Winter has parked his icy ass down in blustery E-Town (although I hear that next week is supposed to get warmer – here’s hoping). The ice fog, the fur-hood parkas, the Sorels, and the extra-loud car tire crunch are a testament to that. As is the length of my morning walk to the bus depot. I haven’t moved to a new locale, but the station is farther away. Much fucking farther.
It is the season of blue Helly Hansens and hot chocolate bombing runs. The glowing frost of the bus windows contain a certain crazy beauty – lit from behind by the artificial lights of ever-widening Prairie nights, the frost reveals its streaked and syncopated pattern. Everything is heavier. The moods, the space, the air, the clothing. For living here I figure that we’re either heroes or death-wish masochists because right now, it’s colder than the beak of a frozen platypus. Colder than a Costco shopping trip. Colder than a horny Santa Claus catcalling out to middle-aged women carrying Sears shopping bags down a nuclear-busy mall. Colder than a…yeah. You get the point.
Now, I’m a staunch advocate of public transit. I think that Edmonton’s public transportation system is vastly under funded and underused because of that fact. However, when my morning walk turns from seven gorgeous blocks in the summer to one hundred and three blocks of stiff-legged hobbling in the crush of winter, it’s almost enough to make a guy wish for a set of wheels. Almost. Walking in white-out conditions with icicles hanging from one’s moustache and chin whiskers has a certain stoic charm, doesn’t it? The toil of living magnified ten fold into a move-or-die situation. It’s life affirming for sure, but slightly fuckin’ nuts at the same time.
Ah, living in Edmonton has always had a rather negative stigma attached to it, and perhaps for good reason. If you take a look on a globe and trace a line around Edmonton’s latitude, you’ll ask yourself why, in the name of all that is sane and holy, do people live there? It’s a question I ask myself every time I fire up the Sorels for another season. Every time I dust off the Stanfield’s one-piece long underwear (with ultra-sexy trapdoor) I ask myself, WHY?
But then I see the river valley full of bleach, gorgeous in its cast stillness, with the lights of the Muttart Conservatory keeping vigil. I see skiers at Snow Valley hitting the slopes and burning up the day. I hear the rhythm of the snow joggers outside my window – unafraid of the redfaced cold. I see the downtown, frozen but alive, through the frost of my bedroom window.
StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook
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?