Letters from the Americas 2005 (part 1) - Vancouver

dun-dun-dun-dun...dun-dun-dun-dun (and other ice hockey songs)

Two weekends back I arrived in New York, the Capital City of the World!

I'm fortunate enough to have a brother in residence in Midtown Manhattan so not only did I avail of free lodgings I also got to live native style. No accidental visits beyond 110th St or trips to outlet malls for me, instead I wandered through galleries in Soho, diving into a shabby-chic 'cup house' for a cheeky broth to stave off the cold, keeping one eye out in the nooks and crannies for a heartbroken Brad Pitt.

I love big kick a** cities like New York and London, where after a short stroll across town to MoMA, you can plop in off the street and see works from Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Pollock, Liechtenstein, Picasso, the list goes on. In the midst of my art attack, I did in fact buy a Rizzi (James Rizzi, a New York artist, look he's big in Germany, 'nuff said), granted it was a small pic, not out of place in the top right hand corner of an envelope.

I love NY, the SATC of it all. However, despite my attempts to appear as a native New Yorker, I got punked by the cabbie on the way to the airport. The joker stung me for an extra 20 dollars 'Community Tax'???? GO BACK TO JERSEY YA MORON!

I flew to Vancouver via a stop off in Montreal. I was aware Montreal was in French speaking Canada but like many a person before me to step off a plane from America, I just assumed everyone would speak English!

The airport was in a state of pandemonium, some huge white American had become jammed in the metal detector and the queue snaked for miles (I'm kidding, a little Canadian humour for ya, I find it really bizarre that a nation basis its whole humour around deriding another country, as an Irish person it baffles me ;op). Between smatterings of my Leaving Cert French, and a hybrid of pidgin Welsh and native Inuit, I managed to conclude that there was some kind of delay (sharpest knife in the drawer!).

After numerous costume changes and more trips though the metal detector than Mr. T, they finally gave me my bag, belt, shoes, and Oscar dress, and away I fled, chasing a plane that had been scheduled to leave 30 mins prior. Before the plane turned back into a pumpkin my fairy godmother prised me through the doors in time (nice guy).

Destination Vancouver, what can I say, it's a GREAT town, my friends Sharon and Therese are living there on a one year 
visa. They were in top form, they've really taken to the city and the city has taken to them. It all looks pretty much brand spanking new to me; nice high rises, great big wide streets, nice friendly people.

The girls’ apartment blows the socks right off MTV cribs. They hang out with a cool bunch of people. Different from my backpacking days though as everyone has digital cameras, hi-tech mobiles, blackberrys, blueberrys, and raspberrys!

There are a few quirky things about Vancouver.... a lot of crazies live there (local term!). As in, people who rant and rave to themselves on the street. We even spotted a lady in a bar one night on a date with Mr. Invisible, it all seemed to be going well but then they appeared to get into a fight and she left alone (at least, I think she did!).

There are also no birds in the sky, no cats to been seen, everyone is happy out.... one word..... Stepford! The other reason everyone is so chilled could be to do with the fact Vancouver is known as the Amsterdam of North America, say no more.

The overriding bizarre fact that struck me, was that the city is far from bustling, in fact, I came to the conclusion, which I repeated ad nauseum that only 298 people lived in Vancouver. It is the Marie Celeste of cities, no wonder all those crazies are talking to themselves, it’s not cos they're mad, it's cos nobody's home!

"D'ye like pain, do ya"
Sharon and Therese were excellent hosts, they took me to my first ice hockey game, granted the top league players are actually on strike so it was the under 21s trashing it out on the ice. Instead of "GO Cannucks" (the local Vancouver team) it was more "GO Whothe*****". I loved it, people with their faces painted, stuffing hot dogs in their mouths, going loopers when the players scrapped, it’s all classic North Americano behaviour, I lap that stuff up. Canada is cold (fact), everyone had some serious coat action going on. I needed to up my game so I spent a small fortune on a simple black jacket. It turns out Therese had pretty much the same jacket and spent a fraction of the price on it. Wearing our matching jackets we sat either side of Sharon en route to the game. There were so many comments regarding our employment as Sharon's body guards that we struck a serious pose, asked someone to take our photo, then in true bouncer style, beat the crap out of them afterwards! (Of course we didn't, Therese is a angel and I'm a weakling).

We also went to the taping of a talk show called the Vicki Gabereau show (not to be confused with Bobby Davero), it was fab, she's this real straight talking, sassy, say it like it is, presenter.

There was talk of skiing at Whistler, even got as far as whacking on the ski gear, and having a bleary-eyed 5.30am start, which sorta became a bleary eyed 8.00am start. It took a 2 hour bus journey through the breathtaking countryside to get there, which turned out to be the highlight of the trip as the slopes were closed :o(

Unfortunately the torrential rain continued for most of my trip. However, I ran in-between the rain drops and managed to explore the city. Vancouver would put you in mind of Sydney, its got a beach area called English Bay that is so peaceful and clean (made me want to go to Blackrock or Malahide when I get home to Dublin and walk along by the sea - totally don't appreciate what my own city has to offer).

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, there’s a big park called Stanley park which I was told (repeatedly) is bigger than New York's Central park (the real question is though, is it bigger than good old Dublin’s Phoenix park!). 
The most remarkable thing about the city, is the massive snow capped mountains that peer out in-between avenues when you stare down them, it’s just spellbinding. We took an aqua boat (how friggin cool is that) to a place called Granville island, that was once a dump, as in where rubbish was tipped, but now it's all done up and got a real Coney island feel to it (I've never been to Coney island, it sounded like an appropriate remark to make!).

I ate Chimmichanga for the first time in an El Salvadorian restaurant in a street called Commercial Drive, ironically named as the street stands alone as an old-school community street for small family owned eateries. They even had Starbucks and McDonalds shut down. Power to the people... all 298 of you!

Alas the rain took its toll on us all, Sharon's cold turned bad and she had to make a trip to the doc's, she's currently waylaid by an ear infection (yikes the pain). I couldn’t shake my flu so I also headed to the doc, turns out I have pneumonia (what the hell!). He gave me some sort of neutron bomb type course of antibios so I'm on the mend.

I spent my last two days in Vancouver, living the North American dream - splattered on the couch in front of the TV, wrapped up in blankets, having the girls go on cookie runs for me (they're so good, the cookies not the girls! Nah, they’re great too).

Unfortunately it was time to fly back to New York, I was all sick and emotional at the airport, I even shed a tear when I left the girls. Vancouver really is a cool place to visit, if you go, you may never want to leave.

At the mo, I'm ensconced in my bro Lochlann's apartment. He's gone to work so I'm pretending it's mine, when I finish my caaawwfee I'm gonna lash open the window and hurl abuse at the passersby...just keepin' it real, New York style ;o)

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