After the poetry reading I set off Northbound from Whyte, making my way home. It’s nipply out here and I forgot my block heater. Zip the metal zipper, stand the collar up and dig into the cold a bit. Fucking February and her cold throat. Actually, feels good to be out walking after listening to 20 poets chew up the microphone with beauty and passion. Snow and concrete under heel. Strange guy across the street. Staggering a bit. Hauls his left hand to his face with a great arcing motion and takes a pull from whatever he’s got hanging between his fingers. Puff of gray to the cloudy sky. Leans back and stumbles a bit. I’m tempted to stop and ask the guy if he’s OK, but I think he’s good. All lost in that feel. I chug past the big brick house on 105 and 85. I watched that house go up over the course of two summers. Watched a guy tear down an old beater of a bungalow the summer before that. Did it all with his bare hands – including swinging a Hilti breaker to the foundation.
All the lights are off but I hear the sound of a crying infant from the slightly open second floor window. It’s an off-putting sound at 23:00 on a lonely Wednesday street. Just behind the kid’s sharp cries, faint, I hear a male voice singing a lullaby. Stop. Just stand and listen for a good two minutes. Nobody out here but me. I find myself slightly befuddled; I don’t know what to do with these sounds. All I can do is listen. After a time I begin to walk again and the crush of snow underfoot seems a taint. I think of the man in that darkened room; offering his voice to his child, hoping it’ll inspire sleep. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow, I hear. I’m shivering as I walk. Hopeful.
Slipper and Dog, Feb 07, photo by Stu Gravel
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?