The first morning in a new place is always the most exciting. The confusion and feelings of displacement that come with the arrival seem to die with the setting moon, and you awaken refreshed and ready. That was how I felt my first Sunday in Coquitlam. I should point out that Chuck and L don’t actually live in Vancouver, but the sunny suburb of Coquitlam. But still, that community is wedged so tightly against Vancouver that it was hard to tell when the city ended and the suburbs began. It felt like one big metropolis to me, and I was ready to boldly go where I had never gone before. I just needed my tour guides to wake up.
I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating. I am a morning person. Always have been, always will. At university, pulling an all-nighter seemed less appealing than getting up at 4 am and getting it done before breakfast. I once had a paper route that required me to get up every morning at 6. A person can get a lot done before lunchtime. Sadly, though, Chuck and L never shared this philosophy. I’ve been to visit them at their homes in Camrose and they’ve been to visit me here, and believe me, I’ve wasted a lot of hours simply waiting for them to get up. So, on this first morning, even though I had slept in to the late hour of 9 am, I knew that I had at least three or four hours to kill. Luckily, there was a stack of old Archie comics in the guestroom. Between that and writing a rough draft of my previous column in my coil-bound notebook got me through the first hour and a half. The rumblings of my tummy were soon demanding breakfast.
Slipping off the South Park boxer shorts that I sleep in, I put on some clean clothes and ventured to the kitchen. I could hear a TV on, and it was tuned to a football game. I guessed that L’s brother must be up. Chuck and L had given me a brief tour of the kitchen the night before, and I was struggling to remember where everything was. I was going for my usual breakfast of a glass of milk and two pieces of toast, only to have my mind go blank as to where the bread was kept. So, since I did remember where the cereal was, I had a bowl of Cheerios.
After breakfast, I found that the TV room was deserted, so I started flipping around the channels. Before long, I discovered reruns of The Cosby Show. It was after about an hour’s worth that Chuck got up. He came in, we watched TV, and then he remembered that he had something he wanted to show me. Back when he was on the east coast, he made this little video as part of a project. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had already seen it when he came to visit me back in May. So, I watched it again. When Chuck asked me what I though, I said, “It was just as good as the first time you showed it to me!” He was agog that he had already screened it for me. He had completely forgotten.
Around this time was when L’s sister came in. She had to go see her boyfriend, and asked if Chuck and I would give her a ride. Since we were doing nothing better, we did. We all piled into the van, and Chuck and L’s sister gave me a wild tour of the mean streets of Coquitlam. They were made meaner by the fact that Chuck very rarely drives the van. We did get to L’s sister’s boyfriend’s place alive, and, since we were already on the road, Chuck decided to take me by one of the local comic book shops.
It was one of those dusty little comic book shops tucked away in the dark recesses of town. It reminded me a lot of that comic book shop on The Simpsons. Chuck and I spent about an hour browsing through the titles, making small talk about this artist and that writer and so on. Actually, Chuck did most of the talking. Not being much of a comic reader myself, conversations on this topic tend to be a little one-sided. As I do in most comic stores, I spent most of my time ooo-ing and ahh-ing over the high-priced, hard-to-find action figures. This was when the discount bins were discovered. The store was trying to move some back issues, so that had about half-a-dozen bins set up filled with comics. The sign said that all issues in these boxes were a mere $1. Of course, Chuck had to go through all of them. Lucky for me, there was a chair nearby.
Down at the other end of the store, some assorted geeks were gathered around a table. It looked like they were getting ready to play a round of War Hammer. Since the store was small, I could hear snippets of their conversation as they set up their little armies. “Don’t put them there! They won’t be able to lob them that far!” “Well, I don’t know anything about ballistics. I’m taking philosophy, not physics.” “What we need here is a physics student!” My ears perked up at this. Would I finally be able to use my degree for something useful? I leapt out of my chair and bellowed out, in my best, super-heroic voice, “Did someone call for a physics student?” Of course, I only bellowed loud enough for Chuck to hear, and he laughed.
After another hour or so of going through the barging bins, Chuck soon found about 20 issues that he wanted. He mused aloud, “I wonder if they could give me some kind of bargain because I’m buying so many?” I replied that I didn’t know, so Chuck thought he’d ask. He marched up to the clerk with his huge stack of comics and asked, “Would you give me some kind of deal because I’m buying so many?” The clerk said no. So, Chuck paid full price for the comics. On the way out, I couldn’t help but chastize my friend for being such a lousy haggler. He agreed. That’s one thing we have in common: we both give in too easily.
It was early in the afternoon when we got back to L’s family home. She was finally up. Chuck’s hours spent going though the bargain bins were not in vain. A few of the comics he chose specifically because L would like them. He presented them to her, and she ooo-ed and ahh-ed as she flipped through them. Ahh, geek love.
As the afternoon grew late, we readied ourselves to go. L had been putting off a Sunday dinner with her grandparents for a while and, faced with the choice between having a grandmother cook and cooking for ourselves, we opted for the grandparents. But, since it had been so long since she had visited, she decided to at least bring some flowers. After minutes of obsessing over which bouquet to get at the local grocery store, we headed off. L’s father was already there, and the pleasantries were exchanged as I was introduced to the grandparents. Supper, of course, was exemplary in that grandmotherly fashion, and then the after dinner small talk began. It’s the small talk that I’m used to talking right now. “So, are you done school too?” “What’s your degree in?” “What are you doing now?” “A cashier in a grocery store? With an education like that?” “Isn’t there anything more you want to do?” I deflected the questions with my usual answers, and thanked God when the topic of conversation drifted away from me. What can I say? It was a typical evening with grandparents.
When that was done, we headed back to L’s family home and watched the first of the movies. Chuck and L had a whole big list of indie and art films that they wanted me to see. In the weeks ahead, there’ll probably be a whole column dedicated to reviews of them. As we sat there, watching Dancer in the Dark, my mind drifted a bit as I reflected on my first day in Coquitlam. I was settling into my new surroundings quite nicely. After the onslaught that was my first day, I needed a day like this. It was a day hanging out with friends. It was a day being accepted by families. It was a day like a big hug. I was going to like it here.