Four thirty, buddy stumbles out of the Cat Rental store looking dazed and beat up from the day. Carries a bag of tools and a backpack; head-to-toe Carhartt. Looks around confused, like someone knocked him with a question. Sees me waiting on the curb and walks on over with a laboured lumber. You waitin’ for the bus? Yep. This where ya catch it? To Westmount, I mean? Yessir. Know what time it comes by? ‘Bout another twenty minutes or so. Cool. Whips out his pack of Export A’s and lights up. Cocksucker of a day. Reamed out by the head push at 7 this morning, missed the truck. Lucky if I’m here next week. Plenty of work, man. I’m sure you’d find something – easy. Yeah. Maybe. How about you? Same shit as ever. Get up, grab the bus, go for eight hours, home, make sure the wife and kid are taken care of. Bastard, ain’t it? Humpin’ days on end with nothin’ to show but a few hundred. Stupid. It is man, I agree. Everyone busts their asses for what? It’s easy to forget the shit that’s important. Takes a drag, exhales to the smokestacks out east.
He doesn’t say anything for awhile and eventually wanders off, unceremoniously done with talking. Draws a final heavy from his smoke and lights up another right afterwards. He starts up a conversation with another bus waiter – this one in a tattered Yankees cap, denims and blue flannel. Sure I’ve got a smoke, here ya go. They choke back together and talk a bit; I can’t make out their words. Bit of a breeze kicks up and I adjust my collar, contemplate putting on my gloves. I hear the guy out of the corner of my ear, maybe referring to the tardy bus driver: Where is that fucker? Should have told him that the evening run is always shy. A few minutes later the bus pokes its nose ‘round the corner and starts towards us. Orange route marker looks like an invitation. We all get on – me last. I see the guy sink into a seat and take eight hours from his head to his knees. I go to the back and unzip my jacket. Guy’s hair is matted. Green pack of smokes aching to fall from his side pocket. I watch them all the way to the station.
Cars on Saskatchewan Drive, Edmonton November 2005
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?