Just after work, not later than 5:30. Got off early and I’m walking down the ave, doing the rounds as they are. Past the bar known as H~2~0. Shittiest bar on Whyte, by my estimation. I consider how many times I poured myself out of there after drinking cheap beer on that toxic carpet. Glad that’s done with. Come to the Sev on the corner of 82 and 102. After the sign on the door went up advising vagrants that they are not welcome inside or outside the store, the place feels safer but emptier. Grab what I need and get in line. A young pseudo hippy girl with a head rag and almost dreads is in line in front of me. She looks as though she should be vegan and organic, but she’s buying a hotdog, a bag of Doritos, and a chocolate bar. Never can tell, I guess. I chuckle at her dreads. Always looks strange on a white person. The guy at the front of the line is of similar palate with two “swiss cheese smokies” and large bag of S&V. He’s talking to the clerk and giving her a hard time over some smokes. Not sure what the problem is, but I believe they don’t have his brand. Buys his shit and leaves in a huff.
Gent in the blue parka asks for rolling papers. That’s third on the list of potentially embarrassing convenience store purchases, right behind porn and condoms. Just before tendering he skillfully grabs a bag of Cheetos, undoubtedly anticipating the craving. A wise man. I get to the till. Sorry for the wait. No worries, I’m in no hurry. Well, that makes you the only person today not in a hurry. Having a rough one so far? You don’t know the half of it kiddo. Boss is sick. (My) mom is sick. It’s all for shit. Damn. Hope it goes better. Grab my drink and shit, head out the door. The 17:00 cliffjump is in full swing. Up there, the March gray. Kick off to the west. Anyone got a smoke?
Saskatchewan Drive and 106 Street, January 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?