A Bad Day With A Camera

Unicorn Sighting

Today’s car show was a no-show. The day’s plans were waylaid by wayward weather, so I had to find something else photographically suitable. A bit of doomscrolling on Facebook and I found my answer: A car show in Beiseker, Alberta, 43 minutes drive from my home. It was 12:40 pm when I found the ad for the car show, but I figured if I got there at around 1:30 pm I would have until 3:00 pm when the average car show ends to get some shots in. Good enough.

Unicorn Sighting, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08

Yeah, no. I got punked. I rolled into Beiseker at 1:31 pm and discovered that the cars were already leaving the show in droves. So much so that I didn’t even bother trying to find a parking spot. If you can’t keep a car show going until 3:00 pm you don’t get my business, so there. The good news? I had passed the town of Irricana on the way to Beiseker and it was ten minutes south. I hadn’t been there since I was a small kid, but I figured it was worth a try.

Centennial Centre, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08
That Stain Won’t Come Out, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08

I can’t tell you for sure what we were in Irricana for or what we did there. I do remember being around five years old and I recall that I woke up there in the back of my mom’s ugly gold two-door Toyota Corona where I had been sleeping under a blanket. I think we were visiting a former co-worker of hers who had had a baby, because I sort of remember being annoyed by mom setting me down to hold another kid. Y’know, one of those tiny, ugly ones that couldn’t cry properly yet. Then the wrong kid was handed back I was picked up again and went back to sleep in my mom’s arms. That’s what came back to me.

Sleeping in my mom’s arms is a good reminiscence and it’s always nice when something like that pops up. I remember it was at that point where I was getting old enough and big enough that sleeping in her arms was becoming less common so it meant a lot to me when I could. I didn’t have this particular memory until I was parking on main street in Irricana, then I did. There was the new car smell of the Corona and the smell of my mom as I cuddled with her. That alone made the excursion and the missed car show worthwhile. There’s always another car show, but so few rogue recollections left to find.

Cafe Plus, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08

Cafe Plus is the one building on main street I remember seeing when I was a kid although I am sure it looked a lot better five decades ago. I can recall blinking at it as we left town, just before I burrowed back under a blanket behind my mom because nothing beat sleeping in a moving car for me then. This would have been around 1973 when it was okay to let a kid go comatose in the back seat without a seat belt, a car seat, and half a case of bubble-wrap.

Unicorner Store, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08
Less Than Auspicious, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08

I absolutely loved the Unicorner Store and had a good chuckle over it. Irricana is one of those towns that I would describe as down, but not out. Not by a long shot. There are a lot of nice, new murals around town. There are still good services in place like a well maintained Boys and Girls Club and a beautiful new library on Main Street. Yeah some things look worn for sure, and the big ass tree branch in the middle of the street that has obviously been there for a while is not a good look.

A young couple popped out of Cafe Plus, carrying their large takeout pizza back home while I was in the middle of pointing a lens at it. Irricana is small enough you can probably hoof it downtown to get a pizza and walk back in the spring or summer and still have it be hot enough to eat when you get home. The pizza smelled awesome and I nearly bought one for myself.

Dollar General, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08

The locals I bumped into were friendly for sure, and so were the folks in the businesses I popped into. I was very surprised to find a Dollar General store in Irricana as, to my knowledge, it is a U.S. chain that operates to the south of us in the United States and Mexico only. A search online confirmed this and I suspect that DG the corporation is not aware of the store in Irricana or they would have a different name by now.

That being said, the Dollar General store in Irricana is adorable. It’s a tiny discount and general merchandise store on one side, has a very limited selection of groceries and candies on the other, and also offers a coffee and milkshake bar. The fellow behind the counter who I presume is the owner was most agreeable. Make a point of stopping in there if you pass through town – it’s worth seeing.

Car Wash, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08

While some of the businesses in town are odd and crufty, there are also some shiny new ones. The car wash is recent enough and appears to be nicely kitted out.

Masonic Lodge, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08
Fifty Plus Center, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08

I don’t know what it is about the Freemasons, but for a super-powerful society of people with legendary building powers, they invariably own the most boring, goddamn ugly building in any town they have a presence in. I understand they often want to keep a low profile, but having a building that screams FUGLY at every passing vehicle is sure not how I would go about it.

As to the K.I.K. Fifty Plus Centre, I had a bit of a moment with it. It’s a cute, pleasantly decorated building, that is obviously tailored to the sensibilities of those with grey hair in the area. I thought to myself that it’s probably a pleasant hangout for the town’s older folk. It hit me as I was going back to Vlad the Impala that I now count as “older folk”, being fifty-five with a goatee that shot straight past grey to full-on white. I am always surprised every time I realize I qualify for the Denny’s 55+ menu, because I still feel twenty-five in my head.

Damn it.

Lion’s Playground, Irricana, AB, 2024-06-08

The good news is that being fifty-five years old doesn’t stop you from feeling like a five-year-old once in a while. Pardon my French, but Irricana has the best mofuggin’ playground I have run across in over a decade. That grain elevator slash playhouse slash slide is legit 2.5 stories tall. Frealz. There was a young mom there with her very polite children who was kind enough to let me make images while they were playing. I made a point of handing her a ABDWAC card so she could see how I used the image of her kid(s) later, because parents have a right to know that.

I also circled back after they left, because, goddamit, *I* wanted to play on that slide as well. And I did, for about twenty minutes. I eventually went up and down it enough times that my heart condition yelled STOP, but it was a blast. What an amazing playground. I sure wish my own daughter had had access to one like it when she was young enough to appreciate that sort of thing. I don’t care how old you are, after you buy a soda pop at Dollar General, drive a few blocks over to the Lion’s Playground and ride that slide. It’s so worth it.

I recovered a pleasant childhood memory, photographed a unicorn in the wild, got to check out some neat businesses and services, and hauled ass down one of the best slides I have found in my life and felt like a kid again for a few minutes. There was also an opportunity to wave a camera around, which is kind of the number one thing I live for. Ya gotta love it when a day goes sideways in a good way. The Town of Irricana gets a tip of the hat for being a worthwhile detour on any road trip.

Today’s camera was Ray’s Canon EOS 7D with the Canon EF 17-40 EF L USM f4-5.6 lens. I’m sorry Ray couldn’t be there alongside me today because he would have adored Irricana (especially the slide), but I’m glad his camera could be with me in his place.

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© 2024 Sean D. McCormick

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