Thursday, May 21, 2015

Four directions on this map, but only going one way

I take pride in my sense of direction, always knowing which way is north, south, east or west, especially in a city whose streets follow a nice grid pattern, like Toronto or Windsor. This sense probably developed out of my teenage role-playing hobby: hours spent poring over and memorizing maps of medieval dungeons and cities, then creating my own versions. The geographies of the real world (modern and ancient) and of imaginary lands like Middle Earth or Hyboria came naturally to me. So I rarely get lost or turned around, which was especially handy living and teaching in South Korea, whose system of streetnames and addresses runs from idiosyncratic to downright random.
There's four directions on this map
But you're only going one way... Due South!
Living in Windsor for a couple of years, it took a while to get used to residing south of the United States’ border, Detroit directly to my north, but at least it reflected reality, unlike many places in Korea which use English direction names for their foreign-sounding cachet, not because they are accurate descriptors.
That’s why one of my pet peeves in Barrie is how so many businesses seem to use directional names like they did in Korea: by a random assignment that doesn’t match where they actually are. For years I’ve wanted to unload, so this week it’s finally going to happen.
Barrie has a very clear sense of direction and region – there is a south end, a west, north Barrie and the very social east end. But although we have two East Side Mario’s restaurants, neither is on the east side: one is in the north end and the other in the south. We have a South St. Burger Co. in the south, but also one on the northern tip of the city. Ditto for Ol’ West Wing, one of whose two locations is on the west side of town; the other lies in the south-east. Westside Furniture Warehouse began on the west side of the city, but moved to a south-end location before suddenly going bankrupt; perhaps due to confusion about where they actually were?
A tony local eatery is called The North Restaurant, which has always been located on or near Dunlop Street downtown, the traditional center (not north) of the city, although I guess they are on the north side of Dunlop, which presumably justifies the moniker. Of course, downtown added to the confusion when it tried rebranding itself as “Uptown Barrie”.
An avant-garde condominium on Kempenfelt Bay calling itself The West was planned; ironically, located to the east of downtown. Perhaps that contributed to this proposal’s collapse into recrimination and lawsuits?
The other passing Allandale Veterinary Hospital I did a double-take, because it was on Caplan Ave, way down in the south end. Surely Allandale doesn’t stretch that far?
But I must admit to some personal involvement in this problem. Barrie grew too large to be a single federal electoral district (riding), and was split in two. Before official names were established, the new ridings were referred to as “Barrie North” and “Barrie South”. And that’s where the confusion comes in, because our candidate for Barrie south is named Bonnie North. That already caused a mix-up in at least one news story, so hopefully everyone will know what’s what (and who’s where) by the time the fall election comes around!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Sense of direction needed to navigate Barrie"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

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