on mainland (dear vancouver, i love you)

I’m back in Vancouver today, staying with my half-sister in Kitsilano, on a grey June day in southern BC.

It feels more like I’ve fallen backwards in time eighteen months or so. I was lucky enough to go out last night, for sushi and then drinking, with many beloved individuals from my old days in Vancouver. And while I’m happy that I can see so many people I adore, in the city I loved so much – it also throws off my internal contiuum. The last three hundred sixty five days might not have ever happened. If I wasn’t writing this in a “Proud To Be An Enemy” T-shirt (Agency employees are “enemies of the ordinary”), I’d wonder if it had.

I do get the feeling, sometimes, that Los Angeles is a dream, that I’m going to wake up in my room at Tenth And Alma. Maybe it is. I could very likely come home to Vancouver and pick up my life exactly where I left it off. Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind. My life here was wonderful, and I was, after all, very very happy. I left because I needed new challenges, a new city, a bigger, more complicated place to exist. And because, when you’re a media planner, where else do you go but an interactive advertising core city like L.A., or San Francisco, or NYC? I don’t know if I would have stayed in Vancouver, in Canada, forever, job or no job, but I might have been here a few more years. There is no way to tell, because I chose to move on. I decided to answer when Los Angeles called me south, when my family history and my own career path dovetailed to pull me to California. I felt I’d inhabited Vancouver long enough.

So it’s far too easy to visit home. It’s comforting, and relaxing, to be here, because it takes so much of my psychic energy to put up a shield against Los Angeles. L.A. wears me out, because I have to defend my sanity against the noise, the dirt, the heat, the pollution. There’s human misery, human indifference, the stress of driving everywhere, and the push to make more of oneself to stay competitive in work, appearance, everything.

Just existing in Vancouver, by contrast, brings great joy into my heart: happiness, and a sense of peace. Wandering the streets and gardens of Kitsilano, riding the bus over the bridges and into the city of glass downtown, going past the strips of neighborhood stores on the main streets, napping in parks, interacting with a city of equally happy people – it all recharges rather than depletes my mental strength. The air and water are clean, the city itself puts a premium on being beautiful, and everyone seems so much more relaxed and joyful to live here.

Unfortunately rather than the pure joy I could take in all this two years ago, everything is tinged with a little bit of trepidation. I have to tell myself – don’t think about it too much, don’t get too attached, don’t dream that you’re back again. The easiest trap is to think, for even a few seconds, that I could come back again, and fall back into my life as it was just over a year ago. I never doubted my decision to leave – but I keep thinking, have I learned everything I needed to in Los Angeles yet, and when can I come home?

If I still lived here, I said to a friend last night, there would be a dozen friends within two miles of my old house.

I didn’t realize until I came back last week, how terrible it is that I still say “home” at all. “I’m going home,” I said, when I left L.A. Not, “I’m going back“. It is very very hard to keep my existence in L.A. from becoming pale and discolored in comparison to the bright tapestry of people and places that was my life in BC. The kick-ass job at the Agency, my circle of wonderful friends, my sibling-like roomates, the beach and gardens of Venice and the fascination of the myriad of downtown L.A., – it all seems slightly greyed compared to this perfect vacation back into my last few perfect years in Vancouver.

Thinking like that, however, is like hiding under a security blanket. It’s comforting, but without purpose. If I moved back, I’d just leave again when I got bored in a year. Unless I came home and got married and had a family here, I’d just drift back out of BC by 2006. I can come home and pick up my old life for a weekend, and could probably pick it up permanently if I came home again, but what purpose would that serve, in the long run, other than to take a year out of my twenties to live an existence I’ve already had? And what would happen when, as they will, the dozen friends within those two miles all start to leave, to move on, to go forward in time themselves?

Los Angeles is my home these days; it is the city that, strangely, suits me, that has taught me more about human nature and American idelogies than I could understand before. I just need more time there to make it feel as much like home as this does. But it still makes me very, very happy to have a few days in 2003 before I go back, to rejoin my friends from UBC, my clan, my tribe, the people I speak in common expressions with. It makes me happy to wander Vancouver, the metropolis of the Western Canadian culture I grew up in, the most cosmpolitan city of the Pacific Northwest (save for San Francisco, which is just the American counterpart). Unlike L.A., I know and understand Vancouver. I should; I grew up in an extension of it, just over the Water, and have spent the last ten years drifting in and out of UBC and Kitsilano.

There is no going back in time, and there shouldn’t be. But it does break my heart to revisit someplace like here, a city that made me so happy. And it always makes me sad to remember, that for a very long time, I will only be able to temporarily come back to the friends and places that made this such a wonderful place to be over those last few years. Vancouver, from UBC to Commercial Drive, from the Oak Street bridge to the Lion’s Gate, is simply the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen (save, again, San Francisco). It will be hard to leave that to go home to Los Angeles tomorrow, and I think I’ll have to have an aisle seat if I don’t want to cry at least as far as Seattle.

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