“We didn’t want to leave our hood,” Explains Simon Park (‘Slim’ to his friends, who he recently moved away from). “It had everything we wanted. Multiple cafes staffed by creative types with unconventional tattoos, restaurants with single page menus, a serious cycling fraternity (no CCM’s allowed), transit, record shops with a strong selection of experimental music, cool-looking dogs, the list goes on. And all the people who like those sorts of things. It was great. We loved it there.”
“But we couldn’t afford it.” Adds Dabs, his partner of nine years, looking like she harbours resentment over that fact. “And I harbour resentment over that fact,” she confirms moments later.
Slim and Dabs took a leap that many young Canadians feel themselves being pushed towards, forced like buffalo herded to a cliff by powerful forces beyond their control. Unable to afford to purchase in the cities they call home (and work, and play), and unwilling to rent all their lives only to have nothing to sell so they can afford to live in a care facility that ignores them, these young people do the only thing they can afford to do: move to the sticks and hope gentrification catches up before they turn into rednecks.
“I don’t know if the word ‘ethnocentric’ entirely applies in this case, but as far as it does, we don’t want to be that,” maintains Slim, using his hands in an attempt to either clear his mental boundaries or define them, and knocking over his pour-over in the process. “We understand that the people who live in this town have done so for many generations, inter-marrying and drinking Timmys and ice-fishing out of the back of their pick-up truck while Shania Twain ruins everything. That’s just not for us. What is for us is the tiny mortgage we got for a four bedroom house and a shed the size of our old apartment.”
And while conventional wisdom would say they are not alone, so far they are, as no one they know has actually made the move with them.
Between Dabs and Slim they counted “somewhere around 50 likes on Facebook” when they announced they were moving out of the city, as well as an amount of encouraging comments they called “significant,” from friends saying they were thinking of making the same move. But, as Slim said, “I guess it’s easier to click on a blue thumb than it is to pack everything up, rent a moving truck, drive an hour and a half, unpack, and then commute that same hour and a half for the rest of your life or until they put in a new train line and you can sit for an hour and half.”
“Two hours.” Adds Dabs.
“It’s not two hours, not if you take highway nine and then the county road to the farm lane cut-off.”
“It’s two fucking hours Slim, no matter which back-country, off-road, deer path you take and you damn well know it.”
A suggestion of a walk around town is warmly embraced by all, and with that we set off along the gravel shoulder for the quick eleven minute jaunt to the gas station that marks the beginning of where you can see main street in the distance. From there it is just another eleven minutes until we are in town proper. And a minute later our tour is complete.
“So there it is!” Says Slim, opening his arms wider than is actually needed to embrace the handful of buildings that make up the town centre, mostly housing dual-purpose stores.
“Yes the cafe sucks, and yes the music store smells like potpourri, and yes the clothes on sale would be best described as ‘sensible.’ But just give it a few years. Or decades. And before you know it all of the creative types who value quality of life over the rat race will have joined us out here and there’ll be dope tattoo parlours and an independent movie house and farm to table restaurants frequented by Booker prize winning novelists, and maybe some sort of hipper form of bingo.”
“Before you know it.” Chimes in Dabs, lighting her ninth cigarette of the trip while typing continuously, and with considerable, force on her phone. “Before you know it.”