THE small town life is not for us.
You can take your country livin’. Give us residents of Vancouver's North Shore (pop. 178,000) the bright lights of Dundarave on a Saturday night (before 7:30), and the hustle of Capilano Mall the day before school starts.
Yes, we’re city slickers. We need 12 movies in two cinemas available to us every day after 6, plus weekend matinees. We require the option of slipping into a black turtleneck and beret to take in the latest art-house films, The Smurfs and Glee: The 3-D Concert Movie, in back-to-back, popcorn-fuelled sessions, followed by a feverish dissection of their plots at J.J. Bean.
A reality-based TV series called “Sex and the City of North Vancouver and Districts of North and West Vancouver” would reveal that most of us own at least three pairs of shoes, only two of them ideal for trail walks.
When it comes to sophisticated drinking, we’re way past cosmos and well into mojitos on the North Shore. And if the Raven Pub served a cocktail called Sex on Cates Park Beach, it would arrive garnished locovore-style, with three barnacles and a miniature Deep Cove honey doughnut.
We’re movers and shakers, and not just when we find spiders in our thongs. Our drive to be cool is so intense that Vancouver magazine and Western Living ignore us. They’re intimidated.
So it’s natural that when a metropolitan dame like myself ventures to the north half of Vancouver Island, its uncivilized ways come as rather a shock. My husband Stanley and I went there once for a getaway at a food fest celebrating the region’s produce and cuisine. Like any self-respecting urban couple, we planned to drink the local mead and sample winkleberry chutney and marmot milk brie. I meant to test out any spa amenities that might be on offer -- Botox, anthrax or whatever keeps the women of Vancouver Island moist-cheeked and glistening.
I also had an ulterior motive. A couple of friends were thinking of moving from Alberta to this fast-growing region, a magnet for Calgarians wanting to spend their oil money on a place that remains green in February. I needed to figure out how often I’d want to visit and mooch off them once they made the jump.
Their reasons for retiring there had so far left me cold. “What’s the big attraction?” I’d asked, having once zipped blandly through the area en route to somewhere else. They’d droned on about cross-country skiing, boating, hiking -- all that stuff that’s a dime a dozen in B.C. In this particular spot on the Island, they claimed, they could do it for half the price it would cost on the North Shore, with no bridge traffic or bears.
“Hmm,” I’d said skeptically. I’d suggested they relocate to Lynn Valley instead, assuming they could handle our relentless pace. But their eyes were dancing with fantasies of breakfasting on freshly made whole wheat cinnamon buns, then hopping into their kayaks, one of them playing jazz flute to rambunctious whales while the other trolled for mermaids.
Anyhoo, Stanley and I arrived, in the pouring rain, at a local resort on the edge of nowhere, but not so close to nowhere that you got any kind of view. Now what were we supposed to do? We couldn’t even get the Food Network. Spa amenities? Ha! Even the hot tub was on the fritz.
The people at the nearby food fest were friendly, I’ll grant you that. They didn’t give you the hairy eyeball like they do here in the bigs when you do something unconventional, like eat your restaurant sushi with ketchup and a fork. An awful lot of them seemed to be growing organic food, and making tasty stuff out of it. Nevertheless, I had a hunch that these godforsaken barbarians hadn’t been to a movie in years, and that nobody there was aware that Justin Timberlake was the new Cary Grant.
Nor were there any newspapers available from central Canada (“Heard of it? Hell-o!” I longed to scream). On learning this, I gazed around our hotel’s shop, aghast. Yes, its dusty shelves were crowded with local products, but how much fireweed honey does a person really need, I asked myself. How would these simple-minded, honey-guzzling rubes find out that yellow was in, Oprah was gone, and that Jersey Shore’s The Situation had been bribed to stop wearing Abercrombie & Fitch?
My heart, such as it is, filled with a briny liquid I suspected was pity as I scraped the naturally sweet heirloom tomato seeds off my faux-cashmere socks and trudged off to read the Globe online – assuming I could find WiFi.
It was impossible to imagine how people coped long-term in such primitive conditions. The next day, when the ferry finally delivered us to Horseshoe Bay, I blew the North Shore’s earth a worldly-wise kiss. Home, sweet home.