The 'Other' London

Written by Kane X Faucher on Wednesday the 23rd of June 2010
Naturally comparisons are dismal, worthless drivel - exercises in pointless dot-joining given to grammar school students to occupy their time. Others, such as rabidly polemical politicos, rely on comparisons of the sloppiest variety as rhetorical sport which exacerbate the condition of argument bloat, fabricating entire straw populations their effete hatred can bash away on. This we know, yet there is also a capacity to leverage comparison for the humorous effect of juxtaposition as a heuristic device. The readers here are most likely too old for geography lessons about places so dreary and of little interest, and yet this is precisely what we are going to discuss. Or, at the very least, use a comparison as a peg upon which to espalier the stiff, soiled garments to speak of one item.
    You see, you readers there, and me over here, are in an awkward predicament on par with two people coming to the same cocktail party in the same cut and colour of evening wear. We both share the same name: we both live in London. Well, not quite. You see, we retained many of your names and yet we do not resemble you in the slightest. From the standpoint of urban geography, this is disorienting. My London is the recondite facsimile of your London, yet occulted in the arcane practice of heavy-borrowing of names that do not coincide with the substance of the original. This is beyond the overweening colonialist habit of naming streets after titles like King and Queen that one finds in just about every Canadian city, for we have aped many of your street names, and even in one instance the borough of Lambeth (which was an autonomous village until 1992 when it was annexed by the city despite an attempt by the Reeve to dub it the Town of Westminster in 1988).
    Your London I need not say much about, for it is the one you wrestle through every day in your commutes, playing bowls, or slugging pints -  whatever it is that genuine article Londoners do to occupy their time. Your London is more than ten times the age of my London. It also has well over twenty times the number of souls and soulless, so my London would be pulverized if ever we decided to have a cité-a-cité brawl. My London is the diminutive, derivative London, and, worse, may qualify for the term used to describe such nostalgically named cities: a skeuomorph. Not only that, but we are poor urban epigones, our Thames but a choked rill, our Dundas Street a warren of commercial flaccidity, our Piccadilly a suburban squiggle on the map. We took all your street names, threw them in a bag, and emptied them out to form what is now our urban geography that bears no likeness to your own. It is the urban planning version of Scrabble and our city forebears were struggling to form words with no vowels across a continent-wide board.
    The difference in exotic travel reportage between our respective Londons is worthy of remark. Your method is to extract the similarities between what lies abroad and what is familiar at home, thereby revealing the fundamental redundancy of locations (perhaps as well to signal why travel is unnecessary, serial repetition of high modernism triumphant). For us, we begin with the redundancy pre-installed and aim to dress it up as anything but, yet we are poor at applying the veneer. This adheres, as well, to the way we market our benighted and derivatively named city. If you came here to report on my London, you would be pressed to draw any sort of equivalence beyond a few recognizable names set in a perplexing context. The best, at least fictional, rendering of your London was performed by your Will Self who was able to shrink it to two-thirds its size and fill it full of brachiating chimps - perhaps a more apt description of my London after all.
    When I tell people I live in London, there is usually the need to qualify further to avoid confusion. "No, not London with Big Ben, the tube, and roast beef dinner, but the other London, situated in south-western Ontario, Canada, the London with the noxious brewery, railroads running through high density traffic areas, and the world's worst taco stand." The nominal confusion can sometimes serve as a potential benefit, and so do not be surprised to find some of my Londoners leaving interpretation up to the listener by failing to qualify which London they mean, and so therefore exploiting your good reputation for personal gain. It is uncertain why the usual naming conventions of other colonial towns did not seem to factor in the settling of this London. A trip to the gazetteer yields up several more proper designations that avoid redundant naming such as New England, New York, New Berlin, and so forth. So, the question remains as to why we did not opt for New London? Were the founding fathers of our diminutive burg counting on the confusion to re-route business interests from your London to this mine? Was our indolence so manifest that we decided to piggyback your reputation to increase our own geographical cachet? Are the many Englanders who first settled here so homesick that they opted for paving over their own denial by trying to recreate all the comforts of home as if marooned on an alien planet? Beyond confusing tourists, perhaps one explanation will suffice: my London may in fact be the nightmare version of  yours in a parallel universe traversed by Alice. Yes, we are the bad trip of your London. And, if some horrible catastrophe ever befalls your London, well, I suppose you may transfer here and at least have the comfort of your name as well as keeping most of your mailing information intact.
