Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Brit Abroad! or Van, but not the man...

I kinda liked the architecture on the east side, Hastings was it? But my SO said it wasn't a good area to lurk about in, looked fine to me, a bit more like home. I said it may all depend on what you actually wanted to do next. I'd planned a few hours study of the Cytochrome / Mesolimbic paradox, and had worked this all out just by looking in a "herbal" cafe, noticing the distinctive litter around the pavements and the surfeit of smiling, busy, working girls.

Hastings seemed to offer a frisson of risk, a selection of pastimes, all within, or maybe a little outside, and i'm sure, right in the middle of, a few grey areas of a whole new country's laws to learn where the buck stops and with whom? That, i was told, was a b& plan. There was a cold beer in the fridge at home, that would have to suffice. "Only one, lets get some more, there's a supermarket over there, What! No beer in supermarkets! Government owned shops only! Sheesh!"

I thought it was just Hastings and the lower east side that had it's drugs and girls controlled by profiteering hoodlums protecting their monopoly with thugs on bikes, but it seems the Canadian government has the booze racket sewn up as their own special cut of the action. In fact, I think i just dissed the Lower East Side, the few mins I was there, it seemed like a free and open, enterprise zone, style place, well, in comparison to the "Booze @ .gov shop 'n' save" (Yeah right!) state licensed price fixed, supply screwed down and outlets all pwned scam the government boys were running. Seems that in Vancouver, a lump of crack and a quick knee trembler are not only cheaper, but easier to come by, in nicer surroundings, and with better, more pleasant service, than buying a bottle of wine is most days. Very odd...

I longed to return to Hastings 'cos everywhere else was so new! It had started to make me feel, erm... rootless, is that a feeling anyone else has had in these new countries? Just a feeling of the whole place being temporary, in a "it'll all be gone next week, replaced with more faceless, modern crap" kinda way. Nothing of any presence, nothing with a bit of a past, everything "shop bought", nothing made by humans.

Gastown was too touristy & kitsch. N.Van was nice though, odd mix of trees, wooden lap built houses, no bricks anywhere... they looked cheap and.. well, again, temporary. Like this...

"We're living in this little wooden house while we build the proper one over there." "Sorry?" ... Erm.. No... not really, it's been tacked together quite well, not many leaks, and it's not for long anyway and the kids can use it as a wendy house afterwards." (OK, exaggerated for effect, but that was the feeling the place gives you.)

And who on earth thought of having a string quartet under every SkyTrain to play a random, surreal, but very pleasant chord as it pulls in / away from / to a station. Nice touch, hell of a job though.

"The British Butcher Shoppe". Got taken in there as a place of wonder, she went, "Well?" I went, "What?" She said "Look!" I said "I bloody am looking, what?" Then I noticed the prices, worked it out into Pounds Sterling and said "I'll be buggered! Atora Suet for damn near five quid! And this is your local shop? Your right, this bloke is obviously having a laugh, i'll have a word, even for a corner shop it's bloody robbery! "No!" She squealed... So i got dragged out of there too, another puzzled bloke behind the counter, and his missus, both looking stunned as I get dragged out saying "Five quid for bleedin' suet! Your having a giraffe mate!"

Well, seems i was taken in there to see all the Brit nosh she could buy to remind her of home, I had only been in Canada for a few hours, looked normal to me, same stuff, different shelves. Once it clicked i realised just how out of place those shelves must have seemed to her, look outside you get Canada, look at shelf you get Co-op, 4 minutes walk from my front door in the UK. And, of course, how much it cost to import Cadbury,s Cream Eggs and stuff, not that we eat them at home, but I s'pose you got to show willing abroad!

Went to see the "Heritage Building" someplece and stopped a couple of old bill cycling past, "Where's the bloody heritage building? I follow the signs, get to here, signs say go past this shed, then on the other side nothing! Then, if you keep walking, signs in the opposite direction... Help!

"That shed, ... (long pause...) Sir, IS the heritage building! It's been there since 1912!

Bugger, upset more Canadians without trying.. To everyone in Vancouver, N.Van... sorry, put it down to me being a foreigner.

The BSE joke at the bus stop on the way to Kitts beach (sp?), Local, very nice lady says "Oh My! Your Australian!" I say, "Nope, English (they seem a little disappointed) But then one perks up, "So, how do you get on with Mad Cow Disease?" "I make "Apocalypse Now" style Huey blades in slo mo noises along with suitable face and say "Doesn't effect me! I'm a helicopter!" and smile waiting for the laugh and a breaking of the ice so we can chat on the way to the beach, but instead the whole damn city goes silent, tumble weed blowing down the street, bus comes, they sit waaaay down the back and eye me suspiciously until i get off, not another word was spoken on quite a busy bus. Till it drives off, as the doors swoosh closed, lots of "Well, He was an odd one Ethel!"

Then there was bloke who asked me for a fag (cigarette) on top of Grouse (thought he was selling something, had a clipboard. He spoke something very Canadian, i didn't get it, but headed off his sales pitch at the pass, I said "There's no point sunshine, I'm British!" Girls collapsed laughing... Chap looks puzzled, shrugs, looks at me like I'm suggesting dropping the border with the US (ie; withering hatred) and walks off. Seems his sales clipboard was just a newspaper, he'd been talking to the girls, asked them for a smoke, they pointed at me... anyway, sorry dude, my fault.

As was getting served REAL fast down by the sea in a burger place, big queues.. I pop outside to smoke, get bored, go back in, get kissed. She says (being a Brit too), "Bugger me sideways Les, your breath tastes of all those old fags you just had in the car park. You got to give them up one of these days, you can't keep it up as much as you do without going down with something really nasty!" Sudden tumble weed moment, exit of many customers, we get served (at arms, and fingertip, length) by the manager i think. So, sorry to Maccy D's too.

Still, would love to go back for a proper explore, now I have the hang of things a bit. Any spare settees, sofas, spare rooms, wendy houses etc. would like an oik and his wench to stay for a few weeks. Promise to be on best behaviour, want to learn to paraglide off of Grouse so you won't hardly see us ;o)

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