Saturday, June 25, 2005

Salty Dog

Another heat wave. Steeltown is hunkering down under a carpet of humidity and smog. I was silly enough to go skating yesterday, late afternoon, and must have got a touch of sunstroke. There was a kid with bleach blond spiked hair--he couldn't have been more than eight or nine--who kept following me around while I was trying to land a fingerflip. I was so distracted by my young shadow that I didn't even notice the one time that my feet actually made contact with the board--but it still counts! That's one more trick to scratch off the to-do list. There was a time in my youth when I could do the varial version of this trick, but I never learnt the straight ahead method.

AAARRRH! Ain't nobody makes me wear no pansy-ass bathing cap!

Thinking today of all the people I have met here. There was Crazy Dave, whom I skated with downtown under the stern gaze of Queen Victoria's tarnished statue. Dave claimed to be possessed by Satan, and underlined the fact by accidentally breaking my board in half. Then there was the young woman I almost ran over on my bike last week in an east end park. She was clearing some weeds out of a garden, and we started talking. It turns out I share the same name as her childhood teddy bear. I told her that I unknowingly named my own childhood companion--a stuffed lamb--after the Egyptian god of light. Her reply, that there were probably whole ancient societies that based their culture on the things children said, still kind of haunts me as beautiful fantasy.

And then there are all of the people in my neighbourhood. Over the past two years they have come to accept my housemate and myself, even though, along with my friend's autistic son, we make a strange trio. A lot of these people grew up here, and can tell you a great deal of local history if you take the time to sit down and talk. I feel like the north end has given me a glimpse of a way of life that humanity has shared for hundreds, even thousands of years, and is now coming to an end. For entire generations to live and die within a radius of a few city blocks may not seem very glamorous in today's global village, but it has been the human norm since the dawn of settled life.

Nature and upbringing have made me something of a nomad. I haven't really managed to assimilate myself to life in Steeltown, but I almost wish I did belong to these kind and generous, sometimes rough, but always down to earth people. I can only hope that with the sweeping changes that have already begun to make themselves felt, even here, the salt of the earth will yet retain something of their saltiness. I have a feeling that they will.

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