At a pleasant social event recently, a guest with a personal connection to Trail city council asked me “Do you like Trail?”
This is a variation of the query/comment, “Why do you hate Trail? which surfaced occasionally over the course of my career with the Times after I wrote something critical of council. It reflects a curiously imperial view as it implies that council, the corporate entity of the City of Trail, and the community are one and the same.
Although, after 32 years as a resident of the area there are days that I feel stranger than others as I walk these streets of faded dreams, Greater Trail is my home of choice. Happily, my relations with various Trail mayors and councillors over the years have been most cordial, even as I was guided by the notion that my task was to report and comment on their doings, not fall in love with them.
So, in an unnecessary effort to prove my bona fides, here is, in no particular order, my far from exhaustive list of the glories of Trail:
• Standing on the banks of the river, watching the Mighty Columbia flow. Deep, swift and mysterious, the river divides Trail and brings all of the Kootenays together. The river wall is a piece of history and a testament to humanity’s ceaseless struggle to stay ahead of nature
• You can trip and fall in the middle of any intersection downtown and have time to collect your parcels, scattered change, and ragged wits before the next vehicle appears. This is not unlike downtown Phoenix, except that the more numerous pedestrians will come rushing to your aid in Trail.
• Taking visitors to the Colander. Whether they are hicks or world travelers, they all love the place and take away their distinct memories. One friend always remembered the squeak of the waitress’s running shoes as they bustled around with heaping plates of food.
• Hiking the streets and stairwells of West Trail, or Columbia Heights if you prefer. The rock walls, houses jumbled together, terraced yards painstakingly claimed from the looming hillside all evoke the earlier residents who built the city.
• Spending time at Gyro Park. My loved ones on city council have been dedicated in recent years to the maintenance and improvement of the park and it is now one of premiere, cultivated outdoor locations in the Kootenays.
• How little pretense and ostentation is displayed. Monster houses and grandiose vehicles (except for monster trucks) are uncommon and no one cares about the latest foodie fashion. The downside of this is that dressing up for a special occasion, whether it be a funeral or a night out, often means putting on a clean t-shirt and ensuring your ball cap is on straight – or inanely crooked, if that is your sense of fashion.
• Venerable institutions such as local unions, Italian halls, Rotary and other clubs, and all the volunteers that make this community go. Many of these are now struggling but, I am hopeful, they will be soldiering on.
• Having a wild trail not much further away than the end of your street, pretty much where ever you live in Greater Trail.
• The Trail Historical Society and its efforts to keep the city’s story alive. In the absence of a museum worthy of the name, the society has produced books, magazines, videos, a website, and archive that preserves the past. The Sports Hall of Memories, started by city councillor Al Tognotti, is always a treat to meander through, even if athletics isn’t your thing.
• Trail’s artists and artisans who labour to present their visions on canvass and in performances despite a potential audience that is often too enraptured by the glories of their surroundings and the necessities of building a life to notice.
• Although this has become less so in recent years as their numbers have multiplied, the fact that those citizens with mental and cognitive challenges are usually treated with the dignity their humanity demands.
• Looking up at that cathedral of industry on the hill that looms over the city. Gone but not forgotten are the days when a process upset or downdraft would leave pedestrians on Cedar Avenue or athletes at Butler Park wheezing and fleeing for cover.
But, wherever you live, whether it’s Trail or Timbuktu, the places we call home are really about the “good friends we have had, good friends we’ve lost, along the way,” as Jamaica’s national poet Bob Marley so memorably observed.
Raymond Masleck is a retired Trail Times reporter.