Life, the Universe and That Sort of Thing
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly-ish
1. The Bad
So far life in Saskatoon has been pretty good. It is a much better life here than what I could have in Vancouver at this time. But I am not addressing the The Good here, I am addressing The Bad. There are things about Saskatoon that I don't like and things and I figure I should address them.
One frustration I have is that people here are always going on about how I am going to hate the winters here. "Oh boy, if you are from Vancouver you're going hate the winters here!", "Get ready to freeze!", "Good luck dealing with the snow!" ad nauseum. They have this gleeful look when they say it too. But these people always seem so disappointed when I point out that I have experienced winter in Edmonton, Calgary, Whitehorse, Southern Saskatchewan and Montreal.
Of course, National mythology completely discounts the kind of cold you experience on the West Coast - that damp cold that cuts right to the bone and makes your body hurt. It gets into your lungs, that icy dampness. And for some reason, no one outside BC ever seems to think it gets cold in the mountains?
That said, it is getting down to about 9°C at night. Chilly? Sure, a bit. But this Vancouverite seems to be dealing with the cold better than the locals. My building is quite hot. People have turned on the heat to their radiators and the hot water is venting through all over. Mine are completely shut off and I have to run both my wall fan and ceiling fan and keep all my windows open to make my place livable. I may even ask my manager to shut the heat off to my apartment if that can be down with out turning the hot water to my taps as well.
This is the sort of thing people from the Prairies laugh at Lower Mainland British Columbians for. I hear people complaining and it is still anywhere between 15 and 17 °C during the day. I only turn up the heat if I am either sick (which is when the cold really affects me) or when the sweater and socks (and maybe even the blanket and toque) are no longer able to keep me warm. But no one wants to be inconvenienced, so I have to strip down to my skivvies in order to cope. (sorry for the image) My weight has little to do with this, by the way. I have always been able to cope with the cold, even in my infancy. But come on people: put on a sweater, wear your socks, have a cup of tea, coffee (but tea is better) or hot chocolate. Don't like hot beverages? Time to learn buttercup. Make hot cup of broth if its more to your liking.
Other gripes? The transit system needs an overhaul. Some people have told me that they have actually cut service back, which seems idiotic to me, especially in the face of a supposed economic boom and expected growth and development. They shut down bus service on holidays, so if you don't have a car or a bike enjoy that walk or shelling out for a cab. Walking is good for you but not always practical - especially in given prairie weather. I live just north of the downtown core (such as it is) in City Park. There is no grocery store near by - well, not one worth mentioning. The transit issue becomes quite poignant for those of us who must travel great distances to get our groceries. Transit here could stand to run later and more often. And hey, it is job creation as well.
Saskatoon is a city on the cusp of bigger things. It might not happen, but there are whispers of significant growth. Saskatchewan's economy is doing well, and the province's fortunes have drawn national attention. The housing insanity that was in full swing when I arrived seems to have subsided and it is definitely a buyers market out there. It is a nice place to be, but it lacks the amenities and services to justify the prices that people were trying - and succeeding - to squeeze out of the market.
I hear people here, people like Geo, stating that they don't want Saskatoon to change to grow any larger. They may get their wish, but chances are Saskatoon will experience some growth and it is better for Saskatonians to start think in terms of sustainable and intelligent growth rather than following the model of so many other places across Canada. And not all residents are satisfied with the status quo.
At the hospital, I hear complaints from cyclists about the need for more and better bike trails. They talk about the need for cycling lanes in all areas of the city. Given the price of fuel and the push in larger urban centres for people to take up cycling instead of using their cars, it sounds like a solid plan to me. There is a new bridge going to be built. That will help ease traffic congestion in Sasktoon (such as it is) for a while, at least. However, if the city continues to grow,it will only be a band-aid solution. Some people I have heard talking, feel that it is time for Saskatoon to start considering rapid transit.
