The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, March 12, 2007


By Tamara Lee

With so many in our gang here at the CWC going off to fab places like Tofino, Boston, and California, I’m visiting a foreign world called Burnaby.

Now I can fully claim city-gal status, not only by personality but also, as a non-driver, by necessity. This past week and a half, though, has challenged this city-gal’s patience. I’ve been house sitting in Burnaby, across from a cemetery, an hour transit-ride from downtown.

My Vancouver home is 10 minutes from anywhere I really need to be. Here, there isn’t even a corner store within a 20-minute walk. The only shopping option is over a half-hour walk/bus combo, and that’ll get me to the biggest mall west of Edmonton, a horrifying place called Metropolis/Metrotown Centre. Yes, a mall so large it has two names.

Thankfully, the homeowner thought to stock up for me; the last spate of rainy weather has not been very enticing. So this housebound lifestyle has me doing nutty things like picking branches up off the lawn, reorganizing the back porch, and using the elliptical trainer in bursts of manic energy.

Unfortunately, the energy hasn’t translated into much writing. Instead, I'm finding myself turning into a suburban couch potato. With a TV the size of a fridge, stocked with 60 channels—57 more than I’m used to—I now know what not to wear and how not to decorate, and I’m familiar with all those other shows I’m not missing in my life.

Yet there is always the dog walking, lots of dog walking. Shu-shu the Shih tzu and I have discovered, tucked in amongst the manicured lawns and mixture of split-levels and monster homes, between a cul-de-sac and the high school, the remains of a forest.

Walking through the tiny wooded lot—along trails trekked down by teens trying to find better privacy, littered with cigarette butts, empty bottles, and junk food wrappers—reminds me of a time when I thought I was adventurous. A time when smoking and drinking and sharing a joint between classes, flirting and rumour-starting were all the achievements and activities I aspired to or needed.

Returning to the house from the walks, I look out at the view of Forest Lawn Cemetery, which is not as horrible as one would think. There are no headstones, and if you look south-west across the well-tended lawns, towards the view of the Metropolis Mall skyline as the sun sets, the most startling eyesore is the ever-present yellow bulldozer across the street next to mounds of dirt: a constant reminder that only one thing is for certain.

But today I had a creative brainstorming meeting with my writing partner. As we sat around the dining room table eating Indian take-out from the city, I finally felt something stirring.

Sometimes a flatliner can be resuscitated.


Blogger Anne C. said...

You never mentioned a writing partner before.

Anne (back from Boston, dreaming of Tofino)

Mon Mar 12, 07:45:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

goodness, trouble posting today!!! and OMG!!! Metrotown! You are indeed a brave woman!!! My grandma is a Forest Lawn. Blow a kiss out to the back forty for me..xoxoxo

Mon Mar 12, 01:22:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great photo! It looks photo-etched into ancient silver. It makes a gloomy contemporary monstrosity look beautiful.

Andrew T.

Mon Mar 12, 02:08:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

You almost fell victim to Suburbia, but you made it out. Great post.

Mon Mar 12, 02:36:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Hey, thanks, all.

Anne, my writing partner is someone I work with on some of my film projects; we have a documentary in the final stages of post-production, and we're looking to lighten up a bit with a comedic narrative short piece now

PP, I'm not sure where the back 40 is, but I'll take special notice when walking the dog next time ;)

AT: that pic is, alas, not of my environs, but it is def represents the mood I was in this past week

Steve, I'll let you know in a week how I've fared: that's how long I make it back to my beloved city life...

Mon Mar 12, 03:15:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Oooh, what a chilling portrait of life in the burbs. I remember it well and don't think I could stand it again. Wonderful writing, as usual, Tamara.

Tue Mar 13, 11:30:00 am GMT-4  

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