When someone says they love a city — or hate it — they are often telling you what they think of the version of themselves they see reflected in it. They love — or hate — who they are in that city. I love Berlin, Seville, and New York. I came to a grudging kind of love for Delhi. I fell out of love with Toronto. I love Montreal, but don’t we all, often with the adoration for a starlet on a screen, in a place you will never really belong. I’ve never had much time for Vancouver or Ottawa. I’ve hated London more than once, and I’m not sure why (but I do know it’s me, not London). The hardest love is the everyday kind, the one that lingers on after commuter traffic and parent-teacher interviews and byzantine arguments at City Hall. The kind I have found, to my surprise and delight, that I now have for Calgary. It’s the reason why I’m here. Still. Indefinitely.
Why stay? There are mundane material explanations, of course. Because my wife grew up in a house on an artificial lake called Bonavista in the southern suburbs, because her father is here and comes by to take the kids to the zoo, because we could buy a great little patch of 100-year-old downtown property just before the boom priced us out of the last big Canadian urban market we could afford. Because it’s sunny 300 days a year, because even on the coldest day the next chinook might already be on its way. But that’s not it, not all of it. That’s logistics, not poetry.
I’m dug in. It still surprises me sometimes, but I am. I’m here because Calgary is a city whose best stories haven’t been told too many times. Because it’s a city whose best stories maybe haven’t even been written yet. I’m here because everything but the cowboy hat is still an open question, wide open like the prairie, hinting on the horizon of soaring mountains. It is a young city, stupid and headstrong, brilliant and bold, and it may embarrass itself (again), but it will probably surprise you yet. It surprised me. I walk down my block in Hillhurst near the river with migrating birds overhead, I stroll under poplar branches to the century-old house with the white picket fence (no word of a lie) and the stained glass transoms over the front windows, and I cross the threshold, and I am home in a way I have never been anywhere else. How the hell did that happen?
On Calgary, but many embedded gems about a person's relationship to place, applicable to anywhere.