Thursday, April 21, 2005
Wake Up and Smell the Heavy Metals
There are lots of things that I love about Hamilton. The downtown is a living architectural museum, the people are friendly and down to earth, it is home to one of Canada's oldest skateparks, the rent is cheap and unemployed persons like myself don't feel like second class citizens the way you might in a larger city like Toronto. But the one drawback that keeps me from setting down permanent roots--the reason why most of my possesions are packed up in boxes in my friend's storage room-- is that everyone who lives here is at the mercy of the wind. My notions of geography are a little confused, so I couldn't tell you the best direction for the wind to be blowing from, but for most of the summer it seems to ge generated by giant fans that must be stationed right behind the metal smeltering plants, the soyabean factory, and the beer brewery, all of which are located just down the street from us. No doubt we get a good deal of pollution coming across Lake Ontario from the States as well, and Toronto's presence to the north is made known by a yellowish smear that can be seen over the treeline beyond the harbour on a clear day. Perhaps it sounds romantic in a kind of idustrial, post-apocalyptic Mad Max sort of way, but after a few days of smog laden respiration I get all kinds of strange symptoms. My head gets cloudy, joints start to ache, I'm hungry but when I eat my stomach feels all sour and unhappy. I feel lethargic and weak like I have a cold or something. On a really bad day your eyes and nose start to burn, and I don't even like to go outside. I've been living here, off and on, for a couple of years now, and I've just started to get to know some people and feel like less of a stranger. And yet the thought of spending another summer here fills me with a kind of despair. Like a canary in a coal mine, I'm worried I'll drop dead from the fumes. Someday Hamilton might have clean air again, and if the city takes care to preserve its historical heritage then it will truly be an amazing place to live. The problem is, I can't wait that long. I need my lungs for other things. The wheels of my skateboard are itching for new terrain, and the needle of the compass is blowing in the wind.