Sub zero, sunglasses donned. Cafe, 2pm. New York State Of Mind on the speakers. Order my black & tip the barrista well (I don’t normally tip for a simple pour). Scan the place for a seat. One comfy chair in the corner. Drop my jacket and notebook: round table for two minus one, leather-backed chair. Cream and sugar down the hatch, everything good and right. I spot an unusual in the far corner. A monk in flowing orange robes. Cueball skull, olive skin, no rings, two super large dead soldiers in front of him. I watch him for a minute or two. He’s beautiful and graceful. He’s writing longhand, scribbling page after page, scarcely looking up. I break open my notebook. It’s almost done – few day’s worth of pages at best. I get lost in my own scribblings and enjoy the buzz of sweetened black. I see the monk turn over another page. And another. Time goes by and his pencil goes down. He gets up with a becoming grace…looks downright holy in this place. Walks up to the counter, orders another big one: Double latte. Moves to the side of the till and strikes a patient pose. Slight smirk on his face. What is a monk doing here? I ask myself. a good a place as any, I guess. A moment later he grabs his black, gives it a quick stir, sits back down. Yellow pencil with red eraser churning the air. He cranks out 2 more pages with a focused restraint I can’t help but admire. He appears steadfast in his scribbling, but he packs it in soon thereafter. Gathers his papers and his leather bag, heads out into the sub-zero E-Town crunch, long orange robes flowing behind him. Billy Joel still on the sound system. I also write with a pencil. This 2B lead is too soft. At the end of my cafe sit I am unimpressed with my half page of near-truths and ducked honesty.
Red and yellow blur image, taken January 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?