Trip Start Mar 26, 2006
Trip End Oct 20, 2006

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Ooooooh, Vancouver! Who knew you could fall entirely in love with a place in just a few hours? After checking into our hostel - HI Vancouver Downtown (not too shabby!) - we set out on foot to explore the city, only to discover that the hostel was just one block off Davie Street, the city's primary gay drag. We felt like we'd won the gay lottery! Since it was the day before Vancouver Gay Pride, the neighborhood was positively overrun with gay men, lesbians, and everything in between, rainbow flags were flying, the storefronts were all decked out in pride paraphernalia, and the whole place buzzed with cruisy excitement. Todd and I felt completely comfortable walking down the street holding hands, a big change from some of the backwoods places we've visited over the past few months - what a relief.

The mix of restaurants of every kind and flavor, neighborhoods, architecture, arts and culture, different races and languages, natural beauty, artists, parks, seashore, and people was so incredibly exciting. I felt like I'd come home after a long absence.

That evening we and 400,000 Vancouverites headed down to English Beach to watch the spectacular final evening of the annual international fireworks competition. We staked out a spot with our blanket and watched the crowd mill around us as pot smoke occasionally wafted through the air. Things got uncomfortable when the crowd got so huge that we started getting stepped on and the shoulder-to-shoulder people started pushing and shoving. The second the fireworks ended we were engulfed by a mass exodus of humanity all moving in the same direction, and we somehow managed to scrape and claw our way back to the hostel.

The following morning, we planted our chairs curbside for the riotous pride parade, one of the largest in the world with 275,000 spectators and float after float of hand waving drag queens, half-naked go-go boys, overly stern-looking leather dudes, shirtless dykes on bikes, proud nudists, and every other mainstream and not-so-mainstream manifestation of the gay and lesbian community. I somehow got caught up in a desperate quest to acquire the Mardi Gras beads some of the floats were throwing to the crowd and was elated when one of our curbside neighbors caught some beads and handed them to me. After the parade, we headed to Celebrities, a dance club near the hostel, where we boogied like maniacs for the next five hours. We'd been planning to check out our first circuit party that night, but we'd already had so much fun we decided to just collapse back at the hostel instead. It was Todd's first Gay Pride (can you believe it?!?) and an all-around memorable day.

Our mission for Day 3 was to check off another first for both of us - nude beach. (Don't worry, Brittany, no pictures of this one!) Vancouver's well known and very popular Wreck Beach is the place to go when you feel like enjoying the sun and surf au natural. Instead of heading to the seedy, tucked away gay side of the beach, we opted instead for the sunny, non-threatening openness of the "other" side of the beach, where gay folk like ourselves are openly accepted by the mostly straight crowd. It was a perfectly radiant blue sky day. Within 15 minutes of plunking our naked selves down on our beach towels, this whole scene felt strangely normal, though I got a good laugh when the completely buck-naked vendors started wandering by pitching their wares - "Get your ice cold organic soft drinks!". This didn't seem like the best scene for a guy to be holding anything ice cold, eh? Todd and I had a dialogue about whether or not you're nude if you're wearing a baseball cap. It was an eye opener when progressive mothers and fathers showed up with their kids! By the afternoon, the sand was packed with people of every imaginable size, shape, and skin tone. We did our best to maintain our dignity while blinding beachgoers with our polar-bear white, unsunned buns.

On our last day in Vancouver, we took a spin through the funkier and more diverse Commercial Drive neighborhood before making our way to the uber-artsy Granville Island. Every square inch of this place is bursting with creativity. Next to a cutting edge theater company sits an incredible, earthy ceramics studio. The windy roar of a red-hot bellows can be heard from the metal shop around the corner, and as we walk by the open air windows, I see workers inside the rusty corrugated building twisting and spinning and grinding metal into fantastic creations, their metalworking tools hung all askew on the walls and scattered over the floors, a properly unkempt creative space that can likely tease any shape from metal.

We discover an architectural glassworks company that creates gigantic hanging sculptures with thick, curvilinear, textured panels of glass. I find myself asking over and over again how someone finds their way into a career at one of these spaces of creative genius? What background does someone need to design a 3-ton glass mobile that doubles as a multi-media projection screen? This was beyond anything I had ever imagined. The musical strains of a live pianist churning out an uptempo waltz accompany the leaps and pirouettes of a ballet class. An Asian-looking guitarist, smiling to himself as the music rides his fingers, smoothly strums jazzy harmonies to a crowd of people enjoying fresh baked goodies from the bakery next door.

I wanted to jump up and down with ecstasy at having found this community of people reveling in what they do. Wanted to shout to everyone around, "You see! This is possible! To actually enjoy what you do for a living! You don't have to forever stay trapped in a miserable corporate haughty contentious National Geographic prison forever - hah hah hahhhh!". I'm ready to burst with excitement at whatever all of this possibility, this creative human potential, might mean for my future.

The hope this city gives me for finding a more positive, creative way to live on this planet is something I'll be thinking about as we move on. I'm feeling my old, heavy, crusty National Geographic shackles crumbling into dust and it feels good. Thank you, Vancouver!
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