I’m sure you’re familiar with the scene. Clothing discarded, seemingly at random. A shoe in the middle of the road. A shirt, torn and forlorn, left to decay in a school field amongst McDonald’s wrappers and discarded Timmy’s cups. Or, perhaps, a pair of pants with no one inside them, left to intrigue passersby. These left garments beg questions: How does one “lose” a pair of pants? Was it unconscious? Whoops, I lost my pants again. Did the wearer experience a moment of existential crisis wherein the pants were deemed superfluous? These pants impede my existence, therefore they are of no use. Were they simply discarded? Were they thrown from the window of a rusted pickup, the only evidence of a sinister deed? Whenever I see discarded bottoms – especially female bottoms – I feel as though I should call the authorities. A CSI team would then storm the scene and I would watch as my tip produced a suspect. You never know. Someone might be looking for those pants. They may be the last piece. I never call.
And what about that lonely shoe sitting in the middle of the freeway? Were the owner’s feet hanging outside a window when a strong crosswind loosed the runner, leaving the wearer to walk embarrassed with one shoe? Was there a fight in a car, the shoe used as a last-ditch weapon, thrown into a passenger window which shattered? Was someone drinking out of the shoe and threw it out like an empty bottle of Jim Beam? Perhaps most unsettling to me are found children’s shoes – especially in a schoolyard. In my mind, and this may sound deeply twisted / pessimistic, I conjure scenes of a candy offer refused, an arm-flailing struggle, and a violent abduction. Terrible, and again the police should be notified. The truth about kidless shoes is likely much more prosaic: Kids lose shoes all the time. Grade five: Daniel Martin throws my snowboots on the roof of the school. I caught hell for that one.
Once, in the sprawling field beside my childhood home, I came across two pairs of underwear (one pair men’s, one pair women’s), a 36” length of garden hose, and a bottle of glue. An odd combination, and ever since then I’ve been trying to put together a scene in which all those items go together. The underwear and the hose I can see, but the glue? Not really all that kinky, but who knows. Maybe the glue held someone’s hands together. Or maybe there was some old-school glue sniffing happening. Does anyone do that any more?
I hope all the lonely clothing out there gets a home. If nothing else those pieces of textile detritus deserve a slightly embellished back story. Those garments should never fade on the racks of discount stores, their whispers unheard.
Running shoes, 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?