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Physical State of Matt #0: Vancouver, WA

After the separation from my wife, I found my new, temporary home in Vancouver, Washington not to be confused with Vancouver, British Columbia. 

Although both cities are named after the same British explorer, George Vancouver, they have little in common. Vancouver, BC is a bustling, cosmopolitan city, home to 2.7 million Canadians. Vancouver, WA (or "The Couve") lies on the north shore of the Columbia River just over the bridge from Portland and, despite being Washington’s fourth largest city with 190K people, has a chill, small-town vibe.

(Esther Short Park, downtown Vancouver, WA. Photo Credit:

I have lived in big cities since leaving my hometown of Ithaca, NY, and was unsure how I would adjust to living somewhere as small as Vancouver. I found a short-term, furnished apartment in downtown, right across the street from Esther Short Park, which hosts a weekly farmers market and live music events in the summer. As it turns out, I really enjoy living where most things are available within a short walk and people recognize and greet you on the street. With Portland just a short drive away, I’ve really had the best of both worlds. Easy access to everything a big city has to offer and a chill place to come home to.

The culture in Vancouver is very different from Portland’s. While PDX is “keeping it weird”, The Couve is more conservative. It gets rural very quickly once you get out of downtown, and that gives Vancouver a touch of country flavor. 

(Downtown Vancouver, WA with mountains in the distance)

My experience of Vancouver can be exemplified by the varied character of my two favorite neighborhood watering holes: 

The Grocery Cocktail and Social is a hip, but accessible, spot with hand crafted cocktails made from all Washington-made spirits. Music is piped out of a turntable behind the bar, right next to individual cubbies where each of the bartenders stores their vinyl collections. Grab a spot at the bar, and you’ll find the bartenders and fellow patrons more than happy to strike up a conversation on any topic from philosophy to video game collectibles. 

One block away Six Shooter, as you might guess, has a country-western thing going on. Depending on the night, there might be karaoke or dancing, but there are always jell-o shots and a full menu. As one of only two bars in downtown open until 2:00am, Six Shooter can get pretty rowdy on the weekends. On a regular Saturday they will have 4 or 5 burly (super friendly) bouncers, and fights or physical ejections are a regular occurrence. 

Overall, I didn’t explore Vancouver properly but I enjoyed my time here. I found The Couve a great place to pick up the pieces, refocus my energy, and gather my will for the journey ahead. It will always have a special place in my heart and I will miss it.


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