Sunday, May 31, 2009

becoming a beach bum

at some point I made it a mission to discover a new beach every weekend. God knows there are plenty here in the 'Couv.

On thursday I went for drinks at the Soho Bar & Grill, an ordinary bar (excellent butter chicken wraps) with an extraordinary view of English Bay. With the palm trees and hundreds of beautiful bronzed bodies lounging in the sun, it looked just like California, those San Francisco beach party scenes in The Princess Diaries. Is it sad that my ideas about the West Coast seem to be mainly predicated on a high school fantasy chic flick starring Anne Hathaway? Anyway, I returned to English Bay the next day with Amanda and Sloth and the place was jumping full of like-minded loungers, thick pot smoke, boys performing their various mating dances via football juggling and exposed ugly dragon tattoos... and miles of sandy beach at low tide. It was crowded, but lovely.

Today, to stay in keeping with the linguistically-themed beaches, I decided to check out Spanish Bay, solely because my father told me to. My father never told me that it was a hike to get there, though, through pebble trails in the woods on a steep incline and past the impossibly huge and luxurious mansions that look like they are out of some fairy tale, with the tall gates, fancy fountains, exotic flower gardens, and security cameras everywhere. it felt like my journey to Spanish Banks took so long but once i got there, passed the thick tree line that jealously guards the place, i was taken in by the view, the shoreline seemingly stretching on forever.

the low tide allowed young boys to take their boards and skim through the muddy streams that the tide left behind. Vancouver has dozens of sports i'd never heard of before coming here.

i spread my towel on a spot near the dune grass and let my worries be blown away in the breeze like the sand. i thought about how every member of my family in the previous generation had fallen in love with their life partners here in Vancouver, and it's not hard to see how. it is such a city of healing.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


yesterday i went to chilliwack on business. it was farther from vancouver than i thought, over an hour and a half's drive, but it was such a beautiful day that i didn't mind. it's located in the Fraser Valley, so we got a chance to drive over the beautiful Fraser River which seems to snake in all sorts of funny directions through this regions.

when we pulled in, the sky was clear blue and sunny and i was taken in by the vast chains of mountains surrounding all sides. it's so odd to see the snow-capped peaks when i myself felt too sweaty to wear my blazer. we spent an hour sitting on the patio of the Wild Oats Cafe, sipping tea and eating delicious brownies and enjoying the sun. Unfortunately the majority of my stay there was spent in the courthouse, but i was glad to have a glimpse of the quaint area. we took a stroll around the small downtown area and passed some really cool craft shops. i guess next time i'll have to explore it a bit more, when not on business and feeling pressured to docket my minutes.

i seriously need a car. there are so many places that i want to visit, like the Okanagan, Vancouver Island, Point Roberts (solely for the freak geopolitical oddity that it is), but it's hard to get around past the city limits without a car (or, more importantly, a friend with a car...)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

this is the beginning

i try not to cheat too often, but i'm tired tonight so i'm just copying and pasting from my journal:

"i'd gone to a TV on the Radio concert at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park and the whole show was over by 9:30PM. i haven't been feeling well all day so i didn't want to go, but i went anyway because i didn't want to let Ed down. i'm glad i did go though. we had fun, and i was reminded of how i want to spend my whole summer outside.

i've only begun to explore Stanley Park, even though i've been going there all my life. i was glad i changed out of my suit into street clothes, because i don't know what would look more awkward than wearing a suit in one of the world's most beautiful urban parks. well, i suppose that asian man hanging around in a suit with a tie around his head probably looked more awkward than i'll ever be, but you get all sorts of folks around here.

i watched a bald eagle swoop down on a crow in the park. sometimes i feel like i'm caught in some magical land. there are seventeen bald eagle nests in the park. my neighbours have palm trees on their lawn. i eat dinner on the beach and always see a face i know, from a distant memory. everyone is thin and beautiful. girlfriends that i lost to arranged marriages in my teen years pop up. i take a bus and somehow end up in a paradise cove where i can paddle myself out on a surfboard and feel the salt sea spray in my face. i frequently have moments where i feel like time stays still. and everywhere i go there are these blue, blue, blue mountains. one day i'm going to wake up and find that this whole summer has been a dream.

