83rd connects Argyll to Bonnie Doon and, further up north, 106th Avenue. Puzzling strip mall businesses along Argyll to the south. McNally High, two traffic circles, and Rowland Road to the north. Just stepped off the 106: I’m on 83rd tromping south – homebound. Up ahead I see a guy waving his arms around and throwing out some top-of-voice fucks to passing cars. He’s either lit, gooned, or both and then some – having some trouble keeping a straight line. Every time a car sails past he’s batshit indignant, yelling and carrying-on directed to no one and everyone, like we’re all stomping through his living room. I get a little closer and consider bailing west on 78th avenue just to avoid the fucker. Skinny bugger – got about 15 years on me but I’ve got a few inches and 50 pounds on him. Even so, I might be in for it if he steps up. Strength isn’t what it used to be and I haven’t thrown a swing since high school. I don’t think this guy has it in him. I step to the curb of the block he’s on, sidewalk half-covered in loader-pushed snow paste. Guy doesn’t look at me as I pass. Keeps empty eyes trained forward. His chin sags blank. He’s not there. Puts an extinguished butt to his mouth and fades out of the corner of my left eye. Ten seconds later he’s calling out to me. “Hey fucko! Piss on y’all bitches! Kill a fuck!” I glance back once. Can’t keep his shit tied. No threat. Seems hatred and fear take up too much energy these days. Empathy is the real work.
Random color blur, May 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?