When ‘Ol Dame Winter gets in a twist, life’s all about the frost heave. Makes the gate catch and the garage door stick. Fucks up the deadbolt just enough for a “goddamit” under my breath in the morning. My beloved blacktop, bloodtunnel of this and every fair burg, gets squeezed and morphed into an alternate version. Blemishes form. Ridges get pushed up as though some mini version of plate tectonics has occurred. Sidewalks strain to keep their pocked concrete complexion but are reduced to tromped strips of packed white that border rutted roads, only cleared to the gray by strong-lunged masochists with longhandle scraper blades and stiff bristle sidewalk brooms. The rest of us use plastic snow haulers, maybe with an aluminum scraping edge, $24.99 Home Depot specials, the only type they had left after the big dump. We shovel to the property line. No further.
The graters don’t clear the side streets. A single set of parallel grooves exist down almost every sub-road. Pulling to the front of the house is like trying to steer a train off course. Doesn’t quite work. Curbs get hit and tires go square and limp. In the morning, the car is a pointillist iceberg in the fog, frozen into shock just inside the gaze of concern. Gasline Anti Freeze (GLAF) is a sham, don’t use it. The ice scraper broke years ago, one of those wooden jobs you can buy at a gasbar for a buck, never replaced. There’s a rag in the backseat. A reminder of October when a wipe cleared the windows. Ancient booster cables in there somewhere, #2 wire. They pulled the ‘ol cranky bucket out of a scrape last winter when the mercury bottomed out in February. The ‘ol four banger’s almost bottomed out herself. Two hundred and fifty on her and she’s limping through this season. Starter’s good, though. Still turns over like a champ. Paint’s seen better days. Needs a new air filter. One more season, ‘ol Cranky, one more season.
P.S. Re: The lack of activity around here. I’ve been busy.
Snow scene from my front porch, October 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?