fast.  An interesting note is that they are not originally from Memphis, but are reconditioned ‘30s and ‘40s streetcars from Porto, Portugal, Melbourne, Australia and Rio de Janerio, Brazil that have been adding charm to the streets of Memphis for the past 20+ years.

The streetcars are the cutest I have ever encountered with their original wooden benches and seats, brass fittings and old weathered straps, some being little more than a very worn strip of leather. We were surprised- an impressed - to discover that at the end of the line, as the driver moved to the other end of the trolley he/she reversed the backs of the single seats so riders always face forward. How brilliant is that?

While the trolley cars are cute they aren't too practical when it come to large groups of people wanting a ride after a basketball or baseball game or when there is something on at the convention centre. 

Inside the trolley are long wooden benches or small single seats.

One of the better straps for hanging on. 

Finally, a Thrift Store!

Though we had done some research before coming to Memphis to see if there might be any thrift stores just outside of the downtown (and found nothing), we were nicely surprised, just five minutes into walking, to encounter a thrift store.  They could probably see the smile on Brenda’s face all the way back to Beale Street. 

Inside, we did find an interesting child’s artwork of a primitively rendered cowboy in a blue metal frame that had potential.  We should have bought it, but it was early in our trip - and day - and given it was on the large size, we both agreed to take a pass, sure that we’d find something else.  That was our fatal flaw!

Central Avenue  

We eventually discovered Centre Avenue (from S Cooper Street to East Parkway) which showed promise with a few antique shops, Flashback (a great vintage store), a junk dealer and a couple of used music/book stores.  Lots of interesting things, but nothing grabbed us.  Hunting for artifacts is an intuitive thing; you don’t know what you are looking for until you see it.

OtherLand cafe was our first sign of bohemia. Interesting place to hang out, but nothing much in the way of exotic finds - keep on walking. 

At Central Ave we found an Urban Outfitter's shop which seemed to be in a strange location with the antique stores. 

This fire hydrant was tempting but again too big and too heavy. Palladio is a huge furniture antique store with cafe/bistro on Central Ave., with a huge warehouse out back filled with architectural artifacts, fountains and fun objects like this one.    

Flashback vintage store was packed with mid-century artifacts, but nothing said "buy me, buy me."

Xanadu looked promising as it is used bookstore, record store and music store.  

I was tempted by the cigar-box guitars, but since I don't play the guitar is seemed silly. 

Our last stop on Central was Paul's Garage (I think that was the name). As you can see it was packed with junk...perfect for Brenda to do a little urban archeology.  No matter how hard she tried - nothing!

Cooper/Young District

Some hours later, after finally making it to the Cooper/Young corner, we found some quirky cafes and restaurants and a great bookstore but no shops, no artifacts. 

Burke's Books established in 1875 had great potential.  Brenda would have loved one of these typewriters, but they were not for sale. 

It seemed just too easy to buy some blues records in Memphis. 

Cabana Cafe offered a quiet place to rest before our journey back. 

Strike three and you're out!

Yes, with tails between our legs, we are ashamed to admit it we struck out in Memphis.  The upside? We saw some off the beaten path places that most tourists don’t. And, we’re darn heck committed to making this “strike out” a one-time wonder!

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Readers' Comments:

CW writes:  "Very interesting idea for a blog, what it means to be a pack rat but come up empty-handed.  As we live more and more digitally, collecting any object is bound to be more and more challenging. We pack rats are a dying breed. I pick up lps, cds and dvds, and occasionally books, all very plentiful now. But I'm open to anything. I think the challenge of being a pack rat is to appreciate the quality within an object - its quality today and, much more difficult, how it will be perceived in the future. It's all about predicting the future - yours and everyone else's, isn't it? Was your difficulty in finding stuff in Memphis about your present? Or about your future? My suggestion for you two when you travel: collect mugs of local businesses, often sold in the smallest thrift stores. Great souvenirs. Forever useful. I've never been unable to find at least one good one." 

Brenda responds: "I buy for the present or near future, i.e. only for my immediate use/enjoyment and/or quick turnover (i.e. largely no longer than a year I will either sell or give away)... NOT some long out future. I guess I am not a pack rat (that's good news for both of us I think... as don't think much about how it will possibly be perceived in the future (who wants to store it? Who wants to move it later on at some point?). As for collecting local mugs, interesting idea  - they are everywhere - too easy, where is the challenge. Mugs don't resonate with my fussiness about what I enjoy drinking my coffee and tea in.  Promotional-stamped mugs never seem to me to meet my high (snooty??) standards re: style and quality. I'm happy keeping the focus on artwork...just have to work harder so there are no more strike out!"