also, i have acne for the first time since i was thirteen years old. not so fantastic. toronto gave me asthma, vancouver gave me acne."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

memorize the city

amanda once said to me, "working in another city must be like a vacation! everything is so new!"

well, not really. with my fever, sore throat, runny nose and dull headache, i'm very conscious of the fact that i'm supposed to work tomorrow, and i get no sick days. cold or no cold though, i maintain that this weekend was gorgeous.

vancouver is a city of sun-worshippers, which is why i fit in, so i got up early on saturday, determined to make the most of my day outdoors. option 1: watching my roommates play volleyball at "Fake Beach". The place was actually called Urban Beach, not Fake Beach, but given the fact that it was literally a pile of sand that they moved into the middle of a parking lot, at any rate it was no Stanley Park. whatever you decide to call it, it didn't matter in the end because i was never able to find it. apparently they had moved this pile of sand from the last time Google Earth mapped the city.

lost in a pecular industrial park (smack dab in the middle of downtown with not a soul in sight...), i called amanda to bail me out. she is much more of a sloth-worshipper than a sun-worshipper so she was still in bed by 2PM, but was up for an adventure, provided i give her time to shower.

we decided to head for Deep Cove deep in the heart of the wilderness, at least it was in my view because it was far, far, far away from the North Vancouver, which i have discovered, is actually a seperate city of its own, kind of like Ottawa and Gatineau. except, unlike Gatineau, instead of being filled with sleazy sex stores and drunk fourteen year old girls in miniskirts, North Van seems like a pretty respectable place with some hip stores, restaurants, a decent downtown area, and a million oceanview condos. guess they cleaned up their North Van girls in white pants (to see what i'm talking about, use the control F function for "white pants" in this Douglas Coupland novel). to get there we rode the BOATBUS which i know is called the Seabus, but to be exact (and i am a fan of being exact when describing modes of transportation such as the bus train) it is a bus that is a boat that plunges across the stormy waters past the giant cruise ships full of fat people to connect with the North Van shores. and people like amanda ride it as a regular part of their commute! how amazing!

it took hours, it seemed, to make the trek to Deep Cove, but it was certainly worth it, especially since we were smart enough to bring Sloth along, who had worked there last year as a kayak instructor. this meant that we could borrow surfboards and paddle ourselves out into the salty waters to explore. it was incredible, to feel the sun beat down on my back, taste the salt sea spray, and feel the water beneath my feet. kind of like jesus! i kid. by some gracious miracle i didn't fall off the board, either.

Sloth's connections also meant that we could borrow (hijack? boatjack?) a motorboat from a friend who lived down the way, so we could zip across the bay and have our minds boggled by the enormous multi-million dollar waterfront country homes, built into the sides of the mountains and spilling out into the docks. As Sloth steered the boat over the waves (we had this hypothesis that motorboats can't be tipped...), he told us stories the summer he spent here: trekking out to remote islands to camp overnight, finding baby seals, kayaking down the stretch in the middle of the night all the way to Indian Arm where the water runs fresh from the mountains, only to realize they would have to kayak back to the dock with nothing but the stars in the dark sky to guide them.

the majestic view of the mountains surrounding the bay reminded me of my business trip last summer to Missinaibi Lake in northern ontario, where it didn't matter how much humans tried to carve a clearing into the forests and mark their existences into the sides of the mountains. as far as your eye could see, the green wilderness stretches on and on and you are reminded that you, yourself, are small.

we had lunch (dinner?) in the tiny stretch of cafes near the docks, where we were introduced to the wonders of Honey's Doughnuts. everything is indeed delicious, and these potato-dough based pastries were certainly no exception. yum yum. if only their prices were as awesome. sigh. tourist gouging can be a fun sport, i suppose, now that we're not allowed to bait the bears.

