Thursday, March 17, 2016

Landmarks

I absolutely love it when events, or places, or people circle back to each other in life. Maybe it's just a repetition thing. But I like the idea of being 'drawn' to something, until you have it or are in reach of it.

Being a visual and synesthetic thinker, my mind always instantly creates landmarks. I always memorize the positioning of things. Maybe that's why I'm great at orienting myself, where I can look at any map of a known area and immediately place it. Often I've been surprised by others who can't or have difficulty.

The reason I'm writing this is because of a great example of a landmark that has, in my life, been circled back to or been drawn to as a connection between times and people. I just think it's amazing. That's probably me, but let me try to finish.

To start, when I was very young, my father lived in an apartment downtown. The way he always took to get there when taking me with him was up the scenic Colonel By Drive; he once pointed at Dunton Tower at Carleton University and said "that building leads the way to my house." This was during the one time he and I biked downtown from Parkwood Hills, when I was six or seven. The university is a major landmark on that route. Once on the outskirts of downtown, we crossed the Pretoria Bridge onto Elgin, and from that point, we were basically there.

One quick thing about synesthesia: Mindscapes created with it are usually almost unforgettable. With the right stimuli they can be retrieved years after having not been considered. I hear a song I haven't for many years, the synesthetic backdrop it stimulated in my mind instantly comes back as if I'd heard it yesterday. Obviously there are minor changes - we edit and refocus our memories all the time - but more or less the general atmosphere, colour, look and feel of the mental landscape is the same.

When I remember those drives downtown, the scene I remember the most is the Queensway overpass on Elgin. It's grey, and behind it stands a white building. That's the mental landscape of landmarks I've preserved over all the rest in terms of the drive. If I were a kid and had to recognize a familiar scene that placed me rightly, it would be that location.

Moving forward, when I was in sixth grade, I was reading a history text of the city of Ottawa. The early stuff I largely glossed over, being largely interested in the latter half of the 20th century covered in the book. As I got there, the pages had oblique aerial photos here and there of downtown and other familiar places, pictures taken in the 1960s and 1970s. One of them stood out highly to me: An aerial photo of the Queensway's construction, in 1965, as it was crossing Elgin Street. The overpass was completed, but it hadn't proceeded across the canal. Otherwise, everything else looked familiar: The TD Bank in the Loblaws parking lot nearby (though probably not a bank in 1965) and the streets. The white apartment building wasn't there, but interestingly, an L-shaped mid-rise building stood out instead. It was recognizable, if not a main landmark in my memory, and I remember thinking it was interesting that it existed back then.

This picture, for perhaps that one very minor reason, cemented that L-shaped building as a notable landmark in my mind. It stood out to me in pictures of downtown, like the white L'Esplanade Laurier office towers did, or the huge Bell building on Elgin, or the Place de Ville tower in the west end of downtown. It just showed up to me.

In February 2009, I went on a skating trip with my high school on the canal. During that trip, I was realizing my attraction to a girl who had certain appealing facial features that I have since indirectly talked about ridiculously on here many times over the years. I was also freshly into photography, with my new first-time dSLR camera strapped around my neck, and I was snapping photos like crazy, keeping behind her group so that most of my shots included her ahead in the background. We came to the Pretoria Bridge, and after we came out from beneath the Queensway, I immediately decided to take two shots of that mid-rise apartment building as I recognized it. One close-up, and one wide-angle.

I'm not kidding when I say I took that picture, seven years ago, because I saw it in that picture from 1965, looking entirely the same.

At this point this has just been about my focusing on this one building. It gets more intimate. As I said before, it's like one is 'drawn' to something. In 2013, returning to Prof. Writing, I befriended a girl - one who had very similar eyes to the aforementioned girl on the canal - and when I drove her home for the first time, I was shocked to find myself directed straight into the parking lot of that apartment building. In the month that followed, I would be invited numerous times in, spending evenings up in what I found to be a roof lounge and deck. It's not just an orange-y mid-rise now, but a dwelling with a name - "Tiffany" apartments.

I took a dozen long-exposure shots off the roof deck. There's a picture of me posing with this friend. She almost resembles this crush I had in high school, and in the picture, the canal south of the Pretoria Bridge is obvious. This is exactly what gets me, because I took several photos of the canal with this old crush skating up ahead, with the bridge and that bloody building poking up in the background.

It's like a two-view connection: Looking from the roof at the canal upon which I took a picture looking towards the building, a structure I've always randomly taken notice of, both images including female lookalikes, who also by amazing coincidence live(d) on the same road at each end at different times. This building is addressed on the 'Driveway,' a scenic route that is really a continuation of Prince of Whales Drive, which meanders south through the city, passing the Experimental Farm, Rideauview, Carleton Heights, Merivale Industrial Area, etc.

No doubt this is just me, making connections out of thin air, but that's how my mind works, and to this day I always note the building whenever I am in view of it. It's just a building. I don't know anybody who lives there now. It shouldn't mean anything to me especially since I only noticed it after seeing an old picture of it when I was eleven/twelve. It was built in 1954, eleven years prior to that old picture, predating the Queensway and many other current landmarks of the city, but otherwise it's just there. The roof deck and lounge is very nice - I could spend an entire day up there watching the traffic on the highway pass by - but otherwise, its only defining feature I find is its unusual interior doorway arches and perhaps its age. The kitchens are galley-style, which I don't particularly like. But there are nice views.

Despite that, there's no doubt in my mind that this isn't over, and someday sooner or later I'll find a reason to be connected to that place, somehow. Because places, events, people, and circumstances always find a way to overlap or circle around in life.

That's how I like it.

Red Cloud
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