Right after returning home from Paris, I had work-related travel in another one of my favourite cities – Vancouver. There are a few places I have visited in my life that have left an indelible mark on my being and this city of glass on the Pacific Northwest coast is one of them. I recall a visit with my father in my early twenties in which I cried on the journey home as I sooooooo wanted to stay there. Vancouver had a sheen that my hometown did not; it seemed so cosmopolitan. The type of place I imagined shit happened. The good shit. The type of place where one could leave a mark that would have impact. Perhaps that was the time to make the leap; Vancouver has only gotten more unaffordable in time. And the older I get, and the more my world shrinks, I realize that one can make an impact from anywhere. Even my hometown of Winnipeg. Even cities that are smaller (such as where I live now). I extended my deployment by a few days though to have time to explore and see if the magic was still there.
Sigh. It was.
But only with conditions.
These conditions include a downtown condo with wraparound windows and a view as good—or better—as the one I had from my hotel room on the twenty-first floor of the Four Seasons. As I worked at my desk, I would sneak glances at the people below, tiny as ants, scurrying down West Georgia and Howe picking up food at the trucks and stalls that lined the streets before they, too, returned to their offices and got down to whatever business runs this town. There was also the occasional car race, typically between two luxury sports vehicles painted in crass colours that only the very, very wealthy would purchase because they have money to waste and can be trendy rather than strategic with consumption. Think bright baby blue Lamborghinis and neon green Ferraris. The roaring of their engines woke me up during the night.
And right before the night was the greatest view of all, as dusk settled over the mountains and the water was highlighted by the setting sun. I’d retire to my room around this time to enjoy this sight with a cup of tea. But also, if I’m honest, for safety; I was, again, traveling alone and on one early night while approaching my hotel I was told by a man clearly struggling with drug addiction that he wanted to “smash my face” until my “face was smashed”. So another condition of living in Vancouver might have to be willful ignorance of the challenges it faces.
Beyond the view and despite my encounter, I appreciated downtown Vancouver because I could walk nearly everywhere (or get there relatively quickly via transit). One day I trekked to Granville Island and its famous market, later chancing upon a dog beach in Kitsilano that I need to take my Monty to someday. On my other free day I hiked all through Stanley Park, one of the most beautiful urban greenspaces in North America. All this walking then helped me justify eating at Cartems, thus launching my summer of donuts™ which has also been memorable. I’m not sure living in the ‘burbs, or further out in Burnaby or Abbotsford, would make the experience of living here as great as I experienced or imagine though. I feel that magic would get lost amidst the commute and rampant big box stores that seem to be cloned in every civic area. Therefore the greatest condition, it seems, to living here is a six-figure salary to afford my vision. Or a lottery win. I don’t need neon green Ferrari money but just enough to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary place.
Although, living an extraordinary life in an ordinary place now doesn’t seem so bad.