Friday, September 12, 2008

Fernwood Odyssey

We've had three straight weeks of beautiful sunshine in Victoria, something that used to be called Indian Summer. Technically, an Indian Summer doesn't happen until after the first frost, but we may not have a frost in Victoria until December or January so we have to make do. When I used that expression a few days ago someone got quite cross. It's not Indians, I was informed, it's 'First Nations.' Well, somehow that doesn't sound euphonious to my ears and if it offends the sensibilities of the politically indoctrinated, so much the better. In fact, I was minded to use the lesser used folkloric term and mention the Squaw Summer that preceded the Indian Winter. That's when a foretaste of winter occurs in late summer, as in the week or two of cool and cloudy weather we had in late August.
Because it was such a lovely day I decided to pay a visit to our local Institute of Political Indoctrination, to wit the University of Victoria. It is actually in a lovely location on a height above Cadboro Bay. It was established during the administration of W.A.C Bennett in the days when it was thought that a university campus should be located off the beaten track. Hothouses of intellectual endeavor. If only he had known that students of 'women's studies' would receive academic credit for walking around the campus hand in hand.
Anyway, the visit didn't turn out very well. I thought I would start out with a coffee at the cafe next to the bus loop. Many others had the same idea and were lined up at the counter. I always figure that businesses who allow long line ups at their checkout counters are more interested in saving a nickle than serving their customers, so I took a pass and went upstairs to the bookstore. There a turnstile blocked the way with a sign that said "Leave Backpacks at Entrance." It seems the acolytes at our Institute of Political Indoctrination are assumed by the management to be thieves. This thought did not encourage me to leave my backpack with my iBook inside unattended at the entry. No coffee, no bookstore, what next? Well, I decided to scrap my agenda of taking pictures around the campus, perhaps finding a shady spot to work on my blogs and use my still valid bus transfer to go someplace else.
The someplace else was the neighborhood known as Fernwood. I've hardly seen the place since I gave up cab driving. Once a precinct of lower level office workers trying to raise status by proximity to their betters in Oak Bay, during the sixties and seventies Fernwood became home to upwardly mobile hippies. Clinging to their hash pipes all the while, they managed to ensconce themselves in this declining neighborhood of older houses and overgrown yards. Without a viable grocery source it doesn't quite attain village status, unless the Fernwood Inn pub is a suitable alternative. Oh, yes, it has Culture, too, with the Belfry Theatre occupying a deconsecrated church.
Since those hippie days it has become a stronghold of Political Indoctrination. Yards often have signs in them expressing support for Tibet, and opposition to tanker traffic along the BC coast. You won't see many Conservative Party signs in this neck of the woods, and and if there were any they would be soon vandalized. When Political Indoctrinaires howl for free speech they mean their own free speech, nobody elses. You will see higher concentration of Green Party signs here than elsewhere, but mostly you will see NDP supporters are most common. I find it hard to tell the difference between them except that the NDP is an indigenous Canadian socialist party while the Greens, a creation of Stasi, the East German secret police, are international in scope. It's like a franchise. The Americans export MacDonalds' franchises, the not quite dead Marxism corpse sends out the products its own- propaganda, subversion, and malice.
The high school was breaking for lunch as I approached downtown Fernwood and I see that gothic is in among the children and grandchildren of hippiedom who settled here. Tattooed and body pierced they seemed to me a sad lot. Still, the neighborhood is quite attractive to me, the streets lined with beautiful trees, the yards planted with flowers. These trees were planted by people with pride in their city and neighborhood. They wanted it to be beautiful, long before anybody had ever heard of an environmentalist. I wonder how many trees the Greens have planted. The original occupants built a cozy neighborhood. I don't think the kids will go too far wrong. But if they do turn out to be contented and proud citizens of our fair city, it won't be the fault of all the drug dealers who also abound in the neighborhood. It really isn't much of a step up from Mommy and Daddy toking in the back yard while the barbie is on to smoking crack or doing ecstasy- its all about having a good time, isn't it?
Fernwood is centered around Fernwood Street and Gladstone, where the pub, the theatre and a few small commercial enterprises congregate. It's bounded to the north by Bay Street, to the south by Pandora, to the west gradually becomes North Park, and almost makes it to the Jubilee Hospital to the east. I started my walk at the Stadacona Park near the Oak Bay Junction. As a cab driver I drove by it thousands of times but aside from the time I chased a runner through it I had never visited it before. Secluded from the traffic by dense shrubbery, it opens out to tranquil green space presided over by many magnificent specimens of the tribe of trees.


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