Head down and walking east along Jasper Avenue, the unforgiving E-Town wind cuts through my watchcap and hits my forehead like a pillowcase full of ball peens. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt wind like this and it feels good. It’s only -5° but it feels like minus fifty with that airflow. Everyone likes to call out Portage & Main in the ‘Peg as the windiest spot in Canada, and I don’t doubt it, but I’d lay bets on Jasper & 101 coming in a close second. Today, it may be first. That wind seems to stretch out into the ave’s tributaries as I walk along in my too thin, non-windproof jacket.
This shot of arctic air reminds me of being a young man in this city; braving any weather to see a flick at the Rialto or walking the cave-like halls of Edmonton Center on my way to Sound Connection – the now faded Holy Grail of Edmonton independent music stores – on 101 and 107. As much as my memory may tell me otherwise, I don’t think winters were any colder back then. When I tell the stories ten years hence, they will be. There seemed to be more snow back then, but then again, there seemed to be more of everything – more time, more money, and more freedom. I don’t think there really was more of anything, but I like the comfort of that illusion.
The hoary wind plays itself out along the clean stone lines of the long abandoned bank building. Fast air rips around my ears with that muffled, inconsistent grind that sounds like Mother Nature is shoving her elbows into a blender. With my woolen mitts I cover my already covered ears and dig into this pulsing East wind. My eyelashes are arcing together from the passive tears that I have started to shed. My jacket is insufficient and will not be worn tomorrow. My scarf trails behind me, flapping into the sun’s bed.
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?