We arrive with a trunkfull of rattling glass, tinning plastic and other sad-faced dead soldiers. The place is in a grungy part of town – resting somewhere between the valve guys and the third-hand junkers. Places like this seem to be popular spots for such establishments. God forbid a recycling facility be located in a residential neighbourhood. The man who starts counting our bottles has a seen-it-all look on his face. He’s seen many people’s dirty little secrets. The three-bottle-a-day Pepsi fetishes. The bourbon hounds who bring in seven cases on a bi-monthly basis. The guy who humps in sixty flats of Labatt’s Blue twice a year. The shopping carts who cash in their finds every day. He takes our harmless water and juice bottles and handles them with an admirable deftness. Gripping three different containers at a time – one can, one plastic water bottle, and one beer bottle – he chucks them into three different containers with a single, elegant motion. I listen to the rhythmic klink and klak of the bottles, and for a moment, I entertain the idea that this man plays the piano. He does not speak to us as he works, but his hands tell us enough. He finishes and scratches the total on his notepad. Gives us our cash – $15.00. It’s less than it should be, but we say nothing. A man who handles detritus on a daily basis deserves a bit of a break. In the car I smile to myself, a piano concerto keeping time with the breaking of bottles.
Author’s Note: This entry marks the first birthday of StreetRag.com. One year ago today this site was born with an entry called, The Lights of the Avenue. Thank-you to all the readers and supporters of StreetRag for making that first year so very awesome. Here’s to next year, and more to come. –mg
Streaks, dec 06
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?