Top 5 things I miss about Vancouver

Posted: 15th February 2013 by Keith MacKenzie in top 5, Woburn
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Miss the rain? No effin’ way. But there’s something about it…

Now that we’ve been in Massachusetts for more than five monthS, I find myself distanced enough from Vancouver to now contemplate what I might miss about that place, in direct relation to life in Woburn, Massachusetts.

So without further ado, I present the top five things I miss about Vancouver:

1) The lush greenery

As much as I got tired of the constant “Vancouver’s the most beautiful city in the world!” caterwaulings of the masses, I always thought it was pretty spectacular for its mossy trees, soggy lawns, muddy trails, moist air, and all-around fresh nature in the city. When we were living in New Westminster, we were blessed with a brilliant view of the Fraser River from our balcony, and the coastal mountains to the north.

In Woburn and environs, the closest thing to such nature is the Middlesex Fells Reservation, an admittedly awesome slice of green plunked right in the midst of the urban and industrial sprawl. It, however, doesn’t have the thick pine forests of Stanley Park, so in the winter it’s an endless field of naked trees without their leaves. Not quite Siberia, but you know what I’m saying. The walks are nice, and there are small rivers, lakes and bogs, but for goodness’ sake, it’s not quite the same.

2) Don’t have to drive so much

Boston itself is blessed with a very efficient transportation system, with one of the nation’s oldest subways crisscrossing throughout the city and buses linking it to the outer regions. Commuter rails go out like bicycle spokes in all directions to places as far away as Lowell (1 hour northwest) and Salem (45 minutes northwest), so if you’re lucky enough to live near a train station or a subway station, you’re doing just fine. Even better if you live in Boston proper, because then you’d never need a car to get anywhere.

That being said, if you live outside of Boston – as I do – you do require those noisy, gas-guzzling hunks of machinery. The commuter rails I speak of only connect you to Boston and back, but not to each other. So if you wanted to go from Woburn to the next town over, such as Lexington, you’d have to drive because there aren’t any real bus lines that connect the two.

I may have been spoiled by living just off Main Street in Vancouver for three years, and living three blocks from the SkyTrain in New Westminster for three more years, but I do miss life without the absolute need for a car.

3) Um, the rain?

God, no. I don’t miss the end-of-the-world signs of Armageddon that Vancouver faces every November as the city launches into a repetitive 29-out-of-30-day rain marathon. But what I do miss is the fresh air that does come with the rain. It may just be the wintertime here in Massachusetts, but it’s much drier here. Sunnier to be sure, but still drier. When it does rain – and that happens once in every two or three weeks – I wake up the next morning feeling incredibly refreshed, and when I step outside, the air smells so amazingly fresh and cool and refreshing in my lungs. That’s what I miss about the rain, not the rain itself.

4) Bike lanes

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson may be the subject of numerous jokes thanks to his stubborn insistence on turning all of Vancouver into one massive bike lane, but he’s got some method to his madness. I, for one, can bike most anywhere I want in the city, and I mean anywhere. In my own lane. Without being flattened into road pancakes by 18-wheeler semis hungry for breakfast.

In Woburn, and even in Boston itself, bike lanes are a little harder to come by. I’ve seen people riding their bikes on the left side of the road against traffic numerous times, without helmets, probably because it’s safer that way. Many ride their bikes on sidewalks for the same reason. It kind of leads to the point where my bicycle is now in hiberation for who knows how long. Which isn’t a great thing in my books.

5) The metric system and spelling differences

OK, this is a weird one. I – like any Canadian in my generation – grew up with the strange hybrid of measuring my height in feet and inches but calculating distances in kilometres. Not kilometers – kilometres.

That aside: here, in Massachusetts, the metric system is favoured – I mean, favored. For instance, it’s 34 degrees Fahrenheit right now in Woburn’s city centre – I mean, center. Not 1 degree Celsius as it would be in Vancouver.

And when someone says something’s three miles up the road, sometimes I have to think about whether that means a quick jaunt or a bit of a drive. But at least I can tell people I’m six feet tall and people know exactly what I mean.

Most people know that 32 degrees Fahrenheit is 0 degrees Celsius. But what if someone tells you it’ll be mid-40s tomorrow? Does that mean balmy T-shirt weather or bring your coat? Not entirely sure. And if it’s 20F, does that mean just below freezing or “Gosh darn, it’s c-c-c-cold outside!”?

And what about boiling water? 100C, OK, but what is it in Fahrenheit? God knows.

See, there’s a certain logic to the metric system. Zero is freezing, 100 is boiling. And 1 kilometre = 1000 metres = 100,000 centimetres = 1,000,000 millimetres. See? Easy. And we like to end our words with “re” and not “er”, and throw an occasional “u” into the mix just to make it fun. It’s the honourable way to do it, y’all.

BUT: Lest ye think we’re pining for our previous home – we’re not. In that spirit, watch for my next blog entry about the top five things I don’t miss about Vancouver. Stay tuned!

  1. Regina, SK. says:

    We too are so ingrained in the metric system that we don’t know for sure what the other system means any longer!!! Glad you are enjoy life in Boston & all that it has to offer for now!
    Cousin Sharie

  2. Dr Chris says:

    Keith, you added a wee factor of 10 too many in your metric conversion ;-) 1 km = 1,000,000 mm.

    Good post though buddy. As we speak it is sunny and we’re about to have cinnamon buns & coffee on the patio. And Kes is back, so all is well with the world!