Still Enjoying a Little Free Time

Today we went to the movies. At 10 AM, that is. The Van­cou­ver Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val is this week (and next week, too). We saw two doc­u­men­taries, back to back. The first was the extreme­ly grim (and powerful)“The Oil Fac­tor: Behind the War on Ter­ror”, and the sec­ond was the sweet and quirky “Sou­venir of Cana­da” by Dou­glas Cou­p­land (based on his book of the same name). I real­ly like like Cou­p­land, for his light-heart­ed but sophis­ti­cat­ed sense of humor, his knack of putting his fin­ger on social move­ments and trends (he is the orig­i­na­tor of the term ‘Gen­er­a­tion X’), and of course in this case, the sub­ject mat­ter he’s been writ­ing on late­ly (Cana­da). I also envy him; He and I are near­ly the same age, and now he is liv­ing in Van­cou­ver as some­one return­ing home. As fond as I ever grow of this place, I fear that I will not feel com­plete­ly ‘at home’ here for a long, long time. I always feel as if I’m walk­ing on eggshells: Did I cut in line with­out real­iz­ing it? Did I say the right thing to the clerk at the reg­is­ter? Is my accent not native enough? Do I know enough about hock­ey, Ter­ry Fox or Cana­di­an pol­i­tics? Do I know too much about Amer­i­can pol­i­tics (actu­al­ly, Cana­di­ans on the whole know more about Amer­i­can pol­i­tics than the aver­age Amer­i­can does!) I feel as if I’m often on my guard, try­ing not to stick out too much. The open­er for con­ver­sa­tions, which is that I’ve recent­ly moved here from Boston is always good for a few exchanged sen­tences (that’s what a con­ver­sa­tion piece is for, after all). After that, it seems to be dif­fi­cult. Peo­ple are anx­ious to under­stand the why of it, and then when I explain that, things can get qui­et. Maybe peo­ple are just wary of those Amer­i­cans who come up here and are nasty to them because they (the Amer­i­cans) need to con­vince the Cana­di­ans that they’re wrong, etc.
All I know is that Dou­glas Cou­p­land is a lucky guy. He gets to move back here, live in Van­cou­ver, and (I assume) feel per­fect­ly at home.

2 Replies to “Still Enjoying a Little Free Time”

  1. David you may not know this but most peo­ple you encounter in a day are not from Van­cou­ver. Most of us are from some­where else. I grew up here in the 50’s but was born in White­horse. That said, Cana­di­ans have this knack of not have many heros –two come to mind Ter­ry Fox & Wayne Gret­zky– and you might have a dif­fi­cult time find­ing Cana­di­ans agree­ing to more than these two. So we tend to find our neigh­bours to the south at times over emp­haz­ing the hero aspect as them­sevles being first and best in most things. This cre­ates most of our inse­cu­ri­ty. We win the world hock­ey match and most of the press is about the lucky loonie at cen­tre ice. You may nev­er feel at home, most of us don’t, but it sure is a great neigh­bour­hood and we real­ly do like each other.

  2. Hi Gene -

    Yes, it’s true, I noticed that a lot of peo­ple from around here are from else­where.
    I did find out from the Cou­p­land doc­u­men­tary that Ter­ry Fox was one of the few peo­ple that Cana­di­ans can agree on. I’ve been think­ing how the mem­o­ry of him might be dif­fer­ent if he had actu­al­ly made it to the Pacif­ic coast (his quest would­n’t have the trag­ic ele­ment to it).
    There’s some­thing about a place where the new­com­ers out­num­ber the natives. My wife and I spent a fair amount of time in the Mad Riv­er Val­ley of Ver­mont (just south of Mont­pe­lier, which is about 200 K due south of Mon­tréal), where we actu­al­ly had con­tem­plat­ed build­ing a house (and went as far as get­ting some land there). They had the same sit­u­a­tion — you rarely met a native Ver­mon­ter, yet they referred to all of us vis­i­tors as ‘Flat­landers’ (although I only saw the term in books and mag­a­zine arti­cles). Maybe the fact that so many peo­ple are in my (and per­haps, years ago, your) sit­u­a­tion, so we’re all just a bit more mind­ful, more care­ful about being rude. I like to think that, any­way. It sure is a great neigh­bour­hood. Seems to be one of the best I’ve ever seen in many ways.

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