Saturday, July 14, 2007

You Make Me Ill

CD in Play: My Bloody Valentine, Loveless

Dearest British Columbia: Since returning to you five years ago I have made an honest attempt to reconcile myself with you, the place of my birth where I have lived out the majority of my life. I know it's not you exactly, it's me and I know there is little you can do about it. But we must face facts, it's over between us. I just can't play nice with the others anymore and it is clear that you are no longer a place where I can thrive. In fact, you and the rest of the children are just making me ill. I have a few loose ends to tie up and then I'll be on my way. If could think of another way I'd try, but I think this move will be for the best and for all concerned. - Yours sincerely, Magnus Skallagrimsson.

Back in October 2000 I took a trip to Montreal to check it out. I stayed with friends, wandered around, was introduced to new people - I loved it. The attitudes toward life and living were quite close to my own. As Europeans have told me, living in Montreal is the closest to living in Europe that you can get in North America. On the flight there, I wasn't sure if I could really leave British Columbia to live anywhere else. BC is where I am from, it has always been my home. At least 20 minutes after landing, while riding in Trent and Colette's car sitting with Peter in the back seat, all the reasons for moving just hit me. I had come to hate the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

I was sick of it and tired of the direction the province was heading in. The Liberals were poised to decimate the NDP in the upcoming election, with the help of a very negative media environment keen on playing the king makers. Vancouver was and to some extent still is known as "The No Fun City". As my friend Spencer puts it, Vancouverites are uptight about being laid-back. The city was getting dirtier and panhandling and homelessness were increasing. Places I loved as kid were being knocked down, paved under and developed. So I left in 2001 and if I had had better sense I would still be in Montreal today.

I have been making due in BC, but is getting on my nerves. One thing that my time in Montreal (and if I reflect back to my time spent in Saskatchewan as well) made me realise is that I am geographically most at home here. From the mountains to the water to the wetlands and the rain forest - nowhere feels quite as right to me as here. But much of what makes home homely is disappearing as development, Olympic hype and real estate conspire to make "the most livable place on Earth" a difficult place to get by in.

The human environment has changed as well, though my perspective on this may be affected by the process of aging. Knuckleheads and the dispossessed are taking over this place. The Lower Mainland is not the place for a cultured individual to be, not one that is also low income. I understand that this is a Canada wide issue, but I don't here stories about people being attacked on their own property by swarms of drunk, high, narcissistic teens and twenty somethings just because they were asked to show some respect for the people living in the neighbourhood.

Last month the news was discussing how much the crime rate had dropped in Surrey, how Mayor Diane Watts was cleaning up the city that remains the butt of jokes about the Lower Mainland. This month the news has run responses from the citizenry of Surrey who haven't noticed a change at all. As someone who works out of the Central City area, I concur with the people stating they haven't noticed a difference. It's still bad out there and what's more, much of the Greater Vancouver Regional District is being to look quite similar.

Some people tell me I am exaggerating, but then those people have been driving around the city and have drastically reduced the amount of time they spend on public transit. I am sick of self-absorbed children who feel they can get away with anything, that bad behaviour is their birth right. I am sick of the drug culture that has asserted itself as the norm. I wish a blight would take out marijuana crops right across the province. The news media is responsible for this too over the years, playing up and exaggerating BC's reputation.

I need out. I need to be somewhere else - just about anywhere but here. I need to be someplace where I can significantly pay down my student loans for six months and then go back to school, get my teaching degree and go someplace else. I can get a UK Ancestry Entry Clearance Visa, so I am seriously considering teaching in the UK - Wales, West England, Norfolk, Isle of Man, etc. At one point I had kind of thought about teaching in Port Coquitlam, but that sort of sentimentality is dead. It is time to make the break and it is time to make that brake permanent.


Blogger Thoth Harris said...

