Emily Carr once referred to Canada as something “sublime” that you are born into, a “great rugged power that you are a part of.” From my very beginning, I understood what she meant: I was a west-coast Canadian.
Most of my west-coast Canadian towns were small: White Rock, before it was a haven for wealthy downtowners, and islands two steps off Vancouver Island and one away from being completely unknown.
During these defining years, the places I lived had an average of about 3,000 occupants, provided you didn’t count summer residents (and you never should).
If you mentioned an Ivy school to me, I would have flashed on a rundown, three-room middle school nearby somehow becoming entangled in the green vines. Taxis were the mode of transportation for black-and-white movie characters.
Going out for seafood meant pulling on a pair of black rubber gumboots and clomping across a muck of beach freshly uncovered by the tide to shovel for clams or oysters. In cities you have Red Lobster; in places like this you have red tide. (The two still seem equally dangerous in my eyes.)
New York was a mythical place, like Paris, Rome, or Narnia. And had you asked me then, I probably would have put more likelihood on my walking through my closet to C.S. Lewis’s snowy wood than ever packing up for Manhattan.
TRADING THE WEST COAST FOR MANHATTAN
Years later, in a Vancouver apartment and a fit of frustration with the rain, the wanting publishing scene of British Columbia, and the fact that another damp, grey winter was lurking a page over on the calendar, I was ready to throw in the towel. But Manhattan was the last place on my mind, and, to be truthful, had always been.
I had yet to pay it a visit, but had developed an idea of it in my head as a pulsating sea of people packed into an area the size of, oh, Stanley Park-all of them paying $20 for a beer at a bar and sacrificing a kidney if they actually wanted dinner, too.
This was not for a lack of hearing positive things about New York, because New Yorkers love New York, and when they leave it, they never replace it with another city or stop extolling its virtues to those who will listen. But my life had bred a strong craving for the mellow warmth (both literal and figurative) synonymous with the west coast.
The reason I now go to sleep at night in a pre-war walk-up in the East Village is fairly simple: copious amounts of champagne. The romantic, celebratory drink is a danger in its own right, and beware when you imbibe; you, too, could wind up across the continent.
The more drawn-out back story involves the re-emergence of a best friend’s high school boyfriend, a broken toe, and a shaman, but the gist is such: I moved to New York because-why not? Because of love and said love happening to live in (and love) New York.
Because we all have a fear of growing old and settling in and losing the phase of life where we took chances and had adventures. And the restaurants were supposed to be good. Read more on New York here.