gray and laughing

It’s 8 am and the rattling around outside had begun already.

We have two seasons in Calgary: construction and cold. Since it’s not cold, our local condo board made the decision to turn our adorable townhouses of warm brown with dark chocolate trim into shades of gray. Our section is now fit out with new siding in a slightly pinky-brown shade of gray with all the trim to be painted the exact same color. The next section is a more greeny shade, but still very obviously gray, and so on – shades of gray. It’s bland. It’s boring. It’s an eyesore. It’s a regular Calgary crime. When this city outlawed streets and roads that ran parallel and perpendicular, they also outlawed color and character. City outskirts are endless layers of gray houses, tiny trees replacing the mature trees that were destroyed during housing development. It’s ass-backward, and one of my pet peeves about living here.

“Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.” – Bill Vaughan

We sat in the yard this morning and stared out at the finished sections of the complex, shaking our heads in sadness and disgust. If we owned rather than rented, and been advised that this was the plan, we’d have fought hard against this “improved” look because the community was full of warmth visually, and now, it’s just another boring gray group of buildings. It looks institutional. Gah. It is still populated with mature flowering trees which adds a homey and aromatic goodness. If they move to chop these down so our aging neighborhood looks like the blankness of the new suburbs, you’ll read about me in the headlines.

Our trim is scheduled to be painted this week, so every morning I’ve awoken to ladders and such being hauled around, giant piles of steel being dumped in my backyard (or at least that’s what it sounds like) and a melodic alien language spoken at top volume, harsh laughter replacing periods and commas.

Today I realized that the Newfies have invaded.

When we were leaving the house this morning, the dog ran out to sit next to one of the painters who was precariously perched above my flower pots. I offered to move the pots (and the dog) out of his way and he shook his head and said something that sounded like “prejink nerway da jons ehn!”, smiled largely, and continued painting. The laughter from nearby buildings rolled over the gray, brightening the day with sing song of Newfoundland natives chatting over their work.

I should have known earlier in the morning that the invasion was coming – the dog went up to the front window, peered out at the painter, then wandered off without a bark. Odd since she usually makes some sort of alert, especially with someone actually touching her territory. It may be a stereotype of the Newfies, but just maybe she could sense the good-nature of the people outside. My first experience talking with a Newf (those from Newfoundland) was at a maritime-themed bar in the city, and I was so sure that they were drunk because I couldn’t understand a damn thing they were saying. I, in my natural brilliance, decided that I should match their drunkeness – then I’d eventually understand what they were saying. Once truly smashed and dancing with these strangers, friends now dressed in togas and shrieking loudly after every sentence, I still couldn’t understand a word, and now we were all slurring (or at least I was). Just “off da rock”, their heavy accent reminds me of high speed talking while underwater after drinking shots of straight moonshine. I love it. It makes me grin. Never a finer folk to meet.

I just wish I knew what they were saying.

Now that the buildings are all gray, I just wish they’d stay to add more color. Instead, I’m gonna have to go out and get some brightly colored flowers to spruce up the yard. Maybe a large colored flag or a knit house cozy. We need something – ANYTHING – to fight the bland that seeping in.

The gray will NOT win – we shall prevail.

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