Saskatoon needs to seriously consider growth strategies. Many Vancouverites didn't want the city to grow, to see things change - but they did. Our civic politicians hid their heads in the sand and ignored the socio-economic effects of growth, thus we have the mess that is the Downtown Eastside today. Saskatoon isn't a bad little city - much better than people from out side give it credit for being - but it could be a whole lot more. This is the perfect time for Saskatoon to turn a keen eye on itself and figure out the best way for it to direct its own growth.
2. The Good
I like the people here. They are pretty friendly, by and large. There isn't the same level of neurosis and paranoia that you encounter in the Lower Mainland. You can talk to people without them giving you that uneasy look or the polite shrug-off. They are willing to give you more of their time and make significant small talk. In Vancouver, I felt that I was constantly under a microscope, constantly being appraised. Perhaps they are a bit too trusting, but maybe it is just me? The bad parts of town are bad, but they aren't so completely horrible.
I don't have much to say in this area, but then I think that little bit says so much. For all the talk about Saskatoon's bitterly cold winters, the warmth of the people make up for it. Vancouver is a cold place all year round - maybe not weather-wise but certainly in its social environment. There is so much drugs and desperation all over the Lower Mainland. The people are so guarded and suspicious it is hard not to appreciate a place where you can walk safely at night and feel welcome most places you go.
3. The Ugly-ish
Everyone should see an autopsy, or at least the specimens retrieved from and autopsy. You can be shown the pictures, you can receive the warnings - but nothing makes health risks and life threatening and chronic conditions more concrete than actually seeing what it is doing to your body up close and personal. Diabetics and people who fall into the risk category need to see amputated gangrenous limbs for themselves. Alcoholics should see a fatty, well-abused liver up close. People with hypertension and heart conditions need to see fat-lined arteries and arterial plaque build-up (especially if it has crystallized) in the flesh.
Doctors are afraid that some people will give up hope if they see this stuff - but many will simply just live in denial. I am quite overweight and I can state for the record that no doctor ever made it clear enough, no photo makes it clear enough what effect of obesity has on the human body. Have high blood pressure? Don't talk to your doctor about what it will do to you - talk to a pathologist if you can. My old doctor was a good person and she really cares, but she couched things way too much. People like me need to be hit full force, shown the ugly bits, have it made visceral.
Many of my friends, including one particular friend with a blog, need to have this stuff thrown in their faces. We all live in denial or aknowledge what it is happeneing to us but then do nothing. I'm single and have no kids - my death has less consequences than other people I know. People will miss me, but I am not leaving a wife and young ones adrift in the wake of my passing.
I have not been phased by watching a body being cut open, by drawing bodily fluids, watching a brain or other organs being removed. I haven't been affected by seeing those organs disected and then placed back in a plastic bag to be reiserted to the body cavity, watch the rib cage be set back in place and see the body being stitched up. I was quite able to have lunch afterwards. No fainting and vomiting. That sort of sulphuric reek doesn't bother me overly much either.
However, I have been disturbed to see the effects on the human body those all to common conditions have. It is disturbing because I now have clear image of what is going on inside my own body. I should divulge this much but I need to to state why I am on this rant. This patient we did the autopsy on was in his early fifties and died lifting a heavy box. He had a heart attack. He weighed significantly less than me but but major blockages leading into the heart. His wife found him. He died almost instantly. I learned that the strain put on the diaphram when lifting reduces blood flow to the heart. The same thing can happen if you strain while going to the bathroom sitting on the toilet! Not good. I had no clue. No GP had ever bothered to fill me in on this. Instead you look at all the other fat people around and think, "Well, it can't be that bad - look at them." But them isn't you and in cases like this maybe it is better to assume the worst to get the best result.
Go to a teaching hospital and see if you can be shown samples of arterial plaque and arterial sclerosis and see if it doesn't affect you. I had a good chat with one of our pathologists about all this and know much more than I ever knew about these conditions from before.