    You may find it flattering that we dedicated the naming of our streets, parks, and other urban features after your own, but if you paid us a visit, you would most likely be embarrassed that we took your historical names in vain. If our aim was to replicate the feel and tone of your London, it was a consummate botch, a dervish rendition of your native and cherished home. In Platonic terms, we do not even come close to qualifying as a copy - instead, we are a whipped together simulacrum, our colonial Adams of this pared down, grim Eden given the task of naming things without exercising any imagination or innovation. The only way our Londons would ever resemble one another would be if you all succumbed to a collective amnesia, shed close to 7.5 million residents, wrecking-balled all your landmarks, and arbitrarily shuffled your A-Z.
    The serial repetition stamped upon this Canadian geography is in name only. To complain that we are not your mirror image would be crass since the last thing we need is redundant architecture. In other cities I have lived in, one of the most endearing qualities was in discovering that it was a mash-up accident, that no one was actually from the city, and that we just happened to converge there for a time as though the city itself was one vast train station. This London, however, is largely populated by deep-rooted generations, lending it the North American equivalent of dynastic history. My London was founded by a chap named Simcoe whose lofty vision was that it would one day serve as the capital of the then fledgling Canada, and hence the move to name it after your London was more the product of a hope and a wish. This act of naming was rejected by a few who thought the place terribly inaccessible. But the name stuck, whether this was because of proactive agitation to retain the name or for lack of any interest to call it something else, we were officially stuck with the name in 1832. Our history, unlike yours, does not carry many of the dramatic highlights of being overrun by Romans, Saxons, Danes, Jutes, Angles, and Normans, but we have been annexed by corporations as the go-to site for call centres that sop up some of our unemployed to tele-pester residents into signing up for another credit card.  We have also been overrun by waves of ignorant neo-conservatives, hordes of biblical zealots, pickup-truck fleets of rural-minded homophobes, and the imperial Wal-Mart. And, as if an attempt to earn the use of your name, we even had our own Great Fire, a few devastating floods, and even the added dash of historical colour that only a cholera outbreak can provide.
    We do not have the Queen summering here in a makeshift Buckingham Palace. Instead, we have a steel rhino made by a now deceased artist. I am certain your Queen would be welcome to ride it if she wanted to. We do not have as many places of historical interest - in fact, I cannot really think of one. "Historical" is rather relative, it seems, for we are quick to nail heritage plaques on anything older than disco. I can already hear the rasping chorus of complaint from my local Londoners, that I am giving short shrift to the deeply fascinating historical episodes and personages that make up our city's unique narrative. Such people are very proud to be in my London, which I suppose is a frame of mind an outsider like myself cannot grasp, especially when the whole place feels unbearably in the thick humidity of the present, and no appeal to history herself will throw open a window to let the bad air out. In my dim and narrow view of what properly constitutes pride, I usually reserve the term for things that are done particularly well. The closest I can conceive would be the pride Dr Frankenstein felt in creating something near to life from conniving tissue scraps from the graveyard.
    Like my previous example of two party-goers coming in the same outfit, it may seem only natural that one of us will have to renounce our name. Who will blink first? Your London with its two millennia precedent or our measly two centuries eking by on luck or oversight?  We could revert to our pre-colonial name of Kotequogong, but that is a bit of a mouthful, not to mention a bit long to put on our tourism brochure.
