Back when I lived in a one bedroom shack in Petrolia (40th avenue, west of 111 street), I took the 50 to work. It’s a bit of a wandering route that starts at Southgate, winds its way through Aspen Gardens, and ends at University. Back then I demolished a bottle of Valpolicella every night and woke up bleary-eyed 6:00am in the morning with a killer tannin headache – then somehow made my way to the corner of 40th ave and 113 street where I’d catch the 50. Some mornings were better than others. I distinctly remember one morning wherein I tripped up the steps of the bus and cracked my knee on the platform. I had to exit gracefully and limp home to sleep it off. I also recall having to leave the bus early one morning so that I could heave. One step out the door and wretch. Not one of my proudest moments. I also recall beautiful rides wherein I was the only rider for the first ten stops or so, and the day unfolded just for me as I sat at the back still a little dizzy. And days when the driver woke me up at the U of A after I fell asleep and missed the whole ride.
I was driving in that old neighbourhood the other night and I passed the ‘ol 50. The light was just right – the sun had crashed but there was still a ripple of light in the west. She was running from Aspen Gardens to Southgate and so, inevitably, I drove past the old place. Looked the same. Same old liquor store and quiki-mart across the street. Same old bottom-end video store. Those alone years were necessary and good for the most part, but I’m glad they’re gone. That place and time brought me to here. The 50 kept me sane – kept me on the street. Dear 50, keep going.
Route 50 at Southgate, November 2006
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?