She’s wearing a white knee-length jacket that somehow looks out of place. On the corner with cracked white hands and a weathered face. She’s crossing the same street that I am. A touch below zero out here and she’s 50 maybe. The little white man appears and we cross the street, me trailing slightly behind. Down the street, while walking, she fishes a bottle of aspirin out of her pocket. Gracefully places one in her mouth and then throws the bottle back into her pocket. Reaches into the other pocket, pulls out a pack of smokes. Yanks a zippo, lights up, snaps the lighter back into her pocket. I get the impression that I am witnessing a set of refined and practiced movements, honed over years. She continues to walk gracefully down the block, white coat trailing and cigarette dangling casual-like from the left hand. Every 20 seconds or so, hand reaches for mouth and a drag is pulled in. Exhale up and to the left. She makes it look effortless, as if she was born with a DuMaurier in her hand.
We get to the end of the block and she’s crossing again. So am I. She gives a quick glance back to me, as if to say, I know you’re watching. Butts out the cigarette with her heel. We wait for a few seconds and the walk light turns white. She walks on unconcerned, another aspirin (or whatever) down the hatch. That white coat almost looks tragic in the whiskerbreeze. I contemplate a left turn. I go.
Image of mysterious people, July 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?