The other day was “first toque day”. That’s a special day on the ‘ol calendar – one that I simultaneously look forward to and dread. It’s the first day of the fall wherein it is necessary to don a block heater and multiple layers of clothing. It was a nipply -3, for gawd’s sake. Fortunately, the morning bus ride is quite picturesque these days and it makes up the for the ass-freezing temps. When I wake up in October – bleary-eyed and barely able to stand the day – I remember that I’ll be hopping the 128 in an hour or so and sailing through the valley. In October, despite the lack of red on the thermometer, the simple act of traversing the valley is a damn near spiritual experience. It’s like pushing through an expressionist painting – one whose creator had a bent for orange and yellow. The trees mock the green of their previous life and fully embrace their final show before snow. Occasionally, and if I’m lucky, I spot a flock of geese overhead. The industry of the city drowns out their honks, but I know they still honk. Such beautiful things, the geese. A pity that they have to fly over our smokestacks and craters.
In February, the 128 can’t traverse the valley fast enough. In October I wish she’d slow down. A guy needs time to breathe in the smell of dying or dead leaves. As a guy who dearly loves fall and everything that goes with it, that thick, autumn smell is pure bliss. My thick Cowichan wool cap turns out to be slightly too warm for this day. Perhaps I overestimated my needs. Once the sun pokes her nose out of her bedroom, she does a good job of breathing some warmth on our little burg. So the toque gets stuffed into my bag and the Ray Bans go on. Man, sunrise from the Groat Bridge is stunning. Downtown and the valley just humming. Go catch it. See you there.
Leaves in Edmonton, October 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?