In late November I spent a week at our Canmore timeshare: a functional, yet cozy location for a working retreat. After a few hours or days of work I feel entitled to goof off. That diversion may entail shopping or eating out. As I visited new and old haunts in town I thought about my role as a returning visitor.
Tourists have it made. We can dip in and out without any real investment in the community or area other than what we spend on food, fuel, and personal consumables.
Last year I saw a civic building under construction. As an outsider I missed the municipal government debates about the expenditure and the taxpayer weigh-ins on pros and cons. I missed the actual inconvenience of construction, the disruption to service, the traffic snarls.
A year later I get to see the magnificent Elevation Place: art gallery, library, bistro, childcare centre, rock climbing wall and more. I can see, use, and enjoy–often without cost–and then go on my merry way.
When I asked the gallery attendant about when the building opened and commented on its beauty, he seemed unsure of either. He, of advancing years, said the building was very big and cost a lot. I said I guess You’re worried about taxes. He said he lived elsewhere. “So You’re off the hook,” I said. “Yep, I’m off the hook.”Would his opinion about the investment be different if he was a library patron, a rock climber or had children in need of care? Probably.
As I continued my rounds in town it was sad to see some businesses had closed. I suspect that in true Alberta entrepreneurial spirit the shuttered spaces won’t remain so for long. Some wide-eyed risk taker with a hope and a prayer (and the help of a bank) will open the next hot new shop.
As consumers, we vote with our wallets. We choose whom to support with our dollars and to what extent. I always shop at Café Books when I’m in Canmore. they’re an independent and damn proud of it. Are their prices good? No, not Costco or thrift store good. But the selection of less mainstream titles and the ambience make you want to linger. I always leave with a bag of goodies and a skinnier wallet.
Another favourite, Second Story Books, a used bookstore housed in a below grade space on Main Street was closed because of the summer flood damage. By next year I’ll know if they recovered and regrouped. I hope so.
Each year I catch the Christmas Artisan’s Market at the high school and delight in the talents of others. I practice my dining alone strategy at Indochine, a Vietnamese fusion restaurant with the freshest, yummiest food. I drive to Banff National Park.
Luckily this whole visitor thing is reciprocal. I visit your town you visit mine. I drop some moola there you bring some here. Our respective taxes build our own infrastructure but we share it with others. Pretty sweet deal, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.