Here's a page I drew a couple of days ago: "Things Overheard at Caffe Rosso (in Ramsay)."
It occurs to me that I wrote something like this once before, a long time ago, when there was another subject that "everyone" was talking about: the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11th, 2001. (The Alberta flood is more of a local phenomenon, of course, but the "universal" impact upon folks here is spurring discussions that remind me of 2001.) Back then I wrote another comic strip about what was going on around me in Calgary, which you could read here - if you actually had any energy/free time after pumping out somebody's basement in Elbow Park, Bowness, Erlton, or the Beltline. Here's an excerpt to show you what I mean.
By the way, I'm back at Caffe Rosso again right now, and the flood is STILL the only subject of conversation. The difference: people seem a lot quieter. There's a bit less adrenaline and a bit more exhaustion. And no wonder!!!
In case you came here looking for my "Calgary Flood Diary" comic strip about Gian-Carlo Carra, you can see it here or just scroll down to the end of this post. For now, though, here's something new:
I can't help it, I've just had "flood songs" flooding my head for the past week.
And today seems like a "flood song" kinda day. The Calgary Herald's Tom Babin has put together this list of songs inspired by the amazing events of the past few days. And Matt Masters is putting a new spin on his 2005 flood-inspired tune "Centennial Swell" (for which I painted the album cover picture, by the way). This new version of the song will be debuting on CJSW's My Allergy to the Fans from 2-4 today (i.e. NOW) as part of a fundraiser for flood relief.
My own flood soundtrack is just made up of Bob Dylan tunes, but what else do you need, right?
Sign on the Window (New Morning, 1970). This not-exactly-well-known song is not really a floody kind of song, but it contains a resonant line - a line that transforms the rather dull, sublunary* pace of the song into a soaring flight of despairing-sounding release: "Looks like nothin' but RAIN..." Well, that's just my own interpretation, but for what it's worth, that's the line I had going through my head for the whole month-or-so before the flood!
*That's John Donne, and maybe another time I can write about how strange it is for that line to have suddenly appeared in my head. But not just now.
A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963) - In case that other rain-inspired song wasn't enough for you.
Wedding Song (Planet Waves, 1974) Definitely not about rain or floods. It's a kind of dirge-y sounding love song. But it has this wisdom-packed line: "What's lost is lost, you can't regain what went down in the flood." Something that Calgarians are definitely internalizing right now.
Nettie Moore (Modern Times, 2006) - This bare-bones recital just repeats simply: "The river's on the rise." And it also includes a line - a terse utterance, really - that's probably going to be increasingly relevant to post-flood Calgary: "Too much paperwork." But have you ever actually met anybody named Nettie?
High Water (for Charley Patton) (Love and Theft, 2001) - This isn't my favourite Dylan tune - although it's been praised for its incorporation of all sorts of meaningful references to music and history - but it's certainly about a flood.
Then, there's the funny and weird "2 x 2" (for which I actually can't find a link, other than to the lyrics), from Dylan's seemingly child-inspired collection of nursery-rhyme-ish tunes "Under the Red Sky" (1990). This song seems to take some inspiration from the story of Noah's ark (the lines read as a numbered list, the way you're supposed to imagine the animals lining up to enter the ark. Oh, and it also says, "Two by two, they stepped into the ark"). But it also tosses out a few random philosophical musings along with its account of the journey:
How much poison did they inhale?
How many black cats crossed their trail?
And how many other crazy questions went through Noah's head during those 40 days and 40 nights (or however long he was stuck in there)? And how many Albertans evacuated from their homes have been going around in circles for the past week, too? Floods make you crazy, that's what this song is about, maybe. (Or maybe I'm just going crazy, which is entirely possible.)
Shelter from the Storm (Blood on the Tracks, 1975) - Well, that was obvious.
And now, here's the one that's really been in my head for the past week: the first song I ever heard Dylan play live: Down in the Flood (The Basement Tapes, 1975). (That link plays the original song - from the album - despite being paired up with a rather incongruous video.) He opened with (a rather more rockin' version of) this song on April 28th, 1997 at Toronto's Masonic Temple (which back then was just called the "Concert Hall") and the opening chords alone blew my mind. But I digress. it's kind of a nasty-tempered song:
Well, it’s sugar for sugar
And salt for salt,
If you go down in the flood,
It’s gonna be your fault.
