Friday, July 14, 2006

Is Vancouver the New Center of the Universe?

Of course not. Toronto still rules. But Vancouver has all the markings of a City striving for (if not always attaining) Greatness. After having spent nearly four days there, I feel I have taken its pulse. Here are a few of the things that stood out for me:

1) The bus drivers must have a great Union. We (wife and I) rode the sky-train extensively for three days. The drivers were always nice to us, but on the first day, coming home during rush hour, one of them gave the verbal stick to an Chinese lady and her kid, told them he didn't have time for their bullshit etc. when they asked him for directions from his bus.

Next day on the ride into town, a rough looking couple got on carrying a bag full of (I think) tin-cans. The woman gave some spiel about having her pass in a back pocket that she could not easily reach, and the driver (a different one this time) let them board. But he then spent the next five minutes reaming them out as "freeloaders".

Anyway, the point is, these guys obviously realize that if you take their name, write down a badge number, and call in a complaint, absolutely nothing will happen. They've achieved the working class version of total freedom; they're almost like Teamsters.

2) Vancouverites are getting smug. For example, they are greenie weenie crunchy granola hippy dip Eco pansies even by Toronto standards, and they're really in your face about it. My brother Left Coast Hipster was shocked that Torontonians still eat beef. And I went to a zillion restaurants where they were serving Kangaroo, or Caribou Soup or lo fat Bison Burgers or freaking Elk Steak! It all tasted like different versions of the crap you might eat in communist countries, but people seemed to love it. It was actually difficult to find a place that served burgers and fries. I would tell people that in Toronto real men eat grease, but they seemed unimpressed, and even seemed to be looking down their nose at me.

And I have come to believe after close observation that there is a Vancouver variant of Toronto's Liberal Smirk, but you have to watch close to see the difference. Its like knowing how to tell a Least Northern Spotted Partridge from a Greater Northern Spotted Partridge.

Here's a generic rendition of The Liberal Smirk for reference purposes (that's not me doing it, by the way, ladies):

Anyway, I was trying to be nice to my fellow cityfolk, so I did not unleash my Toronto Atomic Smug-Storm on them, and burn the whole city to the ground. And in any case, I could sense that deep down they feared me a little. Toronto still gets respect, though these days I think we are getting by on pure reputation.

3) A big plus is that a river runs through the whole town. The Fraser River is a beautiful thing. Left Coast Hipster lives across the road from it in Burnaby (on Kent St. East), and in the time I was there I saw Eagles, Herons, Loons, you name it, wildlife-wise. Not only that, there are tugboats that tow log booms up and down the river almost 24/7. One day, there might be an acre of barked lumber floating just off shore; the next day its gone. And a little further South there's a mountain of obsolete box cars stacked on (if I remember correctly) Mitchell Island. Here's a few of my favorite snaps from the digicam:

4) It's an elite doggytown. In Toronto, rich folk take out high-end dogs out for a walk the same way they take their Lamborghini's out for a spin, and when they meet they stop to compare mileage and specs and so forth: "My whippet Muffin can outrun all the other dogs, but when I get her home she's a couch-potato." "My curly-haired hound is from one only two litters born in Canada this year". That kind of thing.

Well, the same phenomenon occurs in Vancouver.

For the most part, the "high-end" dogs you find are pretty much the same in both cities. The only breed I saw in Vancouver that I have never observed in the Big Smoke were Rhodesian Ridgebacks. They're an impressive, golden dog that seem to have a bit of a detached and stand-offish nature. I saw about four in the city, although the picture below is off the Web :

And, finally, 5) Vancouver is Socially Progressive. In fact, it is so Socially Progressive that you are actually allowed to hate the new mayor even though he's a Quad.

Mayor Sam Sullivan: Oddly Unsympathetic


Anonymous said...

the bus drivers in Van are CAW . . Buzz "I'm supporting Paul Martin" Hargrove's lot.

Frankly we don't give a shit what anyone thinks about us, whether we are the center of anything. We just get to live here and you don't.

Toronto ?? Who cares.

Anonymous said...

"We just get to live here and you don't."

At least until the 'big one' hits or BCL's global warming floods put you down with the fishes.

Anonymous said...

Toronto must be the center of the universe because it is just a great big hole.

Such a lovely city, such a wonderful climate and the biggest asshole of all time as a mayor.

You can enjoy living there all you want. Everyone else just has a good laugh at your expense.

bigcitylib said...

anon, and anon,your envy is all too evident.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a good time in our fair city, BigCityLib, but did you see Wreck Beach? Did you get to Commercial Drive? Walk around Gastown? Greek Festival on Boundary? Skytram up Grouse Mtn and look for bears or, more likely, deer? Do the Grouse Grind? Take in the Museum of Anthropology at UBC? Visit QE Park? Walk the Seawall? Take a free tram around Stanley Park? Take a cruise around English Bay or the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay? Visit Pauline Johnson's grave? Hit the Chinatown Night Market? See Granville Island? Swim in the ocean? Visit the Aquarium? Most of the above is Vancouver proper, let alone White Rock, Fort Langley, Bear Creek Park, Bunsen and Sasamat Lakes, the farmer's markets along Marine Drive, SFU on Burnaby Mtn, Deep Cove... So much to see and do and so little time, alas.
As a regular transit rider I tend to give the bus drivers a break; they drive, arrive and advise all day long, and are generally very helpful to people, especially the tourists, in often trying circumstances. People sometimes just have a bad day.

(Though most of us born and bred Vancouverites prefer bad press, or no press at all ever since we were internationally declared to be the best place on earth, do come again when you can stay longer!)

bigcitylib said...

Actually, anon, I've done about half the things on your list over the course of previous visits, including the museum of anthro and Granville (which I try to visit every time out). I generally stay away from nude beaches, however.

(Incidentally, if you're on Wreck beach and you see a guy playing a guitar and selling cold beer out of a buried cooler, he's Richie from TO. Say hello for me)

william fudger said...

Vancouver was fab in the 70's. Now it's as fascinating as Uxbridge. Well almost.

Anonymous said...

Nice colors. Keep up the good work. thnx!