I’m supposed to be writing my column. Instead I’ve become ensnared by a file folder full of my old columns covering a period from about 15 to 20 years ago.
Here’s one where I discussed a lunch date with a fellow named Eugene Ludwick, the new marketing manager at the Port, to talk about development at Westview. A point of light, really – a few folks trying to find a way forward in one of our most trying times. Here was the fire on the mountain, the strikes, the mayor’s cell phone, and, as the province stepped in during the collapse of Repap, a column called “Needs more than duct tape.”
The first thing that comes to mind now is the feeling that I really have seen it all before – even though I know that isn’t true. I mean, paying the equivalent of the ticket price for a commercial space flight in order to travel by public ferry between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert would never have struck me as believable. But I may have mentioned that before.
You think potholes are a sign of present-day decline? A couple of decades ago I was “slaloming around potholes and trying my best to be not picked off by marauding cabbies.” And there I was grousing about garbage in the harbour, and overflowing dumpsters at public facilities.
Of course I was going on about tourism, advocating that the community invest while the tax base was still strong enough to prepare for the inevitable collapse of the resource industries.
I felt the opportunity slipping away: “Enough of this waiting, waiting, with no sense of what we’re waiting for.” Could the amazing volunteerism of this community not save the Second World War forts, or help build waterfront trails? Were there even better ideas out there?
I loved our little successes in tourism, such as when Michael Palin included Rupert in his itinerary (I’m still stoked about that interview!). I wrote about the Crystal Harmony visit as proof of potential. Yet in “Nightfall on the Skeena” I wrote about the “decaying institution” of rail travel, and what that passenger service still meant for Prince Rupert.
It was a troubling and unstable time. From “How to feel like you fit in here” I wrote, “It helps to adopt a cynical attitude overall, though I’ve also had some success with a sort of drawling satire.” I snarled about the $159,000 consultant at City Hall, and the simultaneous spectre of cuts to the fire department. But at the same time I attacked lower mainland media when they ran their overwritten descriptions of the devastation of Prince Rupert.
Cuts to the Coast Guard, and by extension the manned lights, were always sure to set me off. “Praise Canada,” I wrote, “the Coast Guard is being cut just six million instead of the original seven million!” In the column “When you’re dead in the water” I suggested signs be placed along the coast: THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND – USE AT YOUR OWN RISK
Maybe that’s why I’m sneezing my way through this file full of old newsprint. Perhaps I just needed confirmation that I’m still on the same old song sheet. What the hell. At least I’m consistent.
My all-time favourite Prince Rupert column ran on November 30, 1997. I recounted all of the disasters that had befallen Rupert over the previous year, and asked what could possibly have happened to bring such misfortune upon us. Being the venerable old sleuth that I am I tracked it down to a vicious storm a year earlier that had swept the clock from the top of the Highliner. I concluded that, “Our very survival may be at stake it we don’t fix that clock.”
Given everything that followed, I still think we maybe should have fixed that damned clock.