This third installment of the Notebook Excerpts series (first and second installments, if you’re interested) is, like the others, unspectacular. Taken together, they are not a cohesive piece of writing and there is no narrative arc. What follows are simply fragments culled from the last hundred-odd pages of my notebook which, incidentally, goes almost everywhere with me. This is both a good and a bad thing. I find it hard to go anywhere without my book and a pen, but when I do I always feel somewhat relieved, like my responsibility to document what I see has been lifted. I don’t know what to say about that, except that it perplexes me. I love writing but it’s a pain in the ass sometimes. I continue to scribble in the bus shacks and on the sides of busy roads.
I can see my breath, and a few mountains too.
10 stamps in my notebook, no letters to mail. Is email good for the body?
No ocean. The trees are a deep green lake.
There they are – the guitar pick and the paper. What comes first, I wonder.
Bus rumble – two people shivering.
Leaves — river frozen to its banks.
Over there I see one branch swaying alone with others.
Two geese overhead – not enough for a flock.
The old man is walking alone again. His dog is gone, I think.
Pink top peeking from under the bottom of a brown puffy jacket.
The guy with the soft-sided Molson lunchpail sighs, changes seats.
Brown flats finish a pair of sensible khakis – working day best, and almost the same outfit as yesterday.
Longhair guy with hair pulled into a ponytail, red flannel under his leather.
The everyday woman had a ponytail today. It looked noble hanging into the orange plaid of her hood.
Guy at the front – head-to-toe black with a stud in his nose; steel toes, riding gloves.
Sun reflects off a stop sign and into my eyes.
Bus around the corner, fresh daylight on the page, halfway there, halfway to go.
It was that fleeting, gorgeous feeling when my transit across the bridge coincided perfectly with the rise of the sun.
Gray day – 7:30am, transit center lights still on.
Blur drizzle coming down, not major, not intolerable.
A new fleece jacket for me. Cigarette burn in this one.
Flip flops. I’ll never get it. It’s a hair above zero. What’s the problem?
The man with the geek glasses and the giant coffee mug talks well. He seems lonely.
Fellow beside me reads the paper – one of those green commuter rags. I threw mine away a few minutes ago. Maybe I missed something.
Haven’t seen the old guy with glasses in a while. He’s over there, nose in a King novel.
The girl pulls the earbuds out of her ears, flips her phone open. Talks quiet. Leans against a payphone, cig butts at her toes.
“Alt” chick has the look. Lip ring, unstyled hair, band patches on her bag. She’s too orderly; too together. She moves slow most days.
How about this. You can be Johnny Cash, I’ll be Merle Haggard, and she can be Tammy Wynette. Him? He’ll be George Jones.
Blue scows ply the runways, orange route markers somehow gracious and comforting. I smile every time I see the 52.
Your smelly bed linens confound and confront your seagull crown a…
I had a dream that I was alone on the prairie with a weak heart. The wheat was bleeding and it was hot.
Three older women sit comfortably around the cafe table. They recall their days. One wears sandals.
Cars pass by and the bus sends a message: You’re driving alone. We are not.
Notebook on wicker table, September 2007, honeymoon
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?