This past Saturday, the ragged old city of E-Town got a shot of the good stuff. We went from -20 on Friday morning to plus six on Saturday afternoon. It was a nice little respite; the type of weather that sends Edmontonians into a near orgasmic state of delight during which many people lose their nut. One of the shortest measures of time in the western hemisphere is the time between an E-Town thermometer crawling above zero and the sight of normally sane citizens wearing shorts, flip-flops, and boob tops. They were all out in full force this Saturday. The guy blasting Nazareth ( Shanghaid in Shanghai ) from his pimped-out Dodge half ton made me guffaw conspicuously. The dreadlocked white dame in the Phish t-shirt (does anyone listen to Phish these days?), cargo Dickies and lime green Birkenstocks had a similar effect. It struck me as particularly surreal that less than twenty-fours before, I was wearing a down-filled jacket, wool watchcap, and using chemical handwarmers to keep my fingers from falling off. Now, my wool sweater seems utterly gratuitous; my toque ridiculous and laughable. For an all too brief moment, with the bright lonely sun hot on my bearded face, I thought, “Maybe this is it. Maybe we’re outta the shithouse once and for all”. With Sunday’s temps dropping back into the tank, that little daydream now seems trite.
I guess that’s what happens when you go nose-to-fist with winter for five months of the year. You develop a hair-trigger for sunscreen and patio sitting. The transitional seasons always produce a unique insanity amongst the populace at large. In the same crowd of corner-standers you can often find at least one person in a parka and Sorels and another person in Tevas and shorts. The comedic value of such disparate climatic interpretations never gets old. I laugh my ass off every year, as if on cue.
Table lamp, Kerry's Place, February 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?