    My London is a very confused idea, the kind that occurs in the throes of extreme febrility. A trip to does its level best to make the pitch of just how wonderful my London is. To quote: "London is known for its charming streets, unique attractions and old world charm." Indeed, especially if you find streets in horrid disrepair charming, if by unique attraction the masses of mentally ill people for whom there are no beds in our psych facilities, and if by old world charm one means all the nastiest principles of the old world tossed on a boat and banished to the new world. Perhaps they are describing your London when they speak of old world charm, or entire boroughs in my London are kept hidden with an advanced cloaking device only the elect can see. The website goes on in its hand-clapping enthusiasm to describe my London's ideal location, situated between Toronto and Detroit. Well, lots of other places share the same affliction - and being upwind of one puts us at the mercy of being downwind of the other. There is also mention of clean streets (again, perhaps cloaked) that are tree-lined (our downtown, in the absence of trees, has erected neon-coloured substitutes made of metal), with first class parks (they are scrub pastures infested with mangy squirrels and irritable geese dropping their Poisson distribution of mushy green guano), and diverse shopping (our downtown core collapsed when everything moved to the "big box” outskirts) and nightlife (if your choice of nightlife is to get into fist fights with barely of age college boys or have barely of age college girls vomit on your shoes). There is, however, plenty to do if you wear a sweater vest, are heavily medicated, and employ the word "zany” to describe things you are otherwise uncomfortable with. What the online brochure does not mention are the many colourful drunks and addicts that station themselves in our downtown, but lacking in the type of romantic charm your London's version of such people seem to possess. The attempt at making the sly pitch is hobbled with a lack of much to say.
    As this document continues to grasp at straws, it makes mention of my London's many arts and culture venues in a city largely bereft of either. It is not as though we are devoid of those noble-minded practitioners, but that there is a mediocrity transom - if it does not cater to the slack-jaw "tox” populi of hobbyist landscapes or belligerent monster machines pulverizing one another, then like most cultural offerings it may just languish in an arts listing at the back of a free entertainment zine. The heft of our artistic production advertised to the world would duly render us comfortably dumb. The glitz and flash of city council's proposed investment programs as detailed in its own new glossy brochure is self-confident that we will be fooled by the overt rhetoric of ambiguity that sides with vacuity and well-meaning signifiers that mask a chronic, flagrant lack of concern for my London's cultural producers and the few remaining programs that administer the paltry scraps thrown its way.
    The new brochure, which details my London's strategic plan up until the unimaginably distant year of 2026, is seemingly a well-intentioned document designed to allay any misgivings the residents of this city may have with the way public tax revenues are bungled to fund pet projects. My London should be world-famous for its "strategic plans” and "visions”, and local government can be seen bruiting these about, prancing around like heroic grandees selling us on the brighter tomorrows that always seem to lapse when that future date comes and it is time to push the best-by date another decade.  
    My London does have a pool of vibrant, committed, and intrepid world-class artists in every field, but they ignobly suffer a lack of support and recognition. Instead, my London is packaged as a great place for curling. No mention in the tourism brochures of a very active contingent of artist-run centres, and absolutely devoid of any promotion of London's real grassroots: the artists themselves. Is this the city that culture forgot? Not at all. We have a formidable stable of marketable musicians, writers, dramaturges, actors, and visual artists, and yet what support do they get? There may be a prevailing assumption that any artist who says s/he comes from London may as well have just crawled out of a swamp.
    Back to our tourism accolades. What I find particularly telling is this: "if you are here during the summer months your visit would not be complete without an authentic Double Decker London (England)-style Bus Tour departing daily from London City Hall." I can now understand why the rest of our bus system is so poorly funded. The selling of authenticity, so blatantly advertised, does imply that the remainder of the city is the opposite. There's nothing like being jostled about on an authentic bus to enjoy inauthentic sightseeing. And if you are here in the winter, you can come ski on our Boler Mountain, yet another example of our tendency to exaggerate given that it is more of a bee sting - I live right by it and I hardly need a sherpa to reach the summit of this "bunny slope of the Himalayas.”
    However, my London is very proud of its nickname, that being the "Forest City" because, at some point long ago, we had countless acres of forest, just like everywhere else. The tourism guide tells us that at one point my London was an isolated destination that one could only access by hacking through the forest. And I suppose the same thing can be said of many leper colonies. A recent study undertook to count them all - 4.4 million or about 12 per person. Since every October we are assailed by a plague of predator-less Asian ladybugs, perhaps these tree-counters could be reassigned to populate another factoid to tell us just how many of the pests we are entitled to per person.
