Saturday, October 20, 2007

Life in Ottawa...

Now that the Thrown Speech* has bored everyone sufficiently, and Dion's dignified retreat from the brink has been suitably catalogued, and a shoe store will, for the time being, not be retrofitted as a prison-house for the Fourth Estate, time for a change o' pace. Life in my hometown. Ottawa.

They drained the Rideau Canal a few days ago. That, and only that, signifies that the summer is over. We have grown used to signs and markers to help us negotiate time and space here. We have a festival to tell us that it's spring, and a Mayor to tell us that we're foolish. The Peace Tower is there to ensure that we don't get lost. With our road system, we're only a few minutes away from everything, unless it's rush hour. We have two of those: 7:30am-10:00 am and 3:30pm-7:00pm.

In Ottawa, where buses cost almost as much as taxis, it's probably just as well to stay close to home. But our neighbourhoods are not always quiet refuges. Large, ungainly structures are appearing. Intensification, it's called. Spoilsports like me prefer the term "develovandalism." A four-storey, six-unit condo for the very rich is going up just two doors away, amid acres of bungalows including mine. "Country living in the city," the developer proclaims. But we've just heard that the adjacent greenspace, the "country living" bit, is being sold. To developers. Hah!

The City Planners told us in a letter that the planned blockhouse, minus several 150-year-old trees that must go in the name of progress, is going to be harmonious and pleasing and fit in well with the neighbourhood. They live in tree houses themselves, or possibly burrows. Their notion of est'etics was hatched in a cauldron somewhere. I can see them circling the thing, dressed in black robes, muttering about eyes of newt and fillets of fenny snakes. "What about Ottawa's Official Plan?" I asked one of them. "It says that new structures should blend in." He laughed at me.

Meanwhile, there's a rape epidemic going on, something to cheer the Harperite "war on crime" folks. A fellow with bright orange hair, various other identifying marks and a car that was described to a T, kidnapped a teenager in broad daylight near the downtown Chateau Laurier
, drove off with her and sexually assaulted her. That was weeks ago. The Ottawa cops haven't been able to track him down. Perhaps he needed a sign around his neck saying "Rapist" as well. If more criminals would be considerate like that, the cops might be able to do something about their abysmal "crime solved" stats. Better than beating up drunks and keeping non-whites and alien cultures in their place.

The streets are clean, though, for now. The kids are back at school. Only a few shopping days until Christmas. No need for a lot of folks to put up lights--they just don't take them down anymore. Everybody recycles. Just as well, because new limitations to garbage disposal have just been announced. Orange peelings must be less than 4cm long. Eggshells must be pre-crushed. One bag per house, weighing no more than 11kg. Garbage collection seems to take all week now, as each bag is meticulously weighed and searched by the garbagepersons, with a guy in a suit taking notes. At least, that's what happens outside my house.

A row of vertical pipes has appeared in a nearby park--large metal ones. We don't raise questions, hardly even notice the things. Must be there for some reason. But apparently it's to permit methane to escape. Don't ask. Me, I'm just glad that stuff's gone, whatever it is.

Time to do yardwork, which in my case means pulling up the squash vines that yielded two-inch fruit and bringing in a ton of green tomatoes. Ottawa. Gotta love the place. I know I do. When I'm not fending off the pig bats.
*A term describing the Caribbean practice of talking about someone loudly in his or her presence.

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