Thursday, August 28, 2008

just when I thought suburban alienation was a cliche not worth exploring...

Yesterday, my motivation to continue unpacking never returned. I guess I needed to rest a bit after all the craziness.

In the afternoon, I decided to explore my new neighbourhood, and I took my camera.

I wanted to photograph some of the differences between this neighbourhood and the one we left. The one we left was the original working class neighbourhood, where most of the houses were about 100 years old on very narrow lots. This one is not precisely a suburb, since it's so central, but it's definitely 50s suburban: huge lots, almost entirely bungalows. It wasn't until I got home and saw all the photos that I realized the number one difference: built-on garages.





garbage can




I saw barely anyone walking. A few people worked in their yards, but more than anything was a ubiquitous twitching of front curtains and heads peeking through windows only to withdraw as soon as I tried to look friendly or determine for sure what that movement was.

The most twitching by far occurred at the last house of the above series. The little old lady who lives there even came out and asked me suspiciously what I was doing. She was hard of hearing and I had to repeat myself quite a few times. "I like your house. I took some pictures."

"But what are you going to DO with them?!?"

"I'm just an artist..."

"Who are you?!?"

"I just moved into the neighbourhood. My name is Cinnamon Gurl. I live over on ___ street."

So we chatted, but her suspicion never really left her.

My first stop had actually been the United church that I once thought was heinously ugly in its modernity, but which now I quite like.

church and cart

Behind it in the parking lot were a few sheds and an institutional-looking building behind it. As I shot, a few kids rode through the background on the bikes, so I shot a bit longer (you can just make out one of them - the white speck between the sheds). They noticed me immediately, so I smiled and waved, then turned around. The shot wasn't really working.

parking lot

Halfway across the lot, one of the kids called out, "What do you want?" I wasn't sure they were talking to me, so I turned around, gestured questioningly to myself and said, "Me?" They said nothing and turned around.

Later, they caught up to me. "Excuse me," one of them said. "We were just wondering why you were taking pictures of us."

"I'm just an artist," I said. (I've never called myself an artist before but it seemed like it would make for fewer questions than photographer.)

"Oh, sorry" they said, like I had some horrible affliction.

This neighbourhood is so suspicious! In my old neighbourhood, people asked what I was shooting, but it was out of curiosity, not to uncover my nefarious plot to harm them in some way. The whole rest of the day I felt like this is a horrible neighbourhood, and I don't belong here. What the hell were we thinking?!?

school's out 2

I also discovered that the institutional building behind the church was an abandoned school. It's so sad that they're doing away with the small local schools and bussing kids to mega-schools.

school's out

My town is in the midst of a by-election, which makes it a good time to get a sense of the neighbourhood. As much as I'm trying to curb my judgments, I still judge people by their politics. My old neighbourhood was full of NDP and green party signs. They were everywhere, with only a single liberal sign on my street.

Here, there are virtually no signs. I guess these people are just apathetic. Either that or they have a bizarre need for privacy -- who KNOWS what people could do if they knew which party you supported! Especially in this day and age with the whole Internet thingie. Of the signs that are here, most of them are liberal and conservative, with the odd renegade NDP and green party sign.

I'm still really torn myself. I love the NDP candidate as an individual, but the thought of being the first riding to elect a green party MP is pretty tempting.

campaign headquarters

campaign headquarters-7

campaign headquarters-5

(those campaign shots were all from a few weeks ago)


Mouse said...

We're in this weird rural/suburban setting. There were signs up for local elections, but not much for national elections ever went up, even before our primary. It has certainly stifled my desire to put up an Obama sign--plus, we're not at all visible to the through street. And the only people who would see it are my neighbors, and I know that the best way of maintaining a positive relationship is to avoid, as much as possible, religion and politics. But it does make me think that we're a bit out of our element.

P.S. I would love for a viable third-party to develop in the US. I would be a greenie immediately if that were a real option.

Denguy said...

I hope you don't get over this affliction of yours.

Lisa b said...