    Another particularly risible laudatory self-praise would be this: "London is a thriving city, evident of its skyscrapers in its skyline" (as opposed to its waterline?). Here I believe they must have confused my London for your London. Our skyline is not exactly Chicago's. Subsequent to boasting about our tree-choked, charming-streeted, megalith-skyscraped, Himalayan-mountained, roaring-rivered, haute-cultured metropolis, the rather thin tourist spiel announces our economic prowess with "insurance" being in the top three. I would recommend a revision of that previously quoted line to read: "London is an expiring city, evident in its tottering derelict buildings in its crumbling skyline as testament to its moribund course." My London is not only between Toronto and Detroit, but between the Scylla of small-town corruption and the Charybdis of urban entropy.
    My London has one peculiar charm, and I mean charm in the witchcraft sense, perhaps best expressed as a hex proper. It has a propensity for luring optimists. These optimists, exiles and cast-offs from their own native cities, come here and are immediately disgusted with the place. But that is not all. They do not slump in on themselves, sagging with resignation like so many other new residents. No, they thunder about what needs to be done, how they will scoop out the crusted bits of tumbledown east end, script brilliant mass transit plans, or mend all our open downtown sores with their construction money. The developers who come all starry-eyed and drunk on their own soft-furred cinematic visions are the ones who fare the worst when they cannot reverse our rack and ruin cityscape. The clouds they glide in on are the ones they find themselves hobbling under, on their way to make their fortunes in places more amenable to refurbishing. The vastness of their ideals never seem to thrive under these spirit-killing conditions; progressive urban planners present grand makeovers to make the city a city which are scuppered at the paper stage by chronic underfunding, and bistros with chic urban appeal go largely without patrons until the prohibitive municipal taxes finally drive them away. It will take more than just the application of a bit of rouge and an eyebrow pluck to doll up a city in dire need of a facelift.
    The displacement of my London from any reliable context has found it snuggled into its sandy basin as I judder along in a bus, looking out at an accidental city that squeezed itself, an afterbirth idea, from an identity crisis into the resigned neglect of its own potential. While I am waiting to make a connection, the newly planted electronic board with bus arrival/departure times digitally mock us all for impossible waits as we shiver or boil depending on season. White hip-hop boys trafficking openly in drugs swagger with a gait they identify with black culture in a space sadly devoid of it, but look more to me like the affliction of incipient polio or some other neuromuscular disorder. They project hoots from across the street to one another, or else vomit or toss a few punches. The chronic reflux of bad social fashion elbows for supremacy along with bad manners. One young man with a hot air balloon for a coat stencilled with commercial gangland script, plays the part of a Carolingian as re-imagined by Spike Lee. Standard orange-hide work boots are re-assigned their function as fashion, tongues lolling out and laces trailing behind in a skein. He collides into me and is ready with a combative face contorted with disdain, but sees I am no prey to his feeble masculinity lost in his puffy jacket and so leaves me to my own entitled and personal piece of territory. The scurry of their kind alloying with the fast and slow beads of regular commuters and idling downtownies is played out beneath the exquisitely carved fronts now occupied by pawn shops, discount cell phone services, hobby shops, and soft-porn boutiques. Facades from the 1920s are rimed with craftsmanship, windows tall and brazen, testament to an earlier era of largesse, splendour, and pride now dried jerky chewed off by the steady wave of dereliction and neglect. Each wedge of regally-carved optimistic architecture hard against one another, a historical masonic weight settled on the back of the deracinated business descendants. If one were to take a time-lapse video from my downtown London's salad days to the present it would be to see a string of bright lights shorting out in sequence, only to have their bankrupted business bulbs replaced to give off a fainter, sallower light.
