A guy with torn Carhartts and a yellow hard hat gets on at the same stop I do. He’s got five days on his face and he staggers a bit with the whiskey weight. Reeks of cutting oil and poor direction. Carries a big canvas bag with stenciled lettering on the side. Rough. Sits at the front of the bus and watches the strorefronts trail by. After a minute or two of relaxation, he pulls a Canadian Ice out of his bag. Cracks it. I didn’t notice this until I heard the sound. That unmistakable snap of a beer car opening. That first hit of the snare. That 50 proof allegro.
The guy proceeds to down the beer without coming up for air. There are few patrons riding right now, and he’s being brave. The driver is oblivious. One down and a few to go. He crushes the first and in short order taps his second of the trip. That distant, dank, barroom smell of hops-laden alcohol drifts throughout the bus. The guy just sits and drinks. I admire the hell out of this guy. I regularly see plenty of people who are well in the bag, but its not every day that I see someone unafraid to get half-cut on the bus.
Buddy cans his third before pulling the rope. Just before he gets off, he opens number four. Sips it on his way out the front door of the bus. The driver says nothing. As the bus speeds off, I see the guy outside. He raises his beercan to me. I raise my empty hand like I’m holding a can of the good stuff. I give him a silent “cheers”.
I hope he made it home OK.
StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook
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?