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mean people suck September 29, 2009

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know.

In just under two months I will have been here for two years. I was twenty-seven. I am twenty-nine. I smell the new decade coming, and it smells like summer, falling.

2007, November, rain.

A paving stone sat on the block up from me, vandal-slashed into the idiom ‘MEAN PEOPLE SUCK’. Which says it all, really. This is not a city with many problems. Or at least, this is a city that likes to either pretend it has problems, or glaze them over, and if you take a drive down Hastings you’ll see, immediately, what we all try very hard not to see. Here on Seymour, you have pretty little pavement platitudes, and just a block away you have human excreta filthing down the goddamn wall. We are talking shit on Robson-fucking-strasse, the Oxford Street Light of Vancouver. The most expensive street on a Canadian Monopoly board, the fifth highest for world retail rental rates (really? Bloor looks a hell of a lot fancier. and take it all with a pinch of salt, it’s no London/Tokyo). And it still smells like crap, half the time.

It’s amazing, actually, just how much of a problem Vancouver has with homelessness. I thought London was problematic until I came here. If London’s problem is violence, Vancouver’s is apathy. Apparently they’re shipping all the homeless people off to some remote frigid location in Northern BC, just so the flocks of Olympic vultures won’t realise Vancouver’s a  real cold place to be, and not just in winter. And then they’re shipping them back, because fixing a problem ain’t a problem if no-one’s around to see it.

Enough about that. I’ve had many a conversation with down-on-their-lucks in London. The ones here just tend to freak me out. Which begats a whole new world of guilt.

2009, September, sun.

That paving stone is gone. Mean people still suck. You don’t find a lot of those around here. What you do get is a certain strange apathy, which I can’t quite fathom. Or maybe it’s more like a blocked-off hope that someone will break down barriers. I can’t say I don’t have a certain sympathy for people who are, like myself, cautiously guarded. All things end in excess, however, and when I say that people here can be more cut-off and clique-locked than girls in an English public girls’ school, that’s one hell of a something.

My industry surrounds me with a lot of young-at-hearts, big friends with big souls who come from all over the world. Outside, and from others, I have the feeling that Vancouver is a lonely, frost-smeared city, that freezes you out before you get the chance to burn out.

Seriously, all Vancouverites (at least, the ones that pollute my Yaletown ghetto) seem to want is to be on a fucking boat, or more specifically to own a boat, or even more specifically (but gender non-specifically, mind), to marry someone who owns a goddamn bloody boat.

This is not to say that all Vancouverites are assholes, because generalising is generally fun, even if it isn’t strictly true, and because some of my best friends really are born/bred Vancouverites, which proves that maybe it’s not Robsonstrasse, or even Hastings, but I who am simply full of shit.

Someone I once knew, that I once thought myself closer-than-god to, yet who never was invited to read these words, and never will be, tellingly — someone once said something true; Vancouver as a place, as a doe-eyed force of sheer physical beauty, is one of the hardest places in the world to hate. Yeah, I was never one of Mother Nature’s children, but when I clamber up a mountain and gaze out over the islands glinting in the bay, it’s hard not to feel like maybe there’s a lot more to this world than this transient humanity.

Vancouver has this little-big-city vibe, and big scenery, and big nature, and big hearts, if you know where to find them. It’s weird. It’s either the most accepting or the most unaccepting of cities, depending on whom you’ve come to know. It’s a melting-pot or a hoarhole, whichever you fall into.

But if you’re lucky you find, lurking amongst the chill concrete, the warmth of day, breaking through the endless skyscrapers, warm and welcoming souls, good words, good friends.  And you will keep these hearts forever.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve been lucky all my life. Two years on, I love it here, really. I do. Enough to throw aside my fear of bureaucracy and take the plunge towards permanent residency. The year of twenty-nine smells, finally, like home.