The man with the rustpot mug and the yellowed denim stumbles outside and I can see him perfectly through the glass of this cafe. The place is smack in the middle of town, in the big cement square that is beautiful in its urbanity. There are other bums stationed at various benches and tables, but it’s the guy with the curdled grin that catches my attention. He walks like he’s a half-sack into his day and he’s got a grand walk, a proud drunk stagger, the kind of sashay that would make a Whyte Avenue Molson male look like a ponce.
The cafe must have these big windows for a reason. I’m just not sure what that reason is. They don’t have coverings, so the sun beats unrelentingly through them. The bums don’t drool on the door and the latte lovers don’t judge and barely stare. The whole glass barrier thing seems to work out well on some level.
I watch my staggered buddy do his thing with his guys. They slap backs, talk loud and slur some language around, toss a bit of vulgarity in with some mealy-mouthed whiskey jabber. They seem unconcerned about the hockey madness that has engulfed our little burg. The game starts in about five minutes and this crew of men is making no effort to watch it. They seem vaguely content outside in the evening’s bake. As the game starts, all attention in the cafe is shifted from tall lattes to the big screen. The patrons, me included, are serious. Serious about the game. Serious about coffee. Serious about winning.
Beyond the big glass windows of the cafe, the men sit and talk. Seemingly not serious. But they’re laughing. Big laughs. They’re conversing. Loudly. We in the cafe are straight-faced. Unamused. Serious in our glass house.
Mike, in a Grecian Cafe
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?