Now, I don’t mean to pick at the barely scabbed-over wound inflicted earlier in the week by The Economist, but it itches, so let me have my way, if only for a moment. I promise to scratch only around the edges.
Anyone who enjoys the benefits of literacy will know by now that the venerable 172-year-old publication founded by James Wilson to advance the repeal of the corn laws has listed Vancouver among the world’s most boring cities.
The thesis, insofar as there is one, is that as cities become nicer and more liveable (even according to The Economist’s own flawed liveability index), they become less exciting. Vancouver is not just boring. According to Gulliver – the closest The Economist has ever come to giving a writer a by-line – it is “mind-numbingly boring.”
Unlike the mayor of Vancouver, who declared not at all awkwardly that “Adventure is in our DNA,” I’m not going to take the bait. And I’m certainly not going to equate freeways with muggers and guns.
But the attention being paid to this alleged story suggests perhaps that, more than being mind-numbingly boring, Vancouver is mind-bogglingly insecure.
Whether it’s the thrill of seeing our city in a straight-to-cable movie, the mention of us on a late-night talk show or the validation that comes with an aging rock band launching a tour here, we don’t just crave third-party attention – it is our oxygen.
We have the self-esteem of a teenager posting selfies on Facebook and tossing through the night as they dream of waking up to countless likes.
Look no further than the rest of the mayor’s response to Gulliver: “We are two million entrepreneurial souls.”
No, we’re not. Last I counted, we were just over 600,000 people, the majority of whom work for someone else. I’m guessing at that, but I know very few true entrepreneurs.
And this may be the most dubious part of the mayor’s defence: “Some of our poorest and wealthiest neighbourhoods are side by side, but we grapple with our urban challenges head on and take care of each other.”
Um, addressing these in order – no they’re not, no we don’t and no we don’t.
The Downtown Eastside and Chip Wilson’s Point Grey are kilometres – not to mention worlds – apart.
Do we grapple with our urban challenges head on? Do we really take care of each other? I’ll let you debate those two at home.
The point is that the mayor’s reaction reflects what we all grasp for when we’re feeling insecure and when we’re called out. We puff ourselves up, we deny, we attack the source and we refuse to believe that a whiff of it could be the truth.
And yes, Mr. Robertson does an excellent job of reminding us of the natural beauty of the place: “the ocean beaches, the towering forests, the mountain wilderness.”
There are the mountains and there is the ocean and we didn’t put them there. As for the trees, well, I give the City Council of 1886 full credit for not cutting all of them down. Also location, location, location.
As for the rest of it – major cultural institutions? Meh. Nightlife? Yawn. (Although I’m certain The Economist would approve of the open vomitorium of the Granville entertainment district.) Galleries and museums? I do like the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, but you know, it’s so far. Who can even get there?
I’m reminded of just how boring Vancouver is every time I try to plan an itinerary for an out-of-town visitor.
Have you been to Granville Island? There’s fruit.
We have to go to Stanley Park; we’ll stop in at the Aquarium – I have a coupon.
Wanna do a little shopping on Robson? They have a Gap and a Banana Republic. And you won’t believe the Victoria’s Secret. Oh, and soon, there will be a Nordstrom.
Capilano Suspension Bridge? Sure, but it’s out of the Evo home zone.
Gastown? I think it might be cool again.
Yes, fault me for my lack of imagination. But not all aging relatives are down with the craft-brewery bike tour and a stroll through the Downtown Eastside.
The point is: Vancouver, just get over it. If you like it here, just shut up about it and stop worrying about what other people think. We’re boring and you don’t need to make excuses for that.
And if the relatives show up in town, take them to an open house for a $1.5-million eastside tear-down bungalow and show them what a sidewalk bidding war really looks like.
Then go get some sushi or gelato or something.
Now that’s exciting.
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