It was dead on the way home from Mom’s. The streets were all sleepy and dark, but there was a bit of an afterglow on Christmas night. The day’s familial stuff was all over with and there was a twinge of peace lingering in the brown grass and still gutters. The storefronts would be obliterated with shoppers in a mere eight hours, but at midnight they stood empty and peaceful. The drivers seemed more courteous and the pavement seemed easier. Even the air was cooperating by hovering just above zero – almost unheard of in an Alberta December. I stared out the car window at the passing houses and watched the Christmas trees and strings of light trail across my vision. I had the window down a crack. The sound of Sunday midnight was a comfort.
The busses were alive but blank. They offered another comfort: The city is always moving and changing – even on a supposed day of rest. The busses plied the streets noisy and alone under the soft whisper of early Sunday morning. The number 4 hoofed it down the Whitemud and nobody except for me paid it any mind. How sad. That glorious route, The Four, spins a tight one through the city. The Four should be an event. The Four should have its own greeting card and its own anthem. The Four should be immortalized. And then there was The Twelve arcing gracefully from 127 street onto 118 avenue. The Workhorse Twelve. Stringing together the mid north side with a grunt and a pull. The Twelve was freshly washed and shining in the night. Its glowing orange route indicator burned like cuffed freedom. I passed The Twelve and watched the seats picket beside me. Not a person in any seat and no cargo, save loneliness and inertia. The busses and the night held that quiet distance that one only notices while at peace – when everything else is closed out.
By the time I got home, the city was pulling blankets over its head and diving into one of its few true sleeps of the year. Downtown proper was lit up but dead quiet. The air was so warm. And for the first time in a long time, I slept with my window open.
StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook
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?