Thursday, July 13, 2006

07-11-2006 – Latenight on another Ave

A warmish night… a little light rain here and there, so gentle even a scraggly exhaust-fed roadside aspen provides a circle of dryness in which to perch on a parking block and wait for a bus. A pleasant enough post-midnight for me, passing time re-re-re-rereading Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness in the orange sodium glow… but not everybody seems to be enjoying the evening so well.

Shiverers and arm-scratchers, glowerers and mutterers… swaggering dudes and pre-exhausted hookers, antsy tracksuiters, little old Chinese ladies (what errands are they on, so late?) and worried student types hustling home with sensible ponytails and their housekeys between their knuckles – 107th Avenue by streetlight. My new neighbourhood.

For the first time since I first hauled my crappy Ikea desk and my Dungeons & Dragons manuals out of my parents’ house – not counting the time I hauled all that shit back in shameful unemployment – I’m living outside of the Whyte/campus patch. It’s great; not only is it much more peaceful – I’ll take the enthusiastic fellow who makes goat noises at the nearby group home over the Whyte Ave WhoooBots any night – but it’s… homier. You know? More honest. Around here, we keep our mall shit safely locked away inside the stout brick walls of Kingsway; the streets belong to independent proprietors, the Moms n’ Pops of two dozen nations.

It’s a bit lonely relative to life off Whyte – the few extra blocks of northerly commute plus the psychological witch-barrier of the river discourage casual visits – but I seem to be getting more done. As fun as it was, the time I spent basically running a hoser drop-in centre really made the whole work-from-home-be-your-own-boss lifestyle hard to swing; deadlines or no deadlines, how can you say “No” to a buddy smiling on your doorstep with a six-pack and a pinner?

Now, though, the party means something; it’s something I have to make happen, rather than something that just happens as a matter of course like seasons or utility disconnection notices. A place like the Black Dog becomes a destination rather than an extension of my living room (or bedroom), and drinking there is an outing I can feel fresh and happy about, rather than the rote wrist-raising it had become.

Jezz… listen to this shit -- a move to the fuckin’ north side constitutes for me a system-clearing break from liquor and dope. Weird? Nah… Whyte’s just a different kind of ghetto, and a couple of decades ago it was a so-called “bad neighbourhood” as well. I wonder if the same forms will flow around here. Will I look back to see myself as part of a gentrification wave, the downmarket edge, arts/hipster/consumerist culture chasing cheap rents…? Or – and, come on, why put a fine point on this – is this district simply too non-white for the twiddly knicknackery and soulless “funkiness” of modern Whyte to take hold?

Man, let’s hope so; like I said, there’s a perfectly good mall right over there that’s full to fire capacity with all that shit. Right now, I just want to enjoy summertime in a new neighbourhood. My schedule of exploration has been dragged back a little by workload and budget; what I need to do is make a weekend of it, three days and nights of mental mapmaking. The food scene alone around here is the work of weeks of dining, every block of the a mystery box of secrets awaiting discovery…

But that’s another day… another day. It’s night now, and 107th is showing its other face, a face of desperation, fatigue, thread-hanging humanity – I’m waiting here because my friend would rather not walk the two blocks to my place alone, and that’s understandable. The rain’s falling harder; the drug dealers have to mutter a bit louder to make their pitches heard. The shirtless guy in flip-flops paces and frets, a steady fount of under-breath curses. The girl on the corner hugs her underdressed self and wonders if I have a cigarette. The light is orange and ugly over sidewalk cracks and trashdrifts.
Where’s that goddamned bus?

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