This is the first story, in a short series of stories, about my experience in Mariposa. So, to kick things off right, I’ll begin with where I live.
From the outset, please be aware that any facts I state, about anything, in this or any of the pieces about Mariposa are all coming straight from my head, and may not be true.
I don’t know whether you know Mariposa. If not, it is of no consequence, for if you know Canada at all, you are probably well acquainted with a dozen towns just like it.
Excerpt From: Stephen Leacock. “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.” iBooks. https://itun.es/ca/_ZEZD.l
I live in a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a three-story walk-up. Many of the residents are retired, and spend a lot of their time waiting for a ride to somewhere or other. You’ll often see someone standing on the stoop (on the left and cut off in the picture above), protecting him- or herself from the sun, the rain, or the snow. Whenever I leave my apartment, I factor in 30 seconds extra to exchange pleasantries with a septuagenarian or octogenarian. The only nonagenarian that I know, Helen, will soon have her own story written about her.
The building itself is situated at the top of a hill. In fact, it is the highest hill that I know of in Mariposa. My balcony faces south, toward the town, but I don’t have a view. Even if I did, there’d be little to look at. On a clear night, however, I can watch Orion’s Belt slowly wrap itself across the sky.
A scenic view of this small town, however, would only prove to be a distraction from all of the excitement that happens within the walls of the building, which houses about 18 units. In my time here, there have been three superintendents. The first of them, whose husband died in December, is rumoured to now be cavorting with a tenant. An elderly woman walks the length of the first floor hallway for about 20 minutes with her walker twice a day, once around 10 am and then again around 3 pm. A man with cul-de-sac baldness and greasy long hair, whose licence plate reads “LETITBE”, moved from the south side of the building to the north side, after much vocal deliberation. There is a fashionable older woman, who always leaves the house properly dressed, complete with a hat. She insists on leaving the apartment at least once a day for a walk, making her own way downtown and back (about 2 km each way).
There is a young couple above me who sleep early, which I found out when, the one time I had friends over, the lady of the pair came down at around 9:30 pm on a Saturday and asked that we keep quiet . There is an older couple down the hall from me who each sleep in a separate room, because, as she says, “they really like to spread themselves across the bed.” The wife of another couple, on the first floor, is suffering from severe heart complications, which I came to learn from her husband who smokes cigarettes in his van. The man of a different young couple just bought a new vehicle, which he traded in his bronze coloured Sunfire for.
The two washers and two dryers were replaced about two months ago, but the doors still open into each other. You can’t have the door of the dryer open while the door of the washer is open, unless you use the dryer on the far end. There are no other amenities offered by the building.
And then, as there always is, there is Riel. Whenever I’m home, and awake, I leave the balcony door open for Riel to come and go as he pleases. He tends to prefer spending time outside, on the balcony, and has made himself known by so doing. You see, he sticks his head out between the gab of the railing and the floor of the balcony, and watches the world go by. All those who pass through the parking lot stop to talk to him. And, he meows back. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard childish laughter coming from retirees as they engage in conversation with a cat. In fact, most people I run into in the building are more anxious to tell me about that time they talked to Riel than they are curious about how I’m doing. I can’t blame him, Riel, though. He’s a stud. A neutered stud.
Of course, the building I live in doesn’t house all of Mariposa’s residents, as easy as they may be to believe. There is a sign posted somewhere on the outskirts of town that says that there are 31 000 people living in Mariposa, but I’ve not met that many. The size of the box stores in town, of which there is only one of each, rivals those that I’ve seen in Calgary, but they don’t carry as many items and are never as busy. On the weekends, during the summer months, the population seems to double. The roads get busier, and it takes about four minutes longer to get anywhere you might be driving to.
There is enough to do in town, if you’ve got something to keep you busy or you’re okay with doing very little. With six blocks of shopping and entertainment in the downtown, you’ll find something to do, if you’re up early and have friends to help you pass the time.
Of course, you can always pass your time near one of the two lakes. Separated by the Narrows, Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe border the east and south, respectively, of Mariposa. Lake Couchiching, the smaller and infinitely more-fun-to-say of the lakes, is more exciting than Lake Simcoe. There is an unused outdoor theatre, a harbour, a park, a short beach, an ice cream stand, a fishing dock, and a boat cruise that all rely on the waters of the Lake Couchiching. Tudhope park, on the south end of Lake Couchiching, offers any northerly gazers an amazing view of the lake, from dawn ’til dusk, from any one of the many park benches, and there’s also a playground for children.
The natural landscape doesn’t comprise all of the charm of this town. The ladies around town will call you “Hun” or “Dear” during casual conversation. I’ve yet to meet anyone who is an a rush, even at a pub right after last call has been announced. There isn’t one proper coffee shop in town, so I’ve never met anyone for a coffee, but maybe a bite to eat or a drink in the evening. Many of the young people — I say “young people” but mean anyone who is within my age range — that I’ve met, have left and come back, many of whom are unwed with children.
As long as you’ve got something to do, this town’s alright. Generally speaking, the people here are happy. And, it’s nice to know that you’re likely to run into someone you’ve met before, even if it’s at the place you always go to because there isn’t anywhere else to go. After all, they’re going to run into you, too.