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a tale of 2 cities

We were sitting in the dining room of the Granville Island Hotel in downtown Vancouver, staring out at the morning. Sun, water, boats, condos, seabirds, mountains. Quite a vista. Ken said something like: Toronto doesn't have anything as beautiful as this. I drank coffee and grunted something like: Grff? He chewed a mouthful of hash brown. I go for walks through High Park and along the lake shore, he said, and it's nice. But it doesn't look as beautiful as this. It just doesn't. We were silent for a moment. Joggers and cyclists hustled along the waterfront path across the bay, the sun glinting on spandex and spokes. I tried to put my thoughts together. On the surface, Ken was right. Few places on earth can match Vancouver's mix of natural and urban beauty. Toronto can't come close. But it has something, darn it. Something that Vancouver lacks. I tried to put it into words. Outside my back door, I can see the corner of a low-rise industrial place, I said. There's some ivy trailing down the cinder blocks, and it looks kind of nice. Ken just stared. I tried again. They've drained the toxic dump site across from us, I said. The body shop parks its wrecks there now, and one of the feral cats likes to sleep on the hoods. Cute, eh? Ken swallowed some egg, frowning, trying to work out if I was serious. After a rainstorm there's a stream running down the centre of the laneway, I said, and the styrofoam cups and coloured condoms floating down to Richmond Street are quite cheerful. Ken stood up and called for the check. Kidding, I said. Just kidding. But am I? Well, maybe about the condoms. But to my mind there is something truly attractive about a harsh angular urban landscape, concrete and steam and people and noise. Vancouver doesn't have that. I know that it has tough neighborhoods and ugly problems, but to me, if you will forgive the stereotype, Vancouver has a cheerleader's beauty. Toronto is more like the girl who talks too much and laughs too loud. Yes, she can be a pain, but she is more fun to trade lunches with. And darn it, there's something about her ...


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