Thanks for sticking around good people, it's been a true pleasure. I'll see you on the other side.
ESCAPE FROM SUBURBIA: Part 1
The Year: 1970. Nixon was president. The Beatles were a band. The war in Vietnam was raging on and Elvis Presley still had hit songs on the billboard chart.
That's me in the white sweater. Notice the perfectly manicured lawn, the gleaming white fence that serves no purpose other than to stake out our space of middle class paradise. Notice my stiff, uncomfortable pose. Yeah, even back then, I knew something was wrong with this place...
Okay, so I wasn't yet thinking about Peak oil, about the Walmartification of the world, I was probably thinking, "hey look! my shoes are red!", but not too long after I begin making the many futile attempts to escape suburbia. Like a homing pigeon, some force reluctantly pulls me back to these green lawns and gaping garage houses.
First Attempt: 1972.
Television had already infiltrated my brain and this is the family I really wanted to belong to, not my lower middle class immigrant family. A few months after my 5th birthday I would try to run away from home. Don't let my look of idiotic vacancy fool you, I was a schemer. I convinced my best friend we HAD to run away, which was hard to justify since we both had perfectly happy lives at home.
Being the closet drama queen, I knew we had to do it right - with props. Kerchiefs were tied to the ends of sticks, hobo style and were filled with cheezwiz sandwiches. We left and started our journey. I don't know how long we walked, but my friend got scared and started crying after realizing we were lost. A nice lady walked us home and I tried to put on a brave front, but began sobbing with guilt as I ran into my house. I apologized to my mother for all the worry I caused her, but she just looked at me, confused, she hadn't even realized I left the house. Infuriated, I got busy making more plans of escape.
2nd attempt: 1979.
My escape plans were thwarted over the course of 7 years by insufferable things like play and happy childhood. Luckily, I was back on track with terrifying prepubescent angst by the time I was 11.
I had experienced my first big international trip - an hour and a half family drive to the JC Penny's department store in Buffalo, New York. It was America! It was dirty and gritty and exotic. I felt like I was in an episode of Hill Street Blues. I loved it. I needed more city fixes.
Here I am around that time with my flippy hair. A picture of innocence? not really. My new plan of escape was quite involved. I convinced my new BFF to skip school and take the greyhound bus with me to the BIG city of Toronto. We saved our allowance for weeks. I had practiced my mom's and her dad's signature well enough to fake some notes of absence to hand in the day after our adventure. I studied the bus schedule and fine tuned all the details until the plan was a green light.
The plan started out smoothly, until my best friend panicked and headed back to school. I had worked too hard, come too far to give in to fear. So I went to Toronto alone, sweetly dodging strangers questions of why I wasn't in school. When I got off the bus in downtown Toronto, the plan ended. I had no idea what to do. I become paranoid I would be seen by relatives so I didn't venture out more than a block from the bus station. I waited, fearful and impatient, for hours until it was time to get back on the bus and be safely home in suburbia.
I'm 17. Here I am with an over accessorized neckline during the last torturous year of high school. Finally having recovered from my last dismal attempt at escape, I try again. I set my sights bigger, this time... New York City. A part time waitressing job has given me enough money to pay for the 12 hour bus trip to the Big Apple. I lie to my mother, telling her many of us are going but really it is just me and my quirky male friend. We have little money, so we stay at a seedy hotel near Times Square.
In the mid 80's Times Square is a cesspool of peep shows, hookers and drugs. New York is exciting, but I'm underage, broke and clueless. We find an old movie theatre showing a midnight screening of Chinatown before wandering around the next day. My friend goes to MOMA, stupid me passes and I wander around and go wait for him....once again, at the greyhound bus station....wanting to go home.
1986: I've decided to delay university, just work, travel, ESCAPE. I want to go to Peru or Indonesia. Terrible with money and impatient, I look at my bank account and realize I have enough money to get myself as far as Calgary. So I go, stay with my friend who lives in a Calgary SUBURB. My quirky male friend meets me, we decide to go as far away as we can in Canada and end up in Whitehorse, again via a greyhound bus.
After a short surreal stay, my friend and I part ways and I head to Vancouver to visit another old friend. British Columbia feels strange to me, wild and remote. Part of it feels like a prehistoric world of mountains, giant trees and ferns from the Triassic age. In BC, the forest slugs look like dachshund puppies shaved bare and dipped in melted butter. Nature is strange and intimidating here. On the bus ride from Whitehorse to Vancouver, I begin to feel that maybe I will finally and truly escape suburbia....
to be continued...
Escape from Suburbia: Part 2 - lost in the mountains...