For you, the dress code is casual.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Vancouver: The Way We Was and Won't Be Much Longer

A friend from work came over and we went for a 25km bike ride then hit up my food for fillin'-- gazpacho, bread with vinegar and oil, and souvlaki. Good eatins', even if I overcooked the chicken some. She got me drunk. Good trade.

I introduced her to a stretch of Van I doubt hardly any of the urbanites know, all along the Fraser River. Some great tracts of land along the way, a whole smorgasbord of environments to fill the urban heart. Great stuff. She thought it was fantastic, not what she expected at all, and is something she'd love to do again sometime.

That's the crazy thing about Vancouver, often called a city of neighbourhoods. It's so different from hood to hood, and you talk to people and say names like Kensington-Cedar Cottage or Sunset or Strathcona or Fraserview or Marpole or Shaughnessy or Kits and you gotta wonder who lives there, what it's like, where it is. People can live here all their lives and not have a big sense of different neighbourhoods. Cycle 25km through it and you'll get a good glimpse... if yer lookin'.

I guess it's true of the average city and its average citizen. People will often be lacking in intimate all-over knowledge of their cities. Not me. :)

Way back when I had hand surgery, spring of '99, I spent a whole lot of time walking all over the city, since I couldn't drive. I saw a lot of great stuff I'd never seen. Since then, I've seen far more thanks to the cycling I do and my penchant for scootering thru side streets.

Along the way today, I noticed that an old landmark I'd seen last spring and photographed (and is one of my favourite) is no longer standing! I've included the photo here now. I guess is was some kind of loading implement for industrial boats back earlier last century or even before. But it's gone now. And it wasn't important to anyone. Poof. Gone. Sad.

Our history in Van is so fucking disposable. Just 'cos the city's only 100 years old and only a few of us were here 25 years ago, everyone thinks our history can be flushed down the modern drain. Such a bummer, especially along the Fraser, where stuff like this and the Celtic Shipyards just vanish with no public dispute. I also have a photo somewhere of the Celtic Shipyards, similarly taken on whim, conveniently just months before it vanished forever. It's also one of those cool things from an era in Vancouver someone somewhere doesn't think is important at all. An in-between age. But it's cool. And now it's gone, in a city for which "history" isn't much of anything at all.

But that's where I live. A city that reinvents itself every 20 years, pretty much on clockwork. The '40s-'50s began the urban sprawl. The late '60's/'70s saw the embracing of Arthur Erickson and a brand-spankin' new mod-modern city for the modern architecture fan. The '80s brought us Expo '86 and a world that suddenly saw us for what we was. A stunning, beautiful city with a hell of a lot of potential.

Here we are now, 20 years later, building up to the Olympics.

I understand as much as anyone, maybe better, just how much this city will change after 2010. I lived in an itty-bitty city back in the '70s, and now it's a world destination about six times larger than it was then. In 25-30 years. Crazy.

For Expo, it's not a TV event. No one really tunes into Expo on the telly as a matter of course. Yet '86 unleashed a huge growth spurt that has never slowed down in 20 years. In 2 years, we'll have the Winter Olympics. For the Olympics, for 10 days, the city bathes on tv screens around the world. It's all about the Olympics. In between all those events, filler is needed. Why not a doc on the local living styles? How about a picturesque look at the region? A fancy primer on the local culture? Hey, it's the Olympics.

For 10 days, the world will see us. "Wow, look at the mountains." "Whew, look at that ocean!" "Holy smokes, look at those trees." "Dude, look at that hot chick."

Like Shoeless Joe said, "If you film it, they will come." Or something like that.

People will move here. People will ooh, ahh, and gush. It is what it is. How can they not? Have you seen this place?

Global warming will make this place increasingly tolerable year-round. Albeit the annual onslaught of rain (you'd think this was a rainforest or something, eh?) will keep the influx at a manageable level. The tanning beds would cost some people a fortune.

Still, this city had a fragment of its population when I was a child. Now... Whew. It's bustling. 10 years from now? I shudder to think.

Yeah. I lament the changes to come, but I also celebrate some of them. Like the new foreshore/seawall east of Granville Island. What a beautiful modern urban gathering place. What a gift to the city! Stunning! The sea wall will just get better and better, if that's any sign of what's to come. When's the rest getting an upgrade? Wow. Floored me when I saw it recently.

Skytrain out to Richmond, also awesome.

I keep holding out hope it pushes for remedies for our homeless population. I want to believe good will come of the Olympics.

And I hold great disdain for my friends who all think "Oh, I'm getting out of town, it'll be crazy." It's once in our lives that ALL the eyes of the world will be on us. OUR city is the party capital of the world for two lousy weeks. Fuck! Stick around! Live it up! Within a month life will be back to normal. Go away and we will laugh at you as we party with international revellers on every street and corner.

I know I'm sticking around and seizing the moment as best I can. Awesome. Olympics! I'll lament the city bursting beyond its current size, but if it's the only way we become a 24/7 city that caters to people of varying schedules, then so be it. Besides, the city seems to be creating MORE parkland these days, not less, so it's been a positive growth so far... we'll see if it continues. Yes, it will get crazy. Yes, it sucks.

But I always knew Vancouver could only continue being a best-kept secret for so long. The throngs were bound to catch up with us sooner or later.

For those of you who are thinking of moving here: You fools! It rains all the time! You never see the tops of the mountains, thanks to the abundance (and constance!) of marine cloud. Move HERE? What are you thinking?!

Kelowna is the place for you.