ode to vancouver: my city

i never realized just how important a location was for a writer until just recently. i never realized how much strength one can gain from connecting with where one lives, drawing stories from the life blood that pumps through the veins of a city. for me, that city is vancouver.

vancouver doesn't get the respect it deserves as a world class city. it gets panned mostly because of how much it rains here, but the reality is that the rain is only bad during the winter. every other season, vancouver is the same as anywhere else. yes, it rains for weeks on end sometimes during the winter, but that's just the way it goes. instead of snow, we get rain. but like any other city, the summers can be amazing. when you have the hot sun beating down with the cool breeze that comes off the water... there's no better feeling.

another myth is that vancouver doesn't have a nightlife. it may not have the kind of nightlife that a city like montreal has, but there is one; you just have to know where to look. i've wandered all over the city during the night, sometimes travelling across massive lengths of it for hours at a time. i know where to get the best burger in town, where to get the best pint of guiness, where to go if you're looking to lounge, where to go if you just want to play some pool, or where to go if you want a quiet stretch of beach to yourself so you can have a bonfire with friends. these things i sort of discovered as i wandered through the city over the years.

and the more time i spend here, the more i appreciate it. i realize now that i am a city writer. everything i write about, the types of characters, the dramatic situations... it all gets inspiration from the city. i have evolved into a better writer because i've been drawing from the city, using the energy of it, to write my books. vancouver has played prominently in my last book and i would go so far as to say that it is the main player in my current one, giants.

i love this city. i love the mild winters and the hot summers. i love the cobblestones of gastown. i love the mountains. i love granville island. i love the university of british columbia, a virtual self-contained town within the city. i love the girls that inhabit this city. (yes, even the kits girls who make a point of telling you they only eat organic food and sometimes wear way too much make-up and basically drive me nuts). i love that you can smoke pot and not be thrown in jail because the police have better things to do. i love the beaches. i love how accessible the transit system is. i love the bridges. i even love the building in the middle of downtown vancouver that looks like a giant bic lighter. i love the sea breeze. i love the politics. i love how empty the streets are at four in the morning; how you can sometimes feel like the last living soul in the city. i love how you can walk down the street and have a virtual tour of world cuisine. i love how it smells after a hard rain.

vancouver gives my writing soul. without this city, my writing, is nothing. and there's nothing worse than soul-less writing. this is my city. i own it.

here, is a paragraph from giants. it is a description of an empty downtown core after some violent political attacks:

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Extraordinary. Inspirational is one way of putting it. The downtown core is completely empty, with the posh stores on Robson Street shut down, their designer clothes blocked away behind barred up windows. No more street peddlers hanging out in front of the art gallery, no more suits, no more artisans, no more fake girls with their pressed on nails and extensions looking for the next best deal for stuff they don’t need. Necessity is a very short list. Life, blood, won’t be grown from a designer’s sketchbook.

The city.
A virtual ghost town with glass and concrete towers that house nothing but mass numbers of computers on empty desks in vacant cubicles in sterile, barren offices. X infinity. Office towers are replicas of vacancy. Replicas, which spire up into the sky, towering above the nothingness of the streets. This emptiness, this vacuousness, extends all through the downtown core, from the beaches of English bay through the office towers to the stark silence of Victory Square to the hardcore east side where even the homeless have taken shelter from the political storms. Stoic, stillness, withdrawn, cagey: all the adjectives in the world. The only movement is from the changing patterns of the traffic lights. Does red, yellow and green lose their meaning when there’s no one to obey? The lights keep shifting, on time, every time, oblivious when the end is fucking nigh. The openness of the city, from the mountains to the shiny steel towers, display a vastness filled with paranoia and guilt and fear. Emptiness, in the streets, is a visual marvel. A vision so clear, you could write songs about it.

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and to finish off my ode to vancouver, here is a great video i found. it is a timelapse piece that shows how beautiful vancouver can be.