Monday, 15 April 2013

THE PRISONERS OF DANNYVILLE

Dannyville is all the rage.  It’s all the townies talk about; the outports, too. 

Rural Newfoundland, now, more an idea than a place, readies itself.  Though baymen are scarcer than cod fish, hundreds of communities wait to be emptied.  There must be a few residents left, capable of raising a mortgage, that resettlement, the moratorium, Fort McMurray or the Avalon Peninsula has, so far, failed to dislodge.  All of them will be needed to populate the already iconic enclave; though, it is still barely a concept even among the somnolent planners at City Hall. 
The City of St. John’s has already discarded its zoning manuals as a compliant, though otherwise uninspired Mayor, and unanimous Council move, with deliberate haste, toward an approval process that, prior to ‘Dannymania’, always moved at something less than a glacial pace. 

Over the decades, the City has missed several opportunities to grow; though Mount Pearl and other towns have done little to distinguish themselves.  The seat of Government, once a suckling on an abundant fishery and now offshore oil, has been kind to St. John’s; its perceived greatness thrust upon it.  Like the expectant and the spoiled, it does not govern with the confidence of past achievements.  Its chief regard is for its entitlements so long embraced they just seem normal. 
Danny is one of the City’s very own.  He understands entitlement. Entitlement is not about being deserving; nor is it about destiny or rights.  It demands only an attitude. It is, of course, that attitude which gives support to the long held view that rural resettlement ought never to have ceased when Smallwood gave it momentum, in the 1960s and 70s.  Many townies believe an exit ramp ought never to have been permitted until the displaced hit the overpass, at Kenmount Road.

Danny’s Plan is huge; its proportion makes every modern developer a carpetbagger.  Andy Crosbie, Craig Dobbin, Ches Penney and Garland Clarke, all have been penny ante players.  Dannyville is, well… iconic; just like its namesake, the eponymous former Premier. 

The baymen had better get on; they now have a new destination, virtually next to Paradise.
Baymen are outliers, of course, people whose intransigent ties and cultural traditions pull hard and keep them close to home. The hope is that those who have so far stayed, will be eager to connect with the many who broke away; that they will join the toiling masses of bureaucrats, trades people and service providers already lined up to buy a plot in Dannyville.  Thousands of their compatriots have already taken mortgages in every town, from Bauline to Bay Bulls. The Towns emulate the insular Capital City, too, or at least as best they can; those who came from outside the “Overpass” don’t think much, anymore, of what they have left behind. 

Dannyville residents will come from South East Bite, Lumsden and Petite Forte, from Croque, Brent’s Cove, LaScie and Francois and a host of other villages whose names are quaint and whose inhabitants speak a common language.  In recent times, the place-names have been livelier than the villages that give them residence.  They not only suggest a context that is the history of the whole Province; they imply a profound sense, less, perhaps, of premonition, than outright warning.  Culture, traditions, even the graveyards speak to humanity’s need to belong; in a bayman, it is every bit as rooted and ingrained as his sense of survival.   
What he doesn’t understand, but is destined to discover, is that Dannyville does not as much offer an antidote to his innate fear of separation whether from family, culture or identity; Dannyville is the antidote.

For the preponderance of fisher people, the fishing industry has all but disappeared; yet, they still like to go out in boat and catch one for ‘the pot’.  The huge sheds, the old ‘stores’, are now less a place for nets and gear as much as they are a shelter for the trike, the ski-doo and as a hang-out, away from the Missus. Life is not overly generous but it is still pretty good, though their friends tell them they would be happier elsewhere. 
They are not people of the ‘pay-cheque’.  They can get by even when times are tough.  Nor do they queue at the bank machine, each pay-day, like those who will populate Dannyville.  Still, the allure of riches stirs them to bewilderment; it confuses the souls of even the most grounded.  What is worse, the magnetism of ‘the man’ is stronger than the pull of a dozen generations. 

Danny doesn’t understand them but he needs them just the same. He might be a ‘townie bully’, not to be trusted in the ‘corners’, as his hockey buddies speak of him in an undertone of criticism that seems valid enough; though it feels unpatriotic in a way.  They know that, if they are overheard, it will deny them his friendship. 
But, boy, did he ever tell off that crowd in Ottawa. And, didn’t he say “we won”!  We don’t quite know what we won, but if Danny said it, by Christ, it had to have been big…it had to have been huge…because Danny is huge. He’s smart and successful and the richest man in Newfoundland, or, so they say…so, Dannyville has to be huge, too, and successful and perhaps, we should have a piece of what Danny has…who knows, whatever it is, might rub off. 

Even the older ones have been thinking silly stuff, lately. Why, just the other day, Skipper Jerry Seymour was up on Deadman’s Rock.  He was shouting into the breeze and you could hear him, perhaps, as far away as Cape John.  The old man was saying: “Why shouldn’t I leave this ‘hole’ anyway. I’m sick of the goddamn ocean.  All I wake up to is rocks and hills and trees and more ocean.  I’m just surprised there isn’t trees over the bloody ocean”, he fumed, to no one in particular.

I had expected Skipper Jerry to end his boisterous and seemingly senseless, but lonely rant, right there. But, he had more on his mind that day; a lot more.

