When I rented a car and went to Brantford/Onondaga to do some reminiscing and photo-taking, I knew that Hamilton was also, ultimately, on my to-do list.
The aim of these trips is not preconceived. This makes it doubly hard to explain to others (friends, strangers, and loved ones) what exactly the hell I’m planning to do. “Taking pictures and stuff.” I’ll say – that’s certainly no lie, but of course there’s more to it. The thing about Zen is this: the second you begin to describe it, it disappears. And so – Art & Zen being the same – there’s always a scaffolding I build around my explanation for these trips. It’s the same scaffolding I use when I go out writing, or to take photos locally: a vague (yet not untrue) reason which allows me to unspoil the inspiration (which itself needs to be vague) while preventing others from thinking I’ve lost my mind. I’m not uncomplicated.
Hamilton, being a place of the past for me, exists in patches of haze – this isn’t to say I did a lot of drinking or drugs when it was a destination, and yet it seems that way: murky. Of course, a good chunk of that time is best forgotten now. The downtown seems more hollowed-out than it did before, with the exception of Gore Park which to this day reminds me what a good idea it is to have spacious downtown promenades.
It was a precursory destination. First, with an ill-fated relationship which spawned a series of bad decisions which I owe to naivety. I am not alone in stating that I owe many mistakes in my 20s to naivety. It all culminated in a brief tenancy at an old apartment building north of St. Joseph’s hospital. In so many ways, it was one of the more excruciating periods in my life – I think the haze I mentioned previously is partially there to protect me from looking too closely at things like this.
The second identity Hamilton had for me happened a few years later when, staying with relatives in Burlington while I studied at college, it became a “big city” to escape to. Toronto was bigger, of course, but it was too far to drive to just to have kicks. Hamilton was perfect and in the early 90s had a great nighttime scene in and around Hess Village. My hang-out was the Bauhaus Café, which sadly (though not surprisingly) no longer exists.
Walking around there now, it seems as if parts of it just gave up. People don’t even want to advertise on billboards. To be fair, I shouldn’t make any judgments without going there again, but on a Friday night – I’m afraid however that these judgments will only skew worse if I do.
Perhaps I have a better understanding of the haze now: it’s there to protect my feelings, it’s there to protect the city from the cold light of an unsympathetic audience.