Saturday, December 29, 2012

In a Fog

St.Johns in the fog

Years ago there was a popular local band that had a semi-hit on provincial radio with a single called "Living in a Fog". Tonight a heavy winter fog descended over St. John's that seemed more than apt. Since landing I've been determined to remain just beneath such a fog, a stupor provided by stiff drinks, too much food and too little exercise. I thought it would be as comfortable as sleeping next to a roaring fire covered in a heavy duvet. I was wrong. Instead it has reminded me of the distance between myself and my family and my tiny retinue of friends. I can't say exactly how. Perhaps I've used the clatter of ice in a glass to say "hey - here for a good time, not a long time." in other words, don't bring me down by discussing reality. I know I've thought to myself that having another drink is easier than wondering if I should have another drink. Then I've thought, that's probably not healthy. In addition to this self-zombification (and let's face it, I always think of Christmas as a Zombie-vacation; must eat. Sleep now. Eat. Brains?) I've found it's been impossible to sleep when I should sleep and even harder to be awake when I should be awake. The alcohol hasn't helped like you would think it would.

There's something else on my mind though. I look around this town and the very homogeneity of it ensures the residents, "this is normal, all else is not". The life people lead here is so removed from how I live. I can't explain this either. Let's just say, a meal without meat would be abnormal, commuting by any other means than by an SUV would be abnormal, not having a television in every room would be abnormal, going to a museum or an art gallery for fun would be abnormal. Even more strange would be reading a newspaper (and I don't mean just a physical one) or a news article would be abnormal. It's my daily routine to read articles from 4-5 newspapers and 2-3 magazines but this is a very foreign exercise here. I haven't heard a single person say, "I was just reading about …" since I've been here?

Let me be perfectly clear - I'm not saying I'm better than this or that but I am saying I'm different than this and here in this world "different" is not a positive attribute. It's how I felt 25 years ago and every time I return the sensation is stronger. In other places I've lived, you would have to be genuinely living on the fringe to be really different, otherwise "different" is not a unique attribute. I know I could never make a living here, there's just not the business for it, but I also think I just can't fit in here. That thought saddens me. It's not just because there's not enough Thai restaurants or cycle shops or whatever crap there's too much of anyway in larger cities, it's an attitude that is everywhere and it simply does not suit me. I know what it is but it would pain me to name it.

I'd like to know some juicy Joyce, Coleridge or Dylan Thomas quote about the difficulty of returning home but that's not it. The difficulty was here when I left, it's here when I return and it will be here when I leave. And that's the gap I feel that gives me a cold shiver because I feel it more deeply than a damp winter fog.

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