This is the fifteenth of many excerpts from Heather Lowe’s novella titled Catharine. It explores her love affair with downtown St. Catharines through a series of shamelessly exaggerated vignettes.
The ultimate decision to move back to the Garden City was made and finalized. Now the real question and dilemma was, where would we live? The downtown core seemed an obvious and preferential choice but I figured it couldn’t hurt to see the other options. This great apartment hunt brought us on a fairly grand and fast paced homecoming tour of the entire city. To speak plainly and lay it out for you, the Garden City is the warm, nurturing home to seven individually unique boroughs. The downtown core sits right smack in the centre of the city like a beating heart with The Hill to the west and The Founder’s Base to the east. Outside the downtown and towards the water, we hit The Midfield, The North Edge and eventually, The Port. If we kick back the other way and head south, we encounter The Heights. Each borough has its own character, sense of humour and (some more than others) attitude.
The Hill was the last borough to join the city in the 1970s and, even now, feels somewhat like an alternate universe. The Hill is home to a proud, loyal and slightly aggressive bunch. In my high school days, The Hill was the never ending keg party, the all nighter you secretly wish you’d slept through, and the burning regret you carry in the mornings after. Now, however, The Hill is the endless land of pizza joints, the working class Canadian beer drinker who wants to buy you a shot and the feisty, volatile girl you typically avoid at parties. If you attempt a visit to The Hill from the downtown core, expect long delays.
At first glance, The North Edge is a giant patch of suburbs, ever changing high schools and red and white apartment buildings. The North Edgers either have everything, or nothing. A typical edger is either hiding a dope fishing boat in their driveway and vacationing in Orlando, or they are struggling to get by, haunting the aisles of the local Walmart and snacking on curly fries from the only Arby’s in town. One of my favourite (and now absent) places in The Garden City formerly resided in The North Edge. A dirty and admittedly seedy music hall that was hidden away in the basement of a Kentucky Fried Chicken. At the modest and insecure age of fifteen, this dark music hall is where I first discovered the booming and bustling music scene of The Garden City. Sure, some of the acts I saw here made it pretty big and screamed their way to the top of the charts but it was the musical education in pop-punk and metal that I received there and inevitably valued most. Thanks to the long nights at this music hall, The North Edge will always taste like popcorn chicken to me.
The Midfield is exactly what you would expect it to be. Nestled just outside of the downtown core and right before you hit The North Edge sits happy, quiet and always content Midfield. This is where you’ll find the former downtown celebrities, aging hipsters and revolutionaries raising families, tending to their gardens and, on weekends, keeping the party alive. If you need a record player or an antique guitar, head to The Midfield. When they’re not walking their dogs, taking satirical photos of their cats or painting the trim on their porches, these friendly folks would be happy to help you. The real appeal of The Midfield is that it’s oh so close to the downtown core that it’s wonderfully convenient but far enough away to (seemingly) stay out of trouble.