avenues of desire by greg blanchette

Avenues of Desire

by Dr. Greg Blanchette, G.W.A.Q.


Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for the opportunity to present my ideas tonight. The emerging field of psychoanalytic geography has not garnered much credibility in academic circles, but I believe that will change. Furthermore, I believe it is the compelling evidence generated by my case studies right here in Tofino that will turn the tide.
The work of Hoelup and Hyde in the early 1970s documented the early origins of this trend -- a trend that over the years has blossomed from mere statistical anomaly into a curious sine qua non for residence in your renowned village.

I refer, of course, to the "difficult driveway" phenomenon, and the great opportunity it offers to shed light on the human condition. This curiously perverse Tofino characteristic manifests itself in several ways, all of which result in a community chock full of woefully difficult driveways.
Some aspects of these residential accessways are obvious. There is the excessive steepness that seems to be the norm on lots with some topographical relief. Impassable roughness is another imperative -- as though it were any more difficult to order a few yards of fine-crush gravel than the same few yards of jagged boulders more suited to logging road than residential access.
A more telling psycho-geographic indicator, however, is the inadequate width of the driveways, which shows up with near 100% frequency in recently constructed homes. Our measurements show these driveways to be, on average, a mere 10 cm (4 inches) wider than the side mirrors on the owner's 25-year-old, rusted-out subcompact beater.

Even where there does appear to be an adequate width of driveway (e.g. Tofino Botanical Gardens), the proprietors seem bent on inserting artificial obstacles (sculptures, antique vehicles, potholes, etc.) to create the functional equivalent of a goat-path into the woods. When pressed, owners claim these measures are necessary to prevent Tofitians, shocked and disoriented by the sight of a wide, smooth driveway, from slamming pedal to metal in a crazed act of celebration.

Another (apparently mandatory) driveway feature peculiar to this region is the complete absence of turnaround space at the end of the driveway. The hapless visitor is invariably reduced to a perilous game of backing out a narrow, winding drive, usually in the dark and pelting rain, often in concert with other vehicles jockeying in similar manner, and invariably with wheel-swallowing ditches, taillight-smashing tree trunks, or both, in close proximity on either side.

This ritual, so unnerving to the outsider, is considered routine in Tofitian society. The lengthy parting negotiations that end every get-together, deciding who must start their car, back out, and/or turn around first, are never commented upon or even consciously noted. It puts one in mind of the elaborate parting ceremonies of the Yamboo tribe, which involve much rubbing of cheeks, invocations to the gods, ritual handling of footwear, repeated kowtows, the slaughter of bush chickens, etc.
That accidents occur so infrequently is testament to the locals' highly developed backwards driving skill, itself a byproduct of the strong taboo against questioning the driveway status quo.
For the outsider, though, probably the most frustrating aspect of Tofino's difficult driveway condition comes into play on the approach into town where, from the highway, all driveways look identical -- absolutely uniform slots in the wall of trees, as indistinguishable one from the next as a stand of suburban tract housing. Any notion of displaying address numbers seems to be verboten, for reasons as yet undiscovered. The hapless visitor is hard pressed to tell one address from another, and even experienced locals often find themselves pulling into the wrong driveway by mistake.

To be fair, a few locals have made half-hearted efforts to personalize their particular driveway entrance, but it's typically along the lines of "the little red reflector" (useless in daytime), or "the blue-painted rock" (useless at night), or "the running shoe nailed to the tree" (small, obscured by leaves, and useless all the time). Moreover, all these markers are impossible to pick out at highway speeds, especially with a string of impatient locals on one's bumper, eager to get where they're going and visibly upset with the "effing tourist" who slows down to peer at every driveway opening.

This state of affairs clashes markedly with the rugged, individual, artistic image Tofitians like to project en masse to the world. Even to an unartistic academic like me, it would seem simple enough to personalize each driveway with some icon of reasonable size and distinction. Certainly the possibilities are legion: Japanese torii gates; Nuu-chah-nulth style crests; colourful fabric banners. Any species of tiki, totem, moai, or inukshuk. The modern-day culturally modified tree. The traditional carved bear, the tongue-in-cheek stuffed Sasquatch, the post-ironic wooden Indian, the post-modern neon cougar! Clouds, for God's sake, woven from willow shoots! Fluorescent boulders! Salal topiary! I'm telling you, the drive into Tofino could be a glorious panoply of human creativity!

Excuse me, I digress. Our real psycho-geographic challenge is to plumb the human factors behind this glaring, willful anonymity, and to uncloak a telling peephole into the Tofitian psyche. The obvious explanation, favoured by economists and others lacking in imagination, is that, given the cost of land and housing in Tofino, it's all the average homeowner can manage to cobble together a goat path to get one's vehicle within jogging distance of the house.

More perceptive investigators, however, have uncovered hints of a widespread, secret urge amongst townsfolk to rip up the back country in monster, gas-guzzling 4x4s. These urges are, of course, fiercely repressed by the town's prevailing green ethos, but come to the fore subconsciously in the guise of "extreme adventure" driveways.

Neo-religious commentators claim that Tofitians feel both so blessed by residence in God's country and, in the best Judeo-Christian tradition, so guiltily undeserving that they hope to burrow into the forest and disappear, and their driveways reflect this. Indeed, Hoelup and Hyde in later work have uncovered evidence to this end: Workers clearing land for new development frequently report fire rings, tarp remnants, decayed wood-and-plastic shacks, and other indications of tiny, lost mini-civilizations that came and went unheralded by the larger world.
Freudian analysts of course place a sexual element squarely at the root of the difficult driveway phenomenon. The dark, tight passage (often dripping wet) from home to highway makes every residential egress into a symbolic rebirth -- a passage from the womb down the birth canal into the world at large. Similarly, every return home is likened to an act of ecstatic, arboreal penetration. Some papers claim a cry often heard around town is "Oh God, I'm coming ... home!" This investigator's experience, however, is to the contrary.

To sum up, people of Tofino, much work remains to be done on the labyrinthine psychoanalytic geography of your town and its denizens. At this point, the most we can say for certain is that you are one deeply twisted bunch.

Thank you for your attention. Now, who's parked behind my car?

Doctor Blanchette lacks any academic qualifications in psy-geo whatsoever, apart from being driven mad every time he gets lost visiting friends in Tofino. Scholastic watchdog agencies can bring him to justice at aimless_1@fastmail.fm

Tofino Time March 2006

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