••• The International Writers Magazine:Canada
Fred C. Wilson III
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
St. Augustine of Hippo
Vancouver, British Columbia is one of the most scenic cities on earth. Having traveled there twice I can vouch for its well earned reputation. Vancouver is western Canada’s economic, multi-cultural and artistic hub; it's where the jobs are. Vancouver’s a city of wondrous excitement, a world class city which boasts of fine art galleries, great restaurants and a domed stadium home to trade shows and the Vancouver Canucks NHL team.
It’s 2,373,000 plus Greater Vancouver residents are friendly like most people. I live in Chicago. In all honestly I can’t compare them to the good folks in the old neighborhood. Vancouverites like Canadians in general are reserved, borderline snooty and a tad condescending. Point: A few weeks ago while shopping at a local Jewel Food Store in Chicago I asked an assistant manager where I could find a certain ethnic product. This guy sarcastically replied, “I never eat this shit!” Instead of telling him where he could plant his head along with his store I stared him down then politely asked, “You’re not from around here are you?” He replied, “Hell no! I’m from Canada.”
If the truth were told I’ve ran into his kind quite a few times in my dealing with Canadians both sides of the border including a supervisor who narrowly escaped a severe beat down by disgruntled employees. I appreciate that country for its natural beauty, vastness and frontier quality. It’s the stuck-up attitudes of some of the locals I detest. After we talked a while I found out that this guy was actually a decent sort. He promised to order this particular brand though I didn’t live in that neighborhood anymore.
I wrote an article about the city of Victoria on nearby Vancouver Island. The island provincial capitol is only a few miles apart from larger Vancouver however there is a remarked difference between the two peoples. Both are Canadians yet Victorians are urbane, easy going, soft spoken and utterly sure of themselves; Vancouverites a bit brash, condescending aforementioned and appear to be somewhat overly self-conscious; just my observations after a few visits.
|Vancouver can be exciting if you know where to look and have money to spend. Though the opposite of LA, the ‘Big Apple,’ ‘Motown’ or Chicago, its not a graveyard either. Whether you’re there on business or pleasure there’s always something going on 24/7. You could check out its vibrant night life, go for a long walk in Stanley Park, climb Grouse mountain like I did and take in the majestic Totem Poles if aboriginal culture’s your thing; as a tourist you might want to see some of the city sights. Grouse Mountain Cable Car
|Vancouver is one-clean-place. It has a large Asian community, in fact about approximately +40% of its people are of Asian decent with inward migration from China/Iran/India/Mexico so huge they have imposed a 15% tax on city properites bought by immigrants. I married into a very large and loving Asian family. During my last visit I worked in an international trade show with some of the far western branch of my extended family. I was selling imported rattan furniture from the Philippines from our booth at the domed BC Place Stadium.
It was there I noticed an interesting aspect about Canadians; the powers that be run that country by the ‘numbers.’Everything is ‘Just-So’ with no deviations in between. Point: when I was driving my cousin’s pick-up truck on a stretch of highway just outside Vancouver near the small warehouse/farm where the furniture was stored, my cousin and I decided that morning to drive to the local McDonald’s for breakfast. Despite my lack of foreign driving experience I volunteered my services. A few minutes into my drive we encountered a little old lady driving at a snail’s pace in the fast lane. Here in Chicago I would have quickly passed the procession of cars and left granny and her entourage far behind. The old girl was going so slow she had about 15 or more cars and other vehicles trailing in close formation behind her while the right lane was empty of drivers. Being the consummate American driver, I flicked on my turn signal, changed lanes and then lit off down the highway trying to out pass the procession of vehicles alongside me. As Granny grew smaller in my rearview mirror my cousin nervously corrected me and told me that it was illegal to pass people up in Canada no matter how slow they drove and I should have trailed behind the woman. After a few off color remarks by your beloved writer I reluctantly eased over to the shoulder and handed him the wheel. I told him that was the dumbest law I ever heard as we continued to McDonald’s. Once there I ordered my usual hotcakes, sausage, milk, orange juice, water, and coffee. The service was friendly enough and the line was short but the food tasted different. What many travelers are unaware of is that American franchise restaurants (KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, etc.) are geared to the palates of the local people. After the meal we continued on towards Vancouver. (There are healthier eating establishments too - many vegetarian and or ethnic restaurants).
Eventually we arrived at the city. My cousin momentarily leaned my direction to check if I was in violation of the Seat Belt Law. I wasn’t but no sooner than we reached a Stop Sign waiting was three brown shirted members of Vancouver’s finest peeking inside each vehicle as they stopped to check for seatbelt violators. One officer did the peeking, another stood at rigid attention beside his motorcycle preparing to give chase to violators who tried to run off, while a third stood silently at the corner arms crossed looking mean. After we stopped we continued our drive. You think American cops are rough on traffic violators you ain’t seen nothin’ yet; just drive BC!
And speaking about doing things ‘by the numbers,’ back to the trade show. My cousin and I were laying a stretch of carpet. The building inspector, a young woman who resembled the younger and prettier version of Iron Lady the late Margret Thatcher was making her rounds. Clipboard in hand she inspected the various booths that comprised the show. Walking alongside were two rough looking dudes! When she approached our booth, she took out her measuring tape and told us that we were an inch over our assigned boundary space. I pleaded with her asking her to ignore the extra inch since we needed it to fully extend our beautiful hand woven carpet. She politely halted my argument in mid-speech. The building manager ordered us to move the carpet an inch off the walkway wrote down something on her board and continued on her way flashing a malicious smile as she stalked off. Ain’t it amazin’ how much you can achieve by being polite swinging a club in one hand supported by goons?
||Vancouver is another world compared to what I’m used to. Vancouver, the ‘Singapore of North America’ is clean, exceptionally well-run, hyper-organized and aforementioned ran by the-book. Not bad traits when you think about it in comparison to the chaotic alternative I’m familiar with. Perhaps our own city could use a bit of their strict metropolitan regimen. I got a sense the place was ran by some unseen puppeteer jerking and pulling the strings of daily life.
