So i’m home for Christmas (which i like to pronounce “Chreest-mas,” tho i feel guilty vocally distorting the “Christ” part … but it sounds so damned hilarious) in the city in which i was raised, but never should have been. More on that later if i ever feel like writing about it.

Going home means revisiting The ‘Shwa. It’s a halfway loving nickname for a place called Oshawa, nestled on the North edge of Lake Ontario amongst upper-middle class cities with whom it doesn’t belong, like an adopted child from an questionable home. This bank of cities and township lies East of Toronto, one of Canada’s largest cities, but you can’t quite call them suburbs of Toronto like Long Island is a suburb of New York City. These places are far enough away so as not to be a part of the megacity – just one district apart. And being so far away, ideas catch on slowly here … ideas like reading for pleasure, live theatre as entertainment, and restaurants that don’t exist as chain franchises crammed into bigbox shopping outlets.

Oshawa shares its spot on the lake with sister Whitby (AKA Whiteby), an achingly sprawling labyrinth of oversized homes and not much else, carved into gigantic soulless squares by 4-lane minihighways. Whiteby’s bigger, blacker sister is Pickering (or “Pickherthing,” if you’re ten years old or you’re like me and still find it funny), the (literally) closest thing to a Toronto suburb that the district gets. On the opposite side of Oshawa is its kid sisters Bowmanville (AKA BowMan’s Land, because the place is desolate) and Courtice (AKA nothing, because i can’t think of a clever derogatory nickname), each with its share of older houses and newly minted Barbie Dreamhomes with boutiquey downtown stretches of decorative pillow stores and knick-knack shoppes.

In the midst of all this, playing his Def Leppard albums too loudly and doing hot knives off the stove, is Oshawa.