CBC’s Canada Writes recently conducted a contest called Hyperlocal asking Canadians to write/ photo/video/audio – in stories about their neighbourhoods and how they’re changing.
Given that place is central to the Literary Tourist endeavour, here goes with our favorite place in Ottawa, Canada, and how it’s changed:
I moved into the area about 25 years ago (moved out about five years later, but still I love it). At the time it was touted as ‘up and coming’; to an extent it was, especially the blocks around Holland and Wellington. The independent bookstore Collected Works would soon move in, as would
World of Maps. About a block away there was the
St Vincent de Paul with its capaciously magnetic used-book selection. Right next door, a few years later,
Bridgehead Coffee started to percolate. One block over Thyme and Again,
a trendy new eatery opened up for business.
Great choice of books, a good place to read ‘em, and delicious food nearby. The neighbourhood had it all. Collected Works offered all the latest, hottest titles, and a calendar full of authors reading from them. It was also the place for writing workshops. I took several from Rick Taylor – filled with faced-paced enthusiasm, these were truly memorable times.
Fast forward a few years and a vegetarian restaurant opens up. More recently, a brand new building rises out of the ground
to house The Great Canadian Theatre Company.
As literary locations go, you couldn’t ask for more. This was tops. However, as the CBC contest guidelines allude to, things change, for the good, and the not so good.
This two block stretch in Ottawa went, over the years, from strength to strength; but last December it hit a nasty bump. Collected Works closed.
The lesson for those who care to learn it, is clear. Despite all of the new life and gentrification, this little strip remains precariously balanced between prosperity and poverty as do so many neighbourhoods in Canada and around the world, as do so many people, particularly artists and writers.
Several of these types of stores along these same few block on Wellington Street
attest to the fact both that life can be a struggle, and that when we can, we’re wise to support and nurture what we
love. Otherwise - it disappears.