So this conference that is keeping me from being in Canada for Thanksgiving and also making me miss The Bandicoots is now redeemed by the fact that I will actually be there for this (which I’ve missed for the past year or two) and for a friend’s graduation from library school in London (the one in Ontario that actually has its own Thames). Pretty good tradeoff all in all.
Also on the agenda:
- Groceteria research in Detroit, maybe Toledo, and Niagara Falls
- Quality time in the Toronto Reference Library
- Falafel Queen (just discovered it’s now closed and I’m depressed) and all my other favorites
- London and Windsor for the first time in twelve years
- Seeing friends (I hope) in Toronto, Detroit, and Buffalo
- Maybe another side trip yet to be determined
In case you haven’t visited the other site — you know, the one that actually still gets lots of traffic and attention — you might be surprised to see how much its geographic reach has expanded in the past two years or so that I’ve been really actively updating again. There are now entries for forty of the fifty United States and eight of the ten Canadian provinces (none of the territories, alas). My goal is to get something up for all them within the next year.
Here’s a handy map:
Everybody needs a hobby…
I’m home. Flying back from Halifax only took fifteen hours longer than driving would have. I hate flying.
So I’ve now done the Maritimes. I’m glad I’ve been there and I enjoyed the trip, but a return trip is not a terribly high priority for me. The whole area is just too rural and lacks a lot of the urbanity and diversity I associate with Ontario and Québec, though there are still some interesting notes I’ll add to that long essay on suburban form in Canada I’ve been formulating for years now.
A few more random thoughts:
- New Brunswick is the only “officially bilingual” province in Canada. Greater Moncton (and particularly) Dieppe was the only place I visited where it really seemed to “take.”
- There are a lot of a highways that seem to have much more capacity than the traffic requires.
- I found Halifax the most interesting place of all, probably because it’s the biggest city in the region and had some of the only decent bookstores I found.
- Halifax also has one of the oddest street numbering systems I’ve ever encountered anywhere.
- I’d like to read a spatial history of Saint John because I really don’t understand how it developed the way it did.
- A&W’s “beyond meat” burger? Meh.
I don’t think I could ever have a completely monogamous relationship with a city. I get crushes too easily, and they make me a little obsessive, even when they’re never really…uh…consummated.
This week, for the record, it’s Cincinnati (which I’ve finally gotten used to spelling correctly) and I’m now in that “uncovering its history and doing my Groceteria research” phase following the lovely weekend we just spent together. I’d been in Cincy exactly twice before, once with Bob on the 1998 U.S. Tour and once in 2006 with Mark. Both were quick drive-throughs which gave me no real feel for the place but made me want to see more. Apparently I also considered moving there, at least for long enough to write this.
I probably wouldn’t actually move there now, but it seems a nice enough place to have another affair with. I’m in Pittsburgh next month for a show. I hope this won’t make things awkward between us.
And in case you missed it, this is what February looked like.
- The exposed brick is actually wallpaper.
- The hotel is in in a semi-suburban part of Durham NC.
- It was built in 1985 as a Days Inn.
The funny thing is that after almost thirteen years away, I still feel a very strong connection to California and the Bay Area, though Los Angeles (where I never lived) is the place I miss most. But after all those years, my affection and nostalgia for San Francisco (where I actually did live) has never really returned. The connection I feel to California — and in some ways, it still feels like home — does not extend to the place that actually was home. I don’t fully understand this, and sometimes it makes me a little sad.
When I lived in San Francisco. It was very common for my fellow residents not to think of themselves as Californians. They identified almost exclusively as San Franciscans, whether they’d lived there more than six weeks or not. While the earlier version of me was pretty obsessive about the place is well, I always saw myself as a resident of California first and of San Francisco second. I didn’t fall into the trap of believing that all civilization ended when you left the sacred 49 square miles, and I grew to love the state as a whole.
And I still love it. I’m generally ready to visit on a moment’s notice. If economics were not a factor, there are places I would still consider living in California. It’s still very much a part of me, and I think in a lot of ways I became so fluent in the culture that I still often think in “Californian.”
I know I have this annoying tendency to think of cities in much the same way most people think of lovers, and I’m self-aware enough to realize that part of the problem I have with San Francisco is the same problem one has with just about any ex. It’s hard to think about San Francisco without remembering how much I really despised it by the time I left. I dwell on the bad ending without thinking so much about the good times that preceded it. But I still regularly consume material about the history of the city, and I still have memories of good times there, but they don’t leave me with a particularly warm and squishy feeling.
The last time I was in SF, for a conference in Oakland in 2015, I found my visit to the city to be so off-putting that I’m still not sure I’ll ever return for even a quick visit. That was sort of hard for me to cope with; when I wrote about the rest of the trip, I never got around to finishing that last section where I would have talked about being in San Francisco. I couldn’t quite express my feelings, and I still can’t. I don’t believe, though, that all my antipathy toward the city was based on past experience . I really do think it is a very different place now, and it’s not a place that I particularly like. In fact, I don’t think I’d particularly like it now even if I had no history or background and were visiting for the first time.
Part of this is probably also related to the fact that I’m much more inclined to live in the present and the future these days, which is a good and healthy thing. I’m glad that I’m not “pining away” for my old life in San Francisco, but it would be nice to be able to muster up at least a little nostalgia for something other than an imagined historical past I never really experienced in person anyway.
I guess the tl;dr here is that I have a complicated relationship with San Francisco, but I still feel very connected to California, and that I don’t really know how to write about all of this…and probably should no longer even try. But a Twitter conversation this evening about this article reminded me that I’ve been meaning to do it anyway, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I don’t think I succeeded, but it killed a few minutes before bedtime.