New Neighbors and A Composer who also Left

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.