My cousin validated my notions about the city as he ran down some of the ‘do’s and don’ts’ this city imposes on its people; maybe a lot has changed since I was there last; I don’t know. On the whole Vancouverites are a bit stiff (British influence you know), friendly, charming, open, orderly, helpful, very down to earth, its people fiercely proud; they should be; like Victoria, a garden city; who can fault ‘em for wanting to keep the peace.
There’s always something to do in Vancouver (See the listings in the Georgia Straight). If you’re the outdoorsy type you might want to experience the beauty of nature’s wonders. I got up one morning, went to church, had a ‘lumberjack’ breakfast then took a city bus. Whenever I’m on holiday I always rely on public transportation; its cheaper and you get to meet the locals. Not going anyplace in particular that day, I got off at Grouse Mountain a medium sized peak that’s part of the North Shore Mountains located 15 minutes from Downtown Vancouver. There’s a ski resort on the mountain. The weather was perfect. I was feeling good. I decided to take a leisurely stroll up what I thought at that time was a large hill. Being a ‘flatlander’ I had no idea the damn thing was over 4,039 feet straight up! I started my accent. About two hours into my ‘walk’ I felt weird. I found myself inside what I thought was a thick fog bank. l plodded on until I broke through the ‘fog’ only to find myself looking down at what I thought were tiny dots in the distance whizzing in the direction of what looked like an airport. My eyes scanned the horizon. I was surrounded by snow topped mountains; still I climbed. Hours later I reached the summit then it happened. I started breathing rapidly fighting for air! I felt faint! When I sat down my head started to spin! I felt dizzy; altitude sickness. I made a quick Sign of the Cross. I panicked but sensed Someone telling me, “Lay on the ground and take slow deep breaths.” I obeyed. Laying flat on my back on the rocky surface I gazed up into the big sky above. I rested for about 30 minutes until my breathing became regular. My dizziness subsided. With my head cleared I decided to tour the summit. It was still…so quiet…I was the only person for miles. I was alone but felt an unseen Presence beside me. I wasn’t afraid anymore. I didn’t wander far but decided to pack it in and call it a day. I slowly began my decent. (The record for walking up the Grouse Grind is 27 minutes!)
||When I was half-way between the bottom and the resort, I spotted a lady picking blueberries. She appeared to have been in her late 30’s or early 40’s. As she picked her berries we struck up a friendly conversation. After we exchanged pleasantries for the better part of an hour we exchanged phone numbers and addresses. That evening Barbara, the lady I met on the mountainside, called my hotel and arranged a meeting. She picked me up at my hotel and gave me a driving tour of Vancouver at night. Join the Grinders
Eventually we ended up at her home where she introduced me to her family. We had dinner after which she drove me back to my hotel. I saw her again a day later at the family barbeque. Before returned to the States we promised to keep in touch. Weeks later when I returned to Chicago I kept my promise. Our correspondence continued for a number of years.
Vancouver has a wide variety of entertainment options. There’s something for everyone. Vancouverites enjoy world class theater, a top-notch opera and symphony orchestra, folk and jazz festivals delight patrons from the entire West Coast. The bars, pubs, clubs and cafes are always packed with patrons. There’s more than enough high and low end restaurants to suit everybody’s budget and culinary tastes. For a sampling of Vancouver's nightlife, order a copy of the Georgia Straight . The Thursday edition of the Vancouver Sun contains the weekly entertainment section Queue. The monthly Vancouver magazine (www.vanmag.com) is filled with listings of local hot spots. I strongly suggest taking a virtual walking tour through this city before visiting. Use the Skytrain, its safe and cheap and gets you to and from the airport too.
Having traveled/worked there I heartedly recommend a holiday to this beautiful place. The city has a low crime rate but still take ordinary precautions just in case. If you’re into nature there’s hunting, fishing, mountain climbing and hiking, Vancouver’s an ideal point of departure for the great Canadian outdoors. Vancouver like California has a large Asian community replete with exotic shops, restaurants and many other Asia related establishments. Check out the Chinatown Night Market and the food! and the huge Asian restaurants in Richmond. Would I relocate to this Canadian city; nah-don’t think so; nice folks but too straight laced for me. There’s a certain reserve about the place I couldn't ever get use to.
Vancouver’s banks offer 0% interest on selected credit cards until 2018 with free balance transfers and double cash back incentives. What’s the catch; ain’t figured it out yet. Canada’s cost of living is much higher than home; you pay more for less. (See their property prices if you don't believe me).
On the flip side British Columbia’s tiny Black minority (1.1%) are considered unemployable by the dominant white/asian majority no matter how well educated and highly motivated they are. Native peoples routinely have their human rights ignored/violated as growing numbers of Native women are brutally raped and murdered annually with hardly an afterthought from the provincial government (Google: ‘Highway of Tears.’)
Though extraordinarily beautiful, Vancouver’s not Heaven. The place is expensive; don’t go there broke and taxes are sky high. Obey the rules of common sense, watch your driving, research the city, avoid the red light district on Hastings and you should be alright; enjoy! *For fiction set in Vancouver read 'Another Place to Die: Endtime Chronicles' by Hawksmoor & North.
© Fred C Wilson 111 September 2016
Taste of Chicago
Fred C. Wilson III
What is the biggest, the most popular, and most well attended culinary event in the world…take a guess…give up? The Taste of Chicago is the world’s largest outdoor food fair. It’s the quintessential event of Chicago summers.