needless to say, my summer is going well. all of my time not at work is spent by the ocean. i'm starting to kind of feel like i'm on those tv shows where the kids spend their days bumming around the west coast beaches, only i'm not beautiful stupid and spoiled, and my drama here has been kept to a bare minimum (unless you include me leaving my mark on Preston Manning's car...shhhh...). it's probably that smug hubristic thought that caused me to be punished with this awful cold. today, after waking up sick, i lounged on Kits beach. i figured if i'm going be feverish and bedridden, i might as well be feverish and bedridden on the beach.

waazubee; the new bohemian

friday night, i was invited out to a birthday dinner at a restaurant called Waazubee on Commercial Drive. i know that i've been raving about every restaurant in vancouver lately, and how they are "so vancouver". but seriously though, when you get bison meat lightly doused in miso sauce on a bed of bismati rice...where else but in vancouver? my meal featured tender lamb on foccacia sprinkled with blue cheese and carmelized onions AND THE BEST FRIGGIN GARLIC MAYO FRIES I'VE EXPERIENCED since i upgraded from McDonalds to Harvey's. not too pricey either, at least not Toronto King Street pretentiously pricey.

last night, i was going to go clubbing in Surrey with my coworker Patty, but we opted instead to stay in kitsilano for a couple of drinks. we headed for the New Bohemian, which pretty much was like clubbing, in the sense that you were in a dark room full of young beautiful twenty-somethings with a deejay playing loud electronic music, but instead of dancing, you lounged in these large, luxurious cushioned booths while eating and eating and eating. Dr. Strangelove was playing in a loop on a projector on the wall. we ordered wine (i ordered some local BC pinot grigio and wasn't disappointed), seafood cakes, soup, and a cheeseplate which came with the juiciest fruit i've ever seen a trendy restaurant manage to serve. this was probably a lot closer to Toronto's King West joints, but the food was at least quite decent and not too too overpriced.

unlike Toronto though, this was not the first stop of our night but rather the terminus. for some reason, Vancouver sleeps early, maybe so we can can get up early and enjoy the sunshine and the mountains and oceans to the fullest. at any rate, i've never stayed out past midnight in this city. guess i'll have to go clubbing another time...and try not to get shot.

Friday, May 22, 2009

every day i'm going to accomplish something new

THING(S) I ACCOMPLISHED TODAY: got a ride home in Preston Manning's car.

the restaurant review continues...
the office took me and my officemate out to lunch today at Azia Restaurant. it's a trendy Chinese restaurant. no, that is not an oxymoron. but i do find that there seems to be an inverse correlation between the hip interior decoration of a Chinese restaurant and the authentic quality of their food. i don't know why. for example, there were square plates, but no congee on the menu. given my weakness for tofu, i ordered the Ma Po was okay. not bad, but not remarkable. everyone else's dishes looked good, but i didn't taste it. i was still happy with the food though, mainly because i was unbelievably famished. i'll have to give it another try another day.

after work, my coworkers went for dinner at 6 Acres restaurant, located in Gastown, this really bizarre area of downtown that straddles the tourist district and East Hastings, so you have a lot of pandhandlers hitting you up for change along the cobblestones and "historical" buildings. "historical" as in Gastown is the oldest part of vancouver, OVER A HUNDRED YEARS OLD. i tried to tell them about how parts of Quebec City are four hundred years old, and in Greece, BC means "before christ" and not "british columbia", but they would have none of it. vancouver folks have a warped sense of time and are in denial about the fact that they pretty much have the youngest city on the continent. Douglas Coupland writes a lot about how the city is fresh and vibrant because it pretty much has no history, but that comes from a middle class white man who didn't, you know, build a railroad with his bare hands or get his land taken away from him by paleskin folks who claimed their civilization was better...

the food was pretty good though. i ate a delicious meal of brie, biscuits, nuts and pear (those all go very well together, for your information). i tried both BC wine (Mission Hill Pinot Grigio) and beer (Phillips IPA). didn't really like either, but then i have not really been a fan of alcohol lately. i was told this place was really good for cheap beer and food. maybe people's standards are different, but i definitely saw beers that cost $10, so i'm not sure where everyone else has been drinking.

