Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Blog II: "Vancouver Postcard"

Photo: Granville Street at Robson 1959, Fred Herzog

There has been much talk over the last two weeks about the "electrifying" Olympic atmosphere in downtown Vancouver at night, especially concentrated on Granville St. and Robson St. I have spent several nights navigating my way home (from various Cultural Olympiad events) through these streets and have found nothing remotely electrifying about overwrought aggression, machismo, and homophobia. I guess this could be countered as incidental. But I find there is a consistent tension here that permeates, always ready to surface in the world's most livable city. Close the liquor shops at 7:00pm - keep it at bay. I do not know exactly how to articulate it other than to direct this post to Elizabeth Kadetsky's "Happy Valley Postcard," in which she writes of Happy Valley, Pennsylvania:

"Happy Valley is wholesome according to press ratings: in 2008, the town was ranked the second safest metropolitan area in the country by one ratings group, and the safest small city by another. Over the last twenty years, arbiters ranging from Psychology Today to Forbes to CNN have also ranked it among America’s least stressful places, its smartest places and the best places to start a career or business. In 2007, it was named the number one “single” city based on its percentage of unmarried people, and Rolling Stone even gave its music scene honorable mention. Dominated by its university economy, it has always been more or less recession-proof, hence the actual origin of its name. Even the frats here sometimes extol things other than Animal House-style reckless living: Tau Phi Delta, a hunting and fishing frat; Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish frat; Alpha Rho Chi, an architecture frat. [...] The place of happiness seems to be an American trope, making it all the more unsettling when unhappy things transpire there, undermining our innocence and belligerent mirth." (emphasis mine)

1 comment:

  1. The livability argument is a bit like a placebo/Prozac double blind test, or the soma-induced euphoria of a Huxleyesque "brave new world." Buy into the rhetoric for long enough, and it doesn't matter if you're happy; all that matters is that you believe you're happy. Or, more to the point, that you believe when someone else says you're happy.