“The City is a nest and distraction. Safe and dangerous, comforting and alien, it exhausts and energizes in equal measure. Does a city that spends much of its energy visualizing what is occurring below the surface of the earth have a quality notion of what’s going on above?
Who are we as a city? If an animal, what kind? If a gender, what variety? Are we a griffin or a gopher? A sphinx or a spaniel? A warrior-queen or a tipsy teen?
Does the city have a soul and if so how do we describe it? Just who the hell are we now?”
1. Small talk from the row behind, people comparing their Calgary pedigrees. E. P. Scarlett, Henry Wise Wood.
2. The city imprints itself on the adolescent soul, shapes the contours of personal geography. (Wise Wood, Class of 1979.)
3. Does the city have a soul?
4. Soul, noun: the spiritual or immaterial component or nature of a human being or animal (or city), regarded as the seat of the emotions or intellect.
5. The tangible city, in music and verse. “Paisley shirts with pearl button nipples”; fitness club confidential; Chicken-on-the-Way.
7. When it comes to a city, is the soul in the eye of the beholder? Is it something we all have to agree upon? Or both?
8. Dance interlude: traffic jam.
9. The soul of Calgary is rush-hour traffic, speeding up, cutting in, cursing. (Whatever happened to the courtesy wave?)
10. “Rear-view mirrors: we don’t need them.”
11. Dream sequence: Mermaids of the Bow.
12. This is a city with stories still to be told.
13. Musical bridge: the first bars of David Foster’s Olympic theme song, and laughter. A joyful inside joke. (And an inner surge of civic pride you don’t entirely trust.)
14. There is a reluctance to love this city. Maybe even fear.
15. Dance interlude: a Calgary pas de trois with squirrel, gopher and magpie.
16. Denise Clarke as magpie: the walk, the squawk. Stage lights catch the glint of her corvid smile.
17. Is the soul of Calgary a magpie?
18. “I’m a positive magpie." Eyes on the shiny bits. Noisy bird/city. Ungovernable. Insatiable. Creative.
20. Monologue: A Toronto transplant tells the familiar story. The place she left behind (history), the place where she arrived (hope), the city where she lives (Calgary).
21. Does the soul of a city look different when you call it home?
22. Monologue in a minor key: a woman in the Arriva Tower drowns in a tumbler of Grey Goose, nurses the lost promise of her youth.
23. The ghost of Dorothy Joudrie haunts this town.
24. Segue to a middle-aged oilman in a moment of reflection, looking past his magpie self, into the strata of his conscience.
25. Solo: the poetry of geology.
27. The city rises out of rock. Its slippery petrochemical profits. And the past we ignore.
28. “The frontier is a contemporary idea.”
29. How does a fixation on the frontier/future affect the soul?
30. (And what about your future? After a lifetime in the magpie city, can you embrace the place that shaped you? Can you live anywhere else?)
31. A city of open questions.
32. Make like a yellow rabbit/magpie.