I'm so sorry that things are so tough for you, Magnus. I know what it's like. But the same thing is happening, albeit infinitely slower, in Montreal. The Plateau is disgusting. Although, as much as I hate Montreal police (not every one of them individually, but the blight that they have been as an effectless and violent and hate-filled institution), I am glad they are showing their presence more and are letting the club kids getting away with less, from appearances, anyways.
I really feel for you. I don't know what to do or say. But I truly hope things do get far better for you.

16 July, 2007 00:02  
Blogger Magnus said...

Thanks Thoth, though things aren't particularly rough for me personally - I just don't like out here anymore. Not looking for sympathy, just need to get out. BC `n me need to go our separate ways.
Some people I know seem to think the answer lies in moving to the Interior of the province, but that ain't for me.
Once I have a teaching certificate, I have the freedom to leave at will.

17 July, 2007 10:29  
Blogger Magnus said...

Once again, I need to reiterate - do not feel bad for me. I have received a few emails from people telling me that they are sorry, etc. Not to worry, I am okay.
The Saturday when I wrote this I was encountering a lot of local pond scum the past few days. Not on the job, but on my time off. Perhaps it was too humid under their rocks, but they were out in full force.
I do not like the direction the Lower mainland seems to be heading, so I simply want off this train and try my luck on another. Not a new story with me.

17 July, 2007 15:06  
Blogger Thoth Harris said...

I know it's not necessarily a matter of personal angst, Magnus, but you know, eventually it does get to one. And the fact is, this kind of development you describe is happening everywhere. Unfortunately, even in Taiwan. In Montreal, that element has always existed, but it is being tamped down by a more vigilant (console, repertoire, what would be the would for this?) of authority. But authoritarianism isn't the answer, and as I'm sure you know, even if it is handled in this way, the disgusting aspects of people still come out in other ways.

I don't know what you have agsinst Toronto, Magnus, because to me, that's just talk. Sure, Toronto, is, or thinks it is, the centre of the universe. But the fact is, it is more multicultural than Vancouver or Montreal, and it is less pretentious than both. The main two problems with Toronto are the sterility and the get-down-to-business/business-as-usual attitude. The latter is characteristic of most giant cities, be they Tokyo, New York, London, Shanghai, or Shenzhen. The former, well, is something that is ingrained in Torontonians from I-don't-know-when. People are polite and civil and clean, but not as a matter of passion or order (it isn't enforced by police as much as it is in Montreal, as it is ingrained). That is kind of good, in a way, but again, it comes down to characterizing Canadians as sanctimonious, which you can hear in many Torontonians' voices.

But it does make Toronto clean, in the same way as the same characterstic makes Shanghai clean and polite. Maybe what I am arguing, even though I don't live there,and I don't necessarily prioritize living there, is that Toronto is the best city in Canada, and one of the best in the world! It is interesting, however, that the worst Torontonians come to Montreal and mess up it's streets, act very rudely, and snobbishly create the best music (consider Godspeed or Arcade Fire, for example, which partly consists of people originally from Toronto). I guess I am of two minds about Toronto. It is kind of a beautiful city, with the long boardwalk lined with skyscrapers along the harbourfront, which resembles Hong Kong, except bigger. I wouldn't mind living there. And you shouldn't either, because there are a lot of good people there, a lot of good politics (consider the resurgence of the NDP, which resembles the resurgence of the Democrats in San Francisco (there are a lot of similarities between those two cities too - I consider San Francisco a sort of fusion of Montreal's artistic and hipster flair, with Hong Kong's skyscrapers and efficiency, along with Toronto's historic buildings and massive scale).

So, I would urge you to move to Toronto. Your voices in your head are telling you to. And I think it's not as bad a place as everyone goes on about. It's only people who have never been there or who have only been there for a short time and who live in another city. and are overly proud about it. Then again, you certainly should travel a bit overseas and try to test the waters a bit. But do it before you feel like you are "too old."

