There is this place here in Charlottetown this summer called the Celebration Zone, named, I presume, so that there can be no disputing the expected behaviour while within it.
Or perhaps to raise a glass to the Siberian Haplogroup.
The Celebration Zone has taken over our local waterfront city park, taking out of commission the place that, heretofore, we were walking Ethan every night, joining scores of other dogs from the neighbourhood in their relief.
Now that the celebrants have moved in, we’re all forced to over-urinate a small patch of green space left at the very back of the park.
Last night, while on the way to said patch of green, I decided to venture into the heart of the zone for the first time.
What I found within was perhaps the greatest achievement of the tourismocracy to date: an antiseptic enclave with its own police force, electric power, restaurant, entertainment and curfew.
A sort of mash-up of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld and Walmart.
Someone, especially someone like me, resident of the neighbourhood that abuts the Republic of Tourismostan, is moved to wonder what it is about regular everyday Charlottetown that requires the construction of such a walled garden.
The only conclusion I can draw is that the tourismocracy suffers from a kind of performance anxiety.
“It’s certain,” one imagines the thinking, “that tourists will find Charlottetown insufficiently razzmatazzy for an event of such import.”
With the conclusion being that appropriate response is to construct a parallel universe so as to attract the touristic eye away from the humdrum workaday drudgery of the Charlottetown that surrounds.
In this, the Celebration Zone represents the worst impulses of the tourism economy. Impulses that lead one to speak in a special language, understood only in such quarters, using phrases like “a hub of family-friendly celebratory activity,” “culinary area”, and “interactive walking tours.”
A language that, were you to speak it amongst the general population, would mark you for special segregation to an area reserved for the bored and the obsessed.
All of which would be much less tragic if there weren’t so much that’s just perfectly wonderful about regular everyday Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island.
While the misbegotten tourist is chowing down on John Hamilton Gray Poupon-infused lobster and cooling off with an icy Robert B. Dickeysicle inside the zone, there are hundreds – thousands – of places to go, people to meet, activities in which to indulge, just over the steely red gates.
Wasting time in the tourismocratic aerie, watching a costumed reinterpretation of Prince Edward Island, while Prince Edward Island itself awaits, is not only criminal, but ultimately in the best interests of neither the tourist nor the Islander.
The sad irony is thus that in a year when Prince Edward Island should be boldly, confidently celebrating the start of a 9 year period in which the Island was successfully kept out of Canadian Confederation, a year where, by historical quirk, the eyes of the country are upon us, the tourismocratic reaction has been to create a simulacrum of the Island, cleansed of all that makes it interesting and rich and worthy of celebrating.
Rather than being unique and confident we have installed a “Celebration Zone” right out of the Sears Catalogue, identical to that which you might order for Dubuque or Chattanooga or Hepworth.
My advice to tourists: grab a plate of sushi, or a bowl of pho, or a supper of gnocchi outside the walls, then go for a swim or a kayak, visit our art gallery, go for a bike ride, find a hidden graveyard. Talk to some non-costumed people who actually live here and find out what the Island is really all about.
Avoid everything south of Water Street until 2015.