so yes, now i need to find a good pilates place to work off all the stuff i've been eating in this damn delicious city.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

rhyzome cafe

this blog is slowly going to turn into a restaurant review column. it would be an awful column, because i would just rave about how great everything tastes. i can't help it though. vancouver has such an amazing culinary scene.

last night, i went out with amanda and maria to the rhyzome cafe, this unique place that serves as a cafe / art show venue / meeting space for activists. "healthy fresh food"? "organic fairly traded coffee"? so vancouver. delicious. they also feature a Pay What You Can lentil stew, which i imagine comes in handy for the many less fortunate folks that hang around Broadway, and also, students.

vancouver has finally stopped being perpetually twelve degrees and rainy, and i have been in a gorgeous mood. tonight i was sitting on the beach, playing my guitar to the sunset, and then a lesbian gave me a flower. what a beautiful city.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


when people asked me what i was doing with my weekend, they wondered, "why Portland?" i couldn't really answer why, other than the fact that it was one more city to explore. the last time i was in Portland, i was seventeen and with my parents, and all i remember of that trip was going to church and eating Korean food. because that's what my family does. this time i was going to discover the City of Roses on my own terms. my own terms included:

hunting down Simpsons creator Matt Groening's old high school. legend has it that he scrawled his name along with a doodle of Bart Simpson, somewhere in the cement. i searched all over for it, but i couldn't find it and only got a lot of weird looks from the high school kids hanging around.

visiting the country's biggest used book store. this one had a whole huge room dedicated to science fiction alone. i pretty much cleared their stanislaw lem collection.

what i am pretty sure is the world's smallest park. yep, this Charlie Brown tree. this is Mill Ends Park. Portland has a lot of beautiful greenspaces, but this one definitely amused me the most.

the Saturday Market, which was open on Sunday. Portland is very American, but it is also very green, so the markest were an interesting mix of beer, hot dogs, white people, organic candles, face paint, texan guts, tie-dyed shirts, and BEAUTIFUL art. Chuck Palahniuk claims that artists moved to Portland en masse because of the low cost of living, but there's not a lot of people to buy the art, so it's high quality art at cheap prices. speaking of art, i discovered another Preloved-esque recycled vintage designer line called Shabby Knapsack. i pretty much fell in love right away. needless to say, my wallet got some exercise.

the amazing Ira Keller Fountain, which serves as a perfect playground for kids on a hot summer day. perfect, that is, until someone slips and falls down the sheer vertical waterfall drop. then it's the perfect playground for personal injury lawyers.

vegan party. there is apparently quite the vegan culture here. vegan strip mall, vegan cafes, vegan grocery stores, vegan ice cream, vegan doughnuts, even a vegan strip club. oh West Coast, you are so...west coast.

oh, by the way, i did end up running into my elusive friend ryan. turns out he had an even rougher time at the border than i did. as in, the van was confiscated for hours while they did a drug search. and then they did a drug search on HIM. and it was quite the...intimate search. but, we got to meet up. i went to his magazine launch, saw Amanda Rogers perform, and even got to play a few songs myself. i was mostly glad to be able to meet up with ryan. i first met him when my band showed up at his house in halifax. even though we didn't know him, he let us sleep on his floor and take over his house for a few days. i would never say this to his face (mustn't stroke the ego) but he's quite the incredible guy - political activist, poet, founder of T.O.F.U magazine, and a key part of the Halifax music scene too. too bad i need to go to another country to meet him.

this is the seattle starbucks logo i was talking about


Monday, May 18, 2009

hard core american music

if you've been following my travel blog long enough, you know one of my favourite things to see when i travel is street music.

i could have listened to these guys for hours.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

iPod update from the Chaos Cafe

I've just spent a beautiful day in a beautiful city full of friendly people. I just hope these blisters and my sunburn goes away before I go back to work.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

surprise trip to seattle

My uncle said, “Why don’t you take the bus to Portland? It’s cheaper.”

