Monday, March 19, 2012

Summer in Jordan

Spring is here! and an unseasonably warm one at that. Time again, I suppose, to take out the patio furniture and begin my summer reading. Jordan's a great place for that, perhaps because it's so quiet. Last summer I had a swell time reading some works by Henry James (The Wings of the Dove and A Portrait of a Lady). It's times like these, when the sun is shining and I'm eating the lotus, that I feel I could stay here a long while and be very content.

Monday, March 12, 2012

And as promised . . .

My recent post about Jordan sinking caused quite an uproar, but at last naysayers may see for themselves. I present to you my photographic evidence of Jordan's slow erosion into the valley. In the photograph to the right you can clearly see where the sidewalk and guard rail begin to sink away.

Yes indeed, ladies and gentleman, Jordan is sinking. Best buy your souvenirs and take your photographs now for in another 2 or 3 or 4 centuries (I'll have to consult a geologist) Jordan will be returned to the valley floor. (Hopefully future inhabitants of this quaint little strip have the good sense to move farther inland before then.)

In the great state of Massachusetts, where I was born in raised, several towns were moved in the 1930s to make way for the development a gigantic reservoir which was to supply the Boston area with fresh drinking water. Entire communities were uprooted, graves dug up, town disincorporated. It's a fascinating history; you can read a little bit about it here. I've always tried to imagine what it would been like to live in one those communities at that time, literally waiting for the flood to come and sweep your whole life away. It's something I must research to a fuller degree in the coming months and years.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Small Town Precedents

"Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child."—Vladimir Nabakov Lolita

As some might have gleaned from the somewhat sardonic tone I've taken in previous posts, and the equally sardonic attitude I seem to have toward my temporary hometown, I'm at the point in my life where I'm itching to put small-town living on hiatus for a little while and try my hand at a slightly more urban existence. It's not that I have any great aversion to small towns; it's just that I always seem to find myself in one.

I grew up in Medway, Massachusetts, a town too far from Boston to really be considered a suburb. It aesthetic terms, it was a pleasing enough childhood, although it certainly had it's darker undertones—one of our neighbours (or should I say "neighbors") tried to kill his wife and kids, but wound up burning his face off. Beyond this, I recall an air of surreptitiousness seemed to pervade—but if I give too much away here there won't be any impetus to buy my memoir. Please enjoy this promotional video of my hometown, directed by David Lynch:

After Medway, my next small-town experience was in Lennoxville, PQ, where I completed my undergraduate degree. Next to Lennoxville, Medway we a veritable booming metropolis. Beyond the university, Lennoxville didn't have a tremendous lot going for it. I spent most of the time drinking cheap wine in friends apartment and deliberating in the Tim Hortons line as to whether or not I should order mon moyen café in tried, tested, true English, or mysterious French—a beautiful language that can barely distinguish between a house and a home. This video tour will give you some idea of what it was like (although I don't personally recall things looking quite so bleak.)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jordan is Sinking

What a lot of people don't know about little Jordan, Ontario is that it, in fact, is sinking—eroding slowly into the valley below (I'll provide photographic evidence). If you walk down the sidewalk along the valley wall, past the mailboxes, you'll notice where the ground starts to give way. It's subtle to be sure, but I would guess that in another few centuries my quaint little community will be completely subsumed into the great chthonic wound below.

It's nice, in an existential way, to consider how ephemeral all these places are, as are all the fleeting experiences that occur therein, in the grand scheme of things. It imbues the present surroundings with a vespertine (one of my favourite new words, btw) air of nostalgia. As fleeting creatures ourselves, I feel it's instinctive to venerate and aestheticize the procession of time (just as the nice folks at Ball's Falls have with their plaque in front of the old cotton mill).

I imagine pretty soon now I'll be moving on from this place.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Valley Detritus

One of my favourite pastimes is hiking and where better than the lush, bucolic 20 Valley? With its foliage and the mighty 16 Mile Creek keeping one company, hiking this little pocket of the Niagara region is the perfect way to while away a morning or an afternoon.

