Wednesday, March 21, 2007

03-11-2007 – East of High River

“Take it from a ryeman / head held high and / something something something / dah dah dah dah!”

Wow. Quick reminder, everybody: the Smalls were perfect. If there’s a better driving tape than Waste & Tragedy (other than Paul’s Boutique, duh) I’d rather not know about it; rocking the MOPAR deck too hard is a safety concern, basically driving under the influence. The burbling subterranean river of (Take it from a) Ryeman’s bassline alone has subliminally rock-massaged my foot down to 140.

Got to slow it down, take it easy; I’m driving like I’ve got a bus to catch, which literally makes no sense. Enjoy the freshly-thawed browns and tans of this south country, blue mountains deceptively distant through my windshield, zillions of miles of Canada in the rearview. Four hours of cruising Highway 2 lie in my future, and though that drive’s gone transcendentally tedious over the last few months – how many times can even the most die-hard Star Trek: Voyager fan find a chuckle in the sign that reads “Blackie Vulcan”? – this run is special; this time, I’m haulin’ dreams.

They’re all in the back, the boxes and bundles of a foothills girl making a never-in-wildest-dreams relocation to Edmonton to be with her man… me. It was enlightening, watching her pack that cargo once worrying gave way to determined doing; where my moving style has traditionally been a hasty shovel-and-dump “let God sort ‘em out” affair, all shoddily-taped liquor-store boxes with things like “Misc. useful objects” and “WIRES (?)” Sharpied on their flaps, my girl made each container a sacred capsule, clean, dry and sweet-smelling, topped with magical mementoes and neatly labeled with whimsical bits of collage. Her commitment to beauty unshakeable even in the midst of moving-day madness.

That worries me a little, given what Edmonton can be and often is – on the surface, March-melting Browntown has little to offer the eye of the aesthete. Sidewalk lakes requiring detours over the treacherous crags of dirty plowpiles, your shoes fucked either way. All outdoor surfaces, for four months untouched by clean water, layered in dingy grit. Shit… now I’m depressing myself

But the greening is around the corner! And with it some wonders, the magical vibrations of a winter city coming out from under. There’ll be plenty of time – plenty of Edmonton time -- for walks and laughs, casual creation and sunshiny grins once April hoses off the bus benches. I have a girl, a woman, a human, an artist in my hands… we’ll find the love in Edmonton’s nooks and crannies, crooks and grannies. Her new eyes will be mine; maybe we’ll spend long afternoons on private anti-tours, secret safaris:

"If you look to your left, you’ll see where some bored vandal bricklayer laid down his everlasting tag… over there’s a security-guard booth that looks like a robot buried up to its chin… fifteen feet above that parking lot is the exact spot where I first necked with a girl… next stop, the World’s Largest Donair!”

Red Deer, and even Pity the Man with the Fast Right Hand’s lost its drive the fourth time around. Pull into the A&W to stretch cramped legs and switch tapes; this one’s a fiancée favorite, all country and folk, Gram Parsons and Dylan and clips of Kris Kistofferson doing Billy the Kid for Sam Peckinpah. Road music for the home stretch.

“Mama, take this badge offa me…”

The sun on my left’s shining saved daylight as I get back on the blacktop, and my van’s got that Highway 2 smell: Husky coffee, regular unleaded, pepper jerky and Colts mild. Somewhere under all that, there’s a hint of homemade herbal room spray… a smiling scent of love as I get behind a hurrying oilman and let his company truck jackrabbit me back to my new/old home.

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