Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Vancouver: an observation

I've been in Vancouver since Saturday--actually, make that Coquitlam, a place where consumerism threw up yet somehow made a manageable place to live with green parks and bike lanes, in which my parents have decided to settle for the time being since their recent move from Ontario ("yours to discover") to British Columbia.

Today was my first day in downtown Vancouver, and probably my last, since I am leaving to go back home to Toronto early Friday morning (hooray check-in at 5 AM). And to be quite frank, I'm glad.

I'm probably being very close-minded and have seen very little of the city, especially considering my parents and I are stark opposites of human beings, and whatever they have shown me is not what's up my alley (except for the trails, the lakes and the hiking). But to be fair I did live here for a month way back when, and back a few years ago when my dad was trying to make business here I visited a few times. Unfortunately, the little that I've seen of the city makes me want to return to Toronto.

What makes me feel ill at ease is this: the streets named after shopping malls, or plainly called "Mall"; American big-power names like Starbucks dominating every corner; businesses far from local invading the "touristic" and "enjoyable" streets like Robson; the stark contrast of the rich and the poor, embodied by the men panhandling outside a Chanel boutique; and, this is just me and how I am, the lack of music stores or music in general (every store I went into today was playing house music). I think there is a point to be made when a city is built on support of the locals and the independent culture that they bring along--it's what makes me love a place. I want to love every city, and enjoy the excitement of waking up in a new place whenever I get off the plane. But I missed it with Vancouver.

Yes, Toronto is bedridden with mass production and American power names, too. And of course, all well-to-do urban cities have at least partially succumbed to that. But the cookie-mold condominiums speckled from the coasts to Coquitlam and beyond really hurt how a city is perceived. Little is left of the old, or what built the city in the first place. Everything felt stark naked and new. Vancouver is a wealthy city getting a make-over for the 2010 Olympics, but where did the charm of culture go, if it was ever here?

Of course, I may be misunderstanding everything. Maybe I just love Toronto and Soundscapes too much. But I want to see this place as it were before.

Still, I turn around and see mountains and rivers all around me, and my mind eases up a bit, and I even get a little bit jealous that Toronto is nothing but plains, plains, and the overpolluted Lake Ontario that's become more of a cliché. Also, the English Bay was beautiful, grass and sun and dogs. My favourite was still the Vermeer, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery (am I allowed to call it Vag for short? Please?)--the Dutch genre paintings have always been a favourite of mine (along with Post-Impressionism) and I thought I knew much of it, but I left the gallery with fifty new favourite paintings. I took lots of notes, but my favourite, I think, is the one where I wrote: "I WANT TO BE FRANS HALS".

The liveliness of the eyes and the rosey cheeks are always my favourite part.

Anyway, I'm sure I can invoke a lot of rebuttal from what I've written, so I'm peacing out for now. I'm still getting ready for my European travels, and I started reading "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer. The world knows my attachment to the movie, so I'll probably become borderline obsessed after this. See you then!

1 comment:

TM said...

Fair observations, friend. When it comes to Vancouver, you have to spend time here and map our your own city. Those little spots of culture and music and all things wonderful and local tend to lie just a bit outside the main drags like Robson, and are really wonderful. And for the record, the Vancouver Art Gallery is happily known as VAG to everyone I know.