Friday, July 20, 2007

Coming-of-Age Fables

As a kid, I never liked the story The Country Mouse and the City Mouse. It didn't appeal to my sensibilities, I suppose, because I could never identify with it. Growing up in an isolated community in northern Alberta with a population just big enough to barely be considered a city, I didn't understand the polar personalities juxtaposed in the classic children's book. I was neither a Country Mouse or a City Mouse.

It's the age-honoured North American coming-of-age story told time and time again through literature, movies, reality television series and bible stories. As twenty-somethings, we seek our adulthood through an escape from familiar surroundings. We laugh at the comedies featuring city folk in the country, floundering their way through manure, and at the country folk and their fashion mishaps in their first weeks in their new college dorms. We can see ourselves in these characters, one way or the other, and identify with their misunderstandings at the other way of life. The Country Mice head to the city, and the City Mice try to find a way back to nature.

We're perpetually living stereotypes, a la Pauly Shore in the Son in Law.

I feel like the title of this blog should be Country Mouse/City Mouse. I feel like I'm perpetually chronicalling my love affair with the differences. It's not that I'm neither mouse: I'm both.

Right now, I'm in Vancouver, blending seamlessly into the sidewalk masses as I navigate easily through the perpetual oncoming barrage of umbrellas and raindrops. Alex, the City Mouse who moved to a Country City, is here for a conference. I tagged along to visit family and indulge in all the vegetarian food the West Coast has to offer.

We arrived Wednesday morning, and I sulked as my glasses became covered in precipitation, and exhaustion from our early flight burned behind my eyes. After a solid nap, I was ready to go, to conquer a city that I once planned on moving to, but know so little about.

There's always power in travel, in its anonymity. There's comfort in coffee alone in the west coast bistros, a book and journal for company.

I always want to carefully note the differences, but not to let on that I don't belong.

Andrew and I spent yesterday wandering through Stanley Park, taking wrongs turns and only occasionally pulling out a worn map.

While Alex is awed by mountains, I'm awed by the timelessness of the trees, of their superiority over us. Upturned by last year's windstorms, they still continue to grow, their roots sucking up the moisture of the B.C. rainforest, and their limbs covered in ivy and ferns, sprouting new green buds of life.

These City Ducklings didn't flinch when I leaned in to take their picture. I could nearly envision their tuxedos and monocles. They weren't the type to wear overalls and hold straw in their beaks.

Winding down the trails, we ended up at the Vancouver Aquarium, where Andrew plotted to steal a basilisk, and I nurtured my misanthropic tendancies as I watched hoards of tourists with screaming children take pictures with flash.

The jellyfish exhibit was easily my favourite, although I'm terrified of the creatures.

Ten years ago, in Mexico, I was stung on my legs by tiny jellyfish while snorkelling. I've hated both jellyfish and snorkelling since.

Andrew met a hot girl at the aquarium, Heather. Too bad she was so short. . .and a cardboard cutout.

When we started walking back to my hotel, the sun burst through the clouds and the rain stopped, nothing less than miraculously. The forecast had predicted 25-30 mm of rain in 3 days, alone.

The city suddenly came alive, sucking up the light and the warmth, the people taking pleasure in not being weighed down by their oppressive umbrellas.

I'm in love with places in the way that I'm in love with people.

They can be unforgiving, confusing and hostile, but it's the differences that always make them worthwhile.

In two days, it's back to the country again. I don't want to leave quite yet, but I know that I'll still relish in my country life, even if I don't own a proper pair of coveralls or stick straw between my teeth.


  1. Anonymous7:04 PM

    The Vancouver Aquarium rules!

    Also I recommend Tsunami Sushi on Robson. It's cool.

  2. How many times must I explain. I am not a city mouse. I grew up on the edge of a hick town. Your analysis is incorrect.

  3. I think you missed the point. It doesn't matter where you grew up or came from.

  4. I've heard some scary things about Tsunami Sushi. I recommend Shabusen for all your sushi needs.

    Altho, this city is obsessed with Sushi and I think it's rather silly. My opinion: go anywhere that isn't a sushi place. In Vancouver Sushi is every bit as common as starbucks and 7-11.

  5. I think I would like LA a little more if it were actually a city. It is not a city, by any stretch of the imagination. It is an experiment in urban sprawl that has been left to fester for 50 years too long. It is a bizarro-world where people water the desert in a vain attempt to prevent the Colorado River from reaching the sea -- a synthetic super-fund site full of smog and ego where the housing-developments, big-box stores and Hummers are as numerous as the sands.

    Thats why I moved to the mountains and bought a banjo.

    -Country Mouse Extrodinare

  6. Anonymous10:46 PM

    I just took, and posted, the same jelly fish picture. Weird.