Tomorrow I take an amphibious aircraft

Here I am somewhere near downtown Vancouver (it being truly late local time), refusing to adjust to this sudden profusion of time (I’m a day ahead of ever since I was born). It’s been a mixed bag so far.

I caught a travelling exhibition from the Cleveland Museum of Art, which meant an unexpected four hours ogling at Monet, Manet, Picasso, Van Gogh, you name the modern master, they’ve just about got it. Plus there was an icky encounter with a swarm of embalmed bats in a warplane by a Chinese-artist-in-Paris, Huang Yong Ping.

I had a good look at Stanley Park, albeit on a tourist trolley. Huge swathes of ancient trees were destroyed during a storm in December 2006, but the park’s keepers are keeping positive, seeing a chance to replant advantageously for the health of the whole park and repair bits that were untouchable before. Good on them, I say.

I haven’t caught any Bard on the Beach (and I don’t suppose I will, after the McKellen experience, and the dubious Wild West theme for The Taming of the Shrew, which I’m usually game for).

No whale watching expedition after all, even though the whales have been out in force (maybe that news about the wretched whale brutally, slowly killed in a nearby strait dampened my spirit for the fling).

I’ve slept way too long and watched way too much television. But hey, I’m glad I caught The Mirror Has Two Faces again, shticky as it is — the closing credits were particularly shticky. I just can’t resist a heart-throbbing (which for me means a bit of meeting of minds, a bit of meeting of humours, a bit of meeting of hearts, ooh, bless) story.

I’ve stumbled wild-eyed through drugstore aisles, amazed at the variety and the pricing (even though it’s more expensive than the U.S., it’s always nice to actually see some of the stuff in the magazines in person for once).

Now here’s the bad stuff I encountered — apart from really expensive meals and shopping.

There’s a strike in force which means that rubbish hasn’t been cleaned off the streets for weeks. I guess it’s just as well the worst things I’ve seen so far were used tissue and receipts and tickets. Or should I say the worst I’ve noticed so far? I’ve started to turn a blind eye to things again.

There have been very many vagabonds, more young than old ones, holding out the ol’ can for coins, and they’re everywhere. (Some vagabond-types are actually productive people called “binners” — they cull bottles and stuff for recycling from rubbish bins and such.) Possibly pushed out to the streets by rocketing rents (zero vacancy now, they say). But they’re there, and Vancouver shouldn’t be that great a place if there are so many left out of the loop, willingly or not I do not know.

Then there are the shootings of the past few days and months, all blamed on gang disputes. What I’ve heard is that drugs have become such a problem among the rich and poor alike that the children of the former get involved in dealing and the latter, well, I think I encountered a huge enclave of them just one street away from Chinatown today! (Steer clear of East Hastings Street, if you’re ever in Vancouver.)

I got such a shock as I turned the corner to see bunches of ’em hanging off the steps of what used to be a public library, while just across the street were minding-their-own-business Chinese people waiting for the bus. It’s no wonder every shop was shut in a hurry as the evening loomed. Chinatown = Ghost town at night? First of its kind I’ve encountered. Neither in New York nor in London did I encounter such a lousy neighbourhood.

I think I was more scared than judgmental as I hurried away; I know for sure I’m no Jackie Pullinger, able to squeeze through to the most repellent of conditions (including blood-soaked alleys) to salve the wounded souls. It was a relief to go back to the downtown area again, and into the cavernous three-storey bookstore, Chapters. Am I a spoilt snob? I don’t feel like one, but I think I behaved like one. Life is a struggle.

Tomorrow I take an amphibious aircraft, what Canadians call a float plane. Will I get another shock to the system? Remember me fondly if it’s fatal. Fare thee well!

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