This is My Hobart

I’m tired. Really tired.
I went back to work a few days ago (I work a few hours a week as a distributor for a marketing company). It’s funny being in Hobart again after so long in cities wider and grander and a million times bigger and a million times more foreign.
The familiarity of these places threw me. I think it’s because I’m tired. Really tired. But also because I’m different and they, for the most part, are not.

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It’s a funny place to be in, and I’m very aware that window of observation will be open to me for a very short time. Soon enough I’ll walk these streets and not notice them at all, not think about anything except a thousand memories of walking these same streets a thousand times before. But right now, while I’m tired and while that window of observation is open, I thought I’d show you my city, the places I’ll walk a thousand more times without noticing. It’s a good city, really.

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This is the mall. It rained today, all day, which is unusual for Hobart. Two days ago I got sunburnt. That contrast in weather is pretty normal.

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I got a coffee in town, which is pretty normal, and thought about how many old buildings  there are. Hobart is over 200 years old, which is an infant by European standards, but compared to Calgary, a mere babe at 100 years, it’s an ancient city. We have some beautiful architecture that for the most part I take for granted. I didn’t even get to the older, genteel parts of the city.

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And then there’s the modernist 1950s influence. We have a lot of that, too. Those blue windows you can see poking out the back are the library, by the way.

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And this is it. This is looking down from the street I park my car on, down onto the main road, and beyond that is the highway. There are other, prettier views of Hobart. I wasn’t coming to capture it’s beauty today as much as it’s familiarity. This is My Hobart. Two lanes of traffic. Peak hour that lasts five minutes. The mountain that comes and goes with the weather. These are the scenes that I know like the back of my hand.
To tell you the truth it’s good to be home, but at the same time familiarity makes me a little sad too. It makes me, strangely, nostalgic for places that are different.
I’m tired, really tired. And it’s good to be home. But to tell you the truth, today I’m homesick for America.

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Oh, Canada! Part1: Vancouver

We’re in Vancouver.

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People have been saying to me for a long time now that Canada is beautiful, that I’ll love it, that the scenery is spectacular, and that it’s like Hobart…Hobart, Tasmania, that is. I can’t comment on Hobart, Indianapolis.

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And guess what I’m going to tell you: it’s spectacularly beautiful, I love it, and yes, it’s like Hobart.
Actually, it’s like Hobart on steroids. Powerful steroids. Everything we love about Hobart is here, but there’s more of it! Bigger river, more quaint little streets, more shops, bigger mountains. High rises. High everything. Much, MUCH bigger mountains.

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Today we drove to Stanley Park (no don’t get confused. This is no park-down-the-road-with-a-swing-set, this is a massive multi-acre nature reserve, complete with Aquarium and nature trails. And totem poles. And beaches, where my kids paddled in the water and watched some even more enthusiastic tourists get their gear off and swim! (In their bathers). Tomorrow we’ll go back, and possibly the next day, and maybe the day after that as well.
Truth is, I think we could spend a month here and still not see everything Vancouver has to offer. That’s the trouble with it really. That’s the trouble with Canada really. It makes you fall in love with it, then gives you far too much to even know where to start. We’ve got four more days.

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Oh yes. We saw our first moose. Sorry. Mousse. Close enough, eh?

New York Stories

The first I heard about Hurricane Sandy was on the radio the other day, part of the 7.30 news update, sandwiched between something about a local politician and something about the Hobart Show. It stood out because it seemed so silly, like someone had inserted a movie promo in somewhere inappropriate and they’d forgotten to change the voices. The newsman said a Hurricane was About to Hit New York, and People were Advised to Evacuate. How do you evacuate a city of eight million people? I mean, where do they go? How does that even happen? What happens if these choose not to go? Would it be like New Orleans after Cyclone Katrina, with all those people living in sports stadiums for months? And then the Weird Thought came: This is New York. They’ve faced alien invasions (Independence Day) and giant apes on the Empire State Building (King Kong) and probably attacks by zombies and werewolves and giant purple bats and anything else that could come to mind, and hey, they’re okay! This is New York after all, the most famous city in the world.

I wonder: is that what the people there think as well? Is that why they stayed? No. I don’t believe that.

I kind of forgot about it, because life goes on in small-and-far-away places, and it was the weekend and we had things to do, but then I saw it again on Facebook: American friends expressing sympathy and fear, and I realized again that it WAS real, not a movie, and something I should care about. It sounds dumb. But New York for me is movies and pictures and Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sesame Street Brownstone apartments and the Muppets Take Manhattan, and all those Yankee symbols that turn up in inappropriate places like advertising hair products in out-of-the-way hairdressers who like to pretend they’re hip and upmarket because they know what big cities are all about.

We so don’t know, down here in Hobart, what big cities are all about. I remember growing up in my little town and traveling down to Hobart once every few months, and feeling the need to dress up, coz I too was going to the “big city”.

New York is a dream. New York is pictures. New York is movies, and everything is okay in the end, because New York is Hollywood, and Hollywood always has happy endings.* And New York is BIG, so big that funny little things like weather shouldn’t be able to touch it, like it’s possibly even true, in a city of eight million people**, that sheer force of numbers should be able to control stuff like that, should be able to control God. It’d be nice to believe that, but I can’t.

New York City, according to my research, is approximately half the geographical area of Greater Hobart, and contains approximately half the population of my country. I shouldn’t be surprised that I can’t understand it, any more than I should be surprised that I can’t understand the way God works. Or, for that matter, the way weather works.

I’m glad to read this morning that most people are safe, and that the worst is nearly over (although my heart breaks for the families of the ones who are not, those who did not make it through), and I have to stop and remember to give thanks, and not just presume that everything was okay because I knew it would be, because it was New York, or Hollywood, or pictures, or stories.

One day I’ll go there. But even then I don’t think I’ll ever really understand.

NASA image of Hurricane Sandy

*Please don’t correct me on my geography. I’m talking METAPHORS here, not subway stations.

**I met one of them recently. Well, one who USED to be from there. His blog is really cool, and if you ask him nicely he may put up a whole lot more New York Stories. I hope so.