A Darker Shade of Gray.

December 14, 2005

I’m walking through Mistatim Industrial Park – a scrape of land in the west end just off the highway. I’m wondering who names E-Town’s industrial areas, and why they’re called “Parks”. Names like Rampart, McNamara, and Garside are scattered throughout this part of town that everyone forgets at 5:00pm. The sun has yet to bust forth today, instead choosing to hide behind the indistinct gray haze covering the city. The only things of pressing interest are the flakes of snow gently tumbling in the breeze, and the enigma of the sturdily-named area I am walking in.

Up ahead is a woman standing on the corner with her back to me. Long brown hair and brown patent shoes. As I get closer, I see that she is taking pictures of the avenue. Not the best weather conditions for photography, but a diffuse lighting scheme has its advantages – namely less shadow. I ask her what she’s trying to capture.

“The street,” is her reply.

“Pretty bleak out here though, isn’t it?”

“But it’s a beautiful bleak, isn’t it?”

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. It’s gray. It’s mid-tone. It’s neither here nor there. There’s no shadow and there’s no precise light source. It’s that winter-clink Edmonton gray that we all know and despise; that nondescript cloak of shit that has everyone tapping their gun cases and their Zoloft bottles.

I bid photogirl goodbye and continue my walk. Gotta give her credit for seeing something in the depressive haze of a wintry E-Town day. With E-Town’s daylight hours dipping below the eight-hour mark in December, optimists are a rare breed. To cheer everyone up, I’ve always thought that Edmonton should have a big city-wide whoop-up orgy on winter solstice. “We’ve turned the corner! Lets all get naked and slaughtered on Jagermeister!”

I guess I do see something beautiful out here as well because after all, I’m out walking in an industrial park. Alone. In the winter. [sounds like one of the check boxes on a serial killer profile checklist – ed.]. There is a certain chilling and austere beauty to industrial parks, especially in the winter. I’ve never been able to properly put my finger on the feeling that they evoke, but I think its…distance. Loneliness. Maybe a bit of abandonment. Strangely, I find something compelling about a green street sign hanging from a rusty grey pole in a west-end industrial park. It is of interest to me, this Mistatim Park with its rarely seen streetsigns, this corroded socket, this beautiful bleak.

——

Public Service Announcement: The Raving Poets: “Gimme Food, Gimme Fire”, a poetry event for the Edmonton Food Bank, runs tonight at Yianni’s Taverna – Downstairs lounge. 10444 – 82 Avenue, Edmonton. 8:00pm. You’re all invited to join us for some hot-toddys and peppermint schnapps. Don’t forget to bring a donation for the Edmonton Food Bank. All poets wishing to read at the event are required to throw in a $10.00 minimum donation in either food or cash. Join us for the final Raving Poets clambake of the year. It should be a swinging good time that would make Jesus very proud.

Vignette #10

StreetRag, An Urban Notebook

StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook

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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.

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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?

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