Friday, February 19, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again

Stratford is weird.

I guess any small Ontario tourist town in the middle of winter is a little bizarre, since so much small-town charm is a direct result of having things like leaves on trees and quaint shopping districts, but Stratford is particularly strange, since so much of its appeal comes from the Festival. Stratford's downtown, without its throngs of prettily dressed tourists, is pretty grim in the winter months. Stratford in the summer is like Woody Allen's odd 1996 musical Everyone Says I Love You, which featured lots of natty white people and some randoms bursts into song. Stratford in the winter is a little more like Wendy and Lucy, which was depressing and kind of bleak.

Anyway, reading week has descended on U of T, so a mass exodus from campus has erupted. Instead of heading west, towards the outpouring of national pride and jacked-up prices that is the Vancouver Olympics, I slunk home to spend some time with my family. Whom I love. And I went for tea with a friend, which was nice. Coffee with my mom. Whom I love. In Stratford. Which I snoorrrreeee... sorry, I dozed off there for a second.

The curse of the tourist town is that, while the season is lush and lovely, the off-season often seems seedy. The factories, which are constantly belching along, seem more prominent without the concealing greenery. The university students are all off in their respective classes, leaving towns that seem to be all teenager and middle-aged. Stratford's downtown, which caters to the out-of-town visitors that come to wine, dine, and see plays, has a dearth of basic amenities downtown. All the grocery stores are on the edge of town; there's no place to rent a video; sandwhiches cost, like, nine dollars. Other small towns manage to provide the people who live in their downtowns with some basic services, while Stratford leaves them high and dry.

When I went to high school here, the town was small enough to be accessible. One of my best gals lived on the edge of town, and I could walk to her place in twenty minutes. That's perfect for a sixteen year old with no car. Ten years later, that same accessibility seems stiflingly small. There aren't a ton of extracurriculars here. If I was interested in obscene drinking, then yes, this place would be perfect. But I'd like to keep expanding my horizons, instead of making them fit into the bottom of a pint glass.

Now, when I come back, I come back almost as a tourist. I get to eat in fancy restaurants over Christmas break and bask in the sylvan downtown in the summer. On the other hand, most of my friends have relocated to more cosmopolitan settings, and seeing my family is a treat that doesn't overlap with the frothy delights of the Stratfordian downtown scene. This is a place to visit, not to live.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bad Things Happen In A Variety Of Numerals

You know those weeks where you wake up early, and the sun is shining, and your favourite ice cream stand is open for the first time in the season? And the best TV shows have magically all come back on the air? And you go to the library and you don't have any overdue fines? And the new issue of your magazine is perched in your mailbox like a little literary butterfly? And you see an ex-lover on the street, and it's sweet instead of terminally awkward? And you just feel like everything is going right, like the world is on the end of your string, and that you're going to make it after all?

So not me this week.

I'm having a week that's making question if going skiing this weekend is a bright idea, because with my recent luck, I'll somehow manage to set my hair on fire while sipping on apres-ski hot chocolates. Not only did my wallet grow legs and wander off at a house party last weekend, my computer also somehow managed to become infected with a deadly virus.

Trying to open Microsoft Office led to a pop-up that advertised, in less polite terms, what could be euphemized as "warm feline." The internet curled up in a fetal position and whimpered. I spent no less than three hours on hold and $150 in cash monies to rectify the situation. Plus, I was a bit of a dillhole to the tech support people, because nothing in my parents' house works properly, including the phones, which meant that I had to sprint back and forth between the kitchen wall phone and the computer room whilst trying to secure our previously unsecured network. All of this also meant a huge screaming fight between me (who doesn't understand anything, apparently) and the rest of my super-technologically savvy kinfolk.

I am not saying that it's not my fault. There was probably some virus that was hanging out on the back corners of my computer, picking its teeth with a pocket knife and sneering at my iPod. It's just frustrating, because this hadn't happened on my secured Toronto network; it happened at my parent's (previously) unsecured Stratford network. That mofo is locked down tight now, but I might be shutting the barn door after Mr. Ed is long gone. And my entire family was all, "YOU did something! YOU must have downloaded a file! YOU have unleashed the monster that is currently ripping its way through downtown Computeropolis!" which makes me feel even worse. My computer wasn't even on when the virus entered the system.

Anyway, I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Since bad things apparently come in threes, I'm waiting for the aforementioned scalp fire to happen, or for someone to slip me LSD at the bar, or to have Godzilla crumple up my bike like a tissue. If I was a christian, I would think that God was punishing me for some transgression or another; since I'm not, I can only blame the fickle bad-luck wind for blowing so hard these past few days. On the other hand, since I'm apparently now putting stock in the mystical and mysterious, my horoscope did mention that, after a run of lousy luck, my stars will align to make a more positive change.

Weeks like this make me believe in the three-bad-things rule. I feel like once there's been two moronic events, it's hard not to wait for the third. On the other hand, that might just be putting out bad karma. After all, no one bemoans the fact if good things come in fives, or whatever that rule is. I'm going to try to do some Lamaze breathing until my computer drama is resolved, be grateful for the fact that aside from all my cards, only six dollars went missing from the Great Wallet Caper of 2010, and that I probably won't break an ankle on the ski slopes. Wish me luck, and I'll accept any and all get-well-soon cards on behalf of my sick computer.