I was barely home a day
Plotting my escape
With a dartboard and a blindfold
"This is a song about growing up in Windsor, Ontario," Christine Fellows' rich speaking voice washes across the theater, vibrating the heavy wood particles all around me where I sit in the fourth row. "It's called 'Regrets.'" She hesitates before she delicately begins to play the dismantled minor chords of the song. Windsor, Ontario, had been, to me - a former resident of northern Indiana – not much more than a place to go if you were 19 or 20 and wanted to get drunk. Yet, here I was, lost in a story about the place, the City of Roses.
The city of Windsor, Ontario
Photo: kairgid, via Flickr, CC 2.0
Christine Fellows was born in Windsor and spent much of her childhood there, as well as in France, and later lived in Toronto, Vancouver, Guelph, and Montreal, before taking up permanent residence in Winnipeg in 1992. This song covers the breadth of emotions one holds for their hometown. The insignificant nights of our youth that come to hold mysterious power when they are held in our memory, the days that somehow changed everything without changing much at the time, and as we get older, the desperation to get out of that place. In many ways this song is about the persistence of desire. Wants exist independently and simultaneously in every measure of "Regrets." In this piece Fellows expresses the desire to return, to take up residence in memories that have long gotten away from her present, as well as the desire to escape from them. Taking a step backward to the memories when they were actively occurring, there exists, overwhelming, the desire to leave Windsor, the desire to escape a situation, the desire for a lover to stay. These wants are inescapable, even when they are so far removed by geographical place and the long divisions of time.
Windsor is a place of youth. Even separate from this author's memories of drunken nineteen year old ventures into bars and tumblers full of whiskey, the city teems with inexplicable energy. Perhaps it is the relentless movement and unending exchange of commuters and tourists, drunk American teenagers, and the people who are like Fellows once was, who haunt the familiar streets with eyes only for an exit.
Cover art for The Last One Standing, the album on which "Regrets" appears
So much of this song is about movement and direction. The last line of the first verse - "I kind of hoped you'd stayed" - bumps right into the first line of the next verse that contrasts the previous words - "I was barely home a day, plotting my escape." From the beginning we are introduced to the simple duality of the song - the tug and repulsion for one's hometown that so many restless souls suffer. The theme of movement develops throughout the brief song as the notes of the piano loop elegantly around Fellows' voice, serving as the map of the song. As the third verse comes to a close, this question is posed: "Where's your sense of misdirection?" And in the third verse, she concludes:A stronger one might still crumble underneath the weight of doubt
And still decide to run away
Somehow, the answer to this question and the decisions that frame the movement of the piece create the namesake of the song. Windsor is the embodiment of the past, and faced with its bridges, its waters, its interstates and burroughs, Fellows is looking into a life created around personal entanglements, unshakable desires, decisions guessed at in the haze of youth and reconstructed as monuments to doubt with the clarity of age. In this song, a place is so much more than concrete. It is our soul's confrontation with all of history as we know it - the intersection of knowledge and memory, inevitably ending up somewhere near regret. Maggie Grimason
January 12, 2013