I said, “Taking the bus is for poor people. I’m taking the Amtrak train.”

As it turns out, the Amtrak route to cross the US-Canadian border is a bus, and what should be a four hour trip by car has turned into a twelve hour one, thank you US Customs. Thank God its been a pleasant day mostly overall. The Canadian Border Services Agency is one of our main clients at work, so I spend a lot of time drafting legal advice about border issues, so I know how much power border officials wield and how strict they could be. This led me to pull a Liz Lemon, wolfing down my sandwich as fast as I could before customs officials could confiscate my “smuggled” food. Unfortunately, it’s the long weekend, and every single Canadian wants to spend the Queen’s day in the States, so there was a massive hold up at the Customs border. That left me with two hours to wait in a crowded bus and hold my pee while feeling pretty nauseous from eating greasy sandwiches too quickly. Mmm.

It was all made up with a delicious coffee at the first Starbucks that was built 1971), in Seattle. Let me explain something first: I wasn’t supposed to be in Seattle. I was supposed to be on a train to Portland. But thanks to the good people at the border, and every other vacationing Canadian, I missed my connecting train and found myself stranded in Seattle with three hours to kill. Not that it’s there aren’t worse places to kill time.

As I stepped out of the King Street Station, I felt the warm sunshine hit my skin and thought, “Crap. I am screwed.” Because I had left all planning everything to the last minute, I did not have a single American cent in my pocket. I asked a man at a Tourist Information booth, who told me there was no currency exchange place except on Pike Street. I am pretty sure this was a lie and a ploy to drive me into the tourist distict.

At any rate it worked. As I rode on Seattle’s (FREE!) public transit buses, it occurred to me that I only had to find an ATM to take out American cash. By that time, I was already halfway to the Pike Market. Oh well The first place that I found an ATM was a strip club. For once in my life I exercised my judgment and decided to go for the second ATM I found – conveniently located right next to the world’s first Starbucks in the Pike Market. It’s definitely worth checking out, for anyone in Seattle, if not just because of the fact that this location has the original Starbucks logo. Not many people realize that the double-tailed mermaid logo we are familiar with today is very, very, very edited (read: BOOBS).

After I treated myself to some bobo booby corporate coffee, I strolled through the Pike market. I love Seattle for the sole reason that there seemed to be a Food & Wine Festival going on at the time with many, many, many free samples, mostly cheese-based. Yessssss. I found another Starbucks (my total Starbucks count during my three hour stint in Seattle was about eight), in front of four old black men were serenading the crowds with old school Motown songs a cappella. I bought myself some roasted corn on the cob and sat at the harbourfront listening. You know, we all love to hate America, but there are pieces of American culture that I can’t help loving. Starbucks. Motown. Corn. Fat, friendly Texan tourists that call you ma’am. The weather was beautiful and sunny, and I decided to walk all the way back from the Pike Market to the Pioneer Square to the station.

the train ride to portland was odd. The car next to us was full of drunk middle-aged people who stop everyone that passes through on the way to the dining car to sing Happy Birthday. Then they demand a speech. For me, they decided to sing Van Morrison’s “Gloria”. Everyone that emerges from the car has this flushed smile on their face. I wonder if I will be like that, drunk and happy, when I am old.

am in the travelodge now. was thinking about going to the jazz bar nearby, but i saw that it was karaoke night, and i'm tired from, er, sitting on public transit for thirteen hours. tomorrow i begin exploring the city of roses. till then i sign off with the train conductor's message:

"Thank you for choosing Amtrak. Chickadee China, the Chinese Chicken."

