Change things or get the hell out of Dodge

By Dave McLean

Over reading week, I had the chance to unwind and relax by spending some time on the West Coast. There’s nothing better than sitting on the boardwalk, listening to the waves lap up on shore to revive your spirit and recharge your energy for the last push of school. The worst part of the whole trip was the realization that, yes, I would have to make my way back to campus to finish what has been a long and arduous academic career.

Spending time in Vancouver and Washington state is certainly different than passing the days away in our land-locked-mainstay. I sometimes envy those who call the coastal areas home, but I know that there are a few things that keep my feet planted in the not so metropolitan likes of Calgary.

Culture. Vancouver has it. Seattle has it. Calgary has it–well sort of. Obviously every locale has its own culture, but the two aforementioned coastal cities seem to have so much more. Typically, population base can be positively correlated to cultural activities, but if Calgary continues to grow outward we will never see culture blossom to the same degree.

Thankfully, though, we are beginning to see a trend towards urban living with the construction of many more multi-dwelling buildings in the downtown core. Of course, this alone does not dictate that Calgary’s nightlife will flourish, but it will mean more people shopping, eating and participating downtown.

Seattle seems to ooze attitude, but one never gets the impression it’s an overly active city at night. People know that Seattle is the birthplace of both Starbucks and Nirvana, and it shows as shops sell everything from Space Needle spoons, to "I Love Seattle" T-Shirts. It is an historic city, but tacky in the same breath. It has a certain character that emanates from its market places and pier system, but a large segment of the population empties out at night. Still, the overwhelming character of the city makes it more interesting to visit than forever modernizing Calgary.

Vancouver, on the other hand, is Western Canada’s city that never sleeps. While it too has pushed the boundaries of urban sprawl to the limit, it still remains a vibrant city within its core. Vancouver has experienced a major influx of foreign investment since Expo ’86 and this has helped to sustain the lifestyles of former Hong Kong millionaires. It is the temperate climate that allows its people to be out on the streets every night of the week. Late nights on Broadway, Denman and Robson all shape the culture that exists in Vancouver.

Don’t get me wrong, Calgary has its finer points too. Calgary is a cleaner city than either of the other two and sometimes seems safer. Granted safety is becoming doubtful after recent startling cases. Calgary is a growing city and it feels like there’s still plenty of opportunity to be a part of something greater. Although I like both of the other cities, I haven’t made any plans to get out of Dodge. I guess when it really comes down to it there are only two things you can do when your hometown’s not up to snuff: fix it or leave.

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