Friday, December 5, 2014

They Live Up Here, but not by Choice

I met a guy last year who told me he hailed from Toronto
"I'm not from here," he said. "I'm from Scarborough."
"alright," I said, introducing myself in turn.
He was a nice guy. Really funny.
He wore what I considered to be strange attire, things like a baby blue cardigan and what I can only describe as a brown over-sized canvas hat  made of some type of suede.
We were in a car and i assumed he was wearing the hat as some type of gag.
 When we got to the store he got out of the vehicle and I notice he still had the hat on.
"Oh, you're coming in the store?" I asked him.
He nodded.
"Oh," I said. I got back in the car.
He looked at me, puzzled.
"What's up?" He asked.
Dude I'm not walking in that store with you if you're gonna wear that hat."
"For real?" he asks.
Yeah, For real," I said.
He still looked perplexed, like where he comes from it's perfectly normal for two guys to walk around looking like The Gay Indiana Jones and his trusty sidekick just back from a rollicking adventure exploring The Temple Of Temptation.
He had dyed black hair styled in kinda like a "hitler-doo" but shaved in the back. For the next hour he proceeds to tell me I'm hopelessly out of style, He talks about scarves and satchels and plays me a song by a band called First will be Last or something like that.
It was a guy crying set to music. I'm not talking about singing in a whiny voice, I'm talking full-tilt tears.
It was fucking horrible. Not Springsteen horrible, but it was up there.
At the end of the song the singer is so upset you can hear him stomping away from the mic and slamming the door to the sound booth in a fit of emo-rage before presumably collapsing to the floor and bawling like a pre-pubescent little girl.
Anyways he's telling me that Sudbury (he says Sudbury like the word tastes like bile in his mouth) is so behind and that where he's from everyone dresses like him and the streets are paved with gold and nobody has any problems and unicorns dance on the arcs of rainbows in perpetually clear blue skies.
Then we walk into a shop and he picks up a copy of a picture book entitled We Live Up Here with some photographs of local people and places.
He's like "Oh this book is so cool! Saving the world from Sudbury with Sudbury ha ha ha!"
I pick up a copy and read the introduction while my new friend who's definitely Not From Sudbury wonders out loud if there's any of those funny little pins.
I don't remember the introduction word-for word, but it opened with the sentence "We live in a wasteland."
Then the author goes on to describe my hometown as "the city with cigarette butts on the sidewalks instead of people" and claims that "even the trains passing on the tracks sound like they're moaning in pain."
By this time I'm looking at this guy from Scarborough who's Definitely NOT from Sudbury and then looking at the pictures and he comes back with this stupid little pin that says I got my phone '"fixed" at Butlers! He clips it to his jacket with a grin and as he does so, I get dizzy.
Maybe it's something in the coffee I think to myself .The letters on the pin begin to blur and change shape until it reads "I'm a hipster douche-nozzle, do society a favor and kick my ass."
The pictures are quite good, but I begin to wonder about the ideology behind this coffee-table book. What is the author trying to say? There's a paragraph about how many of the people who leave Sudbury end up coming back. At some point  during the tedious depiction of a barren and bleak landscape pulverized by a hundred years of industrial pollution, a poignant question is raised:
So why do we stay?
 Why indeed? The author made his feelings clear about this city. It's a festering hole in the cambrian shield, an ugly scar from when God smited this cursed land by hurling an asteroid at it from the heavens thousands of years ago.
That's not what the book says though. The book says we find comfort here in our embarrassingly dirty little city.... like a ratty old pair of slippers we can slip on when we're alone in the house and nobody's watching.
The pompous and arrogant little forward to the picture book gave me douche-chills.
It is true that many people leave Sudbury to chase their fortunes in bigger cities only to return months sometimes even years later.
I suspect some people's perception of  Sudbury is a reflection of their own failures and limitations.  Perhaps they find solace or a sense of comfort by rolling their eyes and being ashamed of their own hometown. I can only speculate.
See I don't have that problem. I know I suck. I write because I'll go nuts if I don't.
I think the idea behind the little We Live Up Here picture book is arrogant. It's not a celebration of the people who live in Sudbury. It's like a smug and pretentious admission: Yes, we come from Sudbury, yes we know how embarrassing that is.... but here is a picture book to prove that there's more to our town than smokestacks and ugly.
But I mean, I am woefully behind the times. Obviously at some point it became fashionable to roll your eyes in trendy shops while sipping lattes and dreaming about living somewhere else. Maybe some folks believe being ashamed of where they come from will make them look smarter than the average bear.
 Man, I wish I was that cool.
Maybe someday.
 Why do we stay?
Indeed. Why do they?
Suck it up, buttercups.
Bedrock Forever,
Bobby Dee.

1 comment:

  1. first, a couple of admissions ... a photo of mine is published in "We live up here", and I raised a daughter who is a proud, franco-Sudburian, but who is raising her family in Gatineau ... that being said, the critique by Bobby is intelligent and heart-felt ... what is missing from both the book and Bobby's critique is the raison d'etre of the mining town, which goes to the soul of its community - its working-class nature