A grasp of history is lacking in today’s world. The pace of change has done it; my home town looks nothing like it did even a decade ago, and provides no link to the past. Going back home is always a sobering experience, just to witness the changes wrought by urban sprawl, social change, and real estate speculation.
I’ve never been a fan of my suburban haunt. While my family had lived there since the 70s, they (justly) rejected the country-club bullshit, preferring a quieter existence in the sticks on the weekends. My friend group was thus comprised of the oddballs, foreign-born typically, who were similarly minded to run as soon as possible after high school. None of us regret it. To this day, apart from some extended family, few contacts are left there.
In twenty years, the town has nearly tripled it’s population. It has spread to the limits of its borders, with a never-ending sprawl of cheap duplexes. Such growth outstripped any plans for public transport investment, and traffic has become chronic. From a sleepy hamlet only forty years before, the town is now a satellite of the big city, becoming itself surrounded by more and more sprawl.
The notion that such growth is even remotely sustainable was brutally shortsighted. The train infrastructure hasn’t been altered since the 1970s, and still runs on diesel electrics. The traffic on the commuter highways is brutal during peak. Potential train routes were hastily occupied by developers. There are few cycle lanes. But worse, there is no character – no decent music, pubs, or sense of community. There is no real reason to be there at all, if not to live an insular existence, commuting elsewhere, completely shut off from your neighbourhood.
Every trip back reconfirms my taste for the city, be it locally or elsewhere. If you’re going to be anonymous, you might as well be entertained.