But stray a little ways from the trodden path and what should one find but a wonderland of detritus and refuse. I'm not just talking a few pop cans strewn about. I'm talking about a veritable scrap yard, replete with tires, rusted boilers, refrigerators, stoves, sinks, old busted television sets, wire meshing, first aid kits, and what looks to be the abandoned chassis of something that might have once been described as vehicular (I'll have to consult Andrew on that one). All in all, it reminds one of The Secret Garden except with rusted trash.

To be sure, it's ugly, it's unsightly, but I personally find it intriguing. There's a great human history in things and in things discarded. And there's something almost profound in seeing these manufactured products wrested from their usual places and returned to "the original quarry" (one of my favourite Faulkner quotes).

These ruminations aside, what really puzzles me is how it was that these disparate items came to make a home for themselves in the valley. For all the trouble it would take to dump a boiler or a part of a car in the 20 Valley, you'd think someone would be more inclined to simply go to the dump and drop it off. I imagine most of it was likely thrown down the valley walls from the road. But what kind of person thinks to do that? It's a real mystery to me.

((Because you probably won't find any of these collector's items pictured in any of Niagara's myriad tourist brochures (or on the 20 Valley website), I took the liberty of taking the above photographs myself this afternoon.))

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Anywhere I lay my head . . .

On his 1985 album Rain Dogs, Tom Waits, in his signature rasp, sang "Anywhere I lay my head, I'm going to call my home." I can appreciate the sentiment, but when it comes to calling someplace "home" I find that I'm slightly more discerning in my criteria.

I've had a few apartments in my time: two in Sherbrooke, PQ and one in Kingston. I like the apartment I'm renting now the best. It has history, it has soul—increasingly commodified qualities that are becoming harder to come by (or afford, especially on a student's budget).

My apartment now is about 140 years old. I'm told it used to be an old barn, which seems plausible given its general shape. It's located above a gift shop owned and operated by my landlady, who lives in the basement and was born at the other end of the street.

A few rooms inherit a great deal of history in almost a century and half. The apartment's age is reflected in its old bones, which writhe and torque with the seasons.
The doors and the windows rarely open and close as they should, but you can roll a marble from one end of the apartment to the other. The malformed structure, however, does make fixing pictures and posters on walls something of a challenge; what from one angle will appear perfectly straight will from another appear decidedly crooked. (A compromise must be reached between perspectives.)

At the end of the day, my modest dwellings are quite imperfect, but there's no other place like it—something not to be taken for granted in this era in which one of a kind is itself one of a kind.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Top ten perks of living in Jordan, ON

1. A king's ransom of premium yarn is well within walking distance
Again folks, not one but two yarn/knitting stores: Stitch and The Fibre Garden. This may seem excessive to some, but it's honestly a comfort to know that that if (heaven forbid) one yarn shop should catch fire or become infested with termites, there's still a spare to fulfill all of one's knitting needs.

2. Avondale
From motor oil and and movies to light bulbs and mouse traps, if Avondale doesn't have it, you don't need it.

3. Trendy shops
In addition to yarn, it's easy to find all of life's little necessities in Jordan: custom hardwood floors, vintage wines, Parisian soaps, expensive works of native art. However, if you're looking for something really singular—say a brand of cough medicine that Avondale doesn't carry—you're better off trekking it to St. Catharines.

4. The Bruce Trail
Along with my doctor-recommend diet of artisan bread and whiskey, a brisk hike through the Bruce every week or so keeps me in good health, both physically and spiritually.

5. Good salt-of-the Earth folks

Because Ontario's Bible belt passes through these parts, a good Samaritan is never hard to find. This is especially handy if your tires have a difficult time staying physically attached to your vehicle. (With tires as with yarn stores, it's always advised to have a spare in case of emergencies.)

6. Churches abound
I count five within a five-minute walk from my bed. See above.

7. The Jordan House
The food may be mediocre, but the beer is cold and on weekends the J-Ho always hosts the biggest and the best local cover-bands (do covers of Wonderwall ever get old?).

