Sunday, July 11th, 2004
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Man, they’re not kidding when they say “if you don’t like the weather in Vancouver, wait”. I checked the forecast before heading out yesterday morning and it said nothing about rain. Maybe I should have intepreted that as “no MORE rain than usual”, cause we got showered to poured on two or three times in the course of a few hours. Big-ass rain, too – no wimpy rain. Punch a hole through your brain pan and make soup of your brain-calibre rain. I swear to you I saw one raindrop crush a man where he stood. I saw it with my own eyes.
But rain notwithstanding, my first full day in lovely British Columbia was good. My cousins and I did the all-you-can-eat sushi which was decent enough. I certainly ate all I could eat. Reports of how fresh the sushi was on the west coast seem a little exaggerrated though – it didn’t taste any fresher than the stuff in Toronto on a good day, but I’m not complaining. They limited the menu to basically salmon and tuna nigiri and sashimi, but combined with healthy amounts of chicken teriyaki and maki, it was just fine with me. After lunch we grabbed the SkyTrain rapid transit into downtown. The SkyTrain is great for getting INTO downtown from around the greater Vancouver area, but crap for getting around in it. There’s only three SkyTrain stops in downtown proper, so once you’re in you’re basically walking or taking a bus. Also curious is how their fares work on the honour system. There’s no ticket takers or turnstiles, just vending machines for pass cards that you’re expected to use correctly before boarding. They say the odds of getting caught by a spot ticket check are about 1-in-20 so a gambling man might never pay to take transit. Crazy.
Our first stop downtown was Gastown, which with all respect to Vancouverites, was kinda lame. It’s a single street just off the downtown core that’s been tourist-ified to look all historic-like, but is really pretty artificial-feeling and uninspiring. Run-of-the-mill tourist-trap shops, that sort of thing. That it’s surrounded by somewhat seedier parts of town also detracts from any sense of authenticity. We took a quick walk around but headed to where the locals were soon enough. Downtown Vancouver is really different-feeling from downtown Toronto, a lot cleaner in design and more constrained-feeling. The streets are narrower and the shops more chi-chi – most of what I saw was pretty boutique-like and upscale. It didn’t have the same ‘people actually live here’ feeling that somewhere like the Annex has, but this is only the retail centre of town. I’m sure it gets much more lived-on a few blocks out. I didn’t do much shopping as anything the shops here had I could get at home for about the same price, and without having to lug it across the country. I did however find a bunch of the non-SACD Bob Dylan remasters for mighty cheap, so that was a nice acquisition.
Sadly, I still haven’t seen the ocean since I arrived. Some of the rivers and such coming into the city, yes, but not the mighty Pacific itself. That’ll change today when I head out to Victoria for some whale-watching action and then down to Seattle. I’m not done with Vancouver yet, though. When I get back mid-next week, I’m heading back into the downtown to check out Stanley Park, UBC and the coastal region of the city in general. I’m betting that’s the part of the city that’s really going to ‘wow’ me.
It’s a good thing I found that extra book on the plane, because I already finished the first book I brought with me, Tim Sandlin’s Honey Don’t. It’s a bit of a departure from his previous stuff, being a broadly satirical slapstick-y political farce, but still decent enough if lacking the depth of the Gro Vont trilogy. And it’s not set in Wyoming, amazingly enough, although Jackson Hole does get lovingly name-checked. Next up I’ve got Tom Robbins’ Villa Incognito which has gotten some lukewarm reviews, but it’s a slim enough volume that it’ll be over soon enough either way.
Okay, got a ferry to catch.