Wednesday, December 09, 2009

And so here I am

At age 41, I'm single, have never been married, have no kids, and am living in Maple Ridge, which I left I thought forever in my late 20's. A measure of the level of culture and sensitivity in the city: one of the musclebound 20somethings at the gym the other day was wearing a "He's gay" t-shirt, with an arrow pointing the guy next to him: imagine that in Vancouver. In Maple Ridge, people actually have conversations in the supermarket lineups about whose cellulite is whose in the swimsuit pics on tabloid covers - it's a point of genuine, non-ironic interest, which celeb has a fat ass. There is one new bookstore (Black Bond Books, a mall job specializing in paperback bestsellers of the last year); no new CD store (just the selection at Zellers and London Drugs, where I haven't even been able to find Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, which I've had a hankering for lately), and no record store - just a few in sections of varied thrift stores, where even Frampton Comes Alive and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack are getting hard to find, as they are - relative to the other LPs - desirable items). The best selection of videos for rent - for sale, see Zellers or London Drugs - is actually at Blockbuster Video, with Rogers in second place; the indy video stores in town are just imitations of the same - none specialize in interesting cinema, since they would fast go out of business if they did. (My preferred rental zone at the moment is a Korean corner store down the street, since they at least get the odd unpredictable item, not pre-decided by corporate headquarters). The one Indian restaurant in the downtown core is in a food fair; there are no Thai or Caribbean restaurants (though there are about ten Chinese places, five pizza joints, and a couple Korean-run Japanese restaurants - tho' no Korean-run Korean ones). I am unsure if there is actually any live music being performed in town, but it's likely bad covers of blues-rock at one of the bars, or maybe the odd country band doing "Achey Breaky Heart" or such. There is one cinema, a megaplex just out of town that only plays fare like 2012. This is a classic rock town for people who graduated from highschool, got jobs, had kids, and settled into a townhouse. Driving a 4X4 is a marker of social prestige here. The majority of people one sees are over 50 or under 20, since once one is old enough to leave, one moves away; those present here who are actually within the age range at which the sensitive, ambitious, or artistic get the hell out tend to have tattoos and beerbellies, male or female alike (this is the demographic who breeds most prolifically, alas). This town nearly drove me to suicide as a kid; now I'm back for more. Even if I abandon my snobbery, my elitism, my pose of outraged indignity - I don't know what to DO with myself in a town like this. I feel isolated as hell, and when I *can* get a few hours to myself - I have no idea where the hell to go, especially if I crave the company of someone that I might have some common ground with. And social status - I mean, in Vancouver, there are at least a few people who would think it cool that I've interviewed Lemmy, Nels Cline, Mike Watt, and such. In this town, they don't even know who those people ARE (tho' I did see a Motorhead t-shirt at the mall today...).

Even my apartment isn't much of a retreat. I still don't have a bed, for one - you'll recall that I threw out most of my furniture when I moved here, to avoid bringing bedbugs with me (which I seem to have succeeded at - no sign of the little bastards). The money hasn't been there to buy one (or to get my record player fixed - I broke it trying to shake out imaginary bedbugs before I packed it). I have an air mattress on my floor that I sleep on, and a largely unfinished space otherwise - which doesn't really matter, since I'm sleeping on my Mom's couch for the time being, and spending most of my time with her. We watch a lot of DVDs, some very enjoyable classic movies, and pass the time well enough - being with her is gentle and welcome and healing and I would be nowhere else at such a time... but it doesn't really seem like much of a life for myself; restlessness rears its head now and then, and I have nothing to attach it to, nowhere to relieve it, nowhere where I can find relief from myself. One old buddy that I'm not that close to, and Mom, and then whatever I can find online: that's it.

Going back to Vancouver doesn't seem that much of an option, either, mind you: since Vancouver's really not THAT much different. It just allows me to distract myself more effectively from this central emptiness in my life, a problem unsolved by any of what I do or did there: that of dealing with other people, building relationships that matter, finding a partner for myself, someone I trust and love who trusts and loves me. That's where the real restlessness sets in - this awareness of isolation, and the fear that follows on that, to think that this condition might remain more or less the same for years yet to come... It makes me tired to just think about it.

There's still a lot to do in regard to my father, however - settling his affairs and getting my Mom set up in a new suite are priorities. It gives me a sense of purpose and meaning that would otherwise be totally lacking. Mom apologizes, says she's a burden, but I reassure here: there's nowhere I'd rather be, that being here forces me to confront issues in my life that I was only hiding from in the city (albeit quite enjoyably at times). That it's good for me to be here - because I have no choice but to assess the areas of my life where change is needed and DO something about them, rather than shrugging it off and going to a movie or concert or such.

...unless I want to still be here in ten years, or twenty, or...

1 comment:

A. said...

I started reading this recently. I was looking for random information about the show Night Dreams, which you mention somewhere in an earlier post.

My interest was peaked when I read about Jandek in your earlier posting and then coincidently he arrived in Vancouver the very next week. Although I didn't make it to the show..

Maybe I bookmarked your blog because the title relays what it seems a lot of people feel in Vancouver. Alienated from a city that is too fixated on manicuring itself and not at all interested in preserving the culture it has. I moved here a year ago from Ottawa, so it's not as if I haven't enjoyed the more urban life Vancouver provides, but there is something here that is like a nostalgia. It seems people are looking back on a time (the early 80s?) when the movies and shows weren't just distractions, but gathering places. It could just be an impression.

Maple Ridge sounds bland, worse than Vancouver, and a lot like the small city in Ontario where I grew up (except there are apparently Japanese restaurants in Maple Ridge). It IS interesting to read about it though, because who ever bothers to say anything about it?

As I prepare to head home for the holidays and visit my family, in a place much like Maple Ridge, I guess I think I just want to say that maybe this kind of writing is one way to make some real (if random) connections to people who don't care about cellulite in grocery stores.