Smoog, garbage guru
Edmonton is not a pretty city in the winter. Prettiness is not something Edmonton has thrust upon it. Edmonton is nothing like, for instance, Monterey, California, which couldn't not be pretty even if it doused itself in kerosene and lit itself on fire. OK, sure, maybe if Monterey draped itself entirely in rotting fish carcasses it wouldn't be pretty, but Monterey would have to put some serious effort into uglifying itself. Edmonton, on the other hand, has to work like a dog just to make it to "rather handsome, as long as you stand back a few feet and catch it in the right light". That's on a good day. In winter, however, there is only one word that can adequately describe Edmonton: "dead". There are no pretty walks in Edmonton in the winter, not unless your idea of pretty are endless rows of spindly naked trees, mutant-sized cinder blocks passing themselves off as "buildings", miles of concrete, and dirt. Edmonton in winter looks like a homeless wino who's been stripped naked just before being deloused and sprayed down with a firehose.
come hither - back off
This state of dead nakedness means that nothing, nothing at all, is hidden from view. Every piece of junk or scrap of paper that falls out of someone's hands lies on Edmonton's streets announcing its presence like a self-motivated bullhorn. "And now, right before your very eyes, garbage will appear! Look at its garbaginess! Is it not spectacularly junky?" It's hypnotic. You can't not notice the vilest of the vile no matter how hard you try not to. Yes, that's right - there is a used condom stuck to your car tire. No, you're not mistaken - someone really has murdered a naked monkey at the entry to Wal-Mart. There's no turning your head away in blissful ignorance. Edmonton in winter screams what it truly means to live in a city. It might as well employ strobe lights, fireworks, stacks of amplifiers, and gothic skywriting for all you can ignore it. You are surrounded by filth. Get used to it.
I am fascinated by Edmonton's garbage. Oh sure, if it was just garbage garbage, I'd simply be bored stiff as well as revolted, but this is spectacular garbage. This is the kind of garbage that tells an exciting, plot-driven made-for-tv story about its true garbagy nature.
For instance, smoonched around the leg of a bench along the sidewalk downtown, I saw a coat. A winter coat. This was one of those hip-length down-filled winter coats, the poofy "I have dreams of looking like a giant marshmallow" coat. It had obviously been trod upon, driven over, and possibly even shat on by the time I caught sight of it, but still, there was no denying it: it was a coat. In winter. Somehow, someone misplaced their winter coat, in winter, outside. In winter, people. In the cold, cold winter. How the hell do you lose your coat in winter?
"Hi, honey, I'm home!"
"Great timing, Henry. I'm just putting dinner on the- OH MY CHRIST! What the hell happened to you?"
"Jesus, Henry, you're blue!"
"You know, I am feeling a little chilled."
"Of course you are - you're not wearing your coat! What possessed you?"
"I could have sworn I was wearing it when I left work. It must have somehow fallen from my body on my way home. You know how it is - they just slide right off, and it's not until you're an hour away you realize they're gone. Dammit anyway. Guess I'll just have to buy a new one."
Your purse, OK. Glasses? Absolutely. Umbrellas? Hell, they have a built-in magnetic repulsion to human flesh and are designed to be misplaced. But a coat?
Then, of course, there are those pieces of car you find in the gutter. You know they're pieces of car - they just have that car-piece je ne sais quoi about them. What's more, they're complicated googly car pieces with various bits of electronic or wire shit sticking out from them in various sundry places. And yes, "googly car piece" is the technical name for it. This isn't just a piece of car bumper or windshield - this is obviously a vital car piece. And people wonder why I'm afraid to leave my home. Somewhere out there, a car is going to zip down a hill and, just as the driver applies the brakes to yield to a crosswalk, the engine will fall out. Fatal multi-car pile-up kills entire kindergarten class due to misplaced googly car-piece. Details at 11.
I am also simultaneously intrigued and disturbed by the bags in trees. Are they ever paper bags? Never. The only bag a spindly naked winter tree is willing to adorn itself with is the noisiest, dirtiest plastic bag it can get its eager little branches on. There are far, far too many bags in trees for it to be an accident. Oh no. This isn't the result of an overeager shopper pulling out wares just as an errant breeze blows. Those bags were put there. I have no doubt in my mind that there is a secret group of criminal hooligans with endless boxes of 7-11 bags and an arsenal of litter picks, sneaking out in the dead of night and shamelessly encasing our poor, dead, ugly trees in plastic. The alternative is almost too terrifying to consider: the trees are alive. And shopping. They are uprooting themselves, holding up 24-hour convenience stores at gunpoint, and escaping with bagfuls of pine air fresheners and Perrier. They flaunt their theft by flagrantly displaying the evidence of their crime upon their sneaky twiggy fingers. Oh the horror!
I simply cannot neglect mention of the piles of once-alive garbage. These are the piles of clearly organic material that resemble either a poodle dipped in sulphuric acid, some obviously now-dead person's entire digestive tract that was apparently vomited up onto the street, or an embryonic extraterrestrial. These piles often gleefully employ camouflaging techniques to trick you into approaching nearer, in order that you may gag on whatever gruesome odour is eminating upwards from the once-alive pile. Victory! These piles will retain just enough of their once-aliveness to tweak your curiosity while carefully appearing most like an innocuous clump of rotting leaves or an abandoned tuque. This triggers the "oh goodie, a bloody catastrophe - let's stare at the dead bodies" part of the brain while suppressing the protective "oh my fucking Christ that's the most revolting pile of crap I've ever seen - runrunrun!" response. The most evil of the piles can actually get you to touch them before true awareness of their once-aliveness is reached, at which point you are likely to add to the once-alive piles by vomiting atop them.
Pay attention to your garbage. It is ever eager and willing to tell you the true story of your home, shopoholic trees and all.
What? It could happen.
The Eye of Smoog has been reviewed! TheWeblogReview.com has given Smoog two thumbs up. Hey, I'm all for gratuitous publicity. Of course, I would have preferred an extra 0.5 or so on my grade, especially considering the first reviewer thought I was so spiffy and all, but that's because I'm a greedy attention whore by nature. And who's odd? I'm perfectly normal. The trees really are holding up convenience stores.
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