Landing in “Lower Hamilton”

I didn’t know that I lived in “Lower Hamilton”. None of the people who live here with me call it that.

I thought I moved here because of the beautiful architecture, affordable houses, greenery and of course the lake, which I missed so much in Montreal. I thought I stayed because of the front-porch culture, the friendly neighbours, the opportunity all around.

But suddenly, I feel like I fell off the end of the earth and landed here. Like no one else would take me.

There is no line between helping and needing help, at least not here in Hamilton. I thought I was helping with the South Sherman Hub and the South Stipeley Neighbourhood Association, the bike project and the business round table. I thought I was helping with the cafe, but really the neighbourhood is helping me. When I read the descriptors in the Spec’s Code Red series, too many of them are about me…

As a kid we lived in the country. We started out with a sort of Sound of Music upbringing with things like meal times and bed times and checking-that-you-brushed-your-teeth times. Then we moved to Guelph when I was about ten and that was the first time I went to the dentist: straight A’s.

But the second time we went to the dentist I had a mouth full of cavities, and the third time we went I had more. At first I went along with things like fillings, but then I started to get the idea that going to the dentist was causing them. Eventually, I really believed this and have concocted elaborate theories of corruption to explain it.

My theories didn’t included the ways that malnutrition and starvation can affect your health – and your teeth. And somehow these articles about the effects of poverty on health, about the effects of poverty on mental health (like concocting kooky theories) are all about me.

And maybe I am trying to get out. Maybe where I want to be is somewhere where people are all eating healthily, where differences are based on personality or temperament and not on opportunity or resources. Somewhere where people can’t pull rank because of credit rating.

And it made me really really mad to be accused of wanting something better, as if that was bad. Brought up fourty years of rage against the system and made me want to spend the next 60 years of my life devoting it to making one person’s life miserable. I am told that this fellow is truly a prince among men, that he stands up to superficial social climbers and that it must have been a case of mistaken identity between he and I. I hope so. It made me crazy that someone would try to cut my aspirations out from under me, cause I wasn’t planning to do it at the expense of everyone else.

I was planning to do it with them.

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4 thoughts on “Landing in “Lower Hamilton”

  1. I keep being accused of wanting more too. Used to make me furious. Now I just think to myself, ‘eat dust buddy’.

  2. I have come to discover that peoples negative responses are always about themselves. They don’t realize it but the other guy usually does. I keep trying to remind myself to ‘take nothing personally’ because it usually has nothing to do with me. I just happen to be in the right place at the wrong time.
    YOu are doing a great job in our neighbourhood and I am so glad to call you my friend and neighbour! We have never in my time here, 15 years, had a place where people gather that you can walk in and people say ‘hi Gail’

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