My front door has a window. Several times a day I shuffle over and take a gander at the outside world. Temp’s always in the negative these days; the white snow unshakable. I know the houses across the street. At least, those within my field of view which presently encompasses five dwellings. War-era bungalows all, they’re reflections of my own place but with better roofs and cleaner siding. The one guy keeps his walks clean and swept right to the concrete. The gray place with the dark door, they have a big mutt with a strong voice. I hear him in the evening when the ice is quiet.
I don’t see the old man and his bulldog any more. The dog snapped at me one day, and the man once threatened to hit my stepdaughter with his walking stick if she tried to pet his crabby little dog. They walked past the window every day for years. They both had a laboured hobble. They seemed perfect for each other. For a while there the old man walked alone. I wondered what happened to his companion. He doesn’t walk any more. I miss his trudge down the block.
I watch for the mailman. He’s a quick bugger but sometimes I catch him through the window and throw him a nod. I don’t get much mail these days. Everything’s addressed to my wife. I like collecting the mail. I like seeing her name in print. Once in a while, I poke my head out the open door and take some nice lung-filling breaths. Cold. Clean. Breathing is pretty wonderful in a whitened scene such as the one I currently inhabit.
At night I take tea and gaze out at the porchlights and the window glows. I see figures moving about behind shades, living. All those lives out there. All that activity gone unnoticed. Lots of footprints in the snow. My paw wrapped around my favorite mug. Breath steams the skinny windows. February’s in the mail.
Front door of Mike and Kerry's place, January 2008
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?