After Monday’s Blood Ink Show (which was fantastic), I find myself outside of Teddy’s on 116 and Jasper, without vehicle, at 10:45 pm. With Old Man Winter reeling it back a few notches and settling into zero, I decide to hike it back home. Pull on my war-torn watchcap and shoot eastbound down Jasper Avenue. I find it hilarious that Teddy’s Pub and Grill, one of E-Town’s most notorious gambling holes, is attached to St. Joe’s Basilica – E-Town’s most revered church. Makes me wonder how many men of the cloth skip communion and go for a double rye and a VLT tumble instead. Not many, perhaps. Further down the way is the Stonehouse pub, one of downtown’s semi-legendary watering holes. I’ve spent more than a few evenings there, chucking poison down the ‘ol throat. I distinctly remember one occasion wherein a group of us left our cash on the table at night’s end and some crazy woman jacked it before we got out the door. Bouncers wouldn’t let us leave without plunking down another $300.00. My buddy Shayne covered it, bless his heart.
109 and Jasper is still busy at this time. The wind chimes across the street are dead silent. Not a drift in the air tonight. Down the street, Martini’s Pub is its garish self – chuckles of red and burnt oaken seats; flickering lights on tables, old yellow-stained art on the walls. It’s still strangely comforting, like the ruin never leaves. She’s a beaut of a pub. Her clientelle are snuggled in like children holding glasses of milk, ready for a story. The Leg pops up next, all orange and stone it is tonight. The train tracks over there are asleep and barely visible. The highrise condos hold a sniff of life – checkered with yellow windows, and one blue-flicker’d pane up in the corner. It’s silent out here.
I finally come upon that black lady that brings the town together: The High Level Bridge. Her black body stretches out for almost a click (877 meters to be exact). No cars across here tonight, but I do see one lonely jogger making the pace on the other side. A gentle wind tumbles around my cap and through the black girters, faint echoes of spring bird poop in the air, the anticipation of warmer winds present. The river is seemingly stalled, but through a sliver of broken ice she reveals herself to be moving and swirling under that white dress. I get about half way across the bridge and stop. Look to either side of me. Not a single soul out here and only a few cars on the deck. I sometimes forget how beautiful the downtown skyline can be, but tonight in this silent moment it’s there and breathing and awake, never dull. I just watch for a minute or two, cars passing behind me.
Up the crazy curve at the southern terminus and to the lip of valley. My home is a scant three blocks from here. I take my time with those final steps. The apartment blocks are active here – moreso than downtown. People in windows, a few smokers on patios. Sickle moon keeping watch. A car or two through the snow paste. Home. Goodnight, my dearest.
Cars coming down the pipe, High Level Bridge, Jan 2007
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?