My husband and I live in two different places, Sidney B.C. on Vancouver Island and Barra de Navidad in México. Both have one thing in common; they’re both seaside towns on the Pacific. Ok, make that two.
We’ve spent months working on our boat “Impeccable” with some of our family rescuing us with brush and scraper. We’re presently situated in one of Sidney’s many marinas, flanked by “Four Sheets” on one side and “Armed and Hammered” on the other. I’ve come to realize that not only is Impeccable’s name a bit of a curse but that everybody’s boat in the marina is in constant need of wiping and washing and polishing, and in our boat just recently we’ve had to eliminate soot on the floors and decks from a failing stove, fix a motor on the tender, and lay a floor in the salon. But in spite of the messy Canadian geese that live here and the ‘beach’ or mud flats strewn with man-made detritus instead of sand, I’d far rather live in this watery world than in downtown Victoria. We lived in Oak Bay a few months while Impeccable was undergoing some significant changes and it was ….. different. Oak Bay is a refined, highbrow Victorian community, separated from the rest of Victoria by The Tweed Curtain. Near the water McMansions reside. Oak Bay has an annual Tea Party. Even the deer are citified. And if people scurrying along the sidewalk seem grumpy, maybe it’s because they are….well, feeling unseasonably warm, or Victorian. But you’d gladly pull up a deck chair here on Impeccable – this marina where most people know each other is a ‘community’, or at least the booklet on our moorage licence agreement states that it is. Give me this horseshoe sweep of ‘sand’ bestrewn with big barnacled rocks and lots of seaweed, or, better still, the tropical beaches of Mexico with their thunderous, earth-shaking waves than live in Victoria in some stark new place and feel frowned upon by some towering eyesore. Bring-out-your-dead beaches or not. I also think the place suffers from generational apartheid. In contrast, children in Mexico are taught to respect the “venerables.”
Most of all though Victoria like any other Canadian or American city represents McWorld. My kids think Victoria is the greatest place to be and when I ask them ‘why’ they tell me Victoria has four seasons. But Canada has only two: Winter and Not Winter. ( Canadians are fascinated with “cold” and “hot” and an eternal debate revolves around the weather. ) Their favorite go-to place in the winter, the grandchildren mostly, is the shopping mall. Here the boys can eat junk food and play in the arcades and the women can shop. The mall is the neighbourhood and here they sell anything you need and everything you want. The guys can enjoy high-tech virtual reality with the speed of light that defines the interactions of cyberspace; and the women, in quest of a catalyst for their restlessness, can indulge in impulse buying. Winter is long here in the Great White North, even in Victoria. But the technology of McWorld can help pass the time and it serves a purpose coming home from a busy day at work or school – one can groove on the anonymity of cyberspace and get temporarily lost in unreality. McWorld is about culture as commodity. Malls are the public squares of this age; in Mexico it’s the zócalo where Mexicans practice a few dances and sell a few ponchos.
I can almost smell the love, taste the real heat and feel the humidity of sweet little Barra de Navidad! Just a little more than one more month to go. Here on the water though I think it’s going to be another socks-on-in-bed night….it’s getting chillier. (I’m not like this generation of young people who weather the storm and go out in it with a ball cap and a grin. ) My husband and I have relearned the lost native skills of taking the rough with the smooth lately in our sacrifices over Impeccable and hopefully it will serve some good during our time in Mexico. We gringos live in a small town with Mexican neighbors and the dilemma is this: those elements in life yielding the highest degree of intimacy , membership and solidarity are those rooted in communal ties of the sort that arise out of blood, narrow belief and hierarchy: the ostrasization of outsiders.
McWorld is at least partly absent where we live in Mexico. Barra is a garden that has not yet completely been paved over or chartered into commercial wrack and ruin. Each bell-toned morning I give thanks for that. All we want is a free space in which it is possible to not only live as consumers but as citizens as well.
That floats my boat.