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  • Simplicio Villarreal

Calgary C-Train journals

Updated: Mar 19, 2022

December 10, 2020 • -8ºC

Blue line 69 Street to Saddletowne

The steps to accomplish this exercise are simple. I will take the train departing from 69th Street heading towards Saddletowne, getting off at every stop to take one photo and to write whatever happens to cross my mind while waiting or traveling in the train. I have exactly the time it takes for one train to leave and the next to arrive to scout.

only one photo is allowed in each stop.

mistakes are allowed and welcome.

Saddletowne - 12:47

Im fighting against a headache that seems to make its way trough my entire brain as the minutes walk away, maybe its a reminder to find a companion on my next drinking night. At 28 a bottle of white wine seems poison as soon as the stubborn sun refuses to rest a little longer, and I, in the other hand, am forced to wake.

Martindale - 12:51

I wanted to write only while in the moving train but the next train won’t be here until in about 20 minutes so I am taking advantage of a heated glass refuge to write.

The photo has been taken, and no-one is around, this allows me to listen to the birds which sound so different from the crows that balance their tiny black bodies in the cables outside my window. Here the birds are a little more elegant, they have long tails and slim bodies that blend between dark blue, black and white feathers. They like running more than what they like flying, it appears. They seem to entertain themselves by running a few meters before coming to a complete halt which used as a moment for surveillance. I wonder why are they so confused, they were just tree meters back ten seconds ago and now they move their heads as if in that small sprint their memories had been erased, leaving them completely disoriented.

I can’t heard the birds anymore, a group of people positioned themselves on a bench near mine and are speaking indescifrable stories in a foreign language. Maybe is Farsi, how to know? I can barely manoeuvre my way trough Spanish and English. I wonder if they're also talking about being lost.

“I am"

I want to scream at them as if the compensation for screaming would be a once in a life time revelation.

But I don’t scream, instead I look down at this notebook and scream in a different language.

What are we doing here?

What on earth has gone trough our minds to bare this cold and winter, this wetness everywhere, the short grey days?

freedom? I think,

but is it?

this is the edge of the city, I want to see how the city demography changes as the train reaches the guts of the town, and how then it changes again as it continues its way trough the scarce landscapes only to stop at the other edge of town.

So far, people seem to belong to my group age, dresses in their fast-food attired, and me, dress in my mass-produced photography uniform.


more people are arriving, many more languages that I can only register as nothing more than noice.

Where is your people, Canada?

Are we?

I think I can start to understand the birds, they move forwards slowly, always stoping to reflect on where they are, and possibly why.

I hope.

McKnight / Westwinds - 13:14

I was so peaceful. Elegant bird. Focusing the healthy part of the brain on the sounds that my shoes make as I take one step after another in the crushing snow, I even forgot that I have a head sitting on my shoulders. I sometimes wish I could take it off and leave it somewhere.

Since it won’t shut up, ever.

sometimes its unbearable, specially during the nights, when I’m in the middle of a fantastic adventure trough a melting hotel, or a maze of weeds, or sometimes visions of my father turning into a warewolf while I desperately try to brake off the spell and the only solution I can come up with is always to rush in a hug his deformed body.

It doesn’t matter, I am always awaken by my restless brain, not sure if I can call it healthy any longer.

Even when I am alone, I am not. I am always there wherever I am.


when you were there, and I wasn’t, somehow.

I am always there, thinking of all the cliffs I could suddenly fall from, usually in fear of something happening, In a constant state of waiting for the world to turn upside down. And latter I think that maybe the world is in fact turning upside down is, but just inside of me, and I will slowly turn into one of those misunderstood people who scout the streets of cities talking out loud to no-one in particular. I reassure myself that that seems unlikely.

but then…

Why was I so shaken when I caught, from the corner of my eye a crazy tall person, dressed in a puffy red jacket rambling about whatever his mind was burning with at the moment, his arms went up and down as if having a conversation with someone who can’t quite grasp what on earth is he trying to communicate. It was me, of course, being reflected off the window of a closed-for-the-day shop.

I was crying while in a refused state of surrender, using tears as ropes tied to my feet which drag the past wherever I happen to be walking, always trying to catch it and kick it back to the present.

I feel like I have been left out in a station where people used to be, but now they are safely traveling in the wagons of reality. And meanwhile, I focus on the crunching sound the snow makes as my feet press on it, as if that had any meaning.

The birds are singing still.

Whitehorn 13:49

Im not sure how this is going to turn out.

