With the missus convalescing from a bad cold and that unique form of overexposure caused by family, we opt for an undemanding train ride on the new Evergreen line to deepest darkest Coquitlam.
At Renfrew, we find a love seat with unobstructed views and settle in. Through a world temporarily freeze-dried into an ice-rink, squinting against the sun sitting low in a clear blue sky, we sail over the highway and steadily on through the Eastern Mallships.
At Loughheed Town Centre the train shifts tracks. No longer a circular route sharing a significant portion of the Expo Line, the Millennium Line now runs from VCC Clark to Loughheed Town Centre and back, or -via two-car trains like the one we’re riding- onto the Evergreen Extension to Port Moody and back into Coquitlam.
It starts with a quick confirmation that these above-grade capital megaprojects are less a response than a spur to growth. Pulling out of the station and turning due north, the first thing that greets these tired eyes is a sign for “The City of Lougheed,” a 40 acre master plan community with “23+ stunning high-rise towers, diverse neighbourhoods (sic), shopping and restaurants, striking architecture (sic) and the most connected SkyTrain hub in Metro Vancouver.” If you need something, talk to my Skytrain hub -it’s connected.
The first of the new stops is a local joke that I like to think of as the perineum of Metro Vancouver: Burquitlam. Even here, among the autobody shops, are freshly excavated craters.
Against the concrete and glass bunker with papered-up windows and expensive signage -“The Intersection of Life + Style”- the loose assemblage of unfranchised donair, pizza and coffee shops are the confluence of Living+ Dead. “How long before that turns into a Cactus Club?” she asks, indicating Rhino’s Pub and Liquor Store.
We go underground for a good stretch, turn east again, and resurface at Port Moody –or, rather- “Moody Centre.” (I make a note to stop by the next time I’m suffering the blues.) We pass on the subtle pleasures on offer at Inlet Centre, carry on to Coquitlam Centre, turn north and past Lincoln Centre –actually, just “Lincoln”- and get off at the next and terminal stop, Lafarge Lake-Douglas.
We’re at the foot of the snow dusted Westwood Plateau, itself framed by snow capped mountains. Not all that long ago I knew this place as The Edge of the Civilized World, a where you couldn’t easily distinguish the bears from the yahoos.
Now it’s a civic-commercial nexus, a mix of municipal hall, library and cultural and aquatic centres, with towers and heavily branded malls. (Excepting a surprise clutch of downmarket and idiosyncratic shops and eateries, as well as social service agencies, at Henderson Place.)
Mostly though, it’s just another burgh trading natural capital for a buck. The pines are falling on Pinetree Way, along with the detached homes. In their place a forest of towers and trees made of plastic and fiberglass.
Evergreen? Less green all the time.