The peculiar little city gripping the steep sides of a small harbour seems magical at first sight. Its streets are are a senseless maze, the map of a drunk's progress. Its wooden row houses are painted the most audacious colors to combat the dreary agency of persistent fog and drizzle. The people, the Townies, seem friendly, generous with colorful opinions, spoken with a distinct mongrel brogue of Irish and English influence.
They are surprisingly worldly. For the people of the many outports along the coast of Newfoundland, St. John's was Sin City, impossibly cosmopolitan and jaded for such a small place. No wonder it had suckered so many souls.
The people that really lived in St. John's, the ones who hadn't gone away too long or hadn't fallen under its spell during a brief visit, the real Townies, new better. They could see the old world weariness in the new, but still smell the wood smoke of the frontier. They knew that St. John's was, beneath the pink and powder blue paint, the political capital of a four-hundred-year legacy of misery and deprivation, a desperate colonial outpost of missed opportunities.
Ed Riche, Rare Birds (Toronto: Doubleday Canada Limited, 1997) 24.
This is the St. John's, the Newfoundland that we who live there recognize. Our gaze penetrates through the tourism ad campaigns, the fog, the endless span of the ocean, which falls out of sight as the earth curves away from us and provides the British Isles and Continental Europe with a place to situate themselves. That is our past. To the west we see the expanse of our domain, which once again meets the water of the atlantic ocean and is in this way separated from our political tether.
Beneath it all, there runs a sentiment (deep enough to be nothing more than a trace at times), an impulse within the exhausted acceptance of where we are today. We are the far east of the Western hemisphere, forever on the outside, drifting, remembering, waiting. We wait for the end, because we live and have lived it. We are the sentinels, the vanguards of an everlasting twilight.