Friday, May 15, 2009

open mic at cafe deux soleils

cafe deux soleils is another Vancouver establishment, also a vegetarian cafe, but for hippies instead of yuppies. their open mic nights have also become a rather famous affair, one of the longest running open mics in vancouver, gaining so much popularity that musicians have to get their names drawn out of a hat to perform. i've been lucky because i've been picked every time i've shown up.

the acts tonight are a pretty interesting and eclectic bunch. there's the accordian player who does a happy kid-friendly cover of Nine Inch Nails ("i wanna hug you like a teddy bear / i wanna make you eat a mud pie..."). one girl reads poetry about rude guys. a purebred hippie plays blues harmonica and then tells us that he loves us all very much. another guy plays the jinbay while rapping about being high, one of the many hybrid hiphop hippies that Commercial Drive features. i play a short set. some girl tells me she loves me. i can't see who; the lights are too bright in my eyes.

i sit at a table with a couple of kids i've just met. they are just the right combination of polyamourous/queer that allows them to oggle and comment on every single performer on stage, no matter what shape, size, or gender. since most of my songs are really weird (ranging from topics like flashing your rooommate to biting your friend's boyfriend's neck), i think i've won their approval. they kind of remind me of my friends from my past lives, just because they seem like such an eclectic bunch. the girl who moved from texas to new york to vancouver, carefully erasing all traces of her accents each time. the boy with the lion's mane, telling me to come sit at his table because his girlfriend has a crush on me. the girl who tells me, "you're from ottawa? but you're" only to have me find out that she's actually from Toronto. the boy with jeremy's glasses who says nothing all night, except, at the very end of the night, quite seriously, "don't try to be a smoker in kitsilano."

they invite me to chill out at their place after the show ends, but i tell them i've got to get back to my own pad. i pretend that i live on the Drive, but really, i'm staying with my grandparents. it's not the first time that i wish i was living here.


tomorrow i leave for portland. i'm theoretically supposed to meet Ryan Patey there, but our "plan" consisted of him calling me the ONE minute i was away from my phone, and leaving me the message: "why aren't you answering your phone? okay, let's meet in portland sunday night. i don't know the address yet. and i might not end up going to portland. oh, by the way, i'm going into the wilderness so you won't be able to talk to me for a few days." so it looks like i'm going to be exploring Portland on my own.

Saturday: 27 degrees and sunny
Sunday: 30 degrees and sunny
Monday: 28 degrees and sunny


Vancouver Quirks #2

a thousand different kinds recycling bins. not a garbage can in sight.

okay, okay, so you guys are green. you've cut down the smog factor so much that your smug factor is out of sight. but...not all of us want to sort our garbage okay? why, why, why don't i have the choice of being a eco-unfriendly jerk?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vancouver Quirks #1

friendly bus riders.

people are really friendly here. i mean, i know comparing the level of friendliness to the Toronto's TTC is like listening to Nickelback and deciding that your neighbour's teenage son's drum practice is not so bad. but people give up their seats to elderly people, regularly say thank you to their bus drivers, apologize if they bump into you, and (this i don't understand) still insist on standing even when there are several seats available. bus drivers will wait for you if they see you running for the stop, instead of waiting and then closing the door in your face. if i am lucky in my morning commute, i will get the number 7 bus with bus driver John, who runs a morning trivia game for the bus ride to work, giving out candy bar prizes if you can guess the country where the first coffee plant was discovered (Ethiopia - i guessed Mexico because i was getting confused with chocolate).

this trivia game would never, ever, ever happen in Toronto. first of all, most of the passengers would not speak English, and the ones that do would be too impatient to get to their Bay Street jobs to be able to look up from their BlackBerries long enough to answer a non-billable question. also, toronto traffic is too scary for bus drivers to take their full concentrations off for one second. finally, some thug or another would probably mug the drivers for all the chocolate bar prizes before any trivia question is properly answered.

even, for the most part, the drunk old men and the ones with mental health issues are pretty damn friendly, if not in-your-face weird. you sling a guitar bag over your shoulder, and one drunk old man will stumble his way to your side of the bus and start reminiscing about the old days when he used to sing opera with his father in the old country. you, meanwhile, try to find a way to fan away his gin breath without offending him.

it's probably just as well that everyone is so friendly on the buses. it rains a lot here, and the insides of the bus gets to be pretty crowded, dank, and smelly. also, buses seem to show up whenever they want in this city. the time and the routes are so weird here that it *almost* makes me miss TTC street cars. but i also like chocolate bars.


