We come onto 50th at about 30th avenue after a little tour of upper Millwoods. Coffees in the holders, loose conversation all around, Justine looking fine. We swing north and start the climb out of the deep south. A McD’s over there, drive thru exhaust traveling up. A church to our right and the Whitemud’s right there. Nothing on the radio save some talk radio which we can ignore and enjoy. We get to the crest of our climb and the city reveals herself: downtown sparkling in the distance and a hazy industrial playground spreading out before us. The gear shop, where teeth are ground to go into other teeth. The rope supplier with his braided mystery. The skid shack assembler who makes everything portable. The numerous garages with their rubber tongues slipped gently into many a tank. The giant, bewildering oil rig – 50 feet from the curb of 50th street proper – placed there for ‘advertising’ purposes(?). The cable tray plant, blasting and curving aluminum and steel. The House of Tools, where men are made and ruined. Up north to the High Run Club – arguably the best (or, it used to be anyways) pool hall in E-Town. Past the largely faded glory of Capilano mall, likely E-Town’s most delicious B-grade shopping center. And we finish into Gold Bar with its gloriously out-of-touch IGA grocery store, a heartwarming sight that inspires a stop and walk through. That old bread smell…heavenly.
I’ve never paid much attention to 50th. I’m sorry about that. It’s a beauty of utility bookended with decidedly different residential life. “I’d do that drive again,” says Justine. So would I.
Listen, High Level Bridge. April 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?