Thursday, January 27, 2011

Impressions of a City


Rain …... Arrived in Vancouver at my small apartment hotel to find that there was no elevator – I was on the 3rd floor and faced 40 stairs up to my rooms, and 40 stairs down to the lobby (plus another eight up to the garage) …... Unloading all the baggage I brought for my 2½ month stay and trekking up the stairs with it proved to be a nightmare ….... Each day for 2½ months – up and down ….... Rain …... Walking in the rain in a completely waterproof coat ….... Despite the rain, taking a daily early morning walk along the Stanley Park seawall and finding that some of my favourite sections are closed for repair …... Wondering at the calm water in the vast expanse of English Bay …... Looking out over the water and seeing 27 geese, one behind the other, paddling merrily along (no V-formation on the water) …... Rain …... A dragon boat whose cox has a voice loud enough to reach my ears from a quarter-mile away …... Cargo ships at anchor at the mouth of the Bay, all painted the same colours (black upper structure, rusty red below), awaiting their turn to go north to dock in the Burrard Inlet …... Aircraft in the distance, disappearing behind Point Grey as they descend to land at Vancouver Airport …... Rain …... Clouds dipping low, dark grey, pregnant with water about to fall …... Translink …... A monthly pass that allows me to travel anywhere in the Translink system …... A trip to the airport on the Skytrain, which acts like a roller-coaster as it approaches the airport …... On the return journey, a chance meeting with Bron Johnson, a young actor who appeared in a play I directed at the Powerhouse, It Runs in the Family, hugs and catching up with each other's news before he had to get off the train …... Rain …... A day with family …... Talking and playing Pretend with two terrific grandchildren …... Happy lunches with in-laws on the North Shore – how lucky we are to have Ursula and George in our lives …... Exploring downtown Vancouver …... Surprised to find that the north end of Granville Street has now been opened up to buses …... Overhearing a conversation between two prostitutes as they walked along the street – the older one advising the younger, greener one “Now, if he says this, then you should reply like this. But, on second thoughts, just be yourself, and” ….. Sloshing through Vancouver's first snowfall of the winter – heavy, wet snow that our bus found hard to deal with, at one point skidding sideways to a halt halfway across a junction …... Rain washing away the snow …... Sitting day after day in Room 55 at the Vancouver Courthouse, that stunning Arthur Erickson building with a huge glass roof that runs almost the length of a city block …... Beautiful oak woodwork in the courtroom, scarlet carpeting throughout ….. Look at the floor carefully, and you can see that the carpet is composed of squares, so that, if damaged or stained, they can be replaced easily …... The judge, in sober black robes, seated on high …... The barristers, in sober black robes, their backs to the public, standing to address His Lordship …... Civility and polite exchanges - “Your Lordship”, “My friend”, “My learned friend” …... Opening my notebook, scribbling notes as fast as I could …... Rain …... Buffet luncheons in the Court House Inn …... Meeting Spencer, the court stenographer, and being invited to approach his position just below the judge's bench, to see how court reporting is now done by computer – no more five-key 'typewriters' – technology marches on …... Meeting and talking with many people – lawyers, clerks, members of the public, witnesses, media …... Listening intently to argument and counter-argument …...Rain …... Meeting Nancy, a total stranger whose name was forwarded to me by a friend, and with whom I shared a tasty Greek lunch …... Davie Street, the smallest Tim Horton's I have ever seen (about 12 feet square!), shops catering to any possible food preference …... Taking a trolley bus from Davie & Granville to 4th & Vine, and coming to an unexpected halt at the southern end of Granville Street Bridge – workers up ahead fixing a broken switch on the overhead wires – a supervisor telling our driver to “go up to Broadway, turn right and coast down Fir Street” - passengers remonstrating – most got out to walk, I stayed put – a couple of minutes later the supervisor telling our driver to bring down his overhead poles, coast around the overhead work being done, stop and put up the poles again …... I didn't know trolley buses could travel without being attached to their overhead wires, but our driver told us each bus has a $20,000 battery for very short distance emergency travel …... The comforting sound of Psshhhh as the front end of the bus is lowered at stops where people need a less difficult step up into the bus …... Rain mixed with a few teeny-tiny snowflakes …... My little Prius had an argument with one of the pillars in the tiny parking area below the hotel as it tried to manoeuvre its way out into the alley. The front passenger door was scraped and scored...... On Christmas Eve out to the airport to meet husband David upon his return from a ten-day holiday in Havana, (with son Adam as his guide), and tearing hell for leather for the noon ferry to Bowen Island, catching it by the skin of our teeth, and leaving Horseshoe Bay two minutes later. Never cut it that close before! …... Gale force winds and heavy,lashing rain ...... Reached our warm and welcoming B&B to learn that we were to be the only guests there over the holiday …... Christmas morning with Harry Potter in his Hogwart robes, and a Fairy Princess in flowing mauve gown and a princess's hat ….... Playing and talking, talking and playing …... Helping prepare food for a sumptuous dinner, more talking and laughter during the meal …... Drying a humungous pile of dishes afterwards …... Met up for a return dinner with the family in Vancouver …... The next day, laid low by a horrible lurgie – heavy cold and cough that came out of nowhere …... and the sun shone brilliantly for several days …... Managed to take a lengthy walk along the foreshore with David, who took good care of me …... This morning, a bald eagle circled lazily a few feet above a nearby condo building …... On New Year's Day took a leisurely stroll down to the beach to watch the Polar Bear Swim at English Bay. There must have been at least ten thousand