Out in front of the grocery store on a Sunday. Sun beating spring’s finest into everyone and everything, the whole town at the mark and ready to welcome the tree green and the crimson thermometers. There’s a beggar hobbling out front. His hat’s out and he’s got a month or two on his face, crumbling shoe leather. I’ve seen this guy before and he’s never given any trouble to anyone. The store manager is out there attempting to escort the guy off the premises. Manager points to the “No Loitering” sign bolted to the wall. Guy proclaims his right to be here but is refuted by the manager who raises his voice and states that “the whole place is private property.” Guy moves to the driveway thinking that it’s city property, but the manager gets up in his face and gets really aggressive and loud. They yell at each other chest to chest while the finely appointed morning shoppers enter and exit the store. The whole scene is difficult to watch. It’s ugly for both parties. The beggar is finally driven off by the arm-flailing, borderline physically abusive manager. Manager goes inside and tends the carts, beggar moves across the street.
Later that night I’m out on The Ave doing my usual patrol. Not overly busy down here for Sunday 9:00pm, but there are some nighthawks milling about. I get asked for change twice on every block between 102 and 106. One guy calls me “pardner” and I wave him off before he finishes his request. He yells a comical “fuck you” right behind me and I can’t help but guffaw. By my estimation, the young white guy down the block shouldn’t be asking for change. He’s got baggy jeans and a big cap. He looks like the typical Saturday night beer lout. I walk past him without a word and turn around just in time to see him give me the finger. On my walk I decline all requests for change and get told to fuck off twice, not including getting the bird from a young white male asking for change while listening to an iPod. I shake my head and laugh.
I get to the fancy restaurant on the corner. It’s full of fine dining and nice-smelling, well-groomed people. An attractive middle-aged woman sits alone with a book and a glass of red. Short gray hair, nice glasses and a striking orange turtle neck. Forget attractive. She’s really quite beautiful. She takes a sip of wine – her weathered, ringed hand very becoming, and her gaze never strays from her book. She’s reading Plath, and Sunday night is coming down.
Downtown with Truck and Car, Mar 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?