Today I decided to bite the bullet and head into the city proper. It’s not like Vancouver is a big city but when each step unleashes another barrage of memories, it can be a bit like walking through treacle. I’m not sure if I should be taking photos of everything or nothing considering that the only other person to whom they’d mean anything has taken them all before and with far more skill.
I started in Chinatown, it being a quick walk from my place, up through familiar streets, passed familiar shops and landmarks skirting very near Vancouver’s badlands. For all my adoration of this near perfect city, it does have quite a desperate underbelly largely attributed to it being the largest port for drug importation in North America (also the comparatively mild climate makes sleeping rough an option rather than a death sentence). All you need do is head east of downtown to know that this isn’t a city of dreams for all its citizens.
I pushed onto Gastown, the heart of the historic district and home of the famous steam clock – annoying those in earshot every 15 minutes with its whistling. On previous visits, a trip to Gastown felt little more than a tourists obligation so I was surprised to find it very much revived with uber trendy restaurants, cafes and bars and more than a couple of designer furniture shops.
With time on my hands and the threat of rain, I decided to seek refuge in a nearby cinema and take in a second screening of Source Code. Now that I’ve been to Chicago and was in a more stable mood, I was interested to see it in context and I wasn’t disappointed. I held back on shouting out ‘I’ve been there!!!’ but it was cool to recognise the locations and my beloved bean. I also picked up this time around that Scott Bakula was the voice of Jake Gyllenhaal’s father, very nice touch given the subject matter of ‘leaping’ into someone else’s body to change the course of events. 4 stars.
Then I did what I must do, it hit downtown to find it augmented though largely unchanged. I visited The Bay (department store) where Matthew used to work in the menswear department. As I walked the familiar aisles, I again got that very strange sensation that it wasn’t somewhere I should be lest I bump into other-world-Naomi and alert her to upcoming events in her tragic future. With the prime directive in mind, I beat a hasty retreat.
Back on the street, people swarmed all around in blue and green jerseys and oversized foam hands. Every bus showed its destination as “Go Canucks Go!” and every shop front similarly declared their support. It could only mean one thing – hockey night and the whole city was in on it. Bearing in mind that this could be the game to get them into the finals, excitement was at fever pitch. With no plans for the evening, I decided to join the fray for anthropological purposes. It was that or sit home alone.
I headed down to Yaletown to take up a position in the Yaletown Brewery – big enough that I could be there alone without looking too pathetic or conspicuous and just sit back and take in the scene. The staff handed out inflatable clapper sticks just in case the shouting wasn’t loud enough.
About a third of the way into game, I was noticed making notes in my book by the table next to me – probably not exactly normal game etiquette but it was an ad break and I didn’t know what else to do. Introductions were made and I was promptly adopted into their Canadian/Irish family reunion. Canadian brothers, Ryan and Kenny, Canadian cousin Trina and partner Jay and cousin Martin and partner Nicola all the way from Donegal, Ireland. A few beers and another third in, I felt like I was the long lost cousin from Down Under.
The game went into double overtime when finally the Canucks scored the only point of the match which put them straight into the finals. The pub erupted, clapper sticks burst, towels were waved (this is a whole other tradition for another time) and foreigners declared their oaths of never ending fandom.
The party took to the streets and we rushed out to join it – Granville Street was a sea of blue and green and the noise from the triumphant crowd was earsplitting. I missed the Sydney Olympics because I was here. I missed the Vancouver Olympics because I was in Sydney and have regretted missing out on that elusive ‘spirit’ yet here I was immersed in what everyone recognised as the same feeling and it was joyous.
After some time revelling in it, the decision was made to move to another pub and I was invited to tag along which I did. We stayed there until closing time but you have to remember, we were with Irish people so that didn’t mean the drinking needed to end, the party just moved to the family home where they were all staying. They invited me to join them – in for a penny, in for a pound and off I went to not stop until I dropped!