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Vancouver: The city that never stays the same

July 27th, 2011 · 22 Comments

Four weeks away reminds me, when I return, of the essential fact about Vancouver — that, like a river, it’s a city where it’s impossible to experience it as the same place twice because it keeps changing.

When I was in Paris a few years ago, I was agog as a Vancouverite to see how much was the same from when I had been a student there almost three decades previously. It wasn’t just the major landmarks that were exactly the same. It was dozens of little places that I had been to as a student that were still there, doing business exactly as they always had.

A paper shop near the Pompidou, the bookstores where I had bought books. Shakespeare & Co, of course. And the restaurant that we students had thought the height of elegance, Polidor, was still serving almost the same menu, including the exotic kidneys in mustard sauce that I’d first tried there, and its squat toilets hadn’t been updated a bit. (No wonder, I guess, that it’s featured fleetingly in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.)

But Vancouver. I was gone for 28 days. I come back and every time I leave the house, I notice some new thing that’s changed. Legendary Noodles on Main is gone, about to be replaced by an Indian restaurant, while the small Italian store nearby that had been there for the decade since I’ve lived here is shut down.

Bin 942 on Broadway is being transformed into Go Fish. La Taqueria, with some of the best tacos in town, has taken the jump and expanded to Broadway and Cambie. The Opsal Steel building has been disassembled completely (presumably to be re-assembled in a more spiffy state later on), while the first of the province’s social housing buildings, the Sorella, has opened up in what seems like three minutes since construction started.

The only things that remain eternal are the grinding debates on the same old topics that go on and on without change: TransLink funding, garbage disposal, the HST, complaints about both development and affordability in the city, the bike lanes, the wickedness of the opposing political party.

Ah yes, here I am in Vancouver after all. The landmarks may be slightly different, but the conversation is the same.

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