    Just up Dundas, beyond the clock tower stubbornly keeping time at the crossing at Richmond, gestures at upscale taste gleam from a diminutive condo with a pricey bistro tucked beside it, the only declaration of posh against a phalanx of gritty bargain shops. The abrupt John Labatt Centre, named after the nearby brewery that saddles the wind with its yeasty belches, houses popular acts and monster truck rallies across from the stump phallus of the courthouse built in the blocky minimalist style of the 1960s. Dundas describes a clinamen, the beginning of which is the glassy Museum London, an art gallery re-christened to bank on the chic naming practices of MOMA, resulting in confused tourists dropping into the London Arts office asking where the London art gallery is. Dundas then swerves into what is called The Forks where one of its tines is little more than a slender cul-de-sac while the other runs over a choppy iron bridge. A pitchfork, really, or a fork of pitch surface. The fork is suggestive not of the roadway, but the Thames River, two brown slashes between steep banks that resolve into a low-lying park that is submerged every spring thaw. A new and expensive fountain raised on a berm spews the Thames back into itself, a loop completing an unintended analogy of the city itself, fretting with its own short, dull, recursive history.
    The Thames River, hardly coextensive with your own, seems to hold enduring fascination among our local poets who versify about its history, meaning, and attempt to flex the atrophied muscles of their metaphors to speak of its direction, life-sustaining force, and all else that pertains to a vermiculating sluice of water that never asked for or warranted poeticizing. Of course, I find all river poetry to be monotonous, as I do any geographically based poetry - but it keeps our poets flush with material, a wet subject for dry wordplay. Beyond being a confining scratch-board for poets, it is also a conduit for garbage. Gnarled aggregates form ferries that pluckily make landfall, ragged Styrofoam plinths accreted with miscellany are tangled up in the cattails with miniature dinghy pop cans and diminutive U-boat beer bottles. Algae twists in with the wreathing of plastic bags taking on the appearance of Halloween stretch-cotton cobwebbing. Dipping any exposed skin into the river leaves a glossy sheen that takes much scrubbing with dish soap to remove, most likely due to the farm and industrial waste fed into this slurry upriver.
    London's commitment to nature's splendour recurs every few years with a fierce debate on whether or not there ought to be a deer cull in the western edges of the city. Residents of the Oakridge suburb kvetch that the deer are greedily munching their hostas and annuals and so due recompense for housing sprawl co-opting deer ranging territory is to have them shot. Never mind that a company was willing to give free samples of contraceptives to curb the deer population since that solution was not suitably barbaric to appease the sanguine needs of a people who only want nature on their own terms - preferably behind impassable fences or locked up in cages at the zoo. Bambi finds few friends in London, and the Malthusian cull results in a significant drop in the price of venison.
    My London is also split into the usual orientating quadrants of north, east, west, south. These are subdivided into old north and old south, but the east and west are left intact as a spanning ellipsis, hopelessly adrift on either side. Old north contains many of the yellow- and honey-brick homes, the closest of which to the downtown core have been converted into lawyers' offices and chiro-quack clinics. Old north seems to include the pomp of the University of Western Ontario with its impressive stone edifices looming over or beside more modern additions. Old South, what was the last stop of London's discontinued trolley service, is one of those communities that contain within it the gentrified enclosure of the Wortley Village, an eye-pleasing neighbourhood buffered from the swarthiness of downtown by the loop of the Thames River and a thick sentinel wall of trees. The east with its slate-sided facades, has long since been a ghettofication experiment, a social pretzel of the undesirable, drug-addled, and miserable. Adelaide Street, also known as the backbone between good and evil, is a stark border running north-south between the more opulent homes of Old North and the crumbling despoilment of a once more prosperous neighbourhood. Banting House, the modest home where Dr Frederick Banting briefly occupied before discovering insulin, has done little to repair the pancreatic slab of the fleshy east end. My first apartment was a loft in a converted bubble gum card factory right beside the Banting House Museum, and my first memory of my London was having a beer at the sign-busted St. Regis Tavern, among old drunks with unchecked diabetes, one of them falling off the picnic table and declaring loudly, "I broke my ass!” So, I thought to myself, this is London. What I did not know then, but would later discover in my long romps through the city's intestinal tract on many a beery, idling graduate student night, was that this was an emblematic moment of what could be expected in the average night in my London.
