Thursday, December 11, 2008


I bet you thought I was going to use that subject line to segue into a review of the album from the RAA. Well, I thought I would, anyway. But it's a negatory on that one, good buddy, as I am currently in my own hometown and my copy of Hometowns is in Sackville. Thus: no dice.

It's a mess of ice and metal that isn't Scandinavian. It's a consistent site of exodus; the population has halved in the last forty years and not a whole lot has left the city. Things have grown, things have changed, but those in charge don't seem to know what will keep kids here.

I used to organise a monthly all ages concert series, to give local performers a place to play and local kids something to do. I ran this for a year and a half, taking over from a friend of mine who had run it for several years previous. At the end of this year and a half, our venue, the Arts Centre, cancelled us, not due to any sort of funding issue (we were turning a profit) nor due to any damages (none were done) but due simply to the fact that the director of the arts centre wished to transition the building from a community space to a bona fide art gallery, and away with the riff-raff. I subsequently looked for a new host. None was found.

Some months back I started looking into the prospect of hosting a Christmas concert in the same vein, so as to bring people together. I searched and I searched, but no venue sprung forth. Those that did were of the ballroom orientation, with rental fees for a night starting at around $350. No 50-100 capacity all ages venue exists in Saint John. We used to have the Arts Centre and the Showroom, both of which are now defunct as such a space. Churches do things now and then, but not with any consistency. I'll be the first to admit not everyone wants an all ages music venue, but those who do are also the sort who, barring some kind of coffeehouse event or hardcore show, end up smoking up and drinking and fucking themselves into oblivion. Now, there's nothing wrong with drinking and smoking and fucking, of course. These things are the backbone of any university student's existence. But when one is 14 and passing out dead drunk in someone else's bed, there's something wrong. That's not a city they want to stay in, the city that leaves no options but drink and fuck and smoke and fuck and drink and fuck and smoke and die. The skate park finally opened, though, at least, at last. So now they can drink and smoke and fuck and skate and die.

I got out. I got out as soon as I could and I don't intend to live here again. I certainly don't want to start a family here.

Don't even get me started on the commercial politics of the city. Its only sustenance is pure unadulterated capitalism in the form of the Irving family. Yes, they do a lot of good. Yes, they are the lifeblood of the community. Yes, they are for the most part generally nice people but for crying out loud, they have this city by the balls. The beneficent industrial tyrant, if ever it was to pull up roots, would leave the city helpless. I read a figure once that 73% of working individuals in Saint John are in some way employed by the Irving group. And who's to doubt that? They own the refinery and the mill, obviously. They own the newspapers and the radio stations. They own the OsCo group, the logging industry, they dominate trucking and just about everything you can think of, there's an Irving stake therein. This is unhealthy. This monopolist capitalism is the defining feature of the Saint John cityscape, and all the more reason to get out.

This is a rant. No more and no less. I don't like this city one bit. I like the land on which it sits, in parts. I like the bay. I like the woods (but the Irvings even own that, don't they?). It's a hellish spot with no upward mobility, no culture to speak of, no promise for its youth. No wonder so many kids in this sorry town have no prospects for existence.

I was one of the lucky ones. I got out, soul intact.

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