Today I awoke with the realization that in a couple of days, I’ll be celebrating my first anniversary in London, Ontario. In reflecting upon this city I now call “Beige” due to its colourless landscape, upon closer inspection, I have discovered a few crushed crayons laying about its sidewalks. The “Forest City” as council persons collectively dubbed London many moons ago has very little in the way of, well, anything vibrant. It’s a plethora of bland strip malls, homes and concrete interspersed with boring, nondescript civic buildings. Even the skyscrapers are bland.
Billings, Montana has absolutely nothing on London when it comes to being dull in its conservative appeal. Even its hideousness is boring. Nothing here beckons adventure or discovery. As enticing as flotsam, London celebrates its banality like a general would proudly soldier through a parade replete with epaulets. You can’t expect much from the city whose claim to fame is that one of the inventors of Insulin lived and died here. It’s museums don’t even call for snooze-worthiness, unless you traipse through that tribute to alcoholism, the Labatts Museum, on Skid Row, orbiting the heart of the downtown core.
So why London you might ask? Well, in all honesty, it was love at first sight. As crazy as this might be, I fell for its citizens. As boring and conservative a populous might be, people here are polite. They all have an old world charm that larger cities could never hope to aspire to.
When I was living in Ottawa, I found myself driven half mad by the sheer number of self-centered people I’d interact with. It bruised my spirit so deeply I was literally consumed with the constant barrage of negativity I met. And I felt that negativity course through me like an incurable virus.
In London I can count on one hand the inconsiderate people I’ve come into contact with. It’s really given me a lot of joy where once resentment and snarls occupied a space within me. In essence, London was the high colonic my soul needed, and I must admit, I feel much lighter since leaving the Nations Capital.
But what I don’t think I was ready for was just how little there was to do in London. Perhaps that’s why so few gay people live here. In fact, there is not a sophisticate seen in or about London. And with good reason. There simply isn’t anything that smacks of culture outside of the odd concert featuring some fallen star long forgotten by the denizens of Las Vegas . If they had a hit eight track 40 years ago, you can bet London has them playing the Labatts Center (I still haven’t figured out what this deal with Labatts beer in London is, when I do, you can bet I’ll be putting it to press). Maybe beer numbs one to the unbearable humidity in summer, or atrocious amounts of snow in the winter. Perhaps it simply serves to raise the candlepower the few small “brights” London has interspersed within it’s “bore-ders”.
One day, after someone in charge had imbibed a little too much, the city decided to spruce up the “downtown” epicenter. I can almost visualize in my mind’s eye, politicians being what they are, that there were lengthy late afternoon debates followed by consensus, soon then creating public announcements…all resulting in the beseeching of local artists to send their bids to create a bit of visual interest to distract the eye from the decor of failure the innermost part of London had become.
If Toronto had its moose statues, and Ottawa it’s tulip sculptures, then the Forest City should in turn have its own special brand of art. Ladies and gents, may I proudly present!
There were no words the first time I saw one of these.
I know first hand what goes through the heads of people who might have any degree of sophistication as they walk the streets of Beige trying to make sense of these steel forged points of interest scattered about where living trees once stood. They’re not even interesting enough to bore you. These arbor “tributes” come in several primary colours, and serve to send shudders down the spines of any living being with good taste, let alone any concept of what true art is. London certainly had proved in one stroke of the proverbial pen that it’s too bland even to rate hilariously bad. They left me longing for something more, like “Dogs Playing Poker” or perhaps a Matador in glittering oils on velvet.
But London does have things so badly executed they’re good (for a snicker or two). You just have to allow yourself an open spirit to what it has to offer. At some point, the council members (not sure if the dolts in session were responsible for these as well as the atrocious metal trees) decided to “recycle” dead trees in the older but more affluent areas of downtown London. Sounds excellent on paper. However, in execution, not so much.
So, it seems that sculptors had been given their directives from the powers that be to create works of totem art from the stumps of dead trees. The concept is very cool. There was an amazing opportunity for London to shine brightly by creating one of a kind works of art out of potential firewood. One can sit back and envision intricately sculpted wooden monoliths that capture living in London. You can perhaps dream of native art, carved to pay homage to the aboriginal persons that were the first to roam this great land.
But, it didn’t come out the way you’d think. In fact, what it could have been is light years from what it ended up becoming.
I wasn’t aware that hockey made for great art. Nor was I aware that the idea that anything carved by Anglo-Saxon men could go so wrong.
Clearly, only Aboriginals should ever be left with the task of carving totems. We white bread folk haven’t got a clue. The evidence speaks for itself.
