City of Champions

I wish I could love Edmonton more than I do. Sometimes I tell myself that just because I don’t feel like I belong here doesn’t mean I’ll belong somewhere else. Grass is greener and all that. And Edmonton has its virtues–its festivals and its universities and its arts communities and the beautiful parks and the river. Not feeling like I belong is mostly my own fault.

It’s the oil, I think. This shadow over the city. Everything belongs to the oil fields, or is in some way facilitating them. Sponsored by them. Our sports teams are oilers and oil kings and–I don’t know–it’s just so absurd, isn’t it? You play an ice game. You don’t oil anything. What does oil have to do with hockey? Why does no one else think The Edmonton Oilers sounds ridiculous?

But it’s where the money is. It’s black gold. It’s just terrifying to me that we are so beholden to some dark ooze in the earth. You know? It’s borderline Lovecraftian. Our slavery to oil is Kafkaesque. And I guess I feel imprisoned by it.

Sure, there’s always something that owns us. Money, government, patriarchy–whatever. But we don’t call hockey teams The Edmonton Currency Exchangers, or The Edmonton Lobbyists or The Edmonton Church Leaders. The oil theme is so ironically transparent. Edmonton is a big city, but you get this isolated impression, like it’s a tiny, one-trick-pony town that most people just pass through. The kind of place that’s famous for cooking the world’s largest perogie and has perogie museums and perogie festivals and people only visit for the perogies and you have to wonder if the people who live there ever get tired of perogies or if they’re so numb to them that they don’t notice how much of a joke their town is. Maybe it’s a pride thing. Maybe it’s being able to suppress pride. Maybe they don’t care at all.

I just can’t imagine staying without picturing myself as one of those blackened pelicans dying on a beach, so thoroughly soaked in oil that I can no longer fly away.

– H.

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