No place can meet every need all the time. Better to embrace the adventure of the inconvenient and learn to love our less-than-perfect neighbourhoods than to fly in search of the elusive perfect place.
By Michelle Martin
Published March 10, 2010
Ah, love-hate relationships. We city-dwellers know about those.
I shook the dust off of my feet when our family left Toronto - couldn't wait to leave it. We were living in a spot that was supposed to be up and coming, on the cusp.
It was a place where movie shoots took place pretty regularly (nothing flatters us Canadians more than being discommoded by an American movie shoot in which garbage is scattered around the faded main street of a neighbourhood to make it look like some kind of slum), and real estate agents called us Beaches West.
But the neighbourhood pretty much went nowhere for the eight years we were there, and was getting pretty rough in some pockets. Besides, we couldn't afford a house the size we needed, so we went to another apparently up and coming location: one where there were art galleries and theatres that we could actually afford to visit, as well as an affordable house which, similarly appointed, would have cost us over half a million dollars in Hogtown.
Having had occasion to visit Toronto a couple of times in the last few weeks, once not far from our old house, I found myself longing to return to that little bungalow where we could see the lake from our driveway, around the corner from the Polish bakery that made such delicious rye bread that it could hardly keep up with the demand of the out-of-towners who drove into the city to buy it.
The old neighbourhood is looking a little shinier, a little busier. There are signs of a burgeoning arts scene, or at least a group of people who are committed to establishing one. Do I regret that we left it? Perhaps I do.
Am I tired of Hamilton? Of inadequate transit, and a downtown that looks like one crazy jumble of well-intentioned and then ultimately aborted projects? Of trying to find someplace in our neck of the woods that's not called Tim Horton's but is open for a coffee after ten p.m.? Of the Lister block? Of no decent shopping except at the bloody power centres that bookend the Linc?
If I left it, would I regret leaving? Nope.
Well, maybe. I would come back to visit and remember summer nights on the front porch sharing a glass of wine with Stephen while the kids hollered to us about petty disagreements through the front window and we laughed and hollered back at them to get the heck up to bed, but not so loudly as to detract from the mellow pleasure we took in the bands playing the Festival of Friends, heard quite clearly from our house.
I'd remember the view from the top of the Kenilworth stairs, and the checkout ladies at the Delta No-Frills who knew us well enough to chat at the end of the weekly grocery run. The place would be crawling with art aficionados, and even by-law aficionados.
What do you know? I'd see that Gage Park was finally getting a facelift.
I might even ponder that no place where a person lives is going to meet every need all the time, and that even Paris is tiresome to Parisians, as much as they love it.
Much better to embrace the adventure of the inconvenient, and learn to love our less-than-perfect neighbourhoods.
Finies les balades le long du canal
les escaliers des cartes postales
c'est fini, Paris
c'est décidé, je me barre
finis le ciel gris, les matins moroses,
on dit qu'à Toulouse les briques sont rose
oh là-bas, Paris, les briques sont roses
-- Camille, "Paris", 2002
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