winter and construction

Winter and summer, people here live totally irreconcilable lives. Edmonton may as well be two cities with unique populations. We have no consistency--except to the extent that the new hockey arena continued to rise above the casino all winter. From October to May, we go to work or school and come home, perpetually bundling ourselves away. The people who grew up here wear parkas from Mountain Equipment Co-Op. Elderly Korean ladies wear crampons on their lace-up shoes to walk to the bus stop. Immigrants from Somalia wear hoodies and track jackets and scarves wrapped around their heads if it's their first winter here. There's always some girl in ballet flats when it's -30 and she should be wearing Sorrels. Everyone still has red mittens with fold-back flaps from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. People are only distinguishable by their chosen defenses against the cold. No one can bring themselves to go anywhere but the grocery store because it is bitter and dark all the time. People are vigilant about their vitamin D and seasonal affective disorder lamps, but do not have time for strangers, art, breakfast, projects. 

Then suddenly the light begins to last and last, and people who, during the winter, only had energy to get through their 50-hour work weeks are able to drive out to the dog park in the evening or go to sit on a patio in the middle of a Friday afternoon. Patios are set up everywhere; on Whyte Ave, the bars on the top floors of building which also have bars on the ground floor build rooftop platforms with railings. As the solstice approaches, a sense of abandon takes over the city. By the end of May, the light lasts until 10:30; by the middle of June it won't be dark until almost midnight. There is time for everything, but all anyone wants to do is ride bikes in the river valley or camp out beside the fountains at the legislature grounds or have bonfire parties that start at noon and end early in the morning.  Freed university students spend whole days reading Vonnegut in cafes. It seems everyone develops an interest in cooking and photography. The symphony continues to put on concerts  in the park, even though two years ago an August downpour destroyed two cellos. Getting tickets to the Folk Music Festival is a matter of concern so universal as to be discussed with strangers. There's breakdancing, dominated by Asian exchange students, and street performances, dominated by middle-aged white guys, in Churchill Square. There's a Heritage Festival, where most cultures are distinguishable only by a representative fried food, but also costumes, dancing.