Lori Hahnel's Love Minus Zero

by Shaun Hunter

Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

The National Hotel, 1042 - 10th Ave, SE (Photo: Alberta Culture)

The National Hotel, 1042 - 10th Ave, SE (Photo: Alberta Culture)

Kate Brandt is forty-something, divorced and working part-time at the Mount Royal College library. A lifetime ago, she haunted Calgary’s punk rock scene, playing guitar in an all-girl band called Misclairol. The seedy downtown bars of the early 1980s where she performed are history. The National Hotel is shuttered; the Calgarian Hotel has burned down; and the Long Bar on Eighth Avenue is long gone. At a friend’s wedding, Kate reconnects with her old flame and fellow punk rocker, Niall. When they dance, she feels the familiar heat. They take their drinks outside the Hillhurst-Sunnyside community hall and catch up on the years. Niall, a lawyer's kid who grew up in the posh part of town, is still drifting.  As the sun goes down, Kate tells him that, after a lifetime in Calgary, she’s decided to move on.

I used to defend Calgary when people would put it down. But a few years ago, I don’t know if it’s the city or me or what, I realized I couldn’t stand it anymore… It’s all about the money. It’s about driving your SUV for an hour from your half-million dollar 5000-square foot house in the suburbs to pay $25 to park downtown every day. People are stressed, rushed, grim. The place is like Toronto but without the arts scene. So why would an old lefty punk rocker stay here?

Lori Hahnel, Love Minus Zero (Oberon Press, 2008)