for a while now, i have been working part-time for the mennonite central committee in richmond. i’d get on the 49 bus to granville street, and then take the 98 B-line down granville. granville is one of the older streets of vancouver, and that stretch down to the fraser river is lined by old trees, venerable mansions hidden somewhere between tall hedges, and further down, there’s a friendly little shopping neighbourhood. i’d always try to get a seat on the bus that faced west so that, when we had reached the end of granville and crossed the fraser river, i’d see the wide waters flowing along under the bridge, perhaps with a tug boat schlepping a load of logs; the expanse of the fields leading up to the airport; and the north shore mountains we were drawing away from as we headed closer and closer to the US border, just 30 km further south. then a loop to skirt one of the airport hotels and up over another, smaller bridge crossing another arm of the fraser river, dotted by boats of all stripes, and flowing pastorally off into the distance. two minutes later, the bus would plonk me down right by my place of work.
that bus ride was one of the many perks of working at MCC.
by september 7, i will be forced to trade beauty for efficiency.
the olympics are upon us. in february, we’ll be hosting the winter olympics and in preparation for that, we finally have canada line, a rapid transit system going to the airport. it takes you along cambie street, parallel to the 98 B-line, and so the B-line will be scrapped.
yes, taking the canada line will shorten my commute by about 10 minutes each way. in exchange, i will have to endure 10 minutes of ugliness. the train stations look like they’ve been built by architects who normally design prisons, the trains – admittedly very roomy – have the charm of 99-cent tuna cans, and when they finally exit the tunnel, they emerge into a drab, industrial tangle of concrete, rails and unidentifiable stuff-that’s-lying-about. (a far cry from the nostalgic, semi-abandoned, wild urban nature that used to surround the rickety old rapid train system in east berlin in the 60s, 70s and 80s that inspired one of my first short stories).
oh, and to top it all off, the first stop in richmond conveniently has an exit that goes right into a casino. i’m really, really not a prude when it comes to gambling but, people, IMHO, there’s something incredibly cheap and wrong about a public transit system feeding right into a place where people lose their homes and marriages on a regular basis. (people addicted to gambling, btw, supposedly commit more suicides than people with any other addiction).
i guess i’m what new yorker writer adam gopnik calls a “frivolous aesthete”. my life is going well, i am not pressed for tiny bits of time or money, so i can afford to value beauty more than 10 minutes here and there. it is in an environment of abundance like this, hypothesizes gopnik, that novelty and creativity thrive, contrary to the saying that necessity is the mother of invention.
how many poets have been inspired by a friendly journey along the old maple trees on granville street?
how many will write odes to the cambie street station?
image by stephen rees