Of People and Places (Part 1)

I’ve always had a thing for places. I like to read about them, look at pictures of them, and whenever possible, I like to go visit them.

I also like to mythologize them. Sometimes I hear about a place, and something about it — usually nothing I can put my finger on — sends my imagination soaring. In my mind I create a sort of mythical life, or set of lives, based around the place. It’s as if certain places have a kind of resonance, like something that scratches at lost memories or mysterious parallel realities.

Reims, FranceOn the surface, I am fully aware that my mythologies are just that – mythologies. I am under no illusion that these places hold any sort of mystical power, or that they are inherently better or more worthy of mythologizing than any other place. I’m also aware that other people may do the same to places that I find banal, or at least unmythological.

Take Montreal’s “underground city” for example. I laugh at the tourists who line up for guided tours of what — at least for visitors — amounts to little more than interconnected shopping malls. Then there is the widely-mythologized Plateau Mont-Royal. A very storied place, and a fun place to live. But I never felt a sense of mythology during all the years I lived there – I was just happy to be close to the Metro and to have good shops, restaurants, and bars within walking distance. When I hear about tourists going to the plateau, I wonder; what do they expect to find?

TuktoyaktutYet I don’t feel like a sucker when I mythologize places that seem, at least to those who live there, unworthy of it. I know I’m not just falling into a trap constructed by tourist bureaus or businesses wanting to cash in on tourist dollars. Rather, when I mythologize a place it’s because of a strange mixture of the place as it exists in reality, as it exists in my mind, and as it is transformed by the alchemy of that other, mysterious spark – that resonance – that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I don’t conciously decide to mythologize one place and not another. It just happens. They are not created, nor exist at, the level of logic. It’s deeper. Subconcious in fact, perhaps even below the level of sanity, as if my personal madness is rooted in geography.

(Of People and Places, Part 2 and Part 3.)

2 thoughts on “Of People and Places (Part 1)

  1. Oh absolutely, I crack up everytime I hear about Montreal’s “Legendary Underground City”. Uh, people, relax. It’s just a bunch of interconnected shortcuts between malls cuz it’s too frickin’ cold out in winter to keep popping outside. Doesn’t everyone do this? Interestingly, London and England in general is a place I personally mythologize. Not sure why, but it has a certain breaktaking something about it for me.

  2. The thing about the underground city is that, as a resident, I really like it. Especially the parts away from the malls. I can walk from McGill Metro (where I work) to Chinatown all underground, which is great when it’s the middle of winter. But the tourists don’t see that. They just see the malls and the shops.

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