Friday, July 2, 2010

Exchange the Fields for the Hills

I think this will have been the last time I spend my Canada Day here in a park in Barrhaven.


It was the third consecutive time I went to Clarke Fields to see what was happening there for Canada Day, since 2008.


The reason I started doing Canada Day there was because at first I wanted to experience something celebrated in Barrhaven for the first time. As it was my third year there, the only community event I'd been to was this public outdoor movie showing with my old, four-years my junior friend Jahdel. We didn't even watch the movie, which was in Rosetta Park in the newer side of the neighborhood - they were showcasing The Incredibles, and my fourteen-year-old palate at the time wasn't really for it (this was 2005).


Another, probably more larger and significant reason was my memories of getting downtown on public transit (my mother and I have never owned our own vehicle before). When we lived on Meadowlands in Parkwood Hills it was easier but the memories are still crazy. I was a young child and we'd be getting on an 86 on Meadowlands in the late afternoon. The quiet ride only lasted five minutes as the bus rapidly filled up with teenagers and young adults, all clearly half-drunk, loud and rambunctious. One great memory was when we were heading north up Fisher Avenue on the 86 once when I was maybe nine or ten. The bus was overcrowded, and everyone, around the ages of 18 and 25, were being loud, impulsive, and they all had a beer bottle in their hands.
The great event in this memory though was this: We were squeezed near the rear of the bus, in the aisle. In the back, the fun adolescents had decided a way to celebrate Canada Day and the bus ride there was the hold one of them down while the other strips them naked. I only saw as one of the crazy-looking guys pulled the other's shoes off. My mother was disgusted as anyone would be, later remarking how the guy danced around everywhere for his clothes, bumping into us at one point.


Being downtown was alright though. It was just the bus ride home again.


Now in Barrhaven, the ride there would be a lot longer. We went to the Hill a few more times, the one I remember was in either 2005 or 2006. We were driven in a car to Baseline Station with that aforementioned friend of mine, Jahdel, then we took a bus the rest of the way. People weren't nearly so ridiculous but they were still loud. We'd gone to Major's Hill Park that year, and managing to get through crowds was almost impossible and took forever, and that was when I'd only just decided to get lemonade, then unwisely take the large crowded way back.


The fireworks and atmosphere was pretty amazing though, and wouldn't have been surprised if the bangs had gone as far as my old neighborhood of Parkwood Hills.


So in 2008 we went to Clarke Fields Park instead.


Up till yesterday, I'd maintained that going here was simply just a lot easier, more low-key, and not as thunderous or crazy or such a big deal as Parliament Hill or Major's Hill Park or anywhere on Wellington Street was. I could ride my bike - down a bike path - almost the whole way.


The problem now though is the fact that it's grown too old and too boring for me in only three years.


The fact remains it's just a little community event sponsored and funded by local businesses, with a little main stage for bands to play on, a fun park for children, and generally large open spaces to relax and watch the entertainment on the stage. The fireworks are the last climax (as they would be) but they aren't nearly as thunderous or huge as the ones downtown. The people that go there are small and growing families of young children who walk around everywhere and bring lawn chairs and seats.
This would have been the place for me as a child, not a bus full of drunken adolescents teetering around pulling each other's clothes off. But this wouldn't be the place for me at the same age as those adolescents. Not that I would spend a bus ride consuming alcohol and doing things I wouldn't normally ever do, but I would find the entertainment and fun and spectacle and big-scale of everything downtown a lot more stimulating and fun for me. It's like I've reversed - going downtown as a kid and experiencing that, then changing to the lower-key family event in a local park, catered to children and families. I'm too old for it.


This year, I went to the park again. I went for a first time just to see what was happening. Some local band were doing soundchecks. I stayed and stared at them for ten minutes then went back home.


Half an hour after dinner, I went again, just to see how it was going. I arrived just as the councilor of this ward, Barrhaven, Jan Harder, was addressing the crowd on the event.
The only problem I found with her speech was her remark after explaining that Barrhaven was the reason people liked living in Ottawa: "That's my neighborhood!"
To me it sounds like a more self-boosting remark. Had she said 'that's our neighborhood,' she would have appropriately included us as a reason for why living here is great, not the fact that she's councilor of it, which is what it implied to me. We don't make up the equation, she does all the work. If Barrhaven had no residents, it wouldn't matter. She runs it.


I left again after standing ramrod straight for another fifteen minutes, looking around, staring, not doing anything but standing there. There really wasn't much else to do. I didn't have a seat or a blanket to lay on. I had a camera around my neck, a tripod in my hand and my bike next to me. Had I had any friends or someone to have known at least, I could have joined them, or even gone downtown with them, which is why I declined going downtown this year: I'd be going with my mother, again, and I only wanted to do it if I'd been invited with a friend, or friends, this time. Because that's impossible, Clarke Fields it was.


I left after the disco band started going. I really wasn't interested. I'd heard all of their songs last year and on the radio or TV.


Finally I came back for the last time of the day - when the fireworks were to go off. My main interest was capturing long exposures of them and the crowd and park. For the first time in my three years of going and trying to take photos, it worked perfectly.
They're here.


I'm going downtown next year. I'll just have to go with my mother I guess. Unless I actually make some friends in the 365 days that pass in between. I can only hope and try my best. Clarke Fields has gotten too boring and small and low-key for me. Besides, I bet I can take some pretty cool long exposures at Parliament Hill or Majors Hill Park. That would be much more interesting.


Justin C.

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