Musing - These Shoes are Made for Walking, Pt. 1

In the words of Aaron Lewis of Staind, "It's been a while." I figure once I get back to school and take up my editorial position proper I can return to posting on this blog on a regular basis (as if I ever did). Though I can't pinpoint why, I find that Ottawa breeds a better writing atmosphere than Brantford. Maybe it's due to its greater number of Starbucks, thus affording me more opportunities to sit by a window, sip on a chai latte, jab away at my laptop keyboard and generally put on airs.

However, this and--hopefully--the next few posts centre on my hometown of Brantford, where I was born, raised and spent the first 18 years of my life. Specifically, I'm going to use up bandwidth by prattling on about the series of long, sweat-producing walks I've opted to take over the past week. Being on a two week break from work I have more time in the day to putt around and cross half the length of the city just for the Hell of it. I wouldn't label myself as a "pro walker," but I've been strutting my stuff for so long that the actual mental energy I expend while on a stroll amounts to "Is that a car? Shit, better get back on the sidewalk." This being as such, my mind wanders and I ponder over any number of things. What follows is a relatively brief summary of where I've gone on my walks and what I've thought during.

Disclaimer: When my mind wanders, it really wanders (i.e. in a non-linear fashion), and so for the sake of legibility I've done my best to structure said thoughts in an orderly fashion, rather than a stream-of-consciousness style. Also, I apologize to anyone and everyone who has seen me walking all by my lonesome, because they've probably noticed me talking to myself and not making any attempt to hide it. It seems weird, but it's how I structure my thoughts in a legible, linear fashion.

And we're off.

July 29th, 2010; First Walk - From Home to the Brownfields

I've been told that Brantford was once an industrial heart of Ontario, and this is reflected by the somewhat intimidating quantity of factories and plants within city limits. In fact, looking at a Google Map of Brantford appears that about a quarter of the city is comprised of an industrial park stretching from nearly the northeast corner of town and well below the 403 highway that divides it in half horizontally. However, things have changed in the interim and now most of the functioning factories are located more towards the middle of town, rather than near Eagle Place where they once thrived.

My dad has a few things to say about Eagle Place, the southernmost neighbourhood in Brantford and one of the city's oldest. He's told me that Eagle Place is "God's country," and that while "you can take the person out of Eagle Place you can't take the Eagle Place out of the person," this usually in reference to my grandma. I doubt that either description is positive in nature, and while it would be a broad, most likely inaccurate generalization to cast this part of town in such a light, strolling through this neighbourhood today I kind of understand what he's getting at.

I won't call Eagle Place a "planned" neighbourhood in the sense that Brantford was a planned community, but taking into consideration the gridlike street layout and the similar design of houses I can tell it was once a planned residential area in the vein of Brantford's relatively new surveys. I'd say that most residents take care of their homes but the neighbourhood's not exactly living out its glory days anymore. This part of town very obviously boomed in the 50s and 60s with the nearby plants but as business moved northward I think Eagle Place lost some of its spark. And when I say business moved it moved.

What is pictured above was once the industrial pride and joy of Brantford, now more or less resembling the "un-space" described in Stephen Hall's novel The Raw Shark Texts. It's part of what's now referred to as the "Brownfields" in Brantford, basically a collection of closely-grouped abandoned factories located along the Mohawk river and that have fallen into such a state of disrepair that they have tainted the land about them. Think of the Blight the Undead produce in WarCraft III, but it's actually real.

I won't lie: it's the textbook definition of "decrepit" and flat out the worst-looking part of Brantford. To speak cynically, it's also become a symbol of the disrepair downtown Brantford's fallen into over the past couple decades. In fact, the very route I took from home to the Brownfields was a veritable tour of some of the city's less aesthetically pleasant locales, including the now half-demolished south side of Colborne Street that, until its recent condemnation, housed many of Brantford's shuttered small businesses--with the exception of a tasty little Thai restaurant that found a more suitable location on St. Paul. Colborne St. may be surprisingly familiar to non-Brantfordians, having served as the main street of Silent Hill in the film of the same name, and did so with very little set dressing. That's right: the main street of a movie ghost town required only a light set dressing--a testament to the street's physical and financial state.

I don't mean to trash downtown Brantford if I'm coming off as such. There have been gradual changes, with a stretch of Dalhousie St. now virtually unrecognizable after considerable renovation. I've been told that the Brownfields will eventually be torn down and the ground beneath them cleansed to make way for residential housing. It'll take time, but I believe some measure of financial stability and, by extension, class can be obtained once again in the near future.

Part 2 soon! Possibly tomorrow.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Nice. I like this. I'll be waiting to here more. Wish I had a two week break from work. But I am now permanently at the front desk due to some labour intensive cleaning/moving/filing.