on a related note -

the skytrain was stalled yesterday, which is NOT a regular occurrence like the weekly subway suicides in Toronto. rumour has it that someone jumped on the tracks (the announcement went "there will be temporary delays until the problem is cleaned, um, cleared up"). given the fact that the skytrain usually rides two storeys above street level, a skytrain jumper is pretty damn impressive. like the ONE suicide that has happened on the Bloor Street Viaduct since the Luminous Veil was erected, skytrain accidents take a lot of effort.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

flashbacks of naam

it's wednesday and i'm sitting at the vegetarian Naam restaurant in Kitsilano, which every single person has told me is an establishment in vancouver. and it is, indeed, so totally vancouver. i'm dining with a bunch of out-of-work animators who are trying to find jobs in the animation industry in a post-tech bust job climate where nobody is hiring, no one at all. no one says the R word (recession). someone mentions the name Pixar and everyone's ears perk excitedly - apparently they are opening an office downtown and they may be hiring. they ask me what i do for a living. i tell them that i write research memos, and that it's not as boring as it sounds. they go back to talking about Pixar.

soon enough the food comes out. huge servings. every kind of flavour. not a single bit of meat. one of the dinner guests comment on how the words "vegetarian" and "delicious" rarely go together, but if you think about it, if any city can pull it off, it's vancouver. it's a good thing that the dishes were so savoury too - we had to wait nearly an hour to get seated.

it's raining, as usual. vancouver seems to be permanently twelve degrees and rainy. people assure me that warm weather is ahead, but i'm pretty sure ottawa is sunnier and warmer right now and that is discouraging. i have a long weekend coming up that i don't know what to do with. i'm thinking of becoming a temporary groupie and following the cross-country T.O.F.U tour through Seattle and Portland. lately i've been reading Chuck Palahniuk's "Fugitives and Refugees", a collection of writing pieces about Portland, and it's made me pretty curious. somewhere down there the ghost of Elliott Smith haunts the streets, and i want to meet him. according to Palahniuk, Portland is especially welcoming for ghosts.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

today is a special day

Dear Mom,

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! i wish i could be on the other side of the country to celebrate the day with you. i miss you so much. i thought that as i grow older there would be a point where i would stop missing my mother so much but i miss mama every single day and i don't think i will ever get used to it. luckily mom's love is so strong that i can feel it even across the country. you are an incredible woman that has been one of the main influential inspirations in my life and i am so lucky to have you as a mother.

i love you,


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

korean food

i've come to the realization that no matter how good the food is here in vancouver, it doesn't change the fact that i'm a crappy cook. and, unless i eat out every single meal (can i? can i?) i'm probably going to starve to death if i don't hit up the grocery store. so i stopped by the H-Mart on my way home from work.

when i left Toronto, i was sad about leaving my beloved Koreatown. i forgot, of course, that Vancouver has no shortage of asians. After all, you have vancouver, vancouver island, the ocean....then asia. H-Mart seems to be the main hangout spot downtown for koreans on the run, especially korean tourists. for some reason, korean tourists seem to like coming to canada and then hanging out at the korean supermarket to sign up for korean bus tours.

H-Mart was pretty impressive, a learning experience. i sum it up in form of commercial slogans.

H-Mart: All Brands of Mandu, But No Pyonghwa. Why?

H-Mart: Since When Does Kimchi Have An Expiry Date?

