7:30am, Tuesday. Westmount Transit Center. The second I step off the 128 I pick up the unmistakable smell of pot. That thick, pungent aroma works itself around the bus station; makes sure that all the teenaged bashers get a whiff as they wait for their school-bound busses. I look around for the culprit. I don’t spot him immediately. After a few minutes I spot an orange tab Levi dude sitting on the edge of a trash bin. Mesh ball hat and a ripped sweatshirt. Plastic thermos and lunch pail at his feet. Duct tape on the steel toes. Taking a nice long pull from a serious choker, likely hand-rolled only moments before. As if blowing a spliff at 7:30am isn’t enough, the guy is also drinking a can of Labatt Ice.
All of this is not unusual at Westmount Transit Center. Open and obvious pot smoking is all but sanctioned there, and public drinking has long been a given. Even so, it is a little unnerving to watch someone get demolished while pre-teen school kids watch from their bus windows.
Although I don’t care for the stuff, I advocate the use of marijuana. It helps many people start and get through their day. In my day I’ve known a few people who couldn’t function without a morning puff. To them, a morning toke was like having a coffee. Personally, I couldn’t imagine starting my day with a rollie. I’d be on my ass in five minutes. But hey, everyone’s got their own level of tolerance for the stuff. In the past I’ve been known to spout off about illicit drugs being nothing more than a crutch. I don’t think that way any more. They’re certainly harmful in the long run, and they do take a weight off in the short haul.
As buddy enjoys his championship breakfast, the kids on the bus take special note. They know what the stuff smells like and they know a beer when they see one. They are definitely pointing and talking about him. He finishes his joint and tips back the rest of his brew, slams the empty into the trash bin. I lose sight of him through the crowd, but the thick aroma of smoldering pot lingers for awhile longer. I hope the guy wasn’t scheduled to operate a forklift or a bandsaw or a metal press. And the kids? Well, I’d say school started a bit early.
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?