I arrived in Edmonton, completely overdressed in my winter coat and wool scarf. I was sensibly dressed for the Arctic, where I'd be heading next, but for now, during my layover in Edmonton where it's sunny and warm, I looked mildly ridiculous.
I had approximately twenty hours to spend in Edmonton, which was just enough time for me to go out and try to get a taste of Alberta, if I could decide on what I wanted to do.
West Edmonton Mall was not my first choice of sightseeing attraction, although I wasn't sure what was. I remember reading tips in music magazines on how bands can avoid getting stabbed in stabby Edmonton. When I asked my friend from Edmonton what would be a nice walking tour of downtown, he replied "Oh no, don't bother walking around downtown."
My friend had suggested that Whyte Avenue would be nice, so I asked the front desk at my hotel how to get downtown.
"Downtown Edmonton or downtown Leduc?" the hotel clerk asked. He suggested that I go to downtown Leduc because it turned out we weren't actually in Edmonton proper anyway.
"What's there to do in downtown Leduc?" I asked.
"Oh, not much," he replied.
Sigh. I decided to go to West Edmonton Mall. Capitalism always makes it easy to go shopping.
Because West Edmonton Mall is one of the top tourist attractions, I was able to climb into an airport shuttle to get there, one of those old white vans that reminded me of the sketchy combie buses I use to ride all over Namibia. I sat next to a sullen young woman who punctuates all of her sentences with disdainful sighs. The other passenger, an older male, tried to engage her in conversation.
"Are you here to party on campus?" he asked her.
"I'm here for a funeral" she answered. I decided to let her be sullen, and watch the scenery. Edmonton is flat all around, and the suburbs look like the suburbs back home. Do you ever notice that Canadian suburbs all look the same, no matter where you go? I love the Canadian landscape.
The shuttle dropped me off at the Fantasyland hotel, which was once the subject of a major intellectual property litigation case against Disney that we learned about in law school. I hurried through the lobby and took in the sights. Little boys getting military buzz cuts at the barber. Little girls in pink shirts carrying fake pistols, pointing them at babies in strollers, also holding fake pistols (oh Alberta!). Young Asian couples speaking to each other in sign language. A young skateboarder, sleeping against a wall on his skateboard. Immigrant kids learning to skate wearing jean shorts, speedily passed by white dads training their little boys for hockey. Adventure golf, two word I never thought to put together.
There was also a huge food court with like five Chinese fast food places with no discernible difference between any of them. That was where I spent my lunch. Hey, I am not always classy or cultural. In fact, I am rarely so.
West Edmonton Mall also has the world's largest indoor water park, which features a fake beach area with a fake beach bar, a huge wave pool, and numerous water slides. It obviously has a fake feel to it, but it's also quite brilliant to have all these things indoors, given how cold Edmonton gets for a big chunk of the year. It's nice to escape the cold winter for a few hours and catch a few waves in the warm 26 degree water park.
After a while, I realized that I'd spent all this time in the mall without ever coming across the shooting range. I began to question whether I was actually in Alberta. Also, I began to wonder if the mall featured a nap room. There was just so much to see! Sea lions, real ones (I had thought they were fake until one ran along side the pool to follow its trainer). A marketplace chapel. Next to the chapel, a store that I accidentally walked into that appears to sell apparel for strippers. A tattoo, piercing and hair salon, a combination that I guess makes sense, but I'd never seen before.
what do you suppose it's like to be a sea lion trainer in a mall?