The city is insufferably proud of these works. So much so, they offer tours to the imaginary vacationers that flock to London during the height of summer.
Now, I realize that art is subjective, but man, I just can’t see someone like Matisse or DaVinci looking at this and not going into fits of laughter. I can see the scenario unfold in my twisted brain. A couple of noted sculptors chosen through submitted bids to create artwork for the city using these dead trees. And with the artists on board, the council members start to create on their own. Voila! Carved cheese. But a little research showed me that while they are both fine craftsman, these concepts are not unique to this project. Man, a good ol’ fashioned bonfire would go down well right about now. Perhaps some Labatts beer and weenies to help celebrate the occasion.
Outside of warm thoughts to bad art, there truly isn’t a lot of culture available in London. The library is the most exciting place in the entire city, and even it smacks of sandalwood.
So what to do when living among the sheeple. Hmm mm.
Well, being the kind of guy that finds ways to amuse himself when the offerings around me are, shall we say, spartan, I simply took a look around. At first, it wasn’t obvious to me what there was in London I could amuse myself with. But one day, while walking through Wal-Mart with my mother, we both spotted a cornucopia of visual treats to snigger at.
For within our horizons, we discovered a city filled with people so badly dressed, so poorly coiffed that Stacey and Clinton would have gone into convulsions upon witnessing this herd of lovlies.
I had found my satirical nirvana.
So I started to pay close heed to the sheer number of mullets I have stumbled upon at any given time. At the time of this posting, I’m well past 400. This burb is rife with them. It’s almost as if “Hockey Night In Canada” seized the hearts and heads of the citizens of London in 1985, and kept them as scenery extras in some freakish version of “Groundhog Day, the Sequel”.
In the fall, when the students all move back to London for yet another semester of frosh parties and disorderly mayhem, you can bet the wayward pupils witnessing the understated style established by the local gentry must bring at least some amusement to those from other points of society. Metro-sexual young men searching for necessities only to discover hair products are only found in the same isles brandishing feminine products of the local drug stores. And young women with bright minds and even better style taking a study break to shop find themselves more laden with amusement instead of purchases as mall after mall seemingly only stock fashions fit for Laura Ingalls-Wilder, or perhaps even (if the shop is progressive) Hillary Clinton. Outside of those choices, unless you’re living on the wrong side of the tracks in London, which is known as the Adelaide Street district, where you will find a LOT more mullet topped heads as well as the “working girls”, you’re shit out of luck.
Now, to bring home to my readers the special nature of my adopted city, our ladies of the evening (or morning, or afternoon, take your pick) are far from the colourful blend of women found in other cities. Not a one sports hot pants, mini skirts, heels, makeup, a functioning liver, etc. No. They all sport the same wardrobes the entire local population of London sport. Jeans and T Shirts nothing interesting, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing sexy, or even amusing enough to keep you from falling asleep at the wheel whilst shopping for your temporary companion.
These femme fatale are anything but hawt. If you find 32 or so of them walking collectively about the strip, you might end up with one full set of teeth. With skin so radiant you wonder how she’s managed oxygen without life support. Figures so willowy its a miracle of creation that they’re vertical without the aid of a walker. These honeys give a new definition to the term “bone structure”. And they do it all without the aid of anorexia or bulimia.
These are all graduates of the Crackney Houston school of self-destruction. All are available for rent at reasonable rates, but be sure to bring the Kwellada and penicillin along for the aftermath These gals are a gift that is sure to keep on giving.
There are no words. None. Must be seen before it is truly believed. And nary a pimp is ever sighted. Such is the red light district of Beige. The real estate is of less value, and the morals may also be a tad bit lower here, but outside of the “figures” these residents sport, they look like every other person living here. Nothing or no one ever will seek to make a visual statement. Not in ages. Sheep without a thread of wolf’s clothing is ever seen.
Still, I chose these people as my neighbors, co workers, friends. And I never once have regretted that choice. For all its lack of character, there is no city friendlier, more polite, more apt to help a person in need, or give you a simple hello, just because.
London may not have sophistication the glittering cities of the world exude, but it what it lacks in events, galleries and fashion it more than makes up for in people who abide by the most important rule ever written for humanity: The Golden Rule. And it’s certainly evidential to me that this rule has long been forgotten and buried beneath the ruins of decency of a great many cities. Ottawa could certainly learn a thing or two from these “rednecks”
Perhaps I should re-think “Beige” and rename my chosen home “Gold”. It certainly shines upon me every time I walk out the front door.