Thursday, September 4, 2014

passing through New Brunswick

Wind turbines actually terrify me

My first impression of New Brunswick, years ago, was that it was a province to get through to get to Nova Scotia / Prince Edward Island / Quebec, and that impression has never left me. I assumed that was why the highway speed limits are set at 110km/h.

There was this one time when Rob and I were driving through New Brunswick, and we were running out of gas and there just were not any gas stations around, or towns. We thought we were going to be stranded. There was no cell phone reception there. I started doing mental calculations about how far I'd be able to walk to the last town we passed (a long time ago) to get help.  Actually, that happened more than once.  The impressions lasted in my mind. Now whenever I'm in New Brunswick, I just keep having the same urges. Keep driving. Keep a full tank of gas.

I mean, really, I know it means I should spend some more time here one day. But for now the province continues to feel like a series of places I pass through.

"Do we want to stop at Magnetic Hill?"
"What is Magnetic Hill?"
"It's a hill with an optical illusion that looks like you are driving uphill when you are actually going downhill. Or maybe it's the other way around."
"...No thanks."

Someone is playing the harmonica in the food court of Regent Mall, and it is making everything feel like a sea shanty.


Unnamed town

I feel like this means something

Bruce Springsteen has this song called "My Hometown" that I think really resonates with a lot of people about their hometowns.

"now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores 
seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more 
they're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks 
foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to your hometown 
your hometown 
your hometown 
your hometown..."

I have decided not to name this town because actually, the folks that live there seem really nice and they are trying to make a living.  Unnamed Town is more or less a real-life Bruce Springsteen song.  They have a website, featuring an events calendar, which is completely blank.

"Can I have a tourist map of attractions?" I asked the front desk clerk.
"We don't have any," she responded.  It occurred to me that I wasn't sure if she meant that they didn't have any maps or that they didn't have any attractions.

I went to the hotel bistro instead, which actually turned out to be more of a diner. This suited me fine, because I have a thing for greasy spoon diners and I love spaghetti.  Next to the restaurant was what appeared to be a bar.  Feeling hopeful, I pressed my forehead up against the dark windows to try to look inside.  The bar was closed. The chairs were stacked on the tables. An upright piano stood in the corner, covered in a clear plastic tarp.  An old man sat by himself, watching the flat screen TV.  It was like a metaphor for something.

Unnamed Town used to be a booming town when they built the mill. It did block the entire town's waterfront view, but that was okay, because it brought in a lot of jobs. Until it closed. Then they were the town with no waterfront, and also no mill. The railway no longer stopped there, and the power plant was de-commissioned. The biggest employer in town now is the local nursing home. That's got to be a metaphor for something.

Where the mill used to be / where the waterfront used to be

Nowadays, downtown is empty. I don't mean in the sense that there aren't a lot of people outside, because to be fair, Ottawa's Sparks Street is also completely deserted after 5PM on weekdays.  This is a different kind of empty, where all the stores are abandoned and shut down, and it seems like every other house is for sale. This is what it feels like, I realized, to be in a dying town.

About twenty kilometres away there is a larger, wealthier, better off town with parks, stores, a pretty waterfront and what seems to be touristy attractions. It kind of reminds me of the Eagleton/Pawnee rivalry that happens in the TV show Parks and Recreation.

But you know what really touched me was the fact that someone out there was still trying. Maybe a spunky Leslie Knope, working hard to save her town. The lamp posts downtown advertised "Film Night Tuesday" or "Jazz Night Wednesday" without any detail as to where you can catch the jazz or the movies, sure, but it at least made you feel like the action was happening sometimes, if only you hadn't shown up on a Thursday.

And when I posted a photo of the town up on my Twitter account, someone from city council welcomed me and thanked me for visiting. On Twitter.  There's something to be said about a town that uses Twitter. There's still some life in it yet.

the busiest spot in town

I feel like everything here is bilingual in that half the things are in English and the other half is in French and nothing is actually translated.

Also, they serve Acadian-themed donuts at the Tim Horton's.


I actually really liked Shediac a lot. Probably because we went to Parlee Beach, the beach that everybody from New Brunswick sings praises about, and I like beaches.

It was a beautiful beach.  However, I liked it better in Quebec where I couldn't understand what everyone around me was chattering on about.

We also went to a French bakery, aptly named Boulangerie Francais.  See? Beaches and French pastries. Two of my favourite things. We couldn't go wrong in Shediac.

my parents, also two of my favourite things. Or I guess people