Travel Diary: Back from Vancouver, B.C.

Nancy Flynn Arts & Culture, Stream of Consciousness Archive, Travel

Photo by Dietmar Rabich

Dateline 2005—

Road trip north up I-5 until it ends and is Highway 99 again and dumps you easily and with charm into downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. The Vancouver International Jazz Festival was happening while we were there—free concerts in and around Granville Island and Yaletown, just off downtown. It was sunny, warm. The seawall was filled with walkers, joggers, bikers and roller-bladers; False Creek was filled with boats and the adorable water bus we took across to the Granville Public Market and then back to our hotel.

We ran away from the United States for our anniversary. J.’s first time out of the country since September 11, 2001. A longer drive than anticipated—slowed-down traffic snarls from Seattle and Tacoma north. Bellingham, our overnight pit-stop, is a pretty town. Big money being poured into the downtown. I imagine it’s Microsoft millionaires who sold their stock, gave up the fast life, to bum around and ski. My glasses fell out of my purse at the place we stopped for lunch. I go to the brew pub barely able to see, my contacts already out and cleaned. Bellingham is a soft-focus blur. Even squinting, I don’t see much.

Vancouver, we park the car and the rest of the weekend walk. First impression, a city of tall buildings, high-rise apartments, all reflective with sun, shiny with glass. Our free room at the Hampton Inn is a corner of glass, overlooking a sports arena that seems closed or at least empty.

— People shopping in Gastown, a made-for-cruise-ship-tourists play land, shops that sell souvenirs made in China but the cruisers will find them authentic, I guess, if they are covered with snowflakes or moose. A clock that spits steam when it chimes at the top of the hour. A woman on stilts sings opera next to the clock. We walk back, past the marijuana cafe, skirting the edge of the “bad” part of downtown, the business district not yet taken over by gentrifying yuppies so there are porn shops and homeless men and women sleeping in doorways. Pallor of the neglected, the seedy. How do they keep this hidden from tourists?

— The water taxi to/from Granville Island painted colors of the rainbow. Granville Island a destination because the jazz festival has a stage there, and there’s an abundance of shops selling arts, crafts, food, everything under giant tin roofs.

— At the Anthropology Museum, University of British Columbia: an atrium of totems, canoes, and light. Glass artifact cases open to the public you can roam in between them, stare at the clutter, open drawer after drawer after drawer. An exhibit about what defines a sacred, memorialized space.

— Views from the city of the sound, the mountains, the bay. Lovely spot. We wonder how dark the place gets in the rainy winter.

Nice to get away I guess. Although I feel like I’ve been getting away all the time since the start of 2005 and getting away from what? going to what? It was nice to get out of the country. To wait forever at the Peace Arch border crossing. To have my iPod’s iTrip radio frequency setting scrambled by some high-tech weirdness now in place as you drive your car to be first in line waiting for the questions of Mr. Homeland Security just ahead. Flower beds in the shape of the American flag on one side, the Canadian on the other and many, many Asian tourists hopping out of their cars while waiting to take photos…

The more I travel lately, the more I feel distant from other people. Great, upbeat mood here on Oxbow this gorgeous July 5th morning.

Nancy Flynn
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