To make up for my first contribution to the Daily Gumboot (see Douchebags Series), I thought I would class it up a bit with some flashy phrases and ostensibly deep thoughts. Let’s talk like neighbours.
I recently moved from one neighbourhood to another. Neighbourhoods are sometimes places where communities take form. Sometimes neighbourhoods have nothing to do with community. One thing I did observe was the identity that came with the neighbourhood, not necessarily the community.
I’ll explain: many cities are made of very clearly defined and strongly defended neighbourhoods. These borders may be fuzzy at the lines, but make no mistake – there is identity lodged within those drawn social or political lines. It may be more than whom your Member of Parliament may be, more than when your garbage is taken from your curb, maybe even more than a collection of favourite shops and cafés. Yes, friends, your neighbourhood can be an emblem of your very soul.
Vancouver is a city of neighbourhoods. If Vancouver were the high school prom, Yaletown would arrive in the limousine, Point Grey would be sitting (sober) poised together as far from the dance floor as possible, the West End would be the dance floor, Main Street would stay outside jeering at the crinoline and suede (or wearing it, depending on irony), Commercial would wear their homemade threads, and my new neighbourhood, Kits, would be the shiny ones with the crowns and parent’s beamers.
Okay, so maybe it’s easy to throw clichés at neighbourhoods, especially when they’re as clearly demarcated as Vancouver.
But what if you don’t fit into your neighbourhood? What if you community looks and acts differently than your neighbours? Do you cease to be part of that community?
And what about your identity? Some might say that you are your neighbourhood, that the two are indivisible because of some ancient law that you choose your home and it forms you. Some might be dead wrong. Just like the jocks and drama geeks in high school, there are elements of each in the other. Occupying more than one group encourages cross-pollination; having more than one identity, though potentially confusing, can create stronger and more dynamic community. Think about it: you have a flock of birds of a certain feather and then all of a sudden you sink a duck in the middle – eventually those birds could start walking and talking differently.
So among the small dogs, lattes, early runs and BMWs (John and I once counted no less than 54 at the corner of Yew and 4th in less than an hour), there is a community within the neighbourhood within the city. And we could all do with a bit more cross-pollination if you ask me. Perhaps it shouldn’t be to each their own. Leave the ducking out of community for the birds.