27 February 2010

Personal lessons learned from a City

Hamilton is considered the armpit of southern Ontario, Canada. 
It knows this, but keeps on anyway. 
It has mouths to feed. 

There are a number of huge multi-national Steel manufacturers that dominate 
the landscape in many more ways than one 
- one being the smokestacks. 

Another being a blighted downtown. 

Downtown Hamilton has lovely bones - as you can see above, 
but the bones are often neglected.Though there are bits of revival, 
money lives in the bland burbs upstairs...with fear. 
Perhaps downtown is too close to the dirty interior of our lives? 
a little too disarming? naked?

Downtown Hamilton is a stone's throw from the manufacturing core. 
It carries on its shoulders the burden of stench and scum that accumulates when you are a steel town - a manufacturing town - the bi-products of all of our consumer desires, strewn about like someone's dirty laundry.


Yet there are a growing few who find respite in the grit of downtown - those who can live with and derive life from the chaos, and those who have no choice.

Other than Canada's favorite coffee place - Tim Horton's
- which found its birth in this city, 

there are hardly any big box type stores or franchises 
anywhere in the downtown core. 

Most stores are mom and pop shops, all with their unique names and store displays
- everyone is free to BE in their own store - to add their personality to the place,  
to name it whatever pleases them - maybe name things as they are.

No fancy pants about it.

The tired conformity of the Martha Stewart aesthetic 
is nowhere to be found.

And Lululemon, if she ever was here, would have fled, 
screaming up the hill, a long time ago. 

The thing is, downtown Hamilton is real, terribly real. 

It does not hide from itself, but rather, 
makes itself at home -  with itself.

It can relax and does not fear its own motled skin.

It is OPEN to itself and embraces the balance of Yin and Yang. 

It does not resist what is real, but nods to it.

it does not wait for itself to be acceptable

      before it loves itself. 

All photos taken by Marcella Corroeli Jager, 2008.


  1. Marcime,

    This is a terrific post! I have never been to Canada but your "lost city" could be anywhere. You are very very talented!

  2. Oh my gosh, don't know how you did it, but you captured the flash in my spirit when I awoke this morning and felt so old. I shall go back and look in the mirror and with a gentle smile to myself remember-
    "It does not hide from itself, but rather, makes itself at home - with itself. It can relax and does not fear its own motled skin"

    You are a tonic my friend, of which I shall drink deeply today.

    p.s. - did you notice I took your gentle prod and actually filled out the profile questions? Keep prodding!

  3. You made me miss Hamilton! Last time I was there, (long long ago) I noticed all the aMAZing Victorian houses. And I do love me a derelict building with good bones... such hope, promise, forgotten glory.

  4. Funny, I was just watching a NatGeo show on Angola prison and how one of the inmates got out after 28 years. He was returning home, and was repeatedly asking about "whatever happened to such-and-such business". This is an example of how as a city grows, so can it deteriorate in the same instance. What was once exciting becomes swept aside to make room. Yet to some it is still the norm. Thanks for your pictorial!

  5. It sounds like a very interesting place. And as for the hardships of being a steel town--at least it still is a steel town. Across the border, in places like Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan, the booming factories that once constituted the bulwark of local economies are long gone, leaving desolate wastes behind them.

  6. VKT - thanks! Yes, Cleveland Ohio comes to mind...

    Beth - was that me who prodded you about profile Q's? i dont' recall...:) I'll be your tonic anyday!

    mmichele - I know, Hamilton is such an interesting place - i did love going to school there - next time you come in we should spend an afternoon there...

    Tony- so true - I go back to my hometown (Beamsville) and it barely looks like where I grew up!

    Brightened boy - change is difficult and chaos is frightening, but new hope always comes up from the scrap heap !

  7. Wow...Hamilton as it is! I loved your pictures and acceptance of how things are and of finding beauty in the old and run down. That's a hard thing to do, but you did it with your pictures and words!

  8. My photos do not do it justice, there is so much more to tell...!

  9. I loved taking this photo tour of Hamilton. It reminded me of when I lived in downtown San Jose, before it received a face lift. Great post.

  10. huh, San jose, who knew?
    gotta go - US/CAN hockey game in overtime!

  11. Really happy to follow your blog Marcime...


  12. I love your photos! What a colourful place you live in and love in. I pine for the days when chain stores were few and individuality and quirkiness ruled! When everything is sanitised and the trash hidden away it takes away some of our responsibility and awareness of our over consumption.Don't you think? Glad to see it popping up all over the place in Hamilton! Thanks Marcime.

  13. Hi Lorenza - thanks!

    Heather - long time no see - how's the thesis?
    I agree with you - when it is in your face you dod have to think about it more, deal with it, or, you just get used to it...(crush that theory)

    I live in Oakville, nearer to Toronto, but Hamilton is where I studied at McMaster U. a few years back.

  14. Hi Marcella thanks for your comment on my post. Really. I replied to you by email, because it was too long, but I am not sure it went through. I hope so.

    Keep well,