In some stops the train takes so long to arrive, in others it arrives faster. There are many things happening at this station. I had a hard time deciding what to take the photo off.

The train is here.

Rundle 13:58

Right now nothing seems as sad as the people who smoke their realities away in their aluminum papers. Some try to hide form the world in a corner close to a garbage bin, or down the steps of a pedestrian bridge. They look as if they are trying to apologize for being themselves, moving their heads in all directions with attentive eyes that are by now used more to judgemental gazes than eyes of compassion.

This station seems to have a big population of people, low in the ground, blending in the shadows of a city that can’t call theirs. They lock their eyes not so much on me, but on the camera that hangs round my neck, this invasive gun which literally shoots at my command.

But I won’t shoot them, I’d like to tell them.

I can’t help thinking of them as prey hiding from its predator.

Are they imprisoned?

Prisoners of themselves?

Prisoners of the past?

Prisoners of what never was.

How far am I from being in their shoes?

Every step seems to announce an imminent abyss,

each morning I seem to hide myself farther away from the sun.

Marlborough - 14:12

5 minutes it's not enough time to go to the wooden fence by the pines.

Here the temperature is colder, maybe it is related to the clouds that are starting to cover up the sun. in front of me a bearded man holds a bottle of something in one hand while gripping with his other hand the rails of a staircase that allow him to stand.

“Fuck yeah” he screams in a whisper.

Franklin 14:22

Goodbye, sir. I too was asking the same unanswerable questions last night, also holding a bottle that slowly was loosing its wine.

Now a woman is asking me, while covering her face with a hoodie, what is my intention of taking a photo of her, she is demanding in a loud voice. I tried to replay but its useless trying to explain to someone that it was quite the contrary, my back was facing her and the photo I was taking was that of a stair railing and its shadow crated by the sun.

trying to explain my self proved useless, the woman is gone, now someone is blasting rap music from the speakers of their phone, the words are angry, distorted by the lack of power of the speaker, the message is unclear.

The message is never clear. It’s always distorted.

Barlow / Max Bell - 14:30

Another sad looking woman, she’s walking down the ramp from the station that leads to nowhere, her pant are half down her bottom and her shirts barely covers her breasts, although she makes some sign of trying to cover up a little better.

I’d like to capture he in words rather than photographs. I believe it is disrespectful to strip her of the little faith left in her, for I have no use, or will, to capture her being. because she’s not the only one, and one photograph would isolate her, put her in the spot light, she would be alone, but she is not. The same people are walking just now in the New York subway system, or somewhere in Madrid, Maybe Istanbul has some as well.

You see, turning her into an image would isolate her, would place her aside,

she is not alone, she won’t be alone if I capture her in words.

Calgary Zoo 14:38

I could have broken the rules and stay longer at the zoo. I was only looking to buy a Coke and I somehow ended up inside the zoo, I don’t recall people at the gates asking for tickets, they were just opened, I stopped at the thought of going forwards, I have no intentions of looking at animals trapped in cages.

People trapped in their own minds is devastating enough.

People holding up a square piece of aluminum foil as they try not to miss the pice of straw that serves them as a bridge between being and not being. It’s heart braking enough.




Now I’m thinking about the money we pay to go the movies, or the theatre. we call it entertainment, to sit and look at the carefully crafted pieces inspired by the sad existence of people who never gave their consent to be seen in the same way we see the lions, trapped between bars deprived of their abilities because no-one was there to push them forward. to help hem grow. And we make sure to buy popcorn or some candy as the living being in front of us is starving for something else. Better to keep them caged, some might think, fearing entertainment will vanish.

It proved impossible to find a can of coke.

I just notices how barebone, and lifeless the subways are here. If I was in Mexico city’s subway I would have already found not only a coke, but probably lunch and dinner, maybe a cellphone charger. I would probably had found as well the bible scriptures turn into a CD, or a flyer for a night club promising the night of my life.

Anything really,

here, not much.

Apart from the voiceless citizens that can’t seem to be heard, there is no sound, there is no busking musicians, or a women with a speaker strapped to her chest announcing the cure of cancer. there is no-one selling you 3 ice creams for the price of one. The buzz of desperate sellers trying to make a living, striving to move upwards, literally, hopefully, outside the subterranean existence of the trains.

not here.

Bridgeland / Memorial - 14:54

Four minutes and the least interesting photograph.

It seems like homeless people were left behind, nothing new.

There are still two hours left of sunlight

Why does the day gives us only enough light to reach 17:00 while others enjoy it all the way to 22:00. It’s unfair, obviously only because I am here and not there. Here everyone who can affords to, curls up in a bed safeguarded by a radiator. possible holding a glass of something.

