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[personal profile] karenhealey
Yesterday, I read an article and by the end I was so angry that my eyes turned into burning coals and shot right out of my face.

I was so angry that my howl reached the heavens and the stars extinguished themselves in fear.

I was so angry that I stamped my foot three times on the earth and the impact shattered my body into a trillion pieces hurtling through the cosmos, each a dense, screaming microcosm of my rage.

Then I put myself back together and started writing this.

What set me off was an article by Ruth Curry, excerpted from Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York.

It tells the story of a young woman who moves to New York, falls in comfortable love with a dude, and then he moves to New Zealand and she follows, and things do not go well. And it talks weird smack about Christchurch, the city of my heart.

Christchurch "spreads out like a spreading stain". Christchurch "really was exclusively populated by angsty teenagers and the middle-aged". Christchurch is where Curry "jokes, meanly" that "the only options for arts, culture, and entertainment were respectively rugby, rugby, and rugby." Also, there were no bagels in Christchurch in 2006 and she is forced, FORCED, to order interesting pizza with corn and shrimp on it instead of the boring pepperoni-sauce-cheese pizza she could get in any pizza place in New Zealand if she really wanted. I will concede the horrible enchiladas. There is decent Mexican in Christchurch, but it's hard to find.

Anyway, all of this is largely bullshit, but sure, whatever. (Christchurch spreads like a GLORIOUS MICROCHIP, thank you very much). I was rolling my eyes at the exaggerations and inaccuracies, but largely feeling sorry for Curry.

Curry had apparently never anticipated that she'd hit culture shock in an English-speaking nation, and it hit her hard. She was trying to break into publishing in New Zealand on a working holiday visa (yeah, no - retail, service jobs, and seasonal fruit picking are all you're going to get without some major chops) and her boyfriend kept telling her to grow up and dragged her away for hiking trips.

Curry was living the cold, poverty-ridden, tenuously-employed life of the student without the fun parts, like hanging out with fellow tenuously-employed, poverty-ridden, cold students or learning anything. And she was living in Lyttleton, a port town just barely connected to Christchurch through a tunnel cut through the Port Hills. She crashed her boyfriend's car into an SUV and totaled the car (no indication of the health of the SUV or its driver). She was totally miserable, and she left, and he did not follow her. I nodded sympathetically along. I've had the culture shock, the employment woes, the shitty boyfriend. I got it.

And then the article concluded:

I saw Russell once more. About six months after we split up, he came through New York and stopped by to return the stuff I had stored at his sister’s. Her basement had flooded, and a lot of his own things had been ruined, but not, he said, the sweet, silly notes I had left for him every morning when we first met. A year later he got married. I know his wife; they started dating three weeks after he and I separated.

A major earthquake struck Christchurch in 2011. It was the second-deadliest natural disaster in New Zealand history. Almost every place I remember well was destroyed, the rest damaged or irrevocably changed by what’s fallen down around them.


The sympathy train screeched to a halt. Flaming eyeballs, extinguished stars, a trillion dense spinning microcosms of rage, etc.

It is not a good idea to make a deadly and very recent natural disaster the snappy conclusion to your sad travelogue. It is not okay to talk about how much you disliked a place and how down it made you and then casually mention that large chunks of it are now destroyed, because whether you meant it to or not, that comes across with a very strong hint of "and thank goodness." The 2011 earthquake is not an excellent metaphor for your failed, destructive, romantic relationship - unless your relationship killed 185 people and shattered the heart of a city.

That conclusion is not clever, nor wryly amusing. It is glib, nasty, and oblivious to the very real pain that cracks through the city Curry so despised.

I am angry. This is why.

April 2014

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