It’s gonna be the meanest flood
That anybody’s seen.
Oh mama, ain’t you gonna miss your best friend now?
You’re gonna have to find yourself
Another best friend, somehow.
No sympathy for flood victims from Bob Dylan! Luckily, in Calgary, many people seem to have found themselves new best friends somehow, through the amazing relief work that's been going on all week. Here's to that! And now we need some new songs to get these soggy ones out of my head.
A little story about what my alderman, Gian-Carlo Carra, has been doing during the flood. If you'd like to read more about his own version of what's been going on, you can check out his Facebook page. And you can find updates about Calgary's ongoing State of Local Emergency post-flood, on the City of Calgary website.
I wanted to write down a bit about what's happening these days in Calgary, in the aftermath of the flood that's just become the story of the year (decade, century??). Actually, the hard work and community spirit that have been helping everyone get through the crisis are just as amazing as the flood itself.
I've been lucky - living in Ramsay, one of Calgary's two oldest communities and, I think, the only inner-city community that borders on a river to escape pretty much unscathed. Things around my neighbourhood are just as usual, except that we're now located on a peninsula from which Blackfoot Trail offers the only way in or out. Roads and bridges are starting to re-open, but getting anywhere takes so long, that we're just as happy to stay in our little village for now.
We did venture out three times in the past three days - and here's where we went.
Calgary Metal - a Ramsay neighbour, and the site of a pretty big fire a few years back, which apparently prompted a previous instance of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency jumping into action. So cool to see them this time around, right in the middle of the disaster, offering dumpster after dumpster to people emptying flooded basements.
YWCA of Calgary - I've just finished painting some pictures for these guys. I didn't post any photos yet, although you can see just one at the very top of this blog post. Their downtown facility was pretty hard hit by the flood, but it was heartening to learn that a lot of donations came pouring in to help those affected.
More to come!
I always post the monthly Ramsay Community Newsletter comic strip up here at the beginning of the month. It's not quite July, but I wanted to put this up now, because it's about the amazing events of the past week - the Calgary flood. The strip will still appear in the Ramsay newsletter in July, just as usual. And stay tuned for some more flood-related comics - I have been hearing some incredible stories!
As I wrote here, I'm going to try my hand at being Gian-Carlo Carra's campaign "artist in residence" and draw some pictures of his campaign for re-election as Ward 9 City Councillor. I think I'll just put down my impressions of what's going on, as events unfold. And of course try to include any good stories. Anyway, the campaign just kicked off, so here goes:
I discovered the identity of the mysterious musician: Brent Tyler. But did Gian-Carlo really TA a physiology class? I'll have to find this out. By the time I left, another singer has just finished performing a cover of a song I really like... "Us" by the unusual and talented Regina Spektor. That is really neither here nor there, but it is such a great song I am always happy to hear it. By the way, the sun did come out later on!
Well, here's something new that I'm kind of excited about. But I'll let the comic strip speak for itself. Stay tuned for the first installment of this series - I'll post it later today!
You can find out more about Gian-Carlo here.
I had the chance to attend Calgary Arts Development's "Report to the Community" yesterday.
It was fun!
A talk is always more fun if you draw while you're listening. Here are some sketchnotes from the event. The takeaway message: See you at City Hall, 9:30 AM on June 5th! #yycArtsPlan!
Read the rest of the inspiring, powerful and funny monologue, "Artists are Dangerous."
I am a graphic recorder based in Calgary. I like local stories. I write comics when I have free time. And I leave eraser shavings everywhere I go.
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Some nice things people said about my work:
“If Breitkreuz and Foong [founders of the Calgary Comics & Entertainment Expo] represent the Type-A side of Calgary's self-publishing community, Hester may be the community's right brain.” – Tom Babin, FFWD Magazine
“…A strong graphic style similar to other autobiographically-inclined Canadian cartoonists like Chester Brown and Julie Doucet.” – Gilbert Bouchard, Edmonton Journal
The 23rd Story: an indie comics creator's tales of life in Calgary