City Hall - 14:59

Three minutes.

I was barely able to take the photo, one passer-by stopped and asked for directions. “anywhere leads nowhere” I wanted to tell him, but I was able to guide him in the direction he thought right.

1st Street west - 15:06

Five minutes, There is so much to see, so little time.

4st West - 15:12

One minute, This is not fiar, not a good photo.

7st West - 15:14

I feel my fingers no more.

Why doesn’t anyone sell a coke?

So many photographs have been compromised.

The buildings are starting to create longer shadows than their height.

Downtown West/Kerby - 15:24

This train reminds me of the trams in Switzerland, same colour and shape, same jacket and emotions flowing in my from thinking of what hides in the next station.

Almost the same cold, not the same camera.

Although the same notebook and the same pens. There were not heaters at the Swiss train stations and there were times in which I had to sit on my hands to stop them form falling off.

Sunalta - 15:37

two minutes and the sun is going away, the clouds keeps coming as if being queued by the absence of light.

The clouds are pink, a single stroke off pink

Shaganappi Point - 15:41

Suddenly we left the city behind, with its gold reflecting off the windows of corporate buildings which shadows are bigger than them

The heater at this stations decided not to function anymore and my finger are not longer able to hold steady the pen.

I hear the motors of cars which reverberate depending on the color of the lights placed in front of them.

my hands are acquiring the red colour that keeps the cars from moving,

and my hands from writing.

Westbrook - 15:50

An anomaly, a man was selling fruits and vegetables right at the top of the stairway.


Someone's selling something in the metro, although I wish it was the coke I was never able to find, I appreciate the local fruits and vegetables.

The day is coming to an end. The time to go back to work to help bringing down the set-up we built to complete the job Is coming closer.

The job we came to Calgary for has come to an end.

The gowns are back into their safe place, the caps are back in the boxes, laying next to a multicolour mess of sashes, each colour promising a future career to a not fully developed human.

Goodbye, graduates, I hope the illusion you felt on your first day of class doesn’t vanish as fast as the winter days in Calgary.

45th Street - 15:59

A lonely bench, covered in snow that seems not to wait for anybody.


Is someone waiting for me?

Sirocco - 16:08

One more stop and we reach the end, the other edge of this city.

The end,

everyone and everything comes to it.

willing or unwillingly.

It seems to be part of life, we reach so many ends. life itself doesn’t seem to be aware of them, until suddenly, one day it screams

It’s been enough!

And then, the end of ends grasps us by the had, forever detaching us from what used to be, but it doesn’t matter, because I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to keep on looking.

This is not my end of ends,

just one more end, from the thousands that await.


It’s enough!


today I can’t feel my fingers for much longer. they hurt, and nothing takes away the pain,

I hurt

and nothing.

69th Street - 16:19

I’m riding the train on a journey towards the last station, the train that took me in at the first station. Same coffee stain on the ground, same face mask under the same seat, same wagon, and why not, I sit on the same seat.

Same unrecognizable tales, from the same uniformed people in their hopeful languages, now in opposite directions, not heading towards, but away from.

My fingers are putting up a fight, the headache has moved to my hands.

The staircase of this parking lot at the end of the line smells like weed, and now I am making sense of why there were police cars parked all over the perimeter. A teenager with a fright as a face tries not to cry as the custodians of the law enforce the rules taught to them on the book that no-one is allowed to question.

And it's not a religion.

is it?

I happened to pass by at the same time as the police were writing all those letter in their very important booklet of fines to give. already aroused by the incident they lock their eyes on my strides waiting for another law to be broken, waiting to waste more ink,

I think my waste of ink has more importance in this matter.

To me they don’t matter

I make my way to the top of the stairway and the police don’t seem to undreamt that I am not looking for my car, but for the sun that is setting behind the only distant mountains that can be seen.

As I make my way to the other corner of the roof of the parking lot, a couple of young people await my departure, it seems that I interrupted a romantic night inside a second hand car with the sunset as their witness for their love.

Well, I’m not leaving, so they did when I turned the camera and pointed it away from them.

The world is full of metaphors, I didn’t plan this day to end with the sun setting just right above the edge of the mountains, I had nothing planned other than taking one photo in each stop, making sure not to miss a train, and writing whatever happened to cross my mind.

The words that I was looking for, thoughts that materialize in minutes, signs everywhere.



the world is full of nothing and we are merely trying to fill it with what we think we lack.

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