Wide streets hold small hints

Building hopping. Raymond’s favourite past time. To move from one very old building, to a slightly less old, but still old building – very old being measured in relative terms as Southern Alberta is hardly known for its historical architecture and preservation techniques.

“This building was the first bank, a Bank of Montreal, and was erected when Raymond boomed in population, down the street stood a roller rink.”

I’m not sure why the last part of that sentence is relevant to the casual observer but it is there, commemorating Raymond’s roller rink on the plaque affixed to what is now Raymond’s only apartment building.

The town is small, the streets are wide and the closest thing to vegetarian is the mushroom Egg Fu Yung at Diamond Luks. Still, I feel strangely comfortable. I am aesthetically out-of-place here yet it feels hardly notices, or novelly accepted. Maybe it is because no one walks the streets of Raymond.

They are always quiet, save a few cars and trucks spouting diesel fumes. Across the street from the apartment building is the town hall/library/theatre and the only time I see the people of Raymond is when they’re streaming in or pouring out.

I wonder who they are, what they do, and how they live? What are the people like who live in this quiet, almost picturesque town?

The closest I have been to the elusive Raymond-ite was in September. The Raymond Comets were playing the Lethbridge Rams at the new University of Lethbridge stadium. The season opener for the two school’s football teams, and I have never seen anything like it.

Two thousand people were there, screaming and cheering as teenagers ran around smashing each other to the ground. I’m simplifying the game I admit, but what stood out to me was the sheer volume of energy. The intensity of parents hopes and dreams riding on the shoulders of their son, of girls strutting past wearing the jackets of the player they are going with, and the enthusiasm exhibited by the mega fans, the football player wannabes.

It was too much for me to handle that night. The sheer out pouring of emotion brought on by catharsis on the football field.

Those teams played for a crowd of the like I had seen rarely.

So here I am, at a loss of what Raymond is. Hundreds of people drove to Lethbridge to see young people live out the roles chosen for them as a very early age. Fans wore body paint, and the symbology of culture was prominent through visual displays.

Yet, there is no reconciling the Raymond of that night with the Raymond I walk in now. The streets are quiet and the storefronts are unobtrusive. The sight of a car full of teen’s coming back from Rugby practice is rare, and understated.

The movie store is quiet, and closes at 9pm. This town is sleepy, slow-moving, exhibiting none of the energy I saw before. There are cars lining main street, but I see no one in or around them. A surveillance society, and I don’t know who is watching.

Many store fronts and front lawns carry both American and Canadian flags. A divided identity between two nations superficially similar.

I’ll take this as a clue.

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