Thursday, July 26, 2007

Vancouver--Day 2

Our twelfth floor
hotel balcony: a pink
dawn. Down below us, a score
of seagulls drift
and scream incessantly.
Below them,
a screech of brakes:
the city wakes.

Thus, yesterday morning during meditation; thus, too, this morning.

Ah, yesterday! A fabulous day in Vancouver. The sun shone all day. The locals marveled: all last week, nothing but rain, and now two days of nothing but sun.

I crossed the street early for a cup of Starbucks—and in the hope that Starbucks here would carry, as they do down south, the New York Times. Anxious for news of the Tour… No, no Times. But coffee…

We made an early start, walking back down Robson Street and turning down Burrard, as instructed, to the little tub-boat ferry that took us across a narrow stretch of bay—blue, blue water!

—to the huge market on the Granville Island wharfs.

Quite a spectacle, with dozens of fruit and vegetable stalls inside, bakeries and flower shops, and a host of small café counters. Needing breakfast, Ellie opted for a slice of grape bread, I for a small wheat loaf and a pat of butter picked up at a different stand, and we sat out on the dockside with a cup of coffee, feeding bread crumbs to the gulls.

After wandering for a while down the narrow streets behind the market and visiting a couple of rather junky souvenir shops, Ellie found a jewelry stall to her liking and sprung for $15 for a couple of pairs of craftsman-made earrings. Then, venturing on, we began to think about visiting the Museum of Anthropology and discovered, on inquiring from some friendly natives, that it was way out along the peninsula on the campus of the University of British Columbia.

Not to be daunted, we decided on a bus, and found the number 4, (appropriately, on 4th Avenue) which took us out to the edge of the university, where some very serious swimmers were taking advantage of the sunshine, doing laps in a huge Olympic pool. A long walk through the beautifully landscaped campus—trees, lawns, flowers—to the very furthest edge from where we started out, pausing for pictures in a truly lovely rose garden with a view across the (blue! blue!) water to the snow-capped mountains and the (blue! blue!) sky beyond.

The Museum of Anthropology—currently under serious renovation—proved an extraordinary experience. The café was not up to much—and eggs salad sandwich, a bottle of lemonade—but the exhibits were spectacular, from the stunning collection of Northwest totems to the seemingly endless cases chock-a-block with artifacts from all parts of the world: baskets and jewelry, woven textiles, articles of clothing, ritual masks and carvings, weapons, hunting and fishing gears, utensils, musical instruments of all kinds—flutes and whistles, clappers, drums…

An amazing testament to the endless inventiveness and creativity of the human spirit, and one which left us awed—myself even somewhat overpowered with a strange fit of nausea and dizziness—by the pent-up, discarded spiritual power invested in these objects. Strangely, the nausea returns even as I think about them. I recall a poem I wrote a while ago about the incongruity of our "civilization" relegating such objects to the sterile confines of a museum.

On our way back through the campus, we stumbled on the university art gallery and another powerful exhibition—this one of the contemporary African American artist Glenn Ligon, who turns an unrelenting gaze on the issue of skin color and the racism still inherent in our society. Huge canvases, in which loaded texts are spelled out—and left only partially legible—in coal dust. An ironic series of "Runaway" prints, runaway slave posters featuring the artist himself in a variety of inept descriptions. And another series of strong paintings with the texts of numerous, and truly scurrilous Richard Prior "nigger" jokes—his term, borrowed by the artist, not mine, I have not earned that right.

A bus ride back to Granville Island, a ferry ride over to a different point in the city, Yaletown—a renovated downtown warehouse area, now teeming with what appeared to be trendy restaurants and boutiques. A stop to buy a new battery for our digital camera, and another long walk back though the city to our hotel. We discover that there is to be a fireworks display tonight—but are told that our room, regrettably, faces in the wrong direction. I study the map, where the fireworks barge is supposed to be, and think, well, maybe...

A shower, a catch-up on the travesty of the Tour de France—Michael Rasmussen, the overall leader, now fired by his team for not showing up for drug tests, and out of the race—and out to dinner at Cin Cin, an excellent, second-story Italian restaurant overlooking Robson Street, where crowds of people are streaming down toward the site of fireworks. We shared an excellent fig and prosciutto starter, a salad, and a lobster linguini, and enjoyed a glass of wine recommended by the helpful (Chinese, from Calgary!) waitress, then headed back to our hotel. To discover, miracle of miracle, that we had front row and center seats for the fireworks…

A spectacular end to a spectacular day.


Mark said...

Thank you for that poem. It was a wonderful way to start my day.

Dr. Steve said...

Peter, you could go see the Diane Ferris Gallery whilst in Vancouver.

Thats the gallery that we got the Attila Richard Lukacs piece and she also shows Angelia Grossman.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, Mark. And thanks for the tip, Steve. Cheers, PaL

khengsiong said...

Hey, those are tropical fruits: Mangosteen and rambutan.

Robert Sim said...

Welcome to Vancouver. :-) fyi, Starbucks usually carries the Sunday times but quantities might be limited. If you're looking for day trips, I highly recommend taking the ferry over to Bowen Island- it's a beautiful place and the hiking is great.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, Robert. We're actually taking the ferry over to Vancouver Island today, and on up to Cortez a couple of days later. Appreciate the tip. Cheers, PaL

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark. And thanks for the travel tip.
Have you seen this new sustainable travel website.