I am a native Hamiltonian (from Hamilton, Ontario Canada) and I grew up with a great hatred for this city. This has since changed a great deal, but how do you navigate the distance between north and south poles on a subject like this within one's lifetime...unintentionally.
There is an apparent commonality I have found between those of a creative bent in the perspective we hold on hometown value. I have always known this in the deep recesses of my "flag it and think about it later" brain but that changed recently. This part of my brain was handed a cup of coffee and asked to take notice recently during a conversation I had with a fantastically talented illustrator from Calgary Alberta during my routine 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning barber appointment. See, 6:30 a.m. seems to be the only opening I can commit to for hair aesthetics these days. Luckily there is a great barber (Vintage Barber - Hamilton, Ontario) that happens to open his doors early enough for me to keep myself from looking too much like my neglected lawn does after a good solid few weeks of rain and subsequent growth (thanks barber Dave). I was lined up at the door for my semi-regular hair appointment when Dave opened up and walked in with friends he had staying with him from out of town. They were there for a big comic convention in town and were up until the wee hours of the morning the night before talking business. Not one to pass up kicking in with some introductory small talk with strangers, I chimed in with a standard "what are you guys up to" kick starter (brilliant, I know). Turns out that one of barber Dave's friends are in from Calgary (which I love) and I start talking to him about his home town. "It's nothing like Hamilton" he says in a positive tone. I have to scratch may head (which is tough will your getting your hair cut). I have this vision in my memory of Calgary being this incredibly clean, well mapped out, and functional city that doesn't happen to have the distinct mix of brewery and steel factory odour that Hamilton projects into the world, so this was hard for me to understand. But we got into it, a light went off and I had a thought; "Maybe we (creative people) have an inclination to favour the new and unfamiliar". And there it was, a thought so simple that it has probably been thought, rethought, and overthought a thousand times over but there it was nonetheless
I had never seen this new thought in the same light before. "Home sweet home", "There's no place like home", and the like were now reading like foreign scripts to me. In the same way that I have a deep and expansive appreciation for eclectic music and art for the tense fear and unknowing virtue of the paths it carves out for me, I find a greater sense of belonging to the unfamiliar side streets, hidden hole-in-the-wall bars, and suspicious cab driver routes I find in the unknown communities I find myself in from time to time. It seems that many of us find familiarity in the unfamiliar.
So is that it? Not quite. Now, I find myself to be the father of 3 beautiful and equally eclectic children, and we move all over southern Ontario until we find ourselves moving back to Hamilton, Ontario. Really? What in the world would bring me back to this place I grew to loathe as a young child? Well, as it turns out, Hamilton is a pretty incredible and thriving community which, by the way, is only getting started. But don't let the secret out right? Wrong. This city has also become a welcoming and inviting community for families, students, and professionals with it's epicentre of educational institutions, healthcare facilities, parks and active networks. This community has even accepted this obstinate outcast back into the fold. Well, I owe a great deal of my grit, determination, and resilience to this city and I plan to pay it forward.
So, is your home town out of this world? How do you feel about where you grew up? Did you stay away or move your roots back to their origin? Is there still some resentment held from childhood experiences? Did you move around a lot when you were younger? How did that shape your perspective on the different cities and communities you've been a part of through your life? What are some of the most cherished memories of the towns and cities you grew up in? I'd love to hear of the experiences from others. Fill me in...