Tacky Tourist Things

Chaos in Print

Thursday had come, and it was the one day I was looking forward to all week. For you see, Chuck and L were working the whole time I was visiting them. They would work in the mornings, then come home early in the afternoon. The evenings were taken up with the multitude of movies they wanted me to watch. So, that only left a small window in the afternoons for me to get out and do stuff. But not so on Thursday. Chuck and L had the day off, and so finally I was going to get a whole day out of the house. The plan was for us to head to Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park, followed by some more time hanging out downtown. I was set.

Early that morning (well, Chuck and L like their sleep, so “early” was pretty close to lunch time), we piled into the car and set out for the park. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The best descriptions Chuck could come up with were, “It’s like Central Park!” I’m sure that would help if I had ever been to New York. So, I was left to my deductive reasoning to try and figure this out. It’s a park, so obviously there would be trees and stuff. This is Vancouver, so obviously there would a beach or something. But, that didn’t prepare me for what I first saw when we found our first parking spot in the park. I had no idea that the world famous Vancouver Aquarium was in the park. The first thing I saw was it.

I watched a lot of Danger Bay reruns when I was a kid. Remember that? It was about the courageous curator of the Vancouver Aquarium, as he struggled with being the single father of two teenagers, used his position to battle poachers and eco-terrorists, and romance sexy female bush pilots. Nothing said “Vancouver” more to me than the Aquarium. And nothing said more to me about the Aquarium than the big, bronze killer whale statue out front. When I saw that statue, I began to geek out. “OH MY GOD!” I yelled! “IT’S THE STATUE!” Chuck and L, having never watched Danger Bay, didn’t quite understand what I was going through. But I didn’t care, man. It was the statue from Danger Bay. I walked around it several times, just in awe of it all. Here it was. I had seen it on TV so many times, and now I was in front of it. Since the statue was in a fountain, I naturally grabbed a penny from my pocket and threw one in. It was time to be a tacky tourist. I gave my camera to Chuck, and he took a picture of L and myself in front of the statue. I was in heaven. As far as I was concerned, I had now been to Vancouver. L went on to check out prices for the Aquarium, but I didn’t want to go in. I had seen the best part. When L came back with the price list, we decided it was too expensive for our tastes, so we began to wander into the park.

It was a good thing, too, because as we wandered around the perimeter of the Aquarium, we soon discovered free viewing galleries. We walked in, and were first treated to a giant seal of some kind swimming around. I mean, this seal was massive. It swam in circles in its tank, its large brown body gliding effortlessly through the water. We’d always shriek in delight when it popped up from below the window and soared towards the top of the water. Truly a magnificent beast. From here, it was off to the tank that held the beluga whales. Now, as magnificent as they look, belugas are truly not the most active of whales. At least, they weren’t on this day. They were just casually floating in their tank, without a care in the world. Occasionally, another of the more active whales would come along, send out a spout from his blowhole, and then disappear back into the dark, blue depths. We knew it was time to move on when Chuck revealed that he felt like singing Baby Beluga.

We wandered off into the park, but didn’t stray too far from the Aquarium. We spotted a little secluded waterfall, and soon we found ourselves at a war monument. This one was dedicated to the all of the soldiers of Japanese descent who gave their lives for Canada. We took our moments as we gazed at it, each of us remembering in our own little way the sacrifices that had been made for this country. When we were done our moment of silence, it was time to head back to the car. It was a big park, and the next thing they wanted to show me was too far to walk.

