Friday, 2 December 2022

Terminal City @ 30

It was thirty years ago today that the first edition of Terminal City hit the streets of Vancouver.

Dave Holden and I drove around the city in his mighty Subaru on Dec 2, 1992 delivering 16 pages of alternative newspaper awesomeness, shoving the paper into eager if bewildered hands of twentywhatevers at gigs throughout the night.

If you had asked 24 year-old me then what I thought Terminal City would be like in 2022, I think I would have gone with either success upon success, with 100 page editions each week, and finally – FINALLY – the mainstream media stranglehold of information would be broken OR I’d be still living in one of Vancouver’s many cheap apartments, keeping our small office alive to put out the next Quixotic edition.

I would not have thought that the last edition would be 18 years ago.

There are so many people who made the Terminal City story happen, hundreds really, and if I can’t name them all, I’m not going to try aside from Dave, Josie Ochej for without whom it never would have started, and my brother Graeme for without whom it would not have had its second and more prosperous life.

I loved working with everyone that came through: kids on their way up, starting in journalism; pros from elsewhere whose spiked stories found a home; and, probably the largest group, just brilliant people who wisely didn’t want journalism careers but wanted to write their specialities. Plus we brought in Savage Love, Real Astrology, Maakies.

Dave and TC also made the most important part of my life happen. Dave had an appointment with the president of Community Box Offices, then at 1234 West Hastings, to book an ad. I didn’t want to be there but Dave was my ride, and I hung out at the back of lobby. Out of the front office came one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. I decided then that Dave needed my help at the desk. But she kept on walking and Dave had his meeting with the president.

Back at the office, directly over the Town Pump, I asked Dave, ‘When’s the next meeting with Community Box Offices? Shouldn’t we discuss more advertising with them, there?’ Dave, of course, already had his contracts signed and didn’t need to go anywhere.

Days later, the miracle. Dave got a call. ‘Hey Darren, Community Box Offices has leased the whole floor. They want to know if we are interested into moving into a cheap office.‘

Martha and I were married in 2012.

Most Vancouverites know that Terminal City is an old nickname for Vancouver, referring to the Western terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

But people, usually those unfamiliar with the nickname but even some in the know who hoped for something deeper, asked me all the time: ‘What does the name Terminal City mean?’

I think there are three answers.

The first was a hint that the old ways were past and we were on the edge of an atomised, databased future. In 1992, the Internet was first opened to the public – even if most of us didn’t know that yet.

The second was just a straightforwardly cynical and nihilistic understanding of ‘Terminal’, and I can’t say that the deadpan 90s Terminal City never leaned into that.

But I always liked the third answer best: This is it. It’s the end of the line. Forget what was past, make peace with yourself, thrive with what you’ve got.

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