They’re standing outside the Albert’s Restaurant at Bonnie Doon mall (check their website – some piece of work!). It’s an assemblage of mid south siders in various stages of their lives. The guy in the cheap suit and the running shoes catches my eye instantly. His wardrobe one step away from the Sally Ann, he looks like he’s on a permanent bender. At first I imagine him to be a sales schlep in the mall but after a bit of rumination, I’m not so sure. Too trashy – even for a mall as square as Bonnie Doon. Poor bastard. Looks like a scratch of stiff wind would knock the shit out of him. Then there’s the aviator-wearing, Nascar-shirted lifelong, die-with-a-pack-in-my-hands smoker. Dirty, bent fag hanging from his parched claw and the pack rolled up in his shirtsleeve. He swings his big hand around and brings his smoke to his mouth with years of nicotine-stained experience. I can smell the handrolls and the gear oil from here.
There’s the polyester skirted dames fresh from their office jobs, out having a stick and a wobbly or two. Cackling with their cancer throats and jabbing the guy in the rented suit, they appear to be a few pops into the night. Trying-to-be-hip dos, and all together they almost make it work. That’s the real beauty of these gals. If it did work, these dames wouldn’t be here now, chugging DuMaurier out back of a barrel-scraping beer and cocktail restaurant joint in the underbrow of the city. But they’re gorgeously flawed – authentically them.
The killer is the guy in the track pants and the cast on his right leg. This guy truly completes the scene – like a plywood picture frame. Wife beater barely hiding his not-quite-there abs – prolly battered by years of bottle-diving – his moustache matching his (as I imagine it) ’81 Firebird t-top. I wonder how he banged himself up, and I wonder how many nights he’s spent swimming in this place talking about 4 barrel carbs and Edelbrock short-throws with the Nascar dude. Jack, I wish you well, and don’t let the waitresses get too close when they sign your cast, and make it a double at last call, and hell, why not hammer one for the ditch.
Boys and gals of Alberts, do well with what the universe deals ya and keep in mind what my ‘ol pal Maurice Kravchuk once said to me in the back of a beer-brawling downtown shithole (pool cue in hand, Craven A trailing down his face): Keep yer left close to yer face — but ready to swing — and always feint with yer right. And when they spit teeth, you’ve only started. Lots more to go.
Alberts Lounge, Bonnie Doon Mall, September 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?