    London West feels tacked on, a pre-fab suburban flatland metastasizing around enormous box store plazas. It is less a romantic frontier carved out of the wildnerness as a peaceful hinterland savagely beaten back and bulldozed to make way for the rolling out of identical two-car garages and woodchip landscaping. The area named Whitehills with its Blackacres Boulevard sits in Manichaean relation to Whiteacres Boulevard where Whitehills and its pastel-hued homes end. On Sarnia Road, between Whitehills and Hyde Park, there is a rickety one-lane bridge owned by the CN railroad where traffic has to alternate three vehicles at a time between two growing slabs of neighbourhood. Further west, there is Byron, where I am situated. Byron - uncertain if named after the club-footed aesthete - was, like everything surrounding London, the municipal writ of annexing whatever London's own expansion would find itself butting against. Nowhere near as leaping as Toronto and its GTA that gobbles rather than nibbles, it is only a matter of time until the nearby towns like Lambeth and Ilderton lose their autonomy, just as it is only a matter of decades until the big fish of Toronto eats this little predatory fish of London. The process is to turn these towns into de facto suburban fringes of the city, expanding its rim until hopefully my London will touch two Great Lakes to the north and south. This indelicate dental surgery writ geographically takes the pointillist map of this parenthetical piece of Ontario and attempts to extract the impacted teeth to give the region a better smile. If only it were so simple and forthcoming a procedure, but there is no vision or method beyond what the greedy developers see as prime land to pump and dump their vast carpets of shoddily built homes to house families who can huddle closer to their Wal-Martian drips.
    As a side note, and now as a landed Byronite in what is left of the picturesque environs, Byron changed names a few times in its history from Westminster to Hall's Mill to what it is known as today: a tuck-away of London. It boasts the country's 16th largest gravel pit for those gravel pit connoisseurs among you who are planning to tour this country's top 20 gravel pits. Between Boler Mountain (or "bump”) and the pit, Byron is most likely blessed with having the highest and lowest topographical features. It is also home to London's most obscene and exotic insects, including what my wife and step-children refer to as "the Byron Bug” - a nasty looking weevil with sloth-like motion (note: the only entomological reference I can find on Google refers to a 1961 study by W.W. Judd so I cannot confirm the accuracy of my family's preferred nomenclature for this feather-footed friend). Amazonian moths, caterpillars, and the like are also creepy-crawly habitués. The regular swarms of ants, flies, spiders, wasps, and beetles are trebled in Byron in an Old Testament way. The occasional fox or coyote ranges the backwoods, prompting us to take our three cats inside.
    Politically, my London and the word "progressive” would largely qualify as the kind of brazen free interpretation performed by first year undergraduates seeking to redefine basic words behind novelty encounters in the realm of deconstruction. This was one of the three-city stops on the US arch-conservative pundit Ann Coulter who is said to have told a Muslim student at the university to "take a camel” after babbling some nonsense on preventing Muslims on flights. The piri-piri polemical arête was met, in my opinion, with a bit of meek anger, and Coulter ought to have been hissed, badgered, and otherwise driven clean from my London - if not prohibited from appearing, no matter what the freedom of expression groups say. But hate speech is free speech in my London, a slurry of expressions and opinions held by those who mix Jesus and neo-conservative notions into a venomous excuse to hold "family values” festivals that screech against abortion yet have no moral problem with sending armies to shoot non-Christians.
    But this is my decided binocular reportage - with one tourist's eye, and the other belonging to a resident who never felt he graduated from being a tourist. This despite my initial reason for coming here, which slowly coupled with reasons for staying. The lure of money that brought me here for the doctorate, meeting my future wife, and then marrying here - all of these benchmarks that were to function as tied directly to this city does not seem to suggest any association for me. These rites of passage performed in a vacuous location, a cloud of events passing through an arbitrary section of sky.
