Today Pam and I were starting the mammoth labor of packing our life away in preparation for the move. The movers dropped off some boxes and we got started with books and winter clothes. It’s still pretty cold, but it has to get warmer some time soon, so we put away the parkas and gloves not into their usual bags in the storage we had built years ago but instead into cardboard boxes. Don’t ask when we’re going to wear them in mild British Columbia. Maybe it will be for trips up Whistler and Grouse.
During our packing, we heard our doorbell ring. It was a friendly young fellow at the door with his wife, who introduced themselves as our new neighbors. They wanted to let us know that their moving van will be pulling up (and no doubt causing a little disruption, as ours will in July). They are moving here from Tucson, Arizona, but both are from South Korea.
It’s always been interesting to Pam and me that Lilac Court, the little ‘pedestrian pocket’ that we’ve lived in for nearly the past 20 years or so, has always had disproportionate representation by immigrants, and more recently, those from Asia, who now constitute more than a quarter of the units. I think it’s because Americans want to live in the suburbs and are put off by the court’s modern architecture and open plan. (here’s a photo) They also want front lawns, which we don’t have; the cobblestones go right up to the houses, forming a little piazza for the group of 24 or so units of the courtyard. Without going into a New Urbanist tirade like James Howard Kunstler , author of The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere — a book I particularly liked, I have to say that this is a shame. It also suggests to me that even though we’re technically still Americans, it may be that Pam and I are not really culturally typical Americans, and perhaps we haven’t been for a while. If right-wing bloggers want to point out that fact and say that urban liberals like me hate America, then I say we don’t hate this country, but mourn it.
At any rate, as we were introducing ourselves to the new neighbors (Dong and Wei, I believe), they asked us why we were moving to Canada. At first he joked that it must be because of Bush, and when I said that this was true, and no real joke, he was taken aback (and actually laughed, I think). I’ve noticed that this is often the reaction by people; David Pogue reacted the same way when I told him a couple of months ago. Maybe we’re just acting out the punch-line of a joke.
I feel badly, particularly to people who have immigrated here, to tell them that this is not the country I knew, and that it has reached the point where I am leaving because of that. After all, they chose to come here, and probably went through a lot of loneliness, culture shock, annoyances, and perhaps even serious sacrifices in order to come here, and there I go, talking about how it’s not good enough for me any more. Oh, you may have saved, moved far away from family and friends, given up money and valuables, but I gotta tell you, the place isn’t worth it any more, not for us. I don’t have a clue what they must be thinking, aside from amusement and confusion.
Earlier this evening I was listening to music by one of my favorite composers: Eduard Tubin. Tubin is utterly unknown by the classical music crowd (and the classical music listening public is a pretty small one to begin with). He was a talented and very expressive composer who was simply in the wrong place (Estonia) at the wrong time (just as the Soviet Union was moving in and taking over). Tubin fled to Sweden and spent most of the remainder of his life in exile in Stockholm. The move for him was shattering, completely changing his music from the folk-music inspired, gloriously romantic works of his earlier years, into an angst-filled and angular style that is thorny, but also very affecting. Maybe I’m beginning to appreciate Tubin all the more because he also had to leave the country of his birth. Fortunately, unlike in poor Mr. Tubin’s case, bombs are not falling as I am doing it. Nevertheless, I feel a new kinship with the guy. I’m curious to see if I’ll still feel that way after the move.