The front of the bus is always a crapshoot. Might sit with someone halfways normal, might get stuck beside a crackpot who won’t stop spewing. This is especially true when you’re on the 8 northbound from Mill Woods. I like getting a good look at everyone, so the back seat (curbside) is my spot of choice. Today the rig is rammed and I’m forced to take a seat at the very front, just behind the driver. I almost never sit up here. I consider these seats reserved, and I’d rather stand than sit in one. Someone always needs them more than I do. A man sits across from me with his hat bowed down, like he’s trying to hide his face. Dark skin with some tats on his forearms; shot of a beard. By the body language, he appears to be traveling with someone but the two exchange no words. Near Lakewood transit center he lifts his head up and I finally get a good look at him. Cataracts. Glossy eyes that slide across his sockets. Creepy, but they look kind of cool. Can’t tell for sure, but I think he’s casting a few glances my way. His eyes slide from side to side with a strange hypnotic motion. Can he see? He carries no cane. Perhaps the other person is his navigator.
He stays on the bus at Millgate and continues the journey north. His attention seems to shift down the bus. The squawking girls near the back. Maybe the overly-loud, tough talking b-boy by the door. Then again, it could be the quiet middle-aged man with the simple hair and Tuesday razor burn. Someone yanks the cord. A short, older woman makes her way from the back seat to the door. The guy with the slippery eyes nudges his companion. Time to go he says. Bus grinds into 76th avenue and 83rd, curbs. Glassy eyes holds the arm of his friend and they all get off. I think I hear the guy call out to the older woman. Maybe his mother. Or sister. Warm out there today. Sludge in the gutter and faint ice on the sidewalks. I’m off a minute later. Don’t need the mitts, but the sun’s a killer. Good thing I brought the Wayfarers.
Bus and car on the High Level bridge, 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?