others with the same idea. And there were hundreds of dogs – big white fluffy ones, small white fluffy ones, a yappy Jack Russell, a gorgeous beige pug with majestic stride, older Labs and Goldens, a Newfie Duck Troller, a beautiful Weimaraner – sadly, not a single mutt in sight ...... Temperature about 2C, brilliant blue sky, blinding sunshine, I made my way across the sand to within about 20 feet of the water and watched (crazy ijit) swimmers heading out towards the squadron of sailboats, surfboards, motor boats, dragon boats, rowboats and a police boat – all ready to save anyone who got into difficulty. Two swimmers with reindeer headgear really did look like deer in distress! …... As the crowds dispersed, I couldn't help but think of the Stewart/Colbert rally in Washington on that late summer day, when Jon Stewart pleaded for civility and respect among the people of his country - “You go, no you go” he said ...... Those Canadians, on that day, in that place, personified the cooperation and – yes – politeness that Jon Stewart so longed for in his own country. No-one pushed, no-one swore, no-one held up disparaging signs - there was no hate …... There were just Canadians being Canadian …... It was a memorable couple of hours ….. And then the rains came …... again …... Court re-opened for the final phase of the polygamy reference …... The Courthouse a huge ice-cold box on the 5th floor, where the reference is taking place in Room 55 …... Removing coat and vest when entering the room, replacing same in order to go to the ladies room or the restaurant …... Water mixed with slushy snow streaming down the glass roof overhead …... Cold and rain …... David flew home after the day's session on 5th January …... I miss him – the endearments, the execrable puns, the crossword puzzles, the hugs, the long conversations about things that interest us …... Making a detour to another courtroom to be present at the sentencing of Inderjit Singh Reyat - taller than I imagined, dignified, totally impassive …... Nine years minus credit for time already served (17 months) …... Sunshine – a weekend break in the weather and a fierce, body-punching wind that scoured out the rain and dried off the roads …... The following morning I took a 35-minute walk along the seawall, noted ten little kayaks silhouetted against the pinkening morning sky and moving along on water that was no longer mirror-calm, but rolling in a small swell …... There, on the foreshore and pointing out to sea, a newly-felled tree, glistening a pale yellow, its bark gone, totally stripped of leaves, but still guarding its root-ball and naked stumps of branches – a victim of the wind and tides …... On the beach near the paddling pool a kayaker prepared to launch her craft into the noisy breakers …... I saw her a short while later, paddling determinedly to catch up with her friends …... Taking the car out for a short run, in order to keep its batteries in good order …... Snow! …... The snow came and went – not the 20cms. promised by Environment Canada, but a scarcely visible 2cms. that began to fall just before I went to bed and ended before I got up, and turned immediately to slush as the rain fell – no need for boots or concerns about slipping, sliding buses this time …... Today (13th January) it was warm enough - 9C - for flower buds to begin opening and bulbs to send out shoots. I half expected to see rhododendrons bursting into bloom! …... Weekend and a Robson Square birthday skating party with my grandchildren ...... A mini-rink with many skaters going round and round, children (and some beginning adults) using ice walkers, other adults skating either incredibly gracefully or windmilling arms as they tried not to fall down …... NanaJoJo guarding a pile of bags and coats ….... A mini-Zamboni (about a quarter the size of the real thing) polishing the ice for 20 minutes while Moms and children ate pizza outside the glass walls …... Then back to the ice for more skating …... Amazing how quickly non-skaters among the children found their balance on the blades …... Walking to the bus afterwards and noticing for the first time the polka-dotted sidewalks in downtown Vancouver – polka-dotted with ancient chewing gum and bubble gum in all kinds of colours …... Attended a UWC evening round table at Hycroft House, discussing the polygamy reference, and what actions/plans would be needed to get governments to act ….. what a beautiful old mansion that is …... And then …... Oh horror!! …... Tried to open my Hotmail account to find that just before 1am. in the morning my password had been changed. Ten minutes after that shock there was a phone call from my sister-in-law to say that she had just received an email from me asking for $1800! Then a phone call from my husband saying that the President of a local group at home had just received an email from me requesting $1800 …... Didn't know whether to laugh or cry …... Never been hacked like that before …... No more email from me for the remainder of my stay in Vancouver …... Rain ….... Took a seawall walk in a medium heavy downpour, and wore my wellies (rubber boots) this time. The child in me enjoyed sloshing and hopping through deep puddles that the fastidious adult would have avoided like the plague …... Am almost at the end of my stay in Vancouver and I wonder if, after 2½ months of going up and down those 40 steps, deliberately avoiding the handrail, my legs bench press will be greater than 90 lbs. …... I am packing and loading my things gradually over the next few days …... Every time I leave the hotel I take a bag of possessions to the garage and stow it away in the car …... it's working well so far – manageable weight and bulk for each trip …... Am watching the Weather Channel like a hawk, but conditions on projected departure dates keep changing – sunshine icon one day, blue raindrops the next …... Took the bull by the horns and decided that Thursday would be departure day …... must have made at least ten trips to load the car over a period of five days …... Set off from a cloudy Vancouver just after 8 o'clock, and made my way to Highway 1 …... No sunshine until a mile north of the old Toll Booth on the Coquihalla, then brilliant blue skies with a few clouds, and plus 13 degrees in the Merritt area …... A six-hour trip and thus my adventure has come to its end.

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