Justine and I working around the house and garage doing the big spring purge; throwing shit out with reckless disregard for future use. Before long we’ve got quite a heap of crap piled up and it needs to go. Load up the truck and off to E-Town’s sacred dumping grounds, The Clover Bar Dump (which now has the more politically correct title, The Edmonton Waste Management Center). May sound odd, but it feels like something of a pilgrimage coming out here. When I was young, I’d be out here all the time with my Dad. He was always in the throes of some home construction project and would often drag me along when it came time to get rid of the shit we didn’t need. Back then, 25 years ago, the dump was maybe 1/2 the size it is today. Ah hell, it probably wasn’t but it seems that way. It’s with a combination of distress and awe that I set eyes on the city dump, 2007 edition.
April Friday with the trash hounds and it’s a crisp -5 out here, a clutch of gulls keeping watch up on the hill. With that old familiar scent in the air, we pull in and start to chuck what we need to. The guys around us are all about utility. Get the shit in the ground. I like to soak up the spiritual side of the dump – the regret, shame, and embarrassment of contributing to this big pile of crap. Out here one can’t help but think that we’ll be buried under our own mound of shit in no time, and that’s the thing. Our garbage doesn’t just disappear. It doesn’t just go away. It comes here and rots. Almost everything I’ve ever thrown out is out here somewhere. A vintage Bobby Orr hockey card that I won in a game of knockdown against Kevin Rainer in grade 4. A Cheryl Tiegs swimsuit poster from a few years later. The first Loverboy album that, unbelievably and shamefully, I actually owned on vinyl. A complete set of Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy books. Countless other treasures that have grown large in mind because I threw them away. If I only had a shovel I’d have half a mind to do some digging.
The Just and I are done skiffing the latest truckload of detritus. Justine’s ready to leave. I cast one last glance to the ever-growing pile of garbage that will one day, perhaps, become a big park. I can only hope that if some future picknicker finds a red album with my name on it, he or she takes steps to return it to its rightful owner. Who knows, Turn Me Loose just might make the world a better place after all.
Garbage Heap, Hertiage Mall, Nov 2005
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?