    My London's landmarks emerge as personal anecdotes in an otherwise brashly thrown up set. I recall my visit by my friend and writer Anthony Metivier and his discovery of the "exclamation period" - a granite dedication to lost labour lives looking exactly the way he titled it, and the chapbook he loosely based it on. There was - not is - The Wick, a nickname for the old Brunswick Hotel across from the Greyhound station. It was - again, not is - a dingy punk bar with a freer interpretation of provincial liquor laws, its upper floors technically condemned and so a suitable place for traveling punk bands to practice and do drugs. And, even if the pique of intoxication or punk theology induced them to anarchize the hostelry, there was no way of busting up something already so busted. I recall in the fondness of furred drunken nights whiling away on their picnic tables, a back patio ringed by a fence where a head or two would pop up to conduct a little underground commercial transaction. In view of the bus station, an Arabic corner store, and a rising condo tower edging out what sparse sunlight hit the patio, it was one of the few drinking holes - perhaps literally - that had any character at all. The new owner was eager to demolish it to transform the space into the more level profit of another pay-lot, but the carcinogenic insulation would have entailed a costly extraction by Haz-Mat suited specialists, and so a "mysterious arson" dispensed with any such expenditure. It should be stated that every legitimate effort to protect the squat edifice with heritage status was denied by most of city council, and that I've not heard of any investigation into the arson. To the cynical eye, it was an expedient means of banishing an undesirable cultural element, or else dispersing this diaspora to become diluted among the other drinking establishments.
    I did not choose my London, nor did it choose me. When I was younger and more environmentally-dependent than I am now (or, I should say, I used my complaints against where I lived as an excuse for not being "inspired" to work), I would have rejected London as a suitable place to write in. Six years have passed, and I am still here, and I've discovered that it doesn't really matter where I am: the writing will ebb and flow according to its own internal logic. I find this very interesting since this is a city with not much to draw people to it, let alone linger for as long as some of us have. Some will call it an oasis between the highway escape chute between Toronto and Windsor, but an oasis of what still remains to be convincingly qualified.
    If only my London could have poached more than your name. This is no encomium to your London whatsoever, but our frumpy bush league problems are chronic and absurd. For the tenth largest city in Canada, one might be tempted to believe that we would have fixed a lot of our problems, but instead we have invented new ones. For starters, the rolling epidemiological experiment of our bus system is a mass transit blight. A vital plank in My London City Hall's eight-point strategic initiative, the bus system - my preferred or no-choice-but mode of getting about - is still poorly managed. Despite our local leaders' claims to its importance as an environmentally sound alternative, and the surging price of gas, I am curious as to why the bus system continues to go so grievously underfunded. In terms of showing true leadership to honour brave new words, I would like to see the mayor and all the councillors take the bus for one solid week to witness for themselves what average, bus-commuting Londoners contend with on a daily basis. Perhaps this would retire the seeming "let them eat cake" attitude when they deliberate on public transportation funding in the next city budget.
    The other bone of contention would be our garbage collection which seems measured according to the Mayan calendar. In my view, a week is seven days, not eight with countless exceptions divided by the square root of pi plus or minus the current municipal tax rate. I shouldn't have to take out my sextant and astrological charts to know when it is legal to put out my blue box of empty whiskey bottles. Admittedly, this is a trifling complaint, and nowhere near as serious as the railways that still cut across our major roadways, chugging slowly through during rush hour.
    But that is quite enough of my little fang job, this rotten assessment about the city where I live. I can tell you that despite all its objectionable nonsense I don't find it so awful that I would consider fleeing. However, nor would I be the one to tap to give your Londoners any tourism advice if it would mean that you would actually spend valuable holiday time in my London. If you do, despite my aforementioned "highlights” of what you can expect as a recipe of dissuasion, I would recommend our authentically displaced "Monarch of the Road” so that you may delight in our botched mimicry and nominally-based homage. Regardless of our mash-up of your London, I can more foresee that you will experience an acute claustrophobia at every mention of your London area's names set in alien contexts, as though your boroughs were inescapably stretched and distorted across the Atlantic, your London rebuilt in a southwestern Ontario gully by a gang of confused adulators throwing up a mythical revision in a carnival fun mirror.

Written by Kane X Faucher

Tags for this post: Kane, Faucher, Other, London, GuestWriter.
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