The window grout in this bus shelter has been compromised. Someone’s picked away at it and now it needs a fix. Some poor ETS grunt will spend a few hours patching this thing up. Too bad for him. Right now, the sky is all gray and it just started to piss. 5:00 drizzles and it’s a something shade of E-Town gorgeous bleak. Zip up the jacket to fend off the near-zero chill. No other pedestrians around here, just the usual rush hour diesel procession. Not my normal stop, but I dig it. There’s a dinged-up Monte on the boulevard. Primer paint job matches the clouds and there’s a tree swinging from the rearview. Looks like someone tried to play chicken with a light standard and lost. Nice rims on ‘er and I can smell the nicotine interior from here.
The city has installed red light cameras on this corner. A few flashes as I stand here; the $150.00 tickets’ll ruin some days. The house across the street has part of its fence torn down. Can’t tell why exactly, but it looks like someone might have tried to launch their ride through the fence. Wise to leave it open with such savagery around. Man walks by with his red winter coat fully zipped. First walker I’ve seen since I got here. Blue muffler and think glasses on him. Asks the time. Five twelve. Thanks. Joins me in the shelter and starts humming. I look around at the surrounding houses. How familiar they are, how simple, how unassuming, how unmoneyed, how real in the rain. Muffler man taps his feet to a soundless tune and I grow fond of his presence right then. A comfort, sometimes, to merely be in the presence of another person.
The 7 approaches and I take to the rainy curb. In the fumble for my bus ticket, I notice a hand imprint in the concrete at my feet. Someone’s signature. Bus rumbles to the curb and swings her old-school doors open with a plume of air and diesel. Up the stairs and slam the ticket in the farebox, no transfer, I grab a seat near the front. Settle in for a nice long ride home to the south side. Unzip the jacket. Muffler man’s choosen the back seat. Through droplets of window rain, I watch neighbourhoods go by. I watch my house pass my eyes a hundred times.
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?