I’m only giving a brief nod to Valentine’s Day because I think it’s a guilt-driven sham perpetrated by the greeting card / lingerie / chocolate industries. Of course, I buy into it because some fights are easier than others (i.e. go against Valentine’s Day, or go against Justine…not much of a choice, really). Doesn’t mean I agree with any of it. So there.
Now, on to what I really want to say today (slightly “off topic” from my usual city writings).
This weekend will be a celebratory one. My darling Justine turns another year older, and so do I. Our birthdays are a scant three days apart (plus a few intervening years). As we grow older, the two of us have become impartial to big parties and having big fusses made over us. So this year we will be celebrating by ourselves, in private.
For me, there is a deeper reason for my need to celebrate in obscurity. Since giving up the sauce almost two years ago, I have found it increasingly difficult to be around alcohol and people consuming large amounts of it. Those situations really bother me. Because of that, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to celebrate special occasions. I like celebrations and fellowshipping, but I’m still figuring out how to be in that no-fly zone. 2005 was my first sober birthday since my 16th. I stayed at home, listening to Dylan.
This may sound strange coming from a man who authors a weblog with the unambiguous title StreetRag, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do for my birthday than get the hell out of this town. As much as I love the city in its gorgeous bleak, a guy needs a break from the choke of traffic and people. The stark beauty of rural Alberta exerts a powerful tug at my temperament. The underrated and underappreciated getaway just east of the city, Elk Island National Park, has become my official retreat from the asscrush of Edmonton.
Elk Island N.P. is not blessed with majestic mountains or evocative coastline. It is, by some accounts, a ‘boring’ park. Lots of rolling, meandering meadows, lots of familiar trees, about a dozen lakes, and a few hundred kilometers of flat, grassy trail. That might not sound all that exciting, but there is a weight to the place, due in no small measure to the presence of the mightiest of North American land mammals, The Bison. If you’ve never witnessed these creatures up close, your life is incomplete. They are roughly the size of a Jeep Cherokee, and about as expressive. I’ve grown quite fond of the gentle and stoic Bison that inhabit Elk Island Park. In fact, I have gone so far as to buy a coffee mug with an expressionist bison painted on it. Next, I plan to buy one of those cheesy airbrushed Bison t-shirts that tourists go nuts over.
This weekend Justine and I will be kicking back in front of a rolling campfire on the shores of Astotin Lake, golden jet of a dog at our side, sharing mugs of sharp tea with those brown-humped giants – vigilant keepers of the park, and much else. I’m looking forward to it.
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?