17 July, 2007 16:30  
Blogger Geosomin said...

You can come visit us for a while...we have our own brand of odd out here, but we get by :)

18 July, 2007 08:56  
Blogger Magnus said...

Thoth: Dissatisfied, malcontented British Columbian that I am, I am still a Westerner. I resent that Ontario receives much more in the way of cultural and political advantages than the rest of us. I resent the high and mighty attitude I have encountered from Torontonians coming out West and expecting us to be exactly like them.
Back before the Canucks, Oilers, Flames, etc. many Westerners (my Father included) pulled for Montreal because they weren't Toronto. We are supposed to be a Confederation - a group of equals working toward our common interests regardless of demographics - not satallite states working to serve a larger Ontario Empire. Either we are equals or we should call it a day. That is why I never want to live in Ontario.
And I will never feel too old to travel, not in my blood to feel that way.

Geosomin: Apparently Saskatoon has the highest crime rate in Canada. However, I do love Saskatchewan and the people who live there - it is a province with a lot of character.
Interestingly enough, I have had faculty and staff from SFU encouraging me to go to the UofS. I need a job there that will allow me to pay down student loans and affird to live. I have been looking at jobs in Sakatoon and Halifax for now. Might consider Cowtown or Dreadmonton, but not so crazy about the Alberta options. Calgary is always fun to visit, but I am not sure I'd want to livethere. Edmonton is still chalk full of people I could call relatives.

18 July, 2007 11:21  
Blogger Magnus said...

Before someone asks, "Why Halifax"" the Atlantic Ocean and lobsters.

18 July, 2007 11:23  
Anonymous geosomin said...

Halifax rocks. Some friends of ours moved out there for grad school and loved it.
As for I didn't like it. It was like Vancouver, only no ocean and everyone was so proud to be from there, but noone could tell me why.
and yes, we do have the highest crime rate here in toontown, but we don't have very many people...honestly, it's not so bad here. The cold makes you stronger...:) (

18 July, 2007 15:29  
Anonymous geosomin said...

Oh...I forgot to add...please don't move to Calgary. It will suck out your soul and turn you into a no particular order. Everyone I know who moved there has left.
It's full of rich oilguys and poor people who have nowhere to live even while working 2 jobs...soul sucking. Like all the bad parts of Vancouver all in one place...Edmonton is a lot better.

18 July, 2007 15:31  
Blogger Magnus said...

I always enjoyed visiting Cowtown, but the living... meh. Actually two friends of mine from university are living there (I introduced them and now they are married) and want out.
And, as you know, Winter is no big deal for me - best friends as a matter o' fact. Waiting for UofS to get back to me with what they require for transfer admissions. Trying to track down the name of a school in Halifax that is supposed to be good for Art - well, was good in the mid-90's but I have completely forgotten the name.
Dreadmonton has a bit of baggage for me, but I could actually visit my Grandparents graves.

18 July, 2007 15:54  
Blogger Glen McKay said...

Having travelled around a bit now it amazes me just how bad the panhandling is in Vancouver. I've seen nothing like it in other major Western cities: Washington DC, Manhattan, London, Paris, Las Vegas, none of them have a begging problem even a third as much as Vancouver. (for the record I've never been to San Fran though, I've heard it's just as bad there)
An Irish buddy of mine just visited Vancouver and he couldn't believe the amount of begging either.

Maybe it is time you tried to get over to Europe and check it out. I'm still a bit skeptical that England would be what you're looking for, but who knows? Maybe the cafe lifestyle of Continental Europe would suit you better? You won't know until you get over there to check it out.

21 July, 2007 12:01  
Blogger Magnus said...

I think I would be well suited to a life on the Continent - I just don't speak any of their languages. (at least not very well) I could teach in the UK as there is a need for teachers. I'd be interested in teaching on theh Key stage 5 and 6 levels in Wales or Secondary School with a Sixth Form. In Scotland it would Secondary 4 to 6.
The UK needs teachers and I am eligible for a UK Ancestory Entry Clearance Visa, so it makes sense.

21 July, 2007 21:54  

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