Monday 24 Oct 2016

A Frank Assessment
David Simmonds

It's been about a year now since my first column - about plans to open an upscale Tim Horton's in the Anglican Church - stained the pages of this noble fish wrap.

Over the year, I have had more fun than an insurance adjuster has in a Tim Horton's parking lot. I have reported on pretty well whatever I see; if don't see it I make it up. What could be better?

But with one lap around the track done I have been taking stock. Why do I enjoy writing about Wellington so much? How can I express it without sounding maudlin? Then I received help from an unexpected source.

That source was Seneca Falls, New York, where my wife and I paid a brief spring visit. Seneca Falls claims to be the fictional Bedford Falls, the community in which Frank Capra's classic film "It's a Wonderful Life" is set. You may recall that Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, who dreams of traveling the world, but, forced by circumstance, stays put. An angel by the name of Clarence prevents a despairing George from jumping off a bridge by showing George a dystopian view of Bedford Falls without him. George comes to embrace the small town values from which he was so anxious to escape.

Seneca Falls is proud of George Bailey and Frank Capra. It holds an annual "It's a Wonderful Life" festival, which you can read about in "The Real Bedford Falls. You can stroll George Bailey Street, visit the Clarence Hotel, and stand on the Angel Street Bridge to contemplate ending it all, which I did for a moment after a local tourism official scowled at my Jimmy Stewart impersonation. Memo to a local tourism official: wait until you hear my Ed Sullivan impersonation.Then we'll see who feels like jumping off the bridge.

The visit made the penny drop. I enjoy writing about Wellington because I constantly see the virtues that Frank Capra's movie celebrates. If a whole town can put on a festival about them, I can surely manage to celebrate them with a column. Anyhow, here goes.

You can't live in Wellington without being drenched with civility - a smile, a wave, a 'good day'. You cannot dismiss a passerby as 'just another Wellington resident'. He or she has a name and a life story.

Dig a little deeper and discover tales of accomplishment, disappointment, heroism and grief, much as you have seen in your own life. He may have donated a kidney to help a stranger, shemay have fostered numerous young women and men or they may have volunteered endless hours at a food bank. Each story is worth knowing, whether to inspire us or simply to better understand our neighbours and ourselves.

Our climate of civility makes it easy to learn these stories. Hearing them binds us closer to one another and impels us to pitch in and help when needed. That is the very essence of community, a precious commodity you can't buy or legislate.

It provides plenty of raw materials for writers. Who knows, maybe 25 years hence, people will be coming to Wellington for 'Sloeville Days', looking for Rhonda's Barber and Beauty and Jed Harley's Hardware, and doing Jake Hooker impersonations to irritate local tourism officials.

After all, it's a wonderful place.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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