Being without a car and walking or busing everywhere in a spectacularly beautiful and scenic city swarming with people of so many backgrounds and cultures is awe-inspiring. My life here in crowded Kitsilano in Vancouver, as I walk two blocks to the shops, is in striking contrast to my life in 90 mile square Phoenix, where I drive two blocks to the grocery store–or thirty miles on the freeway to a writer’s meeting.
The soul of Vancouver is palpable and the energy here is contagious, at times overwhelming. A gazillion buses run near where I’m staying, available most times, except when I need them. People on the bus here are famous for chatting you up about their trip to the theater, offering you their seat, or yelling “thank you” to the driver when they exit the bus.
The downside of this city, which is bursting its britches, is the rampant construction and the impassioned mayor’s penchant for turning the cities roadways upside down as he creates bike lanes everywhere. Yesterday, on my way to the downtown Y for a swim, the bus driver suddenly announced without explanation, “Burrard Bridge closed, I’m going the other way.” He meant closed to cars or buses. So I walked across the bridge. As I walked, I looked over at the cyclists and muttered, “Look at them, gleefully charging by.”
I used to say this was MY city. When I moved to Phoenix in the nineties, I told friends there, “I know all the street corners in Vancouver.” It was here, in the sixties, that I cut my political and cultural teeth. By some good fortune, I lived in a society where social justice is a given. Coming back to my country of origin in the nineties, I’ve been appalled to witness white supremacy bubbling to the surface and bigotry threatening the fabric of our society.
Even though this city, much as I still love it, isn’t the endearing, charming place of my youth, there is a silver lining. Vancouver 2017 boasts a thriving cultural climate and the optimism of its pluralistic society. The province has welcomed people from many diverse backgrounds. Walking down the street, hearing a multitude of languages and seeing people of many cultures and colors, who look and feel as if they belong, is eye-opening and refreshing. And a glimpse into the future.