“Sure, the Missus was saying, just the other day”, he continued, “she was tired of all the higgledy piggley of the place; up over cliffs and down over the rocks.  You can’t even walk on a straight road if you wanted to go over and see Mary Jane.  To go up to Uncle Jack’s, I can’t just stroll over.  Oh, no! I got to pay a price to walk over there. I can’t just mind my own business; I can’t even glance. I’m forced to look at the two Methuselahs, just a few hundred yards offshore! God, the memories from that place, the stories we use to tell; Ned and Bill and Pad…jesus, they were the best. Used to be some good salmon on that spot, he added, almost wistfully. 

"And, if I look over my shoulder, I see the place where ‘Billy broke the jar’.  Must have been some shaggin’ crock of ‘shine for everyone to remember a place like that…that must have happened a hundred years ago.  Well, I’m sick of it all, anyway….I think. 

“Yes, all I see is fog and there’s neither fish in the water, for jesus sake, and speaking of water, you can’t even get a cup to drink, there’s a boil order on every other day…and the kids, the half dozen that are left, they got to get on that bloody school bus, day in day out. I bet they’ll have a school right in the middle of Dannyville, right next to the Walmart.  Danny would think of that.  I know he would.

“And, in Dannyville I wouldn’t have to see where Billy broke the goddamn jar, would I? He’d have some nice straight roads and the beach wouldn’t be a sidewalk, where the waves wash up hundreds of sea shells and god knows what else; some of it is unimaginably nice, though. 
“I won’t have to watch that friggin’ seal lollygagging, with her two pups, as if Brian Watson had given her enough stamps to get her through the winter.  And, I won’t have to look at any more shaggin’ icebergs; though despite the cold wind they send into the Cove, some of them are some nice.  Yes, my son, they have a majesty that ought to be reserved for Jesus, himself. 

“Sure, Dannyville will have nice concrete sidewalks with fire hydrants…but, I s’pose if Rover pissed on those he get shot faster than Skipper Jim Shea can run for his remedies”, Jerry laughed heartily at his own humour.     

“And, there would be nice lawns and streetlights.  We’d never hope to get any of those in this Cove. Yes”, he declared with an affirmation that had all the force of an insect attacking an old sound bone: “Think I’ll go and check out Dannyville”.  Jerry shook his balding head, the hair or what was left of it, showed plenty of grey, as he compressed his weather beaten face in his two hands.  He held it there for what seemed an hour as if he was reliving his whole life right there on Deadman’s Rock.

Suddenly, his hands gave way and Jerry stood erect, like I saw him, sometimes, at funerals.  Not ready to keep his silence, he spoke as if he needed to complete his narrative aloud, as if a public testimony would assuage what he was about  to do. “Guess, I had better ring up Susie”, he declared.  “She’s married to that feller with the Bank, in St. John’s…see if he’ll give me and the Missus a mortgage. I’ll get me pension cheque next week; he’ll be looking for the stub and proof, I guess, that I makes fifteen thousand in a good year.  S’pose, if we don’t like it, we can always come back home; we won’t be prisoners there”.

That’s the thing about Dannyville.  Staying does not have to be permanent. 

The Residents of Dannyville can leave; but, why would they want to.
 


4 comments:

  1. yet another imperial fantasy: no less than muskrat falls, if at least without the option for gifting bankruptcy on all of us. A new city - (a new Jerusalem?) for untold multitudes, who will flock there from...where again exactly?

    Not Rigolet, or Rushoon, or anywhere else in rural NL that was reduced to 75/75 status some time ago. 75 residents, average age 75.

    Who will buy these houses, that will be built in the thousands?

    No doubt the same people looking for power, that can't be sold anywhere else. the fantasy people for the fantasy market.

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  2. Please forgive, I could not finish the "blog"

    The message you intended was all too clear.

    The one I received, the names, the places, the people make me shiver to the bone - even now as I write my comments.

    Jesus help us!

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  3. When the man is dead and buried young people will have sex on the greens of the Woods, at night, dreaming of the Danny Bonus from all those years ago. Maybe a statue of our Danny will be positioned somewhere near the entrance. A high school may even bear his name.... Politicians have a difficult job to run the province, and an even harder one to define their legacy. Danny's legacy is now becoming obvious to Dunderdale. Debt, bad decisions, and an overconfidence which caused reality to be a concept rarely considered. Dannyville will be a tribute to the Great Spender himself. Time will tell if the association will drive up or lower property values.

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  4. No need to worry about kowtowing St. John's Council for Dannyland - hopefully most of them will be ousted. STJ still needs a strong mayor candidate (not the toll guy..) so both of the Os are no longer on Council.

    Harbor fence, deregulating zoning laws against the advice of city professional staff, poorest roads in memory, costly convention center renovations, anti development league quashing anything before the 1920s yet allowing 'heritage' buildings to become decrepit rat infested fire and satiety hazards.

    Dannyland is urban sprawl at its finest and NL oil based economy peaked 2005-2009, expect stagnant or declining Avalon economy the next 17 years.

    Canadian housing bubble should pop or be very deflated by the time DL is constructed. 3,000 new overpriced homes in the 350K+ range, who is going to buy them?

    Very few young people still live around the bay, is DL going to be a retirement/resettlement community?

    Unless there is sufficient WATER SUPPLY for DL (water bans in the summer now with 20K more people?) any proposal should be outright rejected.

    Council are ill equipped or informed to make a decision on DL for the entire region/City. Very few if any current councilor will still be in office when danny cuts his ribbon to DL, just like PC MHAs post Muskrat.

    If not for the HoA STJ city council wins the award for most inept government body in NL.

    Did we ever find out who ordered the watering down of the zoning requirements for DL? If a civil servant can be influenced by outside political forces they are in over their head and need to reign or be fired.

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