If you’ve lived in Newmarket, Ontario, you are familiar with the term ‘The Patch’. It’s a play on the term ‘Dogpatch’, the fictional setting of Al Capp’s comic strip ‘L’il Abner’. It’s meant to refer to the backwoods nature of the people that live there. If you refer to ‘The Patch’ the implication is that you are demeaning someone or making fun of them.
Not in my view. I don’t think that’s the case. I’d sooner hang out in ‘The Patch’ than in the nicest neighbourhoods in the world.
I toy with ideas from time to time because ideas are fun and they don’t require much time and much work. Toying with ideas can be done during a commute, in line at the grocery store, in the queue to get gas, anywhere you have an idle moment. One of my ideas involves a detective hero along the lines of Dave Robicheaux or Harry Bosch. I own the entire Dave Robicheaux series and have been reading it in chronological order, to get a feel for the character. Harry Bosch is next. I then plan on pouring through the crime novels of Ed McBain to get an idea of how he creates his heroes. I have read some of his work, courtesy of my father-in-law who got me interested in his work in the first place, but I want to go back a bit farther. I want to create a detective hero for Newmarket and I want him to have grown up in ‘The Patch’.
The Newmarket Public Library now has 125 years of the Era Banner online and I’ve been pouring through it to get an idea of the history of Newmarket that had been recorded but has been forgotten. I don’t expect references to ‘The Patch’ specifically (I’ve not seen one yet) but this is what I’ve always considered to be the ‘Path To the Patch’.
And, I’m old enough to remember that Tim Horton’s as ‘Flash Gas Station’. An ex-boyfriend of my wife worked there, too, as a mechanic. If you’re an old timer from Newmarket, you still refer to it as ‘turn right where Flash used to be. You know, the Timmie’s is there now.’
The reason why ‘The Patch’ is the best place on Earth can best be explained to a story told to me while waiting in line in the Beer Store. Not the one by Davis and Leslie, the one on the other side of town. No, not the one by the mall, the one on Mulock. For the record, and off topic for a moment, you gotta love a town that has 3 Beer Stores and 2 liquor stores not more than 15 kilometres from each other.
The lady explained to me how her car had been broken into three times, the windows smashed in, and her stereo and everything else in the car had been taken. This is in addition to her house having been broken into, all within a few months of each other. She mentioned the brand of the car, one of those compact, affordable cars. Nothing fancy. Just what she used to get back to forth to work in.
“You’d think I was living in The Patch,” she said.
I asked where she lived.
“Summerhill,” she answered. Summerhill. Not quite Stonehaven, but a damned nice neighbourhood nonetheless.
“I’m thinking about moving back,” she said, laughing a little but not so much that I don’t think she wasn’t seriously considering it. “Never once was my car or my home ever broke into,” she said. “Because in The Patch, everyone’s got your back. I bet my neighbours where I live now all watched it happen and didn’t even so much as call the police because they didn’t want to get involved. The Patch? They’d have been out their door, swinging a baseball bat and asking questions later.”
So, yeah, when I make reference to The Patch, I have an image of honesty, integrity and equality, and a little bit of kick ass on the side.