Anything is possible when writing, but, as we know, reality is another story. Not everything can be written right.
By Kevin Somers
Published February 27, 2012
Hamilton is a great city and writing is a great hobby. If you like to write, Hamilton is a perfect page.
There is a lot to write about in Hamilton and plenty of places to send your work: The Spectator, View, RTH, The Hamiltonian, Hamilton Magazine, Mayday, Urbanicity, The Bay Observer...
There is sufficient poverty, crime, corruption, and cronyism in Hamilton to wax cynical all night, all life long, yet enough goodness, potential, and hope to float Sheila's battleship, in Hamilton.
I like writing, in part, because it's free, fun, and can be done all the time; in my head or with hands and instruments, as well. And, I can write whatever I want. I can write life right.
There's no need to be fearful of writing in Hamilton; Hamiltonians are predominantly decent - kind or silent. If you speak out against a Hamilton regime, you won't be killed, arrested, or disappear, which is also nice.
Hamilton, of course, is a port city of 600 000 happy, hearty, helpful, hopeful, humble Hamiltonians in southern Ontario. It is about an hour's drive westward from its best-known suburb, Toronto.
On the banks of magnificent Lake Ontario, Hamilton is geographically blessed with beautiful bays, shapely shores, handsome hills, and vivid, vibrant valleys. The majestic Niagara Escarpment (known locally as "the mountain") cuts through the city, creating dozens of picturesque walkways, waterways, and waterfalls.
The thriving, thumping downtown features well-maintained, groovy old buildings mixed with sleek, sexy new ones. The quiet, stylish LRT whisks hip Hamiltonians in and out of downtown with the rhythmic, civilised serenity that only a train can provide.
Hamiltonians are remarkably trim and happy. Well used bike paths slice through the city like snowmobile trails in rural Quebec. An extensive pedestrian promenade downtown hosts a diverse shopping / café / bar district that attracts people from all over the world, who inevitably ask, "What took you so long?"
In Hamilton, the beaches are clean and the water's pristine, in Hamilton.
There is a beautiful, new urban-stadium near the west harbour, which hosts Hamilton's professional soccer team, The Double Doubles. Hamilton's cultural diversity is on full display at a Double Doubles' match. Every game is sold out and the atmosphere is electric.
The NHL team, The Hamilton Steelers, has won three consecutive Stanley Cups under the expert eye of Co-owners, General Managers, drinking buddies, and bffs, Wayne Gretzky and Kevin Somers.
(The Stealers left town in the middle of the night and fled to Milton, Halifax, Oshawa, Carolina, Aldershot, Bobtown, Scottsdale, and Millhaven.)
One encounters schools, hospitals, parks, and recreation facilities more often than donut franchises in Hamilton, which boasts zero unemployment and the highest standard of living in the world. The streets are paved with gold and no one ever grows old in Hamilton.
See? You can write whatever you want. Anything is possible when writing, but, as we know, reality is another story. Not everything can be written right. Writing is usually fun, but, sometimes, you have to write the saddest story ever written.
I have one sister, who has one daughter. Julia is only 10, but she has been battling for her life her entire life. Julia has histiocytosis, a rare, virulent, cancer-like disease that attacks children. At one point, the baby had five tumours in her little brain. Now, she's fortunate there are only three.
Julia's disease can't be wished, prayed, cried, or written away. Lord knows we've tried. Julia has endured endless injections, medications, chemotherapy, and radiation with more courage, grace, and dignity than imaginable.
My daughters are 14 and 12, so Julia worships them like older sisters and the love is mutual. She comes to sleepovers with a typical little-girl-bag of pajamas, teddy bear, toothbrush, hairbrush etc. and a tragic bag that bulges with oral and inhalant medicines that do God-knows-what to a fragile system.
Every second, we are reminded that every second is precious.
I recently asked my oldest if she'd ever heard Julia complain. "No, never," she said with obvious admiration. Julia is a Hamilton girl and, for that, we are grateful. The doctors, nurses, researchers, and staff at McMaster Children's Hospital are heroes, too.
I recently did my first (last?) poetry reading, after a few years of working up the courage. The tipping point was meeting Hamilton's Dr Marilyn Korzekwa, who swam 35 km across the English Channel last August.
A Channel swim is full-on scary. Over 500 ships per day use the waterway, so swimmers are required to register and hire a certified pilot to escort them across. The water is very cold and polluted, so hypothermia and nausea are constant threats. The swims must be timed to avoid currents and the weather, of course, is unpredictable. There are man-of-war jellyfish in the Channel, which one might encounter while swimming in the dark.
If Marilyn, in her fifties, can do that, I thought, I can read a few poems to sympathetic family and friend(s), so I made a promise to myself and told a few people. When one suggested the event be a fundraiser, I originally invited people to give directly to the homeless or a busker.
Then, during Christmas dinner at my sister's, I realized the greatest cause ever was sitting next to me, entertaining the room with her amazing talent.
Although Julia's ability to do math has been diminished by the disease and its treatment, her literacy talents are off the charts. We learned, that night, Julia can hear a word, then pronounce it backwards immediately. Belt becomes 'tleb,' computer is 'retupmoc.'
We were astonished. Everyone at the table started throwing words at Julia. The challenges became greater, but she knocked them all out of the park. It was hilarious. I eventually had to tell my youngest to leave her cousin alone, so she could eat.
Histiocytosis became the cause and Julia agreed to be a special guest at the event. It was held at Homegrown Hamilton on King William, next to the Lister Block, downtown. Carmelina Prete from The Spectator did a beautiful piece on Julia the day before the reading, which a lot of friends and family saw and, as a result, made a point of attending.
Homegrown Hamilton is run, in part, by my good friends Mike and Beth. Their perfect café was the perfect venue and they were perfect hosts. The guests were perfect. My perfect daughters made perfect videos and slides to go along with the poems. The place was full and perfect Julia came on stage and performed, perfectly.
For a couple of hours, life was perfect.
The first poem was Woe For Julia.
Love is a sick child
And wish it wasn't so
The last one was Family and Friends.
I used to wish I had a pot
So I had somewhere to pee
But when I counted all I've got
I'm as rich as I can be
Then, it was over and life went on, in Hamilton.
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