For the past two weeks I’ve watched this kid get on the bus that I take home. He gets on just after I do, about two stops later. He must be taking a tin bashing course at the college down the road because every day he’s got a different piece of work under his arm. Over the past few weeks I’ve watched his projects grow in complexity – from simple, square open-topped boxes to rounded containers with perfect spot welds and handled lids. The pieces are utilitarian – a roof exhaust flange perhaps, or one of those twirly things that you see on the roofs of houses. There is a certain beauty to these works; a certain galvanized charm, a dose of shining simplicity.
Yesterday he got on with a 36” by 3” tube that had a nice wooden handle. That surprised me because I hadn’t seen one of those tubes in years. It’s a vessel for carrying blueprint drawings; a device that has fallen out of use in recent years with the advent of electronic plan rooms. It was nice to see a young person give a nod to the past.
Today, the kid walked on with a star-shaped piece of work. Imperfect at the edges and sloppily spot welded, the star was something different for this kid. It wasn’t a practical piece of equipment. It could serve no purpose other than ornamental. It was a simple piece of art made of tin and put together with his hands. I admired his work all the way to the station, and I gave the kid credit for making something of such whimsical yet lasting value.
As I watched him collect his day’s work and exit the bus, I wondered who would receive his gift. His girlfriend? His mother? Perhaps he would keep it for himself. Perhaps it would serve as a reminder.
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?