Justine and I are enjoying a brisk spring Saturday on Whyte Avenue. It’s cold, but not cold enough to stop us from indulging in one of Mother Nature’s finest works of culinary art: The Mighty Hot Dog. We stop at the hot dog shack and order up. Just ahead of us, a young jock buys an odd looking man a Jumbo Dog. The man is very grateful, says he’s been looking at these hot dogs for three days and now it’s like a victory to have one. Guy’s got a few months on his face; rusted jeans and dirty steel toes, probably needs a wash. He has no jacket, save a dirty patchwork quilt draped across his shoulders. He’s taking great care and time in loading up his dog with a medley of condiments. And when I say “loading up”, I mean REALLY “LOADING UP”. I can’t help but watch and chuckle. “Load that fucker up,” I say, “screw tomorrow!” He throws on heaps of sauerkraut, several spoonfuls of corn relish, a crazy amount of pickles, and to top it all off, a lethal amount of hot sauce. I know that I encouraged him, but wow, this guy’s asking for a serious bout of heartburn. When he finishes, his dog looks like a freakish salad with a bit of pink tubesteak poking out on the ends. “Uh sorry,” he chuckles, “I didn’t mean to be in the way.” As something of a hot dog connoisseur, I appreciate this man’s disregard for condiment conventions. Some may view such excess as a taint on the dog. Not I. When it comes to hot dog condiments, too much is just enough.
There is something more to this man. There is an air of bemused contentment about him, like he knew the score and knew that we didn’t. He takes great pleasure in making his dog a masterpiece. He looks very happy chowing down on his super-loaded dog. Justine and I sit in the alley and enjoy our modestly dressed dogs. From our concrete seats, we talk and watch the people walk by. Hot Dog man has gone now, off walking somewhere. We think of the Hot Dog man, with his blanket coat and grizzled, world weary grin. We smile. He made our day.
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?