In Search of a Hangout

Cibo, 1012 17th Avenue, SW; food, drinks, a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere.  Great patio!

When I first moved to Calgary, a million years ago, one of the first things I looked for was a neighbourhood bar.

Not because I was a lush (although I might have been back then, just a little), but more because I had come from that culture in Manhattan.  As a bartender in a neighbourhood bar that also served as one of the local “cop” bars (we had one of the largest precincts in the city as well as the training academy right around the corner from us), we had regulars who ranged from the beat cops and brass to doctors and nurses (from Bellevue--yes it really is a place) to shop keepers and students and everyone in between.  We went to ball games together (go Yanks! sorry Mets fans), went out to eat on off nights together, and generally had each other’s backs for anything, at any time.

So when I moved to Calgary, it was instinctive for me to look for that place that felt like home away from home, to find my "tribe", as it were.

I never found it.

Maybe it’s the fact that the city is so spread out and that there are so many neighbourhoods; maybe it’s that we live in a culture focused on mobility through automobiles (and drinking and driving is not a good combination); maybe people just had other things to do.

Sure, before the Red Mile, there was Electric Avenue (who remembers that??), but I just couldn’t seem to find anywhere that felt like a home base--a spot where I felt like a regular.

Until now…at least I feel like I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

Cibo will stay with me long after 17x17x17 is over. It’s a place I’ve been to on more than a few occasions in these last couple of months.

I’ve had dinner alone and with others; I recall a wonderfully relaxing evening on the patio with Susan on the eve before Stampede, as we noshed on appetizers and drank prosecco.  

A selection of the amazing tastes at Cibo

And I’ll always remember Cibo for being the place, on the day the papers became final, where I began the next phase of my life, toasting with Brenda and Lissa to a life that was and a life to come.

Cibo sits at the end of my street, directly ahead as you come to the end of the block….but you can’t exactly get there from here. 

Why not?

Because it’s not an intersection with a light or a crosswalk.  In Calgary, you don’t cross the street in the middle of the block (remember that song?  If you do, you’re old), and you don’t cross the street when the sign says “don’t walk”.  I remember when I first got here, I’d drive through downtown at night and see people standing at the curb…no cars coming in either direction, but the “don’t walk” sign illuminated, with the occasional pedestrian waiting for it to change.  In Calgary, if you cross against the lights or jaywalk, you can and will get a ticket if you’re caught.

Now, if that doesn’t drive a New Yorker crazy, nothing will.

So, to get to Cibo, I dutifully have to walk a block east or west to cross back to the part of the block directly across from my road. And I do—they have me trained.

But the Cibo patio is a place I’ll return to after I’m gone from this area; it has significance in my life now, and it’s a space where I feel comfortable.

Yet….it’s still not that place I’d call a “home away from home”…I don’t expect people to know my name, much less yell it out when I walk in. (Norm!).  As hard as it is to believe, that’s easier found on the side streets on Manhattan and its boroughs (but then again, I’ve always  said that New York City is just a series of neighbourhoods--or small towns--strung together by geography). 

And yes, I know it takes time to become a “regular”.

Maybe, in time, I will.

In the meantime, thanks to Cibo for being an anchor…no, that’s not a good metaphor (really not)…thanks to Cibo for being a life preserver--in a summer sea of change.

And as far as finding that "tribe"?  

That, I can say, I have done.  

They're all around me.