“This is changing / They’re not the same anymore / Things is changing / They’re not the way they was before.”
So sings the great Fred J Eaglesmith on the title track of his 1993 classic “Things Is Changing,” the title track of an album about rural change that still stands up large on the Canadian folk music scene. If you’re down at the Rose N Bee over in wild West Broadway almost any Wednesday night, you’re sure to hear Andrew Neville and the Poor Choices run through a tight version of “Carmelita” from the album, among other classic country gems.
The beauty of Fred’s lyrics here are that while they highlight the plight of the rural farmer — in Canada, the US, or anywhere in the past few hundred years, really — they are also universal. Towns change, cities change, people change. On “Things is Changing,” Fred taps into that feeling and wrings the teardrops out and down onto the dusty ground below.
Things is changing here in the Best Neighbourhood in Canada, too. There was a lot of hullaballoo back when it was announced that the decrepit old Shoppers was expanding, taking out Vi-Ann and Movie Village in the process. Many local electric enthusiasts, obscure bibliophiles, and Saturday afternoon shoppers were mega bummed when Kustom Kulture closed its doors.
But the days keep grinding on, regardless. Little Sister Coffee Maker is up and open for business, doing brisk trade each time I’ve passed by. The new restaurant from the Grove owners is moving along apace, while Basil’s — and the best patio spot in the Village — continues to languish behind closed doors. Things is changing.
Empty lots in the residential zone are slowly turned into new homes, and large, angular condo developments. Some remain open, gathering wildflowers, weeds, and detritus season after season. These empty, forgotten spots are among my favourite in the Village, reminding me that while life and commerce grind ever onward, some things can remain unchanged, and overlooked, day after day.
The spot outside my office window here at the Shelldrake, just across the alley, is one of those spots. A tagged and weathered sign for a doomed condo development, long abandoned, greets passersby on River Ave. In the spring and summer, wildflowers grow high amidst the candy wrappers and empty soda bottles. In the winter, snow piles high, a trail cut deep by regular local foot traffic making for the quickest direct route to the vendor.
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Others dot the Village landscape like the holes where rotten teeth once rested, nestled between century old houses and unassuming apartment complexes. But they may well be a dying breed in the hot real estate landscape north of Confusion Corner and south of the mighty Assiniboine. Large condo developments rise daily on River and Stradbrook, while signage adorns other lot frontage, promising more luxury living. The price you pay for moving forward.
Things is changing. It’s natural to look back with fondness, and to lament the passing of time and the changes it brings. But it is no use. Things ain’t the same as they was before. They never once were, and never will they be. Time marches on.
Sheldon Birnie is an editor at large for The Albatross and the editor of Stylus Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @badguybirnie