82 and Calgary Trail and the 52 is another eight minutes away. It’s about minus 15 out here with a bit of wind chill. There’s an emo kid shivering at the bus stop. Black hoodie and faded black cigarette-leg jeans; no gloves, no toque. His painted black hair is a-scramble, darting in every direction under the yellow-orange streetlights. His teeth are chattering and he checks his cell phone compulsively. No calls. Phone goes off a few minutes later and he answers in that affected voice that certain young men, emo boys in particular, seem to posses; one that is a half-step away from that of a tween girl. The conversation is short and filled with f-bombs, his voice quavering from the ass-biting cold. “Laters” are exchanged and he’s done. Flips the phone closed and sits down on the snowy bench.
The 52 jams around the corner with muscle, her orange route sign most welcome on a shivery night. On the warm bus and to the back seat. Three of us on here tonight – me, emo kid, and grocery lady at the front. Emo kid sits with his back to me and I see light roots of hair just barely sprouting under the mop of black. Leans his head on the glass. Cell phone stays quiet. Grocery lady has a story under her hat for sure. Mid 40’s. Not entirely unattractive (from what I can see, anyways). Four barely-managed satchels of produce. An eggplant conspicuously poking up from one. Doing all of this alone at 8:00 on a Saturday night. There are questions for her. Questions for Emo kid. Questions for this scene that I watch indirectly, through the darkened bus windows.
I love riding the bus at night. The trailing lights give me such comfort and inspiration. The 52 waddles down Calgary Trail, destined for more obscure roads. She trundles west on 76 avenue for awhile. Tires through road-crushed snow are the only sounds I hear. Down 106 street now, and nobody waits at any of the snow-socked stops. The sporadically lit houses are visible. Yellow and blue windows passing by in uneven patterns. Across Argyll road and into a side avenue that does not seem to deserve a bus route. Houses of 60’s vintage, probably plaster walled with white stucco shells. Grocery lady pulls the cord one stop before mine. For a moment I consider getting off and offering to help her with the load. Asking her those questions. But that might seem too creepy. Especially on a cold winter’s night on a deserted south-side avenue. She takes a few moments, but she finally gathers her bags and exits the bus. Labours down the block as the bus stretches off. Emo kid stares straight.
I’m off the bus myself less than a minute later – 55 ave and 105 – and the first thing I notice is that winter silence. Not alot of traffic on The Trail, less than a block away. Not alot of anything happening except some smokesteam from each little house. There’s a rusted, snowed-in Camaro behind the house with the dilapidated garage. A 60W incandescent lamp in a jamjar fixture burns above the garage door. The car is rusted around the windows, and by the look of it, has spent many winters lodged back there; used up, rusted-out, forgotten, but not yet discarded. For some reason the scene strikes me as especially beautiful. That car probably has more than a few stories to tell.
I’m almost where I need to go, only about a block away, but I am reticent about arriving. This residential scene seems to have so much to say tonight, and I could spend the evening wandering around, looking. I notice the concrete construction of the commercial building down the way. On her roof, two aircraft obstruction lights shine. One red. The other white. As I go to do what I came here to do, I think of grocery lady and emo kid. I hope they made it.
The 52 Downtown
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?