I’m on the 6:40 number 4 today – don’t know why. Longhair in plaid and Carhartts at the stop just ahead. Slams his ticket into the box and saunters on unassumingly, a touch of drowsiness in his face. Big frame – six four, two-and-a-quarter easy. His shirt pattern is Dress Campbell – possibly in chambray. I recognize it because I have a few Campbells of my own. Brown overalls faded to perfection and he’s got some gargantuan steel toes with glue-on toe bumpers. Sits down in front of me. Has a bunch of cable ties neatly bound in an upper pocket and a roll of black tape dangling from his side. Might be a sparkie, methinks. Fishes his site-battered thermos out of his bag and pours a cupful, not too full. Takes a sip of the morning black. Steam rises from the cap cum cup, coffee most likely perked only minutes ago. Looks around, rubs his face with his free hand, still a little dirty from the previous day. His wiry hair is pulled back into a ponytail; heavy sideburns tumble into days of growth. The bus rocks to and fro down the Ave. Spills a touch of coffee on his leg, addresses the blight with his oversized paw. Finishes his cup and tucks his thermos back into his bag. Leans his head back to the window. Few minutes later he yanks the cord. Heavy steps to the back door. The hydraulic hiss of the rear bus door sounds downright holy this Friday morning. He’s off and onto the street. Square shoulders ready to take what little the week has left. Door crimps shut and we’re crawling the ave again. Early bus, I remember. Still time to stop for a cup…
Riders on the 121, May 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?