H-Mart: Ramen Spice Now Comes in "Midium"

H-Mart: So You Bought Kimchi, Ramen, Rice, and Kim. We Still Know You're A Banana And Will Keep Speaking To You In English.

stuff doesn't taste too bad. there really isn't anything quite like grandma's kimchi though. back in toronto.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

sunday in kitsilano

you know you're lazy when you can't get the energy to walk down to the beach at the end of the street so you can take a nap listening to ocean sounds.

i explored my neighbourhood this morning and i realized that my wallet is screwed. there are so many shops to check out, shows to see, and things in general to do. AND food to eat. my waistline is also screwed. this place has no end to culinary creativity. i had a quick bite at the Kits Coffee Co and had a delicious breakfast muffin of turkey, egg, swiss cheese, and salsa. i would never have thought to put all those together and call it "breakfast" but it just worked so well.

i read a vancouver newspaper during breakfast and it seems like everything is about drug legalization, fish farms, ferries, and the Olympics. no big surprises there.

the 'couv

i finally made it to vancouver. there was a series of incidents that nearly killed me along the way (okay i'm being dramatic) but i'm in one piece, here in my new home. gavin met me at the front door. "it's raining," i said. "welcome to vancouver," he replied. this is the first time that i was smart and packed an umbrella and a rainjacket. i'm not going to repeat my England incident (where i refused to buy an umbrella in the belief that as soon as i did, it would stop raining. consequently, it rained the entire time).

my family made the comment that they moved away from vancouver twenty-five years ago, my mother pregnant with me, and now i have returned "home" twenty-five years later. this may have some rich symbolic meaning, but i think what it really means is that i'm going to discover (at least within twenty-five years) what caused my parents to leave this city.

i woke up at 6:30 this morning and will not fall back asleep. at least this means that i'm going to be punctual for work tomorrow...way too punctual.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

a quick guide to my hometown's best non-touristy spots

the problem with stopping off at your hometown before moving to your new city is that you are reminded of all the things you miss about home. home is kind of like a lake of zombies, arms reaching out to grab you and drag you down with them. okay, so i've been reading World War Z lately so i've been fixated on mismatched zombie metaphors lately.

but i have been spending this week reconnecting with my favourite Ottawa spots and discovering new favourites. this has included:

Bridgehead - the only ottawa-based coffee chain that can feasibly compete with starbucks. up your smug factor with free-trade organic delicious joe.

Pho - especially Pho Bo Ga, especially at midnight, especially special dish B (where else can you eat chicken, pork and tofu in one bowl? it's so awesome, it's pretty much a sin).

Di Rienzo's sandwiches - pretty much Ottawa's equivalent of Montreal's Schwartz's, where even cops have to wait in the lunch time lines that extend out all around the store and out the door into the street. big italian sandwiches, best eaten at the Aboretum nearby.

Kettleman's Bagels - as i've always said, for a city without a lot of jews, they sure do great jew-bagels. best wood-fired breakfast bagels you can have after a hard night of partying. yay latkes.

Chez Lucien`s - because nobody can do french food like ottawa can. except maybe the French. but only Ottawans can do it at such a low low price. the food is french, the food prices are chinese, and the way the bar gets so packed with the after-work crowd that people eat their meals standing is very british or Italian. and the jukebox (free) is just plain awesome.

The Avant-Garde Bar - all the tourists and suburb kids go to Zaphod's to party; the locals go to the Avant-Garde. i hate the name of this russian bar but i absolutely love the place. decorated with Russian constructivist art and Soviet propaganda posters, frequented by the oddest mishmash of characters, including hipster students, man-women with thick eastern european accents, people decked in full military outfits but not the Canadian Forces but rather another country and another era, tables of asian girls (okay so that was us), swing dancers, and so on. full russian menu including borscht, Baltika beer, and other stuff i can't pronounce. never the same live acts twice - last night was a Django Reinhardt style gypsy jazz band; before that, i saw an avant garde improv act involving two drummers, a bass clarinet and a sax. it was also hear that i was introduced to the Leningrad Cowboys. basically, what i'm saying is, you don't need drugs or sleep to dream. you can just head over to the Avant Garde.

BEAVERTAIL - in the Byward Market. 'nuff said.

i also would have liked to have had a chance to eat at the Newport, awesome pizza in Westboro and also home of the World Elvis Sighting Society. and sometime i will make my way to beautiful Wakefield to see a show at the Black Sheep Inn.

yeah, i really like food.

okay time to get ready for the airport. i'm hoping that the folks at Air Canada are feeling generous about weight and size restrictions...