I’m writing this in the library at Renfrew Park Community Centre, waiting while my son’s at a martial-arts class. Just walking in here, I got all choked up.

I guess most places in North America have these scattered around. Quite likely lots of other places round the world too, only I’ve never been to any because they’re emphatically for locals, usually. They’re where you find gyms and meeting rooms and swimming pools and rinks and libraries, in some combination.

In Vancouver, they’re pretty well all busy all the time. There are aerobics and yoga and swimming and karate and committees happening here. And in the library, lots of people online and lots of people reading and some just taking refuge from the mean streets, hanging out. Lauren asked me to look for a movie and it wasn’t here, but I accidentally picked up Home Fires by Gene Wolfe, No Enemies, No Hatred by Liu Xiaobo, and African Guitar Summit.

Nothing about the centre is luxurious, but it’s comfy and convenient and has staff to help people out; mostly unpestered and bored on a Thursday evening. There is a woman with a field-hockey stick looking at manga, and another in a wheelchair in the mysteries, and a muscular guy with aggro tatoos reading Franklin the turtle to a toddler.

I’m sitting in a beat-up but OK soft chair using the WiFi (you have to have a library card) which is klunky to get on, and fades in and out a bit, but good enough to blog and write code by.

My city taxes aren’t terribly high, and still we have enough to provide this. I am lucky, so lucky, swimming in the water of a working civic society where we take not-terrible care of each other; and have community centres.

Like David Brin says: “I am a member of a civilization.” Yup.



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From: Bud Ryerson (Jun 06 2013, at 21:49)

Your standards for "civilization" seem pretty modest. Either that, or your high. I get that way too sometimes... gee, it's all so beautiful! I hope San Francisco can be more like Vancouver someday. Enjoy.

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From: Marcus (Jun 07 2013, at 05:43)

Oh no, not modest. It might seem little, but I believe that it's not great buildings, technology or whatever that makes us civilized. It's the everyday stuff like this.

You're lucky, Tim.

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From: AmbroiseBachot (Jun 07 2013, at 06:54)

Your last paragraph is beautifully poignant. It's like a prayer or lament for a 21st century Canadian. I can almost imagine it recited in High Church manner:

[Now, let us affirm our faith by reciting:]

My [] taxes aren’t terribly high, and still we have enough to provide...

I am lucky, so lucky, [to swim] in the water of a working civic society,

where we take not-terrible care of each other;

and have community centres.

[Amen]

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From: David Clarke (Jun 07 2013, at 09:59)

Tim, very pleased to see your kind words about Renfrew Park Comunity Centre and the fact Vancouver's residents have access to Community Centre's throughout the city. It's Community Associations that help foster that good feeling you describe, if any of your readers want to learn more about the Associations running each Vancouver Community Centre in partnership with the City, they are invited to go have a look here: https://www.placespeak.com/topic/609-vancouver-community-centre-associations/

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From: Rob (Jun 07 2013, at 13:56)

These places are often the very last bridgehead across the digital divide, and where eloi and morlock can meet.

When times were hard that was my own sole access point, and as I found at the time, librarians make very poor steely-eyed gatekeepers of knowledge against those for whom the nominal fee of a library card might not be so nominal at all. Downright traitorous gatekeepers in fact. They've been part of the information-wants-to-be-free crowd for several millenia, after all.

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From: Tony Fisk (Jun 10 2013, at 06:09)

I hear tell that Margaret Thatcher once claimed that there was no such thing as society. So what are these places?

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