As an ardent observer of the city and its ebb and flow, sometimes it’s good practice to simply stand on a street corner for a half hour and just observe. The intersection of two of the South Side’s greatest thoroughfares, 82 (Whyte) avenue and 99 street, is a great place to do this. It’s a true intersection. Residential blocks dominate Whyte east of 99th. West of 99th, Old Strathcona starts for real. When driving into old scona from the east, 99th street is your signpost. The laundromat on the corner, mysteriously flush with people in the middle of the day, is the first marker. There’s a guy snoozing gently on a pink towel as an industrial-sized dryer turns beside him. There are three liquor stores within a block of this intersection. That’s good access by any definition. I’m careful walking into the bank. A few shady characters doing business outside. Down the block, the boys at the Lubexx munch on donairs and shamelessly stare down the skirts (and there’s plenty of them out here today, what with 25 degrees). Cars are rolling dirty out of the gas station. The Mac’s store houses a dozen kids, half of them lifting something I’m sure. On Whyte the trees sway in the middle boulevard. They’re finally green, dammit. We paid dearly for that green. We should enjoy it. The 4 has gone by twice now; the 6 once. I must be on my way. Downtown needs a visit.
Mysterious Blur, 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?