Keeping it Real on Vancouver’s 125th

In 1966, my parents moved from Ontario to Vancouver.

There are days when the beauty here still astounds me, and I’ve lived here all my life.

Vancouver's Burrard Bridge, shot on yet another cycling adventure.

It’s Vancouver’s 125th birthday today. Young city. It shows.

These days, I still love my home but I’m under no illusions how much it has changed… and how much others still seek to change it. An influx of easterners, Americans, and other foreign nationals keeps expanding this town, which these days feels 10x the size it was in my youth.

Prices are ridiculous — on everything from food to real estate. Buying here seems a fantasy on par with that dirty dream I have about Josh Hartnett.

There’s a Hollywood feel to this town that just annoys the shit out of me — the yuppies and well-moneyed folk just aren’t my bag, never have been, never will be. After working more than a decade in Yaletown, I still find myself tired of the cliches in that neighbourhood. One more poodle in sunglasses, I’m gonna fucking freak.

That that’s how it rolls here in Hollywood North.

For the few who are like me, who were raised here and are of the land, there’s a different air about the true locals. They’re more casual, relaxed, less likely to live downtown, big on being outdoorsy. Or maybe that’s just talking about my friends.

I don’t know, but today I’m thinking about how it’s really two cities. It’s the lowkey city I grew up in that was hippy central in the ’60s, the birthplace of Greenpeace, land of marijuana and forests and water and sand between the toes, grizzly writers and struggling artists.

And it’s the city of glass with urban dwellers moving in from all around the world, with kayaking through the central core and gastronomy of little compare and movies shooting on every street and schnauzers in sweaters.

How do I reconcile the two cities? I pick my locales.

The older I get, the more I realise this place will always be home, but I may not always want to make my home here… the change gets oppressive, like the weather, sometimes, but weather I can find elsewhere — and change can be eluded.

Urban life has its appeals, but the white noise of energy buzzing, endless drone of traffic, peppering of sirens, concrete as far as the eye can see, crowded transit, grumpy pedestrians, pesky beggars, greedy merchants, cramped spaces… sometimes it’s just feeling endless.

It’s like the old conversation goes — Why do you keep hitting yourself in the head with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop. City life feels like that, sometimes.

Where Vancouver differs from so many cities, though, is how close escape is at hand for the non-travelling man.

On a bike and in in less than 25 minutes, I can stand under evergreens taller than downtown highrises in vast tracts for forests. I can go to the north of the city in about an hour, on transit no less, and be in the mountains with rainforests, overlooking the Pacific.

This isn’t an endless sprawling metropolis. When it comes to man versus nature in Vancouver, nature’s still winning in some areas. That’s rare in an urban setting, and I’m smart enough to appreciate that.

It’s a love-hate thing, for me, here in Vancouver. I don’t like all the changes, all the new people coming here… but I’m so proud of this city, it’s so beautiful, it deserves to be a jewel in the world’s crown, as cliche and pathetic as that sounds.

This is home. The endless rain, it’s a part of me now. Take that away and I’m emotionally lost, but too much of it and I start to drown — something I think is true of a lot of born-in-Vancouver types. The grey, it’s permissiveness in how it allows a sort of emotional dampener… good for writing, I find.

This place, it gets in you. Even if I ever leave for another part of the world, I’ll never be able to stay gone.

It’s home. It’s my rainforest. My edge of the world — concrete jungle or no.

It’s Vancouver. Happy birthday, hometown.

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