Waiting for the 6 on 100th just south of Jasper. The stone heart of the city prays over the bus stoppers. A 33 storey column to the east, the redemption of the river valley just out of sight to the south, and the turn-of-the-century marble and spire decadence of the Hotel Mac to the east. “The Mac” is E-town’s swankiest hotel – replete with limousines, long coats, and fifty dollar brunch specials. It stands in stark contrast to the cigarette stained bus shack across the street. 100th street. Right through the heart of town.
There is a femme brawler at the stop. She’s barking to everyone and no one. Pink girl paint all over her face with gaudy streaks down the cheeks. Ceiling to shoulder mop of dirty brun that shines unwashed in the evening sun and hangs into her eyes. I’d say she’s about eight beers in and she’s got the hate vein open and gushing. She’s yelling to the harmless black-uniformed valets across the road. Something about women and bullets. She accuses them of vague atrocities, “killing our daughters with bullets and war” she yells. Then something about a ‘surge’ against women and how those men in their immaculate black car-parking uniforms “are next”, as in next to die. She makes her hand into a gun and shoots at them while yelling some more.
She turns to the crowd of bussers who have been trying very hard to mind their own business. She’s crazed, wired, drunk, and whatever else. She starts yelling about bullets and how us fuckers better keep in check — any one of you turds have anything to say about it? The impish health care worker continues to nibble from her noodle box. The guy with the Slipknot hoodie and the pierced eyebrow maintains an even strain. The hipster with the checkered Vans shifts nervously behind his iPod. The valets throw a cautious glance across the street as they continue to park the Jags.
Finally she boils and yells, all fists and spit: “Well??!! Any of you shitcocks gonna try anything??!!”
She doesn’t wait for an answer. Still erupting, she knocks over a paper box with one cupped hand – the black and white guts fly out into the street. Everyone stops for a beat. Watches. Everyone’s thinking the same thing. Nobody wants to be on the same bus as her.
Her partner, easily 30 years her senior, has been sitting there on the step the whole time silently watching this drama unfold. He reaches up and pulls his shattered revolutionary to his side on the concrete. He’s got half a fifteen pack of Molson under his arm. He hands her a beer and gives her a nudge, says here hon, take the edge off. Brunette yeller pops it and takes a long swing, easily downing half the can. She’s finally silent for more than eight seconds. The two sit for a short time, seemingly catching their breath. Everyone stands cool, but there is still an uneasy air here – like the battle isn’t quite done.
Before long, the pink-faced wailer decides it’s time to leave the bus shack and head somewhere else. She walks with a stoned confidence that takes years to hone. As they walk down the road she starts yelling at the valets again, more about women and bullets and war, more hands into guns and ersatz bullets shot from dirty fingernails. She stops a ways down the block and looks around. Yells her final statement of the evening before disappearing behind the bank building.
“Remember, you fucking soldiers! We’re dying all the time!”
We’re dying all the time. Damned if we don’t die a little every day, no matter which side of 100th street we happen to call home. Its war all the time down here in the city, and the fucking 6 runs past midnight.
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?