I’m not ashamed to admit that I currently reside on one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in Canada – Northwest Marine Drive in Vancouver’s West Point Grey area. How chichi of me! Mind you, I’m staying at a travelers’ hostel for less than 30 bucks a night, sleeping in a dorm room with a handful of strangers, but those are just details. Vancouver, the former commie hippy haven of the 60s and 70s, has been newly anointed ‘The City of Millionaires‘ due to hyper-inflated real estate prices caused in large part by funds of dubious origin flowing westward from China and other points east, but no matter – I’m going to ride that wave for as long as it lasts or until September 18th, whichever comes first.
Because, you see, on September 18th, my pricey real estate pile is closing for the season and I’ll be kicked to the curb and (likely) onto an eastbound train. This is happening at the same time as the incoming piles of dirty Chinese ‘Yuan-dry’ are starting to thin somewhat due to a recently introduced tax on foreign purchases of B.C. real estate. ‘The City of Millionaires’ might in fact already be redubbed ‘The City Formerly Known as The City of Millionaires’ by the time I wave bye-bye to it. There goes the neighbourhood!
But in the meantime, I will revel in the excess, nibbling on the crumbs that fall from the overburdened taxpayers’ tables. Where to begin? The Vancouver public transportation system is second to none. I have yet to wait for longer than five minutes before a state-of-the-art bus pulls up to the curb to take me wherever I want to go. And the food! Organic bakeries and cafes and grocery stores abound – in fact, there are so many in my area alone, I won’t have time to visit them all before I leave. I’m also impressed by the general cleanliness and orderliness that you would think would be impossible for a city the size of Vancouver, and yet, clean and orderly it is. It’s amazing what can be accomplished, quality of life-wise, when oodles and oodles of tax $$$ are allocated even remotely correctly.
I like this place, but maybe I just like it because the sun is shining and the crumbs are plentiful and the setting of the hostel (flanked by parks and playgrounds and a beach) is picture perfect. Maybe if I was homeless on East Hastings rather than on Northwest Marine Drive I’d have a different opinion of the city and perhaps even fewer crumbs to nibble on. I will say this, though – the Whole Foods on West 4th is the only Whole Foods that I’ve ever seen with a panhandler permanently stationed in front of it. He does pretty well, too. (I watched him for a while plying his trade.) I’m wondering if he had to buy a license to panhandle there, given the municipality’s propensity for reaping tax dollars wherever and whenever it can. It could well be that this professional panhandler, like other licensed buskers, is in part providing for the crumbs currently sustaining my stay.
Much like Winnipeg, I could see myself living in Vancouver, but only for the warm and dry season. I’ve been here for the cold and wet season, and it was worse than a Canadian winter. But I’d have to be living out here, in chichi-land, not downtown or in the burbs.
One new addition to the Northwest Marine Drive area that baffles me, however, are the Canada Geese. They are left to roam and honk and poop unrestrained on parklands and beach trails that were formerly pristine clean. There were no geese here in the 1980s, when I first visited Vancouver. A flock of about 200 now lord it over the park directly behind the hostel, which used to be a favourite picnicking and playground for Vancouverites. There’s still a baseball diamond, but the field is basically unusable, and the poop has put a whole new spin on the phrase “foul ball”. I’ve been here for over a week, and I have yet to see one person walking on that field let alone playing or picnicking, whereas on a typical summer weekend in the 8os, there would be hundreds of people.
Even more baffling to me, as I carefully tiptoe around the large brownish mounds dotting the sidewalk, is how the locals lumber along as if they are not actually plowing through goose turds. I even see children running barefoot along the strip of grass bordering the beach, where the poop is thick and steaming. It’s as if Vancouverites are oblivious to the droppings, perhaps because they’ve been told the filth is just harmless “organic fertilizer” or some such mind twist. While it is true that the poop doesn’t appear to smell, it’s still poop in my books.
The only area besides the sandy beaches that is devoid of goose calling cards is the Astroturf soccer field across the road from the hostel. When I was here in the 80s, that area was wild bushes and grassland that housed what I thought at the time were the world’s most enormous slugs. They used to slime their way across the paved jogging path in slo-mo, and I’d often hang around just to watch them cross (kind of like watching paint dry). Come to think of it, the goose turds do somewhat resemble the slugs of old in size, shape, and coloring. Not sure what the relevance of that comparison is, though.
These are the kind of thoughts that flit through your mind when you’re basically in limbo, waiting for the signal to continue your train travels. I’m still waiting for that signal. For the sake of this blog, I hope it comes soon.