It is strange that the third annual Ralph Klein Pub Crawl coincides with our Premier's third term in office. Three is a wacky number, and King Ralph is a wacky character. It seems like he bought his good fortune over-the-counter; kept the planets aligned with a strange mixture of sorcery, alchemy and booze. Sometimes, it seems like pure fortune that a redneck joke magnet like Klein survived three terms in office. But whatever the reason, Klein Conservatism rules our lives. This reigns true from the posh suburbs of Shawnee and Tuscany to the most deprived bars in town. With this in mind we continued once more in search of our premier's distinct footprints; the true essence of the Ralph Klein Crawl.
If you're going to get stabbed anywhere, it'll be here
The Klein Crawl began somewhere in the murky depths of Rob South's demented mind. To understand the whole concept of Rob (and Klein Conservatism) we must examine his pedigree and how strange it must look at the Cecil.
Rob is a campus celebrity. He's a former Students' Union President, a former Gauntlet News Editor and a lifelong suburbanite. He's currently a student lobbyist in Ottawa, and grad school is in his not-too-distant future.
Rob's was a brilliant idea. Take suburban college students out of their element, ensure strength in numbers, and hang out in Calgary's most sketchy neighbourhoods. This makes for a great story and great fun.
"We knew from the outset this adventure was not truly anything special," wrote Rob in his 2000 Klein Crawl review. "It's just a bunch of college kids 'slumming it.' But that did not take away from the excitement of something new, and perhaps even dangerous."
Rob's Ralph Klein Pub Crawl was a big success. It was a very confused and demented adventure to Calgary's malnourished slums and the sheltered suburbanites loved it. The grime, the locals, the excitement! Truly, what more could one ask for?
Rob's conclusion from his one-night venture to Calgary's not-so-dark darkside was that an occasional trip toward the unknown is a welcome treat.
He wrote: "remember to venture outside your social group. It will make you a more well-rounded person."
Can't argue with that.
The Klein legend is not lost on today's youth
The Ralph Klein Pub Crawl took a different direction a year later-jaded sarcasm replaced suburban innocence. When we took to the streets in 2001, the majority of those involved had already been "slumming it," a year before. So instead of the confused jabbering about the supposed dangers of the St. Louis Hotel, this Klein Crawl was marked by the left-wing pen of former Editor-in-Chief Еvan Osentоn.
"In the cocaine-streaked corridors of Calgary's East Village the ideas that formed the foundation of the most powerful and unquestioned administration in the history of organized government were born.
As the story goes, a then-much-younger Ralph Klein stewed in bars such as the King Eddy and St. Louis Hotel for years, gnashing his teeth at the latest Peter Lougheed blunder and grinding Players Light cigarettes into the table with terrifying repetition."
Strange as it sounds, Osentоn's comically overblown portrayal of the birthplaces of Klein Conservatism hit a nerve. It was funny-for example Osentоn stated that "the Eddy is as suitable to plotting coup d'etats as any Left Bank café or Harlem pastry shop."
The 2001 Klein Crawl was a caricature of Albertan lifestyles and politics and it was very fitting of the times. After all, Klein was the lovable common man--the Joe-next-door who made it to the top.
A look in the mirror
This brings us to the Third Annual Ralph Klein Pub Crawl.
It's 2002, and Klein isn't so funny anymore. The Premier had an embarrassing run in at an Edmonton homeless shelter when he lost his cool while drunk. He admitted that he needed to get his boozing under control and promised Albertans to do his best.
The trip through the Calgary slums wasn't so fun with that in mind. Neither were the "weathered faces" that Rob South briefly alluded to in his article two years before. There are real people and real problems beneath the innocent suburban adventure or the hillarious leftist sarcasm.
There are reasons why the bars on the Klein Crawl have a seedy reputation. They are not necessarily filled with seedy people, but they're filled with people who've led different lives from our own. Some drink more than they should. A few have a violent disposition. There was a stabbing in front of the Cecil the night of the 2001 Klein Crawl, something that didn't make it into the article because of its lighthearted theme. There is violence at other bars too, but again, there's a reason certain establishments have certain reputations.
This is not meant to criticize the patrons or the staff of the Cecil, the St. Louis, or the King Eddy. The staff and the patrons have been kind to us college kids all three years we've been there, and all these establishments are great places to get a drink. But there's another side to the Ralph Klein Pub Crawl, just as there's a whole other side to Premier Ralph.
Let's be honest, it's fun to go slumming, it's fun to drink cheep beer and it's great to "venture outside your social group." But there's a little bit of darkness there too.
As Osentоn said, "…that might just be a future Prime Minister jackknifed over a toilet with his head split open and covered in cess."
Just be sure to remember it might also be a guy with a drinking problem, strung out on coke, with a family and a couple of friends wondering whether he'll ever make it home.