This week my local comic shop, the Silver Snail, announced they were closing. A large reason I live where I do is proximity. It was one of the neighbourhood perks; one of the ways I justified my overpriced rent. It was a place I would stop at often to just waste some time and find something new to read. It wasn’t hard, the shelves were always stocked and the selection always great. If they didn’t have what you were looking for they’d have something just as cool. Plus, they carried indie stuff and weird EU sci-fi comics without me having to ask for them; that is a huge plus in my sad world.
1998: one of my first trips to Ottawa and I am on the hunt for Ranma 1/2 tapes. Kingston was spent* and Silver Snail was the logical spot in Ottawa to have a look. We stopped in, spent a couple hundred bucks (tapes weren’t cheap) and hit the road back to Kingston. We get back and low and be-fucking-hold one of the tapes is dead, shattered in the case. I go into the VHS collection of the house I am staying at and find the most offensive tape I could: a Peter, Paul and Mary 1990s PBS concert recorded off television. I rip open this tape of musical abortion and sacrifice it to the gods of good anime (which existed at one point, shocking I know); transferring the reels from one cassette to the other in hopes our $45 dollar investment into an hour of entertainment isn’t a complete write-off. Successful surgery. Ranma never felt so good. Fuck off, this story is funnier in my head, and Peter, Paul and Mary still suck.
Wednesday Ritual 2015: wake up; make coffee, putz around the apartment kinda getting ready. First stop was always the Snail. It’s new comics day; the best day of the week. Pick up what was in for us that week and fuck off home to read. We’d been doing this for years (my roommate and I). When I was unemployed, my buying slowed down, but never completely stopped; my roommate just bought more, often picking up stuff for me when I worried about spending extra cash. Now, Wednesday is just another day.
What they don’t explain to you as a kid is that life is just a series of losses. You grow up learning that death is only something that happens to sentient creatures. What isn’t talked about is that everything else you watch comes and goes; the thousands of miniature deaths that happen daily. Streets become more a nostalgic walk through the uniqueness of the past than anything you’d want to spend your time and money at today. The million-mile-stare on your parents’ faces when you drove past the decaying Drive-In or a parking lot that was once a place where they met their friends after school. That look you noticed, but never really understood or wanted to ask about? You look that way now. You live it. Every day you live it a little more.
I’m probably reading too deeply into all this shit, in fact, I know I am. In the grand scheme of things, it’s another pointless event in a series of pointless events. Know what? I don’t fucking care if I am looking too far into it. These are the types of stores that used to define areas, the type of locations that separated the downtown core from the rest of the city. I guess Centretown is now defined by condos and small plate restaurants. Luxuries for D.I.N.K.’s (dual income no kids) reclaiming the area. How fucking boring.
I’d planned to be angry about this, screaming and ranting about change and progress, but the truth is I have just become numb. This isn’t unique to Ottawa; it isn’t unique to this area or this country. It’s the same thing as when all the grindhouse theatres closed, replaced by VHS, or when the arcades started boarding up after consoles started to be able to offer the same sort of quality at home; or the record stores and video stores. It’s another destination-type of location killed off by constantly changing and evolving technology. I miss those places. They were a reason to leave your house for more than just work, groceries or a trip to the LCBO. – SHANE
*Greg Kerr posted a comic a while ago talking about wandering around strange areas smoking and searching for VHS cassettes. That shit was a large part of my teenage life. John and I wandering from shop to shop from one end of town to the other just seeing what weird little offerings they had. Maybe we’d hit an arcade or two before wandering back home to watch whatever “treasure” we found; and by treasure I mean almost fucking dying because we just had to see the fucking classic “Death Sport” staring David Carradine. FYI: the movie wasn’t worth it.