“So, how did we all get here?”

We were a broad mix of folks having our weekly lunch when the question was asked. The answers were surprising. Many different reasons brought us together; some good, some funny, and some sad.

I got here because my 12-year marriage was dying and it was time to go. We both wanted a change. We parted gently, kindly, and fairly. My ex-wife and I are still friends but we have moved on.

I needed a place to stay. I called a friend who I knew had a couple of apartments for rent in the Alberta Avenue area. The timing was perfect and I was now a resident of Alberta Avenue. All good. Except I knew absolutely no one. Not a soul.

So, I volunteered for the Kaleido Festival. I wanted to meet a couple of guys there who could join me at a local sports bar and watch the Oilers play hockey on the big screen. Maybe even have a couple of beers during the game.

It did not work out.

I met a woman instead. I wasn’t looking for romance, but she simply commanded my attention. She was tall, good looking, well taken care of, moved with confidence, was well known, and obviously well liked. She saw me too and thought I was homeless. Granted, I had not shaved or cut my hair for five months. I was sporting my best “I am not shaving for anybody” look. I had a full-face beard, glorious enough to bring tears to Santa Claus’ eyes. She was rightly concerned about me. Oh, I was scruffy alright but I was clean. I was dressed in expensive clothes, freshly laundered. There was something about me that caught her eye also.

A friend of this interesting lady also noticed me. She pointed out a couple of things about me and said to her friend, “He is not homeless. He is going to be your new boyfriend.” Where do women get this idea?

Volunteering for the Kaleido Festival saved my life, keeping me well and stable through the COVID years. I met enough similar minded people to survive with some kind of social life intact.

In winter, we have the Deep Freeze Fête. Now, this is an event. I loved it when we were able to close part of 118 Avenue and turn it into a Deep Freezer Race track. What a hoot! The ice sculptures are marvelous, beautiful work that bring joy to all in the depths of winter.

Others at the table shared their stories. One lady and her husband were fans of the horses. They chose to live within walking distance of the Northlands horse racing track. They could walk to the track, to Borden Park, grocery stores, and other trails or walks around the neighbourhood.

Walkability was a common theme at this lunch. Several of us said we could walk to church, to buy groceries, to visit friends, and around the neighbourhood. Yes, it is getting a little rough around the edges, but all in all it is a good neighbourhood.

Affordability was also mentioned. A few women wanted to raise their children in their own house with their own backyard to play in. Easy access to schools was also a big plus for young families. 

Another highlight is the monthly Coffee with Cops at The Carrot Coffeehouse. I have had several very interesting chats with the cops over there. The police say they get some of their best tips at these chats. I learned that if a small break in or theft is not reported, then as far as the police know, it did not happen. I was told to report everything. Enough reports will bring more patrols. Interesting. 

We also have several community gardens all around the neighbourhood. For a nominal fee, you get a decent sized plot of earth to grow your own vegetables. During harvest, there is a lot of swapping going on. I’ll trade you a few tomatoes for one of your squash. Lots of good companionship and neighbourly friendship. Try it, you’ll like it!

Then there’s community leagues. This is a big area and there are many well-attended and well-used community leagues. There are lots of activities, group events, and fun community gatherings. Most of them are free or very inexpensive. There is so much happening around here and lots of it is good.  Come on out, join in, and see the good that is all around here.