Little Fish: A Blog Tour Stop

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.” 
— Joan Didion

This post is part of the Little Fish Blog Tour.

Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year is a graphic memoir by Ramsey Beyer, chronicling (through art, lists, and prose) the year she moved from small-town Paw Paw, Michigan to the metropolis of Baltimore to attend art school. Equipped (as I am) with an urge to document everything, Beyer recalls the 2003/2004 school year with the help of journals, zines, clippings, and lists she’s saved. The result is an honest and compelling graphic memoir that easily transported me back to my own tale of two cities.

It’s easy to romanticize those years. Those few years after you’ve entered the real world, but haven’t yet realized that university isn’t the real world at all. It’s in those years that your choices first seem your own: Where you live. What you study. Who you befriend.

For me, those years fell between 2002 and 2006, and though I jumped between history and journalism classes at Carleton University in Ottawa and a nearly full-time job, those years hardly seem characterized by work or by school.

Instead, it’s easier to remember the moments with friends that were built at open-mic nights, at outdoor festivals, and in basement apartments with low ceilings and mildew. We ate greasy breakfasts in fifties-style diners. We refused to stand in lines at clubs, choosing dimly lit bars where servers knew our names instead. There were rock ballads sung over crackling mics, a soundtrack to accompany pitchers of beer and sweet potato fries. We stretched our legs out on grassy hills, cradling plastic cups of yellow fizzy between our knees, as music filled the air.

These were the friends with whom I guzzled beer and took in concerts. The ones who worried when I hadn’t eaten, making sure they had vegetarian frozen pizza in their freezers. The ones who knew my favourite shot was tequila and ordered me vodka and redbull when my eyes looked heavy. We stayed awake all night to watch the sun come up sharing cigarettes on balconies, each one a kind of sinister kiss.

Yet, it’s in those years where you never quite feel settled, constantly slipping between two cities and two lives where you’re the only common denominator. You meet new friends, but unlike those you leave at home, you don’t share histories. “The new gang” replaces the “oldest and best friends” and they don’t have the shared background that everyone you used to know shared. And that’s refreshing. Yet, in those years, when you randomly meet someone, in a class or in a bar, from your hometown, it’s like you speak a shared language.

“Remember that [insert place from childhood here]?”
“Yes! I went there, too.”
“Maybe we’ve met before.”
“I guess we’ll never know.”

I spent a lot of time sitting on the cold floors of greyhound bus stations, eating all-dressed chips, before moving from city to city, ballads leaking from my headphones. I contemplated my choices, to stay or to go, as signs for Brockville, Kingston, Belleville, Trenton, Tweed came into view.

I gave myself the gift of one last fall in Ottawa, before I needed to pack my life into boxes. And on one night in November, we all celebrated, and I cried, over beers and tequila, before it was time for me to go.

And ten years later, I romanticize it all, just as Ramsey Beyer does in her memoir, reliving that brief time when she felt “alive with all sorts of feelings.”

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the good article.
    When I was reading this text I unintentionally thought about my student years and I would agree, it was really grateful time. But the time passed by and now I am busy with searching for online data room providers for my company as well as with many other things. It can't be called carefree time anymore.


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