Ryan O'Dowd now reports on the city he grew up in

By Ryan O’Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

April 11th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ryan O’Dowd is a second year student at Sheridan College studying journalism and is with the Gazette for the next 10 months working as a reporter.  We asked him to tell us about the Burlington he knows and how it is coping with the pandemic.  Here is the way Ryan sees the city and the situation we are facing.

I was born in Burlington and I’ve lived here nearly all my life, so many of my experiences are inseparable from the city.

When I walk the Spencer Smith Park beach with friends, I feel like I’m tracing my own footsteps from long ago visiting the beach with my family when my grandmother was in town and being treated to ice cream at the beachfront store.

Going to the Sound of Music Festival in my teenage years, my face beet-red when the Ferris wheel attendee mistook my boarding with a cute girl for a first date. My face was red for three reasons, firstly I’m horribly afraid of heights, secondly, I badly wanted the operator to be correct about the status of my not-date, and thirdly my Irish complexion means my face is typically beet red.

The Ferris wheel etched an experience into the O’Dowd memory –

Suspended above the city and being too cowardly to make eye contact with my not-date I surveyed Burlington as the tangerine twilight faded into deep blue night and the festival sparkled the colors of a carnival.

To the untrained eye, not a lot has changed over the years for the city of Burlington, you have to know where to look, the benefit of spending your whole life in this city is that you do. Since I found myself suspended over the city in my teens the promenade changed, erecting a peculiar flashing tower(that I suspect will one day establish contact with extraterrestrials) upon an extender pier, businesses and restaurants came and went in the downtown core, the Sound of Music Festival split into paid and unpaid events, and I ended up several belt sizes larger.

Lakeshore may have changed and the Pier is certainly a new addition but not much of Brant Street has changed for O’Dowd.

The city of Burlington has changed throughout my lifetime; in March of 2020, along with the rest of the world, it changed into  something unfathomable that we’ve since grown to understand, adapt to, and get very annoyed by.

Now we arrive on the precipice of something new once more, a potential life after the pandemic. We don’t know what that looks like yet but we know the hardships are not over.

A store manager, operating from Burlington Center, cautioned, tired as we are of COVID-19 guidelines they still need to be followed and urged patience in the face of our current infection upswing.

“Many stores are working with reduced staff/payroll hours to offset the losses of the past two years,” he said, “I know everyone wants this to be over but take a deep breath, be patient and be kind to one another.”

A father of two young children, who requested he be described as “an unusually handsome local man,” offered a father’s perspective on the pandemic.

“Trying to work from home with two small children can be challenging and stressful but being able to see them more often is a major plus,” the unusually handsome local man said, “having said that, I can’t imagine how single parents or people with more kids do it.”

As we prepare for another stage in this otherworldly 18 months it will be important once more to carry the context of what came before, for the city and for us.

Ryan O’Dowd likes to get out into the country – where he came across an abandoned site – interesting stone work,

When you’ve lived somewhere long enough a city can become an excavation site, on every street corner something is buried and you know it’s there if you dig. A trace of a memory, a closed Blockbuster video store you would go to with your family every Friday night to pick a movie with great ceremony.

Your childhood home with the long driveway where you used to play street hockey but one day moved because a growing city is no place for a large property with modest-sized houses when land developers come to turn it into a construction site. Local arenas where your parents let you play youth hockey with BLOHMA even though you weren’t any good and it’s the most expensive sport this side of hunting man.

Trick-or-treating on a cool and dark autumn night by the light of a pale moon, wearing a Scream mask because that was popular even though you’d never seen the movie. Some buried memories are joyous, others are painful, others burn with a pang of nostalgia so happy and elusive that they sting. Such is any lifetime in a city.

It’s the familiarity with Burlington amidst the unfamiliar providing my bearings. My experiences living in Burlington will not guide me as I report to you, no more than opinion or bias will, but they will afford me a broader context. This is not the part where I tell you I love this city, I am not a politician, what I will say is, I am familiar with Burlington, and it is meaningful to me.

I look forward to playing what small part I can in chronicling Burlington’s story with the Burlington Gazette.

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1 comment to Ryan O’Dowd now reports on the city he grew up in

  • Phillip Wooster

    Thanks Ryan–I appreciate your candor and your observations. I’m sure many of us long-time residents can identify with much of what you have said. This was an interesting read, I hope your next stories are as well written–an excellent start!