8. Wine festivals
With Grape and Wine, the Niagara Wine Festival, the Niagara Icewine Festival, Wrapped up in the Valley and countless other such festivals and half-baked promotions, nary a week goes by in this region that the nectar of the gods isn't publicly extolled in one way or another (Niagara: where Dionysian mirth meets corporate interest). Jordan in particular is home to the "Not Just Ice Wine Festival," so titled to allow for everything from fried pickles to goat's meat on a stick.

9. Everyone knows where you live
Because Jordan is (or used to be, at least) such a frequented spot, many are familiar with the lay of the land. This makes giving directions much easier.

10. You can sometimes read about your town in the Toronto Star
Came across this
article last summer. Jordanians take this sort of stuff for granted, but being from Mississauga—a city that doesn't often make the Star's Travel section—I still find it's something of a novelty.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Just a little bit of history repeating Part One

William Faulkner writes in Requiem for a Nun, "The past is never dead. It's not even past.

Such a sentiment, to an extent, could be applied to the area in which I live where traces of the centuries past abound around every corner. History is, of course, essential to any small town's understanding of itself, imbuing it with a sense of tradition and—more importantly—continuity. However, living in Niagara has thrown into sharp relief for me the different ways history is preserved and the very different effects that each has.

About a twenty minute's walk from my apartment is the Ball's Falls Conservation Area, which on its property has preserved some buildings from the mid eighteenth century (a church, a barn, a flour mill etc.). Many know it for being a popular wedding destination.

Such historical preservation areas are of course quite common. Just last summer I visited the well-preserved birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge in Vermont. As someone interested by the lives of generations past, I've always found myself drawn to such places.

That said, it would be misguided to believe that one goes to such areas to have an authentic experience of the past. Quite the opposite, in fact, since such places endeavour to ensure that such artifacts of the past really have no past themselves but are rather subsumed into the immortal and totalizing fabric of the present. Just last summer, for instance, workers at Ball's Falls were hard at work repanelling the exterior of the flour mill situated directly above the mighty Ball's Falls. It will live on into perpetuity, trapped in amber; it's history will be one of preservation.

In terms of experiencing history, I generally just prefer plain old-fashioned ruination a la Tintern Abbey. Consider the hallowed carrion of the old cotton mill pictured below. Clearly, no efforts have been made to preserve it (save for a mediating informational plaque that somehow detracts from the whole experience). What remains are quite simply (and I think more appropriately) the old bones of time's passage, reminding those who happen to saunter by that one day, with much luck, we will all be reduced to a pithy paragraph and a pile of rubble.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Welcome to Bucholia

On the street where I’m living now there is not one but two yarn shops. There are two restaurants, a Parisian-themed bath and beauty shop, two art galleries, an artisanal ironworks shop, a place to purchase fine hardwood floors, an antique store, a winery, a luxury “inn” and spa, a store that specializes in gardening paraphernalia, a clothing store that I’ve never visited, an historical museum and village, and a heritage shop that exists in order to fund the aforementioned museum. Toward the southern end of the street there is bar and across from this bar is a store that might best be described as glorified gift shop (a description that may be equally applied to the entire town). For little over a year I have lived above this shop with my partner, Marlie. Directly behind us are thousands of trees, which—taken together—makes for a vista that often helps me forget that I am poor. Indeed, Jordan is about as pretty and quaint a place as is plausible in this day and age; this is perhaps what makes it so problematic.

In what are shaping up to be my final fleeting months in the Niagara Region, I have decided to use this blog to eulogize my waning experience just south of the big city. Far from a tourism blog or a blissful reminiscence, this blog will take inspiration from the bucolic Niagara environs in its exploration of what it means to live anywhere—to hang one's hat and call someplace home. In this endeavour, Bucholia will consider such concepts as the divide between ruralism and urbanism, aestheticism, history, community, nature and authenticity. In short, this blog will attempt to answer two questions: Who would be deranged enough to want to stay here? Why would anyone ever want to leave?