Sunday, March 15, 2009

Livin' ... in vancouver?

it used to be that my favorite thing about traveling was -- and here let me issue a warning to stalwart comrades: you can still exit this post with your sense of me intact -- shopping. it's the main way i orient myself into a place. i figure out where the funky shops are and it gives me a bead on the place. chain store after chain store: ok, i know you. a little side street with secondhand record stores and some hopeful clothing designer who's just hung out her shingle? we can be friends.

this time in vancouver it wasn't like that, and i'm not totally sure why. partly it's because vancouver, like everywhere else, is inundated with chains. granville, for instance, is like a linear version of south edmonton common: urban barn next to restoration hardware across the street from chapters and EQ3, and every one of 'em has its own starbucks. you know how people are talking these days about companies that are "too big to fail": why does that apply to pottery barn?

that's not the only reason shopping is different these days, though. even though we could have strolled some of the littler shops along main -- smoking lily specialists, say, or sunja link's flagship (ha!) or that new little design shop in deep cove -- i just wasn't motivated to do it. eh, it was drizzling, i was tired, and i came up with quite a litany of other excuses.

the real reason? i think we shop bigger now. so in fact what we did on the first night we were in vancouver -- seriously, friends, you can still leave! -- is troll MLS for the kinds of places we'd like to own. we think we could be happy with a second home in the low 700s, the burning question being west end or kits. we have become those lesbians, the ones who attend open houses in yaletown instead of going to the rally on commercial drive.

as i probably don't need to say, mo and i can no more afford a second home in vancouver in the low 700s than you can, and possibly even less, given that we are saving up to buy a new sleeping pad for the ole tent trailer (memory foam at superstore: $175). but it is telling that this is the line our fantasies take. while the acquisitiveness of this fantasy life makes me uneasy -- what happened to tread lightly, think globally, keep on rockin' in the free world? -- it also suggests tenderer things. specifically: that we are getting older. we talk about where we want to live when we retire, for example. what is charming about my fantasies of retirement is that i see my life as being essentially the same as it is now, only with more money: we're both in good health, our parents are all alive and independent, our friends are all vital and mobile. no strings, just possibilities. in my fantasy, we could just pick up and move wherever we wanted, and our perfect life would blossom in a new place.

and so i'm not going to challenge this fantasy. there is time enough to come to terms with grimness; life has a way of bringing grimness to you. buying a second home in a city like vancouver is a marker of gobsmacking privilege, especially if you think globally. but the real privilege? projecting the life you actually live as a fantasy for the future.