Bay of Exploits with Ed Riche: “Go West Young Man”

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There may be no chauvinism greater than that of the St. John’s East Ender.  

The sense that it’s better over here is deeply held without much logical foundation.  It’s colder and damper than any other part of the city. It can be ten degrees warmer in Bowring Park than it is in Bannerman on any July day.

The infrastructure is old and crumbling. The sidewalks are ice-covered and treacherous much of the year. But it is the historic quarter, with the greatest inventory of heritage properties; it’s where you find the better bars and restaurants, a couple of stages, the art galleries.

It’s where St. John’s is like St. John’s and not like anywhere else in the world.  Kenmount Road could be anywhere awful. We, east of Adelaide, have, for a long time, been quite self-satisfied and smug about it all, and in a way that drove the crowd from the west end, baymen, and especially Mount Pearl to distraction.  We are the worst Townies.

I think though, all of us A1ers are lately losing the confidence it takes to claim bragging rights. Our act is getting old. The St. John’s City Council has, for several terms, been a Gerontocracy, a bunch of witless old geezers variously cowed or owned.  They’ve cared little for the town’s material culture and have demonstrated a naked hostility to the downtown.  P

Pleading impotence or ignorance they’ve allowed significant older properties to be demolished, put up harbour fences, and green-lit chain restaurants on the harbour apron. They have made a fetish of the automobile, sprawl, and hockey. In order that Council not appear so aged, Dennis O’Keefe has gone so far as to spend public money encouraging vast ship-loads of still older visitors to come and shuffle around the place.

Dare I suggest that there are the beginnings of an exodus of cool kids from the Capital for the country? I suspect Rising Tide’s Seasons in the Bight Festival was the beginning of what’s becoming the buzz up the Bonavista peninsula. It isn’t the tourist traffic and business the summer theatre event brings to Trinity and environs, so much as it is the young actors and stage technicians Donna Butt hires each summer.

Soon after “Trin” was established there was Fisher’sLoft , the Bonavista Social Club and more. John Norman’s Bonavista Living initiative is restoring and preserving that town’s built heritage with as much enthusiasm as St. John’s City Council has contempt for its.  And now there’s Port Rexton Brewing and the Bonavista Biennale.

I was on the bill at The Woody Point Writers Festival last year and hoped to cross paths with a pal from my poker game, local rock star Jody Richardson.  He was out west developing projects for Gros Morne Summer Music.

It wasn’t until the morning of my last day we managed to connect. He was a grinning wreck; from too many impromptu jams, too many shows, too much 3 am karaoke with Ron Sexsmith, too many moonlight dips off Galliot’s pier and into phosphorescent waters of the sound.

There are towns in rural Newfoundland, admittedly too few, that are crafting a narrative attractive to young people. These are the places that have a chance of beating the odds and thriving.

If St. John’s stays on its course it will be left with ample parking on Stavanger Drive, unsold building lots in needless suburban developments, and a shrinking tax base of seniors.  If it doesn’t soon pick up its game St. John’s action will be going ‘round the bay.

About Author

Ed Riche

Edward Riche is a writer for the page, stage, and screen. His latest novel, Today I Learned It Was You, was published by House of Anansi Press in 2016. Find him at www.edwardriche.com or on Twitter: @EdwardLRiche

5 Comments

  1. Going ’round the bay? Try going truly west to all the other provinces with better economies, cheaper gas, lower taxes, warmer weather and better services. 14.9% unemployment is nothing short of disastrous and set to climb another 5 or 6% in the next 18 months. 28¢/kWh electricity when Muskrat comes online will be the death knell once all the seniors start dragging harder on the provincial coffers than they already do. This boat is sinking and no political party will admit it for fear their bloated salaries be jeopardized. No public union will realize or admit that every unjustified, greedy raise they demand sucks more life out of this place. Save yourselves from indentured servitude. Go west young men and women.

  2. The exodus from the east end is the least of St. John’s or NL worries. There’s a far larger exodus of young people from the province these days. I know of a half a dozen well educated 40 somethings who’ve left the province in the last year. Head west means far further than Mt. Pearl these days.

  3. Why does Riche feel the need to divide this place into clicks and sections and then pit each invented group against one another. His use of A1ers makes me vomit in my mouth and I find his elitist attitude disgusting.

    What? Jody Richardson experienced another amazing summer in Gros Morne and Riche had to find a creative / controversial way to communicate that to the rest of us? Or is Riche just trying to highlight the fact that he plays poker with a “local rockstar”??

    I find this writing approach pointless, divisive and offensive.

    Riche alienates all parties, including the people he is trying to compliment and his own posse EAST OF ADELAIDE (eye roll), who probably don’t see the province in the same immature high school light Riche does. In short: Grow up Ed Riche!!!

    • I thought it was a quite accurate and playful way of highlighting the mismanagement of our city. I doubt any of the artists or young movers and shakers would take offence to this. Mayor Dennis O’Keefe has been very clear: “Go away. We want St. John’s to be a giant seniors home. If you are under 65, you should leave now.”

      • WILSON, I believe that’s an incorrect and misleading use of quotes. Also, I hardly think the mayor (or even the city council) is among the top reasons for a resident to have left the city in recent months.

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