Me and The Just, out on a genuine-like date on Saturday night. We had planned to take in a screening of Babel, but the north-side Multiplex was rammed to the nuts and we had no patience for dealing with the frothing hordes. After ditching the flick we head to one of our favorite eateries, the illustrious Urban Diner, located in the heart of the Hy Street district just off 124^th^ street on 102^nd^ Avenue. It’s a spare and classy kind of place, dark wood and damaged brass finials, a bit of put-on cool floating around, Billie Holiday on the box, generous booths on the perimeter and fourleggers in the middle. Waitresses are pleasant and the menu is just what you’d expect – with a few twists thrown in. Not too busy tonight, but it seems there’s always someone interesting in here.
The family of three over in the corner catch my eye immediately. Brunette mother with a bob cut and new runners. Pencil-thin Dad, jeans too big and shirt not quite right. Young son with thick geek glasses and a polo shirt. They seem vaguely out of their element in this hipster-inspired spoon. They chug their fries and poke their sodas, order big desserts and enjoy the time they have together. Justine and I order up and yak as we always do. She questions my choice of fare, making fun of the Diner Hot Dog. She claims it’s juvenile and unbecoming. I in turn mock her Rueben as idealistic and far too socialist for a place like this. Funny, it seems there is never a shortage of things to talk about and mull over with this woman.
The two young girls by the window yammer on about MySpace and boys, who is the better kisser, who carries a bat to school, which girls do it and which don’t. Teenaged dye jobs atop too-skinny frames, cigarette legs, high top All Stars with Sharpie art, incomplete nail polish. Justine and I turn our ears to catch some juicy tidbits. Something about fellatio accidents, a little something about Jeremy’s this and that, oh yeah Susan’s a bitch, Dylan can’t hold his liquor. Ah, to be sixteen again.
In the plush corner booth a polished young couple are very obviously out on their first date. Not a bad choice of venue and I give the guy credit for that, but the scene inspires some gentle mockery between Justine and I. Long past the “trying to impress each other” stage, we have a good time analyzing those who aren’t. The woman sits facing the window. “Strike one buddy,” I say to Justine. She asks why that’s a strike. “Cuz she’s got an easy out if she gets bored. She can just watch the window, nod and purse her lips every minute or so and he won’t be the wiser. Very savvy on her part.” Over the greasy comfort food, we deconstruct the couple and comment on our own courtship. The first few dates, the tumultuous start, the reconciliation, the better now that ever, the approaching wedding. We both utter relief about being out of the dating scene. Justine remarks that she is facing the window.
Meal done and swimming, coffees almost done, half hour till the place closes. Cheque comes and Justine grabs it. I offer to go Dutch but she’ll have none of it. One of the many perks of marrying a feminist, I tell ya.
Blurry Streetsign, Jan 07
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?