The houses in my neighbourhood are close to 100 yrs old and so everyone has cars parked on what was formerly their front lawns since the lots are so small. I hate that everyone drives yet we are on the subway line. We moved here from right downtown so I get your feeling about moving to the 'burbs when you really haven't. No one is ever around walking and they are suspicious too.

glad to see the move went well.

Mad said...

Oy. All those garage shots kinda depressed me.

Maybe your neighbourhood is just suffering a last-week-of-summer lull. Maybe it will come to life next week. Wishful thinking?

cinnamon gurl said...

Me too, Mad, on the garages. As for an unusual lull - I doubt it. But I suspect there might be a few ok people sprinkled around. I just have to find them. There's one place with an NDP AND a green sign - I think I just have to find a way to befriend them.

Bon said...

it's funny...i've been sitting here thinking we really need to pull some plans together for a move in a year or two, once O gets old enough to, y'know, want friends and stuff. and i'm torn between our current across-from-the-liquor-store-and-crack-house location, which offers no other kids but a feeling i kinda like, and the all-garage suspicion and cloistering you describe. though i suppose, truth is, my crack house neighbours are a little suspicious themselves and probably wouldn't appreciate photos. ;)

i hope, in time, you feel more at home.

Kyla said...

Welcome to the suburbs. Garages, suspicion, and cranky old ladies.

LOVE the church photo. Wow.

Hannah said...

At least your neighbours don't leave condom wrappers and dime bags at the foot of your driveway on Friday nights. I think when father-in-law leaves us and we no longer need so much space, we may sell (again, despite my vow to never move again) and look for a more kid-friendly neighbourhood.

As for the voting, you know what I'd say, I'm sure. ;)

Mommy C said...

How many people on here have more cyber friends than real friends? People are less tolerant of differences, these days, and birds of a feather flock together -brave new global world.

I seem to face a lot of alienation at dance class, and preschool, just because I don't spend all the money my husband makes, while working away in the oilpatch, on my hair and fingernails. Where I live is very snobby. It's a town of trophy wives, though half of them are no prize. And it's funny, becuase if I lived here a few years back before they put in a Wallmart, and a Mr. Mikes, back when just the men came here to work and their families lived in Kelowna or Edmonton, it would have been a different story. I'd likely be part of the "in" crowd.

Now my breed have been pushed aside by the suburban soccer moms who drive SUVs and one tons as a status symbol, while us redeneck mamas drive them becuase we're hauling fence posts, chicken feed, water and groceries. And the thing that makes me the most angry is that the most education any of these women have is a little beauty school, but they look at us like we're some dumb hicks. I'm not from here (though no one would ever know), but I'd be proud to be. The women from up here are amazing, and tough. It used to just be ranchers, hippies and mennonites here. Guess what? Those are the only moms interested in talking to me. Who would have known I'd have anything in common with a mennonite. I've actually had moms flatly tell my step-daughter "no" when she's asked if she could have a playdate with their daughter. And I know it's because I'm not cool enough. I know this because her mom is one of them and she never gets "no"s. I guess it's a rural problem, too.

Sorry, that was my alienation rant.

Mommy C said...

One last thing. Be careful Sin. Behind those garage doors may be a horde of stepford wives. Don't let them get you.

Aliki2006 said...

I'm sorry everyone was so suspicious...don't get cured or anything, though, of this affliction of yours--the shots are gorgeous, as always.

Beck said...

I think that attached garages do end up taking away from the feeling of community - it turns it into a streetful of people who only drive, who never see each other.
That is the MOST United Churchy looking church I have ever seen. I think the one I was married in looked JUST LIKE IT.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

In our old neighborhood all the kids played in the street, but in this new neighborhood, no one does. The difference? The old 'hood had shade trees and sidewalks. People in the new place are pretty friendly but the street feels so exposed that one wants to chat out there.

You are feeling culture shock. That's what I told myself, when we moved... It helped to think of the way I felt as a temporary state the could be moved through.

NotSoSage said...

Is it wrong that I like to think of you as the eccentric neighbour who all the weirdos stare at from behind their curtains? You're shaking things up a bit.

And as much as it makes me sad about the state of our world. Good on those kids for asking what you were doing taking photos of them.