In 2017 the city is small by any measure but still masked with a metropolis attitude and charm. The time we live in now is strange, the air is riddled with uncertainty and is heavy with anxiety. The world seems to be a rather terrifying place and there is an inexplicable feeling of fear and loss. The world seems disjointed, social media is king, and an unhinged megalomaniac is the leader of the so-called free world. In spite of the anxious feelings felt around the globe, our Garden City stands tall and now appears so shiny and new. The morose ghost who lingered in the shadows of city centres and haunted the inhabitants just a few years ago is now replaced by a spirit of hope and change and the revolutionaries can feel it the moment they leave their now overpriced apartments and homes. The downtown core flourishes with dozens of taverns and pubs, there is a coffee shop on every corner and lining the streets are countless all-you-can-eat sushi spots: rainbow, dragon, california. Inhabitants line up in droves for famously friendly donuts, the local music scene tours throughout the country, and those artists that seemed to have grown out of the city’s very soil find themselves recognized and supported in a way they never were before.
Local wine is mass produced and drunkenly celebrated in a smaller version of Central Park, an enormous bankrolled arena is erected for the local ice hockey team and, thanks to an incredibly generous donation from The Leading Lady, an old zipper factory quickly transforms into an arts chapter of the local university. The downtown core has recently been given a very pricey facelift and, on Main Street’s busiest corner, a large arts centre is strategically placed. Suddenly, new parking structures are needed, parking tickets consistently raise in cost and Thursday evenings are suddenly able to compete with the formally more popular Fridays and Saturdays. The crowds swarm the downtown core of our Garden City for treasured local hockey games, televised tournaments, impressively hand picked performances and outrageously famous celebrity acts that sell out the city centres in less time than it takes me to brush my teeth. Everything seems to receive a long, overdue upgrade and the Garden City and its downtown core seem to be thriving again.
As I examine the city I’ve loved for years, I feel as though I barely recognize it now. I knew the change was coming, we all did. That rejuvenation plan is seemingly a success and yet most of the revolutionaries find themselves torn and uncertain with the results. As the downtown community grows and evolves, I can’t help but feel that the real change wasn’t the two way traffic or the massive new buildings or even the local university spilling down the enormous hill into the downtown core. The real change happened in me. When I needed it the most, the city was my supportive friend and confidant. When I needed to get away, the city was still my annoyingly supportive friend and confidant. Today, when I look into the eyes of the revolutionaries, who have now become my most treasured friends and family, I can’t help but feel an overpowering sense of pride, hope and ultimately, love. My eyes fill and brim over with those burning hot, happy tears and I know, in my heart, that I am not the only person who has ever felt this kind of love for their hometown. I quickly realise that my love story with The Garden City, and especially the downtown core, is really just one of many. Not every love story is filled with rainbows and joy and glitter, sometimes love is filled with loss and anger and it challenges you in ways you never see coming. And, in my humble opinion, those are the best love stories, those are the love stories you write home about or, in my case, write about home.