Nighttime brr and the sun cracks out one last hum before bailing on the day. Long shadows on the almost-winter pavement and it’s home or bust. Afterwork spit in the gutters – Garside Industrial Park is a chronic bastard that drinks too much and can’t keep a date. Minus three out here, watchcap to the ears, shearling hand leather on for good measure. Trucks plowing out of their stalls, well-kept suburban cars putt-putting back home, steel toes slung over shoulders, bus waiters few and far between. The tops of the power poles – giant/skinny wooden t-shirts with ceramic nipples – carry a bit of the sun. In a month or two, I’ll see frost on those power lines and wonder how it got there. Look down at my boot. Left sole is slowly peeling off the upper and the dirt is brown.
Windy today and it seems extra here. The occasional flag pole chucks a tattered red and white. It’s not too late to not go back, I think to myself. This could be my final walk though these shithole streets. The only hint of ceremony would be my heel on a curb. I’d leave behind a fragment of bootsole and nobody would notice. This place would go on reciting its day-after-day. The sun has somehow jimmied its way to spill on that fire hydrant over there – the peeling one beside the big lot full of junk – and it could be a sign. Of what, I have no idea, but occasionally a guy looks for things that give him a clue and an excuse to do or not do.
Four hundred steps from the meat factory and if I turn around I can still see it there, taunting me and calling me out. I turn the corner and hop the concrete embankment onto the puke yellow grass. This place and its half time utility. In two hours the whole pool will be a ghost town and nobody’ll give a rat’s ass. All this industry will vanish under a darkened beer coaster and get sucked through the damp end of a Player’s Light. The traffic lights, damn them, they still turn green after hours, the pedestrian buttons don’t work, and the 123 only runs until 7. Skid marks on the pavement. Newspaper craned and dead in some chainlink. One car on the street just ahead, fist-sized dent in its bumper.
Sunrise, Industrial Park, 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?