The eight is crowded. I’m traveling northbound from Mill Woods Town Ctr. I’ve got a seat but there a few standing. We wind through Lakewood transit center and eventually meander up to Millgate – the Thalidomide child of the Edmonton Transit System. It’s placed in a commercial / light industrial area overlooking the Whitemud Freeway. At the best of times it’s bleak – doubly so today with the grayscale sky and falling snow. The platform is rammed to the nuts. 3:00 home from schoolers, after work plowers, kid buggy pushers all around. Driver’s got a rolled blue lid watchcap, looks comfortable behind the wheel, slackarm turns and wide berths, gruff demeanor, no shit taker. After the load we’re drop-shot full, not a foot space for anyone. Pulls out of dock and rounds up 86th street north, past the lunch-only Chinese food place, the gear shop, the drilling company, oil tools, downhole tools, stainless tools, rock tools, lotsa tools. We pass the Ferrier transit barn and switch drivers – lunches removed, jackets exchanged.
Up past my Timmy’s on Argyll and 86th – the one in which I once downed six double doubles in succession (still my record); the one where my wife and I enjoy the occasional icecapp and cruller, we know the staff, they miss us when we don’t come in. Round the bend at 83rd north, screaming up the road and giving the once-legendary Polar Pub a nod on the way. Poured myself out of there on more than a few occasions back in the darkcore drinking days. Past the war-era bungalows and old brick schools. I take ‘er up to Bonnie Doon and she’s still shitass busy. I push my way through the stinky teenagers and disembark. Bus kicks some sludge to the sidewalk in front of me. Home, cap on. It’s cold on the face.
Bus Blur image, November 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?