Day 259: A Drive Down 50th Street

originally published September 15, 2012

Today I feel like Sam Beckett from TV’s Quantum Leap might have felt had he finally made the leap home. Wikipedia splashed a familiar landmark on my screen: 50th Street in my hometown of Edmonton. I’ve got some great stories from this street. Sure, it cuts its seam through the east side of this city, and I have never lived anywhere but central or out west, but I know the street well. I have bled on that street. I have cheated death on that street. I may never have lived on that street, but I have lived on that street.

Let’s start up north.

Alright, 50th Street begins at 259th Avenue. This surprises me, as I tend to ignore the world above 137th Avenue, and in fact had no idea that Edmonton bothers to exist for another 82 blocks north. Screw it. It’s all farmland up here until you get to about 167 Avenue, at which point the view becomes sublimely picturesque.

Here you have three banks speckled across the parking lot of one of Edmonton’s nearly 60,000 almost identical shopping centers. Back in 1991, when this was all farmland, my friends Skeet and Big Ed and I buried a cow right around where that Royal Bank sits on the left. No reason, we just had nothing better to do that night.

Here you can see what most of Edmonton’s super-north end looks like: scrums of generic houses, clumped together and garnished with tiny trees that stick out like enthusiastic celery stalks from otherwise drab roads. Also, a lot of the street lamps are oddly severed, their lamp ends hovering in defiance of all laws of physics. I don’t head up there much; this is why.

Clearly this picture of 50th Street and 146th Avenue was taken a long time ago, back when gas was under a dollar a liter. Also, this appears to have been taken prior to that night when we burned down Crown Liquor using Molotov cocktails we built from alcohol we had purchased earlier at Crown Liquor, in a failed attempt to teach Big Ed the concept of irony. We made some questionable choices back then.

Down on 137th Avenue is the Earls restaurant where Skeet met that waitress who wound up lighting his hair on fire when he disagreed with her about who was the better-looking Jackson brother, Jermaine or Marlon. Thank God they both agreed on Zac Hanson over Isaac or Taylor, or she’d have cut his nuts off.

This is actually the underside of 50th street, which cruises over Yellowhead Trail. Yellowhead is considered a ‘freeway’ of Edmonton, despite numerous stop lights and traffic that has the ability to move slower than the process of evolution. It was under this bridge where I began the first car chase of my young life. It was brief; turns out I can’t run nearly as fast as a car.

50th Street reaches its terminus at Ada Blvd, just south of 112th Avenue. Below this, the river snarls through the city, slicing its addresses in half and often leaving newcomers incensed, searching for the nearest bridge because they are on the wrong side of the damn river. I remember this house well. The lady on the right, she can score you any exotic drug of your choosing. Once she offered me some genuine Cameroonian ibis-bladder (well, she claimed it was genuine), which is allegedly six times as potent as peyote for only eleven times the price. The guy on her left, I’m not sure if he’s a mannequin, a crash test dummy, or some horrific experiment in taxidermy, but he is always there. It’s a little creepy. Sometimes she stuffs biscuits in his mouth.

50th Street picks up again on the south side of the river at Capilano Park Road. I’m not saying that I know from experience that this is a great place to hide a severed body part, but I will tell you that… you know what? I’m just going to keep moving south.

This is Capilano Mall. Edmonton features more indoor malls per capita than any other city, I’ve been told. Probably because our winters necessitate a lot of indoor space for recreation – sometimes I wonder why we don’t just build underground, like they did on Hoth. Anyway, I worked as an assistant manager at Radio Shack in this mall for nine days. I was asked never to return after that “flaming sacks of creamed corn” incident. I don’t care, that guy who worked at the Big & Tall Fashions store across the mall had it coming. And it’s not like any bystanders suffered any burns or anything. Just some corn spatter.

Ah, down below 92nd Avenue we find the King’s University College, which is either a University or a College or maybe both. Definitely a strong Christian school though, so they’d never let my Jedi ass in a classroom. That said, I did attend a cat show here once. Why did I do that? Who goes to a cat show? I think I’ve lived in this town too long.

Heh, check out this bald guy down around 70th Avenue. I bet he’s eating a big block of mozzarella cheese.

Here’s the intersection of 50th Street and Roper Road, which runs parallel to Ferley Blvd, just south of Larry Dallas Way. All these road meet up at the Regal Beagle.

Wow – looking at all these photos, it’s a wonder more people don’t move to Edmonton. It’s even prettier than Venice! (I tell myself this often, curled up in the fetal position in the corner of my room. I think it helps.)

Once you see the sign for Mary Brown chicken, you’ll know you’re down in Millwoods, Edmonton’s premiere neighborhood for gangland activity and drive-by shootings. Incidentally, that medical clinic back in the corner of the strip mall is where Skeet was diagnosed with swollen polar monkey-herpes. Just another fond Edmonton memory.

This is Graunke Park, named in a city-wide contest for the worst possible name for a park. It beat out Bloojj Park, Rapey-Maniac Park and my favorite, Parallel Park. We’re down past 32nd Avenue now. I hardly ever visit this part of the city, especially since that time Crazy Herman liberated a truck-full of live chickens down near Millwoods Town Center. I’m not sure exactly how those chickens were capable of causing more than $400,000 in damages. They must have gotten organized or something.

We’re just about at 13th Avenue now. See that house on the right, with the brown roof? Yeah, I’ve never been inside that house. Not sure why I pointed it out just now.

Down past Anthony Henday Drive, we enter the part of the city that should not rightfully exist. Those houses over there? They’re on 1st Avenue SW, so at the point where the numbers start climbing the other way. I lived for decades in this city without any directional designation in my address because 1st Street and 1st Avenue were placed where they belonged – at the southeastern corner of the city where no one would see them. Now we’re building beyond, into a realm we should never have entered.

That’s it. 50th Street continues a few miles south through farmland until 41st Avenue SW, and after that the road is no longer Edmonton’s responsibility.

Thank you, Wikipedia, for this trip through my past. May I never have to revisit it again.

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