Saturday, August 19, 2006

Blinded By The Light


C. and I first moved to Vancouver back in the go-go 80's just before Expo and Li Ka Shing came to town.

At the time, we lived in deepest Kitsilano while I went to gradual school* and C. worked at a Daycare a stone's throw from the lab where I toiled day and most nights.

Back then Kits, which is wedged between high density downtown and leafy Point Grey, was transitioning between the Hippietown it used to be and the Yuppieville it has since become.

Gordon Campbell was not yet mayor, the Soft Rock Cafe was still made out of wood, and there were peddlars and cheap places to eat and buy stuff up and down the entire length of 4th Avenue.

Which suited C. and me just fine because we had little money, very few possessions, and even fewer vices.

Although I quickly became hooked on the cheap-chocolate covered ice cream bars otherwise known as Revellos and C. soon developed a powerful Jones for the summer fireworks shows over English Bay.

Because tempation is a hard mistress for small town kids making their way in the Big City.


In the beginning the Fireworks Shows were orderly affairs and we took great delight in joining the boisterous, good-natured hordes just outside our apartment door that streamed down Cypress St. on their way to the waterfront.

Our favorite jumping off point, along with a few hundred others, was the little beach in front of the old Maritime Museum next to the Planetarium where we would spread out our blanket in the sand, lie down, gaze into the setting sun and begin chatting with our newfound neighbours as we waited for the show to begin.

C. loved the spectacle of it all, and she especially enjoyed the mass responses to each and every burst of burning phosphorous.

She still does.

Me, I actually found the fireworks themselves to be kind of anti-climactic. What's more I could never quite shake the feeling that we, the masses, were being played for suckers by the Barnum and Bailey Boys that were getting ready to sell us down The River.

Or The False Creek, as it were.


C. and I left town in the early 90's just as the NPA's backroom boys were setting their gigantic honeytrap for wayward developers while their designated outfront men (see: Campbell, Gordon and Puil, George) and women (see: Taylor, Carole and Clarke, Jennifer) did their best to protect the blackberry bushes of the Creme de la Creme while they simultaneously turned the rest of the city's public spaces, parks, institutions and events into a dysfunctional anti-collective that many soon began to call 'NoFuncouver'.

The NoFun moniker really began to stick after 1994's Stanley cup riots which, according to the magnificent Terminal City columns of the otherwise whacked-out merriest of pranksters Brian Salmi, caused things to spiral out of control as the unwarranted police searches and the incendiary words of VPD spokesmodels like Ann Drennan only served to goad the crowds at all public events into becoming scarier, surlier and inreasingly unruly.

Which is just another way of saying that Vancouver had changed when we returned not long after that in the mid '90's.

But C. and I had changed too; we had more possessions, a few more vices and our toddler, Tiny E., in tow.

I was however, still pining for Revellos, which seemed to have been banished from all of the city's corner store freezers by then, and C. still loved the Fireworks which we almost always watched from afar, often from the top of the hill at Trimble Park (see photo above).


These days Vancouver has gotten much of its public space groove back, thanks in large part to a short-lived, people-friendly civic government (see: Campbell, Larry; Green, Jim-notJames; Lewis, Tim; and Roberts, Ann) that re-opened the Libraries, invested in Parks and Neighbourhoods in all corners of the city regardless the thickness of their Creme, supported all manner of civic, arts and cultural events and, perhaps most importantly, got the VPD under control.

And C. and I and our latest neighbours in near East-side Kensington have benefitted from all of that.

Unfortunately, however, we were off travelling with the now Bigger E., and the younger, Vancouver-born Littler E., when the Fireworks came and went this year.

Which may not have been such a bad thing.

After all, according to SM Holman they are no longer designed to placate only the hoi-polloi.

Case in point, this year the new chairman of megaDeveloper Concord Pacific, Terry Hui, allowed all those who could afford it the opportunity to watch the show from his yacht while they no doubt sipped the bubbly and maybe even scarfed down a few high-end Hagen Dazs bars handed out by Mr. Campbell's current Minister in Charge of Paving, Kevin Falcon.

And the reported cost of this neo-atavistic excercise in creme-skimming?

Why, nothing short of a cool three thousand bucks.

Which would buy me a lifetime supply of Revellos if I could just find the darn things in this town.

Not to mention an actual, honest to goodness old time corner store to buy one in on my way home from the lab every day**.

*Gradual school is a place you go forever and ever until you gradually realize, often at someone else's behest, that you might just have to stop going some day.
**And no, 7/11's, Mac's, and gas station convenience outlets designed to look like a cut rate Starbucks don't count


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