It was a quick trip down the road when we arrived at the totem poles. Here, in the park, there was this gathering of about seven or eight totem poles; I’ll have to look at the picture again to get an exact count. Since this was the end of September, the official tourist season was done, so there was a cherry-picker in amongst the totem poles. Some touch-ups and minor restoration work was being done to them. We kept our respectable distance (it helped that ditch/moat separated us from the poles) as we read the plaques. Each one had a story. We looked up at this one featuring a young boy perched upon the dorsal fin of a killer whale. L looked at the fin protruding from between the boy’s legs and asked, “Is that some kind of phallic symbol?” I looked at L with a somewhat bemused look, and said, “No, look closer. It’s the fin on that killer whale.” At this point, L pointed out that it could have been a phallic symbol, and proceeded to give me a mini-lecture on phallic symbols in religions around the world. When she was done, I headed over to the gift shop. I had promised to send postcards to the folks back home, and it was time to start picking them up. With postcards in hand, I snapped one last photo of the totem poles, and it was time to head off to the next section of the park.

We cruised around the park’s perimeter. There was ocean to my left and parkland to my right. We soon arrived at the sea wall. There was about a 10 foot drop to the ocean below. Out in the distance, on a rock, was a statue of a scuba diver. They told me it was modeled after the world famous statue of the little mermaid in Denmark. I looked at the statue, her copper-green face staring out at the ocean, always looking for something. The strangest thing about this wall was a staircase, heading straight down to the ocean. What else could I do but walk down them to the ocean and have L take my picture on the bottom step? When I climbed back to the top, I looked off to the horizon, and there I saw a tremendous view of the Lion’s Gate Bridge. I snapped a picture. I couldn’t help but ask L how it was to grow up in such a beautiful place. She admitted that, when you grow up there, you tend not to notice it.

We hopped back into the car, our next destination was unknown. Little did I know that they had a surprise for me. We turned out of the park, only to be presented with a traffic jam. I didn’t know what we were doing, so I just leaned back and waited. The traffic soon started moving, and we rounded the corner to be presented with two massive stone lions. We were going to drive over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. L was stunned. She had never been over the bridge herself, so even she found the site of the stone lions to be impressive. The traffic began to move, and soon we were on the bridge. I was starting to see why traffic was moving so slow. The bridge is currently in the midst of a massive restoration, and the lanes of the bridge were littered with construction equipment of all kinds. It was slow growing across that green behemoth, but I didn’t mind. I had plenty of time to take in the view of the straight straight below. Off in the distance, to the west, I could make out ships heading for sea. We soon arrived at the other side. It was some suburb of the city; L mentioned its name with distaste, so I guess its best that I’ve forgotten it. We looped around, and headed back over the bridge. Again, I was awestruck at this engineering marvel. Hopefully, when the restoration is complete, it will continue to marvel for generations to come. As soon as we reached the other side of the bridge, we ducked into a side road and were back in the park.

We continued down the road for a little ways and we soon arrived at the hollow tree. It was like something out of a cartoon. Here it was, this tree that towered up for as high as the eye could see, and it was completely hollow at the bottom. Like all the other tourists who were parked there, I got in line to have my picture taken in it. As I stood inside that mighty old tree, I struck my best, heroic explorer type pose. When we were done looking at the tree, it was time to walk on down the road for a bit. L wanted to show off Siwahla Rock (I hope I got that name right), and it was just a short walk from where we were. We marched down the road, and we turned onto the path. We marched along the path, ever down towards the ocean, and the viewpoint that overlooked this rock. Sadly, though, the path wasn’t that clearly marked, so at every crossroads, there was a bit of confusion over which way we should go next. Our marching soon turned to fumbling as we began to question if we were on the right path. Luckily, we were, and we soon arrived at the view point that overlooked the rock. There it was, rising out of the ocean like a monolith, with a tuft of grass and a small tree growing on its peak. I was amazed for the moment at how life can survive in such remote locations. We gazed at the rock, all expressing what we thought. When that was enough, we began the hike back to the car. Chuck and I began amusing ourselves with philosophical discussions about Transformers: The Movie..

Back in the car, we drove down the road for a little ways until we arrived at the one thing I had requested we see: a beach. We walked down to the water’s edge, and from there, I stared out at the PACIFIC Ocean. (Hey! I got it right this time!) I gazed out as far as I could see, and saw only water. Well, until the fog lifted, then I could see the mountains of Vancouver Island on the other side. I think that’s why I didn’t find glimpsing the ocean for the first time to be as awe-inspiring as I though it’d be. I could always see some kind of land on the other side. But still, as I looked out into the straight, I could see ships anchored, either preparing to come into dock or head out to sea. These weren’t just tiny little boats. These were full blown ships, the kind where, up to this point, I had only seen on TV. I couldn’t help but imagine what life must be like on one of those ships. Sailing the seas, journeying to far off lands. Ahh, the life of a mariner. I stared out at the ocean and wondered what things were like on the other side. But, I had business to attend to. The one thing Mom had requested was a picture of me with my feet in the ocean, so I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pant legs, gave my camera to L, and waded out until I was ankle deep. L snapped the picture, and I knew Mom would be pleased.

As I waded out, Chuck was urging me to take a drink of the ocean water. “C’mon,” he said. “As you know, it’s saltwater, but trust me, you won’t believe how salty it actually is.” I was reluctant to, just because I’m not a fan of salty things in general. To try and instil courage in me, Chuck leaned in and drank some of the water. I was still reluctant to, and when I saw the used condom float by, I knew that I would not be drinking any ocean water. L, for some odd reason, got all excited at the sight of this floating condom, and wanted me to snap a picture. I, somewhat repulsed by this used piece of personal protection, didn’t want to, and asked why L was getting excited by it. She said something about an artistic statement, but I knew the truth. First religious phallic symbols and now this. The truth is L just has a filthy mind, and she’s better at intellectualizing it away than I am. I dusted the sand off my feet and put my shoes back on. We had seen just about everything they had to show me in the park, and it was time to move on.

There were still a few stores in the downtown core that L wanted to show me, so we headed off to downtown. There, we again feasted on 99¢ pizza for supper, before wandering off to a used record store nearby. L lost herself amongst used selections of world music, while Chuck and I went back to the 99¢ pizza place for seconds. When are bellies were full, and had finished our browsing at the used record place, we continued wandering the street until we came to this little T-shirt place that L knew of. For you see, this place made Jem T-shirts, and L had promised one for her sister. This T-shirt place was a bit of an underground store, only accessible by a narrow staircase. Up there, I was greeted by a familiar smell. It had that same musty attic smell that welcomed me every week back in university. It was the exact same smell of Augustana’s radio station. As Chuck and L negotiated with the clerk about Jem T-shirts, I wandered around the store. I was lost in a myriad of neon coloured fabrics and logos of things long forgotten. It was alien, yet somehow comfortable. The smell, the logos of things from my youth, it was just all so welcoming. When Chuck and L finished their negotiations, it was time for us to go. The hour was growing late, and L had to get to her yoga class.

Chuck and I dropped off L at the Coquitlam Community Center, then returned home to pass the time while she learned how to stretch. I could resist to chide Chuck a little. “You’re a lucky man!” I kept saying to him. “Your woman’s going to come back all nice and flexible. You’re in for some good lovin’ tonight!” Chuck laughed, which was the desired objective. We killed the time down in Chuck and L’s room, him doing some idle work on his latest projects, and I got myself lost in their collection of graphic novels. Soon, it was time to go pick up L. We headed up to the community center (with a quick stop at the mall, first), and then got L. Turns out, she, too, needed to go to the mall, so we stopped there again on our way back. The mall is always a good place to kill an hour.

We returned home, and watched a few more of the movies that Chuck and L wanted me to watch. My mind wasn’t really on them, though. I had a full day, and I was still riding on the high. I had gotten out and I had seen the city. I had seen the sights. For this one shining day, I was a tourist in all my tacky glory. As the hour grew late, Chuck and L soon retired to their chambers. For one brief moment, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of my chiding towards Chuck would turn out to be true. I soon purged my mind of such thoughts. There are some things I’m not meant to know. There are some sights that this tourist was not meant to see.

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