Clean is Nice. But Clean is Boring.

*This post was also published on Black Press’s B.C. network

Oh, my sweet Vancouver. I knew you’d react this way, all cute and funny and childishly offended.

But I have one question: Why?

Why are you upset that someone finds your city boring? Why do you think he doesn’t have the right to write it? Why do you demand that everyone admit how beautiful you are, and then also hold them hostage until they insist you’re fun, too?

And perhaps that’s why you’re not that fun. Because you can’t take criticism. Because you’d rather win than enjoy the game.

Toronto does that better than us. Calgary does that better than us. Montreal certainly does that better than us. And you’ll laugh, but Winnipeg does that better than us.

Vancouver’s a self-conscious bombshell, a jock that doesn’t study.

“Vienna, Vancouver, and Geneva always seemed to do well,” writes the columnist titled ‘Gulliver’, in this Economist piece that’s got the peach-bruised crowd all ruffled. In that line above, Gulliver’s summing up the three cities that always top his publication’s ‘Most Liveable Cities’ index, an annual hate-read for most people in the world who’ll either swear by it if they’re pleased by it, or who’ll deride it and mock it if they’re not.

“Pleasant cities, yes, but mind-numbingly boring,” he says, of the Austrian, Canadian, and Swiss cities above. “What right-minded person would rank Vienna a better city than Rio, or Vancouver preferable to Paris?”

… Seriously, who would? I completely agree with him. And I also can disagree with him, too. Because I know Vancouver is fun. But I also think it’s porcelain, and I also understand 100 per cent what he’s saying.

I think anyone who reads it can sympathize with him. You’d think we could keep two ideas in our heads at the same time. Here, I’ll try: I love Vancouver. But it’s a little too nice, too stuffy, too expensive to be real.

I love Vancouver, but somebody else doesn’t.

What’s so hard about that?

A view of Vancouver from the Cambie Bridge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Authors Kaveh and Thom Quine)
A view of Vancouver from the Cambie Bridge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Authors Kaveh and Thom Quine)

For years, the Economist has given Vancouver more shining free press than it has ever deserved or requested. And when they did, the mag was criticized, too – Do you really think Vancouver is that liveable if I can’t buy a home for under $1 million? Stuff like that.

But of course, we’re all stupid in our reflex.

Nobody wants to debate whether this writer’s got a point or not, or whether it even should matter what he thinks. All they want to do is close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears, and start screaming, “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA.”

“Anyone who thinks Vancouver is boring needs to get a life,” writes Doug Latter, in the comment section below Global BC‘s rather bating article on the Economist‘s column.

Good point, Doug. ‘Get a life.’ Original.

“BS I lived in Vancouver over 60 years and it is a wonderful, fresh air, Beautiful, international city. Boring definately not !”

That was Ron Miller, in the same comment section. I left in his random capitalization of ‘Beautiful’ and his misspelling of ‘definately’ because it’s hilarious.

“What type of idiots write these colums?” asks commenter Carell Felgnar. “Yes, there is no legal prostitution or drug dealing (in Vancouver). The writer obviously does not know how to entertain himself.”

No drug dealing in Vancouver?

Carell, have you ever been?

And there’s commenter Jane Tow:

“after living on the island for a few years vancouver is definitely NOT boring!!!”

Yes, your point is valid. It wasn’t, but then you used Caps Lock to type ‘NOT’ and three exclamation marks, so I’ll have to take you seriously.

Even Global‘s article pandered to the mud slingers below.

“However, The Economist does not have the best track record when it comes to Vancouver,” it reads, before re-calling that time the magazine docked the B.C. city in its 2011 Most Liveable list, back when it made the error of citing issues on a highway over two hours and a ferry ride away.

Ah yes. If you don’t have anything to say to dispute the article or its points made, you may as well hold him accountable for something his magazine screwed up on four years ago. (Nailed it!)

The easily charming and infinitely exciting city of Lisbon. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons: authors Isa-Ruiz and Tim)
The easily charming and infinitely exciting city of Lisbon. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons: authors Isa-Ruiz and Tim)

“It is one of those intractable problems,” writes Gulliver. “Cities strive to become nicer places in which to live. Yet the more they succeed the less interesting they become.”

Duh, right?

Isn’t that why people tell you to go to Croatia or Portugal instead of Italy or Spain? (And then you go to Italy anyway because, hell, it’s still Italy?)

But the idea was, Croatia’s the new Italy, Portugal’s the new Spain, and orange is the new black.

We all wanna go somewhere either undiscovered or raw, I think. No, I know we do. We want downtowns that dirty the bottom of our shoes. We want to visit bazaars that are actually bizarre.

And we want it the other way, too. We want to see a Starbucks when we’re travelling through Paris, for its familiar Venti-size cups and for washrooms that actually have a mirror, maybe even a sink. We wake up in the middle of the night in a hostel’s dorm-room bed, wishing we could be turning over in Egyptian-something sheets in a hotel instead.

We want to run away and we never want to leave home.

But we have to accept that nothing can be both, not at once or in the same place, at the same time. Even Paris, the most variety-blessed city in the world, has to separate its tastes from each other to keep its heart beating. You can live lavish in the Marais or the other lower-numbered Arrondissements, or you can go cheap and Bohemian in the upper digits. Every year, more and more people move to Paris and they find ways to make their home in – or bring their home to – one of Paris’s many neighbourhoods. The city has never lost its allure with tourists or immigrants because it hasn’t neutered its culture. When the Left Bank stopped becoming the Left Bank, other coves or pockets just stepped in to fill the Latin Quarter’s artistic vibe.

Paris is like a plastic bag with an air bubble. You push down on it, and it just pops up somewhere else.

But Paris is Paris. And I think the people living in Vancouver or Vienna or Melbourne or wherever else ends up on top of one of these Economist lists… I think they know they don’t live in Paris.

If they did, they’d find a way to clean it.

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