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Calgary's +15

I moved to Calgary in 2005 for no real reason except Georgia said I’d like it. We bought a van for $100 and the rest is..... a completely different story.

I came from Toronto, where there's an underground subway, underground pathway, and underground music scene. Calgary, on the other hand,  has no underground activity. Trains and pathways are both above-ground, taking advantage of Calgary's 333 sunny days a year.

The Calgary pathway is actually 15 ft above the ground, and simply a series of tunnels connecting one building to the next. It's cleverly called The +15.

The history of the +15, built in 1969 can be found here: The Endless Interior

Oftentimes, tourists aren't aware of the +15, and even some locals can't be bothered to figure out the twisting and turning path. All you really have to do is look for the little cowboy cutie on the sign!

The +15 was also featured in a film called Waydowntown (2002) by Canadian filmmaker Gary Burns. It’s about a group of young office workers who bet they can spend an entire year going from work to home, without ever having to go outside. It's funny and they all lose their minds, much like some oil and gas folks do. Waydowntown Trailer

This winter, after months of being terribly cold, I finally discovered a route running 8 blocks from my work to my bus stop. This was my first real experience taking the +15 daily, and I was delighted to find it was full of strange and wonderful things. 

In most cities, you usually wouldn't frequent the office buildings very much. I never realized how ridiculous some of them are. The new ones make me feel like a slob with their indoor trees, leather couches and fancy Italian coffee shops. The floors, walls and ceilings are all made of pure marble, I'm pretty sure.

The older ones make me feel like I’m in the ‘80’s during Calgary’s first big oil boom, like I could light up a cigarette inside and no one would care. There is a hair salon called Mane Street, a travel agency and a convenience store called "The Things". There's a sort of overall light brown corduroy feeling, and overwhelming smells of crappy coffee and chinese soup. Even the men in their brown suits sitting at the cafeteria look like they've been sitting there for 35 years. 

There is one stretch of my walk that is unrivaled. It’s called the Udderly Art Legacy Pasture. The story is that in the 1990’s, as a nod to the Alberta cattle industry, the city had 125 life-sized fiberglass cows made and painted by local artists, then displayed all over downtown. It was the largest display of street art that Calgary ever saw. They were referred to simply as 'The Cows'.

I'm not sure how long they stood, but often I hear people wonder "Where did all the cows go?" Well have I got a treat for you, I found them! They're chilling in my sunny walk to work!

And Georgia was right. 


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