surrounding Stanley Park has high-risernapartments with high-rise rental fees.rnGranville and Maritime, once pristinernislands at the gateway of the harbor, arernnow built-up middle-class neighborhoodsrnwith museums and playgroundsrnand are the site of a world-famous bathtubrnrace—bathtubs outfitted with outboardrnengines racing across the harbor.rnBv any measure Vancouver has enteredrnthe ranks of the world’s greatest cities.rnYet this is only part of the story, perhapsrnthe least important part.rnWhen Vancouver was discovered byrnthe cognoscenti in the 60’s, it became arnmelting pot for every nationality andrnevery “lifestyle.” Its local government,rnas well as its atmosphere, promoted liberalrnideas, manifest in permissiveness.rnWhile the surrounding residents ofrnBritish Columbia are notably conservative,rnVancouver is latitudinarian. RobsonrnStreet—one of the main shoppingrnstreets—has a gravitational pull for thrillscckers,rnnot unlike Greenwich Village inrnNew York. When San Francisco startedrnto lose its allure in the 70’s, due in part tornthe enormous immigration there, manyrnof its residents headed north to Seattlernand Vancouver.rnhi Vancouver one is minutes from skiingrnand seconds from the beach. Kayakingrnand sledding are easily possible inrnthe same day. But these assets, alongrnwith the city’s permissiveness, haverncreated a dark underbelly apparent evenrnto the weekend tourist. Vancouver is inundatedrnwith freaks. They can be foundrnon every corner, in every alcove; therndrugged-out detritus of the 60’s has itsrncounterpart in the street beggars of thernpresent. Most are a peaceful, if annoying,rnpresence, but some are cloying andrnpersistent. The once peaceful streets ofrnVancouver are noisy with street sounds,rnand violence has raised its ugly head in arncity once devoid of it. From stately pastrnto decadent present, Vancouver hasrncaught the urban disease.rnMotorcyclists pierce the air with thernthrottle at full blast. Teenagers from thernFar East who barely speak English punctuaternevery sentence with the “f-word,”rnas if this is a sign of their newly discoveredrnmanhood. Homosexuals sit shirtlessrnin second-floor windows, eyeing thernparade of visitors on Robson Street. Thernthumping, pulsating sound of rock musicrnflows from the many clubs at street level.rnLike many cities, this one is a phantasmagoriarnof sights, sounds, and smells.rnIn .some was iincouver is surprising.rnNot only is this not the city of tworndecades ago, it is a city trying desperatelyrnto catch up with the excesses of urbanrnlife on the rest of the continent. Longrnhair on males once voguish elsewhere isrnclearly in vogue here. Earrings in thernnose and lips are almost a calling cardrnamong the young. Street musicians makernit hard to walk on the sidewalks. Andrnbeggars, mostly young, say with an air ofrnexperience, “Gan you spare somernchange?”rnLike many cities, Vancouver is a mixedrnbag. A walk through Stanley Park offersrnstaggeringly beautiful harbor scenes, andrnthe Douglas fir trees rise to the sky likerncenturions guarding the citv. There isrnsomething jejune, almost childlike, inrnthis city where play is a preoccupationrnand narcissism an obsession. Vancouverrndoes indeed retain some of its distinctiverncharacter.rnYet, this said, I don’t really carernwhether I see this place again. The hardnessrnalready evident on the streets willrnmost likely grow worse. The permissivenessrn(read: tolerance) will breed a newrngeneration of immigrants far more interestedrnin bringing their old ways tornGanada than in assimilating to the waysrnof their host country. This, too, will bernaccepted by a city caught in the griprnof urban pseudo-sophistication. ThernVancouver of my memory has faded,rnreplaced by a Vancouver shorn of itsrnromance and stateliness. It is merely arnbig city located in a beautiful spot. Perhapsrnit should simply be appreciated forrnwhat it is, since it will not recapture whatrnit once was.rn—Herbert Londonrn” A L L ARTISTS,” my old friend EdrnAbbey was fond of saying, “should haverntheir lips sewn shut.” Gertainly, to judgernby current trends in the art world, manyrnought to have their fingers broken, theirrneasels burned, their chisels hammeredrninto plowshares.rnWitness, to name but one instance,rnlast summer’s Kulturfest in sunny SanrnYsidro, Galifornia, where a group of socalledrnperformance artists dispensed tendollarrnbills to illegal aliens—beg pardon,rnundocumented workers—to demonstraternthe metaphysical resonance ofrncash. Whether the bewildered Mexicansrnand Gentral Americans whose photographsrngraced national newspapers gotrnthe point is a matter of speculation, butrnthey seemed pleased by the donors’rnlargess. That generosity was, of course,rnfederally funded until an embarrassedrnnational arts program pulled its grant.rnJust as silly is a recent excursion intornmobile art that had as its setting thernnormally sane state of Wyoming. Forrnreasons that have yet to emerge, a thirtysomethingrnpainter named Pip Brantrndecided that a herd of 111 cows on arnPinedale ranch was incomplete withoutrnthe application of her gifts. Bravely takingrnbrush in hand, she and two assistantsrnset about painting the poor bovines withrnone-word messages to some alien god:rn”EVERY.” “BIRDS.” “PARTS.” Forrnthis Ms. Brant received a grant of $4,000rnfrom a federally supported foundationrnin nearby Montana, a place artisticallyrnsober until folks like Jane Fonda andrnRobin Williams began buying uprnranches and Galifornicating the Big SkyrnState.rn•H^’/l^ f’fmr.rn’^Wm^.’^Mrn’fiyrnMs. Brant had lofty goals. “This isrnart,” she bleated, “that can be interpretedrnon many levels…. It’s a reflection ofrnthe fragmentation that’s happening inrnthe West and on another level it’s aboutrnspontaneous poetry since the cows arerngoing to randomly reorder the words forrnus and make new meanings.” Hmmm.rnPiling gibberish on gibberish, anotherrnlocal artist remarked. “It’s people whorndon’t understand how important cowsrnare that think they’re stupid. In ancientrntimes there were cow goddesses. Wernneed to look at how cows are linked tornnourishment, nurturing, and motherhood.rnOur idea is to propose an alternativernto the masculine winning of thernWest, to show women’s role in creatingrnregional culture here.” Someone bringrnus a needle and thread now, please.rnThis is a Weimar-like time when a femalernperformance artist can earn amplernfederal grants by inserting certain vegetablesrninto certain places you would notrnhave thought imaginable, when an Italianrnpainter can become a millionaire byrnvending cans of his own excrement.rnPainting foot-high block letters on cowsrnand tossing out dollars to visiting Latinosrnare innocuous by comparison, to be sure.rnFor all that, the time is ripe to question,rnonce again, whether the government’srnbusiness is to provide daily bread to thisrnasinine corps